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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All Good Naysayers Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!

I remember a billboard when I was a kid that said, "say something nice about Detroit". I don't know why I remember that, but it seemed to have stuck with me. Whenever anyone from the west side of the state talks about how bad Detroit is, I feel the need to defend it. With the farce that is the mayor's office (I don't remember past mayors being too good, either) & the crime, it's not easy to think of too many good things to say about Detroit. We had a bit of an uptick with the city being cleaned up for the All Star game & the Super Bowl. Come to think of it, I can't really say what it is that I like about Detroit, but I always have a soft spot in my heart for it. No one can explain that feeling like Sufjan Stevens, check out this video for some great footage of Detroit.

This evening, when all of the states' delegates were announcing their votes for the Democratic nominee, every state made a small speech about what's great about their state. When it was Michigan's turn, a delegate gave a laundry list of of what's wrong with Michigan-poverty, unemployment, jobs being shipped overseas. It was incredibly compelling, & it made me a little sad.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!-Sufjan Stevens, Michigan

Romulus-Sufjan Stevens, Michigan

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll-Bob Dylan, Don't Look Back Soundtrack

Honest with Me-Bob Dylan, Elizabeth 2008

The Mercy Seat-Johnny Cash, American III, Solitary Man

Happy Wednesday, friends...


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Everybody's sayin' this is a day only the Lord could make...

(pictures & video courtesy of none other than mr. dan vanderwall...)

Performing live music in front of an audience must be a lot like surfing, once you are up there on top of a wave you can either stand & wonder how it is you got there or you can keep on pushing towards a higher wave (not that I've ever been surfing or performed in front of a live audience). I've seen many concerts where Bob Dylan has been content coasting along, & others where he's struggled to even get up on the wave.

We showed up at the Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, IN on Saturday night a little late due to construction south of Indianapolis. When we got into the casino & saw an empty hall, we wondered for a short minute if we made it to the wrong place until we looked at our ticket & saw Rain or Shine. We missed out on most "Watchin' the River Flow", an appropriate choice considering the location. It was a welcome sight to see Bob so up close, on guitar no less. We were about eight rows back, the best seats I've had in a long, long time. I was hoping to see him stay on guitar for at least a few more songs, but during Mr Tambourine Man he was back behind the organ. He seemed to be a bit frustrated with his band, making gestures with his hands the tempo he wanted them to play.

It looked like it might be a rough night as Bob seemed to keep throwing dirty looks at the bass player & the lead guitar player. Things improved a bit with Stuck Inside of Mobile (with the Memphis Blues Again), but this song usually plods along kind of slowly in concert. The next song seemed to turn things around, Ballad of Hollis Brown, which seemed to turn everything around. The song was played entirely acoustic except for Bob's organ. The song sounded as though it came from one of these small little farm towns in southern in Indiana (with his wife & five children & his cabin breakin' down).

That song seemed to give him confidence that stayed through the entire evening. From there, he seemed to leave the band behind, they were having trouble keeping up with him, & it didn't matter. The first great surprise of the night came a couple songs later, Visions of Johanna, one of two of his greatest lyrical masterpieces, in my opinion. His singing rivalled the brilliance of the lyrics, his vocals danced around the melodies, taking many side jaunts but always staying ahead of the band. The energy didn't stop there, a frenzied version of The Levee's Gonna Break was next, the first time all night that the band started to click behind Bob's singing. The song ended with Bob repeating "everybody's sayin' 'SAY WHAT?' this is the day only the Lord could ma-ake!". By then I realized that this show was much better than any I've been used to in the last five years.

The highlight of the show was yet to come, though, as the band started into the opening notes of one of Bob's best known gospel songs "I Believe in You". The song, I believe was an unspoken tribute to Jerry Wexler, the producer who worked on the song for the album "Slow Train Coming" who recently passed away. It was an incredible performance, too, one of the greatest moments I've witnessed at a concert. The extended harmonica solo was reminiscent of What Can I Do for You? & left me with the chills. See for yourself, thanks to master taper Dan Vanderwall...

Things just kept rolling around with Honest with Me, with a last verse that sounded like Bob was shooting the words out of a canon. At this point, he was clearly enjoying himself & couldn't keep from laughing as he shouted out these lyrics in such a fashion. He had an odd mannerism all night long as he would sing a lyric & then quickly shift towards the crowd & raised his left hand like jazz hands. I've never seen a show when Bob was more animated, let alone even cracking a smile...

Other highlights include a version of Make You Feel My Love that even Christie might've liked & an eerie version of Ain't Talkin, a song I was hoping to hear.

The whole weekend was wonderful, we got to see Dan & Jill's lovely decorated home. They were tremendous hosts & showed us around Indianapolis, including a wonderful record store called Indy records. A weekend to remember, for sure...

1. Watching The River Flow (Bob on electric guitar)
2. Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob on keyboard and harp, Stu on acoustic guitar)
3. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
(Bob on keyboard, Stu on acoustic guitar)
4. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on banjo, Stu and Denny on acoustic guitars, Tony on standup bass)
5. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (Bob on keyboard)
6. Visions Of Johanna
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin, Stu on acoustic guitar)
7. The Levee's Gonna Break
(Bob on keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin, Tony on standup bass)
8. I Believe In You (Bob on keyboard and harp)
9. Honest With Me (Bob on keyboard)
10. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on electric mandolin, Stu on acoustic guitar)
11. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard)
12. Make You Feel My Love (Bob on keyboard and harp, Stu on acoustic guitar)
13. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
(Bob on keyboard and harp)
14. Ain't Talkin' (Bob on keyboard, Stu on acoustic guitar)
15. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard, Stu on acoustic guitar)
16. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard)
17. Blowin' In The Wind
(Bob on keyboard and harp, Donnie on violin, Stu on acoustic guitar)
Five Favorite Songs of the Day

I Believe in You-Bob Dylan, Elizabeth, 2008

Freedom Hangs Like Heaven-Iron & Wine

The Thanks I Get-Wilco

Boo Boo's Birthday-Thelonious Monk

Younger than Springtime-Oscar Peterson

Happy Tuesday, friends...


Friday, August 22, 2008

Everybody said they'd be right behind me when the game got rough...

I've been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. We're hopping in ol' maxxine & heading down to Indianapolis early tomorrow morning to see Dan & Jill. Dan & I are going to the Bob Dylan concert tomorrow night & Christie & Jill are going to do anything but go to the Bob Dylan concert. I think they have both sworn off following us two idiots to these things. I'm going through my memory to try & think of all the concerts Dan & I have been to, here's what I've come up with. I hope I'm not forgetting anything.

Elana James & the Texas Two
Jimmy Vaughan
The Decemberists
Alejandro Escovedo
Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Bob Dylan in 2005, twice in 2006 & now 2008

This marks my 15th Bob Dylan concert since 2000. My first concert was in July of 2000, I went with a friend of mine whom I haven't spoke to in years. Now I know what most of you are going to say. Obsessed much? Haven't you heard all of the songs by now? Isn't he dead? I've heard it all. There's not much I can say in response to these things, I figure you either get it or you don't. The way I look at it is, if Shakespeare came to your town every year or so to share one of his plays with you, wouldn't you want to hear it? But then again, Shakespeare probably wasn't even Shakespeare before he was dead & gone.

I have to say, though, that my expectations of these shows have waned throughout the years. Half of the reason is because the excitement isn't quite what it once was when it was new & also because I don't believe the performances are as good as when I first started going. See for yourself if you like.

Bob Dylan in 2000....

Bob Dylan in 2008

These days, I hope for a couple of songs I haven't seen before & I always look for that one moment when the spontaneity of the music meets up with the excitement I bring to hearing the music for the first time. A live performance is a two way street, the person up on stage is only half of it, the crowd feeds off the performer & the performer feeds off the crowd. In this respect, Dylan never lets me down as a performer. He never sings a song the same way twice, sometime it works, sometimes it doesn't, but you know he's always trying to create that moment of magic that has never been seen before. When he's on, the magic lasts the whole show, other times you only see it during one song or even one lyric line.

We've got eighth row seats tomorrow, so this will be the closest I've been in a long time. We'll see how it goes.

In other news, one of my best pals Katie turns 30 tomorrow. Katie's one of those friends that you want to have around whenever something good or something bad happens. She'll stick by you through anything. It's hard to imagine that I've known her for only ten years now, it seems like we've been friends all our lives, & that's a good thing.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Gates of Eden-Bob Dylan, Rochester 2000

Blue is the Color of a Lonely Heart-The Old '97s

Ashes of American Flags-Wilco, Kicking Television

You Turn Me on I'm a Radio-Joni Mitchell, Miles of Aisles

I Wish I was a Mole in the Ground-Bascam Lunsford, Anthology of American Folk Music

A Long December-The Counting Crows, Recovering the Satellites

Happy Friday, friends


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dear Landlord...

Working for a big corporation can be quite frustrating, you never really know who it is you're working for. You've got your boss & your bosses boss & his boss over him. You've got your customers. You've got your sales representatives, your credit department & your employees. I suppose you could even throw shareholders in there. All of these people want different things. The one thing they all have in common is that they all want money. Some want more sales, others want more margins, some want you to cut expenses, some want more hours, others want lower prices. Some days I dream of working for some nice old benevolent man who has complete trust in my abilities & leaves me alone except to give me an atta boy or a nice Christmas (tofu) ham for me & my family.

No matter, today I put it all those people behind me & did some manual labor reorganizing things & cleaning. It's no wonder my old man loves to work outside so much doing yardwork, moving dirt around, growing things, improving things. Improving things has an incredible effect on your psyche.

My early Friday song today is by none other than Uncle Tupelo. You can find any number of songs that will say essentially the same thing by guys like Merle Haggard, Hank Williams & Louis Armstrong but today I like this one.



Sometimes I get upset when people treat me bad
I don't have time to think and so I get real mad
And I pull my hair and find somewhere where I can be alone
And when I do I think of you and head myself back home

For I got chores to keep me busy, clock to keep my time
A pretty girl to love me, with the same last name as mine
When the flowers wilt, a big old quilt to keep us warm
And I got the sun to see your blue eyes, and tonight you're in my arms

Sometimes I get unwound when fancy cars drive past
Money don't get me down, I can't make it last
And I bite my nails and if that fails I go get myself stoned
And when I do I think of you and head myself back home


| G | G | D | D |

| D | C | C | G |




Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Here's to the State of Richard Nixon-Phil Ochs

Blue Eyes-Uncle Tupelo

Mutiny I Promise You-The New Pornographers, Challengers

Rocket Man-My Morning Jacket The other day a Neil Diamond song, today an Elton John song? What's come of me. Winston's makin' me soft.

A Change is Gonna Come-Sam Cooke

Happy Thursday & Friday, friends...


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Solitary Man

Whenever Christie isn't home during the evenings, I feel as though I should fit in everything that she doesn't like to do in the few hours until she gets home. My first instinct is to turn on some Joanna Newsom & play some Madden Football or turn on a Woody Allen movie. Eventually, though I just sit in the chair with Winston, watch tv & wait for her to come home. I am going to make her prediction come true, though & have a boca burger & chips & salsa for dinner.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Solitary Man-Neil Diamond

I promise this will be the only time Neil Diamond makes the cut. Who knows, maybe I'll want to listen to some Michael Bolton.

Astral Weeks-Van Morrison, Astral Weeks

In a perfect world, this album would start playing at different places everytime you opened up the door to go to work on a beautiful day. "to be born again!"

Soldier's Grin-Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer

Twenty years from now, I hope I don't look at my cd collection & realize that maybe I only listened to bands like this to make me forget that I'm getting old. I sure do like it now, though.

Radio Free Europe-REM, Murmur

I'm pretty sure I used to drive my parents crazy listening to this band really loud in my bedroom.

Country Feedback-REM, Out of Time

Happy Tuesday, friends...


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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...