It recently came to my attention that Bay Area radio has lost a local legend. Dennis Erectus passed away in June of last year at the age of 62. He had struggled with brain damage after being felled by a major heart attack on Thanksgiving of 2008. For many years, Dennis did his show on San Jose's iconic KOME, originally broadcasting evenings but later moving to the morning drive slot. His shtick was what became known as that of the "shock jock" long before anyone knew who Howard Stern was.
I have fond memories of giggling myself to sleep listening to Dennis' show most weeknights at the age of 13 or so, keeping the staticky signal turned down just enough so that my parents wouldn't hear between song breaks such as "Celebrity Gangbang" or his twisted faux fan mail segment, "Dear Dennis." And there was something so incredibly authentic to the rock and roll palette he treated his listeners to - whether it be metal, new wave/punk-flavored, hard rock, classic rock (his favorite band was The Kinks), progressive - it always seemed to blend well, and the between-song punctuations of clips of everything from Our Gang to old horror movies always brought a smile to my face.
I credit Dennis for piquing my interest in radio as a career, but unfortunately the days of free-form rock radio had pretty well died out by the time I got into college, so my studies took a different trajectory. Nevertheless, many of Dennis' broadcast trademarks were a major influence on my tenure as a college radio deejay, including tossing classic/offbeat movie and TV show clips in between songs.
He continued to work in radio right up until his heart attack, and I always hoped he'd stage some sort of comeback. But alas, it seems he was just too ahead of his time, and what manages to pass for shock jockery on milquetoast terrestrial radio these days has been dumbed down to Idiocracy-like levels.
Rest in peace, Dennis. You were a true original.
After nearly wetting my pants at hearing the news that Neutral Milk Hotel mastermind Jeff Mangum would be performing at our beloved Phoenix Theater here in Petaluma, I experienced a mild pang of disappointment at the footnote that no photography would be allowed at the show, including cell phones. I have a cigar box full of ticket stubs dating back to 1981 or so, but with the rise of electronic ticketing, the increase in the number of paper stubs going into that box seems to be plummeting. I don't always want to shell out $25 to add to the quintillion or so t-shirts already stacked in my closet. And the juicy red apples the Fillmore gives out are only good for a couple of days. So ultimately, the iPhone usually ends up being my vehicle for "having my cake and eating it, too," however I do abide by the wishes of artists such as Mr. Mangum who ask that the audience refrain from taking pictures. And I definitely go out of my way to not be "that guy," who spends three quarters of the show with his arm high in the air in a vain effort to get the perfect shot, much to the annoyance and aggravation of the concertgoers behind him.
Last year, Gizmodo published a good piece on how to use your smartphone at a concert without being a jerk. Good points, all of them, although I must admit that my iPhone 5 gets some surprisingly good shots once in awhile. I've been doing the "shoot in bursts" thing for awhile. Obviously it's far less distracting for the people behind me, and maybe, just maybe, one in ten of those shots will be a keeper. And if not, an Instagram/Hipstamatic filter might create something, if not clearer, at least a little more pleasing to the eye.
I had an idea. I think it would be cool if a band or artist tried the following: upon taking the stage, the singer goes to the mike and says, "Thank you everyone for coming. Now, for those of you with iPhones who want to take pictures, now is your chance." And for the next 2-3 minutes, the performer or performers takes any number of heroic and/or laughable poses onstage for the picture-taking masses. Cool rock faces, devil signs, simulated inappropriate acts, all that good stuff. And after the specified picture-taking interval has elapsed, the singer says, "All right. Now that we've got that out of the way, please put your cameras away and enjoy the show."
That's a happy medium I think I could live with.