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There are a lot of good shows coming to Arizona this fall. After the famine of the summer, this surfeit is especially welcome. I wish the shows were spaced out a bit better -- it's hard to go out several times in the same week -- but the clustering does make for an almost festival-like atmosphere, as if the Hotel Congress event on Labor Day had lingered on indefinitely.

Among the concerts still to come that I have my eye on are Richard Buckner at Club Congress -- early show, BTW -- on 10/24, Gogol Bordello at the Rialto on 10/26, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists at Club Congress on 11/1, Do Make Say Think at Plush on 11/6, Of Montreal at the Rialto on 11/7, Stars at the Rialto on 11/8, and Architecture in Helsinki at the Rialto on 11/9. See what I mean about clustering? I'll probably go to DMST and then whichever of the Rialto shows that tommix goes too, though I would hate to miss Buckner. But if you live around here and are interested in making me an offer of companionship, I'll listen intently.

There's also Neko Case at the Rialto on 11/15, Helmet -- bound to be brutally loud and therefore meaningful -- at Club Congress on 11/21, a tenth-anniversary gathering to commemorate the Inner Flame compilation and its subject and beneficiary Rainer Ptacek at Club Congress on 11/24, hosted by Howe Gelb and sure to feature many Tucson scene luminaries, and Japan's Melt Banana at Club Congress on 12/4. Finally, Modest Mouse will be at the Rialto on 12/11. Although that concert is expensive, I may go for reasons of nostalgia, since my first show in Tucson was Modest Mouse at the Rialto in June of 2000, when I was overwhelmed by the heat and even more overwhelmed by the fact that my ticket, purchased at a no-longer-extant bodega up Congress, cost all of $8.

But all this listing is prelude to my declaration that the show I'm looking forward to the most is the Melvins, who will play at Plush next Sunday, 10/21, and in Tempe at the Clubhouse next Monday, 10/22. I'll be seeing them up in Maricopa County, since I can't make the Tucson show, and would definitely be up for a carpooling arrangement if any of you are interested. Mind you, I'm sure they'll be better at Plush, because Plush is simply a better -- and much smaller -- venue.



If you don't know the Melvins already, I'm not sure I'd recommend going unless you're a fan of both punk and metal. That said, nobody does that fusion better than Dale, Buzz and their collaborators of the moment. Come to think of it, I think Kurt Cobain once made the same claim. Anyway, their current collaborators may well be the best of the many they've had over the years. Opening act Big Business, which is also a must-see -- get there by 9:30pm if you're going to Plush -- do double duty doubling Dale and Buzz in the Melvins set each night. And Dale usually sits in on guitar with Big Business.

Bring spending money, if you have it, because the Melvins have mastered the art of tasteful micro-merchandising, selling everything from the standard T-shirts to custom-ordered dolls to artifacts from the band members' personal collection. I wrote in greater depth about their brand of making ends meet, as well as their current line-up, in one of my last pieces for Tikkun:
The entrepreneurial spectacle of the merch table may turn off people who wish to insist on the purity of the music. But it is hard to argue with financial necessity. As the culture industry continues to consolidate its resources in the wake of declining sales and the concomitant difficulty of preventing illegal song copying, fewer and fewer artists will be able to make a career the old-fashioned way. While the dream of becoming the voice of a generation persists, the reality is that the more reasonable goal is to become a voice for several generations at once, appealing to a niche market not limited by age or experience. The success of Bob Dylan’s Modern Times testifies not to the renewed vitality of the traditional music industry, but to the fact that there will never be another Bob Dylan. If artists wish to earn a living making music these days, they would be wise to model themselves, not after Dylan or the Rolling Stones, but the Melvins, who have grasped better than almost anyone the importance of renewing one’s base, rather than wasting energy in pursuit of new customers. Musicians may not be able to escape the reach of global capitalism, but at least they can have some measure of control over the means of production and, just as significantly, reproduction. It sure beats spending one’s days in a cubicle earning money for a multinational corporation.
While I shudder a little at the slant I take in this piece -- what happened to the self-styled Marxist who would sniff out the ideology of entrepreneurialism wherever the acronym "DIY" appears? -- it's true that the Melvins provide inspiration for anyone who ever wondered whether it's possible to achieve the sort of music-world success that tastes just like Goldilocks's preferred bowl of porridge.

The Melvins also provide a different sort of inspiration to me, because they have intersected with my life in meaningful ways. tpratt introduced them to me back in 1989, when I was still struggling to free myself from the bondage of a high school experience that retarded my cultural growth. I soon began to go see the band regularly with friends -- they were living in the Bay Area at the time and played pretty often -- for whom it had become the cool thing to do. I saw them at the Kennel Club with cpratt and his aforementioned brother. Then Kim ended up acquiring two Frank Kozik posters that have been displayed on our walls with pride ever since, one of which -- featuring a nun with blood dripping from her mouth, which you may have seen if you have been over -- was for that very same Kennel Club show.

And then there was my first musical interview, which I conducted, nervously, at the San Francisco studio run by the Fucking Champs's Tim Green while the band sat around eating Thai food during a power outage. I listened to my tape recording of our conversation recently and, boy, is it ever embarrassing. The hesitations and qualifications that even stud my speech on a good day are so prevalent that it sounds like something that might be in the case file of an inmate at a mental institution. But I did end up getting enough material for something that looked alright in print and would have looked even better had not the overworked, underpaid people working at Punk Planet not butchered the edit. I might as well link to that version, since someone made it available online years ago, even though I can't stand to read the portion that came out wrong. Oh, and I also got to take some photos of the band in the rapidly fading light -- that's where the one above came from -- and, best of all, drive them to Amoeba Records in the Haight after the interview -- in Old Red, for those of you familiar with our cars -- where they headed immediately to the cult and foreign DVDs while I bided my time so I could buy Pavement's Terror Twilight, which had been released that day, June 24, 1999, without the Melvins seeing me, suffering under the absurd delusion that they would think less of me for buying something in a different genre. I mean, they hung with Kurt, for goodness sakes. It's not like I was hanging out with Norwegian death metalers. But I digress: the Melvins are coming!

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Current Location: 85704

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The New Pornographers are back in town, playing tonight at The Rialto. Although Rob Mitchum's Pitchfork review compared their new album unfavorably to its predecessor, I'm coming to prefer it. The ballads appeal to me more, at any rate. I believe that you will still be able to purchase tickets at the box office this evening, if you arrive in a timely fashion. You should try to get there reasonably early regardless, because opening act Lavender Diamond is really good. And, while the New Pornographers are the sort of band that is more likely to stand out on record, where their attention to detail is more readily discerned, they are at least guaranteed to be fun. Tucson seems to relax them, perhaps because it feels a little like a home away from home, as the piece I wrote on the band back in 2003 -- I've linked to it before, but not all of you were reading me back then -- suggests. Look for me if you go tonight. I'll be wearing a slightly oversized black T-shirt and the formerly black, made-in-the-USA 501s that I recently retrieved from storage, otherwise known as my standard outfit of the 1990s.

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Current Location: 85704
Muse: strains of Neko's voice from the song "Challengers"

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I'm headed back out to the Hotel Congress this evening for what is sure to be another late night. I can't say that I'm looking forward to the times between the bands I want to see, since I'm too tired to socialize properly. But I have to go, since I intend to incorporate reflections on this year's incarnation of the festival into an essay I'm revising. For those of you who need prodding to get out of the house, the things I'm looking foreward to are A) Friends of Dean Martinez, who were awesome accompanying that silent film on Friday (8pm); B) Howe Gelb, because I interviewed him and because he's so crucial to the history of Tucson's alternative scene; and C) the triumverate of Al Foul, the Pork Torta and the Weird Lovemakers, who played the same stage last year and were all fabulous. There are movies tomorrow, too, though I'm not sure I'll have any energy left by then.

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Current Location: 85704

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For those locals who don't already know, the Hotel Congress is holding its third consecutive Labor Day festival. The first, Club Congress's twentieth-anniversary celebration, was one of the most important events in the city's alternative music scene. Sadly, I could barely attend any of it, because Skylar had just had her tonsils out. Imagine my delight, then, when they held another celebration last year. Although the local line-up wasn't quite as impressive for this second-go-round, its value was greatly enhanced for latecomers to the scene like myself who had had the opportunity watch director Michael Toubassi's film High and Dry the previous year. Whereas in 2005 I had only a cursory understanding of the scene's players from the 1990, in 2006 I was eager to see the Pork Torta and Doo Rag, both of whom blew me away. Also, last year's slate of out-of-towners was actually more interesting to me than had been the case for the twentieth-anniversary fête. Seeing local icon Howe Gelb perform "When the Levee Breaks" with John Doe, Kristin Hersh and Vic Chesnutt was one of the highlights of my concert-viewing career.

This year's festival again feels a little smaller, but still has plenty of rich, chocolatey goodness to offer. The Supersuckers, who came from Tucson originally, as High and Dry relates, are playing tonight. Okkervil River, one of the best bands in the United States, are playing Saturday. And all manner of local acts are involved, including stalwarts Al Perry and Howe Gelb once again hosting free-for-all musical barbecues. Oh, and the Weird Lovemakers, one of the best punk bands in Tucson history, will be playing their proverbial final show ever on Sunday. But, as Bob Barker would say, "That's not all." This year the film screenings held in conjunction with the Congress proceedings have expanded. Michael Toubassi has curated an impressively varied line-up. It will be hard for me to squeeze many films in, at least until Monday, because there's so much music I wish to catch, not to mention the all-important Cal-Tennessee contest on Saturday. That said, I'm going to make every effort to go see tonight's 9pm Rialto showing of Lotte Reininger's 1926 silent picture The Adventures of Prince Achmed, for which the Friends of Dean Martinez will be providing musical accompaniment. That's the sort of film+music event I loved attending at The Castro in San Francisco. More importantly for me, though, the film in question is one that has personal significance because of its connection to Weimar Republic abstract filmmaking. Anyway, I hope to see some of you there. The links here should give you the details you need.

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I just went outside to see whether it will be worth trying to document tonight's lunar eclipse with my camera. My conclusion? While the full moon is too bright to register with any detail, the eclipsed moon might. It will be worth a shot, anyway, assuming I can rouse myself from slumber. But since I was bitten by many of the dangerous nighttime mosquitoes on my brief foray, I probably should make the effort, since I might soon be a victim of the West Nile Virus. I'd hate for my my life-threatening illness to have been in vain. Anyway, don't forget the eclipse, those of you west of the Rockies. Here in Tucson, it's supposed to start a little before 1am, peak around 3:30am, and be over by 5:30am. I think those numbers might need to be adjusted to a little later on the West Coast. Also, the moon will be to the south-southwest.

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Current Location: 85704
Muse: Plan, Steal, Drive - Kinski - Down Below It's Chaos

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When I was watching the Hold Steady play at Plush in June, I kept recalling the Art Brut show at Plush the previous May. Eventually, I walked down a corridor inside my head, opened a door, and plopped myself down in a chair so I could contemplate the reasons my mind wanted to make this connection. I failed to register several Hold Steady songs as a consequence, but did return in time to catch the conclusion to their set. What I realized, in the interim, was that the two bands are eerily similar, despite superficial differences dictated by their geographical origin, because their respective singers, Craig Finn and Eddie Argos, perform as though they were not members of their bands, but fans of them. They remind me of the Who fan who famously got to fill in for an impossibly stoned Keith Moon at San Francisco's Cow Palace back in 1973. But that reminding is itself part of the illusion they skillfully conjure. Where Finn and Argos differ is that, while the former projects delight throughout the set, the latter manages to retain the aura of the fan who loves a band so much that he hates himself for loving the band, a complex emotional response that manifests itself in flickers of hostility dotting the landscape of bliss. I bring these thoughts up now because, not only are the Hold Steady and Art Brut going to be touring together, they are going to be coming to the Marquee Theater in Tempe, where I hope, barring injury or ill will, to pursue my reflections further.

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Current Location: 85704
Muse: something half-sung and three-quarters ironic

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One of my favorite unsung movies is playing on the big screen at The Loft tonight: Point Break. Keanu Reeves may not be the world's most supple actor, but when you have chase scenes as good as that movie does -- it may have the best one on foot that I've ever seen -- nuance is unnecessary. It's showing at 10pm. I'll be there. Perhaps you will be there too. Have I mentioned that The Loft serves beer and wine? We're talking seriously civilized movie-going here. Oh, and you'll get to see the crowd milling about for Rocky Horror on your way out, which is an added bonus.

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The Hold Steady plays tonight at Plush. I'm going. Show time is 11pm, though it may be packed long before then. I'm going early anyway. I want to be there in time to see the opening act Illinois too, since they hail from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I passed the happier days of my youth.

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Basketball is an excellent form of exercise, particularly the sort of marathon games of one-on-one that I played this afternoon. I inevitably end up bruised, but better for it. Today my balky knee was relatively compliant. And my crossover and behind-the-back dribbles were working well. If only I could drive more effectively on the right side of the lane. Or make a few more of those makeable shots I always seem to miss. Anyway, I'm getting close to the shape I need to be in to challenge lithe young men -- or women -- to a game, so let me know if you're interested.

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Current Location: 85704

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A friendly reminder that Stephen Malkmus of Pavement fame plays at Plush tomorrow night. And now Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney is playing the drums in his band. When I saw Malkmus play solo acoustic in Portland this past September, he was in fine form and debuted several new songs that sounded even more intricate than his previous compositions. I bet they'll shine live, too.

I can never predict turnout in Tucson, but the Devotchka show at Plush in December was so crowded that, arriving shortly before the announced starting time, I was unable to see or hear much of anything. It would be wise, in other words, to get there as early as possible, if you want an optimal concert experience. You also may want to purchase your tickets in advance online, but will have to do so before midnight I believe. Here's the link, if you're interested. Since I may not be able to attend the show at the Marquee in Tempe on Wednesday and will definitely not be at the Flagstaff show on Thursday, much to my chagrin, I'll be on my way as soon as my partner returns from visiting her dad in the hospital, the very place I'm headed in a few minutes. We're getting to know Northwest Medical Center very, very well.

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Muse: Give It A Day - Pavement - Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition (Disc 1)

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I'm going to the Devotchka show tonight at Plush. They are supposed to go on at 10:45pm. I should be there a little after 10pm.

For those of you who don't know Devotchka, they make great music that fuses a wide variety of genres. They also did much of the soundtrack for the film Little Miss Sunshine.

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I'll be at Plush tonight to see Califone, the subject of my next Tikkun feature -- already written, but yet to appear -- and a band worthy of your attention if catchphrases like "ambient Americana", "bluesy neo-Krautrock" or "postmodern traditionalist" excite your curiosity. They're supposed to go a little after 11pm. I hope to see you there.

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Current Location: 85721
Muse: Pink & Sour - Califone - Roots & Crowns

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I'm going to be free from roughly 6pm to 9pm this evening. I can amuse myself, I suppose, but would also love to get together with anyone who wants to get together in that window of time. Does this sound like a pathetic plea for companionship? Well, it is. Send me an e-mail -- my LJ user name at gmail dot com -- if you're interested, so that I don't have to be publicly humiliated by the absence of comments to this entry.

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Mode: ironic

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Charlie Bertsch
User: cbertsch
Name: Charlie Bertsch
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ABOUT DE FILE
You're looking at content from my Live Journal, which I have been keeping since 2003. I consider it a personal blog, though it lacks stream-of-consciousness revelations that typify that genre.

That said, if you manage to discern the confessional mode within entries that are superficially tight-lipped, I will reward you handsomely. Or at least pretend to do so.

In addition to reflections, however mediated, on my daily activities, De File features periodic excavations of material from my "files," a revelation sure to disturb anyone who has seen my garage. It's an experiment in integrating past and present, perhaps with a little redemption along the way.

Politics is always on my mind, but rarely explicit here. I’m working on a theory about what personal writing like this does to literary identification and why some people resist its pull so powerfully. But my goal is to make that theory dissolve in my practice, a density in liquid.

You'll note that I have links to blogs not on LiveJournal directly above, as well as assorted websites of note. The blogs I read regularly on LiveJournal itself fall under "FRIENDS" at the top, for those of you unfamiliar with LJ’s workings.

You can write me. I'm "cbertsch" before the circle-a and "comcast.net" after it.
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