This page features all my work that didn’t quite make it to a publisher or was considered a personal writing at the time:
06/29/18 – Simple Malfunction LP Release Show w/ Brian Cooper’s Ghost, The Linecutters, and Not Confined
*Photos from this show can be found through this link
On June 29th, 2018, my friend Taylor and I once again converged to the Trunk Space in Phoenix for a slew of local acts supporting the release of green-tied Phoenix punk outfit Simple Malfunction’s brand new album. With the promising, youthful Not Confined who opened the night, the more caustic Linecutters and gruff Brian Cooper’s Ghost faced no problems settling into a crowd who knew exactly what they came for, before Simple Malfunction slid into their headlining spot.
While I did catch Not Confined originally at the Playboy Manbaby / TOSO / Not Confined Triple Album Release Show in April and subsequently reviewed their “Television Man” EP, their obvious charisma and budding talent for such young performers continued to warm the cage anatomically termed as “my heart.” Since the release of their aforementioned EP, it’s no surprise most of their set (outside of “Small Town”) derived from the same. Vocalist Bailey was noticeably more confident throughout the set as she did not hesitate to jump on equipment and demand the band’s attention from the get-go. “FUK82” proved to be just as aggressive in a live setting as it hit me on their new album, with tracks like “Out Of Control,” “Object Of Society,” and “Dead Reputation” becoming setlist mainstays. As an individual who viewed them from the eyes of a second performance, it was impossible to ignore the staunch consistency they have held and showed their motivation to be more than another flash in the Phoenix punk pan. Their tight sound, charismatic chutzpah, and naturally electric live performances prove they will age like fine wine, just as long as the tribulations of young-adulthood don’t get in the way of the impressive progress they’ve already made.
Out Of Control
Object of Society
As Not Confined closed out the opening set with unshakeable vigor, a local Phoenix act I was originally unfamiliar with – Brian Cooper’s Ghost – took the stage in gritty, bearded punk glory. The threesome consisting of Shauna Monique on bass, T.J. on drums, and John on lead guitar wanted to make it clear early on that they don’t give a fuck about anything except the music they play. While many acts within the punk scene dress in a way and write lyrics that force you to pay attention to how much they don’t care, the casual dress and laid back attitudes held by each individual within BCG reeked of the apathy I expected when I first began paying attention to the genre. As someone who has a hard time fitting in with any subculture outside of casual dress, it lit up my soul to see individuals entirely dedicated to the punk sound and attitude so much that they naturally rejected the caveats many fans and performers involved in a genre can fall into. Brian Cooper’s Ghost began their set at the height of my marijuana intoxication, and quickly quelled all bits of inner-paranoia with tracks like “Lita Lee McKegan” and “Barfly.” While all the instrumentals proved to be punk, their attitude resembled more of a stoner jam-band ready to party. In a strange turn of events, the BCG crew even felt ballsy enough to give Amy Winehouse her due by covering her most famous hit, “Rehab.” As a self-proclaimed pop-culture nerd, I was floored to hear them play every single note and verse from the original, excluding none of the original for the sake of. It was clear from multiple audience observations that Brian Cooper’s Ghost wasn’t anything that the valley asked for; in a culture of patches, jackets and misplaced angst blossomed a band who took not giving a fuck to the next level by not participating in sub-culture mainstays yet still respecting the genre. Let me reiterate: Brian Cooper’s Ghost wasn’t anything that the valley asked for, but the positive reception let us know they are the band we needed.
Smoking Makes You Cool (Cover)
John the Barber
Sitting On the Dock of the Bay
Give Em Hell
Tie the Ropes
Lita Lee McKegan
What could I say about The Linecutters? While this was my first time reviewing them professionally, there’s few in the valley who aren’t familiar with the genre bending antics of Marceliano Festa, Jett Smith, and Kaz McClain. Over the past few releases, member changes, and continuous local tours, The Linecutters evolved their original sound of “ska-punk” into something much bigger than themselves. Like the diversity of Brian Cooper’s Ghost, The Linecutters exist on this weird fence musically straddling punk sensibilities and Ska party vibes which only encourage the crowd to create pits in the small venues lining the Phoenix valley. During their set preceding Simple Malfunction, it was obvious all three members were not only out for their fans, but also out for the blood and guts. Whatever awkward local show energy remained at the time of their set was wiped clean with powerful mantras from “Longhaul” and “Anxiety,” and even with mic issues, you could clearly hear Jett and Marce’s voice as they fought for their lives above the sound of the mix and crowd. Aside from the tight percussion, another highlight took the form of how far the band has came in relation to capabilities: it was an impressive moment when Jett transferred from punk vocals into a metal-esque scream which surely established punctuation near the end of the set. As my brain somehow sobered up by the end of their set, I felt the odd rush of natural dopamine I hadn’t been accustomed to.
When Linecutter antics were brought to an end, Simple Malfunction who donned smart black dress outfits and lime green ties took their rightful place as headliners of their album release show. As they blurred the lines between early 00s catchy radio-rock riffs and good ole-fashioned punk, most of their heady-and-ready set packed in faster jams and sorta-ballads that encouraged the party atmosphere during the last phase of the show. Tracks performed like “Unlucky” and “Too Dumb To Quit” employ a lyrical “tongue-in-cheek” less abrasive than the blunt abstract of today’s punk, but still packed a punch among the fun-yet-pertinent riffs. Certain moments of intensity in “Time Bomb” and “Drowning” always gave way to some solid and danceable percussion by Danny Mistler that not only highlighted certain emotional beats in their songs, but kept the vibes exciting for the crowd. With the short individual length of their songs, vocalist and guitar Clay Mistler found every opportunity to bring a ice-cool intensity to his vocal delivery over the demanding thirteen song-set. Richard Varela, their live bassist, backed the ensemble with his signature bowler hat, with regality reminiscent of Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala, if Ms. Portman was instead cast as a male in a green tie and bowler hat. If Simple Malfunction were searching for a way to represent their album and sound, the Punk-meets-early-B-52s energy found at this release show ticked the “all of the above” answer on the standardized test.
In conclusion to a classic entree of local Arizona punk finery, the other acts along with Simple Malfunction brought a crystal-clear representation of what desert punk meant to the locals and acts themselves and delivered a fiery end to June of 2018.
Psychotic Malfunction (Count Five)
I Hate Myself
Shut Your Mouth
Too Dumb To Quit
“Do The Work:” How Maria Bamford Helped Me Leave Behind New Years Depression
*this piece was originally written around 01/18, in reflection of overcoming my New Years depression.
For many, New Years celebrations mark pivotal moments in the progression of life and help humans frame goals according to the passage of one year. Whether you believe in the human concept of time or not is irrelevant; the Western idea of the “new year” subconsciously brainwashes inhabitants to “turn a new leaf” and set goals for the next 365 days. For the last three years of my life, the marking of a new year meant a swift kick in the face from the best acquaintance many of us know as depression.
After the holidays, I struggled (as per usual) through the month of January trying to find the sense of meaning in my life apparently found by my other millennial cohorts. With the flood of beautifully re-touched family photos and career-related revelations, it was difficult to feel change within myself when the only thing staring back at me was a bloated face and the increasing distance of my 2016 college graduation date. The year of 2018 also marked the three-year anniversary of my empty attempts to lose weight and remove some of the weathered attributes apparent from my recent history of drug abuse. While I have been clean off of hard drugs for two years and counting, the marks of self-abuse and hard partying still prove hard to shake off.
Apparently, my body’s preprogrammed solution to my feelings of inadequacy was to sit in my room in the dark and watch the same episodes of every season of Futurama I memorized when it went off air in 2013. It’s much easier to smoke weed and avoid responsibility than address the amounting duties knocking at your door. This also marked the final time I would let my insecurities paralyze my growth as a human being and writer.
“What do I have to sulk for,” my inner dialogue asked. I had what some might call an amazing year: I attended events in the name of music journalism, I met a slew of wonderful individuals, and remained unflinchingly loyal to the day-to-day of my writing duties. While I may not be getting paid oodles of money and having my work featured in the New York Times, I had a lot to be proud of when leaving the difficult year of 2017 behind.
Once again, the same nagging emotions haunted the corners of my mind with repeated mantras: variations of my mind telling my subconscious that I was too fat for the gay community, that I lost my looks with drug use, and my growth as a writer was stunted.
This episode eventually lead to a reminder of my life mantra conveniently adopted from a New York Times interview featuring my favorite offbeat comedian, Maria Bamford; In the interview, Ms. Bamford offers the best line of advice and self-defense for combatting lack of activity due to depression: just do the work. A light flickered inside of me and the mantra perfectly suited for my logical-yet-emotionally-volatile-medicated-brain made its ideal nesting spot.
How could I not trust Maria Bamford and her newfound wisdom? While I cannot relate to her specific diagnosis, Bamford made the bread and butter of her stand-up career by normalizing daily mental struggles and helping my own brain make sense of life viewed through a diverse, less CBS-friendly lens. In the interview, the idea was gracefully summed up as the winning statement to deflect any emotional negativity which may drive people like Maria and I to inactivity:
“Do the work. It’s a stay against paralysis, against the descent of dread. It’s less dramatic than “seize the day!” more affirming than “stop overthinking everything!” It is functional, and that’s what she’s trying to be. Do the work.”
Telling yourself the phrase negates all possibility for both positive and negative thoughts. For someone who analyzes logical patterns to the eventual result of absurdity, this new phrase dawned on me like a godsend. Finally, I could have a motivational phrase which fits my life without seeming too flighty, negative, or preachy. While my boyfriend frequently employs what some might call a nihilistic approach of seeing the world as dreary as it truly is, I could now employ a phrase which directs me to do what has to be done.
In some ways, “doing the work” has allowed me to validate and feel the extent of my emotions without drowning in them. With an emotionless phrase, it’s impossible to justify or negate the validity of the work your mind might convince you is not worth it when it truly is in the long term. In the slumber of depression, it’s easy to negate all the progress you’ve made in your life and simplify it into one cloudy, emotional twister. By telling yourself to “do the work,” you acknowledge the things you need to do as musts, instead of turning it back on yourself and questioning “why?” When you know what must be done and understand the steps it takes, procrastination cannot adapt to this phrase, no questions asked.
As with any good product sold that comes with a warning, this is not a fix-all. While the phrase may have inspired me to take action, it’s up to us as individuals to take the first step. Sometimes the validation we need doesn’t always arrive in the package step-by-step guides, feel-good coffee table books, and enabling company, but the reminder that we are capable of “doing the work.”