Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pearl Jam: Hall of Fame and Memories

People lose their minds every year when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations are announced. Whether they argue about how so and so can get in before such in such or whether or not someone is actually Rock and Roll, I find the whole thing stupid. The very idea of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not Rock and Roll. And the very idea of Rock and Roll is about a mix of influences and genres and artists. So there's no argument that can be made about the nominees that can't also be quickly dismissed. Instead of arguing, how about just celebrating music and leave it at that? Anyway, this year, one of the nominees is Pearl Jam, and as a result, this video of them playing an in store set at a Tower Records in NYC in November of '91, just before they really took off, has been making the rounds.

The video has been on YouTube for years and you can find edited clips of the songs separately, but somehow I had never seen it. This is the band who's music was embracing me around this very time, when I most needed it. In the video, they even open with what is one of my favorite B-sides, "Wash," a song I wrote a whole short screenplay around. This is the band that made me feel I actually wasn't alone when I was in the depth of the agony and self-loathing comfort of loneliness.  I wouldn't go so far as to say they saved my life, but there was a time that music was the only thing that made it bearable and this band, particularly their first two albums, were a huge part of that. 

A couple of years ago I wrote a thing about 5 shows I'd go back in time to see. I've seen Pearl Jam live, twice. The first time could hardly be beat since I was working the show as a- I don't know what you call it, but I was putting barricades up. It was October 7th, 1996, during the No Code tour, at Ft. Lauderdale Stadium. I got paid, had backstage access and saw the show. At one point, the guy I was hanging out with and I decided to go watch from the side of the stage, where we climbed up the scaffolding. There was a hurricane on the way (I can't remember which and it doesn't matter enough to look it up) so the weather was weird and windy. Eddie's hair was in the wind and the music was amazing. I may have taken a half tab of acid. 

After the show, we were drinking water under the tent that had been set up out back and making fun of some asshole we saw in a floppy hat, hanging out by a van talking to a bunch of girls. "What an asshole, with a floppy hat" we were saying. And laughing. Laughing at the asshole in the floppy hat. Then, quietly, slowly, "wait. . . is. Is that? Dude, that's Eddie Vedder." And we ran towards him looking like what I imagine every body guard is trained to look out for. We didn't get tackled or anything, but his people were trying to get him into the van before the shit the fan. I yelled out "GREAT SHOW, ED!!!" and he said "thanks," but didn't stop getting into the van. 

Anyway, as great as that was, I would put this in store show on that list of shows I'd go back in time for. To see them play in a store like that, and then hang out with fans, before that would prove impossible, would be amazing. I'd love to do it, knowing what's to come.  Maybe get a signed album and say thanks for the memories that haven't happened yet. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Perfect Songs - The Pressure

Rachel Fannan

I've written about Rachel Fannan several times here, and this was the first of her songs I heard and instantly loved, so it's time to make it official. Only You's "The Pressure" is not only one of my favorite songs of the last several years, it's fucking perfect.

That melancholy, twangy intro, that feels almost like something out of a Spaghetti Western romance with a sad ending, sets a mood that is only strengthened by the mix of things that come up in the rest of song. You can feel the hair stand up on your arms and neck when that moment of fuzzy distortion hits taking us from that lonely desert to whatever smokey chamber of despair Rachel is screaming inside of. There are elements of 80s new wave, more 60s guitar twang, and an overwhelming sense of haze that can't be denied, since the whole thing obviously "came from the smoke rings around your hair." The strange sound effects and distortions throughout add a perfect amount of psych instability that heightens the anxiety of Rachel's impassioned anguish over unrequited love, infidelity or just the general drama of love. I'm not even that concerned with the literal lyrics, because this is all about mood and atmosphere and energy that bubbles around this amazing voice, unleashed from within your deepest whatever to surprise you with a confession of some kind that the whole world will have to deal with. Listen to this anytime, but I particularly have enjoyed this when driving alone at night. It goes well with empty highways and wandering thoughts. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer 2016: Chaos Reigns

So much has been said about how 2016 sucks. Deaths of icons. An election that seems to be taken from some parody within an apocalypse within a farce of a nightmare. A climate that is rightfully trying to kill us all with fire, if we don't all just shoot each other first. Race not "still" being an issue, because that's not surprising, but what seems to be an escalation in willful denial about inequality has ignited some truly insane shit. Anyway, the world is on fire figuratively and almost literally. I swear I felt the sun laugh flames in my face the other day as I stepped outside.

I see so many ridiculous arguments on every side of issues with very few people being consistent about a damn thing. I'm constantly amazed about how much people are willing to give up to systems that are clearly broken just because that's "the way it is." The idea that change is incremental is something only people that benefit from the status quo can say with a straight face, as if that was somehow ok. People looking to change things are called naive by those supporting candidates simply because they pledge the right mascot. Everyone is offended but somehow calling out actual offenses is also offensive. It's mind-boggling.  But anyway, about music. . .

I've been listening to a lot of Nick Cave this summer and it's been the perfect voice for all of this. We've partied like it was 1999, but no big time apocalypse came. Instead, it's been a descending spiral for several decades. Cave's narratives are the soundtrack of our elongated doom. But, of course, there's other songs, other voices. Hence my playlist, Summer 2016: Chaos Reigns. Metallica released a song that is not only a great reminder of why they were my band back in the 80s, but is one of the most timely things I've ever heard. And of course, Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" plays in my head every time I'm reminded how shitty the world can be. It's not all doom and gloom, though.  Deap Vally's "Smile More" is an anthem for every woman who's ever been, well, a woman in a supposed man's world, but also for anybody who's ever been outside the norm or just generally feels like they should be left the fuck alone. (Hint: leave everyone the fuck alone). The point is, there's a sense of rebellion here and maybe even hope as well. But, always, unfortunately, for most of us, struggle. Still, at least we're not alone, even if we don't always realize it.

Anyway, listen and think and hopefully enjoy. And I'll try to post more often again, if anyone cares. 

Friday, July 29, 2016


It's been some time since I wrote anything and today's a good day for a comeback. Back in the year 2000 (the distant future) a marriage happened. My marriage. Our marriage. I think we decided to do it that year so it would be easy to count how many years were married every time our anniversary came up. We're practical that way. So, thanks to foresight and easy math, I know today it's been 16 years, and as such, I was planning a playlist or a song about being 16. It's a running gag (I'm probably the only one aware of it) I started when we hit 13 years where I refer to our marriage as a teenager. Thing is, as I was searching today for an appropriate song it really became clear that just about all songs about 16 year olds are pretty fucking creepy when you really listen to them. The worst one I heard was Neil Sedaka's "Happy Birthday Sweet 16."

"Tonight's the night I've waited for, because you're not a baby anymore," seems innocent enough (not really) until you realize he never makes mention of how old he is or who he is to this girl who he clearly saw grow up. There's never any indication that they grew up together, mind you. Just that he's been waiting, patiently, for this day since she was 6. So, yeah, fuck this. Never mind the gag, I'm actually gagging. I'm disturbed. Tralala indeed, you sick fuck.

Anyway, I guess that leads to this song, with a hard right turn. We've been growing old together for all these years and we'll continue to add years, gray hairs, laughs, tears and all that shit (romance). Life is hard as fuck, but at the end of the day, having someone who knows that and sees you for who you really are, when most people don't, it's all worth it. So, there you go. I love you.