Posts Tagged With: Guitartown

“Yesterday’s News” at the Berkeley Cafe

SACoverShowAs noted in the “Losering” preface, my story with Ryan Adams began at downtown Raleigh’s Berkeley Cafe, where I sat down to interview him after a show more than 20 years ago and things went kind of disastrously awry — a fitting metaphor for the whole story. The Berkeley has changed a good bit over the past two decades, shrinking down to just the Cafe space after the music hall was converted to a pipe/tobacco shop two years ago. But it remains a live-music venue; and with ownership by veterans of the late, lamented Sadlack’s, it’s still a repository of cool, funky vibes of old.

All of which is to say it’s fitting that the Berkeley will be the site of a very intriguing show this weekend, aimed at those with fond memories of Raleigh’s Whiskeytown era. As part of Guitartown’s “Cover Album of the Month” series, Jeff Mullins and Ryan Kennemur will perform Whiskeytown’s 1997 magnum opus Strangers Almanac on Saturday night under the name Yesterday’s News. And as you can see from the poster, it’s even free (although donations are encouraged).

Ordinarily, I would not miss this for the world. Unfortunately, however, it falls on the same weekend as the  Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. So I’m afraid that being there in spirit will have to do, but you should go.

UPDATE (10/20/2015): And here is how it went.

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Oh, no…

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 4.53.07 PMWell, this is regrettable. But I suppose it’s the sort of thing that’s going to happen at Best Buy. Besides, it’s not like there aren’t some pretty striking visual similarities between key albums of the Nov. 5 Adams twins, Ryan and Bryan — plus nowadays, the dudes are buddies.

(Thanks to Mr. Anthony Neff, who posted this photo on the Guitartown people page of Facebook.)

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Artifacts from long ago: The “Suck” contract

RossGradyRoss Grady’s name comes up a couple of times throughout “Losering,” which is fitting. He’s been an important presence in Triangle music for more than two decades, as a writer, deejay, obsessive chronicler, devoted fan, gadfly and all-around bon vivant. Ross was friends with various members of Whiskeytown as the group was forming in 1994 and he’d known of Ryan before that, when Ryan would call up trying to talk himself onto the WKNC local-music radio show Ross did. Ross discussed that when I interviewed him for the book in 2011:

I remember I was living on Cutler in Boylan Heights in about 1993, circa Patty Duke Syndrome. My phone was ringing, I answered and it was this Ryan Adams guy who wanted to tell me things about what he was doing. There was this adorable assumption that I’d give a shit, even though I’m pretty sure I had no idea at the time who he was. You know, jerks call all the time telling you crap you don’t want to hear about their awesome band. But at some level, Ryan was qualitatively different. It was funny as opposed to disturbing, which calls like that usually are. What was sort of endearing about Ryan was he had absolutely zero self-consciousness at all about it. He just had this assumption that you needed to know what he was doing, but not in an obnoxious way like 50 other people you could name. I can’t put my finger on why. I almost feel like it was because I’d never heard of anything he was talking about. Usually when people call they’ve already mailed their stupid tape, I’ve seen their stickers in every bathroom around town and they have a reputation as being irritatingly self-promotional. Ryan was the same, but somehow I’d never heard of him.

Ross wrote the earliest story on Whiskeytown that I could find — January 1995 in The Independent, an alternative country-themed piece about Whiskeytown (then “Whiskey Town”) and Pine State in which 20-year-old Ryan declared, “I don’t have time to be unclear — I’m going to die someday.” A bit more than three years after that, Ross had an entertaining interaction with Ryan at a show in the spring of 1998. It was a well-oiled conversation that concluded with Ryan drawing up a “contract” promising the following:

I hearby give Ross Fucking Grady the rights to anything I did that sucked.

You can read more about this in Chapter 10. The document in question is archived for posterity online here  — or you can check it out below. In October 2001, not long after the big Guitatown dustup, Ross posted a picture of this to the online newsgroup alt.music.chapel-hill under the heading “The ‘Suck’ Trial.” That triggered several days of lively commentary, including Ross’ own observation that he “should start seeing checks from Gold any fucking day now.”

SuckContract

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Recalling the 2001 Guitartown firestorm

Eleven years ago this week, Ryan Adams was pretty much on top of the world. His album Gold was out and earning the best reviews of his career, launching him into the rock-celebrity jetstream. For the next year, Ryan would be an inescapable presence in the rock press, which devoted seemingly millions of words to breathlessly covering his doings in interviews, features, reviews, previews and gossip-column items. After years of hardscrabble struggle, Ryan had finally arrived.

But on Sept. 28, 2001, three days after Gold’s release, Ryan found time to settle a score via one of his former hometown’s online watering holes, Guitartown. No Depression magazine co-editor Peter Blackstock was one of the few critics in the country who hadn’t gone gaga over Gold, penning a column in which he likened the album to pyrite. I wasn’t too fond of Gold myself and expressed a similarly lukewarm assessment in a News & Observer album review published around then, too.

Anyway, Ryan dropped on into Guitartown with an expletive-laced tirade that excoriated Peter and vowed that his label’s corporate overlords would put No Depression out of business with a boycott. I’ve got this printed verbatim on page 151 of “Losering,”  and you can also find it in the Guitartown archive — along with the ensuing firestorm it triggered, which went on for days with Guitartown denizens blasting Ryan and Ryan blasting back. Finally, Ryan threw out a parting shot before taking his leave for the last time:

…you just cant stand it because its not about your lousy fucking internet groups anymore, peter you are getting old and jaded but worst of all, you are Ross Grady, with a zine, or maybe like a David Menconi but just no balls

After Ryan called me out by name on Guitartown, I decided I’d had about enough and I did respond. For better or worse, I chose to leave that response out of “Losering” because I didn’t want the book to be “Ryan and Me” and it just felt like calling too much attention to myself. But hey, that’s what blogs are for. So here it is:

<sigh>…

hey, somebody tell Ryan that Courtney Love’s been in here posting under his name.

Ryan, babe, I simply *love* your new direction — Andy Kauffman-style confrontational performance art, wow, whoda thunk it? but to quote one of those literary types you’re suddenly so fond of invoking, you have delighted us quite enough for one evening.

so before you fire your next salvo, hear me out. I’m asking you, not as a critic but as one of your fans of longest standing:

stop. please. because right now people aren’t laughing with you, they’re laughing at you, and not in a nice way.

allow me to direct your attention to something you yourself said not too long ago. the following is a quote from your very own current Lost Highway Records bio:

“But I do have two new rules. One is not to analyze what I wrote. The second is not to read my own press. I just want to make it and not fuss about it. No excuses for it. Just make it and there it is. That way, the process is more pure. And even if people hate it, well, it doesn’t matter. Because I’m just doing it to do it.”

okay, then: prove it. “do it just to do it,” make whatever records you want to make, put ’em out there, take your lumps & move on. and if somebody doesn’t like it, oh well, right? you said so yourself.

in the grand scheme of things, the opinions of critics & pundits don’t amount to a hill of beans. the Rolling Stones aren’t in the hall of fame because some ink-stained wretch liked ’em; they’re in there because they made music that stood the test of time, despite getting plenty of less-than-flattering reviews over the years. you think Keith Richards spent much time tracking those people down to berate & threaten them?

“And even if people hate it, well, it doesn’t matter.” so prove it. because this is supposed to be about the music, right?

right?

still the best fan you ever had,

David Menconi

NP — Ryan Adams, Born Yesterday

For all I know, Ryan never read that because he never responded. He did, however, stop posting, so maybe. There was plenty more said after that, but Ryan was gone and it was mostly Guitartowners talking amongst ourselves. My favorite postscript came from the late Tim Kimrey, who posted what he called a “G’town-inspired PR photo of Ryan.” The picture doesn’t seem to be in the Guitartown archive any longer, but it was something like what you see here.

“It seems a little wrinkled-y for a young feller like him,” Tim wrote, “but perhaps it’s had lots of exposure.”

Ryan’s old Whiskeytown bandmate Skillet Gilmore piped in with the perfect closer: “Yup. That’s him.”

Ah, memories…


ADDENDUM (3/17/2015): Ryan may not come around Guitartown in its modern-day Facebook incarnation, but his name still gets dropped there — even if it’s as “HWSNBN” (“He Who Shall Not Be Named”). For example, there’s the post below. And I have a comment, all right: I can’t decide if “16 Days” or “New York, New York” would be a more appropriate heckle for Bryan Adams when he plays Raleigh.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 9.56.27 AM

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