LIVE REVIEW: Goodnightgoodnight / Lucious Fox / The Dysfunctional Citizens

It’s no great discovery that the difference between mainstream music and everything else is simply the size of the audience.  Mainstream, everybody’s heard of you.  Hundreds of thousands of people have memorized your lyrics.  Your audience is so big you become a reference point for cultural jokes.  Millions of people view your image or hear your music, daily.

That’s mainstream.

Green Day played a show at Rebo’s in Dayton Ohio in 1992 where they carted in all their own gear from the van and played to an audience of 40 teenagers who had nothing better to do on a Saturday night, then loaded everything back into their van and spent the night on the couch of one gracious “fan” from that night’s show.  The venue was devoid of goods or service- just an empty warehouse with electricity and an eight-inch-tall wooden stage in one corner.  Only punk kids had heard of them and they could barely afford a hotel room on that tour, but they had two studio albums out on a label called Lookout Records.

That’s substream.

GoodnightGoodnight, Lucious Fox, and The Dysfunctional Citizens played The Lamplighter in Kalamazoo, Michigan last weekend.

That’s underground.

Way underground…

Goodnightgoodnight kicked off the evening, slowly.  They came on without giving notice.  But then people began to take notice.

Their music was captivating. Trance-inducing, one bartender was heard to say.  He was listening and listening and four songs into their set he realized, “Holy shit.  I’m supposed to be working here.”  It’s complex.  Arrangements like Radiohead, ambience like an up-tempo Pink Floyd on an album produced by Phil Spector.  To fully appreciate the work they’ve put into their music you must pay attention, but it’s ok if you don’t feel like paying attention. They will draw your mind slowly away from wherever it wandered off to and then keep it there, fixed on them, unwavering, until they release you with the cue to applaud.

They don’t do this with antics.  There’s no Iggy Pop here, no flashy showmanship.    The guitar player goofs around a little but mainly he’s working his right arm feverishly, strumming one chord 16 times in three seconds, from the shoulder.  The keyboard player, who doubles as the drummer, produces the sound of three people.  The bassist is a master of technique and of subtlety.  Like all great bassists, you feel his playing in your chest rather than perceiving it through your ears.  Amanda Thornton, the lead vocalist, managed quite a trick: ethereal and disconsolate throughout the songs, breezy and engaging in between.  The juxtaposition of heaviness and light in the same person was riveting.

Goodnightgoodnight’s music requires the audience’s full attention and, happily, we had no choice but to give it, for which we were richly rewarded.

Lucious Fox (pronounced loosh-iss) played second, just a drummer and a guitarist probably not out of their teens yet.  The drummer hit the cymbals harder than anyone I’ve ever heard and the guitarist’s fingers were in constant motion, but the two suffered from a poor mix so it was difficult to tell what they were up to, other than rocking out.  Which they did with fervor.

The Dysfunctional Citizens, the headlining act, are all the best parts of Rancid, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Blink 182 packed into a trio of suits and ties loosened from the rigors of their day jobs by a couple of drinks and no alarm clock in the morning.  In 39 minutes they bounced through 19 songs, killing it, sweating and smiling the whole time.

In terms of genre it was a mashup, but the audience loved it all and the bands got along famously in the parking lot where the pre-show fidgeting and smoking take place.  They talked about their kids, their musical influences, their tattoos, the crazy venue.

The venue, The Lamplighter near Kalamazoo may have been the star of the show.  I say near Kalamazoo because to get there you must drive a fair distance away from the lights and strip malls and general population of the ‘Zoo proper.  It’s not a college bar and it’s not a nightclub.  It’s not the kind of place you stroll by and hear music emanating and say “Honey, let’s check this place out!”  Pulling into the parking lot was actually frightening.  There were no signs, no lights, the building looked like it was boarded up, scant few cars in the dark lot.  You would not have thought the place was open to the public.  You might have thought you were being led to some white-power rally or a secret script consultation for Sons of Anarchy.  You just knew as your car creeped onto the gravel that somebody had been stabbed here at some point.

Once inside though, it was astonishing.  Pristine red velvet and gold wallpaper circa 1928 covered the cavernous performance space, said to be larger than any in southern Michigan except the football stadiums.

It had been a grand hotel and ballroom at one time, the place to see and be seen.  Al Capone kept a mistress in residence.  Remnants of opulence were evident in intricate chandeliers now hanging listlessly, in the portico, now unused.  It looked like a rebuilding had commenced sometime in the early ‘90s but the owners ran out of money.  The employees gave the impression of squatters with a dream and some spare elbow grease.  A small hot-food menu was on offer from the kitchen and the bar was perfectly well-stocked.

Random derelicts wandered out of the pool hall to see who was making all the noise.  A profoundly drunk, undernourished old man slept in a chair on the empty patio, resting on his forearms with his head hanging like he was on the toilet.  Nobody had seen how he got there and nobody could imagine where (or how) he’d go at closing time.

The venue was scary and weird and the service was modest, for sure.  The audience would have all fit on a city bus.  This is the sort of thing you just can’t get at a Muse concert.

There’s mainstream, there’s substream, and then there’s way underground, and The Lamplighter is down there.  But they had cold beer, flush toilets, and a sound guy for the bands, who played like it was the biggest gig of their lives.

On the bathroom stall someone had scribbled “this place blows”.  Under which I scribbled “go back to the suburbs then”.

I’ll see you at the next show!

The Easy Way to Hire New People

The best part about this little trick is the way it eliminates stress from your responsibilities for hiring people.

Say you’re a manager in charge of a group of 8 people.  1, the most talented among them, tells you she’s quitting, and now you have to find her replacement.

There are two ways you can do it: however you’re doing it now… or the easy way.

1 was your go-to.  Your ace.  Your top performer.  Of all the people, she had to quit? Why couldn’t it be 8.  8 can barely fog a mirror.  You’re eager to find 8’s replacement. You’re actually looking forward to replacing 8.  It’d be easy to replace her because any warm body could do what 8 does.  But not 1. 1’s departure will be a crushing blow.  1’s absence will be a nightmare for months.

Or it won’t!

Just stroll happily over to the desk of your number two man- let’s call her 2- and say “Hey 2, now that 1’s gone you’re my go-to.  My ace.  My top performer.  I need you to train 3 to do your job since you’re the new 1.”

Then walk over to 3’s desk and tell her to train 4, go to 4’s desk and tell 4 to train 5 and so on and so on until you get to 8’s desk.  Except 8 won’t be at her desk because she’s getting trained by 7 to be 7.

You’ve got an empty desk there, a big empty hole in your staff, but it’s not your star player who’s gone, it’s your place-holder!
You’re short one warm body.  Warm bodies are easy to replace!   That’s probably why you were looking forward to replacing 8.

Because it’s easy.

(Of course, you could be proactive and try to make sure 1 doesn’t leave in the first place.  But that’s not easy.)

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

In all seriousness, you can now be certified in talking to people.

Thousands and thousands of people have taken this course on how to be candid. Companies are paying to deploy this training, which amounts to telling people how to be honest with each other.

Here’s a thought.  People already know how to be honest.  They just aren’t, because they’re afraid of the consequences of telling the truth.

If you think you can handle the truth, give this a try:

Tomorrow morning, call an all-hands meeting and announce that henceforth nobody will be reprimanded for simply telling the truth.  Doing so in a rude or disparaging way won’t be tolerated, but all opinions are now equally valued.

Not equally valid, just equally valued.  Some people will be uncomfortable about this new policy, but the resulting tsunami of candor will wash them out of there anyway.

For added effect, give every person in the meeting 5 minutes to be as truthful as possible about anything work-related.  Like a kind of office-politics amnesty.

If even the thought of this makes you uneasy, you should be asking yourself:  What don’t I want to hear?

Most people have no problem telling the truth.  The problem is, most people don’t want to hear the truth.

If you’re a “leader”, your direct reports are telling the truth about you all the time… to their friends and spouses.  Just read their Facebook posts and you’ll find out exactly what kind of “leader” you really are.   The reason you don’t hear these truths is because they simply wouldn’t dare share them with you.

Remove the negative consequences of telling the truth, the truth begins to flourish, and candid conversations become the norm.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

You’re welcome.

What Could They Possibly Want It For?

Did you know that the popular Square credit card interface has access to your smartphone’s microphone when you plug in the card reader?

That means anytime you swipe somebody’s credit card to accept payment from them, Square can hear the conversation taking place around the transaction.

That’s bad news if you’re selling drugs, state secrets, unregistered firearms, or raw milk.  But if you’re just a babysitter or a small business owner… nothing to worry about.

There’s no reason Square would care about who you’re collecting money from and why.

Blowing the Whistle on Academic Fraud

This professor got in trouble for (among other things) giving all his students a final grade of A+.  On the first day of class. He passed them all with flying colors before they’d even read the syllabus.  According to one newspaper, his rationale for this was as follows:

It was not his job, as he said later, to rank their skills for future employers, or train them to be “information-transfer machines,” regurgitating facts on demand. Released from the pressure to ace tests, they would become “scientists, not automatons,” he reasoned.

That sounds about right, right?  If a student doesn’t have to worry about the big performance, the dress rehersal becomes the whole point.  And what is a dress rehersal if not practice.  He’s encouraging his students to practice science, on the presumption that experience is the best teacher, not he.

He could write a white paper describing, say, experimental design, where he leads students through an imaginary experiment, noting here the potential pitfalls and blindspots, there the emergent (difficult to plan for) nature of the scientific method, so on and so forth.  He could give them the full benefit of his vast experience in and knowledge of experimental science.  All the discoveries, all the mistakes, everything a young student of physics might look forward to… he’s already done it.  Why not just have them read the white paper, then give ’em a test to see if they know it all? They could spare themselves a professional lifetime of toil if they’d just get a perfect score on that test!

Instead, he said basically Let’s just do some experiments and see what happens.  That’s not the worst thing you could say to a group of science students, is it?

Well apparently it is, cuz he got fired.

Don’t You Wish Your Boss Was This Filthy and Degrading?

If you’ve read any random management book lately (or if you work in an office) you know there are no more bosses or managers- everyone’s a “leader” now.  That’s the jargon: leader.  In the current literature everyone’s focusing their energy on “leaders”.  Everyone’s trying to influence the “leaders”.  We work with leaders to develop…  If you’re a leader in your organization…  Leaders must be capable of… Leader leader leader.

With all these “leaders”… who’s following?

Lemme show you!  Watch these people subjected to a stream of withering invectives and profanities and then tell me you wouldn’t love to have Gordon Ramsay as a “leader”*:


I mean can you imagine how great it would be to work for somebody like that? Somebody who kicks you when you’re down.  Somebody who makes you feel stupid, on purpose.  Somebody who won’t rest until he’s crushed all your dreams and stomped dead every candy-ass excuse for failure you can muster.  Somebody who simply won’t put up with your bullshit.

At all.

I bet people would actually pay to have a boss like that.  Oh wait!  They do!!  The guy’s got like 783 restaurants on 7 continents and four dozen tv shows on the air simultaneously.  He. is. making. a. fortune.

His management leadership style seems effective.  I bet he could make a pile as a management consultant, just going around yelling at people to stop bein’ such DONKEYS!  Oh wait!  He does!!  That’s the whole premise of eleven of his tv shows. Do you suppose it’s possible that people like this kind of behavior?  With the yelling and the pounding and the naked comtempt?

Of course they like it.  People are literally lining up to work for him.  And why are they all so eager to be berated, are they all just masochists?  Because remember, Hell’s Kitchen is only the job interview.  These people are clawing and fighting to be treated this way every workday.


I’ll tell you why.  Because if you get someone like Gordon Ramsay to tell you right to your face you’ve done a great job…

That’s the sort of thing a paycheck just can’t give you.


* There was an asterisk right before the video.  I was going to tag it NSFW, but then I couldn’t decide if that would be appropriate.