DID YOU READ

IT’S LIKE THAT: McMusic Memories

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People get weepy when stadiums close down (see: Yankee Stadium) and legendary music venues go out–or are forced out–of business (see: CBGB’s), so it should come as no surprise that one can get a little nostalgic when certain fast food restaurants are leveled to the ground (see: Shaler McDonald’s).

This week, one of our Indie Ear contributors (the one who’s nuts about Madonna) informed me that my former place of employment back in Pittsburgh, Shaler McDonald’s, was whacked with a wrecking ball and is no more.

I spent seven-and-a-half years of my life in that building. Most of those years were spent flipping hamburgers. The other years (if you want to keep count) were used to figure out how I was going to quit and find another job, flirt with a girl who I would later marry, sneak my friends extra cheeseburgers and apple pies when I worked the drive-thru window, and make countless memories along the way (many of those related to music):

1.) McDonald’s first all-female punk rock group: Psycho Bitch
2.) Jason Andracki, McDonald’s heavy metal connoisseur.
3.) Milkweed performing one of their first shows in pink McD’s shirts.
4.) D-Boiz borrowing some McDonald’s attire for a photo shoot.
5.) Another musical group formed at Shaler McDonald’s: Deck-of-Jack
6.) McDonald’s uniforms made for great soccer uniforms.
7.) World Cup Champions (1998)
8.) Deck-of-Jack’s McDonald’s-inspired concept album, Shock Box

When I started working at McDonald’s we had one muzak channel that consisted of nothing but contemporary instrumental music. Imagine the joy that filled the grill area when a new muzak system was installed giving us the option of three channels: 1.) Contemporary Instrumental 2.) Adult Contemporary w/ Lyrics and 3.) Pop/Rock. Guess which one we chose? Boyz II Men and Def Leppard ballads never sounded so good. Years and years of classic McDonald’s sing-a-longs ensued.

The grill area–my place of expertise–was also a great place to talk music. The Morrison brothers loved talking about country music, the Craft brothers–who always wore their uniform pants way under their butt cheeks–listened to nothing but hip-hop, Jason Andracki was a heavy metal encyclopedia, Bob Kurtz loved Tool and Pantera, Eric Lengyel adored Dream Theater, and Doug Behling, well, he would punch you as hard as he could (no lie) if you didn’t listen to anything but hard rock in the crew room. Though I hated getting punched, I have to give Doug credit, because he was the first person to introduce me to Black Sabbath and Nirvana (he was also the first person I ever saw with the Nevermind album).

In the early 90’s, McDonald’s also inspired me to start a rap group. For one reason or another it seemed like a good idea to have a rap crew called the Mickey D Boys–who dressed up in McDonald’s attire and rhymed only about the golden arches. Fortunately, the odd conception in my head never came to fruition, although I did eventually start a rap group called the D-Boiz, and years later–more of an ode to the Beastie Boys than McDonald’s–we began dressing in McD’s jumpsuits that we borrowed from our store’s maintenance man.

My crowing McDonald’s musical achievement though, came in the summer of 1997. My goal was to start an all-female punk group consisting solely of McDonald’s crewmembers. Taking the role of Malcom McLaren, I decided to christen the band with an over-the-top, Sex Pistols-inspired moniker: Psycho Bitch.

The girl I flirted with (aka, my future wife) was really good on guitar, so she was my first recruit. The lead singer was also an obvious choice, since she was as punk rock as they come. She didn’t dress like a punk rocker or even listen to punk rock music–but–one day when the nearby Burger King began a promotion promising any McDonald’s worker a free Big King sandwich if they came in wearing their uniform, not only did Natalie take them up on their offer, but she also took the free sandwich out of its wrapper, said a couple expletives, and spiked the Big King off the floor–special sauce and all. How punk rock is that? Burger King called the police and Natalie became an instant celebrity.

Once Natalie’s friend Emily caught wind that she was going to be in a punk band, she also wanted in on the action, so Emily became our bass player. Since drummers are hard to come by–let alone female drummers–I decided I would play drums (although I made sure to stay way in the back, so all the focus could be on the girls).

That summer we wrote six songs together, taught Emily how to play bass (it was quick learning, since she was only responsible for playing 3-4 notes a song), and Natalie took it upon herself to horde up on pig Beanie-Baby Happy Meal Toys.

At the end of the summer, during my annual Wiffle Ball Classic festival, where a bunch of local bands would play out of my garage, Psycho Bitch made their debut. A lot of McDonald’s workers came, expecting it to be a joke, but midway through the set, I looked out from behind the drum kit and saw pure surprise and joy on everyone’s face–Psycho Bitch was actually GOOD!

The set culminated with a song called “Little Piggie.” During the chorus, Natalie tossed hundreds of Beanie Babies out into the crowd (the same ones she was smuggling throughout the summer). Fittingly, my dream of starting a female punk group consisting of my fellow McD’s co-workers came to life on the same day I saw pigs fly.

Like Yankee Stadium (see: above) Shaler McDonald’s is being rebuilt. The new multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art store will be prettier on the eyes and more spacious than the previous McDonald’s, but I can tell you this, it’s gonna take a long, long time before it even comes close to matching the memories that took place in that old pile of rubble.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.