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Top Ten Reasons To Go To Burning Man

#1) You love Dub Step–and by extension have no musical taste. (it’s true!)

#2) You’re way over-hydrated and need to drop some water weight.

#3) You have a brand new RV and it is far too clean.

#4) Ibiza is *SO* played out…

#5) You love Indian tacos!

#6) Nothing says counter-culture like furry boot covers.

#7) The last time you wore a Utilikilt you were cited for indecent exposure. Damn you George Gascón!

#8) You hate America.

#9) Instead of just blindly accepting it, you really want to find out if ALL your base does indeed belong to us.

#10) It puts the lotion on it’s skin or it gets the hose again!

The NewsBreakz Guide To Spotting Undercover Cops At Burning Man

We at NewsBreakz think Peter Fonda said it best in The Wild Angels, “We want to be free! We want to be free to do what we want to do! We want to be free to ride. And we want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man. And we want to get loaded. And we want to have a good time! And that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna have a good time. We’re gonna have a party!” Unfortunately, some in the law enforcement community have decided a quick and easy way to advance their careers is to volunteer for some high risk duty (hold for childish giggling…) Specifically, go undercover at Burning Man. Yes there are undercover cops at Burning Man; let’s get past this. But with right kind of eyes, it becomes very easy to discern who is covertly running surveillance operations on you and your favorite large scale sound system camp. And with the following tips and techniques you too can easily spot your local undercover cop.

SHOES:
No self respecting Burner–whether its their first year or tenth–will ever wear cross trainers. EVER! for any reason. No one needs footwear that provides support and traction over a variety of surfaces and terrains and they certainly don’t need cross trainers walking around the Black Rock Desert. Which brings me to this next detail, if their shoes are just a bit too expensive and too new and too clean–like they spent last night in an air conditioned hotel room–you’re probably talking to a cop. And don’t think for a second that a pair furry boot covers from Hot Topic can adequately disguise their department issue cross trainers. Ironically, it’s the female cops who always give themselves away with this detail. When it comes to playa footwear, Burner Barbies will always choose fabulosity and extreme platform height over comfort and support. Basically, you want to consider the overall affect of the ensemble. If they’re sporting the team issue Reno Slore uniform (read: the dancewear display selection off the window mannequin from the Fredrick’s of Hollywood at the Fashion Show mall in Las Vegas) but they have on a pair of fantastically colored $200 Nike running shoes–say it with me–you’re probably talking to a cop.

COSTUMING:
As an overall sartorial guideline, any clothing item with flames on it should be reserved for massive corporate sponsored contests of speed and certainly should not be worn at Burning Man. Also, an overabundance–more then one item–of faux fur should be avoided. Faux fur vests and matching faux fur pimp hat with tight shiny pants cuffed in faux fur is never a good look. Similarly for females, bright neon colored furry boot covers, furry titty tops, furry booty shorts and furry cowboy hat will not only make you look like an undercover cop but will attract unwanted attention; like backward baseball hat wearing dudes trying to stuff fake $100′s into your waistband and screaming “WOOOOO!” Again, just like with the shoes consider the ensemble in total. If they’re sporting a $500 full length faux fur pimp coat but the rest is a head-to-toe outfit that came from the clubwear collections of Forever 21, Wet Seal and/or straight out of the catalogs in the back of Rolling Stone magazine, they are undercover cops. And anyone wearing guy liner should be avoided; cop or not. No guy liner!

TRANSPORTATION:
Are they riding around on a minimally decorated golf cart consisting of a string of rope lights and furry seat covers? Yep, they’re cops.

HAIRSTYLE:
No amount of hair gel faux hawks, clip in feathers, and yarn Rasta wigs can cover up their department issue cuts. And really, the only ones unironically sporting the Faux Hawk these days are the andros at the Lexington (it’s true…) and they definitely don’t go to BRC and even if they did, they would not randomly approach you and euphemistically ask for drugs. (more on that later…) Take note of their facial hair. If he’s wearing a two week old goatee, (ie, when he got the assignment and was told to start growing one by his sergeant) that dude is a cop. Also here’s a helpful tip: wigs are a great place to hide a mic pack. So if she’s balancing a bright pink beehive Trannyshack wig on the top of her head, she’s an undercover cop.

DANCE MOVES:
It’s just a fact of modern life, cops cannot dance. They are physically incapable to move in any rhythmic fashion. (think of the nightclub scene from RoboCop 2 and you’ll get the idea…) A few brave ones will attempt to mimic the steps they’ve learned in their Zumba aerobics classes but this won’t last long. Plus all that jostling around fucks up the surveillance equipment thats been elaborately strapped to them. Not to mention, trying to record a conversation while standing in front of a 100,000 watt JBL Vertex sound system will result in nothing but heavily distorted sub bass tones. So undercover cops do not dance.

THE BEST METHOD TO SPOTTING AN UNDERCOVER COP:
They are asking you for drugs at Burning Man! Seriously, if you don’t know who there are, you have never met them before, you don’t even vaguely recognize them and they are randomly engaging you in an overly friendly conversation and within three sentences they are asking you for drugs in an indirect and euphemistic lexicon, they are undercover cops! Here’s a good rule of thumb: Do you know them from back home in San Francisco? No? Then they’re a cop. But these cops are wily. They will introduce themselves with contrived playa names and then awkwardly start talking to you much in the same way Mormon missionaries begin conversations with you on Muni. They might even reference a friend of yours (“hey Captain Flame said you might have something fun to share…”) And they won’t ask for a particular narcotic by name. They won’t even use colloquial names either. Usually they’ll say something innocuous like “do you have anything to share to make me more happy?” or “I sure could use a quick pick me up…” Do not fall for it. Don’t even think for a second that this IS Burning Man after all and we should keep ourselves open for new experiences. Getting arrested is not a new experience you need. Bottom line: If you have never met them off the playa, if they aren’t a recognized friend from back home, if they just appeared out of the dark and are suddenly sweating you for drugs, they are cops!

SO, If you do suddenly find yourself targeted by one of these many roving bands of undercover cops, dodging their subterfuge is very easy. Just remember one simple phrase. It is a phrase that will give you some amount of plausible deniability as well as create a fair amount of confusion on the cops part. When they engage you, resist the urge to grab their wire and beatbox into the mic, but look them directly in the eyes and say “I have no idea what you’re talking about…” and walk away. Just walk away.

Music You Should Be Listening To: Metallica

The discography of Metallica, presented in autobiographical chronology…

…And Justice for All (1988)
It sounds like hydraulic equipment, and I mean this in the best way. Lyrics are at the most angry and adeptly mine a deeper introspection not seen in other speed metal bands (I mean Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax) All the tracks stretch out in to the 7 minute mark and take their time making their points. The tracks have a CNC machined precision; their guitars are soaked in glorious tube amp distortion and pumped thru a warehouse full of Marshall’s and the drums have a sonic presentation of hydraulic jack hammers and Pneumatic impact wrenches. My use of industrial machinery references is totally on purpose. Crafted out of their collective grief from the sudden and tragic death of Bass player–and keeper of the bands chi–Cliff Burton, this record is a requiem for the Industrial Revolution. Supposedly, there’s a remixed version of this floating around on Das Infobahn with the bass parts properly balanced in the mix.

Master of Puppets (1986)
The first Metallica album I ever heard. (I used to play in a funk power trio in high school and one random spring heat wave day we drove around SF and listened to the entire album on repeat in the car.) Master of Puppets displays the innovative synthesis of operatic structures and melodies of Iron Maiden blended with the flat out speed of 80′s LA hardcore Punk Rock which forged Metallica’s signature sound and remains the most influential speed metal album ever made. And speaking of Cliff Burton, this is good opportunity to discus his playing style. You see, most Metal bassists use a pick and adopt a heavy punching down stroke in keeping with the rhythmic side of the scale. Not Mr. Burton. He had these freakishly long, powerful hands which allowed him to take a more melodic approach to his bass parts. Give particular attention to the instrumental track “Orion” on the second half of this album.

Ride the Lightning (1984)
With their second studio project, songs get longer, time changes get more complex, the lyrics begin to explore more philosophical ideas without sounding like a shoe-gazer. The entire package gets tighter. One subtlety that gets lost in the overdrive is genius of the songwriting. Do yourself a favor, read James Hetfield’s lyrics and realize he’s one of the better song writers in the rock & roll game. Since the first album was pure trash metal, the band was freed up to explore more technical and long form songs. The first speed metal power ballad (I’m talking about “Fade To Black”) appears on this. The production suffers from that 80′s Stadium reverb sound, especially when they pour it all over the double tracked vocals.

Kill ‘Em All (1983)
This was the shot across the bow of British metal. It’s the Metallica mission statement with the lo-fi sound of punk rock but the technical precision of prog rock. Being the first album earns this a metric ton of credit, but the whack production slows it down. I don’t subscribe to the “more reverb; more better” notion of mastering but apparently they did in Rochester New York in the early 80′s which bogs down the drums in mud on a few passages and the vocals are completely buried throughout the whole record. It’s their ability to sync up in perfect lock step with each other, that drop kicked this album into every metal head’s collection.

Metallica (a.k.a. “The Black Album”) (1991)
Let’s be real, this was their sell out album. It’s the first appearance of celebrity record producer Bob Rock, who basically made a good faith effort to insidiously corrode this band out of relevancy. The worst thing to happen to Metallica was Bob Rock. It’s true. The damage he wreaked took a couple of albums to fully develop but it began with the Black Album. As examples I offer the shallow unidimensional power ballads “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven” which are exemplary of the Black Albums infection of nascent digital audio recording and processing. Plus, this was the first of their albums without an instrumental track. The Black Album was a harbinger of the wretchedness to come.

Load (1996)
ReLoad (1997)
St. Anger (2003)
These are throw away albums and you don’t need to spend any time on this hat trick of lowered expectations unless you want to hear what a band going thru an identity crisis sounds like. And it does not sound good. This triumvirate is consummately demonstrative of how weak of a producer Bob Rock truly is. How weak you ask? He plays bass on St Anger which is the absolute nadir of Metallica’s rockology. I’ve been told the snare drum tone used on St. Anger has been black listed and will never be used in rock production ever again. Kirk Hammett also started wearing guyliner during this period. Basically, they lost their mojo and had no desire to find it again.

S&M (1999)
Garage Inc (1998)
I don’t want to discuss these albums but will for the sake of providing a comprehensive survey. Garage Inc was just a retread of the Garage Days e.p. with extra padding that even true fans didn’t bother adding to their collections. And, although a great concept, in practice S&M is a horrifically terrible album. Michael Kamen did the banally pedestrian arrangement; you know his work from both the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard franchises and has been described as “similar to Hans Zimmer, but with frosted highlights and more vanilla.” It is a spectacular failure much in the way Conan the Barbarian was an unintentional comedy.

Death Magnetic (2008)
I’m listing this last not because it’s my least favorite, but because it’s their most recent. Say what you will about the final mastering (the original release has the current “brick wall” style of mastering that is so popular today; where as, if you look around for the Guitar Hero version with the wide dynamic range it does sound much better…) this new studio release is an unqualified reacquaintance to their classic sound. Basically, the recording process–and most importantly the new producer–gets out of the way and allows the band to revel in their profound rock power. Songs stretch out past the standard pop radio time constraints. Lyrics are significantly less radio friendly. And the addition of Robert Trujillo to the mix is a perfect intergration. If you’re you’re asking yourself who Robert Trujillo is, Google him and get aquatinted with his previous work with Suicidal Tendencies and Black Label Society. As future projects begin to emerge, the destiny of Death Magnetic will become more apparent as it manifest it’s legendary status. For now we can just enjoy a solid hard rocking album.

A Love Song To All The Truly Great Muscle Cars Of Our Generation

Funky Bizznass

Dear Beatport

Listen, we need to talk…

I think we need to discuss our relationship and where it should be going.

We’ve been together for a long time; four years I think? OK five. And we have done some of the most amazing things together. Things I will never forget and things I will always treasure and I sincerely appreciate for you for this. I know I have asked a lot from you and you have provided me with so much; you *really* have. You will always be so very important to me and there will always be a special place in my heart for you.

But let’s be real, we both have changed a lot over the years. I’ve tried to be flexible and I’ve tried to learn how to work with your changes. I feel that you have become far too complicated recently and I simply cannot work with it. We just don’t communicate like we used to. I get so lost in your navigation sometimes and your recommendations have been way off for a long time. I just have not been happy for months. I’m sorry, we did the best we could but this just isn’t working out.

This might be hard for you to hear, but I feel that I should be totally upfront and honest with you. I’ve found another. Well, I didn’t *just* find them; we’ve actually known each other for a while. But we were recently reintroduced and we just seem to be more in sync with each other. Their recommendations are more accurate, and their layout is more attractive and it’s far less confusing. I guess I just understand them more intuitively. (And maybe I’m imagining it but their needle drop player sounds better…) They’re giving me what I want and what I need, and sometimes they’re giving me things I didn’t even know I wanted and/or needed. Plus they are much more tidy and cleaner than you are, and you know how I have always felt about this issue.

Who it is doesn’t really matter. That’s not the point. OK fine, if you must know. It’s Juno. Yes, I know. Believe me, I know and I’m just as surprised as you are. But it just happened.

Please don’t be mad. This is hard for me too. But I have to put my needs first. I hope you can understand this. And I’m not shutting you out entirely. I’ll still keep my account active and if it’s OK with you check in and see how you’re doing. We both are needing this change and I truly feel we both are going to get to a place where we both want to be and are happy. Everything happens for a reason, and I think this is our opportunity to find happiness.

Again, thank you for five wonderful years. I do care about you, but I want to see what else life has to offer. If it makes any difference, you were my first and we will always have that.

Oh Bjork, How Much Do We Love Thee?

A Salute to 1992: The Year in Music

calvin-klein-1992-kate-moss-mark-wahlberg

In January, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” goes to #1 on the Billboard charts, inspiring the widespread formation of Grunge bands like Bush, Puddle of Mudd, Silverchair, Everclear, and Collective Soul.

3 power couples got hitched:  Kurt Cobain & Courtney Love. David Bowie & Iman. and (wait for it…) Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown.

John Frusciante leaves the Red Hot Chili Peppers and begins a torrid 6 year love affair with heroin.

Vince Neil leaves–or was fired from–Mötley Crüe after 11 years as the band’s lead singer,  depending on who’s telling the story.

The Sugarcubes break up, leaving Bjork with a lot of free time on her hands.  No one’s heard from Einar since.

The Wu-Tang Clan form leaving their fans to wonder exactly what the 36 chambers really are.

Guns N’ Roses release the $1.5 million, 9 minute long video “November Rain.”

Awesome Albums Released in 1992:
Spooky – Lush
Kerplunk – Green Day
Selected Ambient Works 85-92 – Aphex Twin
Get Ready! – 2 Unlimited
Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos
Ocean Colour Scene – Ocean Colour Scene
Vulgar Display of Power – Pantera
Doppelgänger – Curve
Opiate – Tool
Sap – Alice in Chains
Ingénue – k.d. lang
Body Count – Body Count
Mind Fruit – Opus III
Funky Divas – En Vogue
Bricks Are Heavy – L7
Honey’s Dead – Jesus and Mary Chain
Check Your Head – Beastie Boys
Wish – The Cure
Tongues and Tails – Sophie B. Hawkins
Don’t Sweat the Technique – Eric B. & Rakim
Meantime – Helmet
Dry – PJ Harvey
Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs – Ministry
House of Pain – House of Pain
Dirty – Sonic Youth
What’s the 411? – Mary J. Blige
Welcome to Wherever You Are – INXS
Yes Please! – Happy Mondays
Broken – Nine Inch Nails
Dirt – Alice in Chains
Erotica – Madonna
Homebrew – Neneh Cherry
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine
Love Deluxe – Sade
Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde – The Pharcyde
Fixed – Nine Inch Nails
The Chronic – Dr. Dre

Music You Should Be Listening To: Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

“I mean, Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.”
–Wayne Campbell

They inspired every rock band formed since the 70’s as well as plenty of high speed freeway driving.  They toured the globe in jumbo jets and threw TV’s out of penthouse windows. They recorded in castles. They sold out stadiums. They sold more albums* than god. Their bell bottoms were tighter and lower. Their hair was longer. Their drums were bigger and their amps were louder. Much louder. They defended the very idea of what it means to be a Rock Star. There were no Rock Stars before Led Zeppelin.

But before we get to Global Rock Stardom of Led Zeppelin, we need to look at pop music in the twilight of the 1960′s. The Beatles were only making studio records by then, and hadn’t played live since 1966 (at Candlestick Park, btw…) Because of internal tensions created by Yoko Ono the intervals between records was also getting longer until they eventually broke up in 1970. The Rolling Stones were also wrestling with personnel issues in the form of Brian Jones–who would be found face down in his pool in 1969–and were hiding out in France to avoid a huge tax bill back in England. Jimi Hendrix was dealing with his own band/managment issues and would only release one more album as Band Of Gypsies before he was found dead in a London hotel room in 1970. And The Doors were busy keeping the band from getting derailed by Jim Morrison’s best friend, alcoholism. No one really cares about The Who.

By the end of the 60′s, just about every song on the radio or Hi Fi was some heavy, sociopolitical, overwrought, socially conscious, civil rights affirming, anti war anthem. Led Zeppelin launched across the American rock & roll landscape like a jet fueled sexual bacchanal. They injected sex back into rock & roll. And by this time, the cultural conservatives didn’t even bother to complain about their blatant sexuality. The genie had been out of the bottle for years and there was no need to insist upon televising them from the waist up only. In the age of Led Zeppelin, they made feature length films about their crotches.

Led Zeppelin 4 is far and way their best album. and not just cuz “Stairway…” is on this one. Everyone favorite Zeppelin song is on Zeppelin 4. It’s one of those albums you have to listen to all the thru from start to finish because every track fits together perfectly with it’s tube amplified swamp boogie stomp and multiple references to J.R.R. Tolkien. There’s a perfect rhythm and release to the track selections as well as between side one and side two, similar to the way a concept album works only more esoteric and less didactic. Along with the anthem rock bangers you also get some mandolin infused mellowness for you to ease back and settle into another round of bong hits before the epic anchoring track. “Stairway to Heaven” being one but I hold a special place in my soul for “When The Levee Breaks.”

Physical Graffiti is a personal favorite. It’s their longest–a double album–which makes it somewhat inaccessible to the casual listener but it is well worth it. “In My Time of Dying” “Kashmir” “In The Light” and “Custard Pie” take on almost an operatic feel with their movements and change ups in timing and feel, and the way they introduce and re-intrduce melodies. And anyone who doesn’t tear up every so slightly while listening to “Bron-Yr-Aur” has no heart. Most of the tracks clock in north of the 5 minute mark which makes this body of music very well suited for continuous listening (read: listen to this while driving to El Lay…) Double albums were kind of trend in this era of Rock music. With their later releases, Zeppelin got very create with their cover art (we call it packaging now) and this one is certainly their most intricate. more to the point, it gave something for their fans to ponder over with a head full of acid. Look, this was before the days of music videos; gimmicks like this was revolutionary.

Led Zeppelin 1 & 2 are their mission statement albums. Their most rippingest tracks you most hear on automated classic rock radio station all appear on these records. “Whole Lotta Love” “Communication Breakdown” “Heartbreaker” and “Dazed & Confused” has got to one of the best bong hit songs ever. Both of these were recorded and released within months of each other and most of these tracks were staples of their live shows so both albums maintain a similar sound. Plus, how great was John Bonham as a rock drummer? Really fucking great. They also have a fair amount of blues standards that get cranked up thru their Marshall amps and this right here is the central essence of Led Zeppelin.

Houses of the Holy was their biggest selling album, but not necessarily their best work. It’s very heavy with pop hits (“The Song Remains The Same” & “Dancing Days”) which made it an uneven record, in terms of flow. But it does have “No Quarter” on it which is their best song to take bong hits to. They begin to explore other genres (Funk and Reggae) with “The Chunge” and D’yer Mak’er” but unfortunately they smack of cashing in on current trends rather than actual honest attempts at expanding their sound.

Led Zeppelin 3 was never one of my favorite albums cuz I always found it to be uneven and the songs are just odd. (I mean”Hats Off To Roy Harper”? wtf?) but I’ve recently been inspired to give it a re-listen and it’s become one of my favorites. it’s certainly one of their more mature records. “Tangerine” is just so fucking romantic while “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is one of the greatest break up songs EVER!

Presence is the album that only true Led Zeppelin fans like, much in the same way that true Bowie fans like Tin Machine. Its very experimental. They started using Moogs and Oberhiem analog synths. Presence fits into their catalog much like “The Soft Parade” was to the Doors catalog, only slightly more accessible.

In Through the Out Door was their last album before Bonham died, and while it is still part of their “experimental” phase (read: there’s lots of keyboards) it makes more sense than Presence. Some Rock historians have said this was the direction Led Zeppelin would have gone had Bonzo not aspirated, which is a polite way of saying “choked on his own vomit.”

Coda was just a collection of outtakes from previous recording sessions and a couple of live tracks and it sounds like an after thought. Basically, they had to produce one more album to fulfill a contractual obligation. If you absolutely must own a live Led Zeppelin album get “The Song Remains The Same” soundtrack. Does anybody remember laughter?

I once had a friend who held a very interesting perspective on Led Zeppelin.  “If you’re gonna ban marijuana, you’re gonna have to ban Led Zeppelin right along with it.” He would postulate.  “If you smoke weed, at some point you’re gonna wanna listen to some Zeppelin.  And if you’re a music nerd who first discovers Zeppelin, sooner or later you’re gonna wonder how much more enhanced the listening experience could be if you burned a jay first.  One inevitably leads to the other and no matter which one you start with, each road invariably leads to the other.”  As future generations continue to discover this band, this will be the enduring legacy of Led Zeppelin.

**Back in the days before highly compressed, low sound quality 192kbps mp3 files–and ease with which such tiny files can be freely traded around the interweb–ruined the major record labels business model, album sales was how the music industry judged the quality of a given body of popular music.  Think of album sales similar to the numbers of downloads only with dollar signs in front of them.

John Winston Ono Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980)