Secret Bonus Level presents:
First things first:
So let’s talk about something. The weather is changing. Literally and figuratively. I know you must’ve felt one if not the other. And On this special fund drive broadcast of Secret Bonus Level: it snowed.
“Oh Jesus! I can’t steer this thing at all!” If our ears were small enough, we’d hear them screaming the whole way down, “It doesn’t work like the tutorial said it would! I AM PRESSING THE “A” BUTTON! Has anyone figured out how to just go in one direction!?” They have A LOT time to panic and scream at each other. “I’M GOING TO HIT THE GROUND! But there’s still time! SOMEONE, PLEASE RESPOND.”
Snowflakes. The utter chaos of snowflakes. Swirling past each other with no clear trajectory, constantly crossing paths, nearly missing disastrous collisions every second, unable to control or predict in the slightest where they’re going or where they’ll land. And for MILES. Dude, snowflakes fall for miles and miles in what is practically zero visibility. They’re totally blind. Night snow falls through utter blackness. Snow in the daytime is just as lost, surrounded by the impenetrable whiteness of the clouds that clog the sky, sick with the cold. Snowflakes can never see a thing. It’s a nightmare. It’s ridiculous.
Don’t you hate being cold? The sting of it hits you all at once and makes your skin and muscles convulse, trembling uncontrollably. Sometimes it even knocks the wind right out of you. And it won’t wear off either, even when you’re finally back out of it and sitting inside again, warm and dry. But it’s still in you, like a poison. Your blood pumps as hard as it can, trying to run the normal, natural processes is uses to clean and purify itself of toxins. It’s like a snake bite that aaaaaalmost kills you while you sit by the fire for minutes, still numb, still burning.
Snow is the winter’s ultimate ten times multiplier that randomly comes into play for no apparent reason every year. Winter’s primary attack is cold air. Snow is when the air gets so cold that it even freezes the clouds, basically freezing itself. That’s pretty crazy to think about. Like a computer that gets smart enough to make its own computers. Or like Bruce Banner dying from gamma radiation poisoning the last time he ever turns into the Hulk to beat somebody up. Now that’s what you call irony. If you ever find yourself wearing or doing things you actually think are ridiculous just for the sake of what you perceive to be funny, take heed. Irony is a desert, and you know but a grain of sand.
Anyway, the winter is trying to kill us every moment we’re in it. We’d freeze to death if left in it long enough unprotected. But some of us like it. Which doesn’t make any sense, really. It’s disorienting. And confusing. It’s incomprehensible. The sun, which makes us all possible in the first place, has shifted it’s life-giving gaze away from us and smote us to be cursed for months of famine. Nothing will grow. Everything will die. Those who don’t must seek protection from the elements.
So why do we like it? It’s pretty, sure. Snow is like nature’s more aesthetic version of confetti, swirling uniformly and dressing the entire landscape orientation in matchy-matchy white fluff. But lots of things are pretty. The SUMMER is pretty, for Christ’s sake. We’re not getting out kicks out of the quaint charm of drinking hot cocoa and shaking a snow globe. This show is not for your sweet grandma, dude.
What we like is the struggle. The pain. Some of us like that. The striving, the trying, the effort of work. We’ve sat quietly at home and cried to ourselves that our lives don’t unfold excitingly, with miracles and spectacles akin to what we expect after watching some movie tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dissatisfaction with inactivity has made us thirsty for anything. Experiments in trying to do anything at all. Jabba might control the rancor from his comfortable throne, but we’d rather fight it to the death than lay dormant, calcifying in our comfortable lethargy.
There is no accomplishment without work. Sometimes that means struggle. Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes it’s chaotic and crazy. But we like that. It keeps us on our toes. It makes the moments of our lives unique. And only be collecting these trophies, completing our achievement grid, have we found ourselves in this Secret Bonus Level.
What does this have to do with our show tonight at all? Well, tonight was chaotic. And unexpected. We all had to cope with a sudden array of unforeseeable conditions that disrupted our normal operations pretty severely. It was like a blizzard struck. But you’ve just read 700 words of my cold weather exposition. Let me just tell you about it.
1. Three out of four members of The Secret Bonus Level Band could not be on the show tonight. Totally unrelated circumstances befell each of them by mere coincidence only hours before we were set to broadcast live. Noah Page has been at work trying to find alternate, back-up members to fill-in for each of the guys in case of just such an emergency. So, amazingly, we were able to put together an almost completely different band on the fly with these extra musicians on call. But all those guys needed rides to the radio station. And we had to figure that out too.
2. Broad Street, the street that the radio station is on, was blocked off for about a mile in either direction of the studio. They were paving the street, and (in the city’s defense) 1am on a Wednesday is probably the best time to pave a busy street. But that meant we had to carry all our amplifiers and equipment for blocks. It also meant that several rappers scheduled to appear on tonight’s show (RT, Azrael Onassis) literally could not figure out how to physically get to the radio station!
Despite that, we were honored to be joined by PHD Khari, Dula, and Frankenstein Reyes, some of our favorite rappers. Lyricists with charm and ACTUAL creative use of our beautiful language. Also Dom, from Prose and Cons, stepped up to the mic to lend us some sugar. We LOVE that guy too. I wish we saw him more! He’s like our long-distance online relationship that we SWEAR WE’RE NOT MAKING UP HE JUST LIVES IN CANADA, sheesh! And we saw Vill come out of his shell and rap for the first time. Which is always a beautiful, inspiring moment. A new young rapper takes his first turn. He’s been hanging out at Bonus Level for a few weeks now, learning about how to run live sound. We all admire his dedication and enthusiasm. His youth, though not literal, we’ve found to be contagious.
3. The pizza, a special treat that our Bonus Level family always enjoys together every week in comradery, never arrived. Some idiot (Noah Page) apparently ordered it to arrive at 1pm instead of 1am. That did earn him some special shout outs from the crew running the radio station the next day, who were treated to an unexpected pizza feast.
4. The station’s equipment was left in a very different state than we usually find it in. The fund drive was going on, so a lot of sound engineers who don’t normally use the radio station were rotated through, controlling the board, adjusting little things here and there, and we couldn’t figure out how to undo all they’d done until the show was almost over.
This broadcast was a testament to our perseverance. The spirit of doing that compels Secret Bonus Level to continue to try new things, never losing moment. The show must go on, as they say. So, without further ado, let me give special thanks to The Double Bonus Points Band, who performed for the first and last time on tonight’s program:
Paul Ivey – man of myth. Paul has a history in our city’s music scene that stretches back farther than your weird uncle’s drinking problem. Currently involved in several projects, perhaps most notably Gouda Mayhem, you might see Paul playing anywhere around town. He also recently passed the mantle of hosting WRIR’s Time is Tight off to Georgie Peach Isaacs, a very talented aspiring new radio personality, so that he can focus on creating other new interesting radio programs for your noggin to gnaw on. Tonight he leant us his skills on guitar. He has an intuitive feel for music that we hope to god doesn’t go unappreciated.
This() – a guy who has rapped on Secret Bonus Level plenty of times. And we’ve heard his beats too. This guy could be the head of Hydra if he wanted and so chose it. He’s got tentacles enough to grasp every aspect of musical creation. He blessed us this hallowed eve by dusting off the strings of his bass and tapping in the same kind of melodic lines you’d hear strung throughout his beats.
Sanji the Hedgehog – Harold Bonus Level apostle. He makes the show happen as much as Vos or anyone. He’s always out there recruiting rappers, cooking up schemes to help us execute our grandiose future endeavors, and of course rapping and providing beats wild enough to excite the jungle monkeys, beasts and jaguars, let alone pump a little life back into our radio show in the moments when we most need a booster shot. He filled in for us on the drums, an instrument he playing in high school marching band. And, in case you didn’t realize it, he operated on the kit all night without a single cymbal. We didn’t have any! Not in the entire radio station! Not even a hi-hat! But he held it down so hard that we didn’t even notice he had such an impediment.
And, of course, Joe Barry. A lot of those involved in the show knows I’ve wanted to dedicate a broadcast of Secret Bonus level to Joe for a few weeks now. Not only did the stars align for it tonight, but the course the night took cast a special light on Joe, because he was the only member of our usual band that was able to be on the show. I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about Joe’s guitar playing. It usually starts with people wanting to talk about the band. The band is one thing that makes our show really unique and different, not only because live bands are rare in rap music, but also because they don’t really play hip-hop. People always want to talk to me about whether or not the band should actively try to sound more like hip-hop or just keeping playing the way they want, doing their own thing in their own kind of style. And Joe is the logical conclusion of that train of thought. He doesn’t play the kind of guitar you’d expect to hear behind rap. He solos. He elaborates. He does different kind of genre things. I really enjoy that about his guitar playing. It’s interesting. It’s unexpected. And I think it’s relevant to the times, really. Quality has become more important than genre. And he plays GOOD.
And sure, sometimes something awkward comes out of his amp, or any of the other guys’. But that’s supposed to happen. There should be misfires. There should be blemishes. This show is hardcore. It’s no make-up, and not because your girl was lazy, but because it came off in the sludge when she was slinking around in the sewers, sweating in her black ops gear. This show is not some photo shopped full page magazine ad for a new fragrance by Kanye West. This show is Nickelus F. rapping to himself while he wonders around VCU. This is the real, actual struggle of aspiration, not the so-called perfection of mass production. Maybe I’m becoming an independent music purist, little by little. But I appreciate the grime of reality. It reminds me that we’re humans. And it shows character. It’s endearing. And Joe’s guitar is played with spirit. His licks are good, and always getting better. I admire his visible attention to constant improvement. He’s a real human who plays a real instrument as best he can. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Will we explore different ideas about how the music could sound? Of course! But Joe being Joe is, and always has been, an important part of what makes Secret Bonus Level special. My coffee wouldn’t crunch without a few grounds in it. If we weren’t raw, we wouldn’t be real, wouldn’t have the feeling we do.
What? No, it’s over. That’s all I had to say. Did you think I was going to tie it all back to the snow thing or something? Nah. Get over it.
self-released - 2017
The Double Bonus Points Band, “The 19th Cypher of October”
WRIR - 2017
The Secret Bonus Level Rappers, “Can You Rap To That?”
WRIR - 2017
NoahPage 216 October 19th, 2017