Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Da Diddley Qa Qa

I woke up with this diabolical ear-worm from my school days. So, in true UCB fashion - I give it to you.

Truth be told, I still like that video. Your money or your life indeed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

On Popularity

The rise in popularity of certain things are not always a bad thing to me. I'm speaking just for myself when I say that I watch American Idol just as much as I did in the first season. Is American Idol popular? Yes. Is it cool and hip to watch American Idol? No. Am I a turd because I watch it? Probably (a fully entertained turd I might add). The Coyote once tried to kick me in the nards because of my love for American Idol but luckily I was wearing a cup that day. He did however successfully leave coyote scat in my duffel bag. Grrrross.

Anyway, with all this talk about popularity, boredom, keepin' it real, scat, let's all take a moment to remember what is really important about the ukulele and the ukulele community: Strumming patterns. Chunk each day as if it were your last. Chunkity chunk chunk.

Has anybody else been enjoying the fireworks on the forums lately? They nearly burned off my eyebrows but they were damn fantastic. The whole shit storm that went down seems to have sparked some pretty good conversations on the matter. As for the people that made it personal and scolded UCB for having an opinion, follow these three steps:

1. drink the kool-aid
2. look in the mirror and wave "hello" to the lemming
3. jump off a cliff

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Don’t misinterpret this as an apology or a back-pedal. I still feel the rise in popularity of the uke takes some of the charm away. I also still think that many players make the uke less fun simply by being bland, unoriginal, let’s face it – lame people who could suck the fun out of clown school. That said, I thought I’d follow up my last post with some reasons why I love the uke – and more specifically, uke players who suck less. I’m not talking about ability – I’m talking about authenticity and honesty.

Let’s start with Mike up there. He’s authentic, generous, kind, and very real. No pretense, no bullshit. I may resent the rise in popularity of my favorite instrument, but there is no doubt that without it I wouldn’t have met folks like Mike. That would be a tragedy, quite simply, the Mike’s make this world a better place.

And although they have enough combined hate to power a space station, the rest of the UCB gang do their part too. Honesty, loyalty, and one hell of a sense of humor – again, without the uke and its baggage of jackasses I wouldn’t have met you lot and been compelled to fly all around the country just to jam, drink, and make fun of everyone else. My life would be substantially less without all of you in it.

I could list dozens of others – From Krabbers, to Shas, to BaronK, KenM, newcomers like Little6ster, and most of our commenters below… who through authenticity alone outweigh a thousand Nunes wannabes and bring enough originality to bury the Plain White T’s under mountains of real music.

I used to think that without the uke I never would have written a song, returned to the stage, or fallen back in love with music.

But it’s not the uke. It’s you. The people. The real ones. The ones who open a vein and bleed their insides all over YouTube. The ones not afraid to wear a dress and a wig to make a friend laugh. The ones who sing to their chickens. The ones who are so frightened that they shake on video, but play anyway. The ones who challenge others. The ones who challenge me. The ones who throw pies. The ones who poke fun. The ones who tell the truth.

So if you wonder how I draw the line between “suck”, and “suck-less”, that’s it. Authenticity, honesty, and heart.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ukulele Reality Check

The ukulele craze has spawned a million Jason Mrazes and Julia Nunes. Boo hoo. I think those of us who are depressed that the ukulele is increasing in popularity are missing the big picture. Ukulele impresario Jake Shimabukuro said it best when he stated:

I really believe that the ukulele is the instrument of peace. If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place.

And I agree. And yes, if everyone played the ukulele, you would hear a billion "I'm Yours" covers heard on a million street corners. But.


You would also get a million little moments like this:

Isn't this worth the price of popularity?

Monday, March 22, 2010

On Golfers and Trends...

First a disclaimer. It is very likely that something in this post is going to piss you off. It's just my opinion. Try not to take it personally (it is NOT aimed at anyone in particular), and try not to hold the rest of the UCB responsible.

Ok. Now a story. I promise this long-winded rant has a point related to recent posts... hang in there.

A few years ago I accidentally took up golf. I went to a local range with some friends on a whim and discovered I not only liked it, but was pretty darn good at it. I was raised as poor white trash. No one golfed where I came from when I was a kid. It was a huge surprise and a refreshing change. I liked the "walk in the park" aspect, and I liked the beer. So I bought some cheap clubs and for a couple of years golfed through the summers.

But I gradually discovered two things.

First, the more I golfed, the more golf gained popularity in these parts. It had nothing to do with me - just a local trend based on income, social status, yadda, yadda... Random, but the crowds started coming.

Second - I realized I hated golfers. I mean hate. Not all, but certainly most. They were almost universally arrogant rich white guys who not only didn't give a crap about anything I considered worthwhile, but sucked the fun out of every trip to the links. From parking lot rudeness, to 6th hole rage, to pinching the beer-girl's ass - every interaction made golf far less fun for me.

So I quit. It simply wasn't worth the bull shit those ass-clowns brought to the party. Even though I liked it, even though I was good at it - it became tedium and I walked away. I didn't want to be "that guy" and I didn't want to be with "that guy".

But it wasn't just the golfers. It was also the rise in popularity. I have a character that tends to value the obscure and self-discovered things in life. General popularity - especially by parts of our culture I have no respect for can take the value away from something for me. Take movies - I hate Forrest Gump. Not just because it was a sub-par tear jerker, but because of it's inexplicable popularity with people who wouldn't know a good movie if it shit in their hat. Any small enjoyment I got out of Forrest Gump was striped away by the fact that it was popular with people I had little respect for.

I think you see where this is going.

I play much less uke today then I did a year ago. It's not because I like it less. I still write with it - I do grab it a few times a week. But I'm reluctant to perform with it these days. It may make me a bad person, but I want nothing to do with the types of people I see flocking to the uke lately. The second I saw a uke on American Idol I felt some of the fun and joy literally ripped away. Now that 2 or 3 uke players appear on every season of that heartless abomination of a show, it's like someone killed my favorite puppy.

It's not just American Idol. The relatively minor (but still significant in terms of YouTube) popularity of folks like Julia Nunes and Wade Johnston have ushered in what I consider to be a massive wave of bland, self-indulgent, musically uninspired, and generally annoying and rude players. Again - not all, but most. Much like the afore mentioned golfers - they make the playground less fun for me. Every single time I break my uke out in public I'm asked if I play any Julia, or Molly, or Jason Mraz. It's like a stick in the eye.

Not that the above people are not talented... they clearly are - and I'm not delusional about my own talent. I have zero aspirations about becoming a star of any kind. I really do this for my own satisfaction and for my friends. But again, through a quirk or flaw in my character - popularity with folks I want nothing to do with will suck the fun out of nearly anything for me.

I'll always play uke, but as the popularity increases, particularly with the spoiled sub-urban kids with shitty taste in music, more and more of the charm disappears for me.

So when I read a post like the one below from Deach, I wonder how much of this is true at some level for all of us. How much of the malaise we feel from time to time is about the golf - and how much is about the golfers.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I am coming up on my 2 year anniversary playing the tiny guitar and frankly, I no longer have any interest in it. Even after a triumphant opening set for a national touring band, a February/March songasm and a custom uke ready to be delivered, I am really bored with it. The forum I frequent is full of the same stupid crap. I used to be able to read every post but now, just reading the titles makes me want smack someone's mother for not swallowing. Receiving my UU Undiez award in the mail yesterday reminded me of how fun it used to be creating videos and collabz, yet I really don't care about YT anymore.

Has this happened to you? How do you get out of it? Do I really want to get out of it? I know...I should start a thread on the forumz.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Four Stringz = Too Many?

I've noticed what might be labeled a "trend" with formerly hard-core ukulele aficionados. It seems that we are gravitating to instruments that have 3 strings or less! My evidence? Well, me for one. I just received this instrument in the mail(link):

It's a dulcimer neck on a Grizzy kit ukulele body. A uke-cimer? Dulcilele? Anyway, I can't play it anywhere close to this good. But I'm gonna try.

More evidence? How about UCB's resident troubadour, GrumpyCoyote (link):

Yep, that's a 3-string Strumstick he's picking. Pretty awesome, huh? And I've heard a rumor that RussBuss is rockin' out lately on a 1-stringed thingy. Can't confirm that tho.

But why is this happening? I blame subterfuge on the part of some ukulele newcomers who came to the uke from these other instruments. They spent time convincing us they were ukers through and through, but then start injecting other instruments into their videos. Like Ctrymaus (link):

Who can resist this?

As for the future, look for my dulcimer cover of Bucks Fizz's "Land of Make Believe". And RussBuss will soon tug at your heartstrings with a touching cover of "Faith" on the erhu.

Until then, enjoy this amazing performance by Joni Mitchell playing "California" on the dulcimer (link).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

this has been discussed here before but i'm bringing it back up for more h8t.

okay i get it! it's a daunting task to have to choose between the hundreds of ukuleles that are available out there. there are many things to consider when choosing a uke: brands, sizes, laminate or solid, cutaway or no cutaway. it's a tough decision narrowing it down to which ukulele you want to drop your hard earned money on. so you want complete strangers' opinions on which uke you should buy, fair enough.


after wading through (and ignoring) all the varied advice and making a final decision on a uke that you probably would have picked without all the input, you now are unsure of which color to get. so you ask the public for their help....their help on picking a color. really? can't even pick your own color?!!?

"yeah yeah, i know it's all personal preference, but which color should i get?"

does momma tie your shoes too?

Monday, March 15, 2010

As if One Key Weren't Enough...

How about in 2 keys?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Undie Awards Were Great and All, But...

Here's my "people's choice" from last year. Over 1k views and only 20 something ratings. I think that says it all.
Congrats to all the winners... but I think we all win with this video.

Friday, March 5, 2010

UU Undies Awards

The Ukulele Underground Undies Awards show takes place tomorrow, Saturday, Mar. 6th at 2pm Hawaii Standard Time (4pm Pacific, 7pm Eastern). It's sort of like the MTV Music Awards but a THOUsand times less lame. Instead of Lady Gaga dressed as a skanky tampon with raccoon eyes, you'll have Rayan and Aldrine announcing the year's best ukulele videos while Aaron stir fries vegetables behind the camera. The show is usually very entertaining if not only for the chat trolling possibilities. Also, there are scheduled performances from some of your favorite YouTube ukers. (not me though, they only asked "good" uke players, FEA)

Until the show begins, watch this Emmy nominated opener from last year's show:

Monday, March 1, 2010


Recorded in 1987, this performance by Thomas Allander is notable on a few levels - his great performance, his flying strum and his excellent stage presence. But it's at about 1:43 into the performance that it made me EL - OH - EL.

And Russ, he's got a similar idea to yours.