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Monday, April 4, 2011

Austrian Sock Puppets, Elvis, and the Next Big Thing

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 3:32 PM

The word "ragtime" describes a kind of music. You think of gaslights and mustachioed gentlemen in red and white vertical striped shirts with garters around their biceps banging away on an out of tune upright. Jelly Roll Morton probably died broke and broken but he sure did know how to make that "sweet harmony." Why can't we have a new idea in music like that? Why, with all our trinkets and doo dads, can't we create a new genre? It's a good question. To answer it, we are going to have to look into where the term 'ragtime' came from. Which is easy. Once a month, a girl has her 'ragtime'. And in the brothels of New Orleans, when a girl was on her ragtime, she couldn't work. Well, couldn't work doin' the wild thing, anyway. So she'd play the piano. In a house of prostitution, there are many girls. So they'd take turns playing the piano when they were on their ragtime. That sloppy style was created by the fact that they weren't very good, as they only played for three days a month or so and didn't practice in between. And when they were playing they were, well, their mood wasn't exactly ... Oh never mind.

The point I'm trying to make is that ragtime music wasn't invented. It just occurred. It was an accident. Those ladies of the evening invented a wonderful style of playing. It was fun. Whimsical. Silly. Dancey. It was authentic. That kind of music couldn't be invented by musicians. Trained musicians. Skilled composers couldn't come up with that music, which took the world by storm and paved the way for the jazz that would come and eventually give us Bon Jovi.

Also: The ships came to Hawaii. On the ships were Mexicans. Who had guitars. They left the guitars. But didn't teach anyone how to tune them. Thus: the slack key Hawaiian sound. That lose twangy string was an accident. Combined with the fact that the Hawaiian alphabet only has 11 characters (and 18 sounds!), you got your Don Ho right there. But you can get a billion graduates from Julliard and not one of them would come up with the slack key. Not one of them would be able to write Blue Hawaii.

So where are we at? Musically. What's next? Well, it doesn't look good. Because now, everyone is an expert at everything. There are no amateurs anymore. With the internet, you can know everything about the cotton gin in 40 seconds. How does a turbo work? 20 seconds. Do you have your eyes opened or closed when juggling 8 balls? Closed. Firing order for 1955 Studebaker? 18452736. So how are we gonna stumble into that next thing? Where is that happy accident? The answer is I don't really know. Nor do I know anyone who really knows. What I do know is that you can take lessons on you tube for any instrument. Reminds me that Hasil Adkins used to listen to the radio when he was a kid and think that Hank Williams was playing all the instruments and singing at the same time. He later became a one man band you've never heard of who opened for Elvis. Look him up, be an expert on Hasil Adkins. He was a hoot. Terrible musician. Fantastic personality. Soul of a giant. On and on. I can think of more examples, but you've got the point...
Which is that it seems like we're in a lull. Which is exciting because you need to really look around and see what its gonna catch. What weird thing is going to truck and be the thing that becomes the next thing that rocks. I don't know what scene the next idea is gonna come from. I don't know what kind of music it will evolve from. But I know it will be in someone's living room first. You have to go see shit in living rooms to really know what's going on. Shit that can't get into a club not because it's not good enough or not interesting enough. Shit that is booked with 3 days notice!!!! Like tonight, for example, there's a puppet show from Austria in my living room. Starts at 8. These guys are amazing, they're impossible to explain. I let them use my space for super cheap because I love them. They come once or twice a year and always have something political, refreshing, and hysterical. They're Austrian, so they're kinda perverted with a straight face. Here's the show: "Our favorite sock puppets Kiki and Bubu have some feelings, so they sign up for an online dating site. When the People of China want to become their friend, they are excited. However, sending the People of China a video of themselves proves to be difficult: Their content gets flagged as inappropriate and taken down from YouTube. On the long quest for knowledge which follows, Kiki and Bubu learn all about Internet censorship. And love."

  • William P. Gottlieb

I don't know that the world will change tonight forever. I don't know that the soundtrack for Kiki and Bubu's puppet show will make Jazz seem trite. But what I do know is that you have to leave your house to start a revolution. You have to risk to gain reward. You must believe. I'd like to believe that tonight is the first night in a new renaissance of art. That puppets are the new music. That something can happen tonight to change the outcome of everything. The dice are tumbling. That there is a handicap already set up, and just waiting for someone to notice.
You did know that Les Paul's right arm (the one that strums) was completely paralyzed, didn't you? Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath's guitar player) only has 2 fingers on his right hand (he plays lefty his right is his fretting hand), did you know that? Jerry Garcia only had 3 fingers on his fretting finger (why do you think the Dead suck so bad?) Shit, Django Reinhardt's left arm was completely paralyzed (he played righty, meaning his left elbow and wrist were immobile). Right there are four guitar players who should have played the harmonica but instead they changed the world. Why? Because of their handicap. They sounded interesting. They used their problem and made it their advantage. How am I using this to get you to come see a terrible puppet show tonight?
If I told you "Lets go see this guy play guitar, his hands all fucked up and he can hardly play," you wouldn't want to go.
"Lets go see this puppet show from these fucked up Austrians in a living room on a Monday night!"
See you there...
Kiki and Bubu: RATED R US
Chez Poulet (Chicken John's Place)
3359 Cesar Chavez
San Francisco, CA
Monday, April 4 · 8 pm

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Chicken John


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