I’m listening, and enjoying the Cobain 50 podcast from KEXP. Nirvana was a very important force on my life from basically mid-1993 until present day. I figured, to borrow a phrase from Alex Steed, here are the various lights this band has shined on my human existence.


I first heard Nirvana, like many people my age, around October 1991 when Smells Like Teen Spirit was breaking. I was mostly listening to some urban radio station from Albany at the time because it would play rap quite a bit, which I dug at the time. The hitch was I could only get the signal at night and I had some elaborate antenna setup to at least get a signal without static. I remember that and Enter Sandman by Metallica were getting a lot of play. Both of those songs were discussed quite a bit with my Jr. High friends. Even at this early point, understanding the lyrics was a frustration point.

I picked up Nevermind a little after Come As You Are was released as a single. My parents would take a trip to the Plattsburg Air Force base every six months or so to stock up on tax free generic branded cigarettes. The base also had a PX with a fairly large record / tape / CD section. I had $10 or so, and after picking out some “exotic” snacks, I had enough left over to get a tape. Embarrassingly I picked up the “MackDaddy” by Sir Mix-a-lot, but the lady at the checkout would not let me buy it because it had the parental advisory sticker. Running out of time, I grabbed Nevermind, which was my second choice. The two hour ride home, listening to that, was pretty intense. I was not sure what to make of the whole second side and the swirly, out of focus pictures on the insert. I had originally lumped them in with the other long haired rock that I had been exposed to at the time: Guns and Roses, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, etc. But this… this was not like those at all.

I also remember I got some new basketball shoes that promptly fell apart that evening after I got home and went to play at the nearby court. They lasted all of about 15 minutes. Not related to Nirvana, but I’m still disappointed in those shoes to this day.


In the summer of 1993 a friend gifted me a copy of Incesticide on cassette. I spent a lot of time on car and bus rides flipping the tape over switching between Sliver and Aneurysm. However, it was the liner notes that really stuck with me and I guess started my radicalization. And who are The Raincoats? What’s maximumrocknroll? So many questions.

I also remember being late for school the day the Hearth Shaped Box video premiered. I thought it was so amazing. REMs Losing My Religion, I think, premiered around the same time. I was late for school that day as well. Pretty wild time for music videos looking back on it.


For Christmas in 1993 I received a gift certificate for the record store in the mall. Now, back in those days music came on physical media and the closest place to purchase said media was a 30 minute drive away, and the trip was only made on special occasions. Such as redeeming Christmas presents. This would’ve been the first or second weekend in 1994. I picked up In Utero, on CD this time as I had job which afforded me this upgrade. But still 90% of my listening was through dubbed tapes on a no-name walkman with the earbuds from a Gameboy. And let me tell you, it was the belief at the time that tapes dubbed yourself from CDs were audibly better than purchased tapes.

While at the mall, I also wandered to the the Walden Books that was a couple of stores away. I found “Come As Your Are”, Michael Azerrad’s book, which I also purchased after reading through the first chapter or so in the store. On the way home, we stopped at the Pizza Hut right down the street from the mall for dinner and I still remember the whole scene. Dim lights, the semi-translucent red plastic cups with a pitcher of Pepsi and I’m reading my new book while waiting first for our order to be taken, and then for the pizza to arrive. It’s a little past 5pm but it’s already dark outside and it’s warm enough that the snow is melted a bit and you can hear the sounds of the cars on the wet road outside. I’ve gotten to the chapter about Kurt’s childhood, and I’m basically reading about my own, but of someone 10 years older. It was obviously 100% the same, but enough for me to realize, for the first time in my life, that someone else has gone through a lot of the same shit I had. And had apparently gotten out alive (…so far) and thrived. I now had the permission? strength? to. be. myself.


By March 1994 I had scrounged up a guitar and took the requisite 2 lessons. During the first one, the important information that I actually had to push the strings into the frets to make a sound was imparted unto me along with some simple chord shapes. Second lesson was how to play Red River Valley and another song that I forget at this point. But that was enough to figure out that at least the verse part of Pennyroyal Tea was within the bounds of the 3 or 4 chords I now knew.


About a month later, and about 30 years from when I’m writing this now, a group of friends and I were playing cards in my living room when a Kurt Loder came on TV, barely keeping his shit together, to announce the Kurt Cobain had killed himself.

Yet another moment in this story that is forever burned in my memory. That was the exact moment when my “childhood” ended and the process of my becoming the adult I am began. And I don’t think I’m alone in that experience.

Strangely, I’d be sitting in the same seat, and hear about in the same way, about other deaths over the next couple of years. Kristen Pfaff, Shannon Hoon and Jerry Garcia being the most notable.


During the summer of 1994 I discovered The Sound Barrier, a skate shop that also had a small CD section (where I finally found The Raincoats!!! and Bikini Kill and The Ramones) and magazines including Flipside, Punk Planet and Maximiumrockandroll. Through this I found that an actual real punk rock band, Rancid, would be touring and had a show a mere 100 miles away. This was the show when AFI was opening and Davey hit his head on the ceiling. Yes, I was actually at that show. Apparently everyone and their mother was there, but it was Saratoga Winners opening for Rancid and I still have the ticket stub somewhere. Bite me.

Through the magazines I also discovered the network of indie labels and mail order. And that brought me lifelong loves like Elliott Smith and Sleater Kinney.

The next few years were a whirlwind. I started a band that went nowhere. Started a fanzine that was a lot of fun and also went nowhere. It did get me a very short stint at MMRnR a little bit after Tim Yo passed, before life intervened on my end and I ended up staying in Vermont.

I also found that one of, if not the best, of the country’s small rock venues was only 75 miles away. Club Toast in Burlington. I would make a trip up 2 or 3 times a month to catch touring bands like L7, Pansy Division, NothingFace, Pavement, etc. Along with local bands like Five Seconds Expired, Chainsaws and Children, Zola Turn and bands from Burlington’s sister city, Boston like Tree, Clutch, and the mighty Sam Black Church. Oh, and a little band called Dropkick Murphys. I wonder what happened to them?

Being dirt poor due to spending so much money on gas, I somehow finagled a “job” of helping with sound and after show cleanup. I was paid the amount of whatever the admission was that night plus free soda, which seemed like a good deal at the time. This carried over to Higher Ground when that opened in Winooski and 242 Main.

Two funny 242 stories.

Story 1

In the early 2000’s Burlington High School banned same sex couples from attending Prom, so Le Tigre put on a Queer Prom the same night at 242. It was actually just a nice coincidence as they already had the show booked, but took advantage of the opportunity. I was not aware of this prior to the show, and brought a friend who was somewhat homophobic. I figured it out pretty early on what was happening, but he took a while to catch on. The look on his face when he did brought me such joy.

Story 2, the second story

The Misfits were booked to play 242 and during my drive up, I saw so many cards with Misfits stickers I knew it was going to be a big show. I had some other event that evening but stopped by 242 early anyways to say hi and help if I could. A little while after I arrived, the Misfits arrived as well, in full costume. This is hours before showtime. We’re in the venue and the Misfits are saying “Is this the dressing room? It’s too small.”

“You’re already dressed? This is the venue, the stage is right there.”

“No, no this won’t do. We can maybe make this work as the dressing room, but we need somewhere bigger to play. Thousands of people will be here.”

So we start talking to the Memorial Auditorium. The full upstairs is booked for some other thing, but the Annex is available. We take them over there.

“Again, this is way too small.”

“This holds 2500 people, it’ll be fine.”

“Nope, it won’t work. Is there anyplace to eat around here? We’ll grab dinner while you sort this out.”

And they leave. “I guess the show’s cancelled.”

Then I’m walking up Church Street and there’s some Misfits fans in full regalia eating outside at Main Street Pizza. “Hey! Did you find a place for us to play yet?”. Oh, those aren’t Misfit fans, those are the Misfits. Eating pizza. Outside on the street. Looking like fucking idiots.


All that stuff above? Who I am now? It never happens if Nirvana doesn’t break into the mainstream, gets played on Top 40 stations, and some lost kid in Podunk Vermont gets exposed to it.

Sam Black Church Kickstarter

There’s a Sam Black Church documentary on Kickstarter being done by the absolute best choice to do one, Duncan Wilder Johnson.

Update: …and it’s funded, which means not only will the documentary get finished (right Duncan?) but there will be more SBC shows in support of it! AWESOME!

I’ve been meaning to write something about SBC since their “last” show back in September of 2001 (a few months after CJ was born). I’ve made lots of notes in my head, got a bit further after the 20th anniversary show (a few months before Isaac was born) but never actually got to the point where I thought I was finished.

But fuck it, now seems like a good time to put out something at least and to hopefully get some more backers for the documentary because I really, really want that thing out. I value my marriage a bit higher though, so I won’t do something crazy like backing the remaining few $k myself.

I would probably start off by saying that I vividly remember my first Sam Black Church show, but I don’t. I remember a lot of the night the show happened in 1997. Nothingface opened for them at Club Toast in Burlington.

As was my custom, I had gotten a little bored sitting around Poultney and just driven up to Burlington early, and sat in front of the door at Club Toast waiting for them to open up. People would walk by and look at the poster that listed who was playing that night. One straggly guy walked by, saw the poster and said something along the lines of “Ohhhh, Sam Black Church, that guy is crazy!” I personally was there to see Nothingface. I had seen them open up for L7 a few months earlier at my very first show at the same place. I still regard Club Toast as one of the greatest venues ever. It’s up there with CBGBs in my book.

I had finally gotten in and just generally hung out until after Nothingface played their set. I then interviewed them for a zine I was publishing at the time after their set, and talked with JR for a little bit before SBC went on.

I was 50/50 about just heading the 70 miles back home at this point, but the crazy guy from outside had convinced me to stay.

I staked out what would be my new customary position of the front row on the far left of the stage, and the crowd, which to my surprise was quite sizeable behind me already, started chanting “SBC! SBC! SBC!”. Then they took the stage and what went through my head was “Hey! It’s Pete Townsend!”.

Now, I know I said above that I don’t remember my first Sam Black Church show, but I’ve written quite a bit so far. That’s because I am about at the end of my memory of that night. I have not left out that I consumed any amount of alcohol or other mind altering substances, because I was 100% completely sober and awake for the entire event.

The Pete Townsend thought was the last conscious thought that went through my head because a few seconds later the band launched into the first song in their set, Jet went flying directly over me, some sort of psychic nuclear warhead was detonated on stage by the combination of those four people and my world changed. Music would never be the same again for me.

I’ve had three “Holy Shit!” moments when seeing bands play live. It’s where the music almost causes an out of body experience. Again, all 100% substance free, I just connect to the music in some magical and wonderful way. One was the first time I saw Mogwai, the second was the first time I saw Scissorfight, actually it was before “Scissorfight” played their official set. Everyone but Ironlung filled in for another band that missed the show and they just jammed on some nasty awesome blues stuff for 45 minutes. The third one was the second time I saw Sam Black Church play, which was a few months after this show when they came through town again. I guess my mind was prepared for that one.

I have bits and pieces of that first show of Jet grabbing my head and making me head bang, of gallon jugs of water being throw at me and all of this happening in almost slow motion, like I’m Frodo with The Ring on.

My next clear memory was being stopped at the side of Rt. 7 a little north of Vergennes, outside of my car feeling like I was going to be sick. I had picked up a half gallon of chocolate milk from somewhere (this would become a custom as well, the chocolate milk, not the being sick) and that helped me feel better for some reason.

I never missed a Burlington SBC show again after that. I even made most of the Albany and Bennington / Brattleboro ones as well. I’ve seen quite a few other loud, crazy metal shows since then as well. Slayer, Pantera, Metallica, etc, along with lesser known, but still amazing bands like Tree, Scissorfight, Chainsaws and Children, Five Seconds Expired, etc. None of these bands were at the level of Sam Black Church was in those tiny little clubs. Pantera was a distant second.

Best of 2006 – Music

As always, these lists are compiled from my iTunes listening habits.

*Top 10 Songs Released in 2006*

1. _Dynamite_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
2. _Mange_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
3. _The Dredge_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
4. _Jaggernaut_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
5. _Digging Grave_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
6. _Funhouse Skull_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
7. _Fang_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
8. _Victory Over Horseshit_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
9. _Backwoods_ Scissorfight from “Jaggernaut”
10. _Sun Hunt_ Scissorfight from “Victory Over Horseshit”

Oh crap. Well Scissorfight’s “Jaggernaut” is the album of the year, hands down. It’s actually could be the album of the decade as far as I’m concerned. It’s that good. Perfect even.

Ok, so what else was good in 2006 that wasn’t Scissorfight?

Lady Sovereign “Public Warning”
John and June Carter Cash “Collections”
Girl Talk “Night Ripper”
Johnny Cash “American V”

But really, if you dig any form of guitar based rock GET THE SCISSORFIGHT ALBUM.

10 The Hawd Way

I hit the new Higher Ground in Burlington this past Saturday for “10 The Hawd Way”, a ten band showcase headlined by Five Seconds Expired and Scissorfight. The doors opened at 4:30 and I arrived at around 7. The five or six bands that played before the two already mentioned were alright, but didn’t really grab me. Five Seconds Expired sounded great, but their songs seemed pretty tame compared to the other stuff that was on before them, sadly. Scissorfight totally rocked, as always. Ironlung let us know that “I’ve had a lot of time today to get all fucked up, and guess what I did with it?” then he took a shot of Jagermeister and puked on stage. Rock! They played a few songs from Jaggernaut including “Victory Over Horseshit”, “The Dredge” (yeah!), “Backwoods”, and “Fang” (rock!). Lots of people yelling for “Dynamite”. A roadie who looked like Ironlung’s brother played drums during “Drink, Fight, Fuck”. They played a two song encore and the bass player fell off his speaker stack.

Top Songs of 2005

Ok, so I didn’t get a lot of new music in 2005, but I want to do this anyways. We’ll do two lists. One is music released in 2005 and the other is music I acquired or added to iTunes in 2005.

Released in 2005
1. Dirty Harry – Gorillaz – “Demon Days”
2. Backwoods – Scissorfight – “Instant Live: Middle East 11/13/04”
3. Digging Grave – Scissorfight – “Instant Live: Middle East 11/13/04”
4. Hammerdown – Scissorfight – “Instant Live: Middle East 11/13/04”
5. Outmotherfucker The Man – Scissorfight – “Instant Live: Middle East 11/13/04”

Did you know that I really liked the new Scissorfight live album?

Added in 2005
1. Your Southern Can is Mine – The White Stripes – “De Stijl”
2. Dirty Harry – Gorillaz – “Demon Days”
3. California Uber Alles – Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
4. ‘S Wonderful – Ray Conniff & his Orchestra – “16 Most Requested Songs”
5. Second Skin – The Gits – “Hype! Soundtrack”
6. David – Nellie McKay – “Get Away From Me”
7. Backwoods – Scissorfight – “Instant Live: Middle East 11/13/04”
8. Sweet Home Country Grammer – Nelly vs. Lynard Skynard
9. Salvation Barny – MC Paul Barman – “It’s Very Stimulating”
10. We’re Going to be Friends – The White Stripes – “White Blood Cells”