Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Three Thao Tour.

photo credit: justin hackworth

About a month ago, I did something I’ve never done when it comes to the music going, concert attending realm. Considering I’ve been a part of that world for at least a couple decades now, too, that’s saying something. For no other reasons aside from the facts I’d a) never done such a thing and b) the idea lodged itself into my head and never got around to leaving , I decided to expand my horizons some. What was it, then? I saw a rock band play three shows in three nights in three different cities. I lived the life of a groupie for all of three days.

As the band I chose to follow was Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, I began calling it my own personal Three Thao Tour (repeated, in the same way they sing the “three hour tour” part of the Gilligan’s Island theme song). All things considered, I’m glad I took it upon myself to make that plunge. It was a fairly impulsive move on my part and it tired me right out, but I’d do it again, should the opportunity present itself.

Behind the scenes, it involved some pretty extreme measures ... like driving five hours to Boise one night to take in a $5 show, crashing on a friend of a friend’s blow-up mattress afterward, getting up five hours later to catch a beautiful Idahoan sunrise on the way back and making it back into work by lunchtime ... but that was all part of it. It helped give me the boost of adrenaline I craved and needed to pull through that stint of time. It made it about more than just the music for me. Sure, it was hands down fantastic to see a band I enjoyed so many times in a row, but having the handful of experiences to attach to the music means I won’t soon forget the singer or her band or even her last great album (and it is) anytime soon. I’ll hear that beat boxing happening at the start of “Bag of Hammers” some future someday afternoon and, all at once, it’ll take me right back to that dive of a bar in Boise, with the crazy, writhing, bouncing, singing, dancing man not five feet from Thao’s face and her doing that song, then casually segueing into a cover of Salt ‘n Pepa’s “Push It” like it was the easiest thing in the world.

You know what it’s like? It’s like trying to pair a very small portion of an unpredictable life with the same things they were putting across to us, the listening audience, night after night. We hear the songs that many times contain snapshots of a songwriter’s life and, if we’re observant enough to dwell on our own long enough, we can easily do the same. We end up comparing our notes to theirs sometimes. Ever do that? I think, in a sense, it connects us. I wonder if the Deadheads ever felt that way (or if the ones still following Phish this summer do)? If I run into one of ‘em any time soon, I’m going to bring this line of thinking up. I’m going to ask them.

And, sure, I became friendly with the band and enjoyed talking with them and trading stories when they weren’t necessarily clocked in, singing and strumming and rocking and dranking (ah, the life that accompanies the rock ‘n roll), but that’s not what it was about, not entirely. I mean, I can’t say I did this because I am a Superfan of the Thao (though, don’t misunderstand me, I like her plenty). Seeing her last year, when she was kind enough to stop by the radio station and power through some of the hits in her catalog, that was something of a revelation for me. She didn’t just sleepwalk through her songs, as many in that setting are wont to do. She thundered through them. She writhed and yelled and showed all of the same intensity in her face as she does on up on stage. There was absolutely no separation from singing a song and performing it. I admired her for that. She couldn’t go about doing it any other way, not if she tried. That aspect alone is what made me want to be witness to what she did three days in a row.

Yeah, I liked the songs and the band and its easygoing vibe. And all of their shows were within a few hours of flying or driving from here as well (Boise-SLC-Denver). Bonus again. Maybe I was looked upon as a bit of a stalker of sorts, but I’d rather choose terms like, oh, “uncommonly supportive” and “curiously dedicated.” Those work better for me. This whole thing wasn’t because I was trying to confess my undying devotion for her, as some were too quick to suppose, and it wasn’t because I think their music is apt to change the world somehow, because it probably won’t. I did it because, well, I guess it allowed me to borrow their eyes a spell and catch a quick glimpse of what their normality is. And, just like that, my empathy has expanded some. A life lesson to store away, one that comes with a soundtrack of its own. Should you ever get the chance and have the means to do so, try it out. You might even walk away with a new perspective as well, along with more thoughts than you know what to deal with.

At the very least, you’ll have a concert T-shirt, at least one new CD and some bragging rites to hold on to for a while. And if that’s all you get, maybe that’s enough.

All Linked Up

Okay, so all of that said, I wonder if my going to this teeny festival would win me Fan of the Year award? Thao and her band of non-brothers will be there, after all. There’s river rafting, no less!

To read even more ... a review I did of the Salt Lake show for City Weekly a few weeks back ... head thissaway.

Lastly, if you want to read an excellent interview my friend Heather conducted with Thao out in Denver not so long ago, click here and bask in its glory for a spell. It really reads rather well. Kudos!

1 comment:

lil' bohemian said...

pack me in your bag please ... a dose of small town idaho and some music is what I am craving ...