Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. I have a show coming up that first Sunday in April (the 3rd) at the Beat Kitchen. It’s just gonna be me and my lovely guitar and voice and the whole thing should be a pretty good time. Dave from the Arrivals is playing acoustic, along with the full band stylings of the Haverchucks and The White Wives (which features two of your favorite Chrises from Anti Flag). Come down, have some fun and stagger home drunk, or at least drunk on punk…or spunk, depending on what you’re into. I can’t predict nor can I control the actions or sets of anyone else, but I can promise that I’m gonna be totally great up there. That alone should be enough reason for you to come out. Don’t be a pussy. Bring your friends, or if you’re a loser with no friends, bring a pocket of drugs. Expect new songs and old favorites, lots of singing from everyone around and a pretty low key atmosphere. Is that cool? Can we still do stuff like that? I just did this kind of thing in Denver and it was amazing, and that was booked in like a week. Don’t let me down Chicago. They may have the weed depositories and the mountains, but we’ve got the weirdos, right? Of course we do!
See you there.
Now onto our regularly scheduled prepared remarks.
The best crime involves art. I think that of all crime in that’s ever been concocted in the history of the world, graffiti is by far the coolest. I mean, putting up ‘illegal art’ is so awesome sounding that it conjures up visions of rebel artists and rouge designers battling in the shadows against an all-powerful, joyless military state, and I guess on some level that’s what’s going on (if you’re a hyper dramatic dork), but really, practically, it’s kind of about going around the corner on the train and seeing a huge, brand new mural illegally installed on some roof duct of some shitty warehouse. It looks cool, but that’s just part of it. It’s also like a weird rare flower or something that only blooms for a few days and then it’s gone forever.
The impermanence of graffiti is a huge part of what makes it so cool. But then there are some pieces that beat the odds and stick around forever. The whole thing is a dice game with no basis in quality or anything. In that way, graffiti may be the most tragically perfect reflection of humanity that we’ve ever come across in art. Much in the same way that John Lennon and Len Bias were senselessly scrubbed off the earth after a short time but your creepy pederast great uncle lived to be 90, a beautiful and poignant stencil or mural, meticulously crafted with its surroundings in mind, may be up for as little as twelve hours, but that dumb, hastily sprayed potleaf on your garage may stick around for forty years.
And yeah, it bears mentioning that most graffiti is more like the latter than the former. Like all art, or all of anything, most of it sucks and just a fraction is good. Now, I’m by no means an expert on graffiti, but I used to do a little graffiti writing when I was in highschool (I really never wrote much of anywhere but on newspaper boxes in my neighborhood and in the school bathrooms, and I abandoned the hobby when I realized that I was terrible at it, and I could go to jail. I stuck with guitar, which I was[am] also terrible at, but which is vastly less illegal) and I’ve followed the progression of the genre just a little here and there, and as such, I’ve got some pretty half cocked opinions on the matter.
The best graffiti, hands down is the stuff done by burnouts. The pentagram out by the drainage ditch, the words “zeppelin rulez” on the back of the highschool, the weird nicknames like “Stinky Dave” or “The Falcon” (which is, not coincidentally where the band name comes from…it’s an imaginary burnout’s tag. It’s funny, because people always ask me what Lawrence Arms means, but the story is dull. The Falcon actually has a cool genesis, and it’s never been brought up…goes to show: don’t think about anything ever, because no one else cares). After that, I like the stuff that’s real non traditional, the stuff that doesn’t look like what you expect from graffiti. The weirder the better as far as I’m concerned. My very favorite artist is a dude named Alexandre Orion from Brazil. He’s great. I think Banksy is great too (I hear a lot of people out there groaning, but hype machine notwithstanding, he’s doing really cool things and breaking the laws of art in new and exciting ways. I mean, he put his own shit up in the Louvre for fucks sake! That’s cool, and if you don’t think so you’re A) lame or B) lame and old) but I like anything that’s not just that shitty 90’s wildstyle with the ghetto duck dudes hanging around. So, if you come across someone who, say, hastily brush painted a shitty, drippy tv on the side of a walmart with pink interior paint, that’s cool, but a big thing that you can’t read that’s all blended and pro with some kind of dumb character next to it, that shit is wack. That’s my feeling on the whole thing.
Coming in after the weird stuff is the retro NYC in 1980 shit. Bubble letters and turntables and shit like that. That stuff is pretty neat, just because it seems like it’s mostly done by people who have a really weird idea of what’s going on. Now, I’m sure there are hipsters and stuff who paint that old school stuff as a tribute or whatever, and that’s okay I guess, but there’s still a TON of that shit around NY (and by extension the whole country/world) that’s obviously done by people who are trying as hard as they can to be relevant, with no idea that they’re doing something in a style that went out of favor and came back twice already, and that’s the stuff I’m really talking about.
But graffiti is just one facet of art crime. People who forge works of the masters or art thieves, who steal famous art from museums and sell it to weird sheiks who don’t care that they’re housing something hugely famous that they can’t really show anyone, that shit is incredible. It’s just a simple truth. Any crime is cooler once art is involved. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. Killing Dimebag wasn’t cool. That was lame. I mean, frankly, music may be the exception to the art-crime corollary. Nothing criminal is cool just because it happens around music. I guess it’s pretty much just a visual art thing, actually, because forging, say, a Mark Twain diary or going into the sewers with swords to act like Frodo seems more like the pursuit of a dork than a cool work of criminal genius.
Eh, who knows? I’m off to the aquarium.