November 29th, 2005


Battle Lines Drawn

Though I'm a person of no particular affiliation religiously -- I attend Quaker Meeting, but mostly because it's a good place to be agnostic -- I do believe that religious teaching and faith can be a positive force in the world. I also believe that there is a progressive consensus among many different religions, and that it's time for people who partake in that consensus to storm the moral high ground, and unseat the pretenders. An article by Michelle Goldberg in pointed to this sermon recently delivered by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, which is brilliant. He says what needs saying better than I ever could:

UPDATE: For those not interested in his comments relevant mostly to the Jewish congregation, skip to Section V.

The Man, The Myth, The LJ User Icon

Review I wrote that will be in the local free paper, describing the gentleman in my user Icon.
'Some Hippy Being a Jerkoff?' -- the real story is a bit more interesting than that.

Larry "Machine Gun" Sievers - "Wizards Best"

I met Larry Sievers in about 1978/1979 when I lived at Black's
Gaslight Village, Iowa City's most famously idiosyncratic rooming
house. He was this rail thin, stooped guy with long straight hair and
a fu manchu mustache. He played drums in a heavy metal band. Another
guy in the house had been playing a Gang of Four record, and Larry was
discoursing at length on the quality of the drumming. I never heard
him play, but I can attest that he is the best air drummer I've ever
had the privilege to observe.

25-odd years on, Larry is still around Iowa City, wearing what looks
like the same black leather jacket, hanging out at the record store,
talking about obscure metal bands with anyone who'll give him the time
of day. He's one of the local Iowa City characters, whose constancy in
the face of change helps to define the town's unique flavor.

The perhaps true story, perhaps legend of Larry "Machine Gun" Sievers
is that he used to play his drums so obsessively, and with such force
that he destroyed his kit many years ago, and never managed to get the
money together to buy another one. In the course of clerking at the
Goodwill store, he lucked onto a Kawaii keyboard, and applied his will
to learning to use it to compose and perform his own music.

Larry's music on "Wizards Best" is perhaps the most complete
exploration of the preset drums and accompaniment tracks the Kawaii
has on offer, integrated with his quasi-romantic keyboard stylings.
In this respect he's in the outsider tradition of Wesley Willis (god
rest his soul), but Larry's playing ability and personal sense of
harmony is more complex than Wesley's. Wesley's keyboard was just the
vehicle for his lyrical genius, but to Larry, it's his orchestra.

Song titles like "Hail To King Richard" and "Cry For The Vampire"
indicate that he's picked up some of Ronny James Dio's portentous
medievalism, but these songs are something else entirely: the private
musical universe of a guy that's been keeping the metal dream alive
for nearly 30 years. Think of the down tempo ballad metal bands throw
on every record, "for the ladies," rendered with probably the least
likely musical tool for the job. But that doesn't really describe
Larry's unique sense of structure. 'Meandering' is the word that comes
to mind, but it's a little unfair. Larry's musical ideas are
labyrinthine, with lots of unexpected twists and turns before he gets
where he's going, but he's always going somewhere specific.

Like Thelonius Monk, Larry invents his own syntax to express his
musical ideas. He sounds completely self-taught, and thereby his
playing seems innocent of cliche and convention. "Wizard's Best" may
at first sound cheesy and laughable, but there are very few completely
unique visions of musical beauty in the world, so if you're laughing,
you're missing out.