What a week. We've just come roaring back after a quiet start to the year, and considering I haven't been updating regularly for a little while, I'm sure everyone's just dying to hear about how I've gone full "dad weighing his Quarter Pounder to make sure it's actually a quarter pound” and developed a theory that when you order "extra cheese” from a pizza place, they just give you the normal amount of cheese and charge you extra. Those incredible nutjobs over at Reddit once hosted a lively conversation on the subject, and while it was often derailed by tangents about getting stoned and eating, the gist was that my suspicions are likely unfounded. Well, I'M NOT BUYING IT. Clearly the discussion was hijacked by shills from the ever-influential pizza lobby operating thousands of Russian dummy accounts. Extra cheese is a lie. Reddit has been compromised. Wake up, cheeple (yes, that is a portmanteau of "cheese” and "sheeple,” the latter of which is already a portmanteau unto itself, thank you for noticing). The only other possible explanation is that I think the proper cheese/sauce/crust ratio is somewhere around 600,000/1/1 and that no amount of cheese will ever be enough to satisfy my perfectly reasonable preferences, so what I'm saying is that it's definitely the conspiracy thing. TRUST NO ONE.
I'd like to share a story with you. It's not a personal story of mine, but it's one from which I've drawn a great deal of inspiration during my time as a professional musician, and also one that I often recount passionately after a few drinks, much like that uncle who prattles breathlessly on about the '85 Chicago Bears and how they won because they had "grit" and "drive" and they "played real football." It's an uplifting story; one full of gratitude and grace.
I'm talking about #exilepitbull.
The year was 2012. It feels weird to talk about the evolution of social media as though a mere six years ago we were the warring ape clans from the first scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but, compared to present day, where Twitter helped put somebody in the White House and entities like Wendy's and Moon Pie and the freaking Lawrence, KS Police Department are generating vertically-integrated digital platform content and dishing out epic clapbacks left and right, we really had no idea what we were doing back then.
Case in point, Walmart teamed up with world famous pop megastar Pitbull and something called Sheets Energy Strips to host what I'm sure they imagined would be a pretty straightforward promotional contest: Pitbull would make an appearance at whichever Walmart location received the most new Facebook likes over a given period of time.
As is often the case, it didn't take long for the internet to turn the whole thing into a beautiful disaster. A writer for the comedy site Something Awful named Dr. David Thorpe (not a real doctor) started the hashtag #exilepitbull, intent on banishing Mr. Worldwide to "the most remote Walmart in America": Kodiak Island.
Located two-hundred fifty miles off the coast of mainland Alaska, Kodiak Island is the second-largest island in the United States. The borough (county, essentially) of Kodiak Island is home to some 14,000 people, roughly 6,000 of whom live in the city of Kodiak. Thanks to Thorpe's efforts, Kodiak's Walmart- which receives its inventory via barge and stocks such frozen wasteland essentials as snowshoes and bear repellant- gained more than 70,000 new likes over the course of the promotion. Like the '85 Bears in Super Bowl XX, Kodiak won by a substantial margin.
Pitbull could have easily been nothing more than a chump in this story. An A-list recording artist teamed up with Walmart- a name synonymous with the deepest pitfalls of corporate America- to shill for some energy product. It was like a checklist of reasons not to root for him. But Pitbull turned it into a win. Rather than pulling out of the clearly hijacked promotion, or even showing the slightest hint of disappointment when he found out he wasn't getting sent to like, San Diego or something, he posted a video saying he was excited to visit Kodiak and inviting Thorpe to join him. To the utter disbelief of the actual citizens of Kodiak, Pitbull made the trip out to the edge of the world, visited the Walmart, shook hands, took pictures, signed autographs, and was upbeat and affable throughout the whole event. He was greeted with a performance of native folk music and awarded the key to the city. Thorpe accepted the invitation and live-tweeted his trip. In one tweet, he described Pitbull as "mad classy" and "enjoying the hell out of this event."
To my mind, Pitbull- a man who has garnered a few haters over the years- comes away from this looking like a prince. I know it's kind of a silly story, but I'll always look to #exilepitbull as a reminder to always strive to be gracious and professional, to keep my word and to appreciate everything I get to do as part of this strange, beautiful life. Mr. Worldwide will always have my respect.
The friend whose thing I want to tell you about today is Pitbull Jaden Carlson! SWEET CHRISTMAS LOOK AT HER GO:
Jaden is one of my favorite guitarists in the world, and, as with Pitbull or the '85 Bears, I am greatly inspired by her boundless energy and drive. Jaden's band, the aptly-named Jaden Carlson Band, plays rad-assed electrojazzfunk and is currently in the home stretch of a PledgeMusic campaign for their upcoming album, Keep It Movin'. Some of you may remember when we did one of these a bajillion years ago and offered a bunch of zany prizes like the ability to pick five songs on our setlist or go to any show for free for a year. Jaden may have one-upped us: for a paltry $25 she will photoshop your pet playing a keyboard in space! Also, again, they're a wonderful band comprised of some just lovely human beings.
Anyway, we're on tour and stuff. I didn't really realize how badly I was suffering from withdrawal until we got back into it. The studio is great, and it feels like important work, but there's something about getting right up into your- yes, your- face and DOING IT LIVE (VIDEO CONTAINS ANGRY SWEAR WORDS) that just lights me up, man. Plus, I've always been in love with the tight-rope unpredictability of an organic show. We had a funny moment in Jacksonville last Saturday when David was going to say some words to introduce a new song, but we didn't realize what he was doing until it was too late and we had already started counting off the song, so Dave's intended monologue- which was probably going to be substantive and profound- turned into: "this is a song about, you know that person? You can hang out with them-" and then he had to start singing. Technically, you could probably call that an error, but for me that's part of the joy of what we do- there's no real script. There are a couple of moments in certain songs where we tend to do specific things, but for the most part, we just pick a bunch of songs a few hours before the show starts and then we all get to find out what happens.
Anyway, that's it for today. Special thanks to my brother, Andy, whose repeated threats to spend his entire toast at my wedding ranting about the '85 Bears served as inspiration for the running gag in this blog.