Thursday, May 13, 2010

This unfinished dream business.


What of this unfinished business then? And it wasn’t the job that’d eked to its natural stop or the beautiful raven-haired girl in a woman’s body who was so much part of my winter nights, but there was a dream I didn’t get round to finishing or fulfilling, probably because it’d get forgotten about as much as it’d resurface. So goes the ebb and flow of my having lived a largely distracted life. In fact, even now, this dream is only half-realized, partially understood on the one hand and felt so viscerally on the other. It’s the fault of the song. Or ought I call it The Song? See, I lived for five years as a DJ for the radio station, voluntarily making aural mix tapes for the valley week after week. I played for the congratulatory drunkards and excitable college kids and more, both those who loved and those who berated. I played for that one nameless woman many years older than I, the one who discovered Bon Iver a year into the band’s career, unable to pronounce the band’s name, and she offered up a brand of enthusiasm so authentic, I believe I may have wanted to high five her through the telephone line. I lived for the times we’d share and reminisce and discover together, disc jockey and listener. It was like we were running side-by-side, really. Those moments fueled me on the unprepared nights and got me through a couple heartbreaks and eventually caused me to crumble into a heap of a blubbering man, song after song, on what was my final go-round in radio land.


So, you do see it wasn’t that? I got to live that one. That bird came and left and isn’t real likely to make a return visit as I’m in Orlando for this new spell, this re-imagining of a life so lived inside a mostly-giddy (good) once-rut (bad). This new place has one crusty jazz station worth listening to in the mornings, which I do, waking up to the sun slipping down cobblestoned Church Street, making good on another “mostly sunny” day. But that’s it. There’s no creativity in the other stations, not that I’ve found and, for the time being anyway, no proverbial torch for me to run with. But, music. Music and song and rhythm. All are still deeply embedded in this soul. It’s what drives me to peek into the occasional concerts; the ones so integral to my fleshing out my existence, helping me understand my world through passionate screamed and whispered verse-chorus-verses. It’s why I buy CDs, long after they’ve been replaced in popularity by the pirated mp3s and resurgence of vinyl: I just can’t play records in my car. I need a soundtrack to go with my commute, to keep me company for my 10 minutes to the grocery store and back. And, though they take up so much wall space in my place, how is it an almost-wooden floor and concrete ceiling can transform this rented thousand something sq. ft. into a concert hall? These discs have rarely sounded better, whether it’s my singer-songwriter friend Sam Bailey in my ears or this Jazz For When You’re Alone compilation (its version of “’Round Midnight” currently playing nearly two-and-a-half hours before that blessed hour) or either volume of Glade’s creations, that old-sounding Utah great I only really allowed myself to discover after packing up and leaving. Ironic, that.


And, with that, I’ve set this semi-configured stage of this dream I keep trying to put across, the one I think about sometimes. I thought about it today. It’s not a particularly enthralling one, mind you, but mostly involves my somehow attaching myself to that world of music created by so many bands in the Utah area, specifically Salt Lake City. I watched them play so much, followed them from Urban Lounge to the State Room to coffee shops and radio stations and art festivals and more. I urged others in the direction of their shows, wanted them to hear all I heard. I bought their albums and asked for song demos before proper releases had formed and always, always wanted them to put out something new. So … that’s only part of it. This dream, then, involves my wanting to actually adhere myself to that musical process somehow, even if I was just in that background, looking in. If the music was partly what made me me, if it filled my thoughts and fueled a good lot of my waking hours, why not move towards making it more than it already was? Would it be so wrong to co-write a song with those attempting to perfect their art or just sit in on band practice and offer crazy-good suggestions here and there, filling that Rick Rubin role? That may be a bit much to wish for. Maybe it’s even just being a part of their lives beyond what they played for the scattered crowd of kiddies finding themselves on guest lists and sucking back green LEVs and paying that blessedly affordable $5 cover charge. Maybe going out on tour to document those behind-the-scenes situations in words or photographs, the ones not entirely told or shared or even cared for, simply because nobody knows to care about them yet. I mean, doesn’t everybody love a good back-story? Does it mean I want to ride bicycles with the Devil Whale’s Brinton Jones or sit in on a quiet night of dinner with the Andrew Shaw (The Platte) family, following it with a rousing game of Scrabble? Maybe it does. Perhaps it’s a part of wanting to discover what drives them to continue, even if they haven’t become what they want to be yet. Is there an end goal in sight? Is it a continually fed desire to create? Eh, maybe I’d just finished dating their albums and wanted to move on towards defining the relationship. Does that make me sound like I’m simply a sucker for all I perceived to be the good stuff (and I do trust these too-small ears, I really do) or does it make me out to be a crazed concert stalker from 2,000 miles away? Whichever it is, it’s a dream that doesn’t seem so off to me. It doesn’t make a world of sense, but, then again, what does? In 35 years, I haven’t come across much that falls into that realm.


I was listening to The Devil Whale’s lovely new “Barracudas” on the way home from this workday, this Monday, and it made me remember this crazy dream that I never made good on. And I’m not one prone to rehashing regrets. I consider a lot of those Utah musicians and bands friends on some level, whether they actually knew me or simply regarded me as that guy who stood in the backs of places, beaming with a kind of Utah pride I didn’t share for much else in my decade there. Listening to Brinton’s recording made me think of David Williams’ colossal beard and his classic “Echo” which led (naturally) to the Band of Annuals, the group that no longer sounds like Ryan Adams and his Heartbreaker era to me, but just sounds like, well, them. Sanded and crafted and sepia-toned and so filled with the guy-girl harmonies that still manage to wreak all kinds of havoc on my emotions on the right days. I wrote a silly little song for that band once that actually proposed this idea of getting married to one of their songs—if it was ever read by any in that camp, it was quietly dismissed—but it, too, managed to chip away at this yearned-for reality that never was. Call me one of those selfish sorts if you like. I choose to just chalk it up to, once in a very blue moon, knowing what it is I like. I may be absolute crap at getting a relationship with a woman down pat, it all sputtering stops and starts, but I can fall hard for my Utah bands and music and understand it as real love (or even a fat dose of that happy lust). It’s why I have a bundle of the new stuff delivered to me as it gets released this year, Slowtrain receipt still inside: I need my fix. Not want, either. Need.


Some Utah musicmakers not referenced but vividly remembered:

Vile Blue Shades — so many on stage, so much beautiful, crunchy mad-noise, face paint, big men in overalls and more. Like watching a carnival, minus the clowns. I even had a dancer sit on my lap after one show. I won’t forget that moment.
Paul Jacobsen — Nicest guy on that scene. Best red beard in it, too. And, as much as I liked his last album, I’m all the more eager to hear his next stab.
Theta Naught — I never did make it to a Christmas show of theirs, though I’ll promote their instrumental rock improved cello stringed madness until I can’t any longer. Nobody does what it is they do.
GIANT — I can’t name a song. I can remember the Wall of Sound, however, with a giddy Will Sartain of a conductor, leading them in a kind of beautiful Polyphonic Spree direction.
Cub Country — The time they opened for Centro-Matic years ago, was anybody else there? Their songs in the tune of loud, bombastic classic rock? Mind blown.
Tough Tittie — Green lantern outfit + oversized skull mask + smoke everywhere = easily the best spectacle death rock in the city on any night they play, no matter who else is playing.

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