Tag Archives: music

It Flows Through Me Like Rain

Today was the first day in nine days that it hasn’t reached 90 degrees in Minnesota. Though I’m usually no fan of hot weather, this hasn’t felt like a heat wave. It’s felt like July. Summer in Minnesota.

We were at a music festival (though it was about so much more than the music) all weekend and spent a lot of time under the sun. As I sat on the hillside listening to T Model Ford on Saturday afternoon, there was a pause in the music. I heard a woman behind me say to her friend, “On the coldest, nastiest day in January, I’m going to think back to sitting on this hill with Jerry.”

I tried to think about the coldest, nastiest day in January but couldn’t call up even the faintest feeling of it.

Earlier that morning, Katie and I had walked up from the shady, fern-carpeted campground. I got a delicious iced coffee from the good folks at Peace Coffee and we went and sat in the tent where maybe 100 people were watching Charlie Parr perform. He plays Piedmont-style blues. I don’t know exactly what Piedmont-style blues is, but I know I like whatever Charlie Parr plays. In a style all northwoods, he played songs about “drinkin’ and killin’” on a guitar, making good use of the slide. At one point inbetween songs, a five-year-old boy came charging up through the people sitting on the ground and went right up to the stage. He said to the musician, “Daddy, it’s too loud.” They talked for a second and his dad smiled gently and said, “It’s too loud?” The little boy got self-conscious then and turned to walk back but as he walked away he said, “Yeah. Waaaay too loud.”

Parr smiled and then said, “This song is also for my dad.” He put his chin down to his guitar and was silent for a beat, then lit into another tune.

The next day was the hottest day of the weekend and I couldn’t bring myself to go back out on that shadeless hill. All eight of us that had camped together hopped in a couple cars and drove down to take a swim in Lake Superior. I had never swam in the big lake before. The heat of mid-July is about the only good time to swim in its waters, by all reports, and it felt great. We found a miles-long stretch of beach that seemed like it would have fit in better in Florida than northern Minnesota and swam for a good long while. The sand sloped gradually out so we could stand off-shore quite some ways and throw the ball around and wash away the layers of sweat and sunscreen and dirt.

When we got back to the festival grounds everyone else headed up to see local folker Mason Jennings play. I still couldn’t stand the thought of that heat so Katie and I stayed in camp, where we could luckily still hear his set pretty well, and eventually we decided to pack up and head home. Packing up after a party weekend and then dragging it all back up to the car was no small
chore, but soon we were on our way. I had felt some strange calling to drive down Skyline Parkway all weekend so we did that. Skyline winds along on top of the ridge over Duluth and is both a fun road to drive and freely offers amazing views of the port and the lake.

Finally, it was time to really put Duluth behind us and head back. Interstate 35, the main corridor from northern Minnesota to the Twin Cities, is a hellish drive on a summer Sunday with everyone returning home from weekends at the cabin apparently much angrier than they left on Friday. We were just about to commit to I-35 when we recalled Deb’s advice to take Highway 23 through her neck of the woods. It didn’t take a lot of debate before we’d exited and headed down this new road.

Thank you, Deb. Highway 23 was beautiful and very quiet. We saw few cars on the wide, two-lane highway. The road was lined with tall pines, we saw some lakes and rivers, and then, when we were maybe within 15 miles of rejoining I-35, I saw an Adopt-a-Highway sign that told us that this mile was under the care of “Deb’s Brunofarm” or something of the like. I can only assume that that was the homestead of my esteemed blogger and steward friend and I want to say “thank you” and that the road looked great.

We returned home exhausted. The past month has been one whirlwind after another. It’s been hard to complain because it’s all been quite wonderful, but nonetheless, I think it’s safe to say we’re both “partied out.” Work today was a story in survival and this evening was one of recovery. Nonetheless, though I probably should be sleeping right now, it seems that writing is more important.

Was more important.

Summer? Summer is good.

I’m outta here tomorrow morning for a weekend at the Green Man Festival overlooking the beautiful port city of Duluth. We went last year and had an awesome (yes, awesome) time camping, listening to music, watching mountain biking, and partying with friends. It’s a low-key festival with only a few thousand attendees, a diverse lineup of music (from blues to bluegrass), and it’s super eco-friendly to boot.

Have a great July weekend everybody, whatever that means in your part of the world.

“Without ideals or violence”

What can you say about seeing Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson perform? Not much. It was a beautiful night outside in St. Paul. Willie was laid back, Dylan’s band was tight and seemed to have a good time.

Perhaps Dylan Hicks — who I normally find more than a little arrogant but who at least has some talent as a musician and a music writer to compensate — said it best in his preview of the concert in the City Pages last week.

Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman in one of the finest states in the entire Midwest, wrote hit songs for Peter, Paul & Mary, the Byrds, and Olivia Newton-John, and also turned the Beatles onto marijuana, but failed to create global equality or keep Johnson from escalating the war in Vietnam. Then he took time off to recover from a motorcycle spill or to kick hard drugs or to shake irritating hippie sycophants, one of the three. He was briefly a member of punk-rock collective USA for Africa. Despite Down in the Groove and that Victoria’s Secret commercial, he’s one the greatest artists America has produced. Willie Nelson wrote “Crazy” for millions of karaoke enthusiasts, and also turned the state of Texas on to marijuana. He has the coolest beat-up guitar in popular music and plays it very well, too. He was briefly a member of punk-rock duo Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias. His latest album is a well-intentioned but disappointing reggae effort. Despite participating in Toby Keith’s pro-lynching “Beer for My Horses,” he’s one of the greatest singer-songwriter-guitarists of our time. Black tie required. $49.50. 6:30 p.m.

“It’s barely yours on loan / What you think you own / The place that you call home”

Built to Spill kicked off their summer tour here in Minneapolis last night. Bottomline: the boys from Boise rocked out (yes, they are from Twin Falls but that doesn’t have the same ring).

That band can dive into simply the most amazing jams. They play so tightly, and there is such a sense of movement, that you think every measure must have been carefully composed and rehearsed. But then they break it down into some funky feedback screaming experimental riff. It’s then that you just know they’re extremely talented musicians doing what they do.

Having three guitarists in addition to a bassist and a tight drummer gives their live shows layers of elements that combined make up a very intriguing sound. Something you can close your eyes to and try to dissect everything that’s going on.

They didn’t play any covers that I was aware of. No Neil Young covers, which was too bad. The crowd (and don’t get me started on the crowd… bunch of fucksticks) seemed to really want them to play Freebird. That’s fucking great.

Doug Martsch forgot the lyrics during one song, which was kind of funny, and he didn’t talk very much. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a band kick off a big tour before, especially after not really touring for over a year, and it was an unique experience. You could just kind of see that they were concentrating on the music, forgetting a bit about any showmanship. Fine with me. Also, the bunch of drunk Luke Wilson wannabe reformed white hats moshing and pushing in the front rows might not have been the people they really felt like interacting with. No, I won’t get started.

Their playing was tight, though, like I said. Energetic might be the best word.

Mike Johnson opened up. Formerly of Dinosaur Jr., though I also believe that that band is doing a bit of a reunion tour. Yeah… Mike Johnson by himself (and with a few members of Built to Spill as backup band “The Evildoers”) was a little depressing. Good, but a downer. Heavy music, I decided it might fit my own personal definition of dronecore. He kind of droned all the lyrics, and the music was loud and maintained a certain level that gave the whole thing a montonous, if still rockin’, impression.

Those are my initial thoughts. Built to Spill is a fun band, that’s all there is to say about it. Seing Martsch with his enormous beard and his “relationship” with his guitar made me want to move to the mountains and just fuck around with words (rather than a guitar).

This Time I Just Know We’re Gonna Win

I’ve had some more time to digest Low’s latest, The Great Destroyer. I posted my initial response the morning after it came out, and I still stick to those words. Having had some time in the car with it, and having heard it a fair amount on The Current, it’s hit me that while I like the album, sometimes when I’m listening to it I just miss the old Low.

When there’s a moment with great potential for quiet and they throw in what seems like an unncessary little guitar doodle-dee-doo. When the beauty of a particular song is in the way the lyrics erupt from Alan but there’s a constant level of “noise” in the background. When Mimi should just be allowed to belt out that pretty voice of hers but there’s heavy bass or something.

There’s already lots of band that have gotten good at melody and harmony, you know. Quite a few, really. But Low did some really amazing things in a lot of tunes with a single vulnerable singer and a plodding beat. A couple hits on the snare drum, a reverberating bass note… And silence.

Even the quiet songs on The Great Destroyer don’t have any silence on them. Not a moment. Silver Rider is the quiet song, but it has a constant level of sound.

I was thinking all these thoughts in the car recently and couldn’t get too down on the music or the band (c’mon, it’s Low!) because the beautiful thing is that those albums will always be out there, I just need to switch CDs in the player to get that ol’ timey Low sound.

I had gotten over myself so well on the drive in this morning that I threw on The Black Eyed Snakes. Had a harder time telling myself that I had any right to bitch about Low’s musical direction when I love the Snakes so much too.

One Silver Dollar…

river of no returnOne silver dollar, bright silver dollar,
changing hands, changing hands.
Endlessly rollin’, wasted or stolen,
changing hands, changing hands.
Spent for a beer he’s drinking,
won by a gambler’s lust,
pierced by an outlaw’s bullet
and rusted in the blood red dust.
One silver dollar, worn silver dollar,
changing hands, changing hands,
love is a shining dollar,
bright as a Church bell’s chime
gambled and spent and wasted,
and lost in a dart of time.
One silver dollar, worn silver dollar,
changing hearts, changing lives,
changing hands.