Little Boxes (Part 5)

The beauty of the pop song has resurfaced in my life. Growing up I was always exposed to music thanks to my father. My first favorite song was ‘Losing My Religion’ by R.E.M., my first favorite album was Ten by Pearl Jam, and I will admit I had an awful run listening to shitty hip hop thinking there was nothing better than smoking bidis and drinking 40s.
Over the years pop songs always came into play and lodged themselves into my head. Sometimes it was the lyrics, other times the hook. I listened to all sorts of shit as a teenager, music that didn’t really shape who I am today.
The first pop song I heard that changed my life was ‘You Get What You Give’ by the New Radicals. What? You have a guy named Greg Alexander sitting cross-legged on the canary yellow album cover, wearing a stupid bucket cap with the words, “New Radicals” across the front. Really? Yes, really. Every time I hear the song I cant help but turn it up and sing along. “ONE, TWO, ONE-TWO-THREE…” Right into this powerful piano ballad/anthem that makes me feel like a kid every time it’s on. I think what I took from this song was having a reason to live and finding the music in me. What the fuck?
Pop bands make their money buy selling that one hit…if they’re a good pop band they will sucker you in album after album. New Radicals made money off of me. It was 1999.
It wasn’t until 2004 that I had that same feeling again. I flew into Austin for the Austin City Limits Festival from Flagstaff on Friday, September 17. I jumped in cab and arrived at Cindy Wyatt’s house at 310 W Annie Street. She lived off of South Congress and I found her on craigslist just days before. All the hotels were booked and she was offering a small trailer on the back of her property, tucked away in the growth of her garden, surrounded with rusty old hubcaps and scattered colors of Christmas lights.
I got out of the cab and was welcomed by a 50 something, big-bosomed, white-haired sweetheart. She showed me all her old instruments, offered me some ice tea, and asked me if I wanted to join her and her friends at the festival that evening. She showed me to my living quarters for the weekend and I couldn’t have asked for more. This trailer was perfect. It had a small fridge, sink, couch, black and white TV, bunk beds, you could hardly stand up in it, air conditioning, and of course, floral patterned curtains. I settled in, put on some shorts and met Cindy in the garage where she had a 1970 Vintage Schwinn with a little bit of rust on it for to ride to and from the festival to save on cab fare and traffic. She was amazing. I thanked with a big hug and she patted my ass as I rode off with a scribbled set of instructions to Zilker Park. I was cruising.
I passed the beautiful woman of Texas, Barton Springs, lots of fun hipsters, and then the music was in me. I arrive to the gates and saw where I was to go. Hundreds of bikes chained up in a single area were calling for me to lock up and have the time of my life (Mind you I didn’t have tickets yet and it was sold out, I got lucky and got a 3-day pass within 5 minutes and walked in to ACL 2004).
I could write for hours on the bands that I saw. Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, The Pixies, Cat Power, The Neville Brothers, Ben Harper, Spoon, the list goes on.
I walked in and didn’t know what to do. There must have been 40,000 people already there just after noon. What happened next at about 1pm on the 17th of September was that second pop song that hit me like a ton of bricks. I was alone in a new city without a familiar soul in sight. It doesn’t get much better than this. Beer is cheap, boobs are everywhere, I’m sweating, and I love life.
Now the Killers are a pop band with great success and wealth and continual pop rock anthems that allow them to wear custom tailored designer suits. This wasn’t the case in 2004. I needed to call someone to share with them the excitement I was having. IT was like that feeling when you are on drugs and you feel the need to call those closest to you to tell them, “I love you man. No really, I love you.” Don’t act like you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.
They had about 5,000 people surrounding their early set, but it seemed like nobody cared in this 75,000-person space. I dug through my pocket and grabbed my phone and called my father. I wanted him to be there sharing this experience with me and enjoying all these bands and women and everything that was Austin. It was just after I had said I love you and hung up the phone that ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ was carrying across the field directly into my head. I did just that and that was the start of one of the best weekends I have lived thus far. Every time I hear that song played it takes me back just over four years and puts me back in Zilker Park, falling in love with life. It all happened over a pop song.
Well fast forward and here we are today. I am driving home from school and the radio announces that they are going to play the new single from Keane. For those of you that don’t know Keane, they are a unique three-piece out of the UK that has the power of Coldplay and U2, but can never quite deliver in full since they are working with a piano, bass, and some vocals. The song is called ‘The Lovers Are Losing.’ The first line talks about dreams and I had just been writing about my dreams so I gave it a gander and left it tuned to the station. Then it was at 1:09 that the song explodes with this amazing arena-sounding hook with such simple and creative lyrics that answered what I needed answered in life that day. What? This goofy looking guy from England just ripped my fucking heart open. The song as a whole is kind of corny, but the hook is so amazing and sounds so good that I found myself singing the last part of the hook by the time I took my exit.
You take the pieces of the dreams that you have
‘Cause you don’t like the way they seem to be going
You cut them up and spread them out on the floor
You’re full of hope as you begin rearranging
Put it all back together
But anyway you look at things
Looks like
The lovers are losing
Do you have a pop song that you love and would hate to admit it? Let it go. It feels so good.  Enjoy a pop song today.
If you’re ever in Austin, give this lady a ring and see if she will put you up for a night or two.


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