Tag Archives: Calvin Johnson

What a Beardo

Big news out of Belgrade this past Monday, where war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic was captured after years of “living in hiding.” Karadzic was thought to be hiding out in a cave, but had been living in disguise under the name Dragan Dabic. While Karadzic committed some hainus crimes, but I can’t help but be in awe of the situation. So while Saddam Hussein got caught for hiding in a hole, Karadzic hid in plain sight, simply practicing alternative medicine and creating a new identity. What’s most ingenious was Karadzic’s natural ability to create a disguise. Just look at this:

Before and After

Before and After

Now that’s a beard. Honestly, it’s hard to tell that Karadzic and “Dabic” are one in the same. You have to appreciate the finer points of facial hair growth, and it certainly benefited Karadzic (if only for a period of time).

As facial hair has provided safety for some, it’s always been something of a completely different use in my experience. Being able to grow a beard, mustache, or anything else that would never naturally fill a child’s face had been a sign of maturity (or even male superiority in some cases). Whomever managed to squeeze out the first batch of hairs beyond simple peach fuzz immediately gained some semblance of adulthood – or perceived adulthood – in the world of my youth. I still marvel at certain individual’s ability to crop facial hair into whatever whimsical shapes and sizes they could pick from.

Like a young man’s first set of sideburns, much of emo is a reflection of a growing maturity. If rock (and moreover, punk), as Lester Bangs described it, is innately youthful in its purest form, and if hardcore punk is merely an extension of that, then emo and other post-hardcore genres is an immediate reaction to those forms of music. Post-hardcore and emo were birthed as a growth from those primordial forms of music, of which many originators found themselves playing a communal role in. While Calvin Johnson proclaimed himself to be forever a teenager, he intended his mental state to be in that of the youthful open-mindedness, striving to grow beyond the binds of childhood but keeping those freewheeling ideas at heart. Johnson may have been tangling with the close-mindedness of age with his statement, but the emo movement developing in DC confronted those bonds of age in light of everyone’s physical and psychological changes over time. No doubt about it, those who were involved in harDCore had experiences that made them grow mentally as they grew into adulthood, and those changes are reflected in the cultural output of the emocore scene.

Tooth Paste For Dinners Beamo

Tooth Paste For Dinner's Beamo

Although it may not seem like those ideals of personal growth as reflected in music have held true to emo over time, it most certainly has been an important part of the culture to today. Sunny Day Real Estate addressed their evolving thoughts on life and religion even as it tore them apart. The Promise Ring observed the existential crisis of the modern American young adult as a method of moving across the country – the physical movement reflecting the mental change. Hell, even Dashboard Confessional’s tear-stained rants about love are representative of a greater longing than simply puppy love; Carrabba may sing solely about love and loss, but the loss isn’t simply the physical (ie, the lover) but a loss at a future greater than the present situation (a time of growth).

True, these are only a handful of groups in discussion. But for every act discussed, there is a wealth of other emo bands and cultural elements that reflect the ideology focused on grappling with (and simply about) maturity. It may not be a full beard, but it’s all about the journey of growth (be it facial hair or mentally) that’s in focus.

And now, a word on the awesome power of beards from Clone High:

Jimes and the New Garage

There’s nothing quite like a musical discovery, and Jimes is not quite like anything else I’ve found in recent memory. Jimes is the kind of thing you inadvertently stumble upon and then mildly-obsess about for a handful of minutes. Jimes is absurd, endearing, and entertaining, simply by being.

Jimes live

Jimes live

Jimes hails from Chevy Chase, an annexed part of the greater Bethesda area that’s all encapsulated in the DC metro area. Despite the feet which separate his home turf from mine, I had to go to New York to even realize such a character/musical entity existed. And so, while searching for a small-scale, underground show to follow up my Siren adventure, I discovered Jimes was scheduled to play a new hole-in-the-wall venue in Brooklyn.

I didn’t make it to the show (I ended up throwing away all my post-festival plans for relaxation), but Jimes certainly stuck with me. The anarchic, non-musician to the extreme, uber-garage pop immediately jumped out at me. Hey, it’s not great musicianship, but there’s an immediacy and power to it that’s lost on a lot of bands I like to lump into the “mainstream.” Clearly, Jimes (who is the singer, but is also the umbrella name for the full-band) isn’t doing this for money or fame, but simply the power of expression… or most importantly, fun.

More Jimes

More Jimes

Of course, Jimes’ forwardness with which he proclaims his inability to create music is easily connected to the first wave of punk, where non-musicians became an icon of the movement (if not exactly the true creators of said punk music). And as emo is as much a part of the narrative of punk as it is a sub-genre, Jimes’ straight-forward creation of music for the sake of creation is reflective of much of the narratives behind emo’s most noteworthy acts. Although many of those acts had different ideas for simply creating their music, one thing is clear throughout; it’s just important to do it. And if Jimes has any relation to those in the Dischord crowd, the kids in the Mid-West emo scene of the 1990s, or the teens bouncing around basements in New Jersey in the late 90s/early 2000s, his drive to create is in part fueled by his derision of the mainstream society around him.

As far as Jimes’ connection to any greater community is concerned, that is a scene I would be very interested to learn more about. Jimes’ playfulness and musical audaciousness is reminiscent of a number of acts from around America, yet ones who don’t appear to have any direct connection to one another. Math the Band readily comes to mind; the New England-based act was originally just a fun-loving guy named Kevin who sang over beats he constructed on his laptop. But Math has since expanded into a full-fledged band that’s been touring with buddies Harry and the Potters (the defining act of wizard rock, which is it’s own little scene) and will soon be playing a festival in Pittsburgh with none other than Bob Dylan. Juiceboxxx is another one of these whatever-you-want-to-call-it acts, though there is a touch of professionalism. Hailing from Milwaukee, Juiceboxxx is known for putting on urgent and insanely danceable shows, all of which can be heard in the immediacy of the goofy-yet-catchy laptop-based hip-hop tracks.

Math the Band

Math the Band

I could be trying to force certain puzzles in place when there isn’t anything there necessarily. Without any immediate connection to one another, there’s a certain lack of any tangible scene, a driving force which has powered emo to this day. And yet, for some reason, all of these acts are cropping up across the United States that have a general aesthetic connection; technologically-driven (though slightly deficient) music and a drive for creativity that is more parts humor and fun than anything else. If anything, this is a mark of the technology on the ability to create music. Just as cassette tape players made it easy for anyone to make some form of music in the 80s (which Calvin Johnson took to heart with K Records), the laptop has made it insanely easy for anyone to record anything.

Juiceboxxx live

Juiceboxxx live

Although mash-ups, techno, dubstep, grime, and any other electronic-based genre have long been the focus of technology-in-music when it comes to the role laptops have played on modern music, they can be (and in the case of Jimes, are) used for simply recording live instrumental playing on the fly. What’s happening now is something similar to the rise of garage bands in the 60s (although not on such a grand, noticeable scale). As rock bands became a commerce of cool, kids across the country formed bands without any thought of ability or community – just make music. And it’s happening again, only with the laptop instead of the guitar.

Call it “New Garage.” Call it whatever you want. In the same way that garage rock produced hundreds of hundreds of bands across the country, each unique and the same all at once, that commitment to music above all else is happening all over again. And that’s a great thing.

You can download most of the Jimes catalog here. Below are clips of live shows from Jimes, Math the Band, and Juiceboxxx.

Jimes:

Math the Band:

Juiceboxxx: