Monday, January 25, 2010

Review and Interview: Andy Kohnen @ the Sci Fi Lounge, January 21 2009

Welcome to a new feature on the blog! The other night, I went to a show at the Sci Fi Lounge and met up with a good friend of mine from my Webster University days. Ostensibly, I just went because a buddy of mine was playing, but I also went to get a musician's perspective on playing this type of low-key local show. And low key it was, at least the venue. Don't rely too much on your Google maps or your mapquests or your GPS to find it, and also don't rely on your intuition because mine led me astray not once but twice. Just get to the general area and make a few blind turns the correct way down one way streets that you think are the wrong way and all of a sudden, you will come upon your destination. And once you get there, go to the side door (upon which you will find the only Star Trek memorabilia I saw the whole night, a sticker advertising the 2009 film's theatrical release) and marvel at the pinball machines. Just marvel.

The walls are covered in Star Wars models and action figures. There are televisions hooked up with video game systems including PS2, NES, N64 and what I think is one of those plug and play Atari systems. Free Wi-Fi, comic books, board games and one dollar drinks (soda, coffee, tea, water-no liquor license here despite the deceptively placed Schlafly sign) create an atmosphere ripe for the nerd in all of us. And then there's a tiny stage.

There were about five acts, including a man named Paul Frazier who played between acts, announcing the others as he went (totally check out his awesome videos here. Most of the acts, with the exception of Mr. Frazier and the last two acts (Andy Kohnen followed by...can't remember the group's name, but the lead singer's name was Lola) played a type of angsty acoustic rock that borders on goth rock but with a bit too much emo influence, and please remember I'm coming from a mid 1990's definition of both Goth and Emo.

When Andy took the stage, the crowd lit up (after all; the show was billed as "Andy Kohnen and Friends" so most of the crowd came to see him). People reacted to songs such as "Boston" which appeared to be a crowd favorite. But I fell myself for some of his newer songs. The heartfelt "1997" is a little rough for being new, but it shows great potential. I felt special affection for his song "Poster World" which is based on a play Andy starred in a year ago.

The show felt a lot like the venue; loose, relaxed, a place to go and be with people and have fun. I'd probably go to another show at this place, if for nothing more than to try and beat my friend Emily at Mario Kart.

In addition to the show, I also got a chance to ask Andy some questions afterwards.

I'm o.k.: How do you write a song?

Andy Kohnen: I try to tell a story, or retell a story from my life. Something that has a basis in fact.

OK: How do you measure your success as a musician?

AK: Once, I opened for Tally Hall, which is a national touring act. We didn't even ask to be put on the show, the guy putting it on just called and said we'd be a good fit for the show. That was pretty cool.

OK: How many people do you wish your music could reach?

AK: As many as possible.

OK: How many is enough?

AK: I'm not sure. I play for myself, really. If one person reacts, that's cool.

OK: Would you rather your most meaningless song reach a hundred million people, or your most meaningful song reach only a dozen.

AK: Wow. I don't know. A lot of people like my song "Boston" and I don't really like it anymore, but I'll play it because people like it. But...I guess a dozen.

OK: For you, what do you get out of performing?

AK: It's just laying my heart out there, you know? Whatever the audience takes from it is fine with me. I play for a reaction, but I don't expect one.

OK: You sing a lot about yearning for love, as opposed to just love. Why is that?

AK: I've never experienced love, so I think it would be hypocritical if I wrote about it. There's a musician, Jeff Rosenstock, who writes a lot about growing up but not feeling grown up. I'd love to write like that, but I don't know if I'm there yet.

OK: You mentioned tonight that when the webcast may have been lost, that worse things have happened to you at a show. Like what?

AK: Well, once, I was playing a show at this terrible place called The Red Sea [writer's note: it was a pretty scuzzy place] and only three people showed up. I tried to make a joke with the bartender and he totally ignored me. I don't know if he actually ignored me or if he just couldn't hear me. And the first time I played here [at the Sci Fi Lounge], I was playing and everybody was talking. Nobody was listening to me, and I got nervous and started screwing up.

OK: That's kind of counter-intuitive, don't you think? People ignored you and...

AK: And I got worse. Yeah, that's weird.

Well there you have it.

I have some big posts coming, so keep looking. They'll be here soon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Treat

I made this video in the Spring of 2006 for a Fiction workshop I took at St. Louis Community College - Meramec. I may have mentioned it in passing back then.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Fourth Blogiversary

Four years ago today, your friendly writer started blogging.

Thanks to all of my readers for the past four years, and here's to many, many more!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Ordeal Continues

Not sure what the ordeal is? This will answer that.. All caught up? Good.

So, on December 29th, Amazon authorized a return and e-mailed me a shipping label for said return. The deal with the return is, I have ten days from authorization until the authorization expires. The shipping label was for standard UPS Two-Day ground shipping. On the morning of the 30th, I dropped the package off at the local UPS store (literally a mile from my house). Now, I packaged it up in the same box they shipped it to me in. Perhaps I should explain how it was packaged; the box was a foot and a half wide, a foot long, and about four inches deep. Not conducive for shipping a record in, really; even packed to the gills with plastic air bubbles, the record could bounce around in the box. This is one of the problems with Amazon's record sales; they don't know how to pack a record for shipping. As the dominant recorded music medium for the better part of the twentieth century, I'm sure that at some point there were shipping containers designed specifically for a record album. Think of all those Time Life records flying through the mail in the seventies and eighties (one of which, a Benny Goodman collection, Kathy and I bought at a record shop in downtown Chicago last month). Imagine if those had been packaged so that they would bounce around in their containers.

Anyway, I just packaged it up in the same packaging, hoping to make a point when they get it and open it and realize that the record has been bouncing around in this box all its merry way from St. Louis to Hebron, KY. So I dropped it off on the morning of the 30th. The clerk told me it would be picked up at either ten in the morning, four in the afternoon, or nine that evening. According to the tracking site, at 9:53 PM that night, the package left the UPS store. At 10:15 that same night, it arrived at the UPS shipping hub in Earth City, MO. And then it sat there until January 4th. Five days it sat no more than twenty-six miles from my house. Hebron, KY is a five and a half hour drive from my house...I had three days off work. I could have taken care of it by now.

I understand that we had a holiday to contend with, but really? You delivered my first return to in exactly two days, the second day being Christmas Eve. You're telling me, UPS, that your trucks and planes sit grounded and idle New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Saturdays and Sundays? I will give you New Year's Day and Sunday. So it finally left Earth City on the morning of the fourth, and then arrive in Lexington, KY at two in the afternoon. Good...I Google mapped it, and that's no more than two hours driving in traffic.

The morning of the fifth, it left Lexington, KY and arrived in Cincinnati, OH shortly thereafter. I was appalled, but only until I learned my geography a little better. Cincinnati is just on the Ohio side of the KY/OH border, and Hebron is just on the other side. It's not even a half hour drive between the two. So this package arrived, just shy of a week later, in Cincinnati at four this morning, and then at five-thirty was scanned out for delivery.

It is now eleven o'clock at night on the fifth. Why the hell has this package not been received by Amazon yet? Now not only do I not want to order vinyl from Amazon anymore, I barely want to order anything from Amazon. But they've got me locked in with this return-refund-on-the-gift-card crap. I think I found something that I need to buy which is about the same price as the record; for Christmas, my sister, her husband and my two nieces gave me Wii Sports Resort, and it came with one Wii Motion Plus accessory. We want another one, and I figure Amazon probably sells a lot more of those in a month than they sell vinyl records in a year, and it's a relatively small and popular item, and since Kathy and I decided we were already going to buy one, I'm just going to buy it using my gift card and buy the record from Euclid Records or Vintage Vinyl, end this terrible loop. But I can't do any of that until the package is delivered. Judging by how it's been going, I estimate another week before Amazon gets it.