It’s crazy to think that SXSW was back in March – and it’s even crazier to think that we featured so many awesome bands on our BAMM showcase nights, that we’ve still got more great stuff to show you. Here’s something really special from funk-pop-rock maestros The White Arrows: an exclusive live performance of “City Boy.”
And here’s what lead singer Mickey Schiff had to say to BAMM about the whole SXSW experience:
“SXSW is a life and entity in itself. It really encapsulates the life of sound, music, and creativity. Being at SXSW it’s as if you’ve departed your current existence, only to be thrust into another dimension where there is no life outside of your family that exists in that space and time has come to a stop. I really believe the following sums it up. “Some thoughts have a certain sound, that being the equivalent to a form. Through sound and motion, you will be able to paralyze nerves, shatter bones, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs.”
Want to capture some of that excitement? Just hit that play button above.
Time once again for BAMM’s regular Friday list of curiosities to keep you talking over the weekend. This week: five incredibly niche albums …
The world would be a boring place, the cliche goes, if we all like the same things. Indeed, an album that you may cherish dearly may well produce a resonant cry of ‘what the hell is this garbage?’ whenever you play it to your friends. Different strokes for different folks, is all we’re saying (just to keep the cliche train going).
This week’s edition of The Friday List, however, takes a look at an assortment of albums with a somewhat more … ahem … ‘selective’ appeal. By which we mean: we can’t possibly imagine anyone seeing one of these babies on the shelves and yelling ‘that’s what I’m going to buy today, world, and I don’t care who knows it’. It’s the five most incredibly niche albums in the world …
5. ‘Hear How To Improve Your Golf’ – Bob Rosburg
“I just can’t get my swing right today. Caddy, fetch me my record player and a copy of that invaluable release by Mr Rosburg. And if that needle skips once, then you’ll never find gainful employment amongst the Florida Clubhouse community again.”
4. ‘Exercise With Gloria … And Her Six Daughters’
“Hi there, I’m with ‘To Catch A Predator’ on Dateline NBC. What don’t you take a seat over there? What are you doing here today?”
3. ‘How To Avoid Probate’ – Norman Dacey
“Huh? What? The legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property under the valid will? Ah, man, fuck that shit – get Norm on the case.”
2. ‘How To Get Daytime Life Insurance Appointments By Telephone’ – Frank C. Pfister
“Are you kidding? You’re still listening to Norman Dacey and that probate stuff? You need to check out the Pfi-bomb – this stuff is hardcore.”
1. ‘Music For Your Plants’
“Oh, sure, if you’re a flashy fern you can afford an entire orchestra, but what’s a lowly cactus like me going to do?”
Let’s say you live in a noisy part of town. All day long you hear dogs barking, people shouting, sirens howling, cars backfiring … the usual gauntlet. It’s probably pretty annoying, all in all, but thanks to the wonderful folks behind ‘Voice Keyboard’ you can at least fire up your iPad and metamorphose that noise into something creative.
Record any sound, and play it back on the keyboard as an instrument! Record anything and turn it into something musical and creative … Import and export from your computer, manipulate the waveform with the touch screen, timeshift to sync all of the notes when playing chords.
So: that homeless guy who stands outside your window and yells about how aliens are constantly watching him via special mind-rays? He could well provide the samples for your upcoming number one hit.
Sonia Pina, Zach Ryan, and Phil Lang read essays from their earliest musical memories in our last installment of “Musical Yearbook.” Pina examines her early life as the daughter of one of the lead members the biggest band in Cuba. Ryan digs into his bowl cut and the moment his father shared a record from a little known band called The Beatles. Lang tells of Little League and his first Rock & Roll moment while listening to The Chronic.
Intro and outro music by Ana Tijoux. Check her out here.
We are looking for Musical Yearbook submissions! If interested, please submit essays to email@example.com to be included in the blog. To hear the other three chapters of Musical Yearbook, check out the “The Bob Podcast” set.
“My Dad’s in the Cuban Rolling Stones”
My first musical memory has no date, place, album or song. The memory or memories are a collective blur that seem like a dream. I’m the daughter of a musician. My home was always awaken with the sound of trombone exercises. I’m trying to remember when I realized that music was the sustenance of my family.
My father isn’t just a musician; he is part of one of the biggest bands to date in Cuba. He has been in the band for 28 years and I honestly think he can’t imagine himself outside of that. To him, music is the way to survive in this world, and the only thing he can conceive of doing.
Los Van Van, the name of my father’s band, is my family. There is a connection that I, and everyone else that has some link to the band, feels that is not only inexplicable, but never fading.
But now, back to this memory thing.
I remember standing on stage holding my dad’s leg and not letting go, even though he needed to start playing. I don’t know why I felt that I needed to stay with him, I mean, I’m sure my mom and sister were around. But I held on tight until he could no longer stand it. “Sonia I have to play,” he’d say. Who knows if I actually answered him back, but knowing myself I probably had one of two reactions, cry and throw a tantrum or give him a face and hold him tighter.
I’d hear the bands’ intro and, automatically, have this full body experience. By the way, this still happens. Every time. They start playing and all of the sudden… Oh yeah… That feeling. The bass line hits my heart, the trombones blow a message into my brain, the violins sooth me, the percussion gives me goose bumps, the keys make me move and the singers remind me that it’s all happening, right there, in front of me.
Another part about my memories is not only what my reaction was but the people around me. The fans, the groupies and roadies. See, this is all part of being Van Van. It’s not just the band, it’s all the people that around them. The roadies that talk too much, the desperate girls wishing to become someone by being with one of them, the fans that sing every word, from every album, like there is nothing else happening in the world but that song in that moment.
That was my surrounding, being one of my dad’s and the band’s biggest fans. I love their music and have a deep emotional tie to it. As I think of the past, I can identify their albums and songs to times in my life, experiences, and places.
As you can tell, I have a deep love for the music and always did, but that wasn’t enough. My dad needed to know I could at any given time, with any given style of Cuban music find the clave. Clave is rhythmic pattern that unites, organizes and propels all of Cuban music. The clave is to Cuban music, what Van Van is to my life. It’s the past and present, with variations and different speeds.
I think I knew that what I wasn’t living the typical life. There were those moments where I’d go somewhere and be treated a certain way, until my dad showed up or someone said, she’s the daughter of… and they’d all change. Music did this, music made me be part of a different group, an exclusive group. Strange.
I now search my brain for the best description of memories, of past melodies, rhythms and lyrics that compose my life. There are too many, there are so many that it’s not a memory, it’s my life’s story. Infinite moments and experiences, some that repeat and some that could not be more different than the last.
So, as I go back to that little girl, I think of how fortunate I am to have had such a rich musical childhood. To know that music is not a memory, but that I was born into it, and will forever be part of it.
As the Van Van lyrics says: “Qué tiene Van Van que sigue ahí? Ahí, así.” What does Van Van have that it’s still there. It continues.
Sonia Pina is one of BAMM.tv’s Audio Engineers and also oversee all BAMM Latino productions.
“Dad Digs a Pigmy”
I’m certain that by the time I was six years old, I had heard my fair share of tunes. Back then, my parents constantly played music. The top choices from my mom being Linda Ronstadt, Paul Simon and the Beach Boys, while my dad was more of an Eagles, Rolling Stones kinda guy. I can remember singing along in the car to some of these albums, and I can even remember requesting some songs by name long before I knew how to read. But I don’t count any of these as my earliest of musical memories.
If you’ve ever had a conversation about music with me for more than five minutes, then The Beatles are certain to have come up. Saying that I love The Beatles is almost an understatement. I worship them. I’ve spent days on end pouring over their records, reading books about them, and studying their history like it was some kind of assignment. In the instances where I’ve been in the company of people (anyone, loved ones, best friends, complete strangers) who have said “I don’t get what the big deal is about The Beatles,” I’ve launched into diatribes about their legacy and forced their music on said people until I feel that they might have just a fraction of the love that I do for this band. It’s weird, but I can’t deny it, to me (as to many) they are the greatest band of all time, and no one has even come close in the 41 years since they broke up. And it can all be traced back to one single afternoon when I was six.
Allow me to set the scene. It was a Sunday in early December of 1991. My sweet bowl cut was in full effect at the time and my LA Gears with the light up heels were hot out of the box. This particular morning my dad had tasked me with helping him clean out the hall closet. I’m not sure if it runs concurrent with other families, but for us, the hall closet was essentially a black hole in the middle of our house. A sort of double-door abyss that my parents opened once in a great while to throw in a musty old jacket, clothes that didn’t fit anymore, boxes of paperwork that would someday be filed. You know, junk. Needless to say, it was chore I wasn’t looking forward to.
We started early; haphazardly removing items one at a time and cross checking their usefulness with my mom. “Toss this,” she’d say. “Save that, put that over there, I never want to see that again.” The usual. It was mid afternoon and I had managed to sneak away for a couple of hours, hiding in my room and hoping that my dad wouldn’t notice I wasn’t helping out, when he called out to me. “Zach” he shouted from the down the hall. “Come here quick.” I was six, so I ran the way that kids do to the end of the hall where he stood holding a giant box and staring into it with a huge grin on his face.
He set the box on the floor in front of him and lifted out a big plastic square.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked.
“It’s a record player!” he said. “And these are my old records”
“What’s a record player?”
“You play music on it!”
That was enough for me. Even at that tender age I considered myself an aficionado. I quickly pulled out the stack of records and started slowly going through them. Staring at the covers, asking about each particular band. It didn’t mean much to me then, but looking back my pops had a pretty bitchin’ record collection. I can remember seeing The Eagles (Hotel California), The Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers AND Tattoo You), Hendrix, Creem, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Animals, dozens more. But when I came to Let It Be by The Beatles he stopped me.
“Do you know who The Beatles are?” He asked me.
Shit yeah, I knew who The Beatles were, they covered that Raffi song, “Octopus’ Garden” right?
“I think so,” I said.
He picked up the record player and snatched the album from my hands. He got to the end of the hall, turned around and looked at me impatiently.
“Well, come on,” he said. I watched intently as he hooked the record player up to the speakers, took a step back, darted off down the hall and came back with a pair of the biggest headphones I’d ever seen. “These’ll be better,” and he popped them on my ears and dropped the needle onto the record.
There was a moment somewhere between the analog hiss of the record starting and Lennon shouting out those infamous opening lines “I dig a pigmy…” when I though I might protest. It was a perfectly good gloomy Sunday afternoon. I could watch a movie, or play ninja turtles, anything but listen to some dusty old record. But from the moment the song started I was entranced.
The house across the street was being remodeled and even though it was Sunday, there were construction workers doing their thing all day. I sat cross-legged in the front room and stared out the window, watching them work and listening to the album from top to bottom. When it concluded, I ran to my dad in the living room and asked him if he had any more Beatles records. Oddly, he didn’t, but he did have a copy of “The White Album” on cassette somewhere…
I’m not exaggerating when I say that from that afternoon until I was probably 13 years old, I listened almost exclusively to The Beatles. And when I listen to “Let it Be” I still get goose bumps at the opening chords of “Two of Us,” I still get choked up during “Across the Universe” (every time), my mind is still blown when Lennon and McCartney trade off vocals during the third verse of “I Got a Feeling,” but most importantly I still go back to that moment, sitting in the front room with my dad’s headphones on.
Zach Ryan edits, directs, and shoots for BAMM.tv. Check out his band, Genius and the Thieves at http://on.fb.me/pyTUL3
“Dan George, Steven Seagal, and Dr. Dre”
My earliest experiences with popular music are split between two camps: Dr. Dre and Garth Brooks. It would make for a more comedic story if I had a foot in G-funk and Pop Country ever since then, but a man must choose, folks, even a 10 year-old man. The day comes when he must choose his colors, his team, his philosophy, and his music is no damn different. I spare you the suspense—I went with Garth. I’ll pause while you laugh. Go on, now. I deserve it.
But there was a day—a June day in 1992—when I came dangerously close to repping Death Row hard. It’s all because of The Indians.
Year ten was a big deal in Roseville to a kid who loved baseball as much I did. At ten you could try out for the Little League, a six-team league (the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Giants, White Sox, Indians) comprised of the best 10,11, and 12 year-old players in town. It was a seminal moment for a kid in Roseville. Do not mistake this for hyperbole.
Not only did I make the league, but the best team—the Indians, drafted me. We were the Yankees of the league. We won. Year after year, we won, and everyone hated us for it. They accused our retired insurance agent coach, John Treager, of cheating every which way. They hated his white and gold Lincoln Town Car, his snowbird tan, and his team kicking their asses every damn game. We had Tom Fischer and Chris Dubay on the team that year, which is like saying we had Randy Johnson and Albert Pujos in a league full of minor leaguers. Dan George was also on the team. He was a wild haired, sharp tongue Lebanese kid and a wall behind home plate. He also had a new CD from Dr. Dre called The Chronic. No, I didn’t know what “chronic” meant.
This team and these kids—Dubay, Fischer, Fischers younger brother Tim, Dan Kamrath, Chris and Dan George, Eric Boyd, Joe Clifford, Jay Kurtis, Dan Schleickert—marked the first time I interacted with kids either off of my block or at school. You see, I was the catholic school kid.
I was in the lower level of Dan George’s mom’s house when I first heard The Chronic. I was an Indian, so I was good enough to hang with, even if I was a year younger. It was split level on the North side of County Road C, the other side of County Road C.
I experienced what I can only assume someone my father’s age experienced when he first heard Elvis, James Brown, or Zeppelin. (You see, my father has since admitted—and matter-of-factly so—that he “really didn’t listen to music” when he was a kid. He insists it’s true, as impossible as it is for me to believe.) The only way I can describe the feeling of hearing “Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang” for the first time is that I’m sure I said “What the hell is this,” while knowing that I had used that phrase correctly for the first time in my life. It was foul, dangerous, misogynistic, sexual. It was Black. Yet my head was bobbing. It was smooth. So smooth, and clever, and the lyrical phrasing was something I couldn’t have imagined until hearing it. It was genius, and even that 10 year-old white kid from the suburbs knew it. It was my Rock & Roll moment.
Dan watched as I listened. I was a mile away from home in distance, but I was in another land. The land of divorced parents, kids’ bedrooms with locks on the doors, public pools, garages with Harleys, and rated-R VHS collections. The land of kids who didn’t have older sisters as assistant moms. I was on the north side of County Road C, and I was listening to The Chronic, nodding when Dan asked me if I knew what that word meant. The view expanded, as skewed as my perspective of the view was.
We listened for awhile longer, had a regular Coke—not water or a warm Diet Pepsi from the closet like at home, but a cold, red can of Coke—then watched Under Siege to see Erika Eleniak pop out of that birthday cake topless. I was loving life on the north side of County Road C.
How the hell does a kid who has a day like that choose Garth Brooks? Blood is thicker than water. I was the youngest of six, and bunch of my brother and sisters got into Garth. It was the music that played out of the speakers propped up in the window by the pool, and they were his tapes and CDs always around. I went to a concert. I memorized every lyric from The Chase the following winter on the family ski trip in Colorado. All that, and I should add that I’m a momma’s boy.
Besides, my mom and dad would have flipped if they found The Chronic, even though they wouldn’t have known what “chronic” means.
Phil Lang is the Music Operations Director at BAMM.tv.
No need to explain the background to this particular feature: if you’re a music fan, you’ve no doubt heard the news that British jazz singer Amy Winehouse passed away on Saturday, at the tragically young age of 27. Since then both the internet and old-media mouthpieces have been lit up with continual mentions of the ’27 Club’.
For those unfamiliar with this particular cultural meme, the 27 Club is a collective term for the group of legendary musicians whose lives ended at that age: Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison among others. It’s a concept which is often talked about in mythical, almost admirable terms: these people were the true ‘martyrs’ of rock and roll, ‘refusing’ to grow old and stale, living forever in a romanticised bubble of youth, vigour and creativity. Cobain himself once mentioned a strangely prophetic desire to become part of this club. As certain factions of today’s youth might put it, to become part of the 27 Club can indeed be considered ‘epic’.
Well, you know what? Screw that.
You can frame it any way you like, but the fact remains: for a creative and talented individual to die before they even hit their 30th birthday is a damn shame, and all the silly glamorisation of the concept isn’t going to take that away. Yeah, sure, Hendrix, Joplin and Winehouse may live on through their music, but most sane people would much prefer them to live on by, y’know, still being alive.
Yet within minutes of her death, Twitter was abuzz: Amy had joined the 27 Club. She was part of the mythical pantheon now. Part of musical history in a unique and special way.
The fact that all these musicians died at the age of 27 is a coincidence, nothing more, and dragging them together under some arbitrary umbrella bracket is both trivial and grossly disrespectful. It may not do so intentionally, but it holds these figures up as ‘icons’ for the wrong reason – and promotes and maintains the idea of being a self-destructive mess as something to aspire to.
We’ve touched on this issue before on the BAMM blog, but nothing raises it more powerfully than the death of Amy Winehouse: that rock and roll ‘excess’ is often unthinkingly viewed as hilarious, party-boy behaviour, encouraged even beyond the point at which it strips away a person’s talent. God knows, this writer isn’t a particular fan of Pete Doherty, but seeing all sorts of lackies and hangers-on fuelling his quest to get ever more wasted is never a pretty sight.
But who cares: because destroying yourself is cool, right? It’s nihilistic and awesome. Shit, it makes you just like that guy from Fight Club and stuff! Hence Kurt Cobain gets comic books written about his life, in which he appears as a weeping, majestic angel; the spirit of rock given beautiful flight. Yeah, all very nice, but let’s not forget the fact that in the midst of Cobain’s death, a little girl was left without a father, eh? Fun fact: shooting yourself doesn’t make you the ‘martyr for a generation’. It makes you dead. Wastefully, horribly, pointlessly dead.
UK newspaper The Guardian was recently guilty of this abstract glorification. When Amy Winehouse performed in Belgrade a short while back, she was booed offstage, as she was a slurring, shambling, susbstance-addled wreck. But that didn’t matter – because it was deemed ‘rock and roll’. Fast forward to last Saturday and we get all manner of tribute pieces lamenting the fact that ‘no-one helped Amy’ and that music industry culture ‘encouraged her excess’. Hypocrisy much?
Let’s remember Winehouse for her music, not for becoming part of some made-up cultural ‘phenomenon’. And – like a young Kurt Cobain – if you have a talented friend who expresses their desire to join the 27 Club, send them to a f**king doctor. Help them out. Stave off their dark impulses, rather than encouraging them. And hopefully look forward to years of creativity and great art to boot.
How do Con Brio manage to combine their expert grasp of funk, soul, jazz and blues into a simmering whole and make it all seem so effortless? We’re stumped. Hopefully you’ll be similarly amazed when you check out this killer impromptu performance of ‘Thank Ya’, shot while on the road to SXSW 2011. You can catch these SF locals – and long-time BAMM favourites – at one of their upcoming gigs, details of which can be found here.
So the weekend is almost here, and what better way to welcome Saturday and Sunday than being serenaded by awesome Missouri rockers – and longtime BAMM favourites – Ha Ha Tonka? ‘Close Every Valve To Your Bleeding Heart’ (a title which shouldn’t be taken literally, unless you’re a trained medical professional) is a prime example of Ha Ha Tonka’s wonderful bluesgrass/Southern rock blend: alternating between smooth and rough like a musical shot of whiskey. Don’t forget – these guys are still blasting their way through a massive tour, so if you get the chance you really, really should grab some tickets.
Time once again for BAMM’s regular Friday list of curiosities to keep you talking over the weekend. This week: five criminally underrated albums …
There’s no particular order to this week’s list, nor are we implying that these are the ‘greatest’ under-rated albums (that’s something you can tell about in the comments box, or let us know if you’d like to see more of them). Just a celebratory look at five albums that – for various reasons – never quite received the acclaim they deserved …
5. ‘Handcream For A Generation’ – Cornershop (2002)
People are primarily familiar with Cornershop thanks to the Fatboy Slim remix of ‘Brimful Of Asha’, which can still regularly be heard clogging up the background of TV commercials. This 2002 release saw them expand on their sound over a selection of irrestible pop hooks – such as ‘Lessons Learned From Rocky I to Rocky III’ – and it really, really should be more well known.
4. ‘In It For The Money’ – Supergrass (1997)
The cheeky, grinning loons who had a massive hit with 1995′s ‘Alright’ become more introspective and intelligent, and create one of the best guitar-pop albums of the 90s. Unfortunately it was buried amidst the general avalanche of sub-par rubbish which marked the tail-end of the Britpop era. Contains one of the best albums openers ever:
3. ’1965′ – The Afghan Whigs (1998)
Gregg Dulli and his band of malcontent misfits deserve wider acclaim across the board, but they excelled themselves with the dark, twisting, sleaze-funk-rock masterpiece ’1965′. ‘Somethin’ Hot’ is a particularly strutting highlight:
2. R.E.M – ‘Monster’ (1994)
For a while, R.E.M were the globe-conquering supergroup it was deemed ‘ok to like’. Then our ultra-cool critical establishment turned on them and declared ‘Monster’ to fall below requisite hipster standards. Spoiler: ‘Monster’ is infact a f**king awesome record.
1. Dandy Warhols – ‘Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia’ (2001)
Okay, so ‘Bohemian Like You’ has soundtracked a million phone ads and romantic comedy trailers, but the album from whence it came has been horribly, horribly overlooked. It retains a killer pop sensibility while flittering from dark introspection to wasted-drunk-on-the-bus danceability to smart, sardonic, sneaky humour. If you haven’t got it, get it. Like, now.
In the third installment of the four-part series Musical Yearbook, Brock Alter, Zach Ryan, and Phil Lang examine their respective present-day relationship or stories with music. To hear the earlier essays, check out The Bob Podcast.
The conceit behind Musical Yearbook is that everyone associates a song or a band with a time in his or her life, so we thought it would be cool to take a swing at recording some of those memories as essays or short stories. In order to insert some consistency in structure, we decided to focus on four important stages of human development: 4th grade, 8th grade, the transition between high school and college, and present-day. Over the course of the four essays, one can map the author’s musical endeavors, and in the process have a look at four snap-shots from vastly different times in a person’s life.
WE ARE LOOKING FOR SUBMISSIONS! If you would like to contribute, please send essays to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we like them we’ll add it to the blog or even ask you to record.
Note: Brock Alter’s essay was not available to print, but we’ll get it up here just as soon as he’s back.
Musical Yearbook: Present-day
Paul Simon — “The Boy In The Bubble”
Note: Revisions have been made to the essay since being recorded.
My parents’ cabin is eight miles from nowhere, which is to say 8 miles from Finlayson, MN. The town counts its population in the 100s and is just under two hours from St. Paul. The lake cabin is far from the rustic, out-house-type cabin in northern Minnesota, but there is no cell service, Internet, or TV, thereby making Finlayson the closest connection to the world available by the almighty Smartphone. More importantly, it’s where we buy beer and bait. I love it there and some day I’m going to buy a cabin on the Pine Lake and build a small recording studio.
When making the beer run into Finlayson in the family suburban, one’s musical selection is limited to the five CDs that have been in my parents’ suburban for the past three years. This selection, all but one greatest hits collections, very rarely changes, so I knew my options when I took my turn to make trip into town this past 4th of July:
Bob Dylan (the newest addition, which warranted a legitimately excited phone call from my dad)
Bloomsday Rising (the band I was in)
Try as I might, Anne Murray and the balladeer Stewart will never sit well with me. I’ve listened to Dylan more than any other musician, and I’d rather not listen to myself trying to write epic rock songs five years ago. In other words, my choice was all but pre-determined. Mr. Simon.
I quickly skipped over the first ten songs before I reached “Diamonds On The Souls Of Her Shoes.” I listened to the African tribal choir introduction as I headed East on Highway 18. The pine forests quickly gave way to open fields and sagging telephone wires. The landscape widens, almost urging propulsion. One would think “Diamonds…”—a song from Graceland, one of the greatest “on the road” albums ever—would be the exact song for the moment. But it was too precise of a cut. Too obvious. I wasn’t in an obvious mood.
I “seeked” to the next track. “The Boy In The Bubble” intro kicked in. That’s an accordion, right? Surely at least a sibling instrument to the accordion. I’ve heard the song many times—enough to sing along with lyrical changes in the third chorus without a stutter—but my reaction to the song was always one of respect, and not emotional. In fact, over ten years ago my brother Matt and I drove to Colorado so he could apply for firefighter positions…and also to ski, and we got into arguments filled with disbelief. “How could I not like Paul Simon?” he asked over and over again.
But over the next four minutes on the way into Finlayson it happened. It took over a decade, and then I was emotionally shaken. It felt sudden, and there was no obvious explanation. This song, its lyrics and melody, were not the soundtrack to my state of mind or location or philosophy. I did not find solace in the line “These are the days of miracle and wonder.” These are not the days of miracle and wonder for me. I am spiritually adrift. Professionally I am challenged and head down, striving for a nebulous and ever-shifting goal. I am not in love.
Yet, the wind through the open window was causing the tears to streak.
My history, specifically my time spent in grad school studying creative writing, caused me to instinctively analyze the lyrics, the historical context of the song, my entire life as I knew it on that day in order to hypothesize the subtext to my reaction.
And just as quickly as I started analysis, I stopped. I stopped thinking, connecting dots, looking for metaphors and symbolism that could map out an explanation to my emotion. I stopped fucking thinking.
The farmland gave way to another lake. People were swimming and fishing and drinking beer, as if celebrating the mere anticipation of the Pine Lake fireworks.
I was fourteen for four minutes, when every great song didn’t cause me to list off said song’s earlier influences, debut dates, and little known back-stories. When a great song didn’t lead to a debate about everything surrounding a song that doesn’t amount to a pile of shit. When a great song was an axe splitting the compressed ambiguity surrounding what you felt.
Isn’t that the rub for all of us long-time music lovers? We become jaded, and it’s inevitable. Our first experiences are hyperbolic to an outsider, and we spend a lifetime trying to replicate the third time we listened to Highway 61 Revisited or The Suburbs. But the more we listen, the larger the context grows, and the mystical nature of music gives way to the genealogy of music (thank you, Pandora). I guess you call that a loss of innocence.
But I got it back for a few minutes while driving a suburban into Finlayson that day, and I did not check my almighty Smartphone when I arrived in town. I played “The Boy in the Bubble” again, only louder.
Phil Lang is the Music Operations Director at BAMM.tv.
Musical Yearbook: Present-day
I came to a pretty impressive realization recently. For the last 12 years, I’ve been in a band. Not the same band, in fact by my count, I’ve been in and out of at least nine bands since I was 14. I’ve sung, played guitar, bass, ukulele, tambourine, keyboard, organ, drums, and a whole host of shakers. I’ve played at every shitty, backwater café, and I’ve even managed to play with some noteworthy bands, and on some noteworthy stages.
This would be impressive, if any of my bands had achieved even a modicum of success, but let’s be real, it ain’t easy. The great Pete Doherty once said “I’ve been told if you want to make it in this game, you gotta have the luck and you’ve gotta have the look.” Well, there have been times when I’ve been very close to both, but no real luck just yet. It’s cool, I figure I’ve got at least two years before we’re too old to be considered for any sort of real commercial success, that’s enough time, right?
Currently I’m playing in two bands. I’m the lead singer and occasional keyboard player for and indie-rock outfit called Genius and the Thieves, and I play bass for bluesy-garage band called The Meat Packers. The remainder of this tale will be mostly about the former, and very little of the latter. You see, I was tasked with writing about my current relationship with music, and while I could talk for ten minutes about my favorite albums of the last year or so, nothing is more prevalent in my musical life than my band.
A brief history, we played off an on for a while in college, but decided to get serious around October of 2008 and since then we’ve managed to put out an EP, a music video, tour for a bit, and play a handful of successful shows here and there throughout California. Outside of that, I wouldn’t really say that we’re a hit. Yet.
The thing is, being in a successful band takes a lot of hard work, kind of like having a second full time job. In my band I’m the guy that handles all that work. So, first: my frustrations. One: Everyone’s schedule is fucked up, so getting together a time to practice is pain in the ass. Two: Booking shows is hard, you’ve gotta get the right bands, on the right night in the right venue for people to even pay attention to what you’re doing. Three: it’s not enough to write good music anymore, you’ve gotta be good at marketing also. In this day and age, hundreds of thousands of bands can have their music heard by anyone willing to listen. Myspace, Facebook, Soundcloud, BandCamp, ReverbNation, PureVolume, YouTube, if your music, press-kit, videos (both produced and live) photos and blog aren’t posted and up to date on each of these (and about a hundred others) good luck getting any traction outside of your hometown. And if you don’t have management, guess who gets to take care of all that shit.
Yeah, I know, I’m bitching. But, believe it or not, it’s all totally worth it. There are very few things in life that feel more spectacular than playing a great show. And if there’s a decent crowd to witness it, even better. For every time I’ve ever felt frustrated, hopeless or angry, there have been a handful of moments that are compelling enough to encourage me to keep fighting the good fight.
I don’t have any real delusions of grandeur. I know that we’ll probably never open for The Strokes, or play some giant stadium gig. I would be perfectly happy to make a decent living just touring for a while. If I could earn the opportunity to see America, once city at a time, playing music for people, I would consider it the greatest of my successes. And it’s that dream, that simple rock and roll fantasy that keeps me in it.
It also doesn’t hurt that I’m fortunate enough to be in a band with my best friends. Some of my most treasured memories come courtesy of those guys. And yes, all my band mates can be so difficult that it’s occasionally like having four extra girl friends, but when we’re playing music together, or trying to make each other laugh on stage, it all seems worth it. Hell, who knows, we may never be successful, but at least I can say I gave it my best shot and had an awesome time doing it.
Oh, and as long as I’m here, my favorite albums over the last 18 Months:
- Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
- LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
- Beach House – Teen Dream
- Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
- The Black Angels – Persephone Dream
- The Strokes – Angles
- Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
- Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
- Wavves – King of the Beach
- Ty Segall – Melted
Zach Ryan edits, directs, and shoots for BAMM.tv. Check out his band, Genius and the Thieves at http://on.fb.me/pyTUL3
Hollerado totally blew us away a couple of months back when they released the promo vid for ‘Got To Lose’ – which makes something of double-whammy for this Canadian power-pop four-piece, as they also blew us away when they performed ‘Got To Lose’ exclusively for BAMM, live at our SF headquarters. These guys have been wearing their ‘next big thing’ badges with pride for a good while now, and here at BAMM we suspect they’re going to be world-conqueringly massive in the very near future. And when you hear the brilliantly catchy strains of ‘Got To Lose’, we think you’ll draw the same conclusions too …