Most of the cats that you meet on the street speak of true love
Most of the time they’re sitting and dying alone
But one of these days they know they’ve got to get going
Out of the door and down in the street all alone
-The Grateful Dead, Truckin’
Today, I have a little something to say about music.
Most mornings when I’m feeling sunny, or most evenings when I’m feeling like a crash-test dummy after work, I’ve gotta turn on some music and sink into a different world. In my music world, feelings are condensed into snippets of lyrics, or a particularly solemn moan on a violin, or Les Claypool telling me not to complain even if I’ve got my snout in a trough and a bunch of lions on my back (I think I’m mixing songs here). These past few days I’ve made up a ‘Dee’s Country’ music list, which won’t at any point play any songs about tractors. And if it does… iTunes has got some explaining to do.
My list consists of a couple of my favorite Grateful Dead songs (Truckin’, Althea, Friend of the Devil, Touch of Grey, some others – songs I grew up with), the best – no, check that – The Very Best of Violent Femmes, Animal Liberation Orchestra’s two most recent albums (Roses & Clover and Sounds Like This), and a fantastically folk-y Bruce Springsteen Album called We Shall Overcome.
Not exactly country music? Who cares? It’s Dee’s Country.
But whenever I’m feeling Dee’s Country list, I’ve got to start with Truckin’. I’m a chronic traveler myself, was born that way. Not only was I born that way, but it’s kind of my destiny, if you believe in such things. My background consists of pioneers and pilgrims and Mormons. What have these three peoples got in common? I’ll tell you what: travel. Westward travel, mostly, but the term manifest destiny, with all it’s unfortunate political connotations, is a phrase that in my family simply tells us to leave home.So, for that and a couple of other reasons (is it gettin’ personal in here or what?), Truckin’ really speaks to me.
Which led to an awesome conversation this morning between my boyfriend and me. I’m getting warmed up, stretching my hands, opening Code Academy (to find amazingly that I can now learn Python on their site! WOOT!), and itchin’ to hear some sweet, antiquated Grateful Dead music. (What is it my boyfriend called it? Oh, yes, anachronistic. To which I replied, if the Grateful Dead is anachronistic, then so is a part of my soul.)
My baby and I make fun of each other’s music a lot, because we basically can only agree that hot, talented red heads are the stuff awesome is made of (Florence Welsch, Loreena McKennitt, Tori Amos, any number of the Celtic Woman ladies), fiddles are the shit, and metal was a musical genre created solely for the integration of Celtic folk-tales into modern music. Other than that, he insists that Freddie Mercury is better than Bob Dylan and I think Regina Spektor is clever and sexy all the way from her wide, babydoll eyes down to her quirky, repetitive lyrics.
So this morning we’re talking about the anachronistic nature of the jam band scene, which I insist isn’t all that anachronistic because my parents are still very much a part of it (they follow Phish like it’s a religion, and that’s really not hyperbole at all), and exactly what it is we like about what we like. What’s the value in repetitive lyrics? What’s the value of in-your-face performance versus just sitting down on a stool in front of a microphone and letting the world know you’ve got some stellar lyrics? How in-your-face should a performer be about his or her talent? Is a show where the music simply provides an atmosphere of lazy, friendly, chilling-with-strangers and selling your jewelry (and other various concert paraphernalia, you know, har har) worth the money, even if you only spend a small portion of that time actually absorbed in the show itself? Or should a performer work to make the show all about his or her stage presence? Should they grab you by the collar and not let you go until you’ve been so thoroughly bathed in their presence that you’re half drunk on it?
Frankly, my experience at Phish shows is the former. And I enjoyed those a lot – especially the one in Indiana where the sky decided to join in. When you’re entire world is enclosed by lightening and Trey Anastasio playing Runaway Jim just for you, that’s a stellar experience and completely worth the money. But Phish doesn’t have my undivided attention throughout a show – the vendors, the hippies, the blankets on the lawn and mingling with like-minded strangers – they’re all a part of the experience. They’re all a part of what I expect in a performance, and a part of what I’d be willing to pay for.
But there is totally benefit to a show where the oomph of the experience comes solely from the performer on stage. To me, this is more like what a musical is – I’m in a theater, I’m not there to socialize, I’m not there to buy cool stuff. I’m there to become absorbed. My experience at a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert was like this. I would expect a Celtic Woman concert to be like this.
But which do I enjoy more? I don’t know. The whole air of the former reminds me of lazy summer nights, sprawled around a bonfire while an old, grizzly man strums an acoustic guitar and every once in awhile breaks out a recognizable song. It’s the peace and quiet of my childhood and it will always have a hold on me.
Whew, that was a long post. Still trying to get a hand of a decent blog voice here. : ) Oh well. The more I read of other blogs, the better I’ll get. Have a fun and lazy Sunday!