Sorry it's been a while

I'll pick up the posting pace once work settles down in, uh, well, sometime in the future. In the book publishing business, the summer months are the busiest, which sucks for a long list of obvious reasons. While many of my friends are taking lengthy jaunts across the country, sipping adult beverages on the beach, or simply going out 'til 3 in the morning and sleeping in 'til noon, I'm busting my ass at work.

I've worked close to 40 hours of OT in the past two weeks alone. Since we release about 70% of our list in-between July and September, that means I'm on a perpetual deadline from about May 15 through late August. This year our production department also downsized, causing the well-oiled machine to get gummied up. And my entire department (all 4 of us) had to move our offices this week to a new part of the building. In the process, I lost my: 1) ceiling; 2) door; and 3) window. I gained a few square feet in the shift, but now I'm in a loft space with tall walls, but no way to keep the sound from traveling. Worse yet, I'm about 10 feet from a printer that squawks and squeaks every time it's asked to do its thing.

To remind me once again that I'm overworked and underpaid, a new project was conveniently dropped in my lap a few weeks ago. It's a 300-page coffee table book on a certain NYC neighborhood that I shall not name for Googling purposes. Let's just call it "America's most diverse ethnic neighborhood," a claim that I don't endorse, but nonetheless one that we're considering for the book's subtitle. We're to receive all of the materials for the book by Aug. 21, and the book needs to go to the printer 11 days later. Not 11 "work" days, mind you, but by Sept. 1. In other words, it's what we call an "instant book".

The short of it with these instant books is that the source providing us with the photos and text needs to be on top of their game. We know how to put these suckers together and without fail hit our deadlines. And we usually receive adequate cooperation from the source, because that source is typically a newspaper. Obviously, they have experience in hitting deadlines, too. But this time, the source is a Chamber of Commerce, and while they're working in tangent with NYC's second-highest circulating daily, they are not used to working on deadlines of this nature. They also lack some common tools, like the ability to follow simple directions that I give them. I ask them for chickens, and they give me monkeys. Woe is me. The short of it is, to all my NYC friends, I would highly recommend NOT purchasing this book.

Outside of work, I've been busy on the weekends. Two weeks ago I soaked through two T-shirts in the 90-plus degree sunshine at the Pitchfork Festival. I was excited about the lineup, but I think the weather clouded my enjoyment by providing a lack of cloud coverage. Still, it was great to see the following bands, in order:

1) Jens Lekman: We got to the festival on Day 2 a song or two into Jens' early-afternoon set, but what we saw was just FUN FUN FUN! Jens had a 6-female backing band of Swedes, including a three-person horn section. He's such a great performer, and he proved me foolish for wondering how the intimate club performance I witnessed a couple years ago would transfer to the big stage.

2) Destroyer: I love Dan Bejar, and his set, featuring almost exclusively songs from his latest album, Destroyer's Rubies, met expectations for my first live encounter. His was one of the only sets that I camped out up front for, quite a feat considering he was on during the beastly late-afternoon sun. But the lead guitar blasting into my left ear was a thing of beauty.

3) Mission of Burma: Plenty of late-'70s/early-'80s bands that are reforming as of late have no business playing their old material, let alone recording new stuff. They come across as second-rate cover bands, in part because they're missing original members and in part because they've simply aged and lost their spunk. However, MOB's new material is full of punch, and their old songs -- like my personal fave "Academy Fight Song" -- still sound spectacular. (On a related note: Os Mutantes didn't do much for me. They sound little like their original selves, and they were missing original frontwoman Rita Lee. Boo!)

4) Devendra Banhart: With a bearded, long-haired lookalike backing rock band (think: Skynyrd), Devendra came across much different than on record. For having three electric guitarists on stage, he was still very mellow. And his in-between song banter was a bit befuddling and longwinded at times. (He actually invited some guy from the audience on stage as a lark, I presume, to perform a song. The kid gets up there, straps on Devednra's guitar, and the band leaves the stage, bottles of Jack in hand. The kid, obviously influenced by Banhart, plays an original song that was not embarrasing given the circumstances, much to the crowd's approval. Unfortunately, this stripped about 10 minutes from Devendra's set.) All in all, a mixed back from Banhart. I wish I would've saw him do a solo gig two years ago, when I had the tickets in hand.

Bands I missed or ignored while laying in the shade/eating tamales/drenching myself in the misting tent/waiting in line for Ben & Jerry's/camping out in front of the opposite stage for the next band: Yo La Tengo (sounded more rockin' from a distance), Spoon (the usual), Ted Leo (heard he bloodied his forehead by headbutting the mic), Art Brut (snore), The Mountain Goats (man they were quiet), and The Futureheads (sounded good from a distance). Bands I didn't have the patience for: The Liars (too hot for that shit), The Silver Jews (too tired for that shit), and Man Man (too far away for that shit).

All in all, the sound quality was poor again this year. I'm guessing they can only crank it up so loud due to the surrounding neighborhoods, but at a festival with 15-20,000 peeps in attendance, you don't want to have the wind fucking with your ability to hear the music when you're standing a football field away from the stage due to the massive crowd. The weather was again unbearable, making my mood and energy level -- and hence my enjoyment -- of the festival a wash. Despite the affordable tickets, food, and drink, I won't be going next year unless they raise Syd, Jimi, Stiv, and Arthur from the dead.

Last weekend, I spent time with my family in celebration of our many August birthdays. Mine is included in that list; I turn 30 on Aug. 27. More details to come on what, if anything, I'll be doing locally to celebrate another year of living.

Now, since it's a gorgeous 73 degrees outside, I'm going to go for a long bike ride to make up for a couple weekends spent drinking beer instead of peddling.

No comments: