Monday, May 07, 2018

COLUMN: Trax from the Stax


If you could have your ultimate dream job, what would it be?

The answer might be harder than you think. For me, one immediate thought came to mind: Somehow getting paid to watch TV.

Some people out there get paid to be TV critics, right? But TV critics don't get paid to WATCH TV. They get paid to CRITIQUE it. That might be a fun job, but it's no ultimate dream job. Why would you want an ultimate dream job where you had to actually USE your brain to constantly drum up critical thought? I don't want to analyze TV; I just wanna watch it.

Plus, I would also want full control over WHAT I was watching. It'd be just my luck to land a job where I get paid to watch TV only to discover that the only TV they'd pay me to watch was reruns of "Full House." That "dream job" would suddenly be a nightmare.

So I thought about it some more and I know what my ultimate dream job would be. It's a job that would be fun, rewarding, and perhaps even beneficial to all mankind:

My ultimate dream job would be lecturing to strangers about good music and forcing everyone to listen to all my favorite bands.

Okay, maybe it wouldn't be quite as beneficial to all mankind as, say, building houses for the homeless. But what could be more horrific than building someone a house only later to discover that someone was inside that house listening to Nickelback? Shudder.

I like awesome bands that not enough people on Earth know about, and I could run around the country like a musical Santa spreading peace, joy, and awesome tunes throughout the land.

And I can't believe it, but it's happening.

I got a call a few weeks back from Lucas Berns. Lucas works for the Bettendorf Public Library and runs a free monthly program there called Trax from the Stax. The program's goal is to expose folks to music they might not be familiar with. Guest presenters come in every month, play a few selections highlighting an artist or genre, and then chat about it for an hour.

This wasn't the library calling me. No, this was DESTINY calling me! I'm pretty sure I was put on the planet to lead one of these presentations. Most of my friends remain my friends because either (a) they like the same esoteric and weird music that I do; (b) I've convinced them to like the same esoteric and weird music that I do; or (c) they lie and tell me how much they like the same weird and esoteric music just so I'll shut up.

This phone call was it. My moment of fame. My ultimate dream job was... was...

"I'm calling because we heard that you're somewhat of an expert in the genre of K-Pop? Would you be willing to..."

Okay, you know what's worse than getting hired to watch TV only to find out you can only watch "Full House"? I do. How about landing a job where you can talk to strangers about music only to find out you have to talk to them about Korean boy bands?

I pride myself in having a wide knowledge base about all kinds of popular (and more often than not, UN-popular) music. But I don't know a single thing about the crazy manufactured world of Korean Top 40 pop music lovingly known as "K-Pop." This was a horrible dilemma. I wanted to curate one of these presentations so bad I could taste it.

"Maybe," the little devil guy on my shoulder said, "You could pull it off. Tell him yes, then race home and spend the next month learning everything you can about Korean pop music. You can fake your way through it, you know you can."

But I couldn't. The music's just too awful. I'd be in my basement, going insane, trying to jam out to music normally reserved for either 16-year-old Korean girls or 50-year-old Korean pedophiles. I just couldn't do it. So in one breathless e-mail, I wrote back and politely explained that I knew nothing about K-Pop but that I would quite literally sell my soul to a stranger for the opportunity to host one of these nights and pick the genre of my choice.

Shockingly, they consented. And this Thursday, Jan. 20th, at 7:30 p.m., I'll be the guest presenter at the Bettendorf Public Library's "Trax from the Stax." Ever wanted to meet me? More specifically, ever wanted me to play music in your earholes and tell you why it's awesome? This is your chance. It's open and free to the public and I'd love to see you there.

So what genre did I pick? It was an easy choice for me.

In the early 1990s, a collective of fringe bands from the UK figured out how to crank the volume to 11 while creating ethereal soundscapes of pure sonic bliss. Some fans claimed the music could take them to a higher state of consciousness. Bewildered critics called it "shoegaze" -- and it changed my life.

I have one hour to help it change yours, too. Come down to the library and give it a chance. Trust me, it'll be fun. If nothing else, I get nicely embarassed when it comes to public speaking, so even if you're not a fan of the tunes, it'll be worth it to see me get all sweaty and awkward. I won't care, though -- it's my ultimate dream job.

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