Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Underground



I often wonder what life would be like if we didn't have iPods, especially for subway commutes. It's really a therapist if you think about it. Well, for me it is. It sets my mood-or helps me to continue in the state of mind that I find myself. You can encapsulate yourself in a world that no one else will know about (well, except for you folks that don't understand the concept of the headphone and listen to it at decibels that would make Roger Daltry cry).

When people make me angry, because they have bad breath, are encroaching on my space or snapping away at their gum, I can relieve stress by scrolling to one of the following: Metallica, Anthrax or Pantera. Anger no longer pours out of my eyes at the person who has, unbeknownst to them, crossed my wires. The drums, the heavy bass, the lead singer yell for me.

But then there are the rides home, when you settle on shuffle and start nodding off to Robert Plant and get startled awake by the chorus from Hair (hey, it is my iPod we're talking about here). Or the times where nothing seems to suit your mood and Christmas music seems to filter the conversations out. There is nothing like clicking on Do They Know It's Christmas? on a 95 degree day.

Everyone has one it seems on the subway and I think it is kind of a good thing. It's the Linus blanket, the hot chocolate chip cookie, the voice at the other end of the phone letting you know everything is going to be ok. No matter what you listen to, it puts you in your place of zen, contemplation,  complacency or restraint. You wonder what others may be listening to. What time traveling they may be doing.

No one can deny the guilty pleasure of putting on an 80's  tune and getting away with it. Taking the express back to 6th grade via the B-52's can prove rewarding even to your seat mates, creating wonder in them when a smile spreads across your face for no reason. I often wonder if anyone can see that I am listening to Selena, Trixter or Terence Trent D'Arby sometimes. And if they do see it, I wonder what they are thinking.

Or playing a song from a concert you remember. It takes you back to screaming at the top of your lungs for New Kids, Clapton or Pearl Jam, it doesn't matter who, it takes you back to that place. You felt the mud or the sticky stadium floor, almost smelled the smoke and got lost in the fact that the subway almost feels like the crowd moving you around.

This morning, for me its Dire Straits (thanks Z for the recommendation). Mellow, smooth, contemplative. It's a thinking man's band. I like them and it has successfully gotten me through a train commute that was supposed to leave at 0641 and didn't until 0654. It doesn't seem like much of a delay, but you can squeeze in a few extra tunes (only one if you are listening to the Dead, Phish, Dave Matthews or old Metallica).

Upon the end of the song, I can only hear the scraping of metal against the rail. Everyone is in their own world listening to songs that transport them, soothe them and excite them. The train car is silent. No talking, maybe a turning of a newspaper page every now and then. Nope, I couldn't imagine this commute without my music.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Think We Broke Time


We're headin' on down to Bonnaroo gonna have ourselves a time...


I had heard of Bonnaroo - I didn't know if I could handle "that much" jam music. I admit - as I have been called a music snob (by my husband - because he is the only one who could get away with that) I admit that I was a little leary of a four day jam festival. I had a great time in 2003 in Music Midtown Atlanta. It was a good mix of all different types and decades of music: Def Leppard, B-52's, Dylan, Buddy Guy, Les Claypool, Govt Mule - you get my point. I can't listen to too much of one thing for too long - my brain just can't hack it. After a concert - I can't listen to that band for days. After Faith No More this summer, I went home and listened to Amy Correia. Maybe something ain't wired right up there, but that is just how I am.


In the winter of 2007 I agreed to blindly buy Bonnaroo 08 tickets, knowing that I would at least know our friends from Dark Star Orchestra playing there. To the disappointment of Bonnaroo purists - 2008 was not going to be filled with jam only bands. The metal gods, the grunge gods and the rock and roll gods shined their light down upon the fields of Manchester TN and gave me the following main stage line up: Metallica, Pearl Jam and Robert Plant.


I could not get to Tennessee fast enough.
Bonnaroo hasn't looked back ever since. Besides the "Kanye mistake" that year, I think that Bonnaroo had finally found the perfect mix of jam, rock, blues and crazy. Read on.


Thursday night, after these Brooklyn kids finally put their studio sized tent up, we ventured off to see some new bands before DSO went on. I have to admit - there is a communal-ness to Bonnaroo. The town lets us make them the third largest city in Tennessee for four days and there are only a few common sense rules: don't kill anyone, try to keep all your clothes on, share your things and say sorry if you step on someone. I had to say sorry a lot the first night as I was not prepared for so many people just lying on the ground.


Two great acts went on before DSO: Nicole Atkins and the Felice Brothers. Amazing performers!! Nicole is a Jerseyite with a killer voice and the Felice Brothers made their way from singing in NYC Subway Stations to a good gig at Bonnaroo (if you like the Band and are fond of whiskey - I highly recommend these guys).


Now, I had seen our friends perform a gazillion times before. That night would be special since they sang Tennessee Jed and it automatically became the anthem for the weekend. We would hang with Dino, one of their drummers, for the rest of the festival. First night in and I knew I would like the festival. It was time to get some sleep - for tomorrow, Metallica would play.

Saturday I was able to finally figure may way around the farm without a map. So many great bands played! Umphrey's McGee, Drive By Truckers, the Raconteurs, Les Claypool, Willie Nelson, to name a few. The hours tick tocked by until finally, the time had come. I don't really think Billy knew me 100 percent until the moment Chris Rock said these words: Are you ready for Metallica!!

I transformed into the adolescent skate board punk teenager and screamed every word to every song. Dino couldn't believe I knew all the words. I am sure that when Billy heard me shout Die, Die, Die at the top of my lungs during the opener Creeping Death, he had seen it all. Every song but one or two were from the Black album and back. The Bonnaroo crowd loved it! I loved it. I hadn't seen Metallica
in a while and they had the energy they did in the early 90's. Billy enjoyed it for two reasons, I am assuming. First, because he saw what the music did to me. Second, they played Nothing Else Matters, a song that was played at the funeral of his firehouse brother, John Florio, after 9/11. John was a huge Metallica fan and everyone around the firehouse knew it. Even James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica knew it. He penned a letter to John's widow after reading his bio in the NY Times.


Saturday was a day of new bands and performers I had never seen play live. I was able to see Little Feat and Levon Helm in The Other Tent. In the band lounge with Dino, I kept on asking who was playing outside on the Which Stage. I didn't know who Gogol Bordello was but I was determined to find out. I was not prepared for insane time that would follow. Gogol Bordello are a gypsy punk band with members from everywhere. They play, what my friend has deemed, hard rock polka. Their jams are contagious. Fiddles, girls in red spandex banging drums and cymbals, a lead singer straight from the Ukraine via the
lower east side, accordions (this was like the year of accordions, I swear). I began to dance with a kid from Manchester Michigan. It felt like we were flying as we attempted to keep up with the music. At one point, he looked at his watch and proclaimed: I think we broke time. My watch isn't working. I went back stage as soon as they were done to share with Billy and Dino my new favorite band. Dino (the drummer)was in an all out Guitar Hero dual and Billy was talking to a writer for High Times Magazine. I wanted to move to Bonnaroo!
This was the night of the Kanye controversy. If you would like to read more about it...google it. He didn't get the let's all get along policy at the front door. So anyway, Jack Johnson was on right before Pearl Jam. Yes PEARL JAM. They hadn't played a festival since the 90's when eight kids were crushed to death at a festival in Europe. That, mixed with the political climate of the presidential election and Kanye West's antics, I knew this would be a great set.

Pearl Jam was tight that night. Eddie again and again commented how great it was that so many people could get along. We were 100,000 strong - a small town as he called us, before he went into that song. Billy went off to take a nap as Dino and I watched into the third hour of Pearl Jam, Release, Porch and Hail Hail were given to us like gifts from Andrew Wood, who I am sure was looking down at his former band mates from Mother Love Bone and smiled fabulously (as only Andrew could).


From Pearl Jam we were on to see Phil Lesh and Jackie Greene (who we had seen on the Sonic stage earlier in the day). First we had to find Billy and make sure no one stepped on him while he napped (how do you nap during Pearl Jam?). I wanted to stay up all night because tomorrow was the last day of Bonnaroo!! We left as soon as Phil and Jackie ended and went back to our tent.



Sunday was like Christmas, the Fourth of July and my birthday all rolled into one. That day, June 15 2008, I would finally see Robert Plant. I left Billy and Dino to go and see Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi while I staked out the perfect seat for Robert.I should also note that Alison Kraus was playing with Robert. Not that I don't like her, she is an amazingly talented artist but I was biased. I had to see my Golden God of Rock and Roll.


Then it happened. At 6:15 (Bonnaroo is always on time and that is awesome except when you're Kanye West) Robert and Alison strolled onto the stage singing Rich Woman. I knew that the audience was split 50/50 for who they were there to see. We were so close to Nashville so a lot of folks came out just to see her. My kneed buckled. I was in the presence of Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Singer of all of those songs you made out to in high school. Wearer of too tight pants and apparently buttonless shirts. I was awed for almost two hours. He sang Black Dog and In The Mood. They sang the Battle of Evermore together. It was quite a unique experience to sing Down to the River with 50,000 fans.


I didn't want to it end. Sadly, after watching Widespread Panic at the What Stage, it was time to move on. It was a perfect festival. I was with my husband, friend and 100,000 people who love music as much as we do. We sang, we laughed, we met new friends, we ate, we drank, we saw bands that made us remember memories of the past. For four days in 2008, I was a citizen of the third largest city in Tennessee. I go back each year to the farm, as we call it. It will never be the same as that year, but going back always evokes those memories of that first time I went to Bonnaroo. True to its Creole name, Bonnaroo is a really good time.
 


 
 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

FANatic




You know, people can't fall in love with me just because I'm good at what I do ~ Robert Plant

We have all been there - admit it. You have had the crush. I have had several - ok, still have several. Robert Plant, Bono, Eric Clapton,James Hetfield, and Nikki Sixx.

I don't know what it is about rock stars. Ok, I lied, I do. They are sexy hot. I also admit, that my version of sexy hot rock stars does not fit everyone else's. We each have our own check list, I am sure.
  • You either are or are destined to become a rock icon
  • You have been through hell and back and possibly made a return trip a couple of times
  • You can have strong political convictions
  • Accents are best
  • Tattoos are welcomed
  • Hair - long locks are good but not required
  • You continue to put out music because you enjoy it

I guess the crush starts when you first hear the voice. Listen to a good live Since I've Been Lovin' You and you get all sides of Robert Plant. You get the blues, you get the golden god's vocal crescendos and, if you're watching, you see him feel the song. I should add that to the list - crushes must feel the song they are singing.

 (note, this video contains a number of items from the above checklist: icon, hair, accent). 


A great example of the emotion being worn on one's sleeve is definitely Bono.Bono, from inception, I think has been overtly
emotionally tied to his songs. U2 songs are not just poppy love ballads and kitschy tunes, they (most of the time) have some deep political, social, and/or religious meaning. (Dr. Wrabley at Pitt Johnstown knows that I know this - he received too many papers from me on them). In Rattle and Hum, U2 performed Sunday, Bloody Sunday. But this performance came on the heels of a bombing (that could have been stopped by the British Army) that killed numbers of veterans in a war memorial ceremony. Bono's emotion is raw.  Whether singing about the United States occupation in Central America, the plight of millions in Africa, or lamenting civil rights activists - he was genuine. And U2 still continues to put on tours and make albums and stay true to their original concept - making music that educates as well as entertains. Bono - well, maybe it was the hair, it was definitely the accent, but what girl can resist a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve? (Back to checklist - rock icon, strong political conviction, accent, had long hair at one time, still enjoys making music).



You're probably asking yourself - Eric Clapton? Yes, Eric Clapton. Read his biography - you'll love him even more - you'll want to give him a great big hug. This man has
been through hell - and won. His love life should make anyone thankful for their own. I don't know how he can still sing Layla, I couldn't fathom knowing Sweet Home Chicago was the last song he ever played with Stevie Ray, and am thankful that he doesn't have to sing Tears in Heaven anymore. His relationship with George Harrison still fascinates me. Look at the bands he has been in: Yardbirds, Cream, Blindfaith, Derek and the Dominos.I finally saw him play in June of 2009. It was amazing. I couldn't believe I was finally seeing Eric Clapton. (back to the tally board: Icon, been through hell a couple of times, he has an accent and toured not that long ago with Jeff Beck).





Moving right along - I know, don't give me that, what? Why? Really? Hey, this is my list and I can put anyone on it that I want. And I happen to want to put James Hetfield on this list.Hmmm, let's see, heavy metal god, puts some politics into their songs (One, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The God that Failed), went through hell (third degree pyrotechnic burns, kicked drugs and alcohol), he's got tattoos and last time I checked 'Tallica has been on the road for the last two years AND they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! HA! HA! HA!
I was at this show in Manchester TN and Metallica kicked it big time. The proof was that the non-Metallica fans were enjoying themselves. The truth is - when at Bonnaroo, we're all MUSIC fans. It still sends chills through me to hear the music stop and James address the audience: Bonnaroo, Are you alive? Tell me, how does it feel to be alive



Lastly, Nikki Sixx, the man whose poster used to hang inside of my closet - because he scared my mother. Talk about a rough paper route in life, family issues, he died a few times, shot up some JD -- need I go on about this guy. He can write (wrote most of the Crue's songs) published the diaries of his heroin days, an amazingly terrifying read if you want a glimpse into the not so sexy world of 1980's heavy metal touring. He is a photographer looking at the world through his eyes and putting it out there for us to question our perceptions of reality.

There, that is my list. I think I have remained true to my rock and roll (okay, rock, rock, blues and heavy metal) crushes. Each of these guys I truly respect. Yes, I am getting serious. Each of these men have some pretty heavy weight on them. Legend, sober, humanitarian, believer, fighter, lover can be used to describe anyone of these men. Crushes just aren't about looks - believe it or not.

So there are folks who failed to make THE list, but made the list of those I had obsessive, binge crushes on: 
Michael Hutchence: I did trek to his memorial in Sydney and even left flowers.

Donnie Wahlberg: I pray every time we go to Dorcester that I accidentally run into him and not shriek like a child - although I almost ruined an entire scene with him in it while running over the Brooklyn Bridge one morning (yes, Donnie, that was me and you are so welcome).

George Michael was a crush for so long - who wouldn't want that angelic voice singing to them?  

Mike Patton of Faith No More: I contained all urges to jump onto the stage very well I think.

Dave Matthews: it's that hippy thing I think, and I like it when he does his South African accent. I have seen you over 30 times, is that obsessive?

Boy George (there Angie, I admit it) I told everyone in kindergarten I was going to marry Boy George.

Bobby Dall, the other bassist in my life. Rachel Bolan from Skid Row: Jan, what memories!!