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Sonic Youth, Desolation Center 1985: 500 tabs of acid, one life-changing gig | Music

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In 1983, 20-year-old promoter Stuart Swezey was sick of his gigs getting shut down by Los Angeles cops. On a road trip across Mexico he had an epiphany: move them out to the desert. Under the name Desolation Center, he booked local post-punk bands Minutemen and Savage Republic, hired some school buses and drove people out to the uninhabited windswept landscape where the bands played on a dried up riverbed with socks over their microphones to keep sand out. The following year, the German industrial outfit Einstürzende Neubauten played in a more sheltered location in a canyon; there was also an explosive performance from Survival Research Laboratories who decided to make bombs and blow up the discarded fridges that had been fly-tipped there.

By 1985 Swezey had achieved all he set out to with these unique shows – attendees had described the intensity of the Neubauten performance as akin to a religious experience – but he decided to throw one last party with experimental guitar outfit Sonic Youth, the psych-punk band Meat Puppets, local glam-punkers Redd Kross and Psi Com (fronted by a pre-Jane’s Addiction Perry Farrell).

That date of 5 January was selected because it was the first full moon of the new year. About 300 people turned up in downtown LA, where they were given directions to the secret desert location or could hop on a school bus and be driven there.

“It was a desolate and really confusing location to get to,” remembers Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, “driving down all these barely existent dirt roads.” Support band Redd Kross got so lost that by the time they arrived they had to perform last.

Sonic Youth and the Desolation Center crowd



‘We were kicking up dust storms as we played’ … Sonic Youth and the Desolation Center crowd. Photograph: Alan Peak

“It was completely makeshift,” Ranaldo remembers of the set-up. “We were nestled in between some sort of rocky mountain walls and they just demarcated an area where the bands played. We stood right on the sand, kicking up dust storms as we played. There was no backstage. I don’t even remember there being toilets.” There was also no food, no bar, no merch stall, and people had to sign a liability disclaimer so that they wouldn’t sue the promoter if they got hurt. “It had an element of danger that normal events never have,” says Ranaldo.

Anticipation was high for the New York band who had never played a show on the west coast before. “We really didn’t know what it was going to turn into,” Ranaldo recalls. “We had no expectations of what was going to go down.”

It was dusk as Sonic Youth started, and Ranaldo felt a palpable intensity from the audience. “The crowd was completely absorbed by what we were doing,” he says. People gathered around the band in a circle, with everyone on the same level in the sand. “The exchange was really intimate. Plus, nobody had seen us play before and what we were doing at that time was pretty unique. A lot of people were kind of stunned by it, with us using screwdrivers to play and the strange tunings on our guitars.”

As the band hurtled through their set, with frenzied guitars buzzing, screeching and ricocheting off the mountainous backdrop, the audience became even more transfixed. It turns out someone had brought 500 hits of LSD – enough for everyone in attendance. “Aside from the four of us in Sonic Youth, everyone else was tripping,” says Ranaldo. “Everybody I’ve ever met who was at that concert was dosed.”

The combination was a potent one as the furious assault of tracks such as Death Valley 69 surged into the now pitch-black and icy-cool desert night. The band knew something special had happened. “There really was no show like that that we ever did again,” says Ranaldo. After Sonic Youth finished and the Meat Puppets came on, they asked for the lighting to be switched off and performed by moonlight as hundreds of revellers pulsed along to the music in hallucinogenic synchronicity.

There’s a long-lasting legacy to that night. A year later, in 1986, Burning Man started, with co-founder John Law citing the shows as an influence, and Perry Farrell was inspired enough to later found Lollapalooza. In 2018, Swezey made a documentary about it all, Desolation Center.

But, even though these events turned out to be a blueprint for other American festivals, Ranaldo says they connected on a deeper, more significant level. “This was much more of an art event,” he says. “It was completely guerrilla style. These days festivals are all so sanitised but this was an anything-goes situation. The legacy of that night is a bit like when people claim to have seen the Velvet Underground. It has that kind of legendary quality to it.”

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Comedian Hannibal Buress working the drive-in circuit, starting with North Ridgeville gig | Entertainment

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A calming voice during the chaos of life.

That’s what irreverent and satirical comedian Hannibal Buress brings to the stage.

Nowhere was this comedic aesthetic more on display than at one of Buress’ favorite Northeast Ohioappearances. His memory of the 2013 show at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights remains as vivid as ever.

“At the time, I was doing my song ‘Gibberish Rap,’” said Buress, calling from the Chicago. “I was really into the production of it, so we hired a lot of local costumed characters in each city. In Cleveland, we got this Incredible Hulk who was really dancing. I think we also had a Mario.

“(Lorain-based comedian) Ramon (Rivas II) had a couple of friends agree to come on stage and do balloon animals. It was chaos. That was a fun one. I had a great time.”

Getting his start nearly 20 years ago, the Windy City-based comedian’s resume includes brief stints writing for “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” He also appeared in the hilarious “The Eric Andre Show” and feature film “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” as well as made the late-night talk show rounds.

While Buress wasn’t the first person to speak out about rape allegations against Bill Cosby, it was his viral set that started the dominoes to fall and helped lead to “America’s Dad” going to prison. (Unfortunately, Buress’ publicist requested no Cosby questions in this recent phone interview.)



Hannibal Buress-v

Comic Hannibal Buress says you’re not looking for jokes related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, so he’s not doing any. 




That turned out to be just fine because the timing of his most recent special “Miami Nights,” which debuted on YouTube this summer, couldn’t have been any more apropos considering the current climate in the country.

The centerpiece of the special is his unlawful 2017 arrest in Miami.

“There are some people in those positions, police officers, who aren’t really emotionally suited to be in the spot — including this guy that I interacted with,” Buress said. “With everything that’s happening, it forces them to really look within at how people are being evaluated when they go into those positions, because it’s a very important position. You want folks who are stable.

“The thing with [the police officer who arrested him] is he had been disciplined. He had off-duty incidents where he ran from the police. He was a fugitive, and I got arrested by him somehow. It’ll take some time for things to fix themselves, but there’s a lot of work being done and there’s a lot of work to do.”

Speaking of work, Buress remains as busy as possible during the pandemic. Not only did he recently release the first episode of his new gambling-centered podcast, “Splitting 10s,” but he’s also looking to get back on the road.

Buress’ “Let’s See How This Goes” drive-in theater tour kicks off in Northeast Ohio with a gig Sept. 22 at North Ridgeville’s Auto-O-Rama Twin Drive In.

Mind you, Buress admitted it’s been decades since the last time he visited a drive-in theater, but everyone has to get a bit out of his or her comfort zone these days.

“I saw that Marc Rebillet and Bert Kreischer did a drive-in theater tour, so I decided to try it out,” Buress said. “It’s something new. Some comedy clubs are open, but you’re not really able to do full capacity. The drive-in-show experience is still something that’s kind of fresh, so I think it’ll be dope for people.”

While fans attending the show can expect new material, there’s one fresh topic he won’t be talking about. Buress said he doesn’t have any COVID-19 material.

“Hell, no,” Buress laughed. “Nope. No pandemic jokes. People don’t want to hear that.”

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Gig workers like and want flexibility, that’s why they became gig workers – Orange County Register

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Are gig workers ⁠— think Uber drivers or Door Dashers ⁠— seeking to trade their flexible occupations for a full-time, 40-hour-week job?

Two recent surveys suggest they’re not interested. A survey of 1,000 on-demand drivers, commissioned by Uber and conducted by a duo of polling firms representing clients on the political left and right, finds that 85 percent prefer some version of their current flexible arrangement. Another survey ⁠— this one of 1,000 independent contractors, and commissioned by Lyft ⁠— concluded that 71 percent want to retain their current status.

Both surveys suggest that workers are happy with their “gig.” Don’t tell that to labor unions and their allies. To bolster their opposition to Proposition 22 ⁠— an initiative on the fall ballot that would solidify on-demand drivers’ and shoppers’ status ⁠— labor has pointed to a handful of comforting studies suggesting that gig workers are exploited.

The first, released through a San Francisco city commission, claimed that most gig workers work full-time schedules and earn poverty-level wages while doing so. But records requests, reported by the Washington Free Beacon, discovered that this conclusion was based on a convenience survey of respondents identified by a labor group–many of whom were paid for their answers. The study organizer acknowledged that the survey–which was drafted to “support organizing” ⁠— was “not representative” of gig workers’ experiences.

Speaking of unrepresentative: Labor and its allies have also hinged their case on a 2019 working paper from Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California-Hastings. In her paper, Dubal dismisses the numerous statistical surveys showing that on-demand drivers don’t want to be employees. Her own conclusions are based on “unstructured conversations with drivers in driver organizing meetings” ⁠— among other unrepresentative sources.

Got that? Having sought out the unhappy few among the on-demand shopper and driver community, Dubal concludes that all drivers in the state must feel similarly.

This anti-empirical stance by labor and its academic allies, and their unwillingness to acknowledge that shoppers and drivers prefer their “gigs,” has dangerous consequences.  In a recent legal brief, rideshare company Uber described in damning detail what would happen should it be forced to convert its independent drivers into full-time employees.

An estimated 75 percent of current drivers would lose access to the Uber employment model–resulting in one million lost employment opportunities. (The legal brief notes that these facts are undisputed by the company’s opponents.) Prices would increase for riders by anywhere from 20 to 120 percent; the company further explains that “at least a quarter of rides would no longer be available, with certain cities experiencing a decrease of 40-60 percent.”

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Collaboration in the Gig Economy keynote day one

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18 September 2020

Hiring managers already have a much more complex choice than in the past. It’s not just whether to hire a traditional employee to get a job done — the procurement supply chain is much larger. Today’s choices include using a staffing agency temp, engaging an independent contractor, calling in an SOW consultant or turning to an online work platform. And technology continues to bring changes — with Covid-19 speeding up the evolution.

“I would argue that times of crisis and times of change, like we are in today, will help propel the next stage of digital transformation,” SIA President Barry Asin said in a keynote speech Thursday kicking off the Collaboration in the Gig Economy virtual conference.

Asin cited technological change wrought by the last recession: In 2007, only 24% of large companies had a VMS in place at its start in 2007; by 2020, the percentage had grown to 64%.

Fast forward to today — there was $1 billion in venture capital funding focused on the HR tech space in the second quarter alone.

Large companies that use staffing are more and more turning to tech. SIA data found 43% of large staffing buyers foresee an increase in usage of online staffing/talent pool in the next 10 years. Evolving concepts such as direct sourcing are already used by 30% of buyers, and 49% plan to put a direct-sourcing program in place within the next two years; much of it fueled by new tech offerings.

“I think that what we’re seeing — particularly for the traditional service providers in the talent supply chain — is a real digital transformation, and the current crisis is accelerating that digital transformation,” Asin said. “And it’s accelerating it for all the players involved at the different points of that supply chain.”

Already, 54 million Americans did gig work in 2019, approximately 34% of workforce, according to SIA data. That amounts to $1.3 trillion in spend with the largest share going to independent contractors. SIA defines the gig economy as including all types of contingent work, including

  • staffing agency temporary workers
  • SOW consultants
  • directly hired temporaries
  • online platform workers
  • independent contractors

The Collaboration in the Gig Economy Conference brings together all parts of the ecosystem to talk the latest trends and advances. Attendees include enterprise buyers, staffing suppliers, VMS/MSP companies, human cloud/on demand platforms and technology solutions providers.

“There is a wave and a transformational change that we are seeing in society,” Asin said. “Many of you are on the leading edge of that change.”

The virtual event continues through today.

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