Friday, August 31, 2007

More Nerd News in Brief

I grew up a punk rock kid, so the passing of Hilly Krystal probably hit me harder than many other residents of rural America. It’s amazing to think that one simple man and one dive bar could serve as such a strong catalyst for a musical revolution. Amazing but undeniable.

One of my many music-related regrets is never making it to CBGB before its closing last October, but those are, as they say, the breaks. Still, I can’t help but think of Country, Blue Grass, and Blues as a sort of holy place, a focal point of sacred geography where many of my favorite bands coalesced.

It is thoughts such as this that remind me how amazing it is that the music to which I devote so much of my time – simple, truthful, nerdy music – has sprung up in less a physical locale and more a virtual one. When artists come together, whether for a night of nerd rock, a nerdcore tour, or a VGM festival, I’m always amazed that many of these acts who have so long admired and collaborated with each other are often meeting face-to-face for the first time.

Such is the power of the Internet, the stomping ground for geeks musical and otherwise.
  • Case in point: I wanted to devote a lot of textual real estate to last weekend’s Nerdapalooza SE, but it looks as though, well, damn near everyone in attendance beat me to the punch. Behold Random’s take on the event, Zealous1’s ruminations, Sir-Up’s exhaustive account (which starts here and encompasses several chapters), and some really great pix from Denika and Sangriaa.
  • Return of the King: Brothers and sisters, Hex Warrior is back again with some more college radio goodness for your monkey asses! His schedule is as follows: Monday from 5:00 – 6:00 PM [PST] Any Way You Want It (100% requests – nerdy music and otherwise); Thursday from 11:00 AM - Noon [PST]: News Humboldt (student-run news about campus and community issues); and, of course, Saturday from 2:00 – 4:00 PM [PST]: NeRPSID (the Nerdapalooza radio program show.)
  • Technical difficulty: As many of you know (and have been so kind as to inform me), Radio Free Hipster is experiencing problems with ye olde server. The podcast feed is currently… not… feeding… maybe? Anywho, suffice it to say that episode 29 has been recorded and will be made available to interested parties as soon as any funkiness is resolved. Thanks for your patience.
  • Stuff you should rightly be listening to: Last week I stewed in a musical soup of The Cult, The Pogues, and Uncle Tupelo. This week’s listening list is a little nerdier but no less entertaining. On the freebie side I’m gonna recommend Nullsleep’s Electric Heart Strike; it’s like a tiny, electronic house party in your headphones. I’m also gonna go for broke and all but insist that you purchase MAJA’s The Amalgam Project. My copy arrived a couple days back, and I’ve been listening non-stop ever since. It’s got a unique appeal to those of us who prefer our hip-hop straight from the underground, those of us who like our rhymes a little nerdy, and me, who fits neatly into both columns A and B.
  • Not to be confused with The Breakfast Club: You love Shael Riley, right? Of course you do! Okay, then could you tell me what the fuck this is about? Thanks.
  • Tetris Attacks: Matt sent me this vid under the tagline “Jack was right.” This is a form of video game violence that I am totally mystified by. Maybe it’s a cultural thing.
  • Street Team or paramilitary organization?: Will you be amused – or tickled as we say in the solid south – by the tale of a Portland-area Frontalot fan who spent the night in jail for posting flyers? Yes. Yes you will.
  • Look! More videos: Here are three clips from a recent Year 200x gig that you really need to check out. Nobody rocks some Duck Tales like the boys from Michigan!
  • Even more!: Matt and Church have both been raving about The Mudbloods cover of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” I finally checked it out for myself, and I have to agree that this is probably the most inspired Wrock cover of all time.
  • A brief respite: Okay, so everybody loves Bioshock; that’s sort of a given. Well, now 2K Games has made it possible for you to hear the atmospheric (read: creepy-ass) string-based soundtrack from the land of Big Daddys and Little Sisters even when you’re not in Rapture.
  • Back to YouTube: The madness surrounding PAX ’07 (and, indeed, the greater Seattle area) spawned a number of memorable video clips. Hell, we got to see Router kick a ninja in the balls. Not to mention her and YTCracker Rick-roll an entire audience. But for me, the defining moment was when, like the fulfillment of some Old Testament prophesy, Beefy took to the PAX stage. Sure, he was backing up Wheelie Cyberman on “Sick Day,” but it still counts. It still totally counts.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What About Your Friends?: A Pontification on Nerds and Community

Yesterday, my son – affectionately referred to here-in as Lil’ X. – was sick again… or still… depending upon which pediatrician you ask. Anywho, as a result I stayed home from work to tend to him.

I’m a dad. It’s what I do.

Due to the fact that he was so ill, he didn’t offer a lot in the way of entertainment. (Normally he’s more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys, but yesterday, in his weakened state, not so much.)

So, while I had resigned myself to whiling those lost hours away doing *shudder* the housework to which I have thusly been so negligent, fate intervened to the contrary.

Hipster, please! is a blog about nerd music and culture, and, as was so succinctly stressed in Wil Wheaton’s PAX keynote, nerd culture is a far more social affair than outsiders would care to admit. Case in point: yesterday, in the space between tapping yet another bottle of Pedialyte and the all-to-frequent diaper changes, I was comforted, amused, and distracted by a cavalcade of ever-supportive nerdy confidants.

First, I discovered that, though my position as la petite domestique had rendered attendance to either event impossible, I was well represented last week at both Nerdapalooza SE in Gainesville and at the High Dive in Seattle.

In Florida, my pal Steve (otherwise known as funky49) included a little bit of his track “Hurricane Love” in a medley he performed during his set at NSE, the breakdown of which contains a little voiceover by yours truly. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, my boys the Goondocks gave Hipster, please! a shout-out before launching into their excellent contribution to the Nerdcore Undercover compilation “Posse Needs Upgrades.”

As cheesy as it sounds, those are the kinds of things that remind me why I spend time that I rightfully should be working cranking out podcasts and blog posts; though I couldn’t make it to either coast to enjoy the festivities, I know I was welcome and maybe even missed.

I also received succor from several non-musical nerds as well. Big chunks of my afternoon (read: Li’l X’s nap) were spent helping Matt give Church a little good-natured hell (of the “we knew you when” variety) concerning the fact that his “Nixon Peabody” YouTube vid has gotten mad press. MAD PRESS!!!

Hell, I even played a little Animal Crossing with a really nice cat from CAG who helped me clean up the thousands of weeds that had grown since my last sojourn to my humble town.

I guess what I’m saying is, much like Mr. Wheaton, where most folks see nerds as awkward, borderline dangerous loners, I see them as a community. My community.

That’s not saying we’re not awkward, and, yeah, some of us are dangerous, but I’d hazard a guess that the ratio is no higher with us than any or social group. But I digress.

I write all of this to frame a single event, and event that is important within the sphere of nerdy music and also pertinent within the realm of our community.

Yesterday afternoon, Karl “Ultraklystron” Olson announced on his site that he will be taking a break from his musical endeavors.

I think Matt summed up my initial sorrowful reaction succinctly with the title of his post: “Crap.

Karl has been recording making music, in one form or another, since he was only 10. While I can’t attest to the quality of his early work, I can tell you that his recent electronic output – as well as his nerdcore hip-hop – has been some of my favorite. Ultraklystron billed himself as music for the otaku, but I always found his style appealing despite the fact that I know about as much about anime as I do bull riding.

Moreover, I was always charmed by his content. I’ve stated this before (both here at HP and via private channels), but I must reiterate that I’ve always found Ultraklystron’s ability to render a song – any song – as less a sequence of rhymes and more a uniquely personal experience to be among his most fascinating qualities. Karl always manages to draw me into a song, whether I comprehend the underlying cultural references or not, and that’s no small feat.

For all my talk of broadening nerd music’s horizons, I tend to compartmentalize. I often speak of the first generation of nerdcore by invoking the Big 3 – mc chris, MC Frontalot, and YTCracker. This by no means diminishes the work of groundbreaking artists like Jesse Dangerously, MC Lars, or, my personal favorite, Optimus Rhyme, but the former three are often the first names that come to mind when I discuss the first wave of nerdcore with fans and detractors alike.

Consequently, I’ve always seen second gen nerdcore in terms of its own Big 3 – Beefy, MC Router, and Ultraklystron. Again, there are many other influential and infinitely important artists – perhaps even artists that I, personally, enjoy more – but those three are my own personal shorthand.

Hearing that Karl has chosen to step away from his prescribe post saddens me a bit, but at the same time I know enough about the guy to recognize that he takes his music seriously, and wouldn’t take such a step lightly.

Karl has promised to help Rai and Nursehella with their current projects, and has even mentioned that his forthcoming album Opensource Lyricist may indeed see the light of day. And while we should and most certainly will lament the loss of his voice aside from these gleaming exceptions, I feel that it is important for us as a community to respect his decision and to wish him well in all his endeavors, musical and otherwise.

It takes an enlightened man to truly comprehend his own situation. It takes a brave man to admit that his current standing is not quite where it should be. It takes a strong man to dedicate his energies to rectifying his shortcomings.

Karl Olson is each of these, and it is these traits that have always drawn me to his music.

So while we as a community, as a family, mourn what we can at least hope is a temporary absence of Ultraklystron from our ranks, let us also celebrate the body of music that he has graced us with.

Karl was one of 2nd gen’s first true stars, and while he may no longer be rocking the mic, he’s still a friend to nerds everywhere.

Best of luck along your journey, Karl, wherever the path might lead, and know that when you finally come back around we'll be waiting. With open arms and ears.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Nerd News in Brief

Has technology crippled our natural, human ability to intuit?

I haven’t the foggiest. In fact, I’d never even considered the question until I came across this piece from NEWSWEEK concerning the staggering power of data mining.

Conceptually, I find the concept fascinating; I mean, why go with a “gut feeling” about what your customers want when you can crunch meta-data and know for sure.

Unfortunately, for me there’s no real practical application.

At any given time, the things you see (or hear) at Hipster, please! are basically just the items that I find interesting, infuriating, or simply confounding.

And right now I could go for some Nerd News in Brief.
  • Dear Nerdcore community: Y’all need to step it up. The Wrockers are totally gaining on you. Sure, you got some love on MTV Canada, but the Wizard Rock scenesters have countered with a pair of segments on rival Much Music! Plus, in addition to their own documentary, the sensitive kids with scars and glasses also have their own music festival in the works. And have you seen how many chicks show up a Wrock shows? Someone should be taking notes!
  • What rhymes with Horcrux?: In other Potter-related news, it looks like there’s gonna be a musical. Not even kidding.
  • I deserve what?!: Okay, so Church found this over at the Adland, and it was too chock full o’ nerdy goodness not to share. I mean, how the fuck do you not know what a “redshirt” is?
  • Fun with Libertarians: Matt passed along this gem in which Hit and Run, the blog of the Libertarian magazine Reason, discussed the NY Times nerdcore article. As you can well imagine, wackiness ensued. Read the comments for a healthy dose of posturing and a little exposition by the great Jesse Dangerously.
  • Steve totally didn’t fall!: The first few pictures from Nerdapalooza SE are now available for your viewing pleasure over at funky49’s Web site. More images (and a post-show report from Denika) are forthcoming.
  • 24 Hour Takeover: Join Silent D., Zealous1, and a literal slew of guests on Saturday September 1st at 6:00 PM Pacific as The Takeover celebrates its triumphant return to the airwaves with “24 hours of non-stop madness all leading up to the premiere of the Fall 2007 Takeover.” And what, exactly, can listeners expect? Well, performances, the aformentioned special guests, a séance, a Wii tournament, pancakes, a Madden tournament, karaoke, and… hell, who knows what else?!
  • Still sunny: Last week I received sneak previews of two new tracks from Rai’s forthcoming album, and, while I’m sworn to secrecy as to the specifics, I can tell you that both are excellent (even in the rough-cut format to which I was privy). One song is a danceable, up-tempo number, while the other is damn-near ballad-y. Perhaps most surprisingly, both contain a lot more English than you might expect. While there’s no solid release date for the new album, I, for one, am looking forward to it more than ever.
  • Billy Mitchell’s quaff: The Nerdcore and Wrock documentaries have to be the nerdiest films of note at present, right? ‘Fraid not.