I’m back; Column 183 — What’s killing the forests (and you don’t look so good yourself); Apples in Stereo tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 12:34 pm July 23, 2008

I’m back from Breckenridge. Nothing to report musicwise. I think I said the last time I went up there — you don’t go to Colorado for the music unless you’re “into” that sort of lifestyle. All of the radio stations have the same play list — Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, Widespread, Blues Traveller, Dead, then repeat continuously until your brain falls out or you’re properly stoned. Since I don’t smoke the hippie lettuce, that only leaves the music. I listened to the ol’ iPod a lot and to the new Silver Jews record, which I highly recommend (along with the new Does It Offend You, Yeah? disc). Nightlife in Breck is the same sitch — bad local jam bands and/or white-guy blues acts. There is no original music to be found anywhere. It all goes back to the origins of the Omaha music scene — the founding fathers (Baechle, Kasher, Oberst, etc.) have always said that their music grew out of Midwestern boredom. Conversely, in Breck, with 14k mountains, roaring rivers, skiing, i.e. outdoor entertainment year-round, who has time to write a song? Better to learn how to play the latest Dave Matthews/Jack Johnson bong hit. There is no real culture in the Rockies, but they don’t miss it. You want culture? Move to NYC or Chicago or some other urban dirthole. You want a back-to-nature brain-dead paradise? Move to the coast and become a surfer. Or move to the Rockies and get lost in the ski/mountain culture. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Which brings us to this week’s column…

Column 183: Help Wanted, Rights
OWH Gags on 1st Amendment

I write this from Colorado, where the trees are dying in the mountains. You can thank the Mountain Pine Beetle, an industrious insect whose entire life is dedicated to boring under the bark of ancient lodge-pole timbers that, in their effort to fight off the attack, starve themselves by cutting off the food supply to their limbs. They turn brown; they die and the beetle moves on, to the next tree. The beetles are winning. From a distance, the forests in and around Breckenridge, Colorado, look like a middle-aged man’s salt-and-pepper hair, the gray slowly defeating the color of its youth, until there’s nothing but white, and then nothing at all.

It is from the balcony of a Breckenridge condo while on vacation that I received an e-mail from a member of the band The Good Life with an attached PDF file. It was an article — an editorial — that appeared in the July 15 issue of The Omaha World-Herald, a parting shot taken at the band a few days after they opened for Feist in Memorial Park.

Flavorlessly titled “Saturday, in the Park,” the editorial is a tsk-tsk indictment of the band’s behavior from the Memorial Park stage on the early evening of Saturday, July 12. The writer (who, like all OWH editorial writers, shall remain anonymous as s/he presumably speaks for the entire newspaper staff) was aghast that Good Life frontman Tim Kasher had the audacity — the utter contempt — to say what was on his mind concerning the upcoming presidential election.

Says the OWH: “…early arrivals got more than they bargained for when a local band, The Good Life, started its opening set with a two-minute diatribe about being embarrassed by red-state Nebraska and how the crowd should buck their parents and vote for Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama for president.”

The editorial went on to say how embarrassed we should feel for Mayor Fahey — by God, his name is on the marquee as a sponsor for an event that cost private sponsors $70k, not to mention your tax dollars to pay police to patrol the park. But that’s not all. Kasher, the OWH said, “proceeded to scream a song with the F-word so prominently that children in Dundee and Elmwood Park probably heard it. What a shame!”

I’m not making this up.

The Omaha World-Herald — our local bastion of free speech — actually published an editorial that attacked Kasher for exercising his First Amendment rights, asking in the editorial, “Does (the city) need to specify that on-stage political statements are unwelcome, to the point of voiding pay?”

Would Omaha’s great gray lady have been as upset if Kasher had expressed, say, his devotion to Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior? What if Kasher had gone on for two minutes extolling his pride in the good work of our Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan? Would there have been an editorial printed a few days later criticizing those points of view? One wonders, despite the fact that both comments are very much political statements.

It’s embarrassing — if not bizarre — that any newspaper would be concerned about someone exercising their First Amendment rights, whether it be spoken to the person next to them or from a stage. God forbid that the minds of our area youth be polluted by thoughts and ideas that differ from their parents’ — or from the Omaha World Herald’s — thoughts and ideas.

The Omaha World Herald has a right to disagree with Kasher in their editorial, but to ask that he and future artists be gagged on stage with threats of voiding their pay should they voice a view that differs from theirs is regretful and sad and very, very small town. Now I know one of the reasons why Kasher moved to Los Angeles.

As for the concerns about use of the “F-word” (How childish does that term sound when read in print?) in a song — I have to think that someone involved in putting this concert together had to have at least a modicum of knowledge about the artists they were booking. The “F-word” appears in many a Good Life song because that’s the language the artist uses to express his art, his ideas. It would be like asking to display Tom Wesselmann’s “American Bedroom Painting #25” — a modern still life in the Joslyn Art Museum collection that depicts a piece of fruit, a telephone and a woman’s breast — but asking to have that boob covered up or removed from the painting. We can’t have our kids seeing that. Here’s a little news flash to the OWH: Kids use the “F-word” all the time, every day, and you and their parents aren’t going to stop it. Certainly curbing Kasher from singing “fuck fuck fuck” isn’t going to stop it either.

It’s called the free flow of ideas. It’s what keeps a culture alive and thriving and moving forward. You may not agree with something someone says, but he or she has to be allowed to say it — in public, from a stage, to your children, to you. The OWH should be encouraging this type of discourse, not trying to prevent it.

Because once you start cutting off ideas or blocking them from being spoken and being heard, you cut off your culture’s food supply. And slowly, the green turns brown, the gray turns white, and eventually there’s nothing left.

Stephen Colbert’s favorite band, Apples in Stereo, hit the Waiting Room stage tonight with those lovable spazzes from Poison Control Center and Big Fresh. $12, 9 p.m. It’s good to be home.

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