27 April 2008

Ladies Rock Camp 2008 (I've Got the Magic Stix)

Late last year, my friend Jean emailed me about Ladies Rock Camp. Did I want to go? HELLS YES!

Ladies Rock Camp Is:
Three days
Fifty amazing women
Ten bands
One song each

Prior to camp you sign up for something to learn/perform (vocals, bass, guitar, keys or drums). You get basic lessons, form a band, and at the end of the weekend - perform one original song.

I've always wanted to play drums, but my playing experience has been limited to my steering wheel. Jean signed up for vocals as did my friend Karen. I was impressed by their bravery.

Camp begins at lunchtime. After some introductions we moved into band selection.

Different musical genres such as Country, Indie, Metal, Funk, and Rock were posted on the walls. What's the difference between Indie and Rock? I said,

"Rock is about scoring chicks. Indie is about when chicks ignore you."

They told us to stand under a genre that we'd be interested in playing. I stood under Punk / Metal. I figured a Metal song would be the easiest to write and the most fun to play. Unfortunately, the only person with me under Punk/Metal was another drummer. Then it came time to switch. I stayed put because, well, the next funnest thing to play after Metal would be punk, right? Also there was no Goth / New Wave sign.

Ladies Rock Camp Punk / Metal sign
When the milling around stopped, it was still just me and the other drummer under the sign again.

Eventually I was adopted by some other leftovers. Our final band consisted of: two architects, a Canadian chick who works at a bookstore, and a 54-year-old jackhammer operator from Connecticut. Our name: Carbon Arc.

Ladies Rock Camp Drum practice roomNext it was on to instrument instruction. My instructor was STS from The Haggard.* I learned a basic rock beat and one fill. In just fifteen minute me and this lady from Tennessee were tearing it up. It was amazing how quickly we were able to learn.

* I used to see them play but I never got up the guts to mention it to her. Similarly I couldn't find the courage to say "whassup" to Beth Ditto who showed up for karaoke on the second night.

After a 90-minute lesson, I got back together with Carbon Arc for song writing time. Yikes!

Ladies Rock Camp is a benefit for Girls Rock Camp. At the end of the weekend, each band plays one song at a showcase/ benefit concert. The song must be 100% original, but there's a song writing workshop where they give you lots of ideas.

When brainstorming ideas for a song, we were all over the map. It was fun, but daunting. Should it rhyme? Should it be danceable? Can you say "Jesus" without people thinking you're a Christian Rock Band?

Someone suggested a revenge song and I mentioned how much I hate littering. It kind of went from there . . .

After breakfast we had more instrument instruction. First we learned a funk beat (which I stink at). Then STS showed us ways to change up the basic rock beat to sound different /punctuate a transition. I could have gone on smashing the drums all damn day, but it was off to do more song writing - final lyrics were due at the end of the day.

The night before our lead singer wrote some poetically abstract lyrics based on our ideas about littering. The band loved what she'd done. With her David Byrne-style of delivery things came together perfectly. We jammed until exhaustion set in.

The last item of business for the day was a dry-run on the camp stage. We did okay, and it was fun to see what the other bands were working on. One of our neighbor bands had an amazing song called "Fake It 'Til You Make It," and it made me a little anxious. Their song was so catchy and fun. I worried that our song was too heavy. Also, their drummer was totally amazing. I swear she had an invisible third arm. I reminded myself that a band called "Carbon Arc" was destined to write something totally heavy and brutal and I felt a lot better.

After that we all had pizza and drank beer and watched karaoke.

Did I tell you I have a rock name? You may now address me as "Pants."

The other members of Carbon Arc are:
Wavelength (vocals)
Mr B. (lead guitar)
Yoda (rhythm guitar)
and Krull (bass)

Our final morning consisted of: band photos, hair and make-up (optional) and more practicing. Camp staffers coached us on stage presence and getting the audience amped. As a drummer, my points of focus would be dramatic smashing and yelling.

The show was at Satyricon and I was really happy so many people showed up! A lot of the ladies were really nervous, but the way I looked at it was: we've all done more difficult things that were a lot less fun. Maybe I would have felt differently if I wasn't behind a drum kit.

Our band played first, which was cool. As soon as I got on stage I realized that my fly was down. so there you have it: I earned my stage name. We played the song at least as well as our best practice run (phew). All that remained was to enjoy the nine other amazing bands.

Seriously, that's not hyperbole. It's pretty fucking astounding what inexperienced strangers come up with. It reminded me that we're all capable of working together and collaborating, but sometimes we choose not to. For whatever reason (environment, stress, insecurity) we opt to dismiss instead of encourage and ignore instead of support.

Maybe rock camp works because we all start out on a level playing field. At our first band meeting I said, "Hi, I'm Megan and I just learned the drums two hours ago." Our whole band was non-musicians, but we managed to write a rock song. How did that happen?

Well, I don't want to get too philosophical since this post is long already. I do want to say that if you've ever thought about learning to play an instrument or wished that Girls Rock Camp was around when you were a kid - I WILL SEE YOU AT LADIES ROCK CAMP 2009!

Official band photos

Our showcase songs will be available on iTunes. If you want to hear the star student of our drum group, check out "Fake it 'Til You Make It."

Here's a youtube link to "Step Into Your Power," this was one of the great songs to come out of camp. The drummer and I were in class together.

24 April 2008

Muxtape: Songs from My College Desk Drawer

I made a Muxtape.
It's called "Songs from My College Desk Drawer."
Pretty self-explanatory.

All the usual suspects are there: Sleater-Kinney, Throwing Muses, PJ Harvey, Portishead, Bjork, The Cure Talking Heads, etc. It started out as a mix CD I made for Halstead and my friend Cary. When the challenge arose to create a Muxtape I thought, "why the hell not?"

22 April 2008

Would You Sell Beer to This Person?

So . . . I got glasses.

They're mainly for driving. I have poor depth perception which is not-so-great when the speed limit on surface streets is 50 mph. Anyway, point is: I don't need to wear them all the time, but I'm considering it . . .

I'm really hoping the glasses will make me look older. I'm tired of getting carded for R-rated movies, dammit. Why is it that Asians don't age until they're, like, 70? I'll go through my whole life looking like a teenager and then one day, it's all over. I'll wake up two feet shorter, shriveled with grey hair.

Don't even start with me about how one day I'm going to be grateful that I look super-young. Those days are too far off and cannot outnumber the days where I get discriminated against because people think I'm barely out of college.

I'm not making this up!

Everyone thinks I'm right out of college and a total N00b. Yesterday, one of my co-workers suggested I do a presentation for a local dive club to "gain public speaking experience." Jesus tap-dancing Christ I've been doing that kind of thing for almost ten years now. The guy who said it to me is really cool and meant what he said in the nicest possible way - but you see what I mean?

When I used to do events, the guests would always tell my boss, "your daughter is so fun to be around!" This pissed off my boss because she's only 40. Also, I'm not fun. I am angry and scary.

14 April 2008

Drag Queen Tupperware Parties

retro tupperwareNever in my life did I imagine that at age 28 I'd be planning a Tupperware party. First off I never imagined I'd cook anything much less need a place to store my leftovers. But when the opportunity arose to have a drag queen come to my work and peddle her fantastic plastic wares, well, I'd be crazy to turn it down, right?

Truth be told I actually went to a Tupperware party in Huntington Beach a few years back. It was hosted by Kay Sedia and honey it was Fab-U-Luz. I got me a set of collapsable containers. I put my soup in there and, when it's gone, I scrunch the container down to save space in my bike bag.

collapsable tupperwareI've considered taking one with me when I go out to eat. When flattened it's no thicker than a book and it fits easily in my bag. I dunno. I just have to get up the guts to do it. There's no reason not to other than the geekiness factor. They never give you a recyclable container around here and it's really depressing. Sometimes they even use styrofoam.

Mom's tupperwareAnyway, point being - Tupperware has come a long way in the last twenty years. Though I still have fond memories of toting delicious picnic fare around in Mom's Tupperware. Although, I think it was more about keeping the rain out than keeping the flavor in. Who wants water-y tuna salad?

But I digress... the point of this post is that I have a dilemma.

kay sedilaI feel loyal to Kay Sedila - she's the gal who I saw in Huntington. She has a tupperware song, spicy delivery and a hilarious, X-rated schtick.

For example: Kay would present us with a sippy cup. Instead of explaining how it's designed to be toddler-proof, she tells us, "Now ju can throw your margarita at you boyfriend and it no spill!"

She also assigns a member of the audience to do periodic "chi chi checks." This is important because it's very non-fabuluz if one of Kay's chi chi's starts to sag. At the end, of course, it's revealed that her chi chi's are actually more fabuluz tupperware.

I suspect that Kay is the original Tupperware drag queen, but I'm not 100% sure. In the last few years, a new hostess has appeared on the scene - Dixie Longate.
It's the perennial question - should I go with the sure thing or roll the dice on a new drag queen?

dixie longateDixie Longate has a much better online presence. I'm not sure if it's because she's better / more popular or if it's because she has a proper marketing team.

Where Kay is a sassy Latina, Dixie is the X-rated housewife from hell. Is this a better fit for the Orange County crowd? I don't know . . .


05 April 2008

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rental Cars

Meet Pooky.

Pooky is my new friend in Portland. Pooky is so much more than a rental car. Pooky will help me stick it to The Man.

Since I moved away, I've spent more than $2,800 renting cars in Portland. That's really messed up. What's worse is, those are just the rental fees. I probably spent $250 on gas.

I thought the only alternative to renting a car would be buying a POS car and finding a place for it to live. Still, once you figure in insurance and licensing, it's kind of a wash. Then I found Pooky.

Pooky is a Zipcar.

When I'm in town next month, I'm going to find Pooky, wave my magic fob in front of him, and off we'll go. It will cost me $27 to hang out with Pooky for the afternoon - much better than the $40 the rental car companies wanted. Plus, Pooky comes with free gas.

Unfortunately, Pooky can't help me when I'm in town for a week (Zipcar's long term rates are $66/day), but for a short-term rental this is perfect.

Zipcar used to be Flexcar or they merged or something like that. They gave me a referal link so if you sign up for Zipcar via my blog, you'll receive $25 in free driving credit.

Here are some of the cities that have Zipcar:

Northwest: Seattle, Portland, Vancouver BC
Northern California (San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Stanford)
Southern California (Santa Barbara, LA, Irvine, San Diego, Claremont)
Southwest: Phoenix, Albuquerque
... there are other cities east of the rockies (including Zipcar NYC).

Most of the rental cars are eco-friendly. They gave me a list of 30 cars and half of them were hybrids (Prius or Civic Hybrid). The other options included Scions (xA and xD), a Subaru Impreza and a Mini Cooper. Each car has a name (Algernon the xA, Impreza Ivanka, xD Dave, etc.), my car's name is Pooky.

Hooray, Pooky.

02 April 2008

Psycho Safeway & Downtown Portland Like It Used to Be

The Psycho Safeway downtown Portland Oregon
Mom recently sent me an article entitled: In Praise of Psycho Safeway." It ran in The Oregonian a couple of weeks ago.

The article reminded me of a Portland that once was. I'm not sure if it's gone forever or if it just relocated.

If you could make the internet real, that's what downtown Portland was like in the 1990's. It had something for everyone - especially if you were into obscure shit.

In just one afternoon you could:
Stephanie from Church of Elvis
* Marry a total stranger (Church of Elvis)

* Buy a rare Cure import (Ozone Records)

* Try on a vintage 1970's disco jumpsuit with 1950's roller skates (Big Bang Warehouse)

* Learn how to make explosives from a zine (Powell's)

* See bum's fighting (near the old Weinhardt's brewery)

* Sell your old crap for cash (Powell's, various record and clothing stores)

* Get alcohol under age (Hamburger Mary's)

* Have your credit cards stolen (the bus mall)

* Talk to a crazy guy who thinks yogurt cups are the key to eternal life (Psycho Safeway)

* Meet a future reality TV star (Pioneer Courthouse Square - true story)

When you think about it, the internet still has some catching up to do compared to downtown Portland in 1994. You still can't order cheese fries from a transvestite (The Roxy) or put your friends in a shopping cart and push them around a statue of Abe Lincoln (the park blocks).

Church of Elvis Where's The Art guyThe other thing that troubles me is that downtown just isn't scary anymore. I don't mean dangerous-scary, I mean intimidating-scary. The first time I went to Ozone records. I had no idea if I was even in the right place. All I remember is a big black door. You had to have guts just to walk in there.

It was the same with Big Bang Warehouse. We got directions from some older kids: "In the middle of the block there's this black staircase leading up. That's where it is." Sounds easy. . . until you get to the staircase. There's no sign indicating there's a clothing store upstairs, and the stairway is black on black. It took balls to be a downtown kid back then.

I suppose it's possible kids just go to other parts of town now. Maybe I'll overhear some kid talk about how they were afraid to go to explore "NoPo," but I think we're a kinder gentler Portland now.

Also, half of what made Portland so gritty back then was all the homeless and section 8 people wandering the streets. Now that they've closed down / demolished The St. Francis and the four or five other buildings like it, most of the people who made downtown so colorful have been shuffled off to the suburbs. Maybe Psycho Safeway lives again somewhere . . . out in Hillsboro.

Now that's a scary thought.