Sunday, July 31, 2005

Take the Long Way Home

Back from the Manhattan Room after seeing County x County and The Future Tips perform.
Had to leave a little early knowing that I'd be walking home because SEPTA's subway stops running at midnight (shittiest subway ever). After passing through some of the worst parts of Philadelphia (Delaware Avenue and 2nd Street), I passed Dead Fred's on 3rd Street. Never heard of Dead Fred's? It's at 22 S. 3rd Street. It used to be Coyote Ugly. It used to be called Foggy Goggle, Witchita Steaks, Jake and Oliver's, Sanctuary (I think), and about a dozen other names. Now it's just a punchline in a joke that isn't funny. Actually, I still laugh every time the building undergoes a name change. I wonder if they still have the mechanical bull. I've always wanted to ride one.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Public Transportation to the People!

On the hottest day in years (temperatures predicted to surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit), I decided to walk an extra 4 blocks to work instead of ride the subway. The decision was made after I stepped off the train, the doors had closed behind me, and I realized I had gotten off the train a stop early. Rather than wait for the next train (with SEPTA you never know if another train is coming) and ride 4 measly blocks, I hoofed it 8 blocks to the office.

I was lost in thought when I got off the train, and I believe my premature exit was a subconscious desire to get the hell off SEPTA as soon as possible. In fact, that was precisely what I was thinking about: public transportation.

Ten days ago I returned from a trip to Berlin, where their S-Bahn and U-Bahn systems run with stereotypical (kids, stereotypes are hurtful, don’t buy into them) German efficiency. They were clean, ran on time, and there was a plethora of information readily available for people unfamiliar with the system. Likewise the Metro and trolley systems in Amsterdam. Contrast this to SEPTA’s R1 line I rode back from the airport, which smelled like crap, looked like crap, and cost $5.50 to ride.

I initially dismissed this as simply the difference between the vastly superior European public transportation systems (Berlin, Paris, London, Prague) and America’s car-oriented, look-down-upon-public-transportation attitude. That was until this past weekend when I was in Chicago for Lollapalooza.

The Windy City is my kind of town, and it all started with their Metra train from the airport to downtown Chicago. It cost $1.75. I rode to and from O’Hare airport for less money than it cost to ride one way in Philadelphia. When I had to get to the airport at 4 in the morning on Monday, I was able to take public transportation because THE TRAINS RUN 24-HOURS-A-DAY! Each stop was announced by a prerecorded voice in an articulate and comprehensible manner, and included information on transfer services and which side of the train the doors open.

I could go on and on about the wonders of the Chicago Transit Authority. I’m sure locals know better and have horror stories, but I was impressed.

Then I returned to Philadelphia.

SEPTA’s public transit system is mismanaged, belligerent to its riders, inefficient, late, expensive, sticky, dirty, and routinely smelly. And this is the first thing that many tourists are confronted with when they step off a plane in Philadelphia.

One more cliché: You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and Philly is blowing it with SEPTA.

Want more criticism of SEPTA? Read Duane Swierczynski's WTF column in the June 23 issue of the City Paper.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy 4th with a Fifth

Gettin' drunk on our nation's birthday!

Bloody Knee Jerk will be on hiatus for a few weeks while I'm off globetrotting to Europe.

Happy 4th of July!


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Live 8-y 6'd

Long Live Live 8!

(M)TV Casualty
Yesterday I was more thankful than usual that I live in Philadelphia. As the host city to Live 8 in the United States, I was able to actually hear and see the concert when MTV and VH1 dropped the ball and aired pointless VJ prattle and commercials instead of music.

Tuning in at noon, things got started nicely (from published schedules and TV coverage, you'd never know that the Kaiser Chiefs played before noon). Will Smith welcomed the world to Philadelphia, and reminded everyone that even though this was going to be a fun event, Live 8 was being held for a serious cause. MTV stuck with the broadcast for the first song by the Black Eyed Peas...and then it stopped. Cutting away from the music, MTV went to a commercial break. My jaw hit the fucking floor.

Instead of performances, they were showing commercials for The Real World and Smart Spin storage containers. WTF!!?? I feel bad for people living in other cities, towns, and states who expected through television to join the world in the fight against poverty and instead were given an interview with Jimmy fuckin' Fallon. Boo! Give us the music! Either you were on the Ben Franklin Parkway (or at one of the other concert sites) or you missed the music.* Fuck that!

I was able to walk to the Ben Franklin Parkway to catch the end of Kanye West's set on the JumboTron.

*AOL had live video of all the performances and they're still available online.

Return of the Native
Will Smith's entrance (carried on a throne to the Rocky theme and the Ali chant, "The Champ is Here") was only topped by his reunion with DJ Jazzy Jeff on the wheels of steel. Referencing Run DMC's "Run's House", Smith warmed the hometown crowd with "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It", "Summertime", and the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (plus "Switch" off his latest album). The man knows how to entertain.

We Have a Wiener!
Alicia Keys takes the prize for Performer Who Only Did the Bare Minimum to Raise Awareness. One song. That's it? It was a good song ("For All We Know"), and she prefaced it with remarks to support poverty relief, but c'mon, Alicia. All you could muster was one lousy song? Maybe she felt less would be more? I don't know.

No Surpises, Please
There weren't any huge surprises at Philly's Live 8. None of the rumored special guests appeared (Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen), and there were no duets to rival Live Aid's Tina Turner and Mick Jagger. London had several notable team-ups: Bono and Paul McCartney performing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", The Verve's Richard Ashcroft joining Coldplay for their version of his band's "Bittersweet Symphony". One surprise of note was a freestyle rap by Philly's Black Thought before Linkin Park took the stage. Jay-Z's performance (with Linkin Park) was the highlight of the day.

That's a Wrap
So, the biggest concert event in 20 years has drawn to a close, and by all reports it was an unmitigated success. Now the real test will be whether the G8 nations actually help Africa. How much do these leaders risk in bad press if they don't act (I'm not sure that Bush would care: he and his handlers can spin shit into victory)? Sign the petition at or


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8...7...6...5...

5 hours until the Philly kick-off of Live 8.

Live 8-y 5: Bruce Springsteen is still M.I.A., but Def Leppard is back! What rock (of ages) did they crawl out from under? Pet Shop Boys are playing Moscow (the only Live 8 act listed for Moscow, and as of Friday at 2 p.m., they were still unconfirmed).

They're expecting a million people on the Ben Franklin Parkway...and that's just Jay-Z's entourage. Seriously, I'm hoping he and Bon Jovi will collaborate on a mash-up of "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and "Blaze of Glory".

The Girls Gone Wild (hell no, I'm not linking to their site) bus was in Philly yesterday at Brownie's 38 for a special event. Maybe I'm unfairly besmirching their good name, but I'm certain they'll stick around for Live 8 in order to transform a concert for poverty relief into Boobarama. They're setting a new standard for tastelessness. Maybe they'll donate some of the GGW: Live 8 edition profits to Live 8. To play devil's advocate, the ladies in these videos were going to show 'em anyway, GGW just films and sells it. I blame Girls Gone Wild for all objectification of women.

4.5 hours until Live 8.


Live 8 is Enough

Don't want any part of Live 8? Here's a guide to what else is on between noon and 6 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time)

All-day Events
USA Network has a 4400 marathon.
TVLand has a Bonanza marathon (can't get any further from Live 8 than that, unless you remember that Toby Keith is playing in Philly)
E! has a marathon of 101 Even Bigger Celebrity Oops! (really they're just showing Battlefield Earth and Reindeer Games).

Noon (12:00)
I won't be awake this early, but the Family Channel has a full hour of Full House while TBS is airing Jumanji. Two of my most-hated pop culture icons square off: Robin Williams against the horrific 90s shitcom. Let's hope they destroy each other.

Not participating in the Live 8 experience because you hate charity (you must be a Republican), then turn your attention to QVC's bracelet showcase and showcase your apathy with a lovely diamond-studded band. Love the sun, but hate to go outside (you must be a vampire), check out NBC for beach volleyball.

Sports, sports, sports, sports! NBC leaves the beach and hits the NASCAR (not really a sport) circuit for a preview of some race. Click over to FOX to catch the middle innings of the Phillies vs. the Braves. For the kids, Cartoon Network has Krypto the Superdog. What's better than learning a foreign language from muppets on Sesame Street? Give up? Why learning Spanish from clay-mation monsters, of course! WWSI 62 is airing Clash of the Titans in Spanish! Bueno!!!! Man, I love that movie.

Casablanca on Turner Classic Movies.

A shitty hour for TV. Stick with a flick, a game, or just watch the TV Guide channel and remark, "what a shitty hour for TV." I'll be on the Parkway watching Jay-Z at this hour.

Salvation arrives: Zelig on IFC.

NBC picks up the beach volleyball action.

STYLE Network has a show called Foody Call. How many obese people heed that call?

Want to watch Live 8 performers without all that music? WB17 serves up an hour worth of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Oh, and Robin Williams crushed the Olsen Twins, Jumanji repeats on TBS. Damn.


Live 8 Tracks: Number 1

Today's the day: Live 8, Dead 0 (or so Philly can hope)

#1: Kick Out the Jams
-MC5, Kick Out the Jams (Elektra)

There are some live albums that are masterpieces unto themselves, complete works of brilliance that can't be broken into "best tracks", because every song is fantastic (I would put the Who's Live at Leeds into this category). Then there is the MC5's Kick Out the Jams, the greatest live album ever recorded, but whose title track can be identified and separated as more than just a part of a perfect whole.

Hyperkinetic with more attitude than the current wave of retro garage rock acts could muster in a million years (probably because there's no substance beneath their pretension--specifically The Hives), "Kick Out the Jams" celebrates performing live (even as it is a live performance).

"Let me be who I am...and let me kick out the jams!"

Covered a thousand times, none of the remakes of "Kick Out the Jams" can hold a candle to the original* (even Rage Against the Machine's version falls short), partly because the song is a call for individuality and nonconformity (N.W.A.'s "Express Yourself" is another good one). Wild and uncompromising, the MC5's Kick Out the Jams stands as a pillar of integrity...35 years after its release.


So, there you have it. Eight of my favorite live tracks in honor of Live 8. I'm certain I missed some great songs (hell, I had to pare my list down from nearly 20 favorite live albums including Quasi, Primus, Allman Brothers Band, Talking Heads, etc.), so I welcome listening recommendations.

*I'm not a karaoke wizard, but when in Rome (or Japan in my case)...I scoured several karaoke joints for this song to no avail (had to resort to my stand-by, "Proud Mary"). Probably for the best as my most theatrical moments pale in comparison to Rob Tyner's. Besides, if Zach De La Rocha couldn't pull it off, what chance do I have?


Friday, July 01, 2005

Live 8 Tracks: Number 2

I can't believe Live 8 the whole thing.

#2: Machine Gun
-Jimi Hendrix, Band of Gypsys (MCA)

Sometimes less is more. When the Who's monumental Live at Leeds was expanded, many fans who were endeared to the original (shorter) version of the album were horrified that MCA would screw with perfection by alterring the track order. I never listened to the original 6-song Live at Leeds, but when listening to Band of Gypsys, I can relate. After Jimi Hendrix's death, MCA released more material from the 1969-1970 New Year's Eve/Day concerts as Live at the Fillmore East. Live at the Fillmore East is a good set, but it lacks the concentrated punch of Band of Gypsys.

The version of "Machine Gun" on Band revolutionized the guitar solo, and, in my opinion, there hasn't been a better one since.
I first listened to Band of Gypsys about 8 years ago, and I was finally able to put a name to all the guitar riffs that were sampled in the rap albums I listened to in my formative years. It seems strange that there are a whole lot of hip hop fans out there who know these riffs, but don't know the source (as I didn't). What's inexcusable are the misguided fools who think that the guitar lick from "Come With Me" on the Godzilla (1998) soundtrack is a Puff Daddy/P Diddy original (it isn't, it's lifted from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir"). At least I knew the rap artists were sampling riffs, I just didn't know the source material.