Music for Enthusiasts: The Illness’ “Precious moments” (the hidden track)



During their vocal recording session Josh, The Illness‘ lead singer went through an “unbelievable amount” of cheap beer. Luckily for us, Illness guitarist Zippy managed to capture Josh’s between-takes commentary and cut it together into this enthusiastic track. Enjoy.

Recording booth photo courtesy of, flickr.


The Alcohol Enthusiast goes to Vegas

—Josey and Christian

As every alcohol enthusiast should at some point, we recently made our first pilgrimage to Las Vegas, one of the drunkenness capitals of the globe. The occasion was a special one: Our friends, soon-to-be-world-famous glitter dance band Easystreet, were playing their Sin City debut at the Beauty Bar as part of the Neon Reverb music festival. As loud people (good for cheering) with an SLR, we felt our presence was necessary. That, and the fact that even the word “Vegas” muttered quietly and in passing under-breath was enough to send trembles down our arms and set our parched mouths watering in anticipation.
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Music for Enthusiasts: From Hey Ya! ‘Till the last Sweet Thing’s standing


What makes a good drinking song? From first shot to sunrise bottle-swig, here are a few of my wasted favorites.

1) Hey Ya!, André 3000. Two words: Col-lege. Commence frantic, awkward arm-and-leg flailing and vigorous, desperate grabbing at anybody within appendage-reach. Well, that’s what I did when this song played at parties, anyways. Call and response lyrics encourage the boisterous participatory shouting we drunks assume is necessary no matter what song (or lack thereof) is playing. And Mr. 300o’s commands that the soaked and seething mass of booze-sweating bodies “shake it like a Polaroid picture” is the second olive in the dirty martini. Get ready to un-tag some pictures tomorrow morning.

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Music for Enthusiasts: Tending bar at the saloon


No one is ever surprised to hear I work in a bar. What usually causes a few confused stares and a snicker or three is that I work in a country western bar—a saloon, actually. If the 8-foot sign reading “SALOON” by the front door does not alert you to the fact that you have atmospherically left Southeast Portland and been transported to somewhere in the middle of Montana or Wyoming, the saddle atop an old wooden barrel in front of the bar, the sepia-inspired lighting and extensive bourbon selection ought to do the trick.

If, however, your senses are too bewildered and booze-hazy for all of this to make an impression, the sounds of Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams (yes, Sr. and Jr.), or Johnny Cash will eventually tip even the most overly-enthusiastic of you off.
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Music for Enthusiasts: What makes a good drinking song?


What makes a good drinking song? Well, think about the last time you sang along while drunk. Chances are it was catchy, fairly hard driving and likely fun to dance to (read: stumble and/or clutch the shoulder of the nearest individual to). For me, good drinking songs are high energy and, for the most part, widely recognized. Here are a few favorites I always find myself belting out in my off-key, a-melodic, rhythmless voice.

1. To start, I call your attention to my favorite karaoke song of all time: “The Lap Dance Is So Much Better When the Stripper Is Crying.” Largely spoken word, this Bloodhound Gang number is a great because even a total musical incompetent like myself can make it sound pretty convincing. Another attribute that makes this a good drinking song? Funny lyrics. What a song lacks in catchiness can easily be made up for with humor. And a combination of the two is unstoppable—just look at limericks.

“It was even more of a turn on when I found out she was doin’ me to buy baby formula.”

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Does booze give you superpowers?

For those of you too drunk to read any further, the short answer, according to my empirical research, is an unequivocal duh. But allow me to elucidate.

I’m 19 (back in the day when the drinking age was a sensible and civilized 18) and get an invitation to an open-bar party at my old Catholic grade school in NYC. Open bar. I don’t have to tell you that those are words to set an Enthusiast—particularly a broke-ass college kid—to a-trembling. I am so there.

Since the cocktail party is scheduled for only two hours—and since it’s my pre-heat for a Friday night frolic—there’s a lot of work to do. And I set about it enthusiastically: Jack, chased repeatedly and relentlessly by Miller High Life. Pretty soon, my skinny ass is wasted. In fact, maybe the most wasted ever, before or since. And pretty soon, I’m in trouble. Or they are.

A lot of this has had to be reconstructed later with the help of my schoolmate/drinking buddy who came with. But I have no doubt about my motivation: I’m looking at an older, irretrievably square crowd—uptight, wine-swirling mackeral-snappers in striped ties. And rather than being engaged in some bullshit conversation about my progress toward respectability, I decide to bring some “conversation” of my own.

So I circulate around to each happily chit-chatting couple, stand close to them for a moment, grinning, watching, pretending to be interested, politely waiting my turn to enter the discussion—only to issue forth with an ungodly shouting that makes all conversation impossible. Not a little whoop or yelp. This is a long (30 seconds?), high-volume, non-verbal, unremitting vocal drone, a weaponized yelling designed expressly to destroy cocktail party palaver. And when I say loud, you have to understand that people think I’m loud when I’m just talking (I once got a note from a woman at a restaurant that read “your loud voice wrecked our dinner!”) and that, once upon a time, I sang in front of a very loud rock band.

I work my way around the room, assassinating comity, one conversation at a time. And it’s not just the loudness that’s disturbing, it’s the randomness. My beef is at such a conceptual—and dubious—level that these poor Catholic partygoers are like: what the fuck?!? If they ever said the word fuck.

On and off, the sonic assault continues for maybe 15 minutes, until the principal, a gentle, caring, middle-aged gent, approaches and throws a friendly arm around my shoulders and says, with a genuine smile, “I think it’s time for you to go.”

Let me explain that when this man was younger he had been afflicted with an illness (TB?) that resulted in one of his lungs being removed, which evidently carried a certain morbid, if heretofore unrecognized, fascination for me. So he’s easing me toward the door when I fling off his arm and throw mine around his neck and drag him to the floor. I have the kindly principal in a headlock on the floor, and now I’m yelling at him: “No one-lunged bastard is gonna throw me out!”

I gotta admit, if it’s comical now, it was mortifying the next morning, and for many mornings after. In any case, it’s my buddy and our unfortunate dates who ultimately disentangle me and the principal and get yours truly the fuck out of there.

But, alas, the night is still young.

The four of us pile in a cab, headed downtown to the Village Gate, where one of my all-time favorite bands, NRBQ, is playing a couple of sets. On the edge of Union Square, we get stuck in traffic. Stopped cold. Lots of honking and yelling, but no forward movement. Suddenly, without notice, I fling the cab door open and start running into the darkness and crowds of 14th Street. My friends and my date, not surprisingly, are happy to see me go. And after patiently waiting out the traffic jam, the cab deposits them, 10 minutes later, at the door of the club.

And I’m there to greet them!

This is the superpowers part. Apparently, I flew like Superman or ran at supersonic speeds like Flash to beat them to the Gate. No other explanation is possible—unless you subscribe to the crackpot theory that I ran around the traffic jam and grabbed another cab a block or two away. But that strains credulity, not to mention the rules of super-hero science. No, the facts point incontrovertibly to me acquiring temporary superpowers through the liberal application of booze.

Once inside the club, I barge into the dressing room to tell the band (I think) how much I love them, only to be physically threatened by a visibly agitated lead singer who is restrained by his band mates who are yelling at me to “just get the fuck out!” I return to my friends, who’ve found a comfortable booth, and, at some point during the set, go to sleep. On the floor. The ushers clear out the club for the next show—my friends finally making good on their escape—but somehow no one notices me. As the room begins to fill for the second set, I rise up off the floor and, looking around for my companions, discover instead some unwitting acquaintances from high school, to whom I attach myself for still more bar- and party-hopping until six in the morning, when, my superpowers depleted, I stiff them on a cab ride uptown.

—Toots Shor

Superman photo courtesy of rustman, flickr.



From underage to overpriced

Am I seeing things, or is that tiger leering at that innocent vocalist?

Every Enthusiast knows that nothing—nothing—goes better with booze than music. Especially live music.

Sure, I might have made a similar statement about drinking and air travel in a previous post, and I meant that one, too. It’s just that I mean this one way, way more. And don’t you dare think this is the final, super-definitive statement about “nothing going better with alcohol than…” that you’ve heard out of this Enthusiast. After all, what goes better with enthusiasm than loudly proclaimed, sweeping generalizations and over-blown, oft-self-aggrandizing, defiantly definitive statements which are always forgotten entirely until sobriety returns, rearing its dehydrating, leg-muscle-spasm-causing, sinus-duct-pinching presence? (Hangover symptoms may vary.)

Many of us Enthusiasts have been on this rodeo circuit for many, many years, despite little restrictions like the “law” and, additionally and prior to that, our “parents” or “legal” “guardians” telling us that we had to be over 21 (or whatever your country of adolescence’s legal boozing age is) to ride this liquid freight train straight to Enthusiasmville.

Nothing could ever stop this Enthusiast, for one, from getting wasted before seeing all my favorite bands play live. We all liked a lot of what we now realize are hilariously bad bands as we trundled awkwardly through middle and high school, so I’ll spare myself the added shame and you the boring—the way that other people’s pictures of themselves in front of C-List tourist monuments are boring—deets. This blog is about alcohol enthusiasm, anyways.

Concerts meant long, sweaty lines of washed-out dyed green hair, and tattered, baggy black tee-shirts emblazoned with imposing logos and sharp, cracked white or raised silver lettering. And acne, and loosely-laced skate shoes. Then there were the shoulder-tap acquired plastic jugs of bottom-shelf, ice-clear liquid-panty-remover, poured gingerly into dumped-out and more discrete plastic water bottles that we could slyly swig from in line. All of this burning through our throats, and chased by M&Ms or crackers and the intense desire to get super wasted before it was our turn to get padded down by security on our way through the stadium and/or venue and/or pier gates. Enviously, we watched our elders lined up at beer-fueling stations, or aside long bars, ordering and receiving that which we’d only carried in with our bloodstreams. So cool with their big plastic branded cups and/or fancy little glasses with their fancy little twin straws. By the time your or my mom and/or dad arrived to collect the sweaty teenaged music lovers, splitting headaches and joy waltzed hand in hand into the blissful sunset of our fuzzy brains as we raced down highways, home.

Last night I got drunk at a fancier-then-I recall-from-being-a-tipsy-15-year-old venue in San Francisco. Pushing past crowds towards the wrist band line, where ID shares were exchanged for rights to buy pricey cocktails, I wondered—was this what I had lusted after, when secretly guzzling seared clear liquid from those plastic lips in preparation for lights up, ear-splitting, cheering, shoving, encore? These short, flimsy receptacles lousy with warming ice cubes, infused with the faintest splash of the essence of vodka or bourbon?

Maybe you just don’t know what you got, until it becomes wildly age inappropriate to participate in it.

And we flashed our IDs to have our wrists festooned with paper bracelets, and we pushed our way past heavily-perfumed, shot taking, bumpit-ponytailed women to swig that which we still and always, lust after.


Tiger lusting after rock star photo courtesy of Easystreet.



$hort Dawg’s (briefly) in the house

I don’t normally go to live shows. But every now and then you just can’t miss something. In this case, it was Too $hort playing an intimate, sold-out show at 19 Broadway in Fairfax. It’s a great little joint with a bar in front, a bar in back, and a stage and dance floor rather awkwardly placed in the middle. I enthusiastically ordered an old standby and the bartender handed me one of those half-shot glass, half-old-fashioned things with a hefty shot of bourbon, a dash of soda and an odd lack of ice. It was different, but not a bad way to get started.

The bevy of opening acts were decent, if not downright enjoyable. The club was filled with the regular cast of enthusiastic characters. You had the girls dancing in front, the people pushing by every fifteen seconds, the occasional couple pressing up against the wall in an impressive grind. Too $hort and entourage entered at what couldn’t have been earlier than twelve-thirty.
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