the beauty president (short) | sxsw 2021

the beauty president (short) | sxsw 2021

The first day of SXSW was filled with films for me. One in particular that caught my eye from the moment I saw the lineup was a short – 10 minutes – film named The Beauty President.

Director Whitney Skauge has told a true story that most people may not be aware of – the 1992 bid for the White House by a write-in candidate. Not just any write-in candidate, but drag queen Joan Jett Blakk, an openly queer candidate. In referring to Ronald Reagan, she reminded us that “If a bad actor can be elected president, what about a good drag queen?”  

At the height of the AIDS crisis in America, Joan Jett Blakk ran on a platform of health care for all and education – in fact, she wanted to switch the budget for the military with the budget spent on education. The healthcare was especially important in a time during our history when people were dying of AIDS at an alarming rate and antiretroviral drugs had yet to be developed to combat the HIV infection.

Although not considered a political threat, Joan Jett Blakk was an officially registered candidate.  In video from the convention, we see that she even made it to the convention floor. Skauge used footage from the era and current interviews with Terence Alan Smith (the man behind Joan Jett Blakk) to convey a moment in history. I only wish it was longer than 10 minutes – I wanted to hear more of Smith’s story and I wanted Whitney Skauge to commit it to film.

so your favorite band is garbage

so your favorite band is garbage

What to do when you find out your favorite musician is
Racist and/or
Sexist and/or
Homophobic and/or
Transphobic and/or
COVID-denying and/or
A general piece of garbage…

You know that band/musician you loved growing up? The one that speaks to you at any age. The one you’ve seen in concert 10+ times? You’ve gone to festivals for them, you’ve had their posters since you were 8, their music got you through the good AND bad times – including moving to a new city as a kid. You requested a song of theirs and dedicated it to your twin sister at your wedding reception…

If you can’t tell, I have a band that fits this bill. And last week, it came to my attention that at least two of their members have revealed themselves as garbage.

And, I’m not kidding when I say that I have supported them, purchased their music and trivia books and even had lunch with them in high school. #BigFan

But, as of last week, that is no more. And, on top of that, I felt a strong urge to take a few more steps. So, if you are devastated and angry at a revelation that a musician that has had a strong impact in your life up to this point is actually COVID-denier – and more – and you aren’t sure what to do with that rage? How do you reconcile with the fact that you supported that trash for so long? Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Sit with the fact that you wish they wouldn’t have said anything at all. It’s there. It’s real. AND it’s a red flag of privilege – that ignorance-is-bliss mentality COULD be easier at times, but isn’t something that many humans can afford, nor is it something to seek out. Easier does NOT equal better – at least in this case. Their saying something out loud may feel like a curse. It’s really a blessing. Because, once you know better, you do better, right?
  2. In your mind/journal, thank them for everything they brought/were to you/did for you in the before times. Maybe vent into a voice message. Scream into a pillow. All good things must come to an end. Now, get to work.
  3. Cut ‘em off. All social media follows and purchases. 
  4. Call ‘em out. It’s not enough just to unfollow. Let people know the type of folks they are supporting/following. And, if all you can think with this step is, “WOW, another person promoting cancel culture and trying to silence someone”…read up on what cancel culture really is/means (and, this Times article is from 2019…still very much stands)
  5. Stop streaming. Even though it’s just pennies per stream – they are benefitting monetarily from you still tuning into their music.
  6. Count up how much money you’ve paid them over the years – posters, albums, concert tickets, merch, etc. – and demand they pay that in donations/reparations. Not sure what reparations are? Nicole Cardoza of Anti-Racism Daily (subscribe to the daily newsletter AND support their work monetarily), shared the following in the February 1, 2021 version of the newsletter:

    “Reparations are necessary for achieving racial equity (Brookings). On an individual level, pay it forward to creators you learn from on social media or organizers in your community. On a local level, find the local or state initiative advocating for reparations and support for their work. In addition, I recommend completing the Reparations Now Tool Kit created by the Movement for Black Lives to create a comprehensive plan.” 
  7. That last ask feel like a bit of a stretch? That’s OK. If you have the means, pay those reparations/donations yourself. Installments are fine. Refer to my last point in where to contribute, if you can’t think of anything. (For example: I am contributing to KC Tenants – a multiracial group in my hometown that organizes to ensure everyone has a safe, accessible, and affordable home. I also contribute to Gift KC on a monthly recurring basis).
  8. Feel like there is a hole in your heart where that music lived? Find some new music – you are in the right place to find independent artists here at imperfect Fifth), and accept that this – like many things and all of 2020 – is a grieving process. You won’t “just get over it”. 

Just know that not taking action shows lack of care, and even – dare I say it – complicity?

The world won’t change unless we each take steps – individually and collectively – towards the world we want.

wondering what former favorite band of mine I might be referring to? Hanson. It’s Hanson (find out what led me to this action and rant, here and here). ALSO? Brian Littrell. Fuck em.

guy keltner of acid tongue talks chopped cheese, the upstream festival, and babies

guy keltner of acid tongue talks chopped cheese, the upstream festival, and babies

Just ahead of Acid Tongue‘s October full-length release Babies, the highly entertaining musical duo of Guy Keltner and Ian Cunningham – who are often joined by “friends” and operate out of New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle – has been busy, busy, busy. First premiering their track “If I Really Loved Her” via All Things Go, which boasted that “the band demonstrate both instrumental prowess and respect for their musical heritage as the sons of psychedelic forebears,” and they’re not wrong. These guys have got a handle on crooning, beautiful, psych sounds that could really drive the way you see your autumn if you choose to partake in some listening pleasure. 

But we don’t just have the inside scoop on the album release. (Friday October 13th, mark your calendars.) We also have a little more insight on some of the tracks, their feelings on the music industry, and snacks in this quick (and fun) interview with Guy Keltner that happened in honor of their upcoming album release. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out!

What is the first song or album you ever remember hearing, and who introduced it to you?
Probably my mom playing Bob Marley or the Cranberries to us as kids. We had one of those old Technics sound systems with the tall boxy speaker cabinets. I’m sure we danced like goofy little kids to that stuff.

Was there a moment that it struck you and you realized you were going to pursue music, or did it kind of slowly evolve?
I used to think I was going to be an astronaut. I started playing piano at five, but I wasn’t exactly keen on scheduled lessons and the homework that came with it. I finally got a guitar when I was 11 and I think that’s when everything clicked. I mostly just banged on it for the first year or so, but my parents set me up with this great teacher, an old session musician from Seattle named Al Kaatz. He’s really into soul, classic R&B and reggae, and helped shape my taste and how I approach music to date.

And did you choose the “post-menopausal” life, or did it choose you? (Referencing their “genre” categorization on Facebook.)
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a awhile, you could miss it.

“If I Really Loved Her” has such a beautiful sentiment behind it. Can we expect more of the same emotion behind the rest of Babies?
The entire album is full of little easter eggs, relatable songs about daily life, but with a much deeper meaning to them. I’m not always just signing about the good stuff, either. There’s a lot of odes to life’s minutiae, thoughts on how mundane things can get. I don’t think people always want to hear about breakups and star-crossed lovers. There’s something beautiful about eating top ramen and being broke with your friends, talking about nothing and killing time.

“Talking In Your Sleep” struck our fancy with its title, and it’s one of our favorites off the release. Is this a love letter to a certain someone, or does it pull from many places?
This song is about charisma. The type of people who spin webs and can turn a boring story into something compelling. We all have friends or co-workers or family that do this.

“Accidental Drug Use” threw us for a loop, one of those “well, that escalated quickly” songs when it comes to lyrics. It’s amazing. How was this one to work on in studio? 
That song was actually written the night Bowie died. I don’t usually get upset when one of these aging rockers passes away. They’ve lived epic lives, and lot of that generation is pretty old and has seen their best days already. Bowie’s new record was surprisingly great, though, and I felt this new excitement for his music after that. KEXP in Seattle did a Bowie day, a tribute to his tunes, right after that record dropped. A few days later, I’m hearing Bowie all day again and wondering “what the hell?”. When I heard he had passed, I was absolutely crushed and this song just spilled out.

Did you choose Friday the 13th as release date for any particular reason?
Sometimes things just work out that way.

Do either of you have a favorite song off of Babies, or is that feeling applied to the entire work, since it’s your first release?
I’m torn between “Humpty Dumpty” and “If I Really Loved Her”. Both of those fell into place so perfectly during the sessions, and they are such strange tunes in general. Ian is partial to “Accidental Drug Use” though. I really dig the way his drums turned out.

What has been your favorite memory together as a band so far?
We did a short run in the Northwest recently, opening for De La Soul, playing Upstream Festival in Seattle, and generally having a blast with our friends when we were home visiting. Our bassist, Alessio, is from Italy and lives in Paris now. It was his first time in that part of the country and it’s such a different vibe than the rest of the US. We started laying down the tracks for our next LP, the follow-up to Babies. Just a really perfect trip.

How do you imagine people listening to this album? 
Everywhere. It’d be so cool to just have this be one of those LPs that synonymous with rock & roll during our era. One of those things you hear at dive bars, coffee shops, taxi cabs, wherever.

Guilty pleasure snack. Go!
Chopped cheese.

What is your opinion of the modern music industry?
It’s amazing that I have access to literally everything I could want to listen to in the palm of my hand. I’m a huge fan of Spotify and I think this is a cool era, we just have to slug it out and be persistent to make any money from our art.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Go out and buy/steal/stream Babies as soon as you can. The vinyl looks really cool, too.


Babies is out October 13th. Keep up with Acid Tongue here.

**This article was originally published on PlaylistPlay on October 5, 2017.

memory lane | home alone

memory lane | home alone

I know that Macaulay Culkin turned 40 in August, and yes, it makes me feel old. Happy Late Birthday Macaulay Culkin!

The best holiday movie memory I have? Watching Home Alone for the first time with my three-year-old twins and my 84-year-old grandmother. 

When Home Alone was released in 1990 in theaters, I completely missed it. To be honest, I missed most things in 1990. After having twins in April, our family made a major move from Missouri to California in August, and we moved into a house the first part of December. I had heard about cultural touchstones in my periphery – I do remember that 1990 brought us Milli Vanilli’s “Best New Artist” Grammy. Most everything else was a blur. How could I have predicted that I would miss the movie that held the record for the highest-grossing live action comedy? A record it held until 2011! What could be so mesmerizing about a movie with such a simple concept?

I found out in November of 1993. At three years old, the girls were mobile, could dress themselves and feed themselves, and had fun personalities. My grandmother had come to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday and Home Alone was going to have its broadcast world premiere on one of the networks. We were set for Thanksgiving night entertainment. 

I have never heard anyone laugh so often at a movie than my grandmother. I had parental angst when I saw the plane ticket go in the trash with the paper towels in the kitchen. I felt tense when the kids were counted and the neighbor kid gets counted by mistake. I am not a fan of slapstick, but when the hijinx started with the Wet Bandits, I started to loosen up and really root for Kevin.

My grandmother had a ball. The kids were laughing at all the things Kevin did and tried to guess what would happen next. Watching the three of them, at two ends of the age spectrum, see something for the first time, really made me appreciate this movie with a simple concept. My husband and I were seeing it for the first time as well, but we really were seeing it through their eyes. Since we were in our living room, the kids could run around, laugh with abandon, and talk without any editing. 

The next day brought a trip to San Francisco where I took pictures of my grandmother with her great-granddaughters at the Golden Gate Bridge. Wonderful shots, but I treasure the ones on Thanksgiving night just as much.

Because Home Alone was released on VHS for the Christmas season of 1993, we bought it, and each subsequent media iteration thereafter. It became a tradition to watch this Christmas movie on Thanksgiving for many years after. Even though we all know how it will end, I still feel angst when the plane ticket goes in the trash and I still feel tense when the kids are counted incorrectly.

And now, after all of these years, I still cheer for Kevin.