Headed out to my favorite San Francisco motorbike event today – the Dirtbag Challenge. If you’re not familiar, basically it’s a loosely “organized” annual contest where folks build crazy-ridiculous bikes for less than $1000 (including the cost of the bike) in thirty days or less. Good clean American fun, in a “Wow, I can’t believe the cops still haven’t shown up” kind of way.

The entries are always very interesting, and the bonus is all the cool bikes people ride to the event. Pretty sure that I lost the last remaining bits of hearing I had during a particular smokey burnout session. Never mind the chunks of burned-up tires in my lungs.

Quote of the day that pretty much sums up the event : while waiting for the bikes to come in from the required ride – the bikes have to be rideable – we overheard two dudes talking. “Oh, maybe this is them coming in now… no, wait – those don’t sound sketchy enough.” Someone else pointed out that the headlights seemed too bright, to which I responded “That, and they have headlights.” Seriously, some of these bikes are amazing pieces of work and some of them are just plain dangerous.

Anyways… super fun as always. Check out the pics – maybe by next year I’ll learn how to use my camera. Or maybe I’ll build a bike instead.

One of my amazing colleagues at ROI DNA, Mark Chasse, recently introduced me to Red Fang by sending me a link to the video for “Wires.”

First, I really dig this band – I downloaded the album (yes, album) “Murder The Mountains” almost immediately and have been bobbing my head to it quite a bit during my walk to work. Red Fang sounds to me like (stealing a bit from Blaine Cartwright here) Fu Manchu making out with Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden while Black Sabbath watches. Maybe Helmet shows up later to get in on the fun.

OK, never mind the crazy-ridiculous attempts at describing Red Fang’s sound. I like it. A lot.

I gave up on music videos about the same time music videos started existing. It’s true that videos can occasionally add something that the song cant’ do on its own, but I think that videos are mostly just really bad marketing of really bad bands. I go out of my way to avoid them, as I do with most things that I find to be offensively stupid.

The gentlemen in Red Fang, however, make some awesome videos. Rockin’, fun, and hilarious – right up my alley. Check out “Wires” and “Prehistoric Dog” below.



Written on June 11th, 2011 , Rock 'n' Roll Tags: , , , , ,

It’s well known that I’m a big fan of stripped-down, old school rock ‘n’ roll. So when I heard Wanda Jackson was coming to the Great American Music Hall here in SF, I bought tickets immediately.

The show was last night. Wow. Seriously – wow. What an incredible show. Wanda kicked ass. Her voice was on. Red Meat did a great job of backing her up, too.

The awesomeness of this show is certainly a commentary on the simmering cauldron of weaksauce that is modern “rock ‘n’ roll” but that could de-emphasize how much she rocked. Let me say it again – Wanda Jackson rocks. I’ve seen a LOT of shows, and two things stood out for me:

  1. Wanda is in her mid-seventies now, and I believed her rockin’. She was totally into it – the real deal.
  2. The audience loves Wanda. The constant screaming and cheering reminded me of the old tapes of crowds going nuts for rock stars when rock ‘n’ roll was still new.

It turns out I’m not immune to a bit of nostalgia, either. I almost teared up when she talked about how Elvis inspired and encouraged her (a young country-western singer at the time) to try this new kind of music that they didn’t even have a name for yet.

So here are some crappy iPhone pictures from the show. I wish they were better, and I hope they convey at least a little of the awesomeness of Wanda. Angelica and I had a hell of a time.

One of the most useful pieces of feedback I’ve gotten from my mentors is “You rock. Don’t be so uncomfortable calling yourself an expert.” I hate talking about myself – it always feels like an exercise in self-aggrandizement, even if I’m just saying “Yeah, I guess I make a pretty good cup of coffee.” So every time I have to come up with any sort of bio, I agonize over it way more than I should, worrying that I’m not quite dialing the mixture of  my skills, knowledge and expertise with my punk/rock ‘n’ roll/DIY/gearhead roots and attitude.

Anyway, I had to write a new bio this week. Here’s my rough draft:

“Surj is a seasoned, passionate ecommerce devotee with experience in many industries. An online marketing generalist with deep experience in all forms of customer acquisition and retention, he’s most passionate about email marketing, search marketing, and affiliate programs. A die-hard gearhead, if he’s not contemplating his latest world domination perfect customer acquisition plan, Surj is most likely riding his motorbike in search of good rock ‘n’ roll or coffee.”

Aw crap, I forgot “Likes to play poker, but not very well.”

Before I rock ‘n’ roll saved my soul – in the form of punk and metal – the only music I knew was old country. (Well, country and church hymns, but that’s another story for another time.) My parents listened to a lot of good old country music: Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones – lots of good stuff.

In my early teens, I rejected this music, but slowly returned to it as I overcame my knee-jerk, anti-“my parents’ music” mentality. It helped that some of my punk rock idols were clearly influenced by country music, from early honky tonk to later outlaw tunes. Later on, as my taste in music progressed beyond “louder, faster, more” I couldn’t get these old songs out of my head.

Anyway, I found this video on the YouTube tonight: Johnny Paycheck playing “The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” at Chillicothe Prison in Ohio in 1993, post prison time and “Johnny Bankrupt.” He’s introduced by none other than Merle Haggard. Paycheck and the band are really cookin’ – it’s magical.

Written on September 21st, 2010 , Rock 'n' Roll Tags: , , , ,

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Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician