Ice Friday: Robert Hunter’s “Loser”

All that I am asking for is ten gold dollars
And I could pay you back with one good hand
You can look around about the wide world over
And you’ll never find another honest man. Everybody prayin’ and drinkin’ that wine
I can tell the Queen of Diamonds by the way she shines
Come to daddy on the inside straight,
Well I got no chance of losin’ this time

Ice Friday: Lightfoot’s “The Watchman’s Gone”

Gordon Lightfoot, Canada’s singer-songwriter laureate, conveys the weight of mortality in a few lines from The Watchman’s Gone:
There’s a train down at the station
It’s come to carry my bones awayimg_4624
If I wait for the right moment
You can bet I’ll climb aboard unseen
I’ve done it before
I know I can do it in my sleep

Davis Trilogy Part One: Just Weird

Just Weird: Because you can’t be anyone else.

Expelled from boarding school, Davis moves in with his father and step-family. His step-brother, a world-class swimmer, is indifferent to his presence while his step-mother and step-sister treat him with outright disdain. His new school, a strict all-boys institution, is no refuge, but rather a breeding ground for bullies and malcontents. Davis learns of a compulsory public speaking competition from a pair of misfits, Eugene and Erdley, both of whom he befriends over hashish and an obsession with music lyrics.screenshot-8

Davis joins a film club, led by a stunning young film teacher, Ms. Geisner, and shortly after takes a job delivering newspapers in her neighborhood. Davis gets into a series of problems – including an evening of pyromania ending in Erdley getting badly burned – until, in an ironic turn, Martha is fired from her job for smoking pot, leading her parents to take her with them to her brother’s swim meet in Northern Ontario.

Left alone in the house, Davis sneaks into a party at Ms. Geisner’s house where he gets drunk and, after watching Ms. Geisner dance to The B-52’s Rock Lobster, confesses his love for her. It ends badly. He wakes, miserably hungover, realizing the public speaking contest is in today’s assembly. Instead of his practiced speech, he decides to recite Rock Lobsterscreenshot-9Initially unsure, he gains confidence and ends up screaming the final lines, which is received with great enthusiasm by the student body and outrage by the administration. It appears that Davis is to be expelled yet again, until his father meets with the head of school and promises to help finance a new swimming pool.

Finding Bliss (and not) in Music

I have chased down many a show over the years in pursuit of something approximating bliss or satisfaction. 20150916_205807There have been moments, rare moments, where this feeling almost resides. I have been enraptured by the likes of The Grateful Dead, Stereolab and Sufjan Stevens. (Video here.)Screenshot (7) I have also been fortunate enough to happen across these moments, such as the choral chanting in Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda, Myanmar. (Video here.)Screenshot (14)However in my long and winding pursuit, I have been as equally disappointed by all of those those mentioned above, finding boredom and ennui instead. bushwick5It’s not astonishing to realize that it is the sound and not the event, the journey as they say, even if it’s a recording on a drive going nowhere. (Video here.)Screenshot (16)

Grateful Dead Showdown: Phil Lesh vs. Bob Weir

The two remaining pillars of The Grateful Dead – Phil Lesh and Bobby Weir – don’t play together anymore, which is an odd turn of events given the success of last summer’s reunion in Chicago.

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Grateful Dead play Soldier Field in Chicago on July 4, 2015

Phil tours with “Friends” and Weir plays with “Company”, leading to the question not why are they apart but which band is better?

Band members: Dead and Company appears to have this in spades, given the inclusion of original Grateful Dead drummers, Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, along with John Mayer and, of course, Bob Weir.

Dead and Company at Citi Field

Dead and Company play Citi Field, Queens, New York on June 25, 2016

That said, the focus of Phil Lesh’s bands has always been the quality of the music, with Warren Haynes, John Scofield, John Medeski as regulars, and noted guests including Melvin Seals (longtime member of the Jerry Garcia Band) and Chris Robinson from The Black Crowes. Further, given the fact that John Mayer isn’t as great as he thinks and Kretzmann and Hart are mailing it in, the Friends have it here. Advantage: Phil Lesh and Friends

Venues: Dead and Company are going for the big, fast bucks and have booked the largest venues possible; in other words, it’s all hockey arenas and baseball stadiums.

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Jerry Garcia’s ghostly projection during Phil Lesh and Friends at the Capital Theater, Port Chester, New York on May 29, 2016

Phil Lesh plays almost exclusively at The Capital Theater (outside New York City) and Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, California, with capacities of 1800 and 350 respectively.The question is only getting there. Advantage: Phil Lesh and Friends

Song Selection: Dead and Company draw from across The Grateful Dead catalog, showing favor to the early 1970’s, including Weir’s Country and Western gems. Phil and Friends have a similar bent, more in the 1960’s. Advantage: Draw

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Phil Lesh and Friends play the Capital Theater on November 7, 2015

Overall Sound and Experience: While it’s true that Bobby is losing his touch and Phil should stop singing, both know the music. However when it comes to getting inside the sound, being carried away by the interplay between musicians – the jams, man! – Phil plays and leads best. Advantage: Phil Lesh and Friends

Why I Love Gord Downie

With all of this emotional outpouring toward Gord Downie, the musician, I thought I might give a few reasons to love the guy for things other than his music.

1. He’s got a lot of fingers scratching on his hull. I once made the mistake of telling him he’s a very sensitive guy, to which he replied, “I’m not sensitive. Why would you say that?”Gord22. What’s this river that I’m in? I doubt he would admit to being funny, but it’s actually his reactions that are the funniest, falling over silently, choking a laugh into himself.

3. We’d climb a tree and then maybe we’d talk. Late, after a party, Gord was getting ready to go to bed and was being followed around by Bill, all through the house, up the stairs, into his bedroom, talking all the time, story after story. Gord never told him to leave, instead just turned off the light, laughing here and there, and let Bill talk on in the dark.

Gord14. There’s nowhere that he’s really been. His dream of dreams is not to be on stage, but to be sprawled out on the ground, his children crawling all over.

5. He’s not from downtown. He knows what he knows. Not what he doesn’t.Gord36. He worked it in to look like that. He does the work, a fourth line player, the guy you want on the ice with a few seconds on the clock.

Yeah, Gord’s a good guy, all right. Angst on the planks, spittin’ from a bridge.

Bowie’s Greatness in Songs You Don’t Know

You know about Ziggy Stardust, Rebel Rebel and poor old Major Tom, but there is so much you don’t of the sound of David Bowie. These are the songs that you should:bowiesound5. Sound and Vision (Low, 1976) Actually a song you probably do know but didn’t know you knew, sharp and compelling as anything you’ve heard..

bewlay4. Bewlay Brothers (Hunky Dory, 1971) Climbing out of earnestness with pain and delight, knowing something but not knowing what.

v2sch3.  V-2 Schneider (Heroes, 1976) Space-age, new-age from a distant planet, words so close and so far.

fascination2. Fascination (Young Americans, 1975) The rhythm and groove which every disco artist dreamed they might find.

bigbrother1. Big Brother (Diamond Dogs, 1974) Magnificent, poignant and magnificent again, what the conceptual album and song are dreamed upon.