When I started at Boise Weekly, the paper got a lot of flack for my music reviews being a little more “honest” than the city was accustomed to. See here for an example of what I’m talking about. And there was also a lot of absurd hubbub that what is written in reviews has solely to do with who is friends with who, never on any principled belief in journalism or open debate. Half as a joke, and half to prove a point, Amy Atkins, the old BW A&C Editor asked me to review my own band. I don’t think she thought I would actually do it. But I did, and every bit as honestly as I would have any other. Moreover I did so at a show when I really wasn’t at my finest. Well played Josh. The review wasn’t ever published, which was a shame, because in addition to being a good meta-joke, I thought it was fairly effective in showing that it is not who is being reviewed, but what they are doing and what standards it meets or falls short of, that ultimately determines the outcome of a review.
I just rediscovered that review while cleaning up some files on my computer. So here it is. Notorious music critic Josh Gross reviewing Godcrotch, the one-man project by notorious music critic Josh Gross.
Godcrotch is a Jarring and Erratic Musical Journey Through Adolescence
You probably shouldn’t expect much from an act that calls itself Godcrotch. It portends of juvenile boys giggling over songs about pee-pee and poo-poo, perhaps tossing around profanity like it’s going out of fucking style.
And for at least a third of Godcrotch’s set at Tom Grainey’s basement on Tuesday, July 5, that’s an apt description. The one-man act rapped about skateboarding and dog poo, occasionally berating the audience whenever a song or “joke” didn’t land properly with all the dignity and maturity of bathroom graffiti.
But the other two thirds were oddly compelling in their own way, even though rough.
Godcrotch’s act toggled back and forth between morose ukulele ballads about suicide and regret—and one Judas Priest cover—and a series of short raps laid over beats made via a series of instruments plugged into a looping pedal. One of the raps, a duet performed with a member of the Idaho Atheists, was particularly absurd, beginning with the lyrics: “I fuck God in the face on a regular basis.” You can guess about where it went from there. Both “rappers,” had to read from lyric sheets for that song, as they said it had been written just that evening.
Some of the beats were interesting, using beatboxing as the foundation, and then layering bass, guitar and percussion on top. But at least two songs contained live loops that were played slightly out of time, likely due to a general nervousness on the part of the performer. He said repeatedly that this was his first attempt to play live with this setup. It definitely showed, both in the roughness of the performance and the bizarre mismatch of the material.
But there’s something to be said for the pastiche of things that don’t really go together. Though it may have been jarring, it definitely wasn’t predictable. Besides being outlandish, it’s entirely likely that Godcrotch himself may not have had the first clue what he would do next. And that can be sign of good things on the horizon. However, if or when those things will arrive is anybody’s guess.
While out on the Everything For Everyone Tour, we shot a lot of little acoustic performance videos. At some point in the near future, I’ll be cutting them together into a tour retrospective, but I wanted to post this one now because I mentioned it in the last blog post.
It’s a ukulele version of You Are My Sunshine we shot at the abandoned cement plant on the side of I-84. I really enjoy the juxtapositions in this video and this song and will definitely be shooting more one-take live performances in interesting found locations like this one in the future.
We—Steven, Keesha and I—left Boise on Friday afternoon. Since we had plenty of time before our first gig in Tacoma on Saturday, we decided to stop at the abandoned concrete plant on the side of I-84. It’s one of those places that every time you drive by, you say you want to stop at to explore or shoot a post-apocalyptic film at, but never actually do. We wanted to change that mentality.
However, that’s when the my trusty rusty Volvo decide to get snitty. It lurched to a halt right in front the plant. Since we chose to stop there anyhow, we decided to not to worry yet, that maybe the car just needed some rest from the summer heat. So we set off to explore and give it the time it might need.
It was a truly creepy place, that had everything from burnt-out shells of building littered with old paperwork to flooded staircases full of mechanical debris. The ruins also sported all kinds of graffiti and were infested with chipmunks. Really, it would be an amazing place for some sort of ritual murder or to slip into a hole and never be seen again. If you’re driving by, definitely stop and take a look around.
Strangely enough, there were two other cars stopped there as well, and both of them were traveling bands. One of them, Lights in the Sky, had played Boise the night before and had some mutual friends with Steven in Tacoma. Randomtastic indeed.
We spent nearly two hours exploring the factory and shot some live performance videos inside of an old concrete storage tank that had a really cool reverb.
When we tried the car again, it started no problem. We didn’t run the air conditioning after that and didn’t have any more problems for the rest of the drive.
Upon our arrival we got the bittersweet surprise of learning that The Weekly Volcano, a Tacoma alt-weekly, had done a half-page writeup on our show—see below. Awesome, except that the article managed to get nearly everything but the show deets wrong. It has a picture of Steven with a caption that talks about me being a poet. It didn’t make me mad, but it did remind me of the importance of fact-checking and how glad I am to have editors that are sticklers for it at Boise Weekly.
We spent the day practicing and taking some pictures at a beautiful park in Tacoma, Chambers Bay. It is a large grass area on Puget Sound that has ruins of an old factory incorporated into its design. Some of them look like Greek columns. There is also an underground tunnel with an amazing reverb that we played with for awhile. I’m sure it looked like we were on all kinds of drugs to those walking by, but fuck ‘em.
We also met a really cool chalk artist there who comes back and draws on the same piece of concrete slab at the park every week, even though the police come and wash it away when he leaves. He said it was what kept him balanced.
After a few hours of that, we headed to the show.
The venue was in the back of a vintage clothing store, Urban X-Change, and was voted by Best All Ages venue by the Weekly Volcano. They weren’t wrong about this though. It was a great spot. Intimate, stylish, and packed with kids. Most of them were there to see The Deep Vs—which I’m pretty sure is some sort of vagina reference, though the manager of the store disagreed with me.
Bridgeport played first, powering through the four songs with the full band. It went pretty well, especially considering that I was playing bass instead of drums in Bridgeport and had only met Mike, the tour drummer, several hours earlier. After that, Godcrotch stepped up to the mic and did a few numbers. They went really well. And though it wasn’t the most engaged or dancy crowd I’ve ever played to, it stood in a start contrast to the level of apathy I often see at shows in Boise. Not just for me, but for anyone. I don’t like to denigrate a whole town or a scene, especially not the one I live in, but it was a remarkable difference.
As if just to prove it, the crowd even stayed and clapped for Run On Sunshine, an acapella performer whose performance is best described as fearless. He had no instrument to match his no sense of key or melody. What he did have, was a lot of songs about different cats that he knew in Arizona. Seriously. A lot of them. It was bizarrely compelling, a bit like the Jonathan Richman show I saw a few months ago, but with far far far far far far less talent. Arguably zero talent in fact. Just pure moxie.
After that came The Deep Vs, who played three Strokes covers, which I think is tacky, because it’s like saying you just want to be in that band instead of your own, but whatever. They’re young. Seeing the kids rush the stage for it though reminded me how little most people care for music in principle, and how much of their interest in it is actually tied to emotional experience—in this case, their friends. I remember that feeling as a high school kid, and it was rad.
But the problem was that since they were only invested in their friends and not the opportunity to see music in general, they didn’t stick around to see Rodney afterwards. He was a a really compelling singer songwriter with a soulful style and a stick to it spirit. He played through a guitar that wouldn’t stay in tune, an amp that wouldn’t work, a mic that cut out and a microphone stand that kept moving on him. There really wasn’t anything else left to go wrong. But his material was engaging enough to power through it, especially the vulnerability in his voice. I’m hoping he’ll come play in Boise sometime.
I sold one book and Steven left a few CDs at the store. Total take, around $60. Not bad for that sort of show. The next night, Steven played classical guitar at an Italian restaurant in Tacoma. That paid much better.
We’re off to Portland next, to play at Backspace, and hopefully do a house show and a book reading while we’re there.
A while back my friend Mike Lee, the Religious Antagonist, joined me onstage to do an atheist gangsta rap we wrote a half hour before performing it. With that much prep, we obviously didn’t do a very good job. Especially since that was the first time I’d ever performed with my looping pedal.
We revisited the gag a few weeks ago for a hip hop show I did and it came out much better.
And as many of the commenters have pointed out, no, it’s not Greydon Square. What actual purpose it serves to point out that Mike and I are not another rap group that we’ve never listened to is a mystery to me, but I’m sure it makes everyone on the net feel really superior in some arbitrary way.
There aren’t currently any plans to expand on the gag beyond this song. But if the fancy strikes me, who knows.
Some tours are simple, straight-forward affairs easy to explain to people. And when you have a lot of money to market one thing specifically, that’s probably the smart way to go. In the indie world, we have to patch things together however we can.
In a few days I’m leaving for a NW tour with my friend Steven Palin, better known as Bridgeport. We’re calling it the Everything for Everyone Tour. Why? Steven plays bass for me sometimes, and sometimes I play drums to back him up. We’re touring together and depending on what the gig is we’ll be playing different versions of both of our solo projects as they best fit the gig. One stop he’ll just be playing classical guitar in a restaurant that pays really well. We’ll probably busk on the street one day. And instead of drums, I’ll be playing bass for Bridgeport with a drummer I’ve never met. We’ll also be shoehorning a book tour into the cities we stop in.
Why? Well, as the great philosophy student once said: “Why not?”
Actually, there are very good reasons why. Finances being a big one. We can save money by touring together and be more versatile to hopefully earn more of it on the road, so we lose less of it by touring in the first place. It’s going to be weird and unpredictable and might very well end in disaster. But what kind of lame rock and roll tour would it be if that wasn’t the case?
We’ll be in Seattle/Tacome this weekend, then down to Portland for a show at Backspace on Tuesday, then Corvallis on Thursday, Eugene on Friday and possibly Medford or Bend on Saturday, before heading back home to Boise. The full schedule is here.
Below are a few sample videos we recently shot as promo. One of Bridgeport with me on drums and another from my improv looping set, which I will be playing at least two of the stops on the tour. Which ones? You’ll just have to show up to find out.
In order to publish Secrets and Lies, we used a process called crowdfunding to presell the book in order to raise the money to print the book. But more than just the book, we offered a series of bonus incentives if people wanted to throw down a few extra bucks.
One of them was a copy of my “Best Of” album, a compilation of some of my favorite songs from the many music projects I’ve been a part of. It was half a joke, since the idea of putting out your own best of album is Read the rest of this entry
With my solo project, Godcrotch, I make an effort to switch things up a lot from show to show. I told my friends I wanted to do a ukulele show, then a hip-hop show, then a country show. None of them seemed to believe me. But after the hip-hop show, which is where the clip of Atheist Gangsta was shot, I went and did a country show just like I said I would. If you weren’t there, it looked a bit like this.
Only question now, is what’s next?
Daniel Waters, the screenwriter for the brilliant 80s satire, Heathers, once said, “My goal when writing my screenplay—as should be the goal of every screenwriter—was to make the greatest movie NEVER made.”
I feel the same way about music. I’m far more interested in doing things that I find interesting than in being commercial or even culturally relevant. That’s why with my solo music project, Godcrotch, I’m trying to do something different every time I play out, and generally the more bizarre or unexpected, the better. Things like an all-ukulele set of metal covers or a one-man blues act or a one-man hip hop act. I have nothing against commercial bands or music, but right now, I’m mostly doing this to amuse myself, so why not go all the way with it?
As a perfect example of that, for a recent gig at Tom Grainey’s Basement in Boise, I got my friend Mike Lee, The Religious Antagonist, to join for me a live-looped atheist gangsta rap we put together just before the show.
I can’t say whether anyone else will like it or not—the guy who sang a song about Jesus right before I played certainly didn’t—but it tickles me pink. Especially the line: “Ain’t no virgins for you up in heaven, just some underage ‘tang down at 7/11.”
Whether I’ll play it again or record it, who knows. But someone did catch it on video, so at least that moment will live on.