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Posts from the music Category

We’ve started a new tradition in our household.  The dance party.  It’s been just the thing to get us through the late afternoon slump.  Occasionally, it prevents WWIII over a particular toy.  We’re not picky about the source: iPod, YouTube, radio, cd, spotify, etc.  We crank it just loud enough to cause the neighbors to stop and wonder…..and then we DANCE!  We sing, we shake it, we play air guitar/drums, we conga line, we twirl, and sometimes we jump on the bed.  Okay that last one’s not really dancing, but it’s freestyle so who cares.  The point is…it’s FUN!  Today we cranked this tune: “press play”  and spun around the living room.  I took to the cedar chest to avoid the kamikaze cart wheels taking place.

We’ve loved sharing music with you this month.  Hope you continue to crank it loud and let it move your soul as we celebrate Summer during the month of July!

by jess lewis

 

every one has a crazy concert story. some have more than one (i fall into that camp for sure). but, the summer of 95 i experienced a crazy, magical concert whose memories i will forever hold dear.

matt and i, along with our friend tim pulled into chicago on july 9th with the high hopes of acquiring tickets to that night’s show. we knew even if we weren’t so lucky we would still have a great time, but getting in would be unforgettable. being in need of one ticket is difficult enough, but needing three? that was going to take a miracle.

we had other friends who were there as well, though most of them had tickets already. because we didn’t, we had work to do. early in the day we worked as a team, but it was fruitless work. eventually we gave it rest and parked ourselves near the entrance in the hopes of hearing someone call out that they had tickets. we sat there for some time. the sun felt good and i’m positive we got very relaxed in our spot. we were lucky the weather was so nice. within days the heat wave of 95 would swoop in and it would be sweltering (and dangerous). we sat there talking, people watching, and hatching out our plan.
we decided to work in shifts. if my memory serves me correctly (don’t hold me to this), tim was the first to go searching, then matt. i can’t recall how long either of them were gone, but we had time. then, it was my turn.

by then the traffic was really backing up. as in barely moving, if at all. i decided to wander up lake shore drive (aka, LSD). this is not something i would normally recommend unless you have a death wish, but since traffic was at a virtual standstill, i deemed it to be safe enough. i figured i could try to hit up all the concert goers that hadn’t made it in yet. i walked up the drive calling out for tickets every so often, but with no luck. chances are at some point i was even holding a finger in the air with one hand while my fingers were crossed on the other. i wasn’t out there for too long though, maybe 20 minutes, when a car with two girls called out to me (whenever i recall this story they seem so much younger than i was, but in reality we had to have been close to the same age). i ran over to them and jumped into the backseat of their car with so much excitement i could barely contain myself! they asked if i needed a ticket, i said did, that i actually needed three.

that day was my lucky day (well, one of many). they had FOUR tickets!! they had a group of friends who couldn’t make it at the last minute. sorry for them, but hoo-motherfucking-ray for me!! i forget exactly what they charged me, but it wasn’t more than the face value. they really were so very kind and if i could thank them again i would. i am positive i was squealing with delight as i leapt from their car and sprinted back down lake shore drive.

i ran back to soldier field and i never slowed down. i was literally leaping over people lounging around on the sidewalks and grassy areas with a shit eating grin on my face. matt and tim knew what was up the second they saw me. we were in like flynn.

there really was nothing like the excitement of getting in to a dead show when you arrived there not knowing if you would. i was no veteran by any means, i only had a handful of shows under my belt. but, the energy walking through those ticket gates was palpable. you knew what was about to happen, yet at the same time you had no idea. that was part of the beauty. crazy shit happens at dead shows. it’s a given.

we were treated to the band (minus robbie and richard) as the opening act, followed by a great set list from the grateful dead. the show closed with what is still in my mind one of the best fireworks displays i’ve ever seen (set to  jimi hendrix’s version of the star spangled banner).

we spent that night camping in a parking deck with a bunch of other hippie types. i don’t think we got much sleep. i remember the sound of skateboard wheels coasting down the ramps until the wee hours of dawn and the beating of drum circles. at some point we made plans to walk to the sears tower in the morning. we had no clue how to get there, we decided we would just look for it and head that way. this was not the way to go. it was about a 3 mile walk through some not so great neighborhoods. we made it, only to discover the observation deck was either closed or we couldn’t afford it. i’m guessing we couldn’t afford the $12 a piece or whatever it was after being able to get tickets.

matt and i moved to georgia soon after that show. we were staying with a friend in charleston, sc while we were apartment hunting in savannah. one month later, on august 9th, we came back from the beach  and were sitting on the couch when john, our friend (not a grateful dead fan), told us that jerry garcia had died. we honestly thought he was joking (really, he was not a fan. we thought he was just trying to get us whipped up). sadly, it was true. jerry was gone.

that summer was a wild and memorable time in my life. i am one of a few (tens of thousands of people) that can say i was at the last dead show and i am forever grateful.

what is one of the most memorable concerts you’ve been too?

 

*sorry for the lack of photos in this post. i decided i didn’t want to incriminate myself or any other innocent bystanders.

Becky Reno

It’s word association time. I’m going to say two words, you tell me what comes to mind. Ready?

Country music.

I could be wrong here, but if I were to venture a guess, I’d say your words weren’t anywhere along the lines of “liberating” or “empowering,” but to me, that’s exactly what country music is. And no, I’m not just talking about the high brow country music that most everyone can get behind- the Johnny Cashes or Loretta Lynns. I’m not even talking about the established, respectable musicians such as Garth Brooks or Reba McEntire. I’m talking about the whole lot of them, right on down to Gretchen Wilson.

Country music is for the most part reviled by mainstream America. Tied only with Christian rock & opera, it’s the type of music people love to hate. Maybe it’s just me, spinning elaborate rationales to justify my love of country music to myself, but the thing is, I think the social stigma of country music boils down to more than just personal preference, or lack thereof. Humor me and follow me down the rabbit hole for just a moment won’t you?

I teach a college-level course about social justice and I always spend a class on class. Social class, that is. We talk about how complex class is in America, and how most of us spend a lifetime trying to claw ourselves up and convince ourselves we’re destined for a higher standing in life. We also talk about how many different class markers there are. Last term we came up with more than 30, and income was last on the list (Bear with me, there’s a point in here, I swear). So basically we have this restrictive system defining what it means to be of a certain socioeconomic status, and we’re all desperately trying to convince everyone (ourselves?) we’re better off than we are. That we deserve more, damnit. Now I’m not saying you don’t deserve to move up, I just can’t help but wonder what all this striving, this pretending does on a broader scale. While I can’t speak for everyone I can say what this has done for myself.

I’ve spent a good long while trying to fit in. To pretend like I deserve to be here, wherever “here” is. It feels wrong, it’s too much work, and for what? At this point in my adult life I’ve made it to solid middle class ground, and I’ve gotta say, it’s a little boring. And the view to the upper classes doesn’t look any better. Looking down though, there, my friends, is where it’s at. Enter country music.

Now don’t give me any sort of a lecture on how those artists aren’t genuine country people. I’m sure more of them than not are just cogs in the music industry machine, and I know it’s a lifestyle they’re selling, but that’s alright. I’m buying it. Country music is FULL of life. Getting dirty, having fun, drinking at bonfires into the night, riding around on boats, four wheelers, and snow mobiles. It’s about celebrating where you are, with what you’ve got. You can have your high tea, pinky out. I’ll be getting filthy camping and jumping in the lake to rinse off. Country music feels like freedom. Freedom from worrying about what others think about you, freedom from trying to move up that ladder. It’s accepting you’re on that bottom rung and realizing you’re actually better off for it.

Not only that, but I’ll argue that country songs give women far more room to have an interesting, complex identity. Women take revenge  when they’re wronged, they overcome crushing adversity, and they’re so much more dynamic and complex than in other music genres.

And it’s not just women. Despite the emphasis on masculinity that we often associate with cowboys, men are celebrated as sensitive, and even redemptive. Of course there are the songs dripping with machismo, but you also get songs about men loving their wife and their children.

I might not be able to talk you into a love of twangy guitars and dramatic ballads, but that’s just fine with me, to each their own. As for me though, I’ll be happily toe tapping as a redneck woman  just a little on the trashy side.

By Jill Greenwood

Whoever thought of “goodie bags” for kids’ birthday parties needs to be drawn and quartered. There’s a certain place in hell for the person who thought, “You know . . . I think that I should give the kids who came to my child’s party something awesome to take home,” because parents, being parents, would start the whole my-A-is-better-than-your-B process. No longer were goodie bags “good enough” with some candy and a few trinkets-du-crap from the Oriental Trading. No . . . people started to give away shit that was almost on par with the presents their little darlings had just ripped open. When the girls turned 13, we had a surprise party for them because they were, you know, 13. And that meant that the “goodie bag” needed to be something damn near perfect.

Thirteen-year-olds love music. Ask a teenager what they did for school, and you’ll get that noncommittal grunt that means, “We did something, but hell if I can remember it because I was more concerned with the hormones raging through my body and . . . what was the question?”Ask what they want for dinner, and you’re more than likely to hear the rustling of the chip bag as an answer. But ask them about music, and all bets are off. It’s like you’ve opened the fucking flood gates from hell that are tied to their vocal chords, and you won’t get a word in edgewise for a long, long time. They have opinions on the music that they like and hate, and they are not afraid to let you know why you are wrong. And trust me, you’ll be wrong. I wasn’t even allowed to sing in the fucking car for the longest time because it annoyed one of them (ahem, she’s older by a minute) even though they could sing . . . but let’s get back to the purpose, shall we?

So . .  where was I? Ah, yes . . . the surprise party and the goodie bags. I had no clue what to do here. Party? Planned down to the minute with a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, an Easter egg hunt (their birthday often coincides with Easter), two cakes (because they are twins), and an embarrassment-free movie with friends and family over the past 13 years. But the goodie bags? No fucking clue. Then, in a moment of brilliance (or what passes for it for me), I came up with a CD of songs. I certainly couldn’t ask them to supply me with a list of their favorite song (reread that whole noncommittal grunt bit) without giving away something of the surprise. And asking their friends would put me at risk because they weren’t “their songs.” I nearly gave up and went with a crisp five dollar bill – I’m cheap, too – and then, inspiration in the form of a bottle struck.

As I was consoling myself in another glass of wine because I feel bad for the remaining glasses left in the bottle so I tend to drink the whole thing once I open a bottle up (go ahead and wrap your head around that logic), I read the label and saw that this particular bottle was ranked #1 in this contest and that contest. #1 – I like that. #1 – there are lots of number ones . . . including the hit songs on the day that you are born. And thank god for the Internet and the various data bases that are out there. Type in your birthday and out pops the song that was #1 on your birthday. So, I quickly generated a list of the #1 hits on the girls’ birthday. When they were born, Londonbeat hit it big with “I’ve Been Thinking About You,” and when they turned 13, it was “Yeah!” by Usher featuring Lil John and Ludacris. Finally, I was on to something that was relatively cheap and easy.

I got so into this that I was worried that my family would be pissed that they got the same thing as the 13-year-old guests (yup, I’m that neurotic sometimes), that I created a special “double CD set” for our families with their birthday #1s. Some were lots of fun, like Dave’s and mine (“Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies) or “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” by Andy Gibb, which was top of the charts when my sister, Bridget, was born. Others were downright dreadful like Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” . . . still don’t know what that song is supposed to be saying other than your face over and over and over again.

But with all good plans, something usually goes wrong. I must not have checked the dates that I was inputting very carefully, and I got one of the songs wrong. So, Erika, your birthday #1 wasn’t the classic Elton John hit, “Philadelphia Freedom,” but Diana Ross’s “Love Hangover” . . . ever heard it before? Nope, me neither.

Do me a favor, y’all . . . click on over to the Birthday #1 page and find your number one hit. Then search for it on YouTube or Spotify and play it loud. Revel in your birthday song and let me know what it is. It will give me an excuse to eat some more cupcakes.

The other day our family had a Top Songs of the 90s show on in the background. My husband and I kept an ear open as they counted down to number one, laughing at songs we couldn’t believe we ever listened to, wondering if our favorites would make the list, all the time betting on number one. And when the song I had my money on came on, I ran in to the living room to watch the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit for what could be the hundredth time.

All three kids ran in after me. Feet lifted off the ground as everyone began to jump in unison. Hair flying, elbows up, swaying against each other in the low parts, jumping in a frenzy during the chorus, we formed a living room mosh pit. “JUMP OFF THE COFFEE TABLE AND WE’LL CATCH YOU!!!!” someone yelled.

Yeah, it was me.

A lot of people I know can’t fathom why I encourage moshing in the living room to the music of a man that lived and died in a way that didn’t go with what society deems acceptable. Why I gleefully shaved my son’s hair into a mohawk when he asked, getting up twenty minutes early every morning to arrange it into rock hard spikes and then gel dye it colours.

Why do I let them all listen to something other than Raffi?! Isn’t this what you’re supposed to AVOID!? I don’t believe so, and even if I did I don’t think I could push them the other way if I tried. I have a theory that music permeates every aspect of your life, from your style to your friends, and you pass it on to your kids.

I have already talked about my Mom and her “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” musical preferences. It was my Dad though that gave me my taste in music. He would rock me every night and I can remember him pressing my head to his chest and singing “Jesus Loves Me” in the lowest  tone ever. Then when he ran out of lullabys I would get the goods: “Love is a burning thing, and it makes a fiery ring. ”  And in the daytime I’d ride sidecar on his tractor and get my personal favorite: “Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue….”  In fact one of my fondest childhood memories is of the time my parents took me to see Willie in concert. I was four. I passed out. It was the BEST.

As I got older music stayed important to me. I went through the same boy band phase as everyone else but it was in the 90s where I would find my way through the music of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins. Growing up in this era saved my life, surrounded by a movement that said it was okay to be different (shut up hippies, I know you did it first). Wrapped in plaid flannel I’d toss on my Dad’s old pants with a pair of Docs and head in to town to smoke stolen cigarettes and talk about music with friends. It was everything we were and you could easily tell who listened to what based on how they dressed. But no matter if you were punk or grunge we all lined up every weekend to sit inside an abandoned store a friend had inherited from his Dad and re-purposed to host shows. Pressed together in a mosh pit, or huddled on the floor smoking, it was safe and we were happy.

It secretly thrills me that my sons have inherited my music identity (my daughter on the other hand likes Rob Zombie and Metallica…. side eye to my husband). I love to plug them in to ear phones at night to listen to their favorite Johnny Cash , I love impromptu mosh pits and the songs they accept as their personal lullabys or silly songs. I love that they stomp around in my Docs, wear Chucks because they want to, and have the confidence to wear their hair spiked and dyed and however the hell they want, really. But most of all I know  that no matter what they choose (yes, even a starched collar) I can trust them to be who they want, and listen to what they want, know music is important, and invest in good quality headphones rather then have me ask them to turn it down. And when a friend shows up to the door with a face full of metal and freshly bleached hair I won’t shut down their plans to go to a show and automatically assume they’re up to no good because I can’t discern lyrics and it all sounds like screeching!? (“Are those people in PAIN!?” ~ My Dad in the 90s.)
And yeah, when the time comes I’ll totally lend them my pants. Just PLEASE don’t effing wear them backwards.

 

~Joelynne

by Tiff “Let The Music Play” Michele

Like any die hard music lover, I don’t just hear music. I feel it on a cellular level. I taste it. I breathe it. Sometimes I get so wrapped up and cocooned in it I swear I enter stasis and stop breathing until the song is over. Worse than leaving a whiskey and coke half drunk is exiting a car or room before an unexpectedly played favorite song is over.

The frustrating thing about loving music this much is that I had no outlet for it. No physical expression to amplify it. I tried taking all kinds of dance classes…tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, etc. They went over as well as all my sports endeavors. Meaning…I got no skillz. No moves. No coordination. No flow. So the music would jump and trip its way into my soul and then circle there, getting more and more bouncy, and all I could do was a little hop up and down. Maybe a slight shift side to side accompanied by random jerky out of tempo movements with my hands. I knew it was a lame offering to the gods of music, but the more I tried to sway to the beat, the more self aware I became. Dancing didn’t take me outside of myself, it shined a spotlight on all the parts of me that I’d rather keep hidden.

I did have a few people try to help me out. My sister’s boyfriend at the time, when I was a shy 14 year old, took pity on my wallflower self and asked me to dance one night. So we did and I remember him saying, “Wow. I mean, it’s dancing, not standing. Move a little!” So I tried to move a little. “Are you moving? I can’t tell! Move it! Move your hips!” I blushed and retreated back to the shadows. Then, as a shy 22 year old I found myself in the middle of a fiesta high in the Venezuelan Andes. Local Andean farmers all wanted a turn to dance with the American girl. I didn’t speak spanish, and they didn’t speak english, but it became clear that they were all trying to give me tips on how to dance. When words failed, then they would physically try to make me dance better…putting their hands on my hips and then rocking them vigorously in the universal sign for “Move your hips, woman!”

In this photo you can clearly see my dance partner is thinking that his yak would make a better dance partner. And the woman beside me laughing. As well as the group of people in the back. I’m afraid I’ve become part of a legend in that tiny Andean town where few Americans visit. I’m pretty sure they say something like, “Those Americans. They do a lot. They have a lot. Much more than we do. But they can’t move like us. Isn’t that sad?! I would rather live in the middle of nowhere with only one pan to cook in than live in a place where I didn’t know how to dance!”

And then, one day, I drove Route 66 in a Jeep with my little shih tzu Frito Bandito (RIP!). My friend met me in Flagstaff with a present. A red and black striped hula hoop. She said it would be perfect for stretching and moving on pit stops. I did with it what you would expect. I hooped like a 6 year old.

And then, after talking more about it with her and googling people like Lisa Lottie, Anah Reichenbach, Baxter, and Nick Guzzardo I fell hard under the spell of hooping. By the time I watched Beth Lavinder dancing with her hoop, I was hooked. Obsessed!

I started dancing with my hoop. Which basically is just dancing with myself. The hoop turned out to be the best dance teacher I’ve ever had, simply because if you don’t move then it falls down. The only trick to hooping is to move with it. As long as you dance, the hoop stays up. And for the first time in my life, I had an outward expression for the inward feeling that music gives me. Not only that, but it replaced running and swimming as my favorite kind of exercise, and yoga as my favorite way to meditate.

It hasn’t been a year yet, but my hoop and I have been on some excellent adventures already. I’m so obsessed with it, I take it everywhere I go…Costa Rica</a>, SXSW (where I ended up hooping on stage with Mumford and Sons, fuck yeah!), and to concerts of all kinds. Most recently to one of my favorite bands, The Henry Clay People.

I love to hoop for lots of reasons, least of all for entertainment for other people (because I’m still shy, and it creates a lot of attention!). But one time I overheard someone saying “look at her! She’s quite a dancer!” and I felt a small thrill. Who would have thought?! Awkward, uncoordinated me, confused for a dancer!

I’m no dancer, though.

I’m a hooper.

Pick up a hoop…not one from Target, those are crap. Buy a good one and join me!

by jess lewis

 

i could check, but i’m fairly certain the summer i was pregnant with henry we saw more live music than we have since he was born. before children we went to as many concerts as we could afford. after the arrival of children the concert going trips rapidly dwindled. live music was no longer at the top of the list when thinking about a (rare) night out. the ability to sit down for a nice dinner with the option of lingering at the table afterwards for some conversation won out almost every time (plus, there was the added bonus of not having to do the dishes). seeing a movie in a theater was a close second. reality slowly set in when we realized we hadn’t seen a single concert in over a year. what happened? surely we could make it out for a concert every now and then. we were craving good, live music. there is something to be said for how rejuvenating and energizing being in a hot, crowded, dimly lit venue with a thousand  other people (+/-) is.  and as much i gripe about the area i live in, atlanta and the surrounding areas are a great place to see amazing music in smaller venues.  this past year, we’ve been trying to get to as many shows as we possibly can (thank you, babysitters!) and  in doing so we’ve been introduced to new favorites, new people and new, smaller venues. the best part is, we get a rockin night out and we’re supporting the artists we love.

photos from these shows: a.a. bondy, the head and the heart, drew grow and the pastors’ wives (and black girls), the avett brothers.

have you been to a great show lately? who would you love to see live? if you haven’t been to a concert in a while i suggest you get up offa that thing, find a show, and shake it till you feel better.

p.s. if you have the time, this is a really great read about supporting musicians. also, drew grow and the pastors’ wives have a kickstarter for their new album. check them out and if you enjoy their music try to chip in! we have their self-titled album and it’s in our regular rotation.

There’s a place in our city where they host a free drum circle every Thursday night.  I’ve wanted to go with the kids for over a year, but haven’t been able to make it happen.  Either I forget (gasp!) or something like soccer, gymnastics, etc. prevents us from going.  Back in May, I made a list of things I wanted to do this summer with my children and I penciled this in as numero uno.  I knew they’d love it.  How can you not love it?  A group of strangers coming together for the love of music and a chance to play a new instrument together?!  Sign me up!!

I had no idea what to expect when we arrived.  Would it be inside?  Outside?  A group of 10 or a crowd of 70?  Approximately 50 chairs and drums were arranged in the parking lot at sunset.  A very cheerful lady introduced herself and gave us a tour.  She’s been playing with them for over ten years and eager to help newbies.  We felt incredibly welcomed as we found our seats and drums.  My daughter chose a bold colored drum not far from the leader.  My son took a seat on the opposite side from us…proud to be staking his own claim.  I sat down at a smaller drum next to my daughter.  Slowly people trickled in and added to the groove.  Other, more seasoned, players joined us with drums they brought from home.  There were solos and the occasional shout outs, but mostly it was the harmony of 5o people playing together.  Smiles all around.  Everyone relaxed.  People coming and going as time permitted.  No rules.  My son switched drums five times.  He was an all out mad man!  It was exhilarating watching him play and move as he chose…so freely…completely consumed by the music.  In contrast, my daughter was a bit more tentative.  I found myself feeling grateful to be out in the evening light experiencing something new with my kids…finding our rhythm.  Together, but separate.

We’ll most certainly be joining the drum circle again.  Afterward, the owner commented that sometimes the crowd swells to almost 100.  The week before they ran out of drums!  I’m hoping for that the next time we go.  In the meantime, my son asked if we could explore a guitar store.  Absolutely.  What about you?  Are you searching for new music experiences this summer?  Contemplating a new instrument?  I’d love to hear about it.

by Erika Ray

The story of how Billy and I became friends is long and ridiculous, so I’ll save you from the ramble.  Just know two things: I’ve known him for around 16 years and when I think of music, I think of Billy.  He is a vat of musical knowledge.  He has concrete opinions and isn’t able to hide his disgust if you talk about the merits of a Britney Spears song. He tries because he hates confrontation so he doesn’t openly berate you, but you know you’ve disappointed him.  I can relate because I have very firm opinions on photography styles.  It’s hard to bite your tongue when something so different from your core is presented.  It’s difficult to squelch your anger when someone has taken a bad turn with your passion.  But it’s absolutely impossible to squash your enthusiasm, so I decided to ask him some music questions.

How come there aren’t more bands with female lead singers?  Or all female bands?
You know, it’s the same thing with politics, literature, film, corporate America, etc: loud, boring white guys with a huge sense of entitlement try to control everything and eventually women and people of color say, “Jesus H, you are so boring Pat Boone/Ronald Reagan/James Cameron/Donald Trump, I am going to take the mic now and add some flavor to this party!”
I will say that it seems like it’s better than it was ten years ago.  From mega stars like Katy Perry and Rihanna to indie-poppers like Hospitality, Vivian Girls and Tegan & Sara, women are much more prevalent in rock.  That’s definitely a good thing.  True ROCK is sweaty and aggressive – I’m talking about AC/DC and Fugazi and James Brown, the Godfather of Soul!  And today, I think that it’s much more acceptable for women to get sweaty and aggressive.  This ain’t the Grand Ole Opry.  Shit, this ain’t TRL.  Girls are rocking.  If I have a daughter some day, I will immediately hand her a guitar.  A guitar is empowering.  It’s like a sword – except no one is gonna call a kid with a guitar a D&D dork.

Please explain your Van Halen love.  Because I honestly don’t get it.  But I want to understand.
This answer will be long.  My love is strong.
I was seven years old the first time I really listened to them in 1983.  A friend of the family, who was much older than me, gave me the cassette Diver Down – which is universally lauded as their worst record with David Lee Roth.  It’s mostly covers – Pretty Woman, Dancing In The Streets, etc – that the band released on the fly to keep the record label off their backs.  The song “Big Bad Bill is Sweet William Now,” which is an old-timey cover written in the 1920s with a clarinet solo, featuring Dave at his vaudeville-best (a perfect precursor to “Just a Gigolo”), totally floored me – especially since Sweet William was one of my mother’s nicknames for me.  I instantly became a fanatic and had a grade school buddy’s dad, Rick Cunningham, dub all of the early Van Halen records to blank Maxell cassettes for me.  By the time 1984 came out, my 8-year-old life was dedicated to Van Halen (and a little bit of Huey Lewis).  The “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher” videos took me over the top.  I actually wore through three versions of 1984.  The tapes just stopped playing from overuse.  I would pour through the lyrics and credits with each listen. I drew the VH logo on everything – my bike, dust on cars in parking lots, bathroom stalls.  The band was larger than life.  The music was so huge and fun.  And the records were so short (always 8-9 songs) and easy to digest because one minute they were playing blistering heavy metal like “Atomic Punks” and a few songs later, a mostly acoustic gasser like “Ice Cream Man,” cheeky and fun. Eddie played the guitar like a goddamn alien who was mad at earth and Dave referred to himself in third person as the most incredible performer in the world – and he was!  I would record six hour segments of Mtv with our VCR, then fast forward through the tapes, looking for their videos or news clips.

I had no idea that most of the songs were metaphors for humping on coke.  But you show me an 8-year-old boy in 1984 who didn’t love Van Halen, and I’ll tell you he was a sad fucker.  Because that band is built for 8-16 year old boys – aggression, sick humor, huge solos, sing-a-long choruses to pump your fists, too.  They were my first love and the reason why I play guitar in front of people, today – even though my music obviously sounds nothing like Van Halen.   And honestly, a good portion of my sense of humor was built from that band.  I still love them, no doubt, because of the nostalgic warmth it brings to my heart: 8 was a great age.  Looking back, they had a ton of impostors, but no one even came close to matching their power – Van Halen had bombast AND substance.  They never took themselves too seriously, even though they were incredible musicians.  I would name my second son Van Halen Peake if my wife wasn’t such a fun hater.

When was the first time that you realized music was more than just some stuff you heard on the radio?  When was it more for you than it was for most people?
Well, speaking of Van Halen, when I fell down the stairs in 1985 while imitating David and Eddie high kicks and landed knee first on a belt buckle, I probably knew I was a bit crazy.
But I really sucked at guitar in grade school because I never practiced. My teacher wouldn’t teach me anything cool beyond an occasional Beatle’s song and my dad wouldn’t let me own an electric guitar.  So by 7th or 8th grade, I stopped playing and dug deep into sports – basketball, football and soccer.  It wasn’t until college that I started playing again in my dorm room for friends and eventually played an open mic night at Easy Street Cafe in 1997.  That changed everything.  I was playing these 3-chord, mellow dramatic, sad bastard college songs that I wrote and people seemed to dig it.  That’s when I decided I needed a band.

What makes you really angry or upset about music today?
The lack of mistakes.  When you listen to a Beatles record, you can hear Ringo hamfisting snare hits.  Every time an acoustic guitar shows up on a Led Zeppelin record, I swear to god it’s out of tune.  They were totally wasted on LSD and relied completely on microphone placement when engineering the albums!  It’s comforting.  And organic.  No machines!

Modern pop music is so sterile – perfected by overdubs and auto-tuners and musicians who play their instruments like robots.  It lacks authenticity.  Nothing is organic.  Regarding modern indie, don’t get me started on the flurry of foot-stomping, faux-jamboree folk music from spoiled suburbanites driving their parents Subarus.  PUKE.

What makes you really excited about music today?
I’m glad that the thieving, major record labels are sinking like the anchors that they have always been and that independent artists have the resources to pave their own way.  Miranda Sound was at its peak when the labels were still holding on and the notion of using the web for DIY self-promo and distribution was in its infancy.  I feel like if we would’ve been ten years younger, and hit our stride today, we might have been able to make a living playing music.  Regardless, we didn’t take enough chances – so it’s a moot point.  I’m rambling.  In summary, “ha ha, the fat old white guys at Sony and Warner Brothers are going broke!  Ha ha!”

What’s the one song you remember singing or swaying with Five that smacked you in the heart?  You didn’t expect it, but it hurt.  For example with my boys it was Johnny Cash’s “You Are my Sunshine”  and Renne & Jeremy’s “Three Little Birds”
When my son, Five, was about 5 days old, I was sitting on the couch and he was crashed on my belly and we were listening to Nada Surf’s Weight is a Gift.  When “Always Love” came on, I fell apart.  Boogers were running down my nose and dripping on his clothes.  It’s more about the tone and instrumentation of the music on that song, and I honestly don’t pay attention to lyrics as much as you’d expect, but the first lines are: To make a mountain of / your life is just a choice / but I never learned enough / to listen to the voice that told me / Always Love, hate will get you every time – which, on paper, is some naive, hippy bullshit.  But in the context of the chord changes, it’s gorgeous and so true.  I hope he’s a happy kid who will roll with the punches and not sweat the small stuff.

Is there any country song you’d admit to liking?  And don’t give me an Alt-County song (I’m on to you) .  I’m talking Country country.

I love the Dixie Chicks.  Love them!  I think I’ve caught myself enjoying a Taylor Swift song before.  I hope she inspires little girls to rock.  For the most part, I’d sincerely rather get mauled by a grizzly bear than listen to Brad Paisley or Tim McGraw or especially Toby Queef.  I wish bad things on that dude and his red Solo cup.  Oh yeah, I love “Islands In The Stream” by Dolly and Kenny – and not ironically,  I will sing the shit out of that song at a karaoke bar with anyone.

If you’re in Columbus this weekend, good for you!  It’s one of our greatest weekends for music and fun: Comfest.  Billy and the rest of Bicentennial Bear play on Sunday.  Can’t be in Columbus?  No worries.  Head to Bicentennial Bear’s site, download some tunes, get outside, pour a drink and act like you’re at Comfest.  It probably smells better…

by Carmen Farrell

 

This is how I operate:  I LOVE music, but often fall hard for a couple of songs and play them to death for months at a time.  Then, something else catches my ear, and I abandon my previous love to be consumed by the new.  Well, a few months back my husband had to perform some CPR on my phone, in the form of wiping it clean and reinstalling the latest operating system.  All of my music was wiped off.  Since then, only 2 songs have been added back on and these are them:

LP’s Into The Wild and Edward Sharpe’s Home

These were my spring anthems.  And I guess I’ve played them to death because yesterday I was told off.  I was sitting with my 2 year old at the park eating pistachios when he asked me to play some music on my phone.  When he stomped his foot and groaned “Not doze ones again!”, I realized that maybe it’s time to scope out my summer anthems, and this time I’d better find more than just two songs.

Have you found your summer anthem yet?  Do share, as I think Theo can only take so much more.

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