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Concert Review: Old 97s
I finally got to see of my favoritest (sic) bands ever. Old 97s played in Des Moines which I dont think they have in many years if ever, and also found some of my friends are big fans as well.

They were even more awesome than my very high expectations. Rhett Miller sounded as great in person as he does on record. The band was lively and had a good interaction with the crowd. Rhett gets all of the attention, but let's not forget Ken Bethea is a smoking guitar player- surely as good as anyone in punk or surf. Murry Hammond is another great personality, has great vocals and is a great co-frontman.

Opening act was Lilly Hiatt. She is the daughter of John. She was very good. A friend said she was somewhere between Dolores O'Riordan and Loretta Lynn. For sure, she is unique with Americana and country pop influences, similar to a Roseanne Cash, Lydia Loveless or Gillian Welch. You can google her and you should.

Old 97s played mostly the classics for the "Old Schoolers, New Schoolers, and the Middle Schoolers...ok, no middle Schoolers".

A setlist might make it online but I also have doubts, so I definitely remember Doreen, Timebomb, King of all of the World, Rollerskate Skinny, Barrier Reef, Dance With Me, Curtain calls, Big Brown Eyes, Designs on You, Curtain Calls, and from the last two albums- Longer than You been Alive and Let's Get Drunk and Get it on (from Most Messsed Up), Good with God, Jesus Loves You, Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls (from GraveYard Whistling) I am about 95% sure that is as accurate as to all the songs the played as you will get now that two days have gone by and I didnt take any notes. "Question" was the obvious encore.

If any weakness, some of the new songs were not as good as the old ones. Which 1) the last two records are incredible and 2) this is only in comparison, they were still fantastic. Likely, a song like "Longer than you been alive" works best on record. Again, no slight here, and it may have been the club which didn't have great sound for the opening act either.

They were amazing and from here, I probably would just keep writing variations on "They were awesome" over and over. As a plus, my concertgoing days all predated cellphones, and you only get crappy pictures in a club but hey, there you go. Lilly Hiatt joined for the Brandi Carlile part of "Good with God", which smoked.
I also dont miss the days of leaving a smoke filled club or the 100 mile drive to get home.

On the Shelf 188: Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode have a special place for me.  For me, 1988 was a special place for music.

There is a triumvirate of Post-Modern bands and they are the Mode, the Cure and New Order.

Although I would never have been allowed to see any of these bands in concerts, I did rock the ubiquitous Mode 88 shirt.

DM had released the masterful and grandiose Music for the Masses.  New Order re-released "Blue Monday" in a remix that plays every night somewhere since it was released.  The Cure's most recent release was "Kiss Me" x3 which had their finest moment "Just Like Heaven".

In the next five years, despite being on the fringe of the radio were playing stadiums and having massive hits.

From an American chart point of view, it certainly is a triumvirate, though the discussion is incomplete without The Smiths as their final album and Morrissey's first were brand new in this time frame.  The Moz similarly got play on MTV and was even able to break into the radio Top 40.  Nor is it complete without mention of the self-titled Echo and the Bunnymen album of the same time- their biggest American cultural moment with "Lips Like Sugar".

From a personal point of view, I also include the Best of OMD which was also released at this time and is fantastic.  "Dreaming" was a chart hit, but their chart days were behind them.  Their massive pop success puts them in a different discussion in the US, but for me they are just as important.

Surely, part of this is the excitement of youth, but the next year gave us PiL's 9, Elvis Costello's Spike and The Cult's Sonic Temple were all touchpoints of excitement.  Then there was Doolittle and the Stone Roses and the floodgates were open.  Also, I was discovering (as was much of America with the resurgence of) The Doors. 

In any case, in my nostalgic haze, i have lost my point.  Music for the Masses was and is a classic.  Everyone knows "Strangelove" and "Behind the Wheel" and "Never Let Me Down Again", an anthemic conversion of the band's 80 s sound.

Still, if Masses had never been made, Depeche Mode had made their mark.  You can make similar arguments for Black Celebration.  This was another great beginning to end listen. The goth/not goth shroud covers this album and some people prefer it to Masses.  In any case, all of the elements were there.

Yet, the discussion doesn't end there.  1984's Some Great Reward would stand as the standout album if the band had never recorded another note.  Critics are never kind to electronic music and this album gets short shrift.  Same goes for Yaz, Soft Cell and many other pioneers who more often than not get ignored for traditional guitar-based bands like U2, the Clash and the Smiths, or at least traditional in terms like Bowie.

In the US, things get muddy, since most of us picked up the compilations Catching Up with Depeche Mode or People are People, but many of these songs are legendary in the alternative community- Blasphemous Rumors, Master and Servant, People are People, Everything Counts and others.

The story probably should end there.  Having conquered all, the Mode grew their hair and picked up guitars (while on the other side of the spectrum Metallica cut their hair and picked up electronic influences).

We weren't sure what to make of the new look and the new sound which culminated in the commercially successful Violator.

What is my take on Violator almost three decades later?

I still listen to it all the time.  It's perfect.  I still listen to Mode a lot but I never tire of Violator.  Although it might not be the "cool"est of choices, it's on my short list of greatest albums ever. 

Anyway, so you know where I stand.  I am not a big fan of the last 30 years of the band's recorded output.   Credit to the band for being willing to push their sound.  Indeed, electronic music is more challenging in that aspect than guitar-bass-and-drums.

In recent years,the Mode seems to have a love affair with Delta Blues music and are trying to incorporate those sounds into theirs.  This eventually made its (il)logical conclusion in a cover (ish song) of Son House's "John the Revelator".

The DM albums have all been interesting in their own way, but nothing really grabbed me.  Finally, the closest that they have come is when Dave Gahan collaborated with soundscapists Soulsavers.

The secret to what 21st Century D Mode needs to sound like is in that ambient sphere perhaps.  Electronic based bands like Pet Shop Boys and OMD have tried various things to recapture that old sound, but our ears have changed.

Indeed, bands influenced by Depeche Mode have had entire careers and their own influence passed along-  electroclash and ddarkwave bands that  have pushed their own boundaries-  The Bravery, She Wants Revenge, Rammstein, Apoptygma Berzerk, the Faint, Fischerspooner, the Killers, Ladytron, Goldfrapp, the Crystal Method- this list obviously goes on and on- but these are all bands that have come along since Songs of Faith and Devotion and have had beginning to end careers.

Spirit comes the closest they have in awhile to making a release that matches the best of their output.  They have teamed with producer James Ford who has worked with Florence and the Machine, Arctic Monkeys, the Klaxons, Peaches, Everything Everything and Haim.

The lyrics are political, though they kind of let the band down.  They are the weakest moment, though you can't blame the band for the thought.  It just isn't Dave Gahan's strong suit.  Though he does deliver strong vocals, so maybe it's Martin Gore's lyrics which can be summed up in the song Scum ("Hey scum, what are you gonna do when karma comes").

In any case, I was ready to write Depeche Mode off, and this album has done quite a bit to reverse that position.  It's not essential by any means but it has some moments that prove they still can be vital.

Tom Petty RIP

This one is a bit unexpected and certainly sad for me.

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Comic Review: Generations
Generations: Sam Wilson Captain America & Steve Rogers Captain America (2017) #1 (Generations (2017))Generations: Sam Wilson Captain America & Steve Rogers Captain America (2017) #1 (Generations by Nick Spencer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I pretty much skipped Marvel's Generations issues, but it was a light week so I thought I would pick this up.

I have really enjoyed Spencer's work for Image titles like The Fix and Bedlam, and he became a favorite for many with Superior Foes of Spiderman and Antman. Then, he wrote THAT issue of Captain America.

Friends of mine who hadn't bought a comic book in 20 years (and would dare never miss a Marvel movie premiere) took to social media to say they would never buy a comic with Spencer's name on it. Spencer's story has been publicized- death threats and the like. I have read plenty of comments about him from the Right, but the Left seems to hate him just as much.

In any case, I picked up some of the Sam Wilson comics but my comic store seemed to have them inconsistently or maybe they were selling out before I could pick them up. In any case, I generally liked his Sam Wilson books, although from what I gather, Spencer didn't really break too much new ground on it.

Generations serves as a swan song for Wilson's run as Cap, and from everything I have read, people hate it. They hate it for a variety of different reasons, as varied as content and personal perspective, but everyone seems to agree the art is terrible.

I actually enjoyed the issue. However, I will say it felt very much like an Astro City comic. In fact, i could not shake that as it serves as a life retrospective on Sam and Steve.

I was fine with that and it was a nice story. There is a reason Busiek writes that way of course, he is introducing characters, locations and stories in each new issue, so he usually has to build a universe and generally has only an issue or two to do it in (This book is roughly that length).

Since these are introductions to characters, we don't know the back story and we are just learning and initially investing in the characters. They exist for a moment and then we rarely if ever hear from then again.

That would not be the case for Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson who readers will likely have many established opinions on. Comic fans tend to get beholden to canon as well.

So that's likely where a lot of the grumbling comes from; also the political aspect of the character as well certainly colors everything.

For me, this is the type of story that at this point Busiek has been writing for 20-plus years. I liked Spencer's story, but at the end of the day, I could not shake the comparison. As far as the art everyone hated. I actually liked Paul Renaud's work. That said, his art was very much in line with what one expects to see in Astro City as opposed to a traditional Marvel comic.

Bottom line for me, I enjoyed this comic. As a one shot, it was probably largely unnecessary, but it was a good story, and I don't get stuck in the details that might cause others not to like it.

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2020 Election Has Begun- The BBQ Show
One thing about living in Iowa is that it is constantly election season; or perhaps it's just that politicians like to visit New Hampshire and Iowa as their pick of many possible winter vacation locations.

The conventional wisdom (as perpetuated by social media) is the Democrats are a party in ruins. This is the same thing I heard in 1984 with the Reagan landslide over Mondale. It's what we heard about the GOP in 1996 and 2012 as a two term President cruised to victory over minimal opposition.

The other talk is of the Bernie and Hillary split. I don't put much credence in this as I don't see either running in 2020 (both will be over 70). There might be hard feelings but I liken Bernie to Ron Paul, and his absence will lighten the memory.  Besides my gut instinct that it's no longer a thing, and your social media feed still reading like Summer 2016, recent polls indicate Dems are more united than Republicans.

In any case, the Dems are generally the party of the Fresh Face. It's the party of Kennedy. It's the party of relative unknowns like Clinton and Obama. It's why Gary Hart, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt were exciting the first go around, but were lagging in the polls on their second efforts.

This of course, doesn't explain HRC (or Gore or Mondale), but then again she didn't win, did she?

The GOP is the Party of Nixon. it is the party of 'doing your work and putting in your time". The Party of Nixon, Reagan, Dole, and most recently Romney and McCain- candidates who fell short in their initial run. Trump doesn't follow the rule of Conventional Wisdom, but when did Trump follow CW.

There are bellwether events on both sides before the election.  A prominent one was the Indianola Steak Fry which was hosted by longtime Senator Tom Harkin.  Harkin has retired but the Democrats still use the fundraiser to bring big names to the Hawkeye State.

This event took place recently and despite it being very early, it is still one of those necessary stops for those who are interested in plotting out a campaign.

This early on, the heavyweights like Kaine, Biden and Booker probably don't need to pound the pavement.  Still, those who are working from further behind are making their moves.  The excellent Des Moines Register correspondent Jason Noble reported on the event which I drew upon here.  Noble suggests some of those who attended are looking more at 2024 than 2020.

In any case, here's six people you have never heard of that could be our next President, and remember I said it first.

Tim Ryan- Everything about Tim screams Presidential candidate.  He is a Representative from Ohio.  He says he is not interested in running for Governor in 2018 (which frees him up for 2020), but he also says he is "probably" not running for President.  In any case, if he is not running, he has been busy making trips to Iowa and South Carolina to stump for local candidates.  Ryan's biggest moment has been after the election, when he ran against Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader (She promised more opportunities for junior Congressmen and he lost by a ratio of 2-1).  Ryan with his challenge of Pelosi and his trips to Carolina appears to be setting himself up as the kind of Pre-Obama Red State style Democrat that everyone thought was needed to win the White House.  He is in a district that went for Trump, so the GOP will be trying to beat him before he gets the chance to do more,

Seth Moulton- Moulton is a Rep from Massachusetts who fits even more in that Jim Webb Red State mold.  He's the subject of an article that is called Generals Love him, Top Democrats hate him.  He has unlikely friends like David Petreaus, David Gergen and Stanley McCrystal.  He had four tours of duty as a Marine in Iraq so he has been attacking Trump's military record.  He was also one of the most vocal opponents of Nancy Pelosi's re-election as Minority Leader.  He seems to have appeal for those red state Democrats who don't see Pelosi as a 'good kind of liberal'.  Although he is from a Liberal State, he is from the most Conservative of districts there.

Jeff Merkley- There will surely be a rush to grab Bernie supporters, and this Oregon Senator will likely be one beneficiary.  Merkley was the only US Senator to support Bernie Sanders.  Merkley, in those "gradecard" scores of Liberalism consistently ranks with Sanders and Warren as the Bluest of the Blue.  he has a Universal Health care system he calls "Medicare for All" and  is a strong voice for education spending and infrastructure.  Merkley has been quietly active in Iowa, so expect to hear more out of him.

Cheri Bustos - Illinois congressman Bustos based out of Peoria is probably not looking at 2020, but is a rising star in the Democrat Party.  She was touted as a possible candidate for the vulnerable state house job held by Republican Bruce Rauner.  She isn't running, which probably makes sense since it is an already a crowded field, one with a Kennedy, and he's not even the favorite.  She was one of only eleven Representatives to win in a Trump-won district, and she won it in a landslide.  She is a Pro-Choice Catholic, limited on gun control, pro-pipeline, and called the ACA "imperfect"- a center-left politician that can fight off the "out of touch Coast Liberals" .  She is the only Midwesterner in the Democrat House Leadership and may have some Red State appeal that others don't.

Pete Buttigieg - Although only 35 and his highest held position is Governor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg deserves some notice.  He sounds like something off a check list- a gay ex-Navy Harvard graduate who has won big in a Red State.  Buttigieg impresses wherever he goes and has favorable quotes from the likes of David Axelrod and Jeff Weaver, the chairman of Sanders 2016 campaign.  He ran for DNC chair which put him on the radar, and is a voice for the millennials.  It seems unlikely a mayor of such a relatively small town would make the Big Run, but he has been in Iowa enough that he is definitely up to something.

Grace Meng- Unlike the other six, Meng did not attend the Steak Fry, but deserves mention as she was in the State during the same time, hosting a Women's Event as DNC Vice Chair.  Like Bustos, the article thinks Meng is likely looking further down the calendar than 2020.  As a congresswoman representing Queens, she is the highest ranking Asian American in New York City.  Her talking points have been building up a new coalition, criticizing Debra Wasserman Schultz' s tenure and saying the only way the Democrats can get back to winning is to bring in minority groups like Asians, Latinos, and African Americans.

On the Shelf 187: Mark Lanegan Band
Leonard Cohen always loomed in the background of Mark Lanegan records, so no doubt he is on my mind when reviewing Gargoyle.

I guess I always figured Cohen would live to be 120 years old, but we knew the next generation had worthwhile successors, of which Lanegan is one of the most prominent ones.

Also, via rock's history of tragedy, Lanegan is on of the few leading men from the Grunge era. Cobain, Staley, Weiland, and now Cornell have all gone. Improbably, it's Mark Arm and Lanegan as some of the last few.

In any case, wisened old age has served Lanegan well. He fits into the shoes of an old blues singer like few others.

It was around 1994 when Lanegan 's star first shone brightest on Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, an offering on Sub Pop which many would have at the time considered a 'hobby' for someone whose main job was Screaming Trees. Ten years later, six albums in, 2004's Bubblegum made us all look backwards and realized that he had built a career that would dwarf his band's, and he was just getting started.

In that first decade of the new century, Lanegan was busy recording with Queens of the Stone Age, collaborating with the Soulsavers, and recording duets albums with Isobel Campbell and Greg Dulli. There's probably about ten albums in those years that range from 'very good' to 'essential'.

Whether we realized it at the time or not (and I think many of us did), Lanegan had a stretch that very few others could compare to in terms of artistry.

For me, personally, the current decade has been somewhat of a letdown. It almost would have to be after that. Still, it's not that Lanegan wasn't recording. he was as prolific as ever, but this time his artistry took him down some other paths- a covers album, a instrument-heavy collaboration with Duke Garwood, a collection of previously recorded demos, etc.

Cohen's Achilles heel was usually his backing band. Cohen wasn't a dual guitar, bass, and drums rock n roller. He often had background vocalists, strings and heavy production.

Lanegan similarly knows that his music is best rendered as soundscapes and not traditional rock band. For me, much of the let down on Phantom Radio and Blues Funeral was the music.

Still, Lanegan was born from Grunge, and he's always going to have an ear for rock.

Gargoyle dials that up quite a bit. The best moments are the hardest rocking like the not so imaginatively titled "Nocturne", which evokes the title in a hard-charging slightly seedy David Lynch soundtrack kind of way. the kind of music that is Barry Adamson's stock in trade.

The album's best song is "The Emperor", which cuts way too close to being a cover of Iggy's "The Passenger". Given the Josh Homme connection and everything else, it's likely more of a homage than a rip-off.

What helps this album out is that even the less remarkable tracks stand up. There really is nothing here that isn't good to some degree. When The Guardian gave this Five Stars out of Five, I totally get it.

I stop short of that, though diehard Lanegan fans will not be disappointed. To me, many of the songs are great but don't really leave much of a lasting impression (For example, "Death Head's Tattoo" which precedes "Nocturne" isn't really much different than its successor). Lanegan (on here) doesn't really have anything that is quite on par with any of other of Cohen's heirs like Cave or Waits.

Still, you can't quite expect that, either. It's a fine album and to me, one of his best in awhile.

The Event
I mis-timed seeing the event of the year. Indeed, only by one week. I was just in Southern Illinois, where I spent nearly three decades of my life. Still, schedule didn't coincide with the Big Event.

Indeed, it sounded like the weather did not cooperate anyway.

I am of course, talking about the Elvis balloon

There are plenty of Balloon Fests around the country and I am not sure how the local one compares nationally, but my understanding is that weather hampered the event.

Oh, and there was that other big August Event at the same time- the Total Solar eclipse with the primary spot for viewing as Carbondale, Illinois, and the buzz around the area from Mt Vernon, Illinois to Paducah, Kentucky.

Given I spent so much time in this area, it would have been good to go, but it just didn't happen.

Carbondale has been on a downward economic slide since I lived there in the 90s.  The Eclipse was 2017's biggest saviour, with the hotels and restaurants all filled up.

I heard stories of people renting their backyards at $50 a pop for tents, which seems realistic.  Friends in the area said the traffic was like a Big City after a traffic accident- one car after another.

I looked at the Carbondale schedule and whatever your hobby is (quilting, comic books, etc) there was a place in C'dale to celebrate your interest.  There were bands though disappointing to me, they were Fleetwood Mac, U2 and Metallica cover bands.  I don't expect The Mac or U2 to come to town, but would have liked to seen 'real' bands play.

The biggest event was in the small town of Carterville which landed Ozzy Osbourne

This was a real coup to get Ozzy who has also reunited with Zakk Wylde.  I imagine you have already picked up on the Bark at the Moon reference, but he performed it during the eclipse (get it?).

Initial lineup for the four day festival seemed week, but ended up landing quite a few big names of the genre- Theory of a Deadman, Saliva, Halestorm, Five Finger Death Punch, Texas Hippie Coalition

(Also in case you wondered, Bonnie Tyler who also seemed primed to cash in, did so on a Cruise Ship just off the coast of Florida backed by DNCE.  She performed a two minute version of the song.  Just because God and Nature's plan of the eclipse was much shorter in scale than the plans of Jim Steinman, who made Tyler's original song eight minutes long).

In Paducah, a mall owner decided that God's Wonder wasn't enough and that what the two minute Total Eclipse needed was fireworks.  I am not sure how that went over, but he ticked a lot of people off by attempting it.

I was in Central Iowa, far enough away for only a partial eclipse on a very overcast and stormy day, it did get dark but it was hard to determine what was caused by rainclouds and what was the eclipse.  I doubt we had any cattle going to sleep or owls flying or anything like that.

My friends in that prime area of Southern Illinois (or maybe 40 miles north) reported something similar.  Certainly darkness, but twilight darkness not pitch black midnight darkness.

For a Once in the Life time event, everyone is already excited for the April 2024 Total Eclipse which should follow a similar path.

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
There are a lot of unique things at the Iowa State fair, and I have pretty much been able to blog them all. Still, I am sure I miss something.

In any case, I know that i have not mentioned Parlor Rollers.

Parlor Rollers are a type of domesticated pigeon that involuntarily rolls across the ground.

The story is that royalty over the years have bred and raced these flightless birds. These continue to be competitions.

Sure, it is easy to mock this Sport of Kings when you have full seasons of Game of Thrones available on your phone, but it was not always that way.


Iowa State Fair: Butter....
So each year I post about the Butter Sculpture at the Iowa State Fair.

It's sort of been a who's who of culture and history - Butter Elvis, Star Trek, the Last Supper, Tiger Woods, the moon landing, Snow White, Dr Seuss, John Wayne, Superman and many others.

I didn't see much of anything written about ths year's Butter Sculpture.  Perhaps in the Facebook/Reddit age, things truly have to be bizzare to go viral.

In any case, while it's good to see a salute to literature, Butter Laura Ingalls Wilder doesn't have the same buzz as Butter Spock.

I looked up Wilder, and my initial thought was the Dakotas.  Indeed, you can travel her home and museum in South Dakota.

Wilder did live in Iowa, though not on the Western side, as you might expect, but on the East.  She was born in Wisconsin and she taught on the other side f the Iowa/Wisconsin border.  She also spent a large amount of her life in Missouri, which could stake a claim to her, and as far as I can tell- Kansas, Minnesota, and New York too.

In any case, not a year passes that i don't post something about the butter sculpture, so mark this one in the books.

Comic Review: Dastardly and Muttley #1
Dastardly & Muttley (2017-) #1Dastardly & Muttley (2017-) #1 by Garth Ennis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dang it. When I saw this on the rack, I knew I was going to end up buying it. Never mind, there surely are other books I am not picking up which are more deserving of my four dollars.

In any case, it's Ennis, and though he hit a post-Preacher slump, he is back on a roll. His comic skewering All Star Six Pack was nothing short of brilliant.

Besides the name must sell enough comics, because I have no idea why D.C. keeps green lighting this kind of stuff. I would love to see D.C. give a bit more work than the once or twice a decade projects they throw to people like Pete Bagge and Evan Dorkin and R Crumb, to name a few.

As you can guess, this s the Dick Dastardly and Muttley of Wacky Races. I think there probably is enough audience to justify a six issue miniseries. Yet, because D.C. cant leave well enough alone, this is some weird story that imagines Muttley as some Morrison-sequel We3 character. Lol wut?

Ok, so Ennis is the go to for WW2 comics and the go to for The Boys type gross out jokes. Mauricet is a worthy heir to Derrick Robertson, Dillon, Pugh and other Ennis collaborators.

I don't really know how to review this, because I am not sure what to make of it. On the positive side, there are enough Ennisims that I feel justfied in my purchase. On the other hand, this seems like a wholly unnecessary comic. It's not a parody. Despite the twists and drugs, it's not really a Vertigo title. For sure, it doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with Wacky Racers, despite all the references.

I will throw in the extra star though because Garth Ennis injects his style of humor throughout, and although it's not laugh out loud funny like Six Pack, it is pretty clever.

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