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Entry date: 2-3-2024 – Love is in Tucson – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Today we set sail for the land of Tucson. The old Pueblo. The home of the Mildcats, and more importantly, my cousin’s wedding. Brian and Lauren are getting hitched. It will be really nice to see some family down there.

 

Brian and I are not close. To be honest, I barely know him and that kind of sucks. Family is a weird thing sometimes. Due to my own boneheaded-ness as a teenager, I really put a rift between myself and a lot of my family. It’s way, way better than it used to be, but there is still an awkwardness sometimes that makes me sad. I could be overthinking this, too, of course. Brian is a decade or so younger than me and hasn’t lived in Phoenix for a long time.

 

We used to play fantasy basketball together. I gave that up a few years back due to the declining interest I have in pro sports and the amount of time it takes to play. Fantasy basketball is a considerable time investment, for sure, but I do miss the interaction it provided me with my Uncle Tom and cousins Brian and Tim. It will be good to see them all later today.

 

I am wishing my cousin and my new cousin-in-law the best, though. Hopefully the skies will look amazing down there. I’m guessing there will be some clouds and Tucson looks great when the skies are full. Pictures will be taken.

 

*****

 

The crud kind of crushed me again the last couple of days. I was supposed to jam with Ward and Dana last night, but I wasn’t up for it. I figured that rest was best with a drive ahead of us today and I didn’t want to take any chances of getting those two sick. It’s a lot of fun to play loud music with them.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about something I shared with the fellas the other day. Playing music has very much been a therapy for me. I have to believe that it helped me keep my anxiety in check quite a bit. There is such a release of tension in playing loudly and with other people. I achieve a similar type of release by doing the blog, of course, but it isn’t the same. It’s very close, though, especially lately.

 

Living Room Collective helps scratch the itch, too. Our once-a-month jams help a lot. Plus, they are just the best dudes. I’ve been so fortunate to not have to deal with bandmates that drive me a little crazy for so long. It’s been a long time since anyone that I have played music with has rubbed me the wrong way. That’s a very fortunate thing.

 

*****

 

I started going to ASU in the fall of 1993. One of the things I started doing on a regular basis was hanging out at Eastside Records. It was a nice haven for me to find and hear about cool music, as well as avoid driving back across town in rush hour traffic. A couple of days a week I got out of class kind of late in the day, so I would stop over to Eastside (and sometimes Zia when it was first on University Ave) and peruse the wares.

 

One of my favorite Eastside scores that year was the Treasure Trail EP by a bay area band called Star Pimp. They were heavy and noisy and part of the Boner Records family. For a time, some of their records were among my favorites, for sure. In 1993 or 1994, Star Pimp came to town and played a show at Hollywood Alley, as well. There were about eight of us there. Michael S. and I went and a couple dudes from Eastside were there, as well, and another handful of people. Terry and EJ went, too, if I remember correctly. We might not have been Hillbilly Devilspeak just yet, but it was very close.

 

 

Treasure Trail felt like it was almost a private thing and I always enjoyed that. I love turning people on to music, but I don’t remember many people I mentioned Star Pimp to going right out and buying a copy. It might not have been the easiest thing in the world to do as it probably wasn’t easy to find. I have the CD version and the 7”, which has three of the six songs that make up the CD EP.

 

There is a unicorn on the cover which looks like a picture of a spiral notebook that might have belonged to a little girl. It’s cute, for sure, and completely belies the nature of the music inside.  There is nothing cute about Star Pimp’s sound or attack.

 

As a live act, they treated us to quite a show and Hollywood Alley was the perfect venue. The stage was smaller than it would eventually be, and the band seemed to be right there in our laps. Even though it was a poorly attended show, everyone who was there was very enthusiastic about the band. We welcomed them and they destroyed our eardrums.

 

Big, round, boomy bass from Tom Flynn (who also owned Boner Records) captured my attention immediately. He sounded even better live than on the records and that says a lot. The bass sound on Treasure Trail is stellar. It plays slappy/slappy, punchy punchy with Eric Grotke’s trippy, fuzz laden guitar. Jamie Spidle’s drums were constantly driving the songs forward, ever forward. This is particularly evident on the opening track, “Richie.”

 

I liked the EP from the get-go thanks to “Richie” and was especially surprised to hear a female lead vocalist. When we saw them live, I think we were all a little taken aback by how slight and unassuming Elma Marcelle was in person. On record, she sounds like a woman who will kick your ass, but she looked like a young lady you could take home to meet your granny.

 

The lyrics are thought provoking and Marcelle owns each song on the EP completely. “Sap” starts off with a weird, repetitive, and perfect “Heart” sample before Grotke takes over. I have to admit that I stole Flynn’s bass line on “Sap” for one of the Son of Crackpipe songs that came out a few years later. I think Alex and I spent a lot of time with Treasure Trail in those days.

 

“Sap” is heavy on the ‘psycho’ part of psychedelic, too. It has always reminded me of some of the darker edges of the bay area. Something about it just says, “Be careful down this alley. There are heavy drugs here and probably something worse.” If I wasn’t hooked by “Richie,” I was certainly a fan by the end of “Sap.”

 

Grotke starts off “Meat Grinder” with a beautiful riff, too. When the whole band kicks in after about 8 seconds, the song starts spiraling down in a way that makes the title seem extremely apropos. It’s a “grinder” all right. For my friends out there who like it heavy and weird, get to know (or revisit) this record as soon as possible.

 

I’ve always loved the recording that starts out “Virginia.” There is an elderly lady talking to a younger fella (maybe a member of the band? I don’t know. There is not much out there on Star Pimp and admittedly, I haven’t looked in a long while.) It’s kind of sad sounding beginning, poor old lady, but the way the song unfolds is more like a tribute to her than a diss.

 

“Virginia” is the longest track on the EP, but it never drags. It blooms, really, like a beautifully noisy flower. Marcelle’s approach on this one has always reminded me of how my friend, Nicole, approached songs when they were doing Mondo Guano down in Tucson. In fact, it would not surprise me at all if Star Pimp and Mondo Guano played shows together at some point. There was a lot of crossover of sound and style between the two bands.

 

More samples begin “Prado,” this time a little samba take on the “Girl from Ipanema.” There is a ton of noise happening with “Prado.” It’s really kind of glorious, even today. Spidle’s drums just drive it and when “Splooge” wraps things up, I’m more than ready for me. Luckily there was a full-length record that came out not too long after I picked up this EP called Seraphim 280Z. I highly recommend it as well.

 

I’m so curious what all these people are up to right now. I certainly wouldn’t be sad if they decided to reunite and play here again. I’m guessing they all have a lot better things to do, though, than drive a long way just to entertain me.

 

***** 

 

See you tomorrow.



This was kind of a fun picture I took the other day during my prep hour. The kids were in PE and I was enjoying the beautiful weather.

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Safe travels and enjoy the family!

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Thank you!

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