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.

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Splash of Pop

In our digital age, it’s difficult to unplug. We forget to turn off the TV, we stay inside during sweltering summer days, opting for a movie marathon over a game of cards. We worship people who are famous for no reason. No real talent, aside from looking good (which is usually someone else’s job, too).

Most intellectual people, or people who try really hard to appear intelligent, will scoff at the idea of reality television. Could you imagine Einstein watching the Kardashians? Nah, I peg him as more of a Flipping Out guy.

I mean, really, just because you’re smart, does that mean you must only like Downtown Abbey? I know reality television is usually trash, but then, am I ridiculous for following rap beefs? What about UFC fighter Twitter battles? Why is pop culture suddenly so looked down upon?

Maybe it’s because my generation is altering the way we view things; after all, it’s difficult to recreate a decade like the nineties. So we turn our noses up at things we hate. Saturday Night Live will always be funny for us and we use our internet leverage and bring back our favorite snacks and drinks (that we probably try again and immediately regret). I mean, we rebooted Boy Meets World and Will Smith is somehow still acting in movies. I guess our love for the Fresh Prince, like the Scrunchies around our wrists, will never disappear.

I don’t consider myself horribly stupid; I know the difference between ‘there,’ ‘their,’ and ‘they’re’ at the very least (also ‘allowed’ and ‘aloud’). I vote, I research, I don’t share those things you see on Facebook about Venus being as big as the moon on a certain date, I know The Onion is satire. I also really like reality television and the UFC.

Shows that incorporate reality television and sports together ultimately end up being my favorite. The Challenge is one of my favorite television shows of all time. It has everything: a great storyline, action, drama, physical stunts, comedy, hook-ups, and break-ups. One of the most endearing parts of the show was the years-long love story between CT and Diem, which ended tragically last year when Diem passed away from cancer immediately following her stint filming her last season. The Ultimate Fighter, the reality show the UFC uses to recruit new talent, is always changing and getting better. They had a season full of women and it was glorious. They had a season in which Ronda Rousey coached against Miesha Tate and their hatred for each other was palpable. That’s great television.

So why do we hate on reality television? I suppose most of it is very vapid and annoying. It’s sometimes difficult for me to watch The Real Housewives shows because of their incessant bickering. Yet, the characters they choose are perfect always rope you in; interesting, neurotic, obsessive, funny, sarcastic. Give me a drunken Sonja Morgan in Tahiti over a cliche-filled cop in sunglasses any day.

Pop culture … the music, television, viral stories and videos … these are the things that help shape our society. Not going on Facebook doesn’t make you anymore of a human. Perhaps you appreciate things more, but as with everything: balance is key. We need nature (read my post from last year), we need to be outside, we need places untouched. But society is just as natural. It’s the interaction between humans, what we’re inventing and why we’re inventing it. A city is just as natural as an ant hill. So embrace society, like what you like. That doesn’t make you any less intelligent. Just find your balance.

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not fucking cool.” Don’t fucking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” It is cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic”! Why the fuck not? Fuck you! That’s who I am, goddamn it! That whole guilty pleasure thing is full of fucking shit.” – Dave Grohl