Monthly Archives: September 2011

Tomorrow: Baker Artist Awards Closing, Pissed Jeans

One of the best things about living in Baltimore, and perhaps the major reason we love it so dearly, is the ability to go from something very highbrow and sophisticated to something decidedly lowbrow with absolutely no transition in between.

That’s exactly how our night looks to be shaping up tomorrow, when we’ll be going directly from one of the BMA’s “late night” parties over to the Golden West for an actual late night party. There’s 2 to 1 odds that the phrase “Oh you think you fancy, huh?” will come into play at some point tomorrow.

Pissed Jeans plays the Golden West tomorrow.

If you haven’t been to one of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s late night events yet, you’re absolutely missing out on one of the best things in all of Baltimore. The museum has been throwing Saturday night parties at the close of each of its special exhibitions recently, and each one has been bigger and more fun than the last with food, music, cash bar, and free or very cheap admission. Tomorrow’s event is free, and will have a distinctly Baltimorean feel to it as it marks the closing of the Baker Artist Awards exhibit.

This year’s winners were, of course, Gary Kachadourian, Audrey Chen, and Shodekeh, who will be joined by several more familiar names including Ellen Cherry, Justin Sirois, and the Copycat Theater.

But we can only pretend to be rich and classy and sophisticated for so long. By the time this party is over we’ll be more than ready to hie to the Golden West for Sub Pop’s Pissed Jeans. What’s Pissed Jeans? It’s a big dirty dick that fucks you in the ear. It’s the kind of band that makes beer drip from the ceiling and nice things get broken. It’s the sound of America falling apart at the seams.

It’s also Dana’s birthday. Happy birthday, Dana.

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Filed under Art Openings, Baltimore Events, shows

Strike Anywhere, Copyrights, Younger Years @ Ottobar Tonight

So we’re going to see Strike Anywhere at the Ottobar tonight. Sounds pretty normal, except that we’re not actually going to see Strike Anywhere. Oh we’ll stand there and watch them. We’ll probably even sing along a little. What we mean to say is that even though they’re at the top of the bill, somehow they’re not the draw. If they were playing with different openers, we’d probably sit this one out.

No mistake… Strike Anywhere is still among our favorites, and their place as one of the better punk rock bands of all time is quite secure. It’s just that, well, it’s not 1999 anymore. The last time we saw the band (with Bane in College Park, May ’09) provided a very stark contrast to the shows of 10 years ago. The energy and urgency were very much lacking, not just in their set but up and down the bill. It was one of those shows that reminds you that even the best bands can’t keep getting better, and there’s no shame in moving on.

Yeah. We wish it was 2001 again too.

So we’re actually going to see the opening acts tonight. Specifically the Copyrights and local act Younger Years.

The Copyrights are very very possibly the best pop punk band in the world right now. Think of the Bouncing Souls, Screeching Weasel, and Face to Face all rolled into one. That said, being the best pop punk band in the world in 2011 is kind of like being the world’s best ska band in 2001. It’s not that hard to do because pop punk just isn’t cool anymore and high school kids are all pretentious little fucks these days. We still like pop punk. Some of the ambient dream pop cum shoegaze cum experimental fusion cum fake-ass world music acts that pass for indie rock today could stand to learn something from bands like the Copyrights.

We’re pretty stoked to finally catch Younger Years as well. They’re not exactly a new band anymore, but somehow we’ve managed to miss all of their shows so far. We’ve been hearing good things though, and really how can you say bad things about a band that, when you hear them for the first time you say “Oh, this is a band that sounds like Kid Dynamite and None More Black.” It’s about time somebody picked up that ball and ran with it.

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Ottobar is at 2549 N Howard Street in Charles Village. Tonight’s show is 7 pm doors, all ages. A Wilhelm Scream also plays.

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Filed under Baltimore Events, shows

Shellac @ Sonar Tonight

You gotta go see Shellac tonight.

Among the many reasons why you gotta go see Shellac tonight is because you’ve probably never seen them before, and the smart money says you’ll probably never see them again. After all, even though they’ve been around forever, they’re not exactly banging down the door for the title of ‘hardest working band in show business.’ The bio on the Touch & Go website pretty much sums it up:

Band information:
“While there is no specific coordination between Shellac’s record releases and touring schedules, you can expect the band to tour at its usual sporadic and relaxed pace.”

Current:
“Shellac will have a new LP anytime between now and the future.”

A visual approximation of the flying fuck Shellac doesn't give about you.

Now, maybe you’ve never even heard of Shellac. Don’t worry, that is a minor detail and it doesn’t matter in the least. You will still need to go see them though, whether you’ve heard of them or not. In fact, if you’re unfamiliar with the name of Shellac or its frontman Steve Albini, it’s probably because Albini doesn’t give a flying fuck whether you’ve ever heard of him or not. This is punk rock. Steve Albini doesn’t have to fucking impress you.

That said, Albini is actually pretty impressive. He first made a splash along with Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati in the early 80’s when they formed Big Black, which sounded like nothing that had been heard before and like very little that’s been heard since. Although they only put out 2 records and aren’t well-remembered today, Big Black was a band’s band, and went on to be hugely influential to other bands that were hugely influential like Helmet, Clockcleaner, and Baltimore’s own Lungfish.

Although in a lot of ways Shellac is an encore, or a second act, they’ve also been fairly influential in their own right. Their musical DNA can be traced out to acts as disparate as the Dismemberment Plan, Double Dagger, and Sweep the Leg Johnny. It’s almost as if the band’s mission statement was “Hey, we’re not doing this for our fucking health… we’re doing it to show you what music can sound like if you cut the shit. Turns out that when you cut the shit, music sounds pretty good. This is another reason you need to go see Shellac tonight.

But the last and perhaps most important reason you will go see shellac tonight is because Steve Albini is a genius. Now, we don’t throw that word around lightly, and calling anyone a genius is debatable, but Albini probably is. Odds are, he’s produced your favorite record, having done recording work for acts like the Pixies, Nirvana, the Jesus Lizard, Superchunk, Helmet, PJ Harvey, Jawbreaker, Guided By Voices, Godspeed You Black Emperor, and about a thousand others. You can hear him profess musical philosophy here, here, and all over Youtube.

Even if he’s not a genius (and we don’t concede that he’s not) he sure acts like one. Which we mean to say… he’s kind of a dick. You have to be kind of a dick to name one of your bands Rapeman, call one of your records Songs About Fucking or to have a Facebook page called Steve Albini Being A Jerk. But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re kind of a dick too, after all.

It says a lot about the state of music and especially the state of the internet that Albini is the first person we’ve ever heard say anything negative about Odd Future. Even NPR is happy to heap praise on them but you know what? Odd Future is terrible and their fans are stupid.

That’s why you’re going to come see Steve Albini and Shellac tonight. Because they’re one of the last real remaining punk bands in America. Because they’ve never been afraid to say what needs to be said and to take the path of most resistance. Because they don’t give a fuck if you come see them or not.

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Sonar is at 407 E Saratoga Street downtown. Tonight’s show is $13 on the main stage, 8 pm doors. Helen Money also plays.

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Filed under Baltimore Events, shows

Bi-Weekly Political Roundup: Iraq and the Arab Spring Edition

As you know, we usually only talk politics every second and fourth Wednesday, in conjunction with the regular meetings of Baltimore Drinking Liberally. Drinking Liberally will happen as scheduled tomorrow (Joe Squared, 7pm), but we’ve got something else cooked up for then, so we’re waxing political today.

There’s definitely no shortage of topics to cover at the moment. The GOP seems to be having debates about once a week, and each one is more disgraceful than the last. Today though, we’re going to focus on one single idea.

Baltimore's Drinking Liberally chapter will meet tomorrow at Joe Squared. 7 pm.

It may not be a wholly original idea, but it did occur to us quite on its own and we haven’t been able to shake it since. At any rate, it’s not a very popular idea- as we’ve never seen or heard it discussed anywhere in the media- and after we put it forth on our humble little blog here it probably won’t get much more traction because it’s frankly a very uncomfortable idea to accept.

Saddam Hussein never would have survived the Arab Spring.

On the face of it it’s a pretty simple thing, and most people might even shrug it off and say “Hm. Yeah, I guess so. Whatever…” But the more you think of it the more disturbing it becomes. It implies that the entire Iraq war effort was completely unnecessary. They likely would have come to the same result on their own.

Now, there were many, many people who said before the invasion that the war was wholly unnecessary. The Chop was among them, and we knew at the time that there were no WMD’s, that there was no collusion between Iraq and Al Qaida, and that Iraq presented absolutely no threat to the United States. But the point of this post is not to say we told you so. It’s to ask the question What if we’d known the Arab Spring was coming?

Of course, none of us has a crystal ball, and back in 2003 there wasn’t anyone anywhere who was predicting what’s going on now across the Arab world. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and it would be irresponsible of us as a nation not to examine our actions and motives in light of subsequent events. Saddam Hussein was not drastically different from any other Middle East dictator, and if anything the Iraqi Street was even more primed and ready for a revolution than most of the country’s neighbors.

A best-case scenario for Iraq would have been a revolution similar to that which occurred in Egypt. This is the type of regime change that was laid out by the Bush administration at the time; a quick bout of fighting with a minimal number of casualties followed by an orderly transition to democratic rule. Unfortunately, they couldn’t deliver on it. We actually passed through Egypt in July and the lower-level nonpolitical government officials we dealt with were not only still showing up for work and keeping things running smoothly, but there was actually less evidence of bribery and corruption about.

A more likely case for Iraq would have been what happened in Libya. The US already had a no-fly zone and a raft of sanctions in place in Iraq, and there’s little doubt that that the US, NATO or both would have been delighted to manage Libyan-style air strikes on Regime targets, even to the point of “shock and awe.” As soon as the first bomb fell the PKK would have seized complete control of the North, and the Shiite militias would likely have taken the south without much difficulty. The Republican Guard should have stayed loyal to Saddam, but regular Iraqi army units probably would have defected almost immediately, either remaining loyal to a cadre of generals or blending into militias.

Saddam himself would probably have done just what Gaddafi did, hiding out in or around Tikrit, or possibly attempting a run for the Syrian border. It’s entirely possible that his clown-show of a trial and his inhumane circus of a hanging would have happened exactly as they did, as there was little US or international involvement in either of those events. The “Sunni Awakening” might have been part an parcel of the larger Arab Spring, and in the end it’s easy to imagine that Iraq’s post-revolution government would be just as hapless and dysfunctional as its post-invasion government has been. The absolute worst case scenario would have been a bloody years-long nationwide civil war, but the Iraqis had that anyway, whether the neo-cons want to admit it or not. They could have just as well fought their civil war without us.

We have to mention too that Libya is a nuclear-armed country. That is to say, they have real, actual weapons of mass destruction. There are also large stores of chemical weapons there that were not used throughout the revolution by either side. The answer in Libya did not “come in the form of a mushroom cloud” so to speak.

But Libya isn’t even the worst-case scenario. We’ll grant that it is possible Iraq could have seen the horrific type of one-sided massacres that are still happening today in Syria. However, the situation in Syria is far from over. We don’t see any way that the Assad regime can come out of this in tact, especially given that he’s garnered the type of widespread international scorn and condemnation that Saddam never did.

Now, what about the countries that didn’t revolt? What about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where blossoming discord was nipped in the bud?

The Saudis basically bought their way out of a revolution, giving everyone in the country a nice check and creating thousands of new jobs, primarily to be filled by men 18-25. It’s easy to fight on an empty stomach, and the Saudis are now making goddamn sure that every able-bodied fighting-age man has a bellyful of bread. Likewise, they’re exerting a lot of influence and pouring a lot of resources into their much smaller neighbor Bahrain. They even put Saudi troops on the ground there to keep the peace. After so many years of sanctions, Saddam simply didn’t have the money to buy his way out of a revolution, and no one else had nearly enough power and influence to offer protection to such a large country as Iraq.

So there we have it. Ten years on and the result in Iraq might have been exactly the same. Well, almost the same: without invading, we would have saved one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000.). We’d have saved the lives of over 4400 US service personnel and up to 100,000 Iraqi civilians. No Abu Ghraib. No Torture. No diversion of resources from Afghanistan. No war profiteering.

And George Bush says he has no regrets.

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Filed under Bi-Weekly Political Roundup

The Chop Goes Car-Free

There are a couple of seldom-admitted paradoxes that we’ve been noticing more and more lately that we want to address today, and they have to do with bicycles and buses.

Most of the “bike people” we know and interact with are eager to evangelize bicycling as a lifestyle. They’re always quick to tout the health benefits, brag about not being stuck in traffic, and romanticize things like Ciclovia. Mention anything negative about cars and they’re quick to suggest that you buy a bike. Once you get them off their soapboxes though, and they start to speak frankly, they’ll let slip that drivers are rude and sometimes violent to cyclists, tires blow out far from home, riding through bad neighborhoods is scary, scrapes and bruises are far too common, you often arrive sweaty or rained-on, and bike planning leaves a lot to be desired. Who wouldn’t want to bike everywhere?

Baby you can drive my car... cause I'm done with it.

Similarly, public transit’s biggest advocates are also its biggest critics. Those who praise the virtues of leisurely reading on a bus commute or bypassing traffic on a train are also the first to scream bloody murder when a bus misses a stop or the MARC is delayed (which happens every single day).

With all this in mind, we’re starting to doubt our own sanity considering that this week we’ve decided to sell our perfectly good Chopmobile and buy a bicycle, but that is precisely what we’ve determined to do.

It’s not like we’re breaking new ground here. We’re certainly not the first person to live in Baltimore without a car. Hell, we’ve even spent two separate years carless before now, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s like to live without a car. The key difference now though is that where before our reasons for being carless were financial and circumstantial, this time we’re making an active lifestyle choice. We’re going to try being car-free as opposed to car-less.

The main challenge here is not dodging traffic coming down Saint Paul at rush hour… for us, it’s trying to ride a bicycle without becoming a “bike person.” We’ve spent the past weekend bike shopping, and some of these bike-shop people are even worse than car salesmen.

So we’re not going to become a bicycle commuter. There aren’t any critical mass events or Annapolis trail rides in our very near future. We might even buy another car in the next year or so. In the meantime though, we just want to get around a few miles’ radius of the inner city, and we want to do it on two wheels. Wish us luck.

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Filed under A Day in the Life of the Chop

Welcome to the Working Week

There’s going to be some changes here at the Baltimore Chop. One of the great things about blogs as opposed to some more traditional forms of media is that evolution comes much more naturally. Any blog that remains static for too long will inevitably become stale.

Seeing that we’re coming up on our second anniversary of blogging, and now that we’re a fancy-schmancy award-winning website, it’s time we started acting like one a little more. Soon enough, we’re going to go ahead and spend the $15 bucks or whatever to get a real grown-up url, and ditch the good old freebie theme in favor of something that will work better with what we’re doing here. There are also a few more changes we’d like to roll out in due time.

From now on, we're taking weekends off from the blog factory.

Perhaps the biggest change though, and the one that starts today is that this will no longer be a seven day a week blog. Our blog stats and our own observations have made one thing crystal clear, namely that no one reads blogs on the weekend. In the beginning, it made sense to post every day, but now that we’re approaching 400 posts there’s really no need to keep piling up posts every day. Some of our best stuff gets buried on the weekend, and we’d like to have a little more freedom to not be brainstorming and writing every single day. So effective immediately, the new posting schedule is five days a week.

Have a good weekend, Choppers. We’ll see you on Monday.

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Chop Style: Avoiding the Freshman Sydrome

First things first… The first thing is that we’re happy to announce that this blog was recognized yesterday by the City Paper in their annual Best of Baltimore issue as being Baltimore’s Best Local Blog. The BoB award carries a lot of weight in this town, and most of your finer local establishments display one on their walls from some year or another, so we’re excited to have one of our own to put in the office. We’re looking forward to spending long hours staring at it while we’re lazy and distracted and saying to ourselves “What the fuck are we going to write about today?” which is how blogs are made.

We also want to thank the CP staff for paying enough attention to remember that we are a blog. If we were handing out advice to a beginning blogger, it would not be “don’t write anything at all for 3 months” which is exactly what we’ve done up until yesterday. It means that much more to us for having been offline these 90 days.

A visual approximation of the Chop being the best.

So like we said, we get a little award suitable for framing. But the real prize when you win one of these is that you score an invite to the annual Best of Baltimore party, and get to hobnob and schmooze and glad-hand with the other winners, and of course, be privy to an open bar.

So we went there yesterday, and we did that. We even managed to get a date for the event. And without saying too much about it, we didn’t look at it as one of these “Oh I just need somebody to go with so let’s just go and hang out or whatever” dates. It was more like one of these “She seems pretty awesome and I really want this to go well and I’m kind of nervous about it and I still sort of can’t believe she said yes.” kind of dates. The best kind.

Which brings us to the main idea of this post. For a big date, or any type of big event whether it’s a job interview, a holiday, a wedding or what have you, the temptation is always there to go shopping beforehand and find something new to wear. It’s a temptation we usually resist, and we recommend the rest of you do the same.

Think about the beginning of high school. The first day of ninth grade is a big fucking deal for most kids. You’re out of middle school, and thrown in with a lot of older kids. You may be meeting kids from other middle schools, taking new classes, dating for real for the first time, and you’re trying you’re level best just to fit in, let alone cut a great figure down the hallways.

Maybe it’s different for girls, but for most of us boys your mom dragged you to the mall to hit the back to school sales and made you try on jeans and shirts for hours on end, wouldn’t let you get any of the things that you really wanted, or anything that wasn’t on sale, or anything that couldn’t double as church clothes- in short, anything good. So the first day of school rolls around and now that the clothes are bought you actually have to wear them, and in addition to all the hassles and stresses and pressures of starting high school, you’re constantly thinking “Do these jeans look like Dad jeans? Do these look like floppy clown shoes? Does this shirt make me look like a doofus?” And you wish you’d never gone shopping at all.

We’ve got it better as adults. Most of us have a much improved sense of style and a better sense of self than we did at 14, and we’re free to buy and wear what we will without any help from Mom. All the same, the Freshman Syndrome still persists.

Sure, those pants look great, but do they look great on you? That sweater is nice enough to be an investment piece, but will it itch your neck until you wash it a few times? New shoes are great to have, but they’re even better after you’ve broken them in and they’re not stiff and unforgiving. At the end of the day, looking good is mostly about confidence, and it’s hard to be very confident in something you’ve seen only once in a store mirror. The clothes that really inspire confidence are the ones that we know fit the best; that we’ve seen in our own mirrors, that we’ve been photographed in, that have generated plenty of compliments in the past. Better than new clothes are your favorite clothes.

Having a closet full of clothes that we can count on is one of the best things about being a bona fide adult. In our case, we’re always prepared for anything from a wedding to a funeral to a formal event, or even a date… no trip to the mall required.

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Filed under Baltimore Events, Chop Style, Other