The Negress. The 10. Music Festivals.

The Negress used to go to this little music festival called SXSW from 1989 to 1999. The worst years for her were 1994 — when her father was dying — and 1998 — when she was sorting out her newly diagnosed Crohn’s. At that time, SXSW and excess went hand in hand. Bourbon for brunch? Oh why not. Or maybe margaritas with tasty Tex-Mex while some publicist picked up the tab. Some her buddies from that era are, thankfully, working the program and she’s glad they are. They are more fun alive than dead.

Oh yeah. The other music festival was this little shindig called Lollapalooza. Before it set up camp permanently in Chicago (The Negress can’t afford to go now,  and knows she doesn’t need to now that Metallica is headlining. Again.) It used to travel around, which made it kind of fun since it might be different in your town or not. So, a here is a trip down Memory Lane before the Negress forgets all of it.

1. For most of the time she went to Austin, the weather was extraordinarily cooperative. Her writer pals had a pretty strict rule: Stay off of Sixth Street unless dragged there at gunpoint. However, she did go see the late Bill Morrissey with a band that included guitarist Anthony “Top” Topham, who is sort of the Pete Best of the Yardbirds. She can now say she has seen all of the Yardbirds’ guitarists. Once Morriseey’s set was over, Topham went and sat in with a regular blues band playing at a non-showcase club.The look on his face was pure joy since he was playing with actual bluesmen.

2. Avoiding the Four Seasons bar was another pretty good idea, but Negress could not resist hearing a conversation between Huey Lewis and Nick Lowe where Lewis was trying to convey the rhythm of a song by stomping it out and Nick just looked trapped. She told Nick how he had saved her life (see entry no. 1 bourbon section) and walked away giddy.

3. SXSW was once small enough that it could fit into the Hyatt with room left over for the crowd there for an NCAA mens’ basketball regional. The Negress isn’t complaining about what the festival has become, but offers this to allow some perspective. She used to be on a panel or two. See entry No. 1 re bourbon. It so seemed a good idea at the time. There was no traffic then. Even at other times of the year. Shocking.

4. One thing she’s very glad she did was to drag a writer friend from Los Angeles to see the late Townes Van Zandt, who was playing in a half-filled Hyatt ballroom one night. She never missed a chance to see Townes after that. Good thing.

5. The Negress once found herself onstage playing tambourine behind the late Molly Ivins. She realizes this is beginning to sound a bit sad, but these are things she doesn’t want to forget and is pleased that she had these experiences. And that she remembers them.

6. There is this guy named Alejandro Escovedo who was once in an incendiary rock band called the True Believers and a terrible one called Buick McKane. However, when he wasn’t up to no good with the latter, he put together a nice little mostly acoustic ensemble that was pretty good. One of the first times he played that way, the Negress spread the word among her scribbler friends. They were all blown away (Because she lived in Texas, let’s just say her awe was a little less than that of the tenderfoots). She doesn’t know if this helped or hurt the music or Al’s ego. Perhaps she is giving herself too much credit.

7. One night the Negress ran into guitarist Slim Dunlap, who had put out a solo record while playing with the Replacements. She’s very sure this part of the festival hasn’t changed much. Each band made either $100 (no matter how many members) or they got badges to go see other bands. He was in the parking lot of the Hyatt and said he and his bandmates were going to sleep in their van before heading off to their next show. She offered them her hotel room floor. He declined. When she heard he had a stroke some years later, she thought about every musician she knew who was driving all over the place for no money and little acclaim (Plus no healthcare. There have been several fundraisers for Slim in Minneapolis to help pay for his medical needs). One thing she did when was scribbling in Houston was a story every year listing the bands playing at the festival who were playing in Houston before or after. That’s how they made their money, albeit not very much.

8. The second year of Lollapalooza (it didn’t play Houston its first year), the press tent at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds was thoughtfully located on top of a fire ant mound. The Negress had spent the night before at the Guns N’ Roses-Metallica show at the Astrodome. She thinks much of her hearing may have perished that night even though she was wearing earplugs. Ouch on all counts. There seems to be a Metallica thread running through this story.

9. in 1994, Billy Corgan and those Smashing Pumpkins returned to Houston for Lolla after an incident earlier in the year where he stomped offstage after three songs when a shoe flew out of the crowd and nearly hit him. The Negress had some great fun with this in the paper she worked for at the time (20 years gone next month) since she knew how angry the paying crowd was about the whole incident. When the Pumps took the stage at Lolla, the first thing Corgan said was, “We’ll play no matter what you throw at us.” The Breeders and the Beastie Boys were also on the bill. The Beasties and Corgan were playing hoops backstage. Corgan was wearing a Bobby Brady T-shirt and, like, brogans. Not surprisingly, the Beasties schooled him. One downer here was the festival was held at a dragstrip (Black asphalt in Texas in middle of summer. Just wrong on so many levels.)

10. The Negress is pleased to count among the people she knows Steve West, the former drummer for Pavement. When Lolla played Shoreline Amphitheater outside of San Francisco in 1995, she ambled around the grounds with West to go see The Dirty Three, this slightly unhinged folkish band. This felt nice as West (who used to be in a band called Contooncook Line back when she knew him in Richmond) moved around the place with no one asking for selfies (different era plus being a drummer has its advantages). The stages were far enough apart where there was no sound bleed. No one was wearing a giant mouse head. Lolla has now been in Chicago for 10 years; twice as long as the Negress has. She’ll take the memories thank you. They’re cheaper.

The Negress. The 10. Media cliches.

The Negress has seen so much sadness in the news lately,  so she thought she would lighten the mood by listing some of her favorite media cliches. Even though social media has come along, all of the scribblers and newscasters rely on a lot of the same phrasing.  In some cases, they are just quoting people who can’t think outside the box so to speak. So herewith, phrases the Negress never wants to hear again.

1 “Tense negotiations.” As opposed to “spa-serviced negotiations.”

2. “The real good success.” as opposed to “the piss poor success.”

3. We came to play.” The Negress thought you came to put out the daintily cut tea sandwiches.

4. “Conditions here are deteriorating.” many thanks to Dave Barry for this one. In Chicago, the weather story that brings this one about requires that a ruler be stuck in a pile of snow. In a Florida hurricane, a newscaster in weatherproof jacket clings to a sign. In Los Angeles, a guy dressed up like the Gorton’s fisherman points a camera at one-inch wide trickle of water when it rains.

5. “I myself personally.” We get it. If this phrase appears in a column, don’t keep reading and never read the author again.

6. “We have had many colorful and creative discussions.” In sportspeak, it means, “I will trade you as soon as I can find someone to take you off my hands.”

7. “Clears the way for the project to move forward.” Usually the information that precedes this phrase makes it unnecessary. Plus, would you clear the way for it to move backward? Think people.

8. “New hope.” Required in all medical stories.

9. “Breakthrough.” See No. 8. Please be advised that a lot of the medical news you see on your local TV news is “sponsored content,” that is, the hospital provided it to the newscast and they didn’t identify it as such. In short, it’s an ad for the hospital.

10. Any wine description that appears in a newspaper. See the Negress’ thoughts on this topic from a previous post, which contained cherry and aromas of dark earth and was fruit forward.

Bonus post: After this post, the Negress realized she had missed some first-rate performances by comedians in dramatic roles on all iterations of “Law and Order.” She’s updated the list for your enjoyment.

The Negress. The 10. Weather.

The Negress missed her bus this morning by about 20 minutes. The temperature outside today here  in Chicagoland is 6 and she lives closer to the lake, which can have a warming effect. So let’s talk about the weather. Typing this is helping to thaw out her hands.

1. Buffalo to Boston: “Alright. You win.”

2. Here in Chicago, the CTA provides heat lamps on the platforms. Normally they turn them off in early March. They are still on.

3. The Negress has a parka she got in Antarctica that has several layers. On the outside, she’s all Gorton’s fisherman. Under that is a toasty layer of fleece. She’s used the parka more here than she did in Antarctica.

4. When the Negress signed her contract to embrace Chicago winters, the words “polar vortex” were not included. Believe me, she read the fine print.

5. On local newscasts, TV reporters scour the streets searching for someone from Miami to interview about how frigid the temperatures are, can they cope, do they have the right clothes, etc., overlooking the fact that these people made an explicit choice to come here in the dead of winter.

6. On the same El platforms with the heat lamps, the temperature is displayed along with time and  estimated arrival of the trains. No one waiting for a train needs to know it is six degrees and that the next train is coming in 13 minutes.

7. METRA, the local commuter rail, has a major freakout in freezing temperatures, Nothing inspires confidence like seeing the track switches on fire, which is the way METRA keeps them warm so the trains actually run. Late usually.

8. Eighty-four percent of the Great Lakes is iced over. The record is 92 percent. In short, walking on water is possible but not recommended.

9. The Negress once confidently said that there was little difference between 15 degrees and 0. Taking that back.

10. Remember, there’s no bad weather; only bad clothing.

The Negress. The 10. Law and Order.

As anyone who knows the Negress knows, she is all about Law and Order and its various iterations. She’s not watching SVU anymore because, as much as she likes Mariska Hargitay, the absence of Chris Meloni and Richard Belzer is too much to bear. However, the mother ship and “Criminal Intent” continue to bring back fond memories. So read along and enjoy.

1. What do Clair Danes, Samuel L. Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito and Philip Seymour Hoffman have in common? All were on “Law and Order” early in their careers.

2. There was an episode of “Criminal Intent” where Paul Dooley and Dennis Christopher played father and son. It was sort of like the dark side of “Breaking Away.”

3. The Negress didn’t realize that Kathryn Erbe was an alum of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. That is not small beer. There have been so many New York  theater actors on the show in parts large and small they you could play “Law and Order bingo” when you went to the theater. This meant using someone like the lighting designer as the free space and then crossing out every actor who had any iteration of Law and Order in their credits. Easy and fun.

4. Julianne Nicholson and Jill Hennessy have turned up on “The Good Wife,” as has that Chris Noth fellow.  One of Julianna Margulies’ first roles was as a Navy officer in a ripped-from-the-headlines Tailhook story. Kate Walsh also played a pilot. While Hennessy was the best ADA hands down, the Negress feels much love for Angie Harmon whose “my Longhorn pennant would look good over there” after McCoy got chewed out is a favorite throwaway line.

5. Two of the most dangerous places in New York: Hudson University and the Luther Chase academy.

6. The show had a stock company that included the late James Rebhorn, Jay O. Sanders and David Zayas among others. The Negress once cornered Zayas outside of a New York theater and started frothing at him about the show in such a way that she suspected he changed his phone number and obscured his house number. Sorry about that.

7. The aforementioned company often turned in roles that were on opposites of the law. For example, Rebhorn played a serial killer and a defense attorney; luckily not in the same episode.

8. Law and Order was a  lovely place for older African American actors.  The late Gloria Foster, Joe Seneca, Douglas Turner Ward and Mary Alice all appeared on the show at various points. Not too many actors can say they were in “The Matrix” and two Law and Order episodes.

9. For you “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” fans, David McCallum and Robert Vaughn appeared on the show on separate occasions.

10. (Update) Among the comedians who played it straight were Martin Short (very creepy guy who kidnapped Sister Peg because he thought she was a virgin), Stephen Colbert (probably the best of the bunch playing a forger to discredit a candidate for sainthood so his mother would stop giving away everything they had), Jim Gaffigan (crematorium director who never actually burned any bodies, so Jay O. Sanders could harvest DNA for his career as a hit man) and Carol Burnett (a lot of dead husbands).

The Negress. The 10. Unfairness or theodicy.

The Negress is not sure how to react to various goings-on this week. It’s the run-up to Lent, which she realizes her non-believing friends may not understand. It’s fine that they don’t but it will explain how the next few 10s are going to go. For Lent, the Negress is going to give up snark (yeah, the Oscars are in the middle of Lent so that will be a palpable sacrifice). She’s going to try not to contribute to meanness and hate since there are plenty of others who are taking care of that. As “Author” Wiggen says in “Bang the Drum Slowly,” “From here on in, I rag nobody.”

So hereby this week and other recent events in sad unfairness:

1. Kayla Mueller did knowingly go into a war zone, but the Negress has to assume she went with the intention of helping those in need. She died, likely murdered no matter what those idiots said about falling rubble. Those evil bastards in ISIS are a perversion of the basics of morality.

2. Bob Simon was one of those rarities among television reporters. He could find his way into war zones,  and illuminate touching stories such as the Paraguayan orchestra who made their own instruments. “60 Minutes” of late had a veritable parade of correspondents listed at the opening credits. The Negress tuned in always hoping for a Simon story. It will take a while for that sense of anticipation to fade.

3. David Carr survived crack addiction and cancer to become one of the most incisive writers around, especially on the subject of his colleagues in media. He was especially unexpected at the New York Times, which is not known as the Grey Lady for nothing. The paper and the media needed a rowdy truth teller who could write like nobody’s business, and admit when he was wrong. Journalism used to be about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Maybe someone will try to fill Carr’s giant shoes in that regard. It cannot be someone callow. Institutional memory and a sense of history are required.

4. Three people, Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were shot to death in North Carolina. All were Muslim. The neighbor who shot them (not using his name; call him asshat) was arrested. Is this a hate crime? Does it matter? Are they any less dead if Islamophobia played a role?

5.  Charlotte Elllis, 69, and Demetra Ellis, 45, were shot at Willowbrook Mall in Houston. The Negress used to go there on occasion when she lived in Houston. The elder Ellis is dead, and Demetra was shot in the head, and is still alive. Worth noting that Demetra had a gun and a concealed-carry permit. She still has a bullet in her head and a dead mother. Does anyone want to say anything about the  myth that having a gun protects you from gun violence? Police have a suspect in custody.

6. A jackass in Moscow, Idaho killed three people — his mother, his landlord and the manager of the Arby’s where he worked.

7. Two students were shot and wounded at Frederick High School in Frederick, Md. last week. The Negress realizes it’s easy to lose count, but this is worth noting: As of Dec. 11, 2014, there had been 95 school shootings in the two years since Sandy Hook.

8. Thirty one people were murdered in Chicago in January.

9. Four people have been stabbed or shot to death in Chicago in February. The month has 16 days to go. The DNAInfoChicago website tracks every murder in the city. It’s grim but necessary reading.

10. Given the priority we place on these matters on this side of the world, more people in the Middle East die in a week or so than what’s listed here in our country. These events are usually summed up in a small paragraph or two in most newspapers. There are some online sites that pay closer attention. The Negress believes all of us should. And on that upbeat note, see you next week.