Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of The Posies: “Take Back Your Power”

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

TakeBack

Stringfellow: One of the recurring themes on the Posies’ new album is the encroachments on personal freedom, the closing of the ring around every day people’s self-determination, as one of the most disturbing byproducts of the information age. Yes, we have access to communication like never before, but the battle fought with ones and zeros, which are highly manipulable, is being fought in places that not every citizen has either access to or the know how to understand where and how the battle is being waged.

As we are enamored with technology, and often intimidated by it (see how your IT guy’s wages have fared compared to yours in recent years), we often accept the changes imposed upon us—by either commercial or governmental interests—without much questioning, or even the knowledge that we have the right to ask questions.

One area of debate that intersects personal freedom, technology and its promise, and public health is the Smart Grid. In many places around the world, your traditional electricity, gas and water meters are being upgraded, with new devices that take a much more detailed look at your usage, and send much more information to the utility about usage on the network as a whole. Sounds great right? The Smart Grid is modern, cool … and potentially, a nightmare. A boondoggle of epic proportions, there is enormous debate that creating expensive, power-consuming units, installing them in every home and business and chucking millions of perfectly functional, low-tech units into a landfill has any net benefit to our overall energy consumption. And then: how much information do these units acquire about citizens, and what is done with that info? When you’re home, out, how many people are in your house at any time … how invasive and how detailed? And, being that each unit is like having a very powerful cell phone transmitting at all times, are there health risks, especially in multifamily buildings where dozens of these units might be clustered next to someone’s living space?

It gets very interesting when you see the response by the utilities to force these devices on their customers. People who resist are taken to jail. Suddenly, a semi-public body without direct oversight has the ability to install potentially harmful or potentially invasive devices without giving you a choice to say no. Is that the kind of society we want to live in? And who is in charge of awarding these enormous contracts to build these devices … and manage the data?

This film, which documents the campaign in British Columbia to put the power back in the hands of citizens about these issues, is not going to take up much of your time. It’s worth spending 30 minutes to get the perspective that you’re potentially being sold someone else’s pork, or worse: willingly having a Big Brother device installed in your basement.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: Big Star’s “Third” Live

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

ChrisStamey

Auer: On the the list of “Events Most Unlikely To Happen,” if you’d asked me a few years back, I would have easily put this squarely at the top. I mean, come on … we’re talking about performances that revolve around a record that was barely released and recognized in its day yet now attracts more fans and musicians that ever before. It has to be said that certainly the Big Star’s Third Live shows are wonderful, but sometimes I think I might even enjoy the hang and preparation, the rehearsal period even more. The list of regular performers and guests alike is quite remarkable, and with every concert it gets easier to see the deep reach of Big Star’s music, the staying power. There’s a real community in place now, an almost re-occurring holiday camp vibe to it, and it feels like a bit of a reunion every time one of these events takes place. Credit is certainly due to Chris Stamey for coming up with the concept in the first place. It’s really his deep affection for the music of Big Star and all of the minutiae associated with it and how it inspired him to spearhead such a mammoth project. Chris is also responsible for the world hearing Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos” and “You And Your Sister” on vinyl for the first time when he created the the Car Records label to what I suspect was basically to be able to eventually release these two songs. I consider myself very fortunate to have an original copy of this single, as it definitely falls into the “prized possession” type of thing category to me when it comes to this particular piece of music history. The fact that Stamey has also had me sing “I Am The Cosmos” at a few of the Big Star Third live shows is testament to his selflessness as well as his love to play and sing it, too, and I know how much the song obviously means to him. Now Big Star’s Third Live has a life of its own, and my Posies partner Ken helps Chris facilitate it all, with his ability with organizing and logistics. It’s still kind of crazy to me that it happens at all.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: Cafe Iruña Bilbao

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Cafe

Stringfellow: When the bleak parade of mid-highway rest stops, band-grafitti-encrusted dressing rooms, triangle-shaped sandwiches of dubious origin, etc., starts to grind, this place usually saves the tour. We have ended many a night in Bilbao here. For us, it’s the most culturally significant spot in the city; the “hey, my aluminum cinnamon bun is coming apart” museum is very nice, but we in the band tend to consume our cultural artifacts directly … the way to know a town is via its menus. So, this place. “Iruña” is the Basque name for the Navarran city of Pamplona. The interior design is belle epoque via Andalucia (and largely unchanged since the place opened in 1903). Don’t know what it all means, but we love the results. The waiters here are old school—they take their job seriously, and dress up for it: black & white, bow ties. And then it’s all about the pinxos. Pinxos are typically Basque, it’s roughly equivalent to tapas that you find further south; but almost always served on a piece of bread. Some of them are fanciful assemblies of ingredients, some are as simple as a slice of ham. At Cafe Iruña, the pinxos are exquisite and, for some reason, cheap. Spain in general is so incredibly cheap for food and wine, esp. when coming from France, where we spend much of our time, as to seem improbable as a business model. I’ve spent an entire day in a Spanish bar, having breakfast, lunch, wine and coffee, and had the bill be less than 10 Euros. At Cafe Iruña, it’s difficult to absorb enough pinxos and fino (fino is gorgeous dry sherry; again there’s Andalusian sub theme to this place) to rack up a bill larger than €20. The human stomach can only take so much. Unless you’re the Posies. At one point the four of us inhaled so much food and wine that the bill was more than €100. At a certain point, the waiter, impressed, simply refused to charge us further. It’s like when you eat the 72-ounce steak in Texas.

Oh, but wait, there’s more. On weekend nights, in a corner of the cafe situated so he can sell though a window to the street as well as to patrons inside, there’s a guy who just grills brochettes. Lightly curried lamb skewers. At no point is the line to access this guy’s wares less than 40 deep. They are that good.

Oh, by the way: When we played Bilbao this time, it was a Tuesday. So we missed it! It was closed by the time the show was over. So I’m writing this for therapeutic reasons.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: The Melismatics

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Melismatics

Auer: Hailing from Minneapolis, the Melismatics are, dare I say, most excellent indeed. Ryan, Pony, Mark and Ron, in this writer’s opinion, all have talent and charisma to burn, and I would rank them among the most hard-work musicians I’ve ever known. Besides having honed their music and performance to a solid T over the year, they also have a true “band feel” to them; they’re more than just a collection of musicians as each of them is complimentary to the other and seems indispensable. When it comes to what they do and how they do it, I’ve never seen them phone in anything; they always give of themselves to the nth degree. Sure, I helped produced a couple their of records, so you can call me a little biased if you like, but go see them live and I think you’ll be able to see what I mean. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be the band that has to follow them on a bill. On a more reptilian note: What do the Melismatics, a snake and myself have in common? Take a gander at their video for “Divided Devotions” and find out.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: Winter Vegetables

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Kohlrabi

Stringfellow: I have now rounded the calendar in Tours, France; when I moved my studio from Paris to the upper floor of our house, it was mid January. Now, it’s springtime, and I’ve seen part of two winters there. Our Paris flat has a kitchen so minuscule as to defeat the purpose. Our house, however, has a generous kitchen, and I reconnected with cooking in a major way. Every Wednesday and Saturday, there’s a market near us. You hipsters think you invented the farmer’s market and farm-to-table eating. My mother in law, who lives a block away from us, has been shopping at this market twice a week since Eisenhower was president. There are two sellers who have the right to hang the “AB” logo, which means they are certified organic; there’s one wonderfully cheerful grandpa who hasn’t bothered to deal with the red tape that certification would entail (remember, we’re in France) but has put up signage to say he does not use chemical products. Now, you’d need a chemist to prove that, but I take him at his word. You can, to some degree, tell by looking. Look at the impossibly large, waxen, uniformly colored fruits and vegetables at the other stands, and then the more believable items at the organic/likely to be organic stands.

The first winter I was here was a tough one—I was the guy scraping the ice off the windshield every morning for months. This winter was more mild, just one or two flurries, that seemed just for aesthetic purposes.

If you are a European, winter survival means either: a) going to a big box store and just saying fuck it (i.e., most people) or getting up close and personal with the following items: parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes … None of which I was too familiar with. In fact, kohlrabi I’d never even heard of. Here we take a little side trip. It shocked me to discover that all these veggies—cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage that’s green, cabbage that’s blue, cabbage that’s red, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts—are the same plant. Yes, it’s all one species. This shouldn’t surprise dog owners—after all, dachshunds, poodles, malamutes, huskies and chihuahuas are the same species. But honestly, our relationship on the whole with foods is so detached I think most people don’t think of chicken as the meat of a beast with feathers. They think it’s just nuggets that appear in a little cardboard boat. Anyway, I was impressed with the humble cabbage and its varietal expression, and further impressed with its durability. They say the arrival of the potato from the Andes to Europe in the 1500s saved 10 million lives, but I would hazard a guess that Europe as we know it owes its existence to cabbage. A cabbage in my fridge can sit there, unperturbed, for months, and still cook up flavorful and fresh. For those of you who, like me, had spent a large portion of their lives unaware that such a thing as kohlrabi existed, remedy that ASAP. Basically, kohlrabi is a little bulb with green skin, with crunchy white flesh inside. Denser than an apple, a tiny bit sweet, but the with sour tang of cabbage as we know it. Like a jellyfish, from the central nub extend several viney tentacles, and these leaves, like any leaves, can be cut off an cooked separately and eaten. I cook the leaves from the bunches of radishes that we buy. I juice the green fronds of our carrots with as much gusto as the carrots themselves. The flesh of the kohlrabi I prefer to eat raw. The skin is not something easily separates from the rest like with an orange; it’s more integrated (like an apple). It’s a bit rubbery so I shave most of it off. By this method, as a bonus, the result passes the test of my daughter, who has a permanent ban on anything green arriving on her plate.

Jerusalem artichokes—so named not because they were Biblical staples but because the plant that rises from these tubers looks like a sunflower, or “girasole” in Italian—are delicious, if rather powerful fart inducers. These guys are a little more fragile; if you keep them more than a week, they are edible but they get mushy and hard to peel. Better when they are stiff and solid. You have to cook the bejeezus out of them, which I do; in the end, they get browned, and dashed with vinegar. As it happens, the bay-leaf bush in our backyard is not the ornamental kind. As these are poisonous. It’s an actual bay-leaf tree, so I have dried out some branches in the basement and use these with my topinambour, which is the French name for Jersusalem artichokes.

My fancy-pants organic grocery in Paris (in my hipsterville neighborhood, there are now like four in four blocks, and there’s a boutique vinyl shop that also serves small-producer wines. Uh … ) serves up these South American root vegetables called oca. You know how it is.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: Daniel Martin Diaz And Paula Catherine Valencia

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

CrystalRadio

Auer: Indeed, this extended run of pop-up shows on the current Posies Solid States Secret Shows tour takes us to places both unlikely and unexpected. It’s not just the audiences who don’t know what or where they are eventually getting themselves into; with few notable exceptions, it’s a mystery to us as well. From a dusty backyard in Phoenix (replete with a fire pit and a few unseen scorpions, methinks) to a carpeted Unitarian church near Atlanta (where an almost Dionysian pre-show potluck occurred), no one in attendance, including us, is left wanting for variety and uniqueness. It also provides ample proof that there are many intriguing people to meet along the way, as evidenced by the sold-out turnouts and new friends and re-connections made. We decided to make a last-minute stop in Tucson on May 2 for a show at the R-Bar (adjacent to the historic Rialto Theater), and I was impressed at how bustling and vibrant the area around the venue was, even if and especially on a Monday. It was almost like being at a mini-SXSW in a way, circa 2001, when SXSW wasn’t as over-run as it is now.

This was a Posies duo show, sans drums, and we set up on the floor of the bar all-living room-style and delivered our make-it-up-as-we-go-along setlist to some real diehard fans while a series of random movie clips played on a giant screen behind us. Naturally, every once and a while, when I didn’t have to sing, I was compelled to do a 180 and take in the view the folks in the audience were getting, and I have to say, combined with a bit of residual jet lag and what can only be coined as “long-drive delirium,” the marriage of the images coupled to the sound of our music was exceptionally surreal, like we were at the epicenter of an After School Special musical version of a David Lynch film. I’m fairly certain the fact that the entire color scheme of the bar was red (chairs, walls, floors, large cactus statue on a red-brick-coffee-table type of thing—even my guitar and Ken’s keyboard were and are still red) upped the psychedelic Twin Peaks vibe ante a bit as well. To quote Bill Murray’s indelible character Carl in a key point of the movie Caddyshack, the whole scene at the R-Bar (and then by osmosis becoming a somewhat dreamlike byproduct in my overstimulated brain) on this particular evening was rather “striking.”

After the show, we stayed at a house on the outskirts of town, and our hosts for the night were Daniel Martin Diaz and Paula Catherine Valencia. Both were impeccable in their hospitality, very warm and friendly, and obviously and naturally aesthetically inclined as their home colorfully reflected a sense of symmetry and taste. Musical instruments and other sound-making devices were brought out for us to examine, and though we’d all intended to rest up after the show, somehow, quite organically, the evening morphed into a trippy drone of a jam session based on a guitar loop I created followed by some inspired late-night conversation. I discovered Daniel is a fine artist with incredible detail in his work, which is both grounded in echoes of this earth yet somehow other worldly at the same time, no easy balance to strike, in my opinion. Paula (using the stage name Amanda Poe) fronts a band that Daniel is also in called Crystal Radio. She sings with an expressive, cinematic voice, and the music sounds especially good while driving through desert terrain. At the end of said night, Daniel was generous enough to give me a bound collection of his art compiled with some writings called Soul Of Science, and it’s very impressive to say the least, a heavy sacred geometry vibe, page after page. All in all it was an evening for the book(s) (pun intended), and it really seems like they have their life together dialed in. Here’s to you, Daniel and Paula.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: Orr Hot Springs

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Orr

I really shouldn’t be telling you about this. It’s one of those things that I don’t think too many people should know about. I was dragged here by Holly Muñoz on our country-western duo tour last year. I’d noticed there were a couple days-sized hole in the itinerary, and being a guy who thinks days off are for the weak and undisciplined, I gave her no less than a king-sized ration of shit for it. “Trust me,” she said. “If it makes you feel better, we are playing both nights.”

Our car headed off the highway at Ukiah. We’d stopped to buy groceries, and we turned on to a road that wound thru the hills on endless switchbacks. Soon, our cell phones reported back that we were beyond the reach of civilization and its discontents. We pulled into what appeared to be a functioning scale model of Rivendell. A slice thru steep, redwood and pine forested mountains was populated by a motley assemblage of wooden buildings, yurts, gates, bridges and gardens that were manicured but in the most gentle of hippie stylings. We loaded our stuff on to a pushcart and wheeled it up to the main lodge and set up our gear in the dining room, around a lovely old upright piano. At one point a guy frantically thumb swiping his phone asked about the WiFi for the area. The guy at the front desk responded with nought but a bemused smile. The point of this place is to reconnect with nature and yourself.

Holly had visited Orr many times, and had even worked out a deal to barter our stay for being the musical guests for the two days. Normally that barter would be for the right to pitch a tent in the campsite, but since we were dealing with international rock star KS here, we were bumped up to private rooms, of which there are a handful. All showering communal and so is the kitchen. You bring in your own groceries, and you can make use of the incredible gas range that has something like a dozen burners. The kitchen is stocked with every kind of kitchen tool you can imagine, and there’s a plastic tub of odds and ends that people leave behind—maybe they didn’t want to pack out their unused butter, or olive oil. In general, if you were missing something, somebody had it. It’s definitely intimidating to cook with strangers around, but you have to remember they feel the same way. When you’ve done your cooking, you clean up your cookware and then sit down in the dining area to eat. It’s all quite small, there was never more than 10 people in the little dining room at one time. I would guess there’s prob 40-50 people staying at Orr at any one time. You can have a lot of space to yourself, but you also learn to share. So, after we ate, we did perform for about an hour. Note, that people weren’t really expecting us, despite the flyers that were posted here and there. And most of them were so blissed out from their day in the waters that I’m not even sure we registered. I was curious to know what they seemed to know.

After we played and did our dishes, it was time to get in the waters. Note that because the sides of the cut that Orr is situated in are so steep, it gets dark early; it adds to your sense of being out of the normal time and pace of life on the outside. Basically, there is a long building, and guests have a door code to enter. The architecture has much more in common with Neil Young’s ranch (oh, wait, you’ve never been invited to dine at Neil’s house? Well, you’ll just have to imagine, then) than some spa in the Swiss Alps, to give you the vibe. Once in the building you approach a changing area. One. For everyone. Humans of all genders ages sizes will be getting undressed around you, and so will you. It’s wonderful. No one gives a shit. The bathhouse, as it were, is a long shoebox facing sideways. So, along the long front wall, there are individual rooms, each with a bathtub. You don’t need to lock the door. You just close it, and people know the room is occupied. Each room has a bathtub that you let the water run thru; I don’t think they have stoppers. When the thing is overflowing, you just shut off the tap. and you could find a pace of running the water that keeps the tub perpetually full. So this is hot, mineral-enriched water straight from the source. There is something of a womblike experience happening here. The connection you feel to yourself and the water and the place as it all envelops you is so hypnotizing, so rejuvenating … almost out of body. On the back side of the building there are showers (the only ones for the whole place) and some large- and medium-size pools for group soaking. There’s also a steam room and sauna powered by the source. And a large swimming pool of ice-cold water for that endorphin rush post sauna. But the piéce de résistance are the tubs on the roof. There are two of them. And they were empty when we went to have a look. Like the old bathtubs in the individual rooms below, you let the water flow perpetually. Remember, you are a good 45 minutes from any town, and 20 minutes from other houses. There’s nothing around you but mountains and trees. So, you lay in this tub, and look up. At a billion billion stars. They seem to be descending in a spongy mass. The more you look, the more you see even fainter and tinier stars in places you thought were void. A star falls every five to 10 minutes. Can’t be missed. The experience cleans up your inner hard drive like no other. It’s like getting a massage from God on your very soul.

Just up the road from Orr there’s a redwood grove with trees some nine feet across and 250-feet high. We walked thru that, and I spent maybe 3 hours in one of the individual tubs. I could leave. I kept thinking, “OK, I should, uhhh uhhhhhhhxhhzhzhzhhhz.” I was in a state somewhere on the border of sleep and wakefulness. I had reached the point where my mind was no longer thinking. Just letting the moment exist without comment. I say I’ll be back, but part of me is still there, turning in the flow.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: Street Tacos

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

StreetTacos

Auer: It’s true: At a certain point in their career, before sleeping bags and sharp-dressed men were the subjects du jour, ZZ Top sang with profound conviction about the cumulative benefits of inexpensive eye shades, and with great artistic success I believe. That said, I’m going to wax on (wax on, wax off?) here for a bit (bear with me) about the relative joy and perfection that, to me, is found in a well-constructed street taco. Perhaps a little context with which to place my unbridled affection for said foodstuff is needed: I’ve been living in France for the last five years, and whenever someone decides to asks me what I miss most about no longer residing in the U.S. of A., my answer is invariably (and without hesitation), “Mexican food!” Sure, the high-end pricey stuff can be good (and in the case of a place like Manuel’s in Austin, excellent), but what really floats my boat and/or yanks my chain … does the proverbial trick … is finding that no-frills truck or stand that deals in unpretentious examples of the species, the kind that can often be had for as little as a buck.

Personally, I think the trucks are often the best for this sort of thing, and it must be said that there was a certain vehicle near the rehearsal spot I used to have in Seattle for many years that I would frequent as often as I could before I made the Transatlantic move. But, really … now, in this day and age, in arguably the golden age of portable eateries, when you start looking around the woodwork and roadsides of a majority of cities and towns in the States alike, they’re prone to being in a multitude of locations. There’s just something in the way all the flavors and ingredients come together in that street environment, the implicit simplicity of it all, and I’m especially pleased when slices of radishes are in bloom, part of the deal as well. Plus, no need to dress up or be fancy unless you want to … you can come as you are, as you would like or wish. As far as a particular place to recommend, I’d love to provide you with a personal favorite location, but these gypsy cafeterias, if you will, can be so random in their location as there’s that whole thing about them moving around. So I respectfully suggest it’s up to the reader to keep their eyes and noses peeled and sniff one out for themselves. I humbly and enthusiastically recommend you find the kind that serves their wares on a plain paper plate. Again, come as you are and dive right in. Smells like taco spirit. Polly wants a cracker—as long as that cracker is a taco. Now go and get yourself some cheap street tacos.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: Moscow Metro

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

MoscowMetro

Stringfellow: I recently enjoyed my first visit to Moscow, with Marky Ramone. Of course, in our short visit, a stop by Red Square, the Kremlin, etc., was obligatory, but for me, the best things to see in any city are the most quotidian. Moscow, even in June, was grey, cold and wet—the skies, the buildings. While looking for an elusive shoe repair (long story, not even that good of one), I stumbled thru a doorway, barely marked. And emerged into a covered market, a colorful riot of flowers, wild berries and pickled everything. Locals only. I ended up with a gorgeous, big piece of smoked salmon for a couple bucks, supplemented with blueberries and a 14%-alc.-vol. Crimean wine (I know, that would have been a Ukrainian wine just a couple years ago; I’m not happy about the Putinic maneuverings, but I open a further bracket here to say that people are what I’m interested in, not their government … with the Russian elections being what they are, it’s not like these people even chose this path), a cab merlot blend. So, a highly antioxidant lunch.

I think the most iconic sight to see in Moscow that’s of the people, for the people, is the Metro system. Much of it was built in the 1930s, with important extensions in the following decades, and hell, they’re still adding to it to this day. 200 stations, and counting. Like many Soviet designs, the idea of the individual is made to feel small, but also safe in the shelter of an all-encompassing, cradle-to-grave collective might. 400-foot escalators descend to huge galleries. Bas-reliefs, heroic bronzes, gilt gewgaws, wood paneling … it’s like a tunnel-shaped hunting lodge designed by Liberace.

The trains I rode on were the original, boxy “A Type,” but there are sleeker trains out there somewhere. I was glad to be on the old-school devices. They may be ancient, but they were comfortable, and much quieter than the squeaky howls of the NYC Subway or the Paris Metro. Now, I’ve made a successful solo navigation of the Tokyo Subway, etc.; I can tell you the Moscow Metro is not for the faint of heart, unless you read Russian. Signage in Latin alphabet was nearly nonexistent; even if you just memorize the names of places … the terminus is not always listed as the destination. I needed a guide, for sure; thank heavens for Elena, the contest-winning designer of the Posies album artwork for Solid States. Elena’s a design student and while working in the campus bookstore, vaguely rabbit-hole-ing thru the internet, stumbled upon the Creative Allies “design album art for the Posies” contest, submitted a design that freely ignored our guidelines, and was, in the end much more imaginative than what we thought we were looking for. She said the images came to her mind instantly, and then it was a matter of carefully drawing, by hand, the complete cover. She sent me a snapshot of her test sketches … and, of course, she did the song title lettering by hand. Remember, she was using letters that she had never really used before. It was fun to see she had to figure out which way an “S” goes, for example.

We took a detour to another line, so she could show me Ploshad Revolutsii station, where heroic bronzes, just a little larger than life size, leap out of niches in the walls: men with guns and grenades at the ready to fight and die for the Motherland, and women with scythes and chickens and what not. On either side of the exit archway, a man holds back a noble-looking guard dog, and it’s meant to be good luck to rub his snout on the way out of the station.

There have been several deadly bombings over the years, a derailment … and one time a company illegally decided to erect a billboard in the city (Dobro pozhalovat’, kapitalizm!!)—the pile driver managing to drive a pile right thru the roof of the station into a moving train, miraculously killing no one. The Metro has survived a world war and was largely built to withstand a third one; in fact, there’s a TV series called Metro that depicts a post-nuclear-war society that lives on in the Moscow Metro network.

Marky’s show in Moscow was immense: 2,000 kids moshing and fist pumping and singing along with every word. I hugged kids and did selfies and autographs for almost two hours after the show. Then it was over, and these kids wandered out into the night, and surely descended into the modern marvel that is the Моско́вский метрополите́н.

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From The Desk Of The Posies: Dynamo Royale

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

DynamoRoyale

Auer: Dynamo Royale started as a casual idea to record a single song with Tiz Aramini, who’d I’d known very well since the mid-’90s. Back in the day, I remember her giving me a cassette tape of her music and being a little scared of the possibility that I wouldn’t like it. However, the complete opposite occurred. Turned out that Tiz had spent several years studying piano at a conservatory in France, and then she discovered other music like the Pixies and Juliana Hatfield and kind of gave the middle finger to her classical past and started writing her own songs. The byproduct of her training was that her compositions were and are often filled with unique chord progressions and unexpected melodies, and I was super impressed, as they have their own stamp and flavor. I produced her first solo record in 1999 in London for the most part (with Darius Minwalla on drums as well), and in 2004, she did her second solo record with session/touring ace Jeremy Stacey at the helm. Cut to a few years ago, around 2011, and the idea for Tiz and I to do one song together turned in to eight songs in just a couple of weeks and then eventually our full-length record Straight On The Diagonal. It kind of just happened and was totally unexpected, and then we fell in love as part of the deal as well. We try to downplay the part about us being couple and married, but there’s no way around it … we are! That said, we want the work to speak for itself, and I really think there are songs on our record that don’t really sound quite like anything else like anything else. It’s a true collaboration with us, usually starting with her full arrangement and chords for a song and me finishing the vocal lines we share and trade and most of the lyrics. She’s the reason I made that Transatlantic move five years ago, and I’m super glad that I did. Follow your heart indeed.

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