Sunday, August 5, 2012

Blue Oyster Cult still rocks

Blue Oyster Cult rocked the Emerald Queen Casino on Friday night.  The only remaining original member are rhythm guitarist Eric Bloom and Donald "Buck Dharma" Roessner.  The amazing Dharma is the second from the right.
 Pat and I are always talking about concerts we'd like to see.  Pat is my 32-year old son who knows far more music than I've ever dreamed of and I think of myself as pretty knowledgeable. Rock, rap, blues, electronica, he knows it and plays it.  I'm jealous. When we get together we talk about music, politics and baseball, not necessarily in that order.  We do keep an eye on who is coming in town.  I've always commented that I'd like to see the 70's proto-metal band Blue Oyster Cult.  BOC's been around since the early 70's.  The band usually passes through Tacoma every year, so last summer we agreed when they were here next we'd see them, so we did.

The band played the Emerald Queen Casino.  More about the venue later.  They played a lengthy set.  I would like to say I'm not thoroughly conversant with the entire BOC catalog, but I'm not.  When I had a huge vinyl collection, I had three BOC albums, but they're mostly gone. Let me just say, there were six songs I really wanted to hear, and they played all of them astonishingly well.  Just listening to their stuff on Spotify, it's amazing how well it still holds together, how interesting it is, and how utterly listenable it is.  Blue Oyster Cult is a band worth playing again.
My very bad picture of Bloom on vocals.  Most of the songs are sung by Buck Dharma.
The band is still fronted by Eric Bloom.  Bloom plays rhythm guitar, keyboards, and also does some lead vocals.  He's the glue that holds the band together.  Most of the band are talented parts that replaced original band members years ago.   The real centerpiece of the band, however, is Donald "Buck Dharma" Roesner. Buck Dharma does most of the writing, is the lead guitarist, and the lead vocalist on about three quarters of the songs.

I love great guitarists.  Saying that, I'm looking for someone who can do more than just play really fast.  I really enjoy guitarists that are melodic and are capable of weaving together a narrative with their instruments more than those who are just ripping out lots of notes.  Buck Dharma is capable of doing both. If you like guitar solos, BOC provides plenty of them.  The band actually has two leads, with Bloom filling in on rhythm guitar.  But it's Buck's guitar work that's amazing.  I liken it to his being able to tell a story with his solos, as well as providing the opportunity for the occasional face-melting shred fest by him or number two lead, Richie Castellano.  Somehow Dharma manages very competent vocals while playing an incredible lead.
The venue was about three quarters full with many very knowledgeable, worshipful fans.
This was a very good, very affordable show.  The audience was composed of very enthusiastic fans that knew the music much better than I, and that was kind of fun and amazing too.  If you hope to attend a show at the Emerald Queen Casino, I encourage you to buy your tickets in advance on-site.  You avoid the nasty secondary fees Ticketmaster and other re-sellers collect.  We sat in the cheapest seats, $20, and they were absolutely fine.

Just a couple words about attending the EQC.  It's comfortable, but only a step or two above seeing a show in a high school gym. With booze.  They sell alcohol outside the seating area, but inside the venue.  Sounds handy, right?  Lots of the crowd were out of the seats.   Many were stupendously hammered and distracting.  I'm sure 10% of the crowd had no idea why they were there or what they were listening to.  This works okay at the Gorge in front of a crowd of 20,000 in the wide open spaces.  Not so much in front of 1,200 people (and I'm being very generous) in a pretty small space.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-A: keep your government out of my chicken sandwich

Who would have believed a fast food restaurant would be so mired in political controversy?
Today is "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," organized in support of the Atlanta fast food chain by Mike Huckabee, a response to critics of the restaurant's opposition to same sex marriage.

Let me be direct. I'm straight, married 33 years, and firmly believe that the right of any person to marry one human of their choice, regardless of gender, is a civil right.  I am in favor of same-sex marriage in Washington state and in every other state in the union.  I support Referendum 74, which establishes the measure passed by the Washington state legislature to make same-sex marriage the law.  There, I've said it.  All five of my followers, as well as those that stumble upon this blog by some strange accident, know what I believe.

Dan Cathy opposes same-sex marriage.  He's made it clear that he and his family are supportive of "the Biblical family unit."  He went on to state that he and his family are still married to their first wives.
Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A unleashed a firestorm of controversy by opposing same-sex marriage in an online Baptist journal.
I believe Mr. Cathy is wrong.  I believe his views deprive millions of Americans of rights guaranteed by the equal protection clause of the the 14th Amendment, and denies them the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.  I don't believe this is a mere matter of difference of opinion.  Denying a particular group equal rights is an egregious failing in our republic, one we've tried to remedy over the years.  Ethnic minorities, women, the disabled have all received special recognition as those deserving of recognition by special laws due to their former status as groups suffering discrimination.  It is difficult to argue that the LBGT community has not suffered such discrimination, or that laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA,) a federal laws discriminates against them. It is also hard to believe the Supreme Court will not rule in their favor when the appeal of DOMA reaches them.

Okay, Mr. Cathy and I disagree.  Ultimately we're each entitled to share our opinions under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Our situation is somewhat different because Cathy has a much larger megaphone.  He is the president of Chick-fil-A.  He spoke his views in an online Baptist journal, and, unless you've been hiding under a rock the past few weeks, you know it's provoked a firestorm of controversy.  To be clear, Chick-fil-A restaurants do not discriminate in their hiring practices.  They do not refuse service to the LGBT community.  Their business practices are well within those required under U.S. civil rights laws.

What's followed are threats by pro-LGBT groups to boycott Chick-fil-A, hold kiss-ins, and parade in front of their shops.  All actions that are predictable and protected political speech under the First Amendment.
Rahm Emanuel created quite a stir when he said "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values."

However, mayors of large cities with big gay populations across the United States have made public statements indicating Chick-fil-A would not be welcome to locate there.  Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago and former President Obama chief-of-staff, said Cathy's views didn't represent Chicago values. They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members," Emanuel said. There is already one Chick-fil-A shop located in Chicago.  Thomas Menino, mayor of Boston, said there "was not room for discrimination on the Freedom Trail, and no place for your company alongside it." Other cities, including San Francisco and Washington, D.C., claimed that Chick-fil-A restaurants would not be welcomed.  Nobody has said what, exactly, not welcome means. Would they be denied permits and licenses needed to operate their business on the basis of what exactly?  Would the cops just shut them down?  What do they mean?

Thomas Menino wrote a very public letter to Chick-fil-A urging them to scrap their plans to locate in Boston. In Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal. 

What do I think of this?  First, just as a general rule, business owners and corporate always will find themselves with regrets when they take a public position on important political and social issues, regardless of whether they are mainstream, liberal or conservative.  In our increasingly polarized society, someone will be pissed off and they'll use the tools they have: either their own public megaphone or the boycott. Now that Jeff Bezos of and his wife contributed $2.5 dollars to the Yes on Referedum 74 supporters, there will doubtless be conservative calls for a boycott of this important Seattle giant. If, as a business leader, you want to take a position on an important political or social issue, just know in advance you aren't going to fly under the radar, and you are going to be on somebody's list of enemies.

The actions and words of government officials, however, is another matter. Cities may not restrain trade by a private enterprise without cause.  The last time I checked, exercising one's First Amendment rights is not cause.  While Emanuel, Menino and others may publicly deplore Cathy's views, and while they may publicly establish the "values" of their cities and constituents, their actions suggest that at the very least running a Chick-fil-A in Chicago and Boston might be very difficult.  This smacks of images of gangsterism and corruption more fitting to a banana republic than the United States.  While I may agree with their sentiments on this issue, their words are not fitting for any government official in this country.