Much of my life has revolved around music. From my first concert (Elvis Costello and the Attractions at the Circle Theater in 1978) to my most recent one (Clairo in Austin last autumn), I’ve spent much of my time listening to, reading about and arguing about music. After being a critic of shitty music for decades, I now create my own shitty music (check out The Steve Hammer 1 on SoundCloud for examples.) Making music is quite fun but listening to quality music is more rewarding.
“You took my sadness out of context at the Mariners Apartment Complex,” sang Lana Del Rey on her last album. “I ain’t no candle in the wind.” I don’t need to know that she had a bad interview experience at a similarly named building to understand someone fucked her over and they’re going to pay dearly for this transgression.
I don’t need to see the Public Enemy video for “Can’t Truss It” to understand the horrible legacy of American slavery and the scars it leaves all these centuries later. The best music takes you there and makes you feel Chuck D’s anger and makes me want to smash the capitalist state with a sledgehammer too, especially given today’s political climate.
Musicians themselves, however, are a mixed bag. The hour I spent on the tour bus of the Insane Clown Posse was among the more interesting 60 minutes of my life. Receiving a hug from James Brown was another moment I’ll never forget.
But I have to give credit to what might seem like unlikely sources. Henry Lee Summer had a goofy hit record the 1980s that didn’t do much for me but I’ve heard him live at a club very nearly bring me to tears with his music’s power and passion.
Periodically I get asked about the greatest bands I’ve ever seen. And I always have to laugh because my most honest answer is a band I’m not naming because it’s been so many years although it won’t take a lot of research to figure it out.
We’ll call them QN. They were huge in the quasi-metal Emerson Theater club scene in the late 1990s-early 2000s. I loved this band as much as life itself. They were harsh and had great collaborative skills in songwriting and vocals. They were the kind of band I couldn’t see enough — and I probably saw them 100 times or more, never on the guest list as I recall. Didn’t matter to me because I felt like I was watching a new Nirvana. Few bands could combine anger, aggression and tenderness as well as QN.
I wrote paragraph after paragraph in NUVO about how you’re really missing out if you don’t like the band. Other bands sent me nasty emails about how they got too much coverage and I shouldn’t kiss their asses so much.
The funny thing was that QN, the band members, apparently despised me passionately. Called me a fat ugly asshole from the stage, said I was a dick etc. I never deliberately insulted them, propositioned any band members and if I did something horrible, it was totally accidental. It’s always been trendy to dislike me; I’m not sure it was anything personal.
To be fair, I very likely was a fat, ugly asshole and a dick back then so they get truth points for that. And I no doubt fucked up one or more things in the many stories I wrote about them.
I really didn’t give a fuck about this back then and don’t now, other than it being a funny story to tell. I loved their music a lot. and wish I could still access it. Their MySpace page was the last place I saw their music back in the days of George W.
I’ve heard from a million people the band members are nice people, other than not liking me, and I admire them for being super cool to trash the people who promote you.
Along with the Slurs and the Mighty John Waynes, two of my other favorite bands from that general era, (RIP Steve Pratt), there were years of fun being involved in music. I’m glad those days are over — it’s not that much fun getting called an asshole by your favorite band. But I’m glad I was there.