Kevin Spracher

Almost Independent writing contest

<font size="+1"><strong>Kevin Spracher</strong></font><br />
Kevin is a 20-year-old wannabe rock star who writes in his spare time. Although his roots are deep in Santa Barbara, he'll be attending UCLA as an English major in the fall. His band, Die Don Romero, has played three shows, including one paying gig for which the band received a grand total of $10.
Paul Wellman

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #1 (from Sound & Fury, Independent vol. 74)

Various Artists, Family Album

The problem with the majority of the songs in this compilation is that they begin promisingly but quickly grow tiresome. Mariee Sioux’s “Two Tongues at One Time” opens with an overflowing acoustic guitar and fluttering vocals, but after six minutes becomes obnoxious. The standard folk tunes by Alela Diane, Aaron Ross, and Golden Shoulders are nothing to get excited about either. While many of the bands sound almost identical, Hella’s instrumental “Friday the 13th,” with its wildly erratic percussion and distorted guitar, is completely out of sync with the others. Ultimately, Grass Roots’s Family Album is like any other family reunion: There’s nothing unexpected, it goes on longer than you’d like, and there’s that crazy uncle who doesn’t belong.

ONLINE ESSAY #1: Why I want to be a Music Writer

Being a music writer for The Santa Barbara Independent would be my absolute dream job because it encompasses everything I am interested in and passionate about. I have lived in Santa Barbara since I was five years old and know that it is the greatest city in the world, making The Independent the greatest newspaper in the world. I love anything to do with music, from creating it in my band to debating the pros and cons of a new album with my friends.

Writing is my second passion. I am transferring to UCLA as a junior majoring in English next fall. While I haven’t published anything yet, my English teachers will tell you that my style is mature and my unique voice shines through in all of my work. My writing has achieved recognition in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in which I was twice accepted into the 10-10-10 competition for films with original screenplays that I wrote. I am reliable, funny, a great writer, and have excellent taste. Most importantly, I am incredibly modest. Basically this competition was made for me and can’t wait to start writing for The Independent.

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #2 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 75)

TRAINSPOTTING: Kyle Gass will be performing in Santa Barbara for the second time this year, but not as the second half of comedy folk duo Tenacious D. Gass will be returning with his southern-rock-meets-alt-rock group, Trainwreck, at Velvet Jones on June 17. The Lynyrd Skynyrd-inspired quintet comes complete with tasty guitar riffs, Jack Black-esque vocals, the occasional flute solo, and even some train whistles. They are definitely a group of performers, all going by ridiculous pseudonyms and sporting even more ridiculous wigs. And even if the music were awful-which it isn’t-they’d still be fun just to watch. The show will be the first on Trainwreck’s Pacific Rimjob Tour and they will be sure not to disappoint

ONLINE ESSAY #2: My first concert experience

Not counting Dave Brubeck at the Santa Barbara Jazz Festival, the first big concert I ever went to was a special fundraiser featuring Weezer, The Offspring, and No Doubt at the massive Long Beach Arena. It was my freshman year of high school and all of the bands were near the height of their popularity. Thanks to Ticketmaster, my friend and I ended up in the very back top row of the venue so that you’d need a telescope to see the performers clearly.

By sheer coincidence, there were some older kids from our high school that we only vaguely knew sitting right next to us. We must have looked like big dorks with our freshly purchased Weezer shirts pulled over the ones we were wearing and big grins wiped across our faces, but apparently they didn’t care. While it might have been due to the funny smelling smoke that collected around our heads, something caused us all to bond that night and by the end of the show we were arm in arm singing along with Gwen Stefani and Rivers Cuomo. Since then we have been to many more shows together but that night remains to be one of the best.

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #3 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 75)

ROCK THE BOAT: There will be no shortage of loud guitars, fast punk beats, and gritty vocals at a show by four bands hell-bent on rocking until your ears bleed. The night will definitely prove to be hard-hitting with the Denver-based band Git Some as well as Drunken Boat, coming in from Portland, Oregon. But the South Coast won’t be forgotten, since it will be represented by Ventura locals Glass and Ashes and The Fucking Wrath. Come celebrate the joy of rock on the evening of June 26 at La Casa de la Raza and see some of the best hardcore/punk bands the Wild West has to offer.

ONLINE ESSAY #3: My dream interview

Picking one musician to interview can be quite a dilemma, especially when the choice includes anyone living or dead. My first instinct was to go for one of the big shots like John Lennon. But I realized that if I actually had the power to contact Lennon from beyond the grave for a five question interview the pressure would be about the same as having to interview Jesus and I would probably be crucified if I screwed it up. After several days of deliberation, considering the many factors, I finally arrived at one of the greatest contributors to modern rock music, Dave Grohl. From drumming for Nirvana to fronting the Foo Fighters, the man has had a widespread and influence in music. If anyone has the secret to being a successful musician and writing hit songs, it’s Grohl. My hope in interviewing him would be to discover his personal connection to music and learn something from his experience. Here’s what I would ask him:

1. Where do you think you’d be today if Nirvana hadn’t ended?

2. What is your songwriting process from start to finish?

3. What was the best performance or best time you’ve had performing in any band?

4. How did Jack Black and Kyle Gass ever talk you into drumming for them in Tenacious D?

5. You have been a musician for almost your whole life and are always working on something new or are on some world tour, what drives you to work so hard and can you imagine doing anything else?

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #4 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 76)

TIME WARP: With dozens of bands in the lineup and action sports in between, the Vans Warp Tour has something for everyone. The lucky 13th year of the tour will be no exception, offering the same great combination of fresh sounds and established talent we’ve all grown accustomed to. Fronting the show will be punk legends Bad Religion, The Vandals, and Pennywise-but not without the support of younger bands like The Used, Coheed and Cambria, Yellowcard, and Circa Survive. The diversity continues with the straight-edge heroes of Throwdown, Canadian rapper k-os, reggae-ska hybrid Pepper, along with many others. So get your tickets, put on some sunscreen, and head out to Ventura’s Seaside Park on June 30 for an unforgettable day of music.

ONLINE ESSAY #4: Cover song that eclipsed the original

When I first heard the No Doubt cover of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life,” I was disappointed. Gwen and Co. truly did a great job replicating the original, but that’s why it was so unexciting. The best covers come from bands that take a song and turn it into something that is completely their own. That’s why Johnny Cash’s album of covers was so successful. That’s also why I love Iron & Wine’s cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.”

Postal Service’s Ben Gibbard, also the lead singer for Death Cab for Cutie, first recorded the song as an upbeat electro-pop anthem. But when Sam Beam of Iron & Wine got his hands on the track, he morphed it into sorrowful folk ballad. I actually love the original Postal Service version, but by simplifying it down to the bare roots of the haunting melody and simple acoustic guitar, Beam gives the song a whole new meaning. The end result is a much more powerful and heart wrenching experience for the listener. The Postal Service did most of the hard work by creating a wonderful song, but Iron & Wine finished the job by turning it into a modern classic.

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #5 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 77)

NO USE FOR A CLEVER TITLE: For a band to still be playing shows together after 20 years is accomplishment enough, but to still be entertaining and enjoy doing it is like climbing Mt. Everest : twice. If that’s true, then consider the punk rock band No Use For a Name mountain-climbing rock stars. “We’re pretty energetic,” said modest lead singer and guitarist Tony Sly. “For us it’s more like the show isn’t just us, but us and the crowd. We’re so accustomed to having intimate shows where the crowd is right next to you, so the energy is really good.”

The energy will continue for the several West Coast dates that No Use will be playing this summer to support the release of their new best-of album, All the Best Songs. You’ll want to pick it up on Tuesday, July 10, the same day they’ll be in S.B. playing Velvet Jones. Sly promises a great show with some new material, along with 20 years’ worth of high-powered classics to back them up.

ONLINE ESSAY #5: Cover song that eclipsed the original

Green Day’s latest album, American Idiot, isn’t really that bad, but it’s definitely not the best rock album of 2005 – thanks, Grammys – or of any year, for that matter. The triumphant “rock opera” was incredibly well received by critics as well as the general public and thousands of Hot Topic aficionados. Granted, the songs are catchy and I probably wouldn’t mind them if they weren’t played every second of the day on the radio and in commercials, but the fact that it was described as innovative drives me crazy. What people called musically ground breaking to me just sounded like worn out pop-punk power chords. The “inspiring” and “thought provoking” lyrics about war, politics and suburbia are unoriginal and lack creativity. If anybody should receive credit for this album it should be Green Day’s PR person for selling America a mediocre product as the greatest thing in the world.

ONLINE ESSAY #6: The polite bashing

Marvelous Mackie Mauled

Most bands would have canceled their show after a violent incident with a mountain lion, but Drew Mackie and the Macaroons is no ordinary band. Mackie should receive credit for determination, but his performance proved to be not as inspiring. The confusion began right off the bat as Mackie’s back up band was not really a band at all, but literally two macaroons set on a stool next to him. Looking strangely like a mummy from the extensive bandages, Mackie opened with a song that he introduced as, “the greatest song ever written, ever!” Much like the rest of Mackie’s songs it consisted of a drum machine, a 20-minute-long electric banjo solo and Mackie’s signature high-pitched squeal. As the four-hour set progressed and more of the audience left, Mackie became increasingly irritated with remaining crowd members, berating anyone who was talking to loudly or didn’t pay close enough attention. In defense of his poor behavior, he had clearly lost a large amount of blood, which still continued to ooze from his ears.

The most embarrassing moment of the night was when Mackie announced he would play a new original song called, “My Heart”. Just moments into the song it was obvious that it was actually a pitiful rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, from the Titanic soundtrack. After the nine-song encore, Mackie stumbled from the stage and passed out just outside of the club. It was an interesting night that will be remembered by everyone who was there, except probably Drew Mackie.

ONLINE ESSAY #7: “Seeking Writing Fame, Finding Myself”

I learned much more from this competition than I ever expected to. First of all, I learned that I still have a long way to go if I want to be a good writer and also that writing even a satisfactory review isn’t as easy as it may seem. Something I didn’t expect to learn was that not all country music is bad, and that I actually like some of it. I listen for different things in an album now and think about different aspects of a concert. I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone and found some new music that I really enjoy.

This competition showed me that sometimes there isn’t a clear winner. I was very close to being eliminated several times throughout the competition, but I was lucky enough to make it to the end. I know that all of the other competitors had the necessary skills to make it just as far as I did. It really could be any one of them in my position. I am just grateful to have gained this experience and hope that I get to continue growing as a writer so that someday I may be good enough to write in the real world, not in a contest.

IN-PRINT SAMPLE #6: Incubus review

Everybody knows that Santa Barbara is a laid back community, but that doesn’t mean we want to hear laid back set lists from the bands that visit us. Incubus started off strong last Thursday at the Bowl but faded out as the night wore on, ending with some of their calmer songs. To start things off, the five band members sauntered out to the stage, illuminated by spiraling red and white lights that imitated the cover of their latest album, Light Grenades. They warmed the crowd up with “Quicksand,” the mellow first track from that album. With the audience properly thawed, the boys flowed seamlessly into the energetic “Kiss to Send Us Off,” bringing the house to its feet.

The band was tight, well rehearsed, and sounded fantastic. Lead singer Brandon Boyd’s voice was unwavering and the musicians didn’t make a single mistake the entire night. In between songs, they wasted no time, usually just giving a quick “thank you.” The most anybody said was when Boyd told the audience they looked, sounded, and smelled great. In truth, the band seemed somewhat disinterested in what the audience had to offer. Boyd did little to engage his crowd and there wasn’t that much movement or excitement on stage even when songs like “Anna-Molly” and “Megalomaniac” seemed to require it.

I asked a friend who recently saw an Incubus show down south, and he said they had performed exactly the same at that show, except that Boyd said even less to the L.A. audience. The only other difference was that the set list was longer and much more powerful.

After playing 13 songs, Incubus left the stage at only 9:15pm, and of course the audience begged for more with screams of “45-minute encore!” When they finally returned they played an anticlimactic set of three songs, finishing with “Aqueous Transmission” from Morning View. The song was beautiful and created a relaxed vibe as Boyd repeated “I’m floating down a river” to the twang of an oriental string instrument called a Pipa, but as a closer it was weak and came across as a let down.

All things considered, Incubus did exactly what they were there supposed to do. They played a good variety of songs and musically they were flawless. There were definitely some excellent highlights, such as Boyd’s meandering around the stage with two handheld spotlights during “Oil & Water” and every ripping guitar solo that Mikey Einziger pumped out. I guess I’m more worked up about the fact that rock bands use the Bowl as an excuse to chill out. Word to the wise: Don’t let the fact that you have to finish before 10pm fool you. It just means you need to rock us harder and faster.


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