Ground Control Karaoke

Dear Los Angeles Karaoke Nerds;

I hope you know that the finest karaoke in LA is to be found in the Ground Control book curated by the awesome Andrew Paul Holguin, appearing Tuesdays at Offbeat in Highland Park- are you aware that this is a tight, super-weird, nerd-friendly book?  That there’s a Smiths list as long as your arm?   That the crowd is patient and endlessly supportive?  It starts around nine and ends when the fun stops, which is never!  Here’s a short list of a few of my favorite songs.  Ground Control, thanks for letting me sing G.G. Allin’s I Kill Everything I Fuck, which was my prom theme.  Weird songs!  Weird people!  Good Times!

Arctic Monkeys-R U Mine

Black Keys-Gold On The Ceiling

Cramps- Goo Goo Muck

Current 93-Crowleymass

Daft Punk-Get Lucky

David Bowie- Moonage Daydream

Deniece Williams-Let’s Hear It for the Boy

Duffy- Mercy

Editors- Munich

GG Allin-I Kill Everything I Fuck


Hole- Violet

INXS-Listen Like Thieves

La’s-There She Goes

Leonard Cohen-Future

Mark Ronson Feat Amy Winehouse-Valerie

Nick Cave-Jubilee Street

Nick Cave-Mercy Seat

Patti Smith-Because The Night

Pixies- Hey (Baby Ketten Version)

Psychic TV- Godstar

Pulp- This is Hardcore

Radiohead-Exit Song (From A Film)

Robert Palmer- I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On

Sam And Dave-Soul Man


Sly Foxx-Let’s Go All The Way

Soft Cell- Bedsitter

Smiths-Headmaster Ritual

Smiths- What Difference Does It Make?

Space-Female of the Species

Sparks-This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us

Suede-Beautiful Ones

Television-Torn Curtain

Tom Waits-I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You

Velvet Underground-Heroin

White Stripes- My Doorbell

Will Smith-Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It

Wombats-Let’s Dance To Joy Division

Yazoo-Bad Connection

Alt Resume

I am close to taking my Summer Sabbatical, which is not really what it is, but it makes my Mom feel better when I say “I’m Taking A Sabbatical” instead of “I’m quitting my job and hanging out all Summer”.  I thought it was time to get my list of “OTHER” skills together and post them on the Internet.

If you feel like you read a slightly different but kind of the same list as this one, it’s because my site was hacked and my service restored from last week’s restore point and I lost it.  It’s because SOMEONE was very jealous of my 70 hits a day.  Eat it, haters!

1. Pit Toilets: I’m very good at using pit toilets in Asia.  You just have to pretend you’re camping, which you kind of are.

2. Sleeping on Airplanes: Also work related.  I can sleep bolt upright on a red eye to Turkey and emerge as fresh and ready as if I had slept in a garbage- filled car.

3.  Tap Dancing.  I’m not the world’s best tap dancer (SAVION GLOVER, because we can really only have one famous tap dancer at a time), but it’s the skill that took the most time and expense to learn, and which has the lowest street value.  I’m considering trying to make people pay me NOT to do it.

4.  Bemani.  It’s no longer fashionable but I can totally do it- I get more points for style than accuracy on Dance, Dance, Revolution, but Karaoke Revolution is my bitch.

5. For that matter, I can lead in six count swing, and I can lead about five things in Lindy hop- I’m a good Lindy follow- I like a lot of dances.

6.  I can make dance parties happen.  I can make people do it.  At karaoke, at coffeeshops- most of the time.

7.  Karaoke.  I’m good at it.  I don’t have the most amazing American Idol style voice, but I know my range and I will perform the SHIT out of a song.  I like to work a crowd.  When I do it in Hong Kong they are upset with the dancing and eye contact.

8.  Comedy.  I do it for money and for free.  Mostly for free.  Don’t ask me to tell you a joke, I’ll make you laugh, m-f.  Just you wait.

9.  I can draw- I haven’t for around five-seven years, but I probably still can, right?  I’m sure I can.  I have an art degree.  I can blind contour the shit out of something.

10.  According to the Munsell test of Color Acuity, I am a Superior Color Discriminator.  I will discriminate the shit out of your color.  I need a lab coat and a light box with a true North setting.  But I will do it.

11.  I can make patterns and sew.  Again, I usually don’t.   But I can make seriously obscure and fucked up Halloween costumes!

12.  Goth Makeup and Fantasy Make up!  I have an airbrush and I’m  not scared to use it, including airbrushing a fake tattoo on you!

13.  I’m really good at telling long, involved, interconnected stories to people on acid.  I can be on acid or not, it doesn’t matter.

14.  I can tell a fake art history lecture at the drop of a hat, especially if the hat is from a particularly evocative period

15.  I’m really good at making one kind of vegan chocolate chip cookies.  Just one kind.

16.   I’m really good at maintaining a blog for 8 years that only my mother consistently reads!

17.  If I had just bought my first guitar, I would be a crazy natural guitar playing genius- however, I have had my own guitar for a decade, and play it occasionally.  I’m mediocre, but proud!

18.  I’m really good at steering an oversized Costco shopping cart with my elbows while eating free BBQ nuts.

19.  I’m a good trivia team member- I don’t know that much about television or sports, but I’m very good at arbitration to try to determine the likeliest answer.  Also, I like to win but I don’t care if I do.

20.  I’m really good at running a White Elephant party.  I will whip the crowd into a frenzy over Scratch tickets and a rubber garden gnome.  Blood will flow!

21.  Despite all the above, I’m really good at not going to Burning Man!  I haven’t gone every year it’s happened!  Consecutively!

With this kind of skill set, I’m gonna destroy this job market!

Baby Ketten Is High Art: New York Times

I know I’ve mentioned the majesty of Baby Ketten and its benevolent overlord, John Brophy, on this page, but finally the New York Times Magazine has given Ketten its due.

Shawn Records for The New York Times

John Brophy, the mastermind of America’s greatest karaoke night, lives in a well-kept bungalow in a neighborhood of small homes in southeast Portland, Ore. When I visited on a weekday afternoon last spring, Brophy, then 36, wore a ringer T-shirt and dark jeans. His wrist was encircled by a half-dozen bracelets, and his dark hair swooped in front of his face. Like many Portlanders, he’s in a band, called Gingerbread Patriots, although currently the band is on hiatus — the “Shows” section of the Gingerbread Patriots Web site is empty but for the words “2009 will bring shows shows and more shows!”

John Brophy, the Baby Ketten K.J., at his Portland studio.

While his daughters, ages 10 and 15, did homework, Brophy and I sat on his bed in front of a flat-screen monitor as he showed me how he builds a karaoke track. Over the course of the next two hours, he would create a karaoke video for Radiohead’s song “Electioneering,” complete with snazzy graphics, Thom Yorke’s lyrics and Jonny Greenwood’s electrifying guitar solo, so that I could sing the song at the karaoke night he runs, Baby Ketten Karaoke. Rotating between private parties, bars and a pizza place, Baby Ketten is ecstatic, virtuosic and a little intimidating. At the center of Portland’s amazingly creative karaoke scene, it’s something close to a genuine artistic movement. And it’s ridiculously fun.

Every week, Brophy adds as many as 20 tracks to the Baby Ketten songbook. Some of these are songs he purchases from karaoke studios, not unlike any karaoke jockey, or K.J., in America. But many of them are songs hand-assembled by Brophy, much as he’s doing with “Electioneering” — B.K.K. originals that Brophy constructs either because the studios that recorded “official” karaoke versions did bad jobs, or because the song is such an obscurity that no studio has ever recorded a karaoke version. For example, if you’d like to sing Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl,” the Gregory Brothers’ “Bed Intruder Song” (with full Auto-Tune), Danger Doom’s “Sofa King” or Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” Baby Ketten has them all. (I know: I saw people sing them.) Your local karaoke bar doesn’t.

To build his B.K.K. originals, Brophy scours eBay for old 45s with instrumental B-sides. He sometimes builds hip-hop songs by isolating the samples the original producers used and stacking them block by block, like Legos. He works on songs online with a network of like-minded D.I.Y. K.J.’s around the world. Sometimes, in a sound-dampened studio in his basement, he records whole tracks from scratch, playing the guitar and bass himself. He once drove himself crazy recording the bass for Joy Division’s “Transmission.” “That choppy bass at the beginning, I always thought it was early stuff, Peter Hook was unpolished, he was playing poorly,” Brophy told me. “But listening to it with headphones — it’s all intentional, he’s doing pulloffs.” He demonstrated on an air bass: “Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun,” pulling his left-hand fingers off the fret with every single eighth note, a staccato exercise that looked exhausting for three measures, much less a four-minute song. “I don’t play bass like that, but I had to get as close as possible. Well, I didn’t have to.”

To build “Electioneering,” Brophy started with a French studio’s rerecording of the song as his template, then spliced the actual Radiohead song’s instrumental intro and outro (featuring Greenwood’s solo) onto the middle section of the track, with a dozen deft clicks of the mouse. He Googled the song’s lyrics. Then he stretched, clapped his hands together and prepared to “tap it out.”

In order to tell the program he uses to highlight each word of the lyrics during playback — when the bouncing ball, as it were, should bounce — Brophy must tap each syllable of the song lyrics in rhythm. Perched on the edge of the bed, Brophy listened intently, his finger poised above the space bar, as the song filled the room. As Yorke sang each syllable — I go for wards you go back wards and some where we will meeeeeeeeet — Brophy jabbed the space bar. Watching his rhythmic tapping, each finger landing just a millisecond before the beat, I was reminded of his demonstration of the intricacies of Peter Hook’s bass. This is just another way of making music: the space bar a string, a computer with 16 gigabytes of RAM an instrument, the actual singer off in the future — me, the customer, who would later that week look to Brophy’s video to guide me through the song.

Every so often, a city becomes a crucible of innovation for a particular musical form: a place where circumstances conspire to create a very special creative flowering; where mad geniuses push one another to innovate further and further beyond where anyone thought they could go. Seattle, 1990. The Bronx, 1979. Memphis, 1954. These moments changed American entertainment.

But what if a musical revolution wasn’t in grunge, or hip-hop, or rock ’n’ roll? What if it was in karaoke? Is it possible that one of the most exciting music scenes in America is happening right now in Portland, and it doesn’t feature a single person playing an actual instrument?

You may recall when you were younger that many nights achieved, for perhaps an hour or two, a state of euphoria so all-consuming that the next morning you could only describe the nights as “massive” or “epic.” Adventures were had. Astonishing things were seen. Maybe you stole a Coke machine, whatever. You would toss off these words — massive, epic — casually at brunch, annoying the middle-aged people sitting nearby who were grimly aware that even as those nights become few and far between, the price you pay afterward in hangovers and regrets is significantly greater. (If you are younger, you may be in the middle of a massive night right now, in which case you should stop reading this article. Put down your phone and go to it! This might be the last one.)

For me, those few such nights I get anymore revolve around karaoke. Something about the openness required to sing in public — and the vulnerability it makes me feel — allows me to cut loose in an un-self-conscious way. It’s hard, anymore, to lose myself in the moment. Karaoke lets me do that.

But I recently moved to Arlington, Va., with two children, and so I rarely go out at night to sing (or do anything). We have friends in Arlington, but not the kind of friends we had in New York — not yet. I sing whenever I can on business trips, with friends I browbeat into renting rooms at trusty karaoke spots like BINY or Second on Second. But for quite some time, I’d been reading Facebook status updates and tweets from acquaintances in Portland that suggested the city was some kind of karaoke paradise — a place in which you could sing every night in a different bar, and where the song choices were so outlandishly awesome that you might never run out of songs to sing.

My mission in Portland was to see if this could possibly be true. Portland does have dozens of karaoke bars, and over the course of six nights we did our best to visit them all. I sang Lee Ann Womack in a honky-tonk in far southeast Portland, Kanye West in a comedy club and INXS in a Chinese restaurant. I watched Emilie, my seven-months-pregnant sister-in-law, sing Melanie’s “Brand New Key” onstage at Stripparaoke night at the Devils Point, a teensy, low-ceilinged club on a triangular lot well outside Portland’s downtown, while a topless dancer worked the pole next to her. Afterward, the dancer — whose bare stomach featured a tattoo of a vividly horrible shark and the word REDRUM — gave Emilie a sweet hug.

And one night, I went with Emilie, her husband and my wife to the Alibi Tiki Lounge, which advertises itself as Portland’s “Original Tiki Bar.” Inside, the crowd seemed at first to be the familiar karaoke mix of wannabes and birthday celebrators you might find in any bar in any city. Someone sang “Sweet Caroline” almost as soon as we walked in. A drunken birthday girl couldn’t handle the Ting Tings song she’d chosen, so the K.J. switched midtrack to Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” which was more her speed.

But an hour in, a goofily dressed group gave an impressively committed performance of a Tenacious D song, one of them growling and snorting like Satan so enthusiastically that several audience members in the front row became visibly uncomfortable.

When they were done, I walked back to their table, where I sat down next to a guy with long straight hair and a top hat. “We’re all musicians,” the guy, Gregory Mulkern, said. He himself is a professional banjo player. “But we really love karaoke because you don’t actually have to care at all.”

“Karaoke in Portland is just different from other places,” said his friend Bruce Morrison. “There’s a lot of showmanship.”

Mulkern swept his long hair over his shoulders and put his top hat back on. “People in Portland,” he declared, “are sillier than in other places.”

In the corner of the booth, a woman with dark-rimmed eyes and black lipstick leaned forward suddenly and took my pen from my hand. She wrote a phone number in my notepad. “Do you know,” she asked, staring intently into my eyes, “about puppet karaoke?”

Chopsticks III: How Can Be Lounge is located between a heavy-equipment rental shop and a Hanson pipe factory. It’s the kind of awful nightspot where if your watch was broken, you could keep time by the diminishing height of the melting heap of ice dumped in the urinal in the men’s room. When the heap of ice read 10:00, Chopsticks III was jammed with 50 people or more: groups of women out for a night away; a dwarf with an Afro who submitted his power ballads under the stage name Micro; a group of four buddies whose Monday-night karaoke club requires them to sing any song a friend challenges them to, blind. Also, a troupe of puppeteers from a local children’s theater, their snakes, ducks and cowgirls laid carefully across a table in the back of the bar.

This was puppet karaoke.

A puppeteer brought a long green boa constrictor onstage and sang “Steal My Sunshine,” which turned into “Sssssteal My Sssssunshine.” (The puppet’s name, I found out later, is Señor Serpiente.) A guy who looked just like Dick Butkus approached the microphone warily, unnerved by how big and puppet-heavy his audience was; when he sang “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray, we went wild, singing along to every word, clapping in time on the break. During the awkward karaoke fade-out at the end, he beamed. “You guys are awesome,” he said, then went back to the booth where he’d been sitting alone, nursing a beer.

A singer named Big Dan took the stage and tore into a guaranteed karaoke mood-killer, Drowning Pool’s nu-metal “Bodies.” But such was the magic of this night that during the song’s first verse, the puppeteers crept to the edge of the dance floor, and when the chorus hit — “Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!” — they flung their puppets upward, the bears and cowboys and pigeons and fish all falling with little felten thumps to the ground. Big Dan, dressed all in black and even bigger than his name suggests, giggled so hard he could barely finish the song.

And me? I sang John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Cherry Bomb,” and dancers danced, and all through the song I thought about how relevant its lyrics (about how once upon a time we had fun, and now the kids laugh at us when we talk about the good old days) were so very relevant to my personal situation, the way you do.

Later, I drove downtown. The beer had long since worn off, but I still felt as if I were buzzing with the evening I’d just had. This was why I came to Portland. I needed to sing one more song, work one more crowd. My phone’s battery gave up the ghost just after valiantly supplying directions to the bar featuring Karaoke From Hell, a live band that has been backing amateurs in Portland for more than 20 years.

Inside the bar, a woman with a clipboard fended off all the requests of “Don’t Stop Believin’ ”; I slipped her 10 bucks and a few minutes later sang “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” with a tight rhythm section behind me. I thought I could keep singing forever, but the song’s only two and a half minutes long.

“You mention karaoke,” Danny Coble, a Portland K.J., told me, “and most people around the country have a certain picture — a 50-year-old K.J. with a flowered shirt, and he does Elvis impressions.” But in Portland, karaoke has attained a certain level of cool, thanks in part to the fact that it’s less the province of drunken bachelorette parties and more the territory of born performers scratching an itch.

“Portland has arguably more bands per capita than any other town,” Coble said. “Lots of people have two or three bands. But there’s never enough gigs, or no one comes to your gig, or you don’t have a drummer right now — so the city’s filled with frustrated performers.” In Portland, that bottled-up indie-rock performative energy comes out at karaoke night, where inventive song choice and onstage charisma are prized.

“Karaoke makes regular people rock stars, and rock stars regular people,” explained Caryn Brooks, the communications director for Portland’s mayor. Sometimes the singers are actual rock stars. Brooks has a vivid memory of the time in the late ’90s when, at the original Chopsticks, she saw Elliott Smith sing Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”

“I don’t want you to overlook the Japanese connection,” pointed out her boss, Mayor Sam Adams. (His term ended Dec. 31; he’s best known to fans of “Portlandia,” the IFC sketch-comedy show, as Sam, the mayor’s assistant.) “I believe we’re the smallest market with direct flights to Tokyo. We have 148 companies in the region that are Japanese-owned.”

“Also, we like a nice cocktail,” Brooks added.

Portlanders have a complicated relationship with “Portlandia,” but most everyone I talked to agreed that the show, with its hide-and-seek league, extreme locavores and put-a-bird-on-everything crafters, gets one thing exactly right: People in Portland are passionate about their weird pursuits.

“Portland attracts creative people,” said Katie Behrens, a die-hard John Brophy fan — a self-described Ketten — on another night. “And when creative people do karaoke, they look for ways to make it better.” We were all drinking a beer on my last night in town, warming up for a night of Baby Ketten at a pizza place on Mississippi Avenue. Behrens is 27 and an aspiring comedian. That night she was between jobs. She was exuberant about her relationship with all the Kettens and with John in particular — “My record is 10 nights in a row” — describing him again and again as not just a K.J. but also a supportive friend who makes her a better singer, a braver performer, a better person. “My second family is Baby Ketten,” she said. “I’m part of something special. And I don’t have to sit by myself.”

At the pizza place, John and a friend were setting up his custom light stands and speakers. I tossed a couple of bucks in his tip jar and signed up for “Electioneering,” the Radiohead song I watched him make at his house, then bought a round for our table. “Let’s call Justin to the stage,” John announced, “for something I’ve never done before.” We heard the unmistakable bass line to the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” but the song was playing noticeably slowly — perhaps two-thirds as fast as usual. We looked at Brophy, who shrugged. A tall young man in a puffy jacket swayed up onto the stage, then kicked into the lyrics — but instead of imitating Jack White’s rock ’n’ roll keen, he sang in a rhythm-and-blues croon. The song was instantly transformed from dirty garage rock to bedroom soul. It sounded incredible, as if the song were written that way in the first place. When it was over, Justin bowed, accepting our applause, then replaced the microphone in its stand and walked out the door, never to return.

After that, my performance of “Electioneering” was somewhat beside the point, but thanks to watching Brophy build the track, I certainly knew the song cold. It’s amazing what a difference a great sound mix makes — Brophy mixes singers from his board on the fly, and there was no mud or muddle in the sound, just pealing guitars and me, doing my damnedest to put on a show. As soon as I was done, I put my name back on the list for the song I’ve been waiting more than 20 years to sing, a song I love, a song that scared the hell out of me. My favorite ballad by my favorite band; a song I assumed would never, ever be available at karaoke, because it’s a feedback-drenched, near-indecipherable dirge: R.E.M.’s “Country Feedback.”

But it would be a while before the rotation got back to me. Brophy’s policy, designed to make sure as many people as possible get a chance to sing, is that new arrivals are moved to the front of the line, so for the next two hours I sat at our table and watched the weird and wonderful karaoke scene in action. The comics critic Douglas Wolk sang Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up,” tearing ferociously into the Nicki Minaj verse. Katie Behrens sang Dia Frampton’s “The Voice” version of Kanye West’s “Heartless” but lost her voice on the bridge. (Everyone cheered for her anyway.) A short woman in a wool cap and wire-rimmed glasses rapped Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It” with one of the tightest flows I’d ever heard. “That’s my sister,” said the woman sitting next to me.

“My neighbors are junk dealers,” she continued. “Not junk like heroin, junk like junk. They sell junk out of their yard. It’s the most Portland thing.” Addie Beseda had the short haircut that seems more common on women in Portland than anywhere else I’ve been, and seemed remarkably lucid for someone who, self-reportedly, had been celebrating the first day of a new programming job since she left work.

“Here’s the important thing to remember about Portland,” she said. “No one’s here to get rich. Unlike everywhere else in America. There’s a critical mass here of people here following their passions. Oh, it’s my turn, hold on.” She polished off her beer, jogged up to the stage and began what was, by a wide measure, the most amazing song I heard in my Portland karaoke odyssey: “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” a 1972 epic written in gibberish by the Italian performer Adriano Celentano, supposedly to mimic how English sounds to the Italian ear. It is like four minutes of “Jabberwocky” with a Continental accent and a mod beat. The karaoke version is a Baby Ketten original, of course. Addie nailed every syllable, then high-fived her fellow Kettens all the way back to our table. “So, yeah,” she said. “People from Portland do stuff like that.”

Portland isn’t just the capital of karaoke, I was realizing. The Japanese influence, the small-business climate and the abundance of bands don’t really matter. Portland is the capital of America’s small ponds. It’s a city devoted to chasing that feeling — the feeling of doing something you love, just for a moment, and being recognized for it, no matter how obscure or unnecessary or ludicrous it might seem to the straight world. It is the capital of taking frivolity seriously, of being silly as if it’s your job.

At his booth, John Brophy cued up songs and cheered singers on and ran the lights and made everyone sound great. He is on a mission. In the week I was in Portland, he K.J.’ed two nights of public karaoke and two nights of private parties. The other nights he went out to sing at other people’s clubs. (At that honky-tonk, he sang LeAnn Rimes’s “Blue” so beautifully that I nearly wept.) Friends stopped by the booth to say a few words, request a track, buy him a drink, drop a dollar in the tip jar. All night long he smiled in the dark.

Much later that night, I finally sang “Country Feedback.” It was everything I hoped it would be. I closed my eyes and turned my back on the crowd and sank to the floor and went Full Stipe, really. It was the first time I ever truly felt like a rock star.

Closing time approached, and it was my last night in Portland, and I really hoped it might never end. We were all part of the show, and so we were all trying to find the perfect last song to sing. At 2:20 in the morning, I stepped onstage and heard the repeated piano pattern that begins LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” That’s how it starts.

John Brophy and the six remaining singers joined me up there, all six of them much younger than I, as the people who are out at 2:20 in the morning tend to be, and I felt a twinge of sadness that this would most likely be the last time I was out this late in a while, and we all danced wildly through the song’s six and a half aerobic minutes of ecstasy and regret, enthusiasm and embarrassment.

“I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision,” I sang, “for another five years of life.” As the song says, to tell the truth, this could be the last time. If I made a fool, if I made a fool, if I made a fool on the road, there’s always this. I have a face like a dad and a laughable stand and I can sleep on the plane and review what I said. I sang: “Where are your friends tonight? Where are your friends tonight? Where are your friends tonight?”

Boatchella: The S.S. Coachella Experience!

S.S. Coachella Poster

SS Coachella

Photo by Megan Helstone

In this post, I will try to answer all your questions about my first cruise ever, on the Celebrity Silhouette to Jamaica with Hot Chip, Warpaint, Pulp, James Murphy, Father John Misty, Sleigh Bells, Girltalk, Z-Trip, and the Black Lips, and some other people.

Q: Were PULP’s setlists different on the two legs?

A: Yes.  Here is the Bahamas setlist, as reported by the able Raymond Medina:

Do You Remember the First Time?
Pink Glove
Something Changed
Disco 2000
Sorted for E’s & Whiz
Feeling Called Love
His ‘N Hers
Like a Friend
Party Hard
This is Hardcore
Bar Italia
Common People

And the Jamaica cruise went more like this, according to me and the ripped piece of notebook paper I found in a jeans pocket:

Do You Remember The First Time?

Monday Morning


Pencil Skirt

Something Changed

Disco 2000

Sorted For E’s and Whizz

F.E.E.L.I.N.G.  C.A.L.L.E.D. L.O.V.E

His n’ Hers


Like a Friend


This is Hardcore


Bar Italia

Common People

Encore: Mis-Shapes

Q: What kind of fucking nerd cares about that sort of thing?

A: This one.

Q: When did you know you were at a Coachella event?

A: When I saw a girl with white denim cutoffs and a bra sitting in a whirlpool, watching James Murphy DJ.

Q: Did Jarvis Cocker remark that it was Jean Genet’s birthday on Dec 19?

A: Yes, but he did not perform any of “The Maids”, as I had hoped.

Q: Who is the hungriest member of Pulp?

A: Steve Mackey always seemed to be in the late-night buffet.  Always.

Q: What’s douchier-looking than taking photos or video by holding a giant Ipad up to your face?

A: Not much of anything.

Q: Was there cool-ass art on the boat?

A: Yes, some hilarious Christian Marclay pieces I’d seen at Seattle Art Museum years earlier, but also some Damien Hirst and Gilbert & George and Richard Serra- a very British selection, on the whole.  Really cool.

Q: Did you take bunk acid on the boat?

A: Yes, but in my defense, I thought the world was maybe ending.

Q: Did you really think the world was ending?

A: No, but I like acid, and I’m sorry it was bunk.  Frank Mojica wasn’t sure, but he was wearing an eyepatch at the time.

Q: Were the staterooms really big enough for four people to share?

A: No, not unless they really liked each other and didn’t mind sleeping with parts of them inside of their friends.

Q: Was it sad that you went stag?

A: No, I met up with a tremendous group of people and had many funs, including an opera singer, a fabulous girl from my town and a mentally deficient gap-toothed Scouse!

Q: Who are the most obnoxious members of any international group?

A: Australians!  I think it’s because they’re in the wrong hemisphere, and feel that there  are no repercussions for their actions.  That being said, they are very hot.

Q:  Did you get seasick on the boat?

A: No, but I could sometimes feel it move, which made drinking all the more sensible, so that I could feel like I do when I’m drunk on land.

Q: Did you at any time dress in future sailor drag and have your picture taken with someone handsome?

A: Yes.

Q: What was the saddest thing that happened on the boat?

A: When Girltalk was in conflict with Karaoke with members of Black Lips and Josh Tillman of Father John Misty.

Q: Remember when Pulp had the lightshow with the dolphin in it?

A: Yes

Q: Did they do that again?

A: It was a Santa, it was cute but kind of weird.  Also, please note that the neon PULP sign swayed constantly with the ship’s movement, which was strange!

Q: Does Jarvis really buy his shirts in the children’s section?

A: No, he has them custom-made, and he has a tiny JC embroidered right under his left nipple.  MMM!

Q: Did you see celebrities on the boat?

A: Har Mar Superstar, Perez Hilton, Haley Joel Osment and Thu Tran from Food Party were all on the boat!

Q: What song did Hot Chip end their set with when we thought the world was maybe ending?

A: Prince’s 1999

Q: How many bars did Virginia take to identify 1999?

A: Two bars.

Q: Who are the cutest and spookiest and rockin’est girls on earth?

A: Warpaint!

Q: What are your predominant thoughts when surrounded by young, wealthy hipsters?

A: I wish I was skinny enough to wear unflattering clothing.  Is shit-weed a type of weed?  Because that’s what it smells like in here.

Q: What does it look like when there’s a Coachella party on a pool deck in the middle of the ocean?

T60C2496 Lasers during The Gaslamp Killer on the SS Coachella 2012: Bahamas
Photo By Ivankay

Q: Is the cruise ship food as great as everyone says?

A: No, but it’s extremely available!  There is pleasure in walking drunk out of a show and eating french fries at 3 in the morning.

Q: Is it OK to have sex with the cruise staff?

A: NO.  Only band members and fellow cruise attendees, which is not fair, given how many of the waitstaff were hot Italians.  Apparently, if you sleep with a staff member (heh), they put you both out on a life raft labeled SHARK FUD to fend for yourselves.

Q: What do you do if someone breaks up with you before a cruise?

A: Find someone who looks just like them and have sex with them, it’s a lot simpler!

Q: What’s with Tom’s Shoes?

A: Well, the good news is that if you buy a pair, they also give one to a needy child, but they’re kind of shitty shoes.  I wish the hipster could wear the shitty shoes and the needy child could get some decent shoes.  They’re one step above the shoes Jesus wore.

Q: What was the funniest thing that happened the first day?

A: Overhearing a pretty hipster girl berating a barman for having Grey Goose as his top shelf, and then she mixed it with Red Bull.  Pick a lane, Amber!

Q: Did you find that, despite your own suspicions about yourself, you loved being on the beach in Jamaica?

A: No, the reef bit my feet and I don’t like being hot or dirty.  That’s why I never went to a Coachella in the first place!  And the lunch was served two hours after ordering, which meant that some of the people in our group had died.

Q: Were the two cruises, to the Bahamas and Jamaica, a financial success?

A: According to the rumors I heard, no.  Both legs went out at half capacity, which made for GREAT shows where people filed gently into their seats and respected each other, but apparently $5 million was lost on the venture.

Q: Did you enjoy Jarvis’ Powerpoint lecture on song lyrics?

A: Yes, he pointed out that lyrics don’t really matter, which makes it strange that he became a lyricist- but Pulp has always been more about atmosphere than turn of phrase- he made me laugh with a Shakespearean reading of A Hard Day’s Night, which is by Livepool’s second most-popular band, the most famous and popular being Echo and the Bunnymen.

Q: What are some of the hilarious lyrics presented as possibly being obscene words to the Kingsmen’s Louie, Louie?

A: “Each night at ten, I lay her again

I fuck my girl all kinds of ways

And on that chair, I laid her there

I felt my boner in her hair.”

Q: What prizes did Jarvis hand out for a music quiz at the end of the lecture?

A: Pieces of clothing he no longer wears, including a suit worn, and torn, on the Jimmy Fallon show.  Amazing.

Q: Was Pulp the Most Important Band On The Boat to you?

A: Is it that obvious?

Q: Do you want to see Josh Tillman of Father John Misty sing R. Kelly on Karaoke?


Q: Do you still have the listing of band-related activities onboard?

A: Yes!  Here it is, straight from 2012:

• REAL WINE: A NATURAL TASTING – Come try a selection of the best Natural Wines with hosts JAMES MURPHYand fellow oenophile JUSTIN CHEARNOAdditional $20 fee for this tasting required. Wines featured will also be available for purchase on board. 

• DESERT CREW – Ever wonder who’s behind the scenes and how we put these festivals on year after year? Here’s your chance to go behind the curtain and find out. Be part of an intimate dialogue between moderator JASON BENTLEY and some key players within the Coachella world. They may even answer some of your questions. 

• ALL HANDS ON DECKS – A highly trained professional will guide you through a live DJ tutorial. Then some of you will get to DJ or run the decks. Each participant will receive their very own S.S. Coachella Poster with their name prominently featured in the lineup! *sign up available at S.S. Coachella customer service desk.

• DEAR DIARY – It’s time to have a good laugh at your unrequited middle school love or that time you stole your bff’s squeeze. Scan and send us the juiciest bits from your cherished diaries. Are they in a dusty box? Call Mom! Selected entries will be read live for all to enjoy, by a very special guest.  (It was Har Mar Superstar!)  

• BOATS N’ CRAFTS – The Coachella Art Studios convoy invites you into our euphoric, free D.I.Y. arts n’ crafts workshop. This is where if you can imagine it – you can make it, and if you can make it – you can take it. Chop and screw new fashion accessories, make a zine, upcycle materials and much more. Open 5 hours a day most days. *no sign up required, come on by!

• MIDNIGHT MOVIES – Come get shlocky with GIRL TALK in the Celebrity Central Theatre!
Ghost Ship
 will be screened on the Bahamas leg (12:01am 12/18).
Open Water (12:01am, 12/21) and Under Seige (12/01am, 12/22) will be screened on the Jamaica leg.

• POINTER SISTERS – We all know SLEIGH BELLS’ ALEXIS KRAUSS comes correct with her style. With help from nail master RIA LOPEZ, you can too! S.S. Coachella staffers will buff your stuff and hand you over to Ria to do her thang. You’ll have two chances per cruise for this activity. 

• IT’S A BEAUTIFUL MORNING – Rough night at sea? Dust yourself off and get your day started right with a hearty *Bloody Mary or refreshing *Michelada on our pool deck with the ladies of WARPAINT! You’ve got a lot of bands to catch! *Cocktails must be purchased. *sign up available at S.S. Coachella customer service desk.

LAZY BINGO – B34, G52, N48. Stop by and play some Lazy Bingo with special guest caller GRIMES. One hour per cruise up on the beautiful lawn club. $5 per bingo card or 4 cards for $15. Fabulous prizes to be won!

• EXCERPTS – Join J Tillman (FATHER JOHN MISTY) as he reads passages from some of his favorite pieces of literature. An intimate affair located in Michael’s Club on Tuesday for Bahamas or Saturday for Jamaica, followed by an audience Q&A. *sign up available at S.S. Coachella customer service desk.

• SNOWBALL BAR CRAWL – Get to know your fellow shipmates. Start in small groups, move on to a designated location where you’ll meet up with more groups and so on. As you progress, groups snowball until there are more people than you can count. We won’t spoil the surprise. 

• S.S. MINNOW PUB CRAWL – Are you a Ginger or a Mary Ann? Dress as your favorite shipmate & tag along with THE BLACK LIPS on a tour through the ships finest bars. Watch out, Skipper! 2 hour aprox. crawling time, once per cruise.

Damned Dog


This is the single most popular photo in my Flickr stream, the dying website that I have enjoyed for many years.  And why not? It is a sleeveface of my French Bulldog, Hazel, and her favorite Damned record. She is pretending that she is a pig.  Thank you for your time.

Interesting Drug

Dear All;

As part of my new rock and roll Los Angeles lifestyle, I attended a Smiths/Morrissey convention at the Avalon ballroom in Hollywood last night. 

I asked a few friends to join me, but t they were above that kind of shameless display, so in the end I went alone, which was entirely appropriate.


I really didn’t know what to expect. In my head, I thought it would more like other record conventions I’ve been to, stacks of related records, bootleg DVD’s, t-shirts, and very little eye contact. 

What I Found

  I shan’t bore you with the blow-by-blow of Mozathon, but it essentially consisted of a rocking cover band from Dublin (These Charming Men, not to be confused with my personal favorite Smiths cover project, This Charming Band from SF*), a Smiths/ Moz karaoke contest hosted by the specialist outfit New Wave Karaoke, held on an unlit stage in an adjoining room, a room of PETA tables (hooray) and a few t-shirt salesmen and hawkers of various unlicensed Smiths paraphernalia. 

In previous years, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke (the Least Famous Members of the Smiths, not like Johnny Marr) have attended, but that doesn’t seem necessary. 

The con has separated from the mothership of relevance and continues, with people showing up to hang out with each other.

What They Looked Like

There were two basic looks: Pompadours and eyeglasses for the boys,and Hispanic Bettie Page for the girls.   I joked with a fellow con attendee, who had traveled from Tuscon to check it out, that if he ever murdered anyone, he should come hide at a Morrissey event.  He did not find this as hilarious as I did, and to be fair, who would?

I approached a nice person in this shirt and asked if I could take a photo, because this Morrissey/Mayhem mash-up was the funniest thing I’d ever seen, and still is, mostly, even after this.

My favorite part of all  conventions is how friendly and approachable everyone is.   Everyone is happy to talk, happy to talk about Moz, happy to be there.  And that’s what I most enjoyed.  That and watching a deadpan lesbian sing “First of The Gang To Die.”  Those were my two favorite things.

Karaoke Friendships

I was sorry that I was not available to hang out long enough for the karaoke contest, but I was interested to see that Queen is Dead was on the songlist.

I am only familiar with Queen is Dead as a Baby Ketten Karaoke jam (with all instruments and vocals by Mr. John Brophy, Esq). 

  I followed up with a visit to the New Wave Karaoke in Bellflower, and was delighted to learn that they had acquired the selfsame version from a friend of Brophy’s in the O.C.  (Kevin Karaoke, Natch)

The rest of the list is quite good, with more Bauhaus and Love and Rockets and Dead Can Dance than I’ve seen elsewhere, as well as nuggets like Dexy’s Geno, The Cramps’ Human Fly, and the goth dancehall classic once only available on the soundtrack for Married to the Mob, Q Lazzarus’  Goodbye, Horses*. 

In other small world news, evidently the KJ is a friend of my friend My Young’s,  who is from Plano, TX.  It’s my world.  Just to say, I already know everyone worth knowing, which is why I don’t need any friends.

*Trivia Fact: Although the original lead singer, the great Orlandissey, has left This Charming Band and has been replaced by a younger dude, I will still talk to almost anyone about my love for them at length. 

**Trivia Fact: Because “Goodbye, Horses” was not featured on the soundtrack for Silence of the Lambs, in the pre-Internet age the only way to have a copy was to track down a copy of 1988’s Married to the Mob, until Kevin Smith used it in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  YOU CAN’T IMAGINE HOW HARD WE HAD IT!


  Here’s a nice picture featuring myself, KJ Jay Tando, and the Baby Ketten logo on the Queen is Dead video.

All Hail Baby Ketten!

I can’t keep my love a secret anymore. I can’t hide my love away! Among the many things that make Portland awesome, there is a karaoke organization called Baby Ketten that is rocking the best book in the business! You think your karaoke has a good book? Seriously- suck it. Have you ever wanted to sing Siouxsie Sioux’s apocalyptic lullaby, Metal Postcard? Probably not, but I did, and I sang it at Baby Ketten! Bauhaus’ Kick in the Eye? Think you can keep an audience through Pulp’s bump and grind classic, This is Hardcore? Find out! Do you think singing Laid by James will get a singalong going? Can you handle Tori Amos’ Crucify? Do you think you can step to The Strangler’s Peaches? Holy crap, this is a great book, and the crowd and KJ’s are all wonderful people. You can talk to them on their Facebook event page: Baby Ketten
Brian Perez Jr. Jr. Jr. and John “Baby Ketten Daddy” Brophy, at the Dunes, when I first met ’em


OK, to whet your whistle, here are just a HANDFUL of the items available for singin’:

*Siouxsie and the Banshees*Metal Postcard*Echo and the Bunnymen**Killing Moon*Senses Working Overtime*XTC*Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves* Gavin Friday*Quiet Life*Japan*This Charming Man*The Smiffs*Replacements*Alex Chilton*Nick Cave*Red Right Hand*Proclaimers*Sunshine on Leith*Beats International*Dub Be Good To Me*Belle and Sebastian*Funny Little Frog*Joy Division*Atmosphere*Nine Inch Nails*Something I Can Never Have*Pixies* No. 13 Baby*Beautiful South*Rotterdam*Pulp* This is Hardcore*Psychic TV* Godhead

You like singin’? THIS is hardcore!  They’re also the only karaoke establishment that I know of with its own app, called the Baby Ketten app, which offers the full songlist in your phone, and also will give you a kamikaze list to sing on demand!

The first night at the Woods was a jam-packed, scintillating media event- the venue used to be a funeral home, and it feels a little like singing in a friend’s living room. Full of GHOSTS!
A Baby Ketten favorite, Ryan Sablan, brought the crowd to its feet by singing a Turandot aria in an AC/DC shirt. That is the magic of Baby Ketten.

edit: The Woods is now just a memory, as is Beauty Bar and Dunes, but wow, there were some great shows and some great BKK events there, including evenings where we sang all of Abbey Road and Doolittle by them Pixies, and BKK now has all of Radiohead’s OK Computer, which will execute sometime this Spring.  For a karaoke addict, there is nowhere else.  Nowhere in the WHOOOLLLEE WOORRRLD!

BKK’s regular roster is currently:

Tuesdays at Mississippi Pizza, which has a wonderful full bar and vegan pizza (and regular pizza too, calm down)

Second Thursdays at the Alibi, Portland’s most tiki-riffic karaoke establishment, where the regulars are slightly flummoxed by the Karaoke selection, but is getting into the groove

UPDATE: Baby Ketten is now FULL TIME at their new location!  See details HERE!