Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Short History of Metal (Part Two of Several)

(Part One)

Consider General Ambrose Burnside: general, inventor, gun nut. Well liked in his day, Burnside is remembered as a somewhat inept Civil War General, known most for his bumbling failure at Fredericksburg and his frothingly patriotic "General Order Number 38," which made it a criminal act to express any opposition to the war. His postbellum life is marked by his invention and patent of the Burnside carbine, a device that prevented hot gas from leaking from a rifle (presumably a really good idea), and was tapped to be the first president of the N.R.A. And yet, despite a military career that can be best described as "goobery" and a postbellum career that positioned him as the Original Gangsta Charlton Heston, Burnside is largely forgotten by all but a handful of bespectacled scholars and hyper-sensitive re-creationist nutjobs.

Or so you think.

Because, for all he accomplished in life, and there's plenty not included above, mind you, Burnside is known to every living American because of his hair.

See, Burnside had sideburns. Or, rather, sideburns had Burnside. The man had muttonchops so massive, so resplendent, so utterly sasquatchian that an entire facial hairstyle was named after him. If sideburns were people, Burnside's would have been the love-child of Goliath and Edward Gorey. While lesser men got morsels of soup stuck to their beard, entire sub-species of rodentia evolved in Burnside's muttonchops. And, though the magnificence of Burnside's sideburns can hardly be undersold, there's a certain sadness to the reason for his fame: here was a man who improved the rifle, who presided over a massively important American society, who fought valiantly (though poorly) for his country, and he's remembered for what?

Looking like a dumbass.

Which brings us to Glam Metal. See, like Burnside, Glam Metal had definable successes: taking metal mainstream, for example, originating the bizarre, ironic, and incredibly lucrative Christian metal subgenre for another. Glam Metal launched the careers of iconic groups like Motley Crue, Poison, and Europe, whose signature single "The Final Countdown," reached number one in a staggering 26 countries before being religated to "the song to which European footballers run onto the field" and "the song to which G.O.B. Bluth embarrasses himself." But, like Burnside, Glam Metal is looked upon with suspicion, with a certain head-shaking resignation. And, even more like Burnside, Glam Metal bands are remembered most vividly for one solitary, simple thing: looking like dumbasses.

See, Glam Metal is most commonly referred to as "Hair Metal." As Burnside The Man became Sideburns The Hair, Glam Metal The Genre became Hair Metal The Joke. The genre was typified by grown men with angular guitars mincing about, coifed in hair that even a Houston matriarch would find ostentatious, men in spandex and headbands taking an already excessive genre to levels of excess hitherto unimagined. Also: power ballads. Lots of power ballads.

Musically, Glam Metal was smoother, more refined than its progenitors. The lyrics migrated away from Tolkien and Satan and killing tons of suckas and stuck to that old metal mainstay of screwing broads like it's going out of style. But this genre was metal's crowning "triumph of style over substance" moment. Sabbath, Zeppelin, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands remain influential to not only current metal bands, but certain punk and post-punk acts as well; many still enjoy radio play. Hair Metal remains influential only to a select group of ironic hipsters and women from Jersey. And though metal has never been renowned for its sober, celibate intelligence, Hair Metal seemed to drag the genre into a morass of libidinous, hubristic idiocy unknown since Caligula. Typical is this quote from David Coverdale, singer for the mostly forgettable band Whitesnake: "This is the sexiest music my guys have ever been involved in, and they are the sexiest fucking musicians. When they play, it's sex." Which, really, is undeniable.

Perhaps most associated with the glib Hair Metal revolution that briefly curdled the American brain was Motley Crue. In addition to pioneering the use of unnecessary umlauts, the Crue took the debauchery to levels that can best be described as "you should probably be dead." Musically, really, they are largely unremarkable, a band that, by any other name, would be forgotten in the $3.99 bin at your local record store, but Motley Crue were impressive self-promoters and legitimate menaces to society. A few lowlights (with bonus Ozzy coverage):

- Whilst strung out heroin, Nikki Six (bassist), pulled a gun on a radio because he thought it was talking to him.

- Vince Neil, singer, wrecked his car in 1984, killed his passenger, served eighteen days of a monthlong sentence. The band then released "Music to Crash Your Car To," which is the third definition of "classy" in the New American Heritage Dictionary.

- Tommy Lee has a big wang.

- And then there's this, which, really, sums up both Motley Crue's debauchery and the fact that Ozzy Osbourne probably looked at them as harmless, fey kindygarteners: on tour (Motley Crue's first major tour, by the by), Sixx snorted a rather phenomenal line of cocaine. Ozzy, unwilling to be outdone, snorted a line of ants off the street, peed on the ground and licked it up, then dared Sixx to do the same. Sixx peed and, before he could commence his own personal homage to "Waterworld," Ozzy was already on all fours DRINKING MOTLEY CRUE'S PISS. Moral of the story: you never never never try to out-filth a man who's bit the head off a bat. Game. Set. Match: Osbourne.

Basically, they drank, they did oodles of drugs, they screwed promiscuously, they cleaned up, they broke up, they reunited, they unreunited, they rereunited. They even wrote a book about it, so long as one of the definitions of "wrote" is "dictated it to some dude they were probably throwing mixed nuts at." But the thing is: their songs are largely forgotten. They're remembered not as a band but more as a traveling circus of death-defying excess.

One point that should be made is that Hair Metal allowed the entire metal genre to become something other than the province of sallow loners, table top RPG players, and occult aficionados.

It was, in a word, popular. Hair Metal was metal at it's most successful. Though the late '90s would see a resurgence in mainstream headbangerness with the wholly execrable "Nu Metal" movement, Hair Metal remains the most lucrative subset of the usually marginalized metal genre. Hair Metal was to metal what the Nintendo Wii was to videogaming: the moment that finally convinced the fairer sex that they should join the party. Beyond that, Hair Metal allowed for lyrics that didn't sound like the poetry of that kid with the trench coat at the back of Biology class. They were fun. They were boisterous. They had a sense of humor, which is understandable, considering they were sung by men in testicle crushing pants and hair more closely associated with victims of electrocution. Van Halen is sometimes lumped in with the Hair Metal movement and, while I don't think that's fair, it does show the ethos of this Glam Metal style: while traditional metal seemed overly worried about appearing bad ass, Hair Metal realized it was ridiculous. It was a largely goofy movement, but a self-aware one. And that lack of pretense, I'd argue, is laudable.

Which, in fact, brings us to Van Halen. One thing you should know here is that Van Halen are among the most successful musicians ever: 80 million albums sold worldwide and more Billboard Mainstream Rock number ones than anybody (I swears). Another thing you should know is, as I mentioned, they are considered by some to be the first Glam Metal band. I think this is a limiting view but there are certain undeniable bonds between Van Halen and Hair Metal: the broad appeal (both literally and as a pun, intended), the lack of slobbering machismo (see Roth, David Lee), and the sheer boisterousness of the band. From inauspicious---and might I add, really charming---beginnings, Van Halen grew into what can probably should be considered America's Great Metal Band.

It begins like this: Eddie Van Halen and his brother Alex get a drum and guitar set, respectively. While Eddie goes off on his paper route (ain't that adorable?), Alex begins messing around on his drums, which infuriates Eddie, whose revenge is playing Alex's guitar. They would remain this way for a good three and a half decades, with Eddie Van Halen reaching canonical guitar deity status and Alex becoming a renowned drummer in his own right. When they were still called "Mammoth" (which, admittedly, is a pretty kick-ass metal band name), they rented a PA from David Lee Roth, but, deciding it would be cheaper to just let him sing, actually, well, they let him sing. Voila: Van Halen.

(This is discounting bassist Michael Anthony, but, well, without being insulting, he's a pretty distant fourth here. We're not talking about Jaco Pastoralus or anything).

Like so many metal bands, the Halen was oft-maligned in their early days. Gene Simmons liked them enough to bring them to his management---but not before suggesting they change their name to "Daddy Shortlegs," which is, really, about the crappiest band name of all time---who decided that they had "no chance of making it" (presumably as either Van Halen, Mammoth, Daddy Shortlegs, or Colonel Ketchup's Ragtime Mega Special Fancy Boyfriend Jam Jamboree, a name they never actually considered but a name no less braintarded than the "Polka Tulk Blues Explosion," which, if you'll remember, was championed by a man who snorted insected and licked up urine).

Van Halen had been playing around Southern California to decent crowds, largely thanks to their habit of fliering at high schools, and, eventually were picked up by a pair of A&R reps from Warner Brothers, who funded their first album and, currently, are living in a mansion made entirely of ambergris and naked women.

This first Van Halen album was wildly successful; indeed, it would earn them a spot opening for Black Sabbath at the end of Sabbath's heyday (or, well past it, depending on who you listen to), reach number nineteen on the Billboard charts, and would contain the first instance of heavy metal finger-tapping, a guitar style of which Eddie Van Halen is apocryphally considered the forefather. (He was preceded---among others---by the nineteenth century violinist Niccolo Paganini, who, in delightful congruousness, was once thought possessed by the devil because of his sheer virtuosity and lithe, vaguely sinister appearance. Indeed, he should be considered the first heavy metal string player, having wowed Europe with his bravado, his chops, and his unreal range---he had the ability to bridge three octaves in a single hand span, a talent borne possibly from a genetic disease that resulted in elongated digits or hyper-mobile joints. Further, Paganini was said to have "lashed" the violin violently, as if possessed, and that he could make the instrument cry. He was also rumored to be a sexual deviant and made no attempt to dissuade people of the notion. Point being: dude was metal. In a couple hundred years, he no doubt would have resorted to drinking the "Mystery Bucket" or lapping pee from the streets of some American metropolis. But let's move on).

This first Van Halen album was---and, most often, is still---considered "hard rock," a classification rife with overtones of all-consuming lameness (sorry Aerosmith). But, arguably, it is the progenitor of Hair Metal. First off, it's fun: even the song "Running With the Devil"---a major reason this album sold ten million copies, by the way---is boisterous despite the Sabbathesque title. The record employs the tongue-in-cheek ethos of Hair Metal, the virtuosity of all metal, and boasted a front man up until now unseen in metal world: a mincing lunatic capable of singing two notes simultaneously (Tuvan throat style, son), a man who played a slide-whistle on a metal song, a man who's been known to show up at parties wheeling his own bar, complete with chips AND dip, a man, needless to say, who is many clicks removed from the pee-drinking slobs and diabolical mutton-chopped manchildren who had fronted famous metal bands up till this point.

A good question here is: why, then, shouldn't you consider Van Halen Hair Metal? Quite simply, it feels limiting. Hair Metal was most assuredly not innovative, whereas Van Halen was. Which is to say, where Black Sabbath and Zeppelin pushed blues into a cesspool of distortion and sheer, impervious volume and while the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands dragged it into a place that was punkier, faster, and ultimately more contemporary, Hair Metal just sort of sat on the sidelines, looking at itself in the mirror, assuring itself it looked fabulous.

It was content to do so.

Van Halen also didn't succumb to the Glam Metal cliches of power-ballads (at least till “Right Now”) or, quite simply, the ridiculous manes and come-hither posturing employed by the leaders of the genre. Furthermore, while Hair Metal is largely considered an eye-averting joke of a shenanigan, Van Halen receives---and indeed, deserves---respect. Call it Pop Metal, if you must. But they, unlike the near entirety of Hair Metal bands, toured and recorded consistently until the turn of the millennium, albeit with two additional lead singers, tequila aficionado Sammy Hagar and ex-Extreme frontman Gary Cherone. They pioneered---or at least re-introduced---new guitar techniques.

But, in the end, whether you decide to consider Van Halen a Hair Metal band or a hard rock band or, even, a pop band ("Jump" being a fantastic argument for this), they were legit. Hair Metal, to be kind, was anything but. Beyond that, Van Halen predates Hair Metal, and, though parts of their general aura and overall aesthetic were co-opted by Glam Metal, they somehow remained above the fray: they used keyboards, they innovated, they weren't, as Motley Crue and so many bands of the same era were, sideshows. If that style over substance ethos defines Hair Metal, Van Halen cannot be lumped in with them. Perhaps their style informed the movement, perhaps it even birthed it, but Van Halen remains above it simply by virtue of their actual skill, the quality of their songs, their status as a music-first-bitches-second metal cohort. They took metal out of the dungeons of sludge-like Sabbath grooving and past the NWOBHM blues-free metal into an era of major chords, shredding, and straight up fun. There were, by way of conclusion, totally fucking rad.

Next week: More metal, less hair.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Short History of Heavy Metal (Part One of Several)

With the possible exception of ferreting through Dad's closet in search of his mythical porno stash, nothing is as overtly masculine as Heavy Metal. It's music by men for men, the natural outgrowth of the "Get Rid Of Slimy GirlS" club, the place where fancypants musings on love and loss are usurped by heady ballads about pillaging, nuclear war, and how kickass dragons are. Critics call metal "subliterary" and "banal." Fans found those critics and got biz-zay with some truncheons.

Now, admittedly, this is the narrow view. Bands like Van Halen and Def Leppard enjoyed wide appeal and the genre itself was ostensibly created by Led Zeppelin, who are, well, not exactly a niche group. But if you find yourself at a metal concert these days, you'll notice a few conspicuous facts: namely the utter lack of women, the total absence of dancing, and the enhanced probability of early onset tennitus. Modern metal is loud and it's fast and it has no use for your sissy Y chromosome. Sure, you'll find a few anomalous womenfolk milling about, but you'll have to Where's Waldo them out a sea of suffocating dudeness.

So today, we begin examining this most macho of Western musical genres. Women are allowed but will be treated like Demi Moore in G.I. Jane.


While it's impossible to pin down the beginnings of blues or jazz, with heavy metal, our task is easier. Antecedents include Blue Cheer's cover of "Summertime Blues", Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", and that lovable Charlie Manson favorite "Helter Skelter." What these songs have in common is an almost quaintly gritty, distorted quality as well as a hefty helping of fuzzy blues guitar. Yet, listening to them now, they feel remote, which is to say: the link between the Beatles and Slayer is tenuous to the point of preposterous.

Some argue that the real beginning of metal comes with a band famous for raucous live shows, virtuosic musicianship, and fucking groupies with mud sharks. That band, of course: Led Zeppelin.

Zeppelin was indeed a pioneer in the "White Guys Playing Blues (With Distortion)" movement that evolved into what the genre is today. In particular, the soaring, chromatic run-down in "Dazed and Confused" still sounds heavy and menacing, at home even in these grisly days of metal excess. Lyrically, Robert Plant tended towards barely coded couplets like "Baby, squeeze my lemon, till the juice runs down my leg" and Lord of the Rings references that number somewhere in the low trillions, which, when coupled with the band's well-documented weakness for drugs, loose women, and Dr. Morreau-style cross-specieal orgies, you can see why Zeppelin is considered the priapic granddaddy of metal.

We, however, take a different view.

Because, for every "Dazed and Confused," there's a "Tangerine." For every "Immigrant Song," there's a "Fool in the Rain." Which is to say, Zeppelin was, from the very start, staggeringly eclectic, a veritable goulash of nearly every American brand of music. In fact, they don't exactly have a "metal album" or, really, a "metal song." "Black Mountain Side" plays like a manic, Hindu hillbilly jam, "Thank You" as a Beatles-esque love song; Zeppelin's "Three" is very nearly a bluegrass album. And that's just their early albums, to say nothing of the dirty funk of "Trampled Under Foot" or the Elvis flavored jamboree that is "Hot Dog." What we're getting at here is simple: Zeppelin were simply too schizophrenic to be considered the first metal band. That distinction, my friends, belongs to Black Sabbath.

Originally billed under the ludicrous moniker "The Polka Tulk Blues Company" and later "Earth," Sabbath began as a blues cover band, until guitarist Tommy Iommi left momentarily to join Jethro Tull, a band which, laughably, won the first Heavy Metal Grammy in 1989, prompting frontman Ian Anderson to claim "well, sometimes we do play our mandolins rather loudly."

Iommi's stint with Jethro Tull lasted a month.

It's after that four month flute-drenched failure that heavy metal really started. While Led Zeppelin were off screeching about Gollum and using citrus juice as winking shorthand, Black Sabbath was becoming, well, Black Sabbath. The story goes that bassist Geezer Butler wrote the song "Black Sabbath" before the band became "Black Sabbath" (and then, in a bout of still unparalleled creativity, released an album called "Black Sabbath") after he read a Dennis Wheatley book, fell asleep, woke up, and hallucinated a hooded ghoul at the foot of his bed. At that point, Sabbath was still Earth, and their eponymous song was, to be sure, a dramatic departure from the improvised blues jams Earth was never famous for.

The song "Black Sabbath," then, can be seen as the beginning of the band that began heavy metal and, quite frankly, there is no more appropriate song. For one, it's one of music's famous examples of the tritone, the interval between a C and an F# (or, in this case, a G and C#), an interval known once as "the devil's interval" or "diabolus in musica," which, even for those students flunking Latin 1, should be an easy translation. It's one of the two major discordant relationships and in the same way "Ode To Joy" makes you want to spoon and cuddle, the tritone has an "and the call was coming from the basement" sort of feel to it. Plus, the song's about the devil. Or, to put it less in perspective, it's a song that has the same name as the band that has the same name as the album that has the same name as a horror movie that uses the devil's interval to sing about the devil ---it's like a Mobius strip from the dollar bin at Alastiar Crowley's garage sale.

"Black Sabbath" sold well. In fact, it went platinum. But, like the patently undiabolical Billy Joel, critical reception did not jibe with public fanaticism. Fancypants critical fops like Lester Bangs called Sabbath "Cream, but worse!" but Sabbath soldiered on. While their first album & Zeppelin's "One" were in certain ways similar, each band's following effort took them in their own separate direction. Zeppelin's "Two" is bluesier while Sabbath's "Paranoid" is, undoubtedly, the all-time metal album, containing not only the iconic title track, but "War Pigs," the surprisingly funky "Faeries Wear Boots" and "Iron Man," which is so metal that just listening to it is like injecting cadmium straight into your face.

Both Zeppelin and Sabbath released their first three albums in two calendar years, Zeppelin spanning 1969-70, Sabbath 1970-71. Interestingly, both were British, the Brits having long distinguished themselves as savvy co-opters of American musical styles. The American contingent in the early days of metal is a fairly sad collection without any one band that can be honestly called trail-blazing or original. In fact, it takes until 1974 and the formation of Kiss to arrive at anything approaching a truly innovative American metal band, if you can even call Kiss metal, which, I'd argue, you shouldn't. In fact, when you get right down to it, metal is one of the truly international genres: while metal began in Britain and indeed flourished there, with bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard being later torch-bearers, Scandanavia, Germany, and, yes, America (particularly Southern California and Tampa Bay) have all produced massively popular bands, with scenes that continue flourishing to this day. Further, as metal grew, it subdivided into near countless subgenres, each defined with a near-medical precision. While Death Metal, Doom Metal, and Black Metal might seem basically identical to the layman, a proper metalhead will put down his Neil Gaiman novel, toss his ponytail to one side, and guffaw audibly if you so much as suggest that metal has been overly stratified.

Yet, if metal began as the aforesaid "White Guys Playing Blues (With Distortion)," what exactly happened that changed the genre into what it is today? What, in other words, makes metal metal?

You know, besides these guys:

Let's get our learn on.


The year is 1974. Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth's home run record, a Floridian TV anchor commits suicide on-air, Watergate proves to an entire nation that Richard Nixon is, as they'd long suspected, a jowly shitbag.

Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath have both managed five albums in a mental state that can be generously described as "hyper-medicated." Metal isn't exactly stagnating---indeed, Sabbath's fifth album "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath" is perhaps the band's finest effort and even contains a song called "Fluff" that plays like the instrumental CBS uses when it's recapping a round at Augusta---but it isn't exactly flourishing either. Arguably, it's still a two-band genre---bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and Grand Funk Railroad have released fine singles off perfunctory albums, but nothing certifiably new-fangled has emerged outside of the Zeppelin/Sabbath quinella.

Which brings us to Judas Priest.

Behind our two-headed Godking, "Sabeppelin," Judas Priest is arguably the most important heavy metal band ever. The reasoning here is three-fold. First, Judas Priest were the first metal band to significantly stray from the crunchy blues ethos that still formed the foundation of the genre. Their sound was less jam-based, crisper, more succinct. And while the importance of this cannot be understated, other bands, namely Motorhead, would break far more abruptly with this framework around roughly the same era. Beyond that, while Zeppelin and Sabbath still dressed, essentially, like hippies who power-dried their shirts into tiny near-rags, Judas Priest pioneered the S&M flavored metal wardrobe. The chains, the leather jackets, the metal studs: for this, you can thank Rob Halford and company. But fashion isn't the reason the Priest belongs in the revered pantheon of heavy metal. No, what Judas Priest should be lauded for is far simpler. Namely, Judas Priest deserves its propers for the two guitar attack.

If you've ever been in a Guitar Center, well, first off, I'm sorry. But if you've ever been to a Guitar Center, you've probably heard dozens of teenagers in the orgasmic throes of an arhythmic shred-a-thon.

Which is to say, quite simply, a lot of teenage boys are metalheads and a lot of metalheads want to play guitar. With apologies to metal drumming---a maddeningly complex, precise, sometimes tribal style---heavy metal IS the guitar. Most specifically, it's sweep-picking, it's tapping, it's show-offy pentatonic cadenzas, harmonized, cod-pieced riffage, unwashed, six-string virtuosity. And while Tommy Iommi and Jimmy Page remain interstellar guitar deities, it was Judas Priest who popularized the idea of dueling metal guitars. Judas Priest drew the blueprint for harmonized riffs and traded solos that would become commonplace as metal grew out of its toddling years. Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, and hosts of other lighthearted headbangers have continued the tradition to the extent that a typical metal band these days is far more likely to utilize the two guitar ethos than not.

With Judas Priest's influence in tandem with Motorhead's mutton choppy brand of punk/metal/50s rock and roll, metal was finally evolving. It was becoming faster, less bluesy, less "hard rock." It was, in essence, becoming heavy metal. This era is typically referred to as "The New Wave of British Heavy Metal," and also contains personal favorite Iron Maiden, the monstrously successful Def Leppard, the still-below-the-radar Saxon, and Metallica-inspirer Diamond Head, whose initial drum kit, according to a retrospective article in the UK Guardian, consisted of "...a biscuit tin, a cow bell and some empty sweet jars." This was the movement that punted the blues influence and, though Maiden was and still is tremendously popular and Def Leppard went on to become one of the most successful bands ever (no shit), most of these NWOBHM acts were working class Brits, playing metal for metalheads. Centered around the Soundhouse club in Kingsbury, the movement was one of those special little moments where a genre blossoms in a specific place and the bands take cues from one another. Albums were self-released. Failures were rampant. But metal was blossoming quickly.

By the early '80s, building off the modest but important successes of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the genre would reach some measure of mainstream cred---well, not mainstream credibility, per se, but success, certainly. And hey: with metal accounting for a full fifth of American album sales in 1983, credibility could kiss metal's ass. Heavy metal was reclining on a couch in its forty-room estate, eating peeled grapes fed to it by big-tittied slatterns.

But success came at a price. (Cue the "Behind the Music" score, please). Metal became less and less dangerous by the year, wussifying itself until it became downright saccharine. If metal was once all bravado and pointy cod-pieces and satanic imagery, this 80s brand of metal was a flourescent spoof, a risible mockery of a once-proud counterculture. If old school metal, as Lemmy Kilmister once said of his band Motorhead, "...moved in next to you, your lawn would die," 80s metal would edge your lawn in its brand new riding mower, give a pony to your children, and fuck your wife when you went to work.

What follows is the story of Glam Metal. We'll get to that next week.

On Independence Day----though, for clarity's sake: not the Will Smith movie I secretly love

My Fellow Americans,

About two hundred thirty three years ago, we, the fine citizens of the United States, fed up with Britain's tweedy aloofness and insistence on calling pants "trousers" and underwear "pants," decided to get our Independence on. So Thomas Jefferson took a break from having awesome hair and boning his slaves and wrote the Declaration, effectively telling Britain to take a dirt nap because the uncouth colonies were in charge of themselves now, thank you very much. Then, you know: the fighting, muskets, the French, Indians, Paul Revere, et al. After that: This land is our land, you monarch-lovers. Keep your trousers on.

In the years since, we celebrate this momentous occasion by getting blotto, staring at exploding celestial doodads and eating lots of low quality pork. This year, Birdmonster's getting into the act, playing July 4th at the El Rio with a whole slew of bands, celebrating the best way we know how: hours of loud music and dozens of jingoistic fist-pumps.

Since it's a barbeque, it starts at 1. According to the El Rio website, there is also a "totally fabulous happy hour" till 3. This gives you two hours to get totally fabulous. Plus: eight bands for eight dollars? That's a bargain. We're on near the end of the day, but please, come early, stay late.

The El Rio's at 3158 (at Cesar Chavez) and we're playing with Two Sheds, Low Red Land, Birds & Batteries, Finn Riggins, D Numbers, Writer, and Murray the Thief. And yes there is food. And yes it will rule.

Hope to see you there.