Monday, July 14, 2014


"As far as biological cause and effect are concerned, music is useless. It shows no signs of design for attaining a goal such as long life, grandchildren, or accurate perception and prediction of the world. Music appears to be a pure pleasure technology, a cocktail of recreational drugs that we ingest through the ear to stimulate a mass of pleasure circuits at once. Compared with language, vision, social reasoning, and physical know-how, music could vanish from our species and the rest of our lifestyle would be virtually unchanged." 
- Steven Pinker, "How the Mind Works"

Sunday, July 13, 2014


“The world used to be silent. Now it has too many voices, and the noise is a constant distraction.  They multiply, intensify, they would divert your attention to what's convenient and forget to tell you about yourself. 
We live in an age of many stimulations. If you are focused, you are harder to reach. If you are distracted, you are available. You are distracted. You are available. 
You want flattery, always looking to where it's at. You want to take part in everything and everything to be a part of you.  Your head is spinning fast at the end of your spine until you have no face at all. 
And yet, if the world would shut up, even for a while, perhaps we would start hearing the distant rhythm of an angry young tune, and re-compose ourselves. 
Perhaps, having deconstructed everything, we should be thinking about putting everything back together. 
Silence yourself.”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

In Atlanta

Despite no longer having a real job and being self-employed, he went back to the Pacific Northwest for Bumbershoot and MFNW in 2012 (you have to have your priorities).  He didn't go to Music Midtown due to its boring and lackluster line up that year (you have to have your priorities), but he was otherwise committed to living his life in Atlanta.   

By a rough count, he probably went to about 60 shows that year, not including festivals, or at an average rate of about one per week (you have to have your priorities).  If each show averaged three bands, he probably saw about 150 bands that year, and when you add in the festival performances, the band tally was probably closer to 200.  He was making up for all that time spent being dead, spent feeling too old to go to clubs, spent being away from things.

But it's quality, not quantity, that matters, and he heard some terrific performances that year, including a set by Akron/Family at the Drunken Unicorn that was later released as a CD; a couple of sets by Shearwater, Passion Pit, Sharon Van Etten, and Damien Jurado; St. Vincent both solo and with David Byrne;  as well as his old Digable Planets friend Ishmael Butler, now with Shabazz Palaces.  He saw the late Benjamin Curtis and School of Seven Bells, Fanfarlo, Animal Collective, Hundred Waters, Father John Misty, Of Monsters & Men, Thee Oh Sees, Om, The Mynabirds, Moonface, Seapony, Gold Leaves, M83, Ana Tijoux, Low, and Dirty Projectors, and an epic set by My Morning Jacket out in the Oregon countryside.

And even though he hadn't seen her since Rocktober 2011, one of his favorite albums that year was Grimes' Visions.

Definitely getting close to the end of this 35-year retrospective.  According to Google Stats, I've lost most of this blog's readers and daily page views have dropped from about 20 per day to less than 5.  Regular posting will resume eventually.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Every Night His Teeth Were Falling Out

His renewed concert-going not only continued in 2011, but picked up considerable steam.  On Memorial Day weekend, he was watching live webcasts of Washington State's Sasquatch Music Festival as a surrogate experience for being at the event, and he quickly came down with a case of what he described as "Sasquatch Envy." If only he had been able to move to the Pacific Northwest back when he received the job offer in 2007 and not been another victim of the collapse of the housing market (he couldn't sell his house and had to turn down the offer), he would have been there, he reasoned, among all that great scenery, enjoying all that great music, a part of that happy crowd.  If he could only have been there, he thought, then everything would be perfect. If only . . .

Of course, the lesson learned from having previously moved from Atlanta to Albany to Pittsburgh and back to Atlanta again was that if he had sold the house, taken the job, and moved to Portland, chances are things would have been no more or no less perfect than they were right then.  Everywhere you go, there you are - you can't run away from yourself.  He probably wouldn't even have gone to Sasquatch had he moved.  After all, he's never gone to Tennessee's Bonnaroo Festival, which is just a couple of hours away from his unsold home, but he didn't want to be confused with facts - he was practicing self pity.

If he was truthful with himself, he was the only thing holding him back from attending Sasquatch.  It would have been just as easy for him to jump on a plane and fly up to Washington as it would have been to drive from Portland to the remote festival site, and if he didn't want to self-identify as a "victim" of not being able to move, perhaps he should just pack up and travel there at his leisure.

On the other hand, maybe the festival wasn't as great as he'd imagined.  According to one on-line review, the average Sasquatch attendee appeared young enough to have just crawled out of their mother's womb, "clutching glow sticks and with belly rings already attached." The reviewer went on that he'd come to realize that he had no idea how to even communicate with people that young - they might as well be another species. "So to live among somewhere in the vicinity of 50,000 of these. . . things. . .  for four days, crammed together in an isolated section of central Washington, is not my idea of a vacation." The reviewer was 26 years old, more than half his age. He also saw an article about Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival that stated:
"When the producers of Seattle's annual Bumbershoot Festival released the lineup for this year's Labor Day weekend run, there was widespread disappointment among many music fans. The biggest complaint - no big names as in years past, like Bob Dylan or the Black Eyed Peas."
 "There's not a single band I want to see, and I haven't heard of most them," sniffed Sharon Esperanza, a 19-year-old Penn State University student.  Another person commented, "When Broken Social Scene is the headliner for a major festival, that spells FAIL."

So let me get this straight, he thought - a three-day music festival guaranteed not to be attended by plaintive 19-year-old college girls or by anonymous commenters who don't like Broken Social Scene, who were one of his favorite bands.  What's more, since it was an in-town festival, he could stay in the comfort of a hotel and not have to camp out among 50,000 "things" for the three days. It sounded perfect, and at $75 for a full, three-day pass, it was a bargain.

As he was booking his tickets for Bumbershoot, he looked around for something else to do up while up in the Pacific Northwest. He checked the schedules for Portland's Dharma Rain Zen Center and the Oregon Zen Center to see if they had any retreats scheduled, but neither one had any offerings that matched up with his travel plans.  But then he saw that Music Fest Northwest (MFNW) in Portland was scheduled to occur the week after Labor Day. That sounded ideal - another in-town festival, and in a town that he knew his way around pretty well.  Once again, he could stay in the comfort of a hotel, take things at his own pace, and not have to camp out among the 50,000 things.  So he bought a full VIP pass for MFNW as well.

His Bumbershoot and MFNW experiences are pretty well documented over at the other site - just do a word search for "Bumbershoot" or "MFNW."  He got to see The Kills twice, once at each festival, caught Blind Pilot's debut album release party in their home town of Portland, was at the front of the stage for Warpaint and for Sharon Van Etten at Bumbershoot, and discovered a host of new northwest bands, including Pickwick, Ages and Ages, and Typhoon.  One of the highlights of the festivals was seeing Brooklyn's The Antlers perform in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland's Living Room.  The Decemberists' The King Is Dead might have been his pick for 2011's album of the year, but The Antler's Burst Apart, and especially its song Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out, are what he most vividly remembers from 2011.

As a fitting post-script both to this post and to his adventures in the Northwest, on the day he returned from Bumbershoot and MFNW, he got laid off from his job.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


2010:  we're finally getting to the modern era.  Also, he needs to start thinking about how he's going to wrap up and conclude this 35-year autobiographical retrospective of the years 1979 to 2014.  With all the talk of incarnations and the living dead, an appropriate climax might be to end all this by ending all this, a live webcast of his own suicide, but that ain't going to happen.  No way, so don't count on it.

He didn't get west of the Mississippi once in 2010, and he wound up leaving the company that had sent him to Portland in the first place and began working for a local, Atlanta firm.

He was finally listening to modern music again in 2010 and not to the nostalgic or obscure recordings of the past available for free downloading on the Internet.  He even took the next logical step and attended his first concert since that banal Norah Jones set in the bourgeois confines of Chastain Park back in 2003.  It had been seven years and he was 56 years old.

Baby steps:  the first concert attended after that long, long hiatus was not what he would have picked for his return, but one selected by a woman he had been dating.  That brief relationship ended sometime between the purchase of the tickets and the show itself (in fact, the total relationship didn't last too much longer).  In any event, he wound up going alone out to the remote Gwinnett Civic Center to see England's Muse.

To be sure, he did not consider Muse to be one of those cool, new indie bands that he had been discovering, but he did have to say this for Muse - they put on a pretty spectacular show.  He was as indifferent to their songs then as he is now, but their light show and stagecraft were pretty amazing, with just about every special effect in the book thrown out there at one point or another.  Lasers, video projections, stages rising on scissor scaffolds, eyeball balloons falling from the ceiling - Muse didn't miss a trick.  LA shoegazers Silversun Pickups opened, so that was cool.

He'd love to report that the first band he saw was somebody like Animal Collective or The Decemberists, but oh, sweet irony of life, things don't always play out that way.  Given the sheer spectacle of the Muse show, however, it was a pretty fantastic welcome back.

A few weeks later, he saw Noveller, Girl In A Coma, and Xiu Xiu at The Drunken Unicorn.  Then Spoon and Deerhunter at The Tabernacle, followed by Owen Pallet at The Earl.  The Morning Benders (before they became Pop, Etc.) and Broken Bells at Center Stage.  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Variety Playhouse.  The Watson Twins at Smith's Olde Bar.  Then came the first Rocktober - Black Mountain at The Earl, Menomena at Variety Playhouse, Metric at The Tabernacle, Thievery Corporation and Massive Attack at The Fox, and Vetiver and Dawes at Smith's Olde Bar, all in one month.  

When he had turned 40 back in the 90s, he felt a little awkward going to shows.  He didn't fit in with the young kids at the alternative music venues, but he was still young enough that it looked like he was trying, albeit unsuccessfully.  In the 2000s, as he turned 50, he thought that he would look downright strange among the teens and 20-somethings in the clubs, and maybe even like some sort of dirty old man preying, or trying to prey, on the young women.  Or young men.  But by 2010, at the age of 56, he didn't care anymore what others thought and besides, he looked so much older and out of place, it never even crossed anyone's mind that he would be there for any purpose other than listening to the bands, if he was even noticed at all.  Mostly, it was like he was invisible, and he could pass right through the audience without even registering on anyone's radar screen.

By the end of the year, he was hooked on hearing live music again.  2010 was the year he finally returned to his self.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


In 2009, he found only one excuse to take a business trip out to his beloved Oregon.  His visit included a treacherous drive over the Cascades range in a developing blizzard that even had most seasoned Oregonians staying in the safety of their homes.

He survived.  By the end of that year, his ears were wide open and he was discovering dozens of new bands.  He came to realize that he was lucky enough to recognize that he was living in the middle of one of those revolutions in popular music not unlike the rock explosion of the 60s, and that the 2000's, and especially the late 2000s, were one of the most creative and extraordinary periods in modern musical history.

Not only was there great new music from the bands that he had discovered mid-decade - The Decemberists, Spoon, Metric, and Black Mountain - but newer bands (at least to him) like Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, and Animal Collective.  Their music wasn't being played on the radio, his old reliable source of new music, but spread word of mouth on music blogs, web sites, and Usenet message boards.

He had various theories as to why so much good music was being produced at that time.  One held that with the collapse of the record industry and the mega-profits that hit bands could expect, the businessmen had all left the music industry leaving only the true artists behind.  Another held that with the advent of low cost to free MP3, more kinds of music were getting in more ears, and bands were informed by any and everything from ambient to zydeco, from folk to classical to metal to psych to pop to electronica and on and on, all getting melded together in new and surprising ways.  Another theory held that with the rise of rap and EDM, rock music was no longer burdened with being the preferred means for young people to shock and drive the adults away, leaving it free for a purer artistic expression unimpeded by the need to repel a segment of the audience.  

Maybe it was all of these things, or none of these things, or some ersatz combination of parts of these things, but in any event, it all sounded good to him, and 2009 marks the year he finally started listening to new and interesting music again.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

His Year In Lists

He spent most of the first half of 2008 in Portland living in the corporate condo while his house was on the market back in Atlanta.  But the real estate market was so bad, that not only could he not sell the house, he couldn't get anybody to come by and even look at the place, despite the best efforts of one of the top realtors in town.  He couldn't afford to keep a house in Atlanta and live in Portland, and he soon realized that his long-sought-after relocation to the Pacific Northwest wasn't going to happen and he had to turn down the offer to move to Portland, another victim, he felt, of the Bush Administration.

To say he was disappointed was an understatement, but he chose to not play the victim and consider himself to be "trapped" in Atlanta, but instead to make the best of his life there and appreciate what he had, not pine for what he didn't.

Vancouver's Black Mountain released In the Future that year, their follow-up to 2005's self-titled debut, and it was one his favorite records of that year.

But that's not all that he listened to in 2008 - it was a transitional year for him musically.  Earlier in the decade, he tried to act his age and listen to so-called "adult contemporary," even going to a Norah Jones concert and buying Jill Scott and Anita Baker CDs, but it didn't really work for him.  It was not what he liked or what he wanted to listen to.  

He was still downloading and listening to a lot of electronic music from the 90s and early 2000s, particularly The Orb and Pete Namlook, but he was aware there was a lot of new music being released in 2008.  He felt like there was something great out there but he just hadn't found it yet, or maybe it hadn't yet been recorded, but in either event he knew that something big was on the verge of breaking.

Doing research for this post (yes, I do research these things), I came across some CDs that he burned that year, including a two-disk set titled Best of 2008.  Most of the songs are hook-filled pop-rock and shoegaze, and music downloaded from Sirius XMU playlists, but while it all still sounds vaguely familiar to me today, I honestly don't recognize the names of three quarters of the bands.  But there was some Radiohead in there from 2007's In Rainbows, a little Feist, Scars on Broadway, and various, assorted late 2000s alt-rock bands.

Here are the three songs from those disks that resonate the most with me now, that most make me recall the year 2008:

1.  Silversun Pickups' Lazy Eye, which actually came out in 2006, but which he only discovered in 2008:

2.  There were a lot of songs on the disks by The Ting Tings, but this is the one that stands out:

3.  The wit and energy of the Wales' Los Campesinos! made a big impression on him that year as well.

Another transitional year, and even though he ultimately wound up not moving to Portland, he was changed by his experience there and was not going to be the same again.  Yet another new incarnation, and this time without all that boring being dead in between.