Category Archives: Music

One day I’m going to grow wings

High Fidelity

 

What’s it like to think about somebody that never thinks of you?

You take very subtle things to most people, as leaps of faith, believing that things will finally go your way.    Your heart begins to race a bit while you maintain your cool, but what you really want to do is grab her in your arms and twirl in circles in an overgrown grass field in the high desert.  You can hear the frogs in the cool summer evening but the warmth of her touch sends every sound away as you hear your smile try to stretch itself a little but further.  You lubricate your thoughts with nostalgic feelings, “I can only hope to come home to you every day.”

What’s it like to love somebody that doesn’t love you back?

Your heart begins to heart and just as you think you will make a move in the right direction, taking that lovesick, heart-wrenching pill, the poison is injected again by a simple smile or the desire to spend time with you.  This person can do no wrong yet they are completely wrong for what is right for you – yet this reoccurring dream will not escape your thoughts.  You only wish the horrible of that taking place during Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  You must remove those spots; those spots are tumors blinding your health, your soul, your love, and your life.

What’s it feel like when all this happens without reason?

You simply feel let down…let down to the point where every song reminds you of her.  You make connections of the simplest things and tie them to the strongest memories.  You become John Cusack in High Fidelity counting off the five things you love about Laura.

My Five Things:

1) She has stupid pet peeves that are irrelevant to the world we live in but they bother her enough to give her a tone in her voice suggesting she is VERY serious and it is the cutest fucking thing in the world.

2)      While most people tell stories that bore you within seconds, she tells stories that are engaging and captivating having you engulfed and fully aware of the details so you will never forget them.  These details later become inside jokes that make your relationship that much more special.  Given the occasion where the story might be blasé and benign, you still listen because it gives you the opportunity to look into her scenic eyes, loving her perfectly shaped lips, and that funny wrinkle she gets in her nose when she expresses amusement.  Freckles line her soft smooth skin.  You can’t help but keep your eyes on her

3) Her presence radiates energy and permeates beauty to those around her.  She could be wearing old baggy sweats and a hat or enjoying some cut off shorts and a tank top, she is always unintentionally exposing this physique and figure that makes you want to hold her knowing that she will be with you forever.

4) Her hands, oh my, her hands.  She’s got perfect fingers and just the right amount of wrinkles.  Her nails are natural her blemishes are flawless.  You want to reach over while your driving just to squeeze it tightly between your fingers.  That touch and squeeze is just enough to let her know that everything is all right and she knows it.  When you go to bed that hand is there. When you wake up it’s the first thing you look for.  As you depart for your day it’s the last thing you feel on her. When you return it’s the first thing you reach for.  When you are out and about it’s your stronghold, when you love someone, it’s all you need.

5) She’s fun.  She loves to have a good time in a way that most girls don’t.  She is a material girl without material things. She enjoys the simplicity of a book or a bottle of wine, anything more is over the top but she loves you nonetheless.  Everything about her is right.  You get excited when she calls, you get excited when she texts.  Each time you see her you can’t wait to see her again. Every night ends too soon, and while you’re away the time is too long.  She walks with confidence and lets you know how she feels.

She’s the most beautiful girl in the world.

When you feel like this about someone you do not sleep it off.  You don’t take drugs or travel.  You simply do not forget about someone like this.  Do you fight or do you wait?  What do you do?  I cope by hoping that time will tell.  I know this may be the biggest mistake or maybe it will be for the better.  Regardless, I am let down.

Writing this Radiohead’s “Let Down” felt accommodating for the moment.  From the opening picking to the first bass line, the emotions are there.  I am just let down and hanging around.

I just wish I could grow those wings….


Transport, motorways and tramlines
Starting and then stopping

Taking off and landing

The emptiest of feelings

Disappointed people, clinging on to bottles

And when it comes it’s so, so, disappointing

Let down and hanging around
Crushed like a bug in the ground

Let down and hanging around

Shell smashed, juices flowing
Wings twitch, legs are going

Don’t get sentimental

It always ends up drivel

One day, I am gonna grow wings

A chemical reaction

Hysterical and useless

Hysterical and

Let down and hanging around
Crushed like a bug in the ground

Let down and hanging around

Let down again
Let down again

Let down

You know, you know where you are with
You know where you are with

Floor collapsing, falling, bouncing back

And one day, I am gonna grow wings

A chemical reaction (you know where you are)

Hysterical and useless (you know where you are)

Hysterical and (you know where you are)

Let down and hanging around
Crushed like a bug in the ground

Let down and hanging around

“Sometimes I got so bored of trying to touch her breast that I would try to touch her between her legs. It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for 50 grand instead.”

 

Rob ~ High Fidelity

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Come Away With Me

When you listen to a lot of music it is hard to distinguish good from great as a lot of it begins to sound the same.  Bands/musicians/artists put their own touch on songs giving the listener the opportunity to decipher beats, chords, drums formulating their own opinion about the music they’ve created.

I could not compile a list of all the sings I am drawn to for one reason or another, but today I heard a song that made me feel good.   As we all very

know the influx talent continues from Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, London – in this case Oxford.

Foals is another indie/dance/pop/rock band (categorize it as you will) from Oxford.  They’ve received critical acclaim worldwide, are embarking on an international tour and have been nominated for the coveted Mercury Prize, amongst the likes of past winners such as Arctic Monkeys,  Antony and the Johnsons, Franz Ferdinand, PJ Harvey and Primal Scream (The xx edged them out this year, and how the fuck Roni Size beat out OK Computer in 1997 is outrageous – Im sure the panel feels the same way now ).

Sitting at my desk each day I stream Santa Monica’s KCRW hosted by DJ Jason Bentley.  Often I am muting the music for phone calls forgetting to turn the volume back up, but on most occasion, come 11:15, I am able to hear the studio sessions that take place, typically a few days prior to bands arriving in Portland for the west coast portion of their tours.  I’ve lost track how many times I’ve decided to attend a show based solely on a mid-morning studio performance by bands that are still awake from the evening’s van/bus ride from another city.  This is what it means to earn this spot on KCRW.

Now most of you have heard Foals on the radio or seen their name pop up in a number of online (maybe even print) music publications.  Making way into the states via our neighbors up north music label in Seattle, the infamous SubPop Records (See Avi Buffalo, Beach House, Helio Sequence and Wolf Parade in case you’ve been living under a fucking rock the last four years) Foals have gained the attention of people that not necessarily want to hear something new, but something that has been done before better than those that have tried and failed.

Moving on…

The studio session goes like this:  A few songs – interview – a few songs

The first few songs sounded good.  Good like the xx do when you first hear the bass line kick in.  The interview sells half the show as you get to appreciate the artist for who they are  (Sometimes they are real pricks – see Autolux show from last week, I hate that they’re so damn good).

After the interview session in which Bentley asks the questions that let you meet who you are listening to via the airwaves, the Foals, sounding excited and appreciative for all they’ve come into, started their second in-studio set.

The song, Spanish Sahara (lyrics below)

Progressing out of a drum machine and simple keyboard notes lead singer Yannis Philippakis’ falsetto layers the dismal tone with a beautiful sadness.  Then comes a light kick drum and the xx-like bass line and a quick guitar picking/rhythm strumming…break…snare, high e with a delay pedal and repeat (2:44:33 on the live version).  The song takes time to build but as it does enjoy the ride through your memories.

I was in Princeton, New Jersey swinging with friends at 2:30 in the morning.

I was running in the rain along the Caribbean coast of northwest Costa Rica.

I was in drinking Dewar’s between train cars outside of Brussels.

I was travelling through memories that have yet to happen, envisioning someone close, looking back on the memories we had built over the years.

I was dead looking at how fast life passed me by.

The song wraps around emotion, wrings them out and gets you ready to soak up more as the crescendo peaks well into the 7-minute piece.  The live translation of this track has sold me to go see them at the Doug Fir next week.  Something that grants me this joy is worth the price of admission, even if for the one song.  I see myself at the show lost in my own Spanish Sahara reliving moments while mind wandering to new, happily shedding some tears, cleansing the soul for the long winter.

Foals “Spanish Sahara”

For what I heard today check out KCRW

The track starts at 2:42:26 but I recommend you enjoy the 3 hour show.

 

Spanish Sahara

See you there my friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I walked into the haze
And a million dirty ways
Now I see you lying there
Like a lilo losing air air

Black rocks and shoreline sand
Still that summer I cannot bear
And I wipe the sand from my eyes
Spanish sahara the place that you´d wanna
Leave the horror here
Forget the horror here
forget the horror here
Leave it all down here
It’s future rust and then it´s future dust
Forget the horror here
forget the horror here
Leave it all down here
It’s future rust and then it´s future dust

Now the waves they drag you down
Carry you to broken ground
Though I find you in the sand
Wipe you clean with dirty hands

So god damn this boiling space
Spanish sahara the place that you´d wanna
Leave the horror here
Forget the horror here forget the horror here
Leave it all down here
It’s future rust and then it´s future dust
I’m the fury in your head
I’m the fury in your bed
I’m the ghost in the back of your head

Cause I am

I’m the fury in your head
I’m the fury in your bed
I’m the ghost in the back of your head

Cause I am
I’m the fury in your head
I’m the fury in your bed
I’m the ghost in the back of your head
Cause I am

Forget the horror here
forget the horror here
Leave it all down here
It’s future rust and then it´s future dust
Choir of furies in you head
Choir of furies in your bed
I’m the ghost in the back of your head

Cause I am
Choir of furies in you head
Choir of furies in your bed
I’m the ghost in the back of your head

Cause I am
Choir of furies in you head
Choir of furies in your bed
I’m the ghost in the back of your head
Cause I am

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Friends You Meet Once

PART 1

Some people have the power to remember the names of all those they encounter.  There are a number of folks I see quite often that leave me struggling once they are out of site.

“What the fuck is that person’s name?”

It is easy to say it is the bartender or server at this place, or his wife or her husband, or you know, (insert friend’s name here)’s friend from so and so.  Why is that some choose to remember and never forget, while others can choose to forget and never remember?

What makes this odd is experience.  I’ve got countless memories with men and women encountered during a single situation.  This situation may have last seconds, minutes…maybe hours or days, but nonetheless, it was ONE encounter.  Was the ability to stay in touch an option?  Of course – especially with the social communication tools in place today.  But there is something about having a memory resurface from time to time again involving you and this great one time friend(s).

The Sasquatch Music Festival was it for me this year.  Not planning on going I decided to spend the weekend at home studying for the GMAT.  Some friends whose names I know formulated a plan to go and my game time decision of going was made the night prior.  Packing up the car, the road opened up at 6am.  I headed east on 84 through the Gorge on a misty May morning.  Just passing Troutdale, the enchantment that is the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge happened.  I realized how much I enjoyed being alive.  4 hours and multiple CDs later I arrived to Wildhorse Campground.  Here I was meeting a gentleman from Seattle who promised to have a camping pass for me in a sold out location.  Sure enough the guy (I cant remember his name) met me at the gate and I was home for 48 hours.

A nice patch of green grass welcomed my car and my tent.  The party was already well on its way and my arrival was welcomed with frisbees and free beers.

Friends

Sasquatch Music Festival

After setting up camp, I immediately changed from the clothes the Portland weather had warranted into some shorts and party bandana.  Popping open a camp chair, a bottle of Makers and a book, my life was sublime.  I listened to the same song I listen to every morning by Animal Collective, “Daily Routine,” whose opening lyric is, “Just a sec more in my bed.”  I’ve never been so happy to not have slept in, sitting outside America’s greatest music festival preparing for the likes of my favorite bands with my favorite friends.

The empty campsite next to me was soon occupied by a maroon Jeep Grand Cherokee with North Carolina plates.  Out came a scruffy man with wayfarers, faded 501 jeans, brown hiking boots, a short sleeved flannel, a yawn and outstretched arms.  Following him came a simple sexy blonde woman with kind eyes, next came he good looking tan guy with a hidden wit I would learn to appreciate, and finally a goateed man with smart glasses and a sharp jaw line.  The group set up tents, had some drinks and shared some hellos.

Shortly thereafter I was off to the festival with a belly full of bourbon, beer in hand, bandana on, bus ready to shuttle and legs ready to dance.  I arrived to this yet again…

Can't beat this

If only she could see this

The day was shared with Broken Social Scene, Nada Surf, Edward Sharpe, The National, Mumford & Sons, Z-Trip, Patton Oswalt and of course…My Morning Jacket.  Making my way around with the friends whose names I knew, I eventually wandered back to camp around 2:30 in the morning under a green moon and blinking windmill lights shining across the gorge.

Green light red light

Everyone I know was with me

Making it back to camp, I decided to take advantage of this green moon and enjoy an outdoor shower at 3am.  A late night showed never felt so good.

4 Hours later….

The slamming port-o-potty doors were rude to wake me, but I guess that’s what you get when you party hard and go to music festivals.  My face was puffy and my eyes swollen.  The nearby bathroom was too far, but I managed to make it, proceeding with a morning dunk of the head under the cold water spicket and a scrubbing of the teeth.  Popping my trunk, the cold cooler held a life saving coconut water.  I tossed the can back slowly putting it away and feeling revived.  As I brought my head back down to reality, the goateed man with the sharp jaw had risen, sitting on the edge of his jeep smoking a Parliament Light, shirtless, arms crossed.  Looking back in my cooler there was an unopened bottle of Vodka and some orange juice.  I grabbed the two and held my open arms out to offer this man a drink.  Looking at his watch, he took a drag of his cigarette, held it, exhaled, and gave the tilt of the head and shrug of the shoulders that simply said, “Fuck it, why not.”

Soon thereafter, the goateed man became Michael Pratt, an unemployed lawyer, there with his kind eyes wife Meredith “Polly” who just finished up at Columbia, his law school roommate, hiking boot wearing buddy Garrett Garnos, and of course, Trevor Smith…a deep sea oil rig diver who was there just after the BP incident.

We started drinking and within the hour the full bottle was gone and absinthe was introduced to the equation.

Time 10:53 am

We had laughs and stories, all of us crying and laughing, “In Rainbows” in the background, sun shining, life good.

A plan was then developed…we were to infiltrate Shakedown Street aka District 9 aka the main Gorge Campground for what would prove to be one of life’s most memorable evenings.

Sasquatch 2010

For Your Eyes Only

To be continued…

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Little Boxes

Little Boxes
The summer months moved along awfully slow.  In fact, every hour of every day seemed to have no end.  My sleep was little and my pain was great.  The tears rolled down my face each night as I searched for a moment of comfort and relief; they were far and few between.  The pain I felt was one of which I would not wish upon my worst enemy, in this case myself.
I first felt the pain on Sunday, May 29, 2005.  I sat in the front seat of my father’s forest green Jetta and stared at across the Columbia River.  The River stared back but said nothing.  The Bridge of the Gods sent a whisper through the wind that entered the car and shook me cold.  I felt a bite to my lower back and right hip; I shook it off by demonstrating minor discomfort.  This had to be a result of sleeping in a field the night prior.
The Sasquatch Music Festival was an event I tried to be part of as often as possible.  Usually held around Memorial Day weekend, the industry’s latest greatest indie rock bands arrived to George, WA to play what has become one of America’s most treasured venues, the Gorge Amphitheater.  Settled above the banks of the Columbia, thousand of people came each year to indulge, imbibe, and get away from the little boxes.
The years I attended, a trip to Seattle was always in store pre-festivities.  My old childhood friend and I would collect some liquor, bags of drugs, pack up the car, and anticipate a memorable weekend that we would talk of for years to come.
In 2003, my friend was still at the University of Washington.  A quick trip up the corridor put me in Seattle with just enough time to stockpile a weekend of fun.  After a nap of a few hours, we woke in the dorm room, packed our bags, and thought for good measure, we might as well two a couple bumps of cocaine since we had a long drive ahead of us and no coffee; a sound justification at the time.
This year we had moved the party up a few hours by splitting a double stack ecstasy pill the night before.  We danced on the rooftops of Seattle and shot the moon with our thoughts.  We owned the night.  It was what we did.
The festival was no different.  We set up camp in the heat of the early afternoon sun.  Some cocktails and victuals were in store; God forbid you drink and drug yourself on an empty stomach.  We had no reason to split a pill this time, we were about to party with rock stars for ten hours; party we did.  Falling asleep in a tent that rest on an uneven field of long grass was surely why my back gave me so much discomfort.
The rest of the year passed.  My daily run turned into a daily bike ride.  The pain from running was unbearable.  Every now and then I would feel cured and kick a soccer ball around with friends, but that only lasted moments of every month that came.  My justification and blame for back pain soon left central Washington and became much more immediate.  I was without a car and thought I would better myself by riding my bike to and from.  I had a decent road bike that always showed me a great time.  I dedicated myself to riding, rain or shine.  Occasionally I would negotiate a ride, but for the most part I was riding a few miles to school and then an additional nine miles to work across the river.  My back was becoming incredibly sore; it must certainly be all the riding.
X-rays and physical therapy all blamed my lack of flexibility for back problems.
“You have to do these stretches for an hour each day,” the therapist would bark.  “The pain in your lower back is caused by the tightness in your hamstrings and gloots.”
I continued the stretching, the riding, and the pain.  I was losing weight and satisfied with my results.  The bike riding, though painful, was paying off.
“If I am losing all this weight and becoming much more flexible, why does this pain in my back keep getting worse?”
2006 finally came.  I was working as editor-in-chief for the Clark College student newspaper to keep fresh on my practice of journalism. This was merely a hobby and a social experiment.  I attended Hofstra University in Long Island, New York University in Manhattan, lived in Costa Rica, traveled the world, and had a number of memories to make this time redeemable.  I did not have control of my pain and therefore had no control of my life.  This newspaper gig gave me a bit of much needed control that was so desperately needed.  I could no longer earn any transferrable college credit, but the job paid and allowed me to write, design, and edit, but most importantly, take my mind off the pain that was worsening with each passing day.
It soon turned to be that the only comfort I found was on my bike.  Being outstretched and hovering over the white frame of my bike gave me a feeling I only used to know so well; what I would do to have that feeling come back for good.  The winter and spring quarters passed and I lost of all of what little control I had.  I continued to visit the doctor and continued to hear the same fucking bullshit.  What was happening to me?  Nothing could help the pain.  Neither whiskey nor pills could alleviate me from the vise that was on my spinal cord.  Sleep was now unknown.
When I did sleep I would shiver and sweat as if possessed by an internal demon.  I would be too cold to grab another blanket and so tense I feared breathing.  I would wake up soaking wet and confused with what was fiction and what was reality.  Did I just feel those demons or was it all a dream?  Was I sweating from nightmares or did I have a fever?  I spent many nights in the bathroom, sitting on porcelain, lost in auburn squares of tile trying to find answers.  I would not be able to pass a bowel movement and urination felt like rain trying to make its way through a leaf filled gutter.   There was no pain, just no satisfaction.
I would return to bed in agony, tears of frustration rolling down my face.  Piling a mountain of pillows and blankets onto my bed may look odd to the outsider.  I would lay face down on top of this mountain, ass in air, and find some rest in this awkward position.  It was the only way I could have some piece of mind.  It was mid-July and I hadn’t slept more than two hours without interruption since early spring.  I had no motivation and no thoughts on life.  I wanted no more of what I was feeling.  Suicide was never a realistic idea, but the thought of being better off dead certainly crossed my mind.  I would just sit on the recliner and watch endless episodes of sportscenter.  Eventually I would doze off only to find myself in this angered state of sadness and bemoaning.  Life was passing me by and I did not care.
August was approaching and I had had it.  I approached my boss and asked for two weeks off to see if I could heel my back from any pain.  Kaiser finally schedule me for an MRI since I filed a workman’s compensation claim, again thinking the pain was coming from an event at work.  I primarily did this to earn some benefits of seeing doctor’s without having to pay out of pocket, seeing as it may truly have occurred at work.  My boss gladly gave me the two weeks and immediately I felt the pain ease.
This is what I needed; a much-needed break to relax, enjoy the hot August sun, and hopefully get some rest.  The MRI was scheduled for Friday, August 4, 2006.  My father was going to drive me; that was how bad the pain had become.  I had trouble getting in out of the car, up and down the stairs, and certainly into a fucking tube for an hour at 7:30 in the God damn morning.
I did not really wake up early that morning, rather just waited for the sun to come up so I could start a new day.  Sleep had long since disappeared.  I slipped on some baby blue scrubs that my step-mom had brought home from work.  She was a nurse at Kaiser and just happened to have picked up a shift at the Salmon Creek location where my MRI was scheduled.  I through on a t-shirt, pulled a black hooded sweatshirt over my head, slipped on a black pair of Crocs, grabbed my Dodger’s cap, and wobbled to the car.  All I could think of was the French toast and sausage I was going to eat after the MRI.  My father and I did not speak of much on the way to the hospital.  We discussed the potential results and the worst-case scenarios.  At this point, the worst-case scenario would have been the best possible outcome compared to the news I was to hear in a matter of hours.
Arriving at the hospital, I checked in and followed the doctor back to the MRI screening room.  I made my way to the table and rested on my back.  Trying to find a position of comfort was damn near impossible.  Trying to find a position of comfort for an hour was a fucking impossibility.  I had to put a pillow behind my knees and out stretch my arms over my head.  I knew the pain was coming and just had to fucking deal with it.
The tube seemed to get smaller as I inched my way in.  My saving grace was the window just beyond the end of the tunnel.  If I pushed my eyes to the top of my skull I could see the sky blue sky and the branches of a tree waving in the wind.  The sunlight would break through the branches and smile at me, telling me everything would be ok.
The MRI finally ended and I made my way out to the lobby where my father patiently awaited.  The gentleman who conducted the scan smiled, shook my hand, and told me he would be back in a matter of moments with a scheduled follow-up doctor’s appointment.  I wanted some mutherfucking French toast!  A short while passed and the gentleman returned.  He told me that there was a doctor waiting to see me upstairs.  This was great.  I had a scan and would be seen that same day to figure out what was causing me this grand discomfort.
I walked up the stairs and checked into module A.  Here I waited amongst noise.  Although I was nervous to find out the results of my suffering, I was anxious to get this problem resolved.  The nurse called my name.  I made my way down the hall and passed my step mom along the way.  She offered a smile and told me everything was going to be ok; she had the same tone the sun had.
I sat on the table and waited for the doctor.  I never could stand that fucking paper they laid across the examining table.  It always made me angry.  A five-foot nothing man from Vietnam walked into the room.  His coke bottle glasses and side part suited his white coat.  He looked like he came from a family that had nothing. He looked like he made his way through medical school and residency on the thoughts of his parents back home.  He knew they wanted nothing more than for him to have a better life than they could give him; he would never forget that.
His name was Doctor Vu V. Ngo.  He had broken English and wore a smile.  He brought up my results on the computer and asked me a few questions.  He typed away without ever looking at me.  When he finished questioning me he continued to fill out some notes and casually proceeded to tell me I had cancer.  What I felt at that moment is something I hope to never feel again.  I died.
There wasn’t going to be any French toast today.
I sat there and looked at this guy as if he were a heartless, soulless, piece of shit immigrant that I wanted to fucking choke and slam on the ground.  That lasted for about 3 seconds.  He then looked at me and asked if I was ok.  Oddly I was.  I was reborn.

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Morning Song

It all hit me after seeing Benjamin Button, waking up the following morning, listening to Zero 7, while watching the planes take off across the river.  What were those passengers thinking as they took off?  Where were they going? Who was waiting for them?  Who were they leaving?  How was I so different from them all?  Im going to do something.  I know it.  Just slowing it down now to see it is all right in front of me.

“Morning Song”

Days behold lives unfold
Can’t move on so much untold
Shades of gold we’ve been sold
Been deceived while we believe

If today is all we see
Then tomorrow seems to me
Is just an elusion we believe

Strive to see hope to be
To be some small part of eternity

If today is all we see
Then tomorrow seems to me is
Just an elusion we believe

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Top 10 Shows of 2008

10) DJ SHADOW & CUT CHEMIST

The best at what they do!

9) AGAINST ME!

Good old punk rock.  

8) GHOSTLAND OBSERVATORY

Dance

7) CAVE SINGERS

Stoned

6) MGMT

Time Warp

5) RADIOHEAD

Always Amazing. Had they played this, it’d be #1 of all time.

4) APOLLO SUNSHINE

Who? Exactly. Go see them now!

3) SIGUR ROS

It was hard not to put them at #1 after hearing Untitled #8

2) BUILT TO SPILL (x3)

Perfect From Now on played start to finish, serious?

1) NIN

Can’t be beat. No way, no how. A show on his own dime makes it even better. Hats of to Trent Reznor and Co.

 

____________HONORABLE MENTION_______________

DEERHUNTER

FOO FIGHTERS

FILM SCHOOL

JACKSON BROWNE

YEASAYER

MY MORNING JACKET

HELIO SEQUENCE

LYKKE LI

WEINLAND

BUILDERS & THE BUTCHERS

DIGITALISM

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Bob Boilen Profile

I interviewed Bob Boilen a couple months ago for a profile piece.  Here is the short version…I’ll keep the full one.  Best. PO

On occasion Radiohead have been hailed as the world’s greatest band.  SPIN Magazine called their 1997 release of Ok Computer the best album of the last 20 years, and the band has broken barriers in the music industry.  Last year they released their latest album, In Rainbows, as a digital download where the listener could pay whatever they chose, even if that meant nothing. 

 

Lead singer Thom Yorke has been known for his bouts with depression and his quirky actions.  He is a well-educated, grammy winning, lazy-eyed genius of a human being whom fans would love to sit face to face with and ask a myriad of questions.  Bob Boilen of NPR’s All Songs Considered did not care if he never had the chance to speak with Yorke.

 

“I really, really, obviously love their music, it oozes out of me” said Boilen in a recent phone interview.  “But I really didn’t care if I ever talked to Thom Yorke in my life.  I take music for its face value.  I remember people telling me that Thom would be a hard interview and I wouldn’t have fun with him as a guest DJ.  What a fascinating person he turned out to be.”

 

Boilen has the opportunity to listen to and interview many bands.  Part of his job depends on it.  In 2005, All Songs Considered began webcasting concerts from DC’s 9:30 Club (Boilen and his band Tiny Desk Unit were the first band to ever play the venue in the late 70s).  To get a feel for an interview Boilen may watch sound checks and observe the attitudes and moods of the bands. 

 

“The key for talking to musicians is understanding what their life is like,” said Boilen.  “They have demanded time from city to city and it is not that much fun for them answering the same questions over and over.  I am not really looking forward to interviewing anyone.  You’ll be damned if you’re gonna get a good interview.  Let’s take Jeff Tweedy for example.  Wilco was in town and I was at the sound check.  This is a good way to observe the band and find the mood.  Something had come up with my son and I was talking about it and Jeff Tweedy started talking about his kids.  By making small talk, this allowed him open up and talk about things he doesn’t usually get to talk about.  I’ve found that people will like you better if you just talk to them.  I don’t overly prepare for interviews.  Sometimes I will latch onto a lyric, but I gave up preparing for interviews because I found I was always waiting for the next question.”

 

This is part of what has made Boilen’s show such a success.  He talks with the guest rather than talk to the guest.  Anyone can research and find out where a band is touring or what kind of instruments they play.  Boilen converses with musicians about influences, recording styles and processes, and their lives in general.  He gives the fan a chance to learn things you may not have ever known before, sometimes even turning over the DJ role to the guest.

 

“Guest DJ shows are the most fun for me,” shares Boilen.  “It gives me a chance to learn so much about the musicians as people and the music I love.” 

 

Boilen’s time and dedication to the music world is all part of his goal in making All Songs Considered what is today after just nine years.  20 years ago Bob Boilen showed up on the doorstep of NPR headquarters in Washington DC determined to find a new line of work.  He quit his job in television and told his wife he was going to work for National Public Radio.  Boilen was first asked to cut and edit tape for Ira Glass.  Glass remembered Boilen from Susan Stamberg’s 1983 interview with Boilen on All Things Considered.  He was working for Washington DC’s Impossible Theater and just finished a composition using a new technique called audio sampling.  Satisfied with his editing, Glass asked Boilen to come back the next day. 

It was around this time 20-years ago, as the holidays were approaching, and the NPR was short on help.  Persistent and determined, Boilen continued showing up.  He would acquire a two-week assignment here, and a four-week assignment there.  This went on for more than a year until Markik Partidge, director at the time for All Things Considered, took a job in New York for a year, leaving Boilen the job.  It was here that the seed for All Songs Considered was planted.

One of Boilen’s duties as director included choosing the music used in the program.  The music was used to separate stories and add character to the show.  It wasn’t before long that letters began pouring in inquiring about the songs being played throughout the program.  The indie music played was not something typically heard on radio.  With the increasing use of the internet, Boilen decided to launch his internet radio show in 1999 and All Songs Considered was born.

“There is never a single moment where I get sick of my job,” Boilen says with sincerity.  “I created it and look forward to every minute of it.”

 

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Feedback on the piece….

The Bob Boilen profile is strong indeed. Most writers would have chosen a formulaic lead for this profile – starting off with Boilen’s words or actions, present (a pull from his show, perhaps, or a phone call to a star asking him to be on his show) or past (A man knocks on the door of NPR, his resume in hand. It’s his tenth time there.). Such leads put me off so much. So I really value unusual approach you took with your lead. It is risky – taking a while to set up your introduction – but you handled it well and the risk pays off. It’s unusual to find a twist in the beginning of a piece. The way this article reads, I feel assured that its writer made hard, exacting and wise choices on the quotes that are used. It reads well. This ending is also abrupt, but in a successful way; it ends on an upnote that is logical and leads you wanting more – more of the interview subject – and that is a writer’s achievement. 

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