Video Music Awards 2015

Well, the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards just finished up and I can honestly say I have no idea what the hell was going on and I don’t think anyone else knew, either. There were production issues, Miley’s nipples, Rebel’s “Fuck stripper police” shirt that MTV was very clearly not prepared for, Nicki cussing out Miley, and of course, Kanye’s crazy (some say poignant) speech. I suppose it wouldn’t really be the VMAs without some sort of Kanye controversy.

My faith in the awards totally dropped off when I realized two things; the first was that the same songs and artists were being nominated over and over again and the second was when Nicki Minaj won the award for Best Hip Hop Video over Kendrick Lamar. I mean, let’s be honest, she basically rewrote someone else’s song & talks about banging a coke dealer.

I guess I’m a bit biased because I really love Kendrick. I love his words, his beats, his videos (which do not show half naked women licking ice cream or anything), and his attitude. But his video for ‘Alright’ was one of my favorites and definitely deserved a win in at least one of the categories for which it was nominated.

I understood why they had Miley host, it made sense and she was smart enough to announce her album during her closing performance. Love her or hate her, she’s pretty smart in that aspect. I don’t know why that bothered so many people, she was entertaining and honest. Plus, we got to see her nipples and that’s always fun. I suppose they expect a more legitimate artist to host, but they really shouldn’t have anyone serious and they probably couldn’t get that to work anyway.

It was cool to see beef unfold. Beef is a large part of all genres of music history and is certainly not limited to any one kind. So watching Nicki’s acceptance speech dissolve into a shit talk fest, I was pretty pleased and happy with Miley’s retort. Especially since she added that second jab about toilet papering Meek Mill’s house during one of the cheesy preshot videos.

Popular music is definitely lackluster now and more about consumerism than actual talent or music. There are dance craze songs and all of them end up being one hit wonders (though, this is part of music history, as well). The “artists to watch” usually end up having short-lived careers, many of them failing after a sophomore album, while deserving artists with substance and talent sail by under the mainstream radars, only to be detected and perhaps corrupted a few years later.

Is Nicki Minaj able to walk on her own? She needed help to the stage and part of me believes it’s because she keeps packing silicone into her ass cheeks. Who knew Hannah Montana would be a pot smoking, MDMA loving hippie a few years down the line? Kanye West made some sense but his overly dramatic movements and self awareness was difficult to watch. I guess when people watch your every move (and you’re on a stage in front of thousands of people), it’s hard to be authentic.

MTV used to be the place we all went for jaw-dropping moments including historic performances from great musical acts. Now, it’s transformed into a teenage reality television monster and even the awards shows have fizzled out. But alas … bitching about “back in my day” is a whole other post.

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The Melvins at Winston’s

It was a muggy August night. The weather report called for rain, but all that came was wet air so thick, you could slice it with a butter knife. I was nervous. It was the first night I’d spent away from my husband and new baby since before she was born (she would turn 7 months old the next day). It was a good nervous. I had spent much of my youth doing this exact thing and it honestly felt a little like a home.

I stepped out of my car and greeted my jubilant friend with a hug and a shout.

“Are you ready or what?” she asked me.

I was beyond ready. ”Let’s get a drink!”

It was a punk show and typically, she was in black Doc Marten’s and I was wearing old school hi-top Vans. We kicked up dust as we made our way to the entrance of the venue—a honky tonk called Winston’s. Winston’s was famous for a few things; it’s famous for being an old Hollywood western sound stage, it’s been featured on a cooking show for its delicious slow cooked barbeque, and it was quickly becoming one of the top intimate venues in southern California.

After getting our wristbands from will call, we found ourselves ordering drinks and laughing about something from the internet. I knew we’d now be back out the door so my friend could enjoy a cigarette.

I enjoyed eyeing the people and sipping my drink. It was a Seven and Seven, my favorite. It was cool and refreshing, saving me from a dreadful desert night. My pants were damp against my legs and the back of my neck was wet. Still, I watched the wide array of concertgoers in awe. There were the typical twentysomething punks, old bearded hippies, hipster scene girls with shorts cut so high they were almost a romper, and the aging punks who grew up going to the Melvins’ shows. They were the ones growing up in punk’s heyday. Now they’re electricians and garage door repairmen who frequent Winston’s, clamoring for a feeling of those glory days.

Winston’s was a coveted place and has recently exploded with huge acts, especially during the week between the two weekends Coachella runs. Some of the artists make the drive and stay in Joshua Tree to avoid the heat of the lower desert and inevitably visit Winston’s and some play unannounced shows. A few years ago, they were doing yearly concerts by The Donnas and now, they have everyone from Sean Lennon to Jenny Lewis, The Pistol Annies, and it was even a stop on Neutral Milk Hotel’s farewell tour.

We heard the familiar sting of a guitar string reverberating through the amplifier and hussled inside. Roger Osbourne is an eccentric individual and his style is the same. It’s the middle of a sweltering August in the Mojave Desert inside a tiny honky tonk stuffed with people producing body heat and he’s wearing a goddamn black hoodie with bright colored paisley designs on it. He possessed an unbelievably large white afro. Some artists have hair that take on a life of their own (The Cure’s Robert Smith is a good example) and Roger’s hair was a fuzzy accessory to shake and flap around while he played his guitar.

They had two drum sets set up. Dale Crover (the original drummer for Nirvana) plays with The Melvins occasionally, and I was hoping I could end this show being able to say I’ve seen both drummers for Nirvana in concert. No such luck. Two young, handsome, sweaty guys were holding drumsticks, both chugging beers from the mason jar mugs that were famously Winston’s. It was a fun sight.

The music was too loud for the space. It was an indoor show and the inside of Winston’s was cluttered. It was a restaurant by day and there were plenty of chairs and tables throughout. It was wood everywhere, with kitschy decor littering the walls: dollar bills signed by famous visitors and musicians, previous show flyers, head shots of old west actors. There was a room in the front left of the building with pool tables and a jukebox, which was rarely ever used. The back of the building held the tiny stage, barely large enough for a full band. A small area devoid of chairs or tables which stood as the “audience space” or dance floor for shows. There was a smoker and barbeque pit outside in the beer garden, along with more seating.

The music was so loud, in fact, it was literally in every cell of my body. I could feel it my bones, in my chest. The drummers battled and dueted, exchanging solos with Osbourne. The whole crowd swayed, a few were headbanging a bit harder. Sweat and whisky dripped off my body and out of my glass, staining my shoes. Every time Osbourne screamed into the mic, his words vibrated through my bones.

This was home; sweaty, excited, exhausted fun. I was ready for the next one. I had just witnessed a small bit of music history, just a fraction of what happens in a year here at Winston’s. It’s amazing the way a sound, a smell, a restaurant can feel like home. Music does that to us, especially live music in an intimate venue like Winston’s. I had broken away from my new self: the mother, the wife, the caregiver and visited the old me. I got to see the girl that risked it all for a concert, drove out to LA with barely any money in her pockets to be in a music video, the girl that waited outside of concert halls religiously early for a good sport.