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July 7, 2008

A confession.

Last weekend, I went to a music festival. A festival full of jam bands.

As you might imagine, I had many preconceived notions of what such a festival might be like. I imagined clouds of fragrant smoke, lots of dazed looking hippies, body odor, and songs that go on and on and on and on and on for no discernible reason. For the most part, these preconceptions were accurate (although I did not encounter nearly as much body odor as I expected). However, I did learn a lot, and I'd like to share some of that with you.

1. Jam band. noun. A group of musicians usually including a drummer, bassist, guitar player, keyboardist, with other instruments optional. Jam bands employ a musical style characterized by long, repetitive, songs with little formal structure. Telltale signs that you might be listening to a jam band: 1. You don't remember when the current song started. 2. Everyone in the band is soloing at the same time. 3. Songs build to a climax, seem to be over, only to restart for another group-solo. YOU'RE NOT TRICKING ANYONE, JAM BAND!

2. Writhing is not dancing. The first show we saw was Mike Gordan, the bassist from Phish (duh) in his new side project. A couple thousand blitzed kids contorting themselves semi-rhythmically reminded me of the Little Mermaid, and the graveyard of souls that Ursula kept chained up out back. Except the movie has a catchier soundtrack.

3. Jam-fans are courteous folks. Sometimes I felt like there were homeless people all around me, but instead of asking for money, they helped me carry my cooler and gave us a ride in their u-haul. And such respect for your spot on the grass! Spread out a blanket, and it will be gingerly stepped around by dirty sandals all day long. Never a push, shove, or an asshole who barges through to the front of the crowd just because he can.

4. Jam-fans don't judge. Although it's safe to say I'm about as whitebread as they come, I was welcomed into jam-land by the friendly hippies, frisbee enthusiasts, and jewelry-makers who inhabit it.

What's the take home message here? I guess it's this: if you're going to go to a jam-band festival, at least take comfort in the fact that you won't be surrounded by art-school dickheads and indie scenesters. Rejoice in the fact that nobody cares if you bring a cooler full of High Life through security, get over yourself, and have a good time.

And I swear to god if ANY of you name your kid after a Phish song, I'm calling social services.

December 6, 2008

Song of the week

Maybe it's human nature, but I tend to get obsessed. I listen to a song every day for a week or a month, I'll sing it on my way to school, and it'll be the greatest thing ever.

This week's song is by David Dondero, it's called Real Tina Turner. In David's words: "Well, that's about a washed up prostitute that used to make a lot of money fucking guys in the backseat of cars. So finding the humor in that is [hard]. I don't want to paint too bleak of a picture. I think it's pretty funny, the underworld."

This guy is really something special to watch, and as it turns out he's playing tomorrow night at the Make Out Room in San Fran. I'll be there, give me a call if you want to join me. Here's the track:

Goddammit. This website says my track is too big to upload. Instead, here's a youtube link for A Song for Buck Owens. Also a neat song. But you gotta hear Real Tina Turner sometime. Like this Sunday at the Make Out Room.


December 11, 2008

Song of the week: of Montreal, She's a Rejector

Money line: "There's a girl that left me bitter, want to pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her... but I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T!"


Shes a Rejecter - Of Montreal

I also like it because it's all about me. It helps me cultivate a healthy sense of self-loathing and regret.

December 16, 2008

Song of the week: The Mountain Goats, Houseguest

This is in honor of the couchsurfers I'm hosting this Thursday. It's a cover of a song by Nothing Painted Blue, and it's about love, unrequited love. Money line: "The heat in here's infernal. But so's that ENTRY IN YOUR JOURRR-NAL!!"

The Mountain Goats were one of my favorites for a long time. I still love them, but I don't listen so obsessively as I used to. And going to their shows is a bit of a trial anymore, since they've achieved a certain popularity with the annoying singalong sector of the population. But some of those shows back in Ames...good times. Once, there was some technical malfunction that caused John to play the whole show sitting on the side of the stage "unplugged". Which I guess is a style well suited to a guy who just strums a guitar anyway.

July 2, 2009

Rhode Island boys

The Greek Theater is a Berkeley landmark, built in 1903 and privy to such events as a commencement address by Teddy Roosevelt, a speech by the Dalai Lama, concerts by Jerry Garcia, Guns N Roses, Iggy Pop, and Dave Matthews, and the annual College of Chemistry fire extinguisher training (see below).

I extinguished it right after that photo was snapped.

Last Friday, David Byrne played the Greek. The vampires that run the place wanted $70 for a ticket, so it was decided that we'd find the promised land in the hills above, from where one can both hear the show in excellent acoustics, and see tiny David prancing about on stage. It's the culturally advanced version of Tightwad Hill. We had every reason to believe it existed; could the East Bay Express be wrong? ("Wedged between the Greek's barbed-wire back fence and a pricey parking lot, it's shaded and pleasant and slightly elevated...")

Joe found some cryptic instructions on Yelp.com, another dubious online source, and having packed John's home made burritos, several bottles of wine, and other assorted weekend supplies, I put on my hiking shoes and we headed up a path from the parking lot. We shortly came across two would-be tightwads heading to their favorite spot, a flat area covered with trash. One of them explained that it'd be a good spot without the trash, and she'd brought hefty bags. Adorable. She asked us if we were trying to see the show. "I've never seen the stage," she said. John replied that we were going somewhere she'd never been, and we trekked on.

We trampled through the bushes for another half hour or so, asked the guard at the national lab on the hill if he knew where to go, and got covered with dirt and sand fleas. Finally, we settled on the retaining wall just above the upper parking lot, concluding that the Greek must have moved back the fences, making the original Greek tightwad location obsolete. We expected something like this:

but all we could see was this:

Never mind the view, the real story here is the sound. The sound was perfect. It was loud enough, crystal clear, and there weren't any jackasses behind me yelling for Psycho Killer. Well wait, I guess there were, but only because I'd sent an email out to my lab inviting them along. Byrne started out with a handful of tracks from Everything that Happens, which I loved. Then the Talking Heads show started.

I'm kind of glad I couldn't see the stage when he started with the old stuff. He has trained his band admirably - it sounds just like the albums. Somehow it felt a little dirty though, a little sad, a little like a Talking Heads cover band, fronted by David Byrne. Which it was. At least since they were invisible to me, I didn't have to watch some imposter play bass. David saved the day by bringing out a full marching band at the end of the set. I don't know what they were doing, because they weren't mic'd, but I'm sure it was sweet.

I can't reconcile these pictures with the experience I had. It must have been like some bizarre combination of Mark Twain sings the Talking Heads backed up by the Blue Man Group, who have all turned white.

Rhode Island boys, II

Nobody wanted to come see Deer Tick play in SF with me, so I went by myself. I got there at the start of an uninspiring set by a band who really wanted to inspire me, bless their hearts. I started getting sleepy. I didn't think I would make it through the night. Deer Tick came on, played the following cover, and announced that this was the first song on one of their favorite records, and the first song of one of their favorite shows. They could tell.

And it was a great show. They covered everyone and their dog, whose songs I'm not always familiar with, and they played lots of their own songs too. The highlight by far was "Dead Flowers", a Rolling Stones cover. I wish I could find a video, but put on the Stones version, and then turn up heart to 11, and you might know what I mean:

P.S. Only fucking rock stars can do a single, 1-song encore and have it be La Bamba.

August 4, 2009

Song of the week

Because I've been obsessed with Deer Tick since I saw them a couple weeks ago:

When you're in jail and you can't make bail, I got the money.

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