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Random Shuffle – Kate Bush, Bright Eyes, Bruce Hornsby, Donna The Buffalo

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I'm put my music collection on shuffle mode and talking about the songs that come up.

I'm less interested in giving a simple review of each song than I am in the personal emotions and memories these songs conjure. I prefer to talk about music as an experience rather than something to be measured scientifically.
 

“Eat the Music” – Kate Bush
From The Red Shoes

Marriage added many things into my life, and one of my favorite additions was my wife’s music collection. I am by and far the more music obsessed in our little family and my collection pretty much dwarfed the wife's, but still she added some lovely pieces. Her music is like bright highlights to my tapestry, shiny colors to my palette.

She is only six months younger than me, which was an entire school year and it leads to an interesting overlap in our music and a defining difference. We both “discovered” music in the early '90s, which means we both have a great love for the alternative and grunge scenes of that period.

When I went away to college in the fall of 1994 my knowledge of new music basically died. I didn’t have a television which kept me out of the MTV 120 Minutes loop, I didn’t have the cash for my music magazines, the local radio stations sucked, and I started dating a girl who was a die-hard punk fan which brought me back to older music anyways.

Which means there is a period of about a year where my music collection is about dead. Luckily, my wife fills in the gaps. Like with this lovely, jangly Kate Bush song. This album got a bit of press in the magazines I was reading at the time, but my budget never allowed me to buy it. I would have probably forgotten all about it were it not for my wife and her music.

There are many ways in which I am thankful for my wife, and this is a good one.

“At the Bottom of Everything” – Bright Eyes
From I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

This song begins with a short monologue by Conor Oberst. It is actually a story about two people conversing with one another on an airplane about to crash into the ocean. It serves as an introduction to the song and is amusing, interesting, and slightly pretentious. Much like the song itself.

It is also highly annoying after hearing it a few times. Each time the track comes on I want to punch Conor in the face for including it, or at least not separating it into its own track. For now I have to listen to this minute-long story if I want to hear the song. And it just isn’t that good of a story.

It is a similar situation on most of my bootleg concert recordings. The disks include pretty much everything that audibly went on at the concert from the first notes to the last. This means they are full of the onstage banter between musicians, instrument tune-ups, and any other pauses between songs.

Those who record the shows (or at least put them to CD) have to make choices about track listings. Choices like should the banter about the song go in the track before the song, or after the previous song, or on a separate track all together. Each choice comes with its own problems. If the banter goes before the song then the listener has to sit through several minutes of talking before the song actually begins. And sometimes I want nothing more than to hear the song.

Load the talking after the song before and you have the benefit of hearing a song first, but then again you have minutes of talking to listen to before the track is over. And if you make the talking a separate track, then you have a series of tracks that are nothing but chatter.

None of these are a serious problem if you are listening to the entire concert in a sitting. It is only when I go to shuffle mode, or I have the desire to hear a particular song in the show that it drives me crazy.

There really isn’t a perfect solution, and I wouldn’t really want to delete the banter from the concerts either. Just like I wouldn’t want to stop artists from including these types of tracks on their studio albums either. Conor’s story might annoy me after a hundred listens, but I’m glad it was there to hear the first time too.

“Rainbows Cadillac” – Bruce Hornsby
From Furthur Festival ‘96

For several summers during my college years a selection of jam bands put on a concert festival called Furthur (misspelled intentionally as an ode to Ken Kesey’s magical mystery bus.) The closest it ever came to us was Atlanta, and several summers in a row some buddies and I made a weekend out of it.

On one such weekend we all decided to visit the “Underground.” Atlanta, like many cities, has made an interesting shopping district out of its old underground burrows. We enjoyed the experience and had an even interesting one on our way out.

We were riding in my friend’s father’s Cadillac. Atlanta’s underground is located in what I will politely call not exactly the safest part of the city. Driving this expensive car, my friend realized he was running out of gas. We drove around a bit wanting to get into a better neighborhood before we had to circle back and pull up to the closest pump.

Almost immediately, and seemingly out of nowhere, an elderly woman came strutting up to the car. “Let me pump your gas,” she said. My friend politely said it was no problem and that he could do it, but the lady insisted.

As an obvious ploy to get a little payment for her “service” my friend strongly insisted that he would take care of it. Nothing against the woman’s desire to work for her money, but my friend was pretty serious about his dad’s caddy.

The layout of the seating was my gas-pumping friend was driving, his girlfriend Juliana was in the front passenger seat, behind her was my friend Jamison, and I sat in the back seat behind the driver.

At this point in the story, Juliana nonchalantly says, “there’s a black man carrying a large stick.” Sure enough down a block, crossing the street was a very large man carrying a very large stick.

After looking up I went back to reading my magazine. A few moments later I heard a large crash and looked up to see stick-man standing nearby. He had apparently smashed his stick into the gas pump scaring off the old lady. He then yelled something at her that I didn’t quite understand.

With the lady gone and nobody outside to yell at (as my friend was already inside paying for the gas) stick-man turned his attentions to the Cadillac and me. Holding his stick so I could see it, he rapped upon my window and asked:

“Who’s swollen?”

An odd question that, and even odder when it is being asked by a very large stranger carrying an even larger stick in a voice that only projects sheer, abject anger.

I shook my head, muttered that I didn’t know who was swollen, and locked my door.

Inside there was silence and fear. Outside the questions continued. “Who’s swollen?”

Large man with a stick then saw something else that captured his attention and left the car. A moment later my friend returned, slammed and locked the door, and started the engine. He said stick-man had just asked him the question of the hour, and in response got my friend racing by him with his head down.

As we were pulling out of the station, the car next to us, who had been a witness to the whole episode, also started their car, spun their tires, and threw a wad of cash in the direction of the store. Presumably they were trying to pay for their gasoline, but were too scared to get out of the car. Whatever the case, the store never received payment, but swollen man was a few bucks richer.

It is a story I’ll never forget, and when I go to my grave, I will still be wondering, “who’s swollen?”

“Positive Fiction” – Donna the Buffalo
From Positive Friction

The peculiarly named Donna the Buffalo performs a mix of rock, blues, reggae, zydeco, creole, and bluegrass. They are, as it were, one of a kind. They are also one of my favorite bands. I had been a fan of theirs for many years when they finally came to Bloomington for a concert.

They were actually a part of the annual celebration of world music that Bloomington has every year called the Lotus Festival. As such we spent the day enjoying some wonderful music from all over the earth, ending with groove-o-thon from Donna the Buffalo. All for the low, low cost of ten bucks.

The band performed on the streets of Bloomington under a big carnival tent. There was no seating, or stage. They performed right on the ground with the rest of us and it was a heck of a way to see a show. I stood up close, not ten feet from the musicians.

The music is of the type that I just can’t help myself but dance (or at least do my version of dancing which is more of a white boy groove than a real dance.) Other young hippies felt the same and we formed a gyrating mass of sweating, joyous bodies.

It was a great, glorious show. I moved and grooved and had the time of my life. It was the kind of night where I forget everything else in the world except the music and my enjoyment of it. Including my wife apparently. For after the show she was all kinds of mad.

It seems that at some point she became a little unsettled at all the giggling, stinking flesh and moved to the back of the tent. I had apparently not noticed. That’s not entirely true, I did notice that she moved out of the way of all the wildly flailing elbows, I just hadn’t really cared. I was there to have a good time and I wasn’t about to stand in the back like a sack of meat. This was dancing music, and I was prepared to dance, even if my wife wasn’t.

My wife, as is her right, was crazy upset at this concept. Even more so because all my grooving had apparently been mighty close to a rather attractive blonde. This I hadn’t really noticed. I was in a group of dancing people. I was in the moment and having fun. I wasn’t trying to gyrate up against some stranger. Not that any one would have believed me.

Whatever the costs, it was a great show.

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About Mat Brewster

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Maybe parts of you looked swollen dancing next to the blonde. But that’s on her. You don’t leave a dancing hunk like you on the floor alone. Hit the pipe and put on them dancin’ shoes!

  • http://www.themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    Never you mind about my swollen-ness. But yeah, you leave me on the floor and you gotta expect the babes to come for me. Stud that I am.

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh

    My shit’s tight and all kinds of swoll.

    Damn, I just really wanted to say that.