Rocktoberfest Acht

So yeah, my friends and I, in a bout of total unoriginality, started this annual party called Rocktoberfest back in 2002. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of beer and friendship and meat and rocking until you break yourself. If that sounds childish and/or unimportant to you, maybe you should attend Rocktoberfest before you go judging things you don’t understand. Or maybe you’re humorless California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who doesn’t seem to like anything at all, especially if it has ever a) been in a union or b) been poor. But I digress.

This year was the 8th annual Rocktoberfest (Rocktoberfest Acht in German. So Achtoberfest, as my pal Jom pointed out while quite drunk) and we held it at my friend Badier’s mostly former house in Menlo Park, which is dangerously close to Stanford University. Having a massive party in a house that is mostly empty is definitely the way to go. Less shit to break.

I’d like to think that everyone who attends  our Rocktoberfest recognizes that, like Hold Steady albums and good beers, the most recent one is always the best one ever. This year was no exception.

Somewhere in the haze of music, drunk, and smoke, I realized why Rocktoberfest feels like a holiday to those who attend it and, as a sort of bonus realization, why rock ‘n’ roll is not a terrible substitute for a religion (when it doesn’t suck, of course). Let’s deal with the last thing first: at its best, rock ‘n’ roll creates community. When you go to see your favorite band, you share in the pure joy of music with a roomful of strangers. The audience and the band are all plugged in to something much bigger than the sum of its parts. The potential exists in that moment to meet new people and make new friends. You don’t have to do that, of course, but you totally can. And maybe you should. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of an ever-expanding community that started with five guys in a house. Those five guys didn’t always get along by any means, but Rocktoberfest creates a unique present in which the past is mostly obliterated while people sing along to songs like “This Fire” by Franz Ferdinand (modified by us so that the chorus is now, “This beer is out of control/ I’m gonna drink this beer/ drink this beer”) and “Holy Diver” by Dio (we poured one out for Ronnie James Dio this year). Sure, it’s silly. But what’s wrong with being silly?

What happened at Rocktoberfest this year was what I  imagine happened around Joe Strummer’s famous campfires at Glastonbury. Old friends met new friends, some of us had wives to bring, others had kids to leave at home. But for several hours of a Saturday, everyone was cool with everyone. For my part, I was deliriously happy. You can do this anytime you want, and you should. Gather your friends and some drinks and some great music, and celebrate your personal community. Rocktoberfest Acht was a reminder of why I love music and – more important – why I literally love a majority of the people I know. It’s not prayer and it won’t save you from much besides boredom, but it could provide you with one helluva a great night.

So, in the great words of Mr. Craig Finn, “Let this be my annual reminder/ that we can all be something bigger.” Go forward, kids, be awesome to each other, and rock the fuck on.

The Songs of Rocktober 70-61

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It’s Sunday morning. Perhaps you’ve just returned from church or just woke up after a raging party, or you’re at work on the weekend and setting all your coworkers’ home pages to tubgirl.com (don’t worry – I’m not linking to that site. Ever). In any case, why not take some time to sit back and enjoy ten more songs in my countdown of 100 Kickass songs of Rocktober?

70. The Beatles – “Revolution (B-Side)” – This is the version you usually hear on the radio. I like it because it’s a little sloppier than the version that appears on The White Album. I met a Maoist at Coachella who quite unsuccessfully tried to get me to join her little party (pun intended). Now, whenever I hear “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/ you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow” I think of this poor, misguided woman who was running around trying to kill everyone’s high on the last day of Coachella. My friend, who was trying to sleep through our argument, woke up to me rhetorically taking this woman to the woodshed. Which is why this song also reminds me of a minor victory for the forces of reason in our increasingly unreasonable world.

69. Wilco – “Spiders(Kidsmoke)” (Live version from Kicking Television) – Wilco is a kickass live band. They’ve lost points with the Pitchfork kids for turning away from the blips and bleeps of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (which is, in the interest of full disclosure, tied with Summerteeth for my favorite Wilco album ever. I can’t choose between the two. It’d be like asking a parent – perhaps one played by Meryl Streep – to choose which child will live and which will die) and going toward a more guitar-driven sound, which is exemplified perfectly by the live version of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” where the chorus of the song is just crashing guitars and pounding drums. Nels Cline is a guitar ninja, which is better than a plain ol’ guitar hero. Guitar ninjas kill guitar heroes while the heroes sleep. And in the morning, it looks like an accident.

68. Franz Ferdinand – “This Fire” – This song has a crucial party application that I will demonstrate for you now. Get a beer. Do you have a beer? I don’t care what time it is, it’s still technically the weekend. Look, have I ever steered you wrong before? I didn’t think so. Now… do you have a beer? Good. Put this song on. When it gets to the chorus, sing this: “This beer is outta control/ I’m gonna drink this beer/ drink this beer” and then follow your own instructions. You may notice things get about 20-30% more awesome with each application. No need to thank me.

67. Art Brut – “St. Pauli” – I can’t deal with too much of Art Brut’s shtick at a time, but they’re all right in small doses. On “St. Pauli,” Eddie Argos sings “Punk rock is not dead”, which is cool. But he sings it in German, which is even more awesome. For our non-German readers (I’m assuming that’s most of you), it goes “Punk rock ist nicht tot.” Indeed, Art Brut. Indeed it ist nicht.

66. The Whigs – “Right Hand on My Heart” – This song is a bit ridiculous. There’s really only one and a half verses, but they come to you over a drumbeat that I will go ahead and call “throbbing” and the melody is awesome. In addition to handing the Tories their asses in the Colonial Era Battle of the Bands (an event that may or may not have been just made up by me), the Whigs have picked up the ball that Dave Grohl dropped immediately after making The Colour and the Shape. Check out last year’s Mission Control for proof.

65. Built to Spill – “Conventional Wisdom” – This song will probably never be heralded by anyone but me as one of the greatest guitar songs ever recorded, but Doug Martsch (like Nels Cline) is a guitar ninja, and the riff he brings to the yard on “Conventional Wisdom” is, quite simply, candy for your ears. Seriously, the notes of this song plug right into your Dopamine reward pathway (I paid attention in college!) and get your neurons lumbered up and ready for action (it’s a clinical term; you can look it up).

64. Blur – “Song 2” – You knew it would be here, and why not? Lester Bangs often said that rock ‘n’ roll should be a bit stupid and more than a bit primal and “Song 2” embodies that as well as any song I can think of. Don’t worry about the words or really anything else. Just worry about yelling “Woo-hoo!” when it’s time. Woo-hoo!

63. Weezer – “Buddy Holly” – Still one of Weezer’s best songs. It’s catchy as hell, pretty clever by Weezer standards (it’s no “Pink Triangle”, but what is?), and reminds us all of a time when Weezer was still bearable.

62. The New Pornographers – “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism” – Another song title I wish I had thought of first. The song is just what it sounds like (featuring a refrain of  “Salvation Holdout Central”, which will be the name of my castle if I ever own one), and any song so catchy that is also overtly about the slow, ritualistic destruction of one’s liver, is essential to a good Rocktoberfest. Or a bad one where everyone dies of alcohol poisoning. It’s your choice (ask Meryl Streep to choose – she’s good at that shit).

61. Sonic Youth – “Total Trash” – Sonic Youth takes a page from the classic rock playbook and then bends it to their own purposes, creating a chorus that is still one of the best they’ve ever written. It gets a bit indulgent toward the end, but you can take a sound editor and lop it off around the three minute mark and come away with something very satisfying indeed. Or just include all 7 minutes toward the end of the party and see if anyone notices.

So if you need to catch up with the other 10-14 people (on average) who read this blog, check out the first three installments of the countdown: Songs 100-91 are here, you can find songs 90-81 here and then there’s just songs 80-71 and you’re all caught up. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about three badass cover songs and reminisce about a time when Kurt Cobain was alive and Chris Cornell didn’t suck. Oh, and we’ll sing the praises of Henry Rollins, which is something that you really can’t do enough.