Blow Me Where the Pampers Is

So last night looking to get out of the AC-less heat in my apartment I headed over to Jackrabbits to see The Expendables, who were headlining some Jagermeister sponsored package tour put together with fellow ska-rockers The Supervillains and Authority Zero.

Both The Supervillians and The Expendables opened for Fishbone the last time they came through town -- and even though I can't say I fell in love with either of them after that particular performance, it wasn't like either band was really horrible in any real way. Plus the ticket was only $10 -- so even if they weren't all that good it wasn't like I was throwing away tons of money on a bad show.

The thing about these bands is that despite the fact that it would be easiest to categorize both of them as third generation ska-rockers, the simple fact is that despite their upbeat tempos, horn section accompaniment, solid (sometimes even impressive) guitar work, and faux dancehall accents and flourishes in their singing styles -- I personally find it easier to simply put them into their own little category:
Pot Rock.
In other words, regardless of the style of music these bands play -- almost all of their lyrics are about getting baked.
Expendables Song Titles        Supervillains Song Titles
Ganja Smuggling                     The Cam Song
Mary Jane & Jager                   Sensimilla
Crippy Weed                            Piped
And it's not like I don't realize that a huge chapter of the history of modern music isn't littered with songs about drugs or getting high, but to me there really comes a point where the whole thing gets kinda played out. In other words, if your major challenge as a songwriter is continually having to come up with different words that rhyme with "icky sticky," it gets kinda hard to take you seriously after a while.
One of the The Expendables bigger hits is a love song called "Bowl for Two" which goes:
Oh I -- I packed this bowl for two
And I -- I’m gonna wanna smoke it with you..
Needless to say -- Hotel California it ain't.
And I know that if you asked them these bands would try to tell you that they are continuing a musical tradition that has its roots in reggae music and the two-tone ska bands of the mid-80's, but the simple truth is that whether they want to admit it or not they're all riding the coattails one group and one group only -- Sublime.

Anyone who knows me really well knows that I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Sublime. When you look at it on paper, I have every reason to love them. They were basically discovered by Fishbone lead singer Angelo Moore, who was good friends with the groups late lead singer/guitarist Brad Nowell. As a band Sublime specialized in a more reggae-heavy variant of ska than many of the pop-ish ska bands that were popular at the time (Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger), and their songs featured some really skilled guitar work.

Add to this the fact that I have a lot of friends who love them to death and you'd think it would be sort of a slam dunk -- But I've just never really gotten into them all that much.

Why? Probably for a lot of reasons -- the least of which revolve around my continued assertion that "Santeria" is one of the most annoying songs ever written, regardless of how many people on dance floors all over the world love it when the DJ drops the music out so they can all shout
"Id pop a cap in Sancho and Id slap her dow-ow-ow-ow-own."
I don't know -- there's a few songs that are OK, but by and large they leave me flat. And I can't help but think that the real reason behind it all comes directly from the fact that I don't smoke pot.

Of course just because it's not my thing doesn't mean that I have a problem with people who do. If that's your thing and you like doing it -- then more power to you, knock yourself out. Little be it for me to tell you how to have a good time.
At the same time, just because I'm accepting your desire to blaze out doesn't
mean I won't make fun of your ass when you choose to act like a damn fool.
And maybe it's just me -- but there are few things out there that bring out dumbass behavior in potheads like the music of Sublime. Not so much in the way the lyrics of the songs deal with getting stoned or whatever, but more in the way people try to use the band as some sort of symbolic indication of how relaxed, enlightened, and streetwise they are.
In other words, it seems like there are a lot of people out there who:
  • only seem to listen to bands like Sublime while they're smoking pot, perhaps in some weak-assed attempt to make it seem like they're immersed in that sort of Long Beach California laid back weedhead lifestyle, even though they actually only imbibe once in a while.
  • Listen to (or worse, don't listen to but keep the CD noticeably displayed in their car) to let you know that "they're down and cool" and if they didn't have to go work for the man, they'd be totally stoned right now.
So maybe it's actually more accurate for me to say that what I find annoying isn't so much Sublime themselves, but I've had trouble connecting to them as a band because a large portion of their fans that use the music to try and align themselves with a lifestyle they actually only occasionally subscribe to.

It's the same behavior you see with Baby Boomers whenever they pull out their Jimmy Buffet albums, or the way college kids try to get you to believe they've listened to Bob Marley their whole life.

That whole I'm like this ALL THE TIME attitude that people like to put on with certain kinds of music, even when you're around them enough of the time to know that they're clearly not.
Look, If you need a specific soundtrack to get high -- how much of stoner can you really claim to be?
Look, do you really want to know what potheads really listen to? -- Potheads listen to each other's inane babbling about how uptight the rest of the world is while insisting over and that the spiritual powers they have retained from their American Indian forbears helps them to be able to totally handle their high.

Sure there's music playing while all of this babbling is going on, but in a true stoners house that same music was playing before the drug paraphernalia was ever brought out, was still playing after everyone has passed out on the couch, and probably will play all day long while they're out doing whatever it is they do.
Music doesn't dictate your habits. Nor does it enhance your vices.
And anyone who tries to tell you differently is completely full of crap.
Music entertains. It enriches people's lives by allowing them to experience different emotional states with more than one of their senses at a time. Good music has the ability to engage you emotionally and intellectually. Favorite music can be ignored as background noise and tuned out just as easily as it can be lost in and inspired by.
It should be an expression of your personality, not a roadmap to it.
And sure, there are certain bands and styles of music that seem to be more associated with stoners, but if you think about that one guy or girl you know who is like waaaay too into marijuana as a lifestyle, one of the most annoying things about them is the fact that their musical tastes are usually all over the place. They're the ones who have the top 40 hip hop albums on in the car, the Tool songs on their iPod, but then break out the completely faded cassette bootlegs of that Grateful Dead show in Modesto where they almost, almost like touched it man..

To me, people who try really hard to impress upon you the extent of their drug experience by subjecting you to songs that tell you how many joints they smoke a day are about as valid as people who try to express their toughness through songs that tell you how many people they've shot, or how many people happen to be standing under their umbrella at any given moment.
It all boils down to the fact that some people go to ridiculous lengths to try and be something they’re not
A behavior that seems to increase a billionfold
whenever the idea of getting high comes into play.
So despite the fact that I always like to see a good musical performance, added to the fact that I already knew and sorta liked these bands didn't help ease my worry that my enjoyment of the evening was more than likely going to be completely dependant on what sort of crowd showed up.

The first thing you need to know about Jackrabbits is that the place is really small. It’s the quintessential picture of a hole in the wall music club. The good thing about this is that when you see a show there, you’re usually able to get really close and personal with the performers, which usually translates into really energetic shows because the bands can see the crowds and easily feed off their enthusiasm (or lack thereof).
The bad side of this is that when the place gets crowded, it turns into a fucking oven.
A fact that became immediately clear when I stepped in the door and found the place completely wall to wall with people. The heat literally hit you when the door closed behind you, wrapping your body in its weight and almost instantly making you sweat. Considering the fact that I’d come to this show to get away from a place that didn’t have a working AC unit, this was an immediate downer – but the beer was cold, and the music was live, and despite the humidity and the lack of room to stand in, it seemed a better way to spend an evening than just sitting home and watching the tube.

The crowd was young, filled with girls in Hollister shirts and guys wearing Bermuda shorts with their shirts taken off and tied around belts that were only there to draw a line between their pants and the boxer shorts that were strategically exposed as if to say: "my pants are slung low like I’m from the streets, but my brand names are from the mall because I’m not". It was easy to assume that everyone had their shirts off because of the heat, but the place was so crowded that it was impossible to avoid contact with the peole next to you -- a fact that seemed to make the atmosphere even worse.
Basically it was like playing the low post in a pick-up basketball game against 200 people.
The Supervillains were on stage, having a good time and really charging the crowd up. Maybe it makes me a hypocrite, but despite the fact that I think a lot of their lyrics are retarded – it’s hard not to like their sound and get swept up into their energy. And regardless of whatever opinions I might have about the people all around me; that’s what I had hoped to find when I went there.
Still, it started to get old in a real hurry when after almost every song the band would ask questions like:
"How many of you motherfuckers like to get high?"
"Is there anyone out there who smokes pot?"
"Who wants to come smoke out with us in the parking lot after the show?"
And my personal favorite:
"How many of the women out there have a vagina?"
Only to have the crowd completely fall over themselves shouting in approval every single time. And yeah I know that it’s pretty basic concert behavior to agree with almost anything the singer says, but It’s almost like you could imagine some chick in the front row thinking to herself, "Wait a minute -- I have a vagina. I actually qualify to answer this question –- Whoooooooooo!"
It reminds me of that old joke:
Never ask a tattoo artist if they’ve ever been asked to do art on a dick
Because they’ll always answer,
"Yeah, I’m working on one right now"
The bands changed sets, and The Expendables kicked into their set. The crowd was instantly into the show, dancing around, singing on cue, and generally having a good time. But there was really no escaping the fact that we were all crammed in there like sardines. Add to that the fact that half the people in the place were smoking cigarettes, and despite the great music and positive vibe to the crowd, it was a really uncomfortable place to be.

And you could tell the band felt that way too -- because their comments between songs continually returned to how hot it was in there, how uncomfortable they were, and how amazing it was too see such a big crowd on such a hot night. Much like The Supervillains before them the energy of their performance was infectious, and the crowd seemed more than happy to go wherever the band wanted to lead them, up to and including the moment when after draining a bottle of water the lead singer looked out into the crowd and said:
"Hey Jacksonville, how many of you like to smoke marijuana?"
And of course the crowd screamed in approval – but then the dude said something that really surprised me:
"All right then – let’s do this. Spark 'em up right now, let’s get high!"
There was an odd pause in the crowd noise, followed almost instantly by the unmistakable aroma of waaay too many people in the crowd doing exactly what the singer asked.
At which point security swooped into the crowd, found
the offending parties, and immediately threw them out.
Now understand something here -- I’ve been around a lot of bands in my day. I’ve seen groups stop playing in the middle of gigs because they didn’t like the vibe (the Pixies). I’ve seen bands stop gigs because the guitarist broke a string and forgot to bring an extra. I’ve worked for groups with singers who right before the show said "Man I really don’t feel like playing tonight" then went out on stage and started a fight with an audience member to get themselves thrown out of the club -- But I have never, ever seen a band purposely trick their audience into getting thrown out of a show just to make the place a little cooler
Which is what I’m pretty sure happened right in front of me last night.

[Listening to:    George Clinton"High in My Hello" ]