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)

The Window is Open

They were driving from San Francisco down to Monterey, and Davis wasn’t feeling well. He had waxed immortal the night before, fueled by drink and Guided by Voices. 20140823_225836It seemed to Davis that Ellen was driving badly, changing back and forth into the lane, bumping methodically over the strips of tars, just to worsen his nausea.

“You have to pull over.” He didn’t make it out of the car and pressed his The Club is Open T-shirt over his face so tight that the puke shot up inside his sunglasses.

She stared out the windshield, her arms crossed. “You’re disgusting.”

“Do you have a napkin or something?”

“Remember that we’re staying at Doris Day’s Bed & Breakfast tonight?” She rolled down her window.204721890392e6be0c8ca86ff1e3ce49“I guess I should get another shirt.” He half expected her to drive away as he rummaged in the trunk.

She rolled down her window. “She might even be there, you know.”

But she wasn’t and he slept in the big bed with the window open and had a shower and a very good dinner after that.

Bob Pollard Plays Mark Twain at The Stone Pony

Micaela says I’m pushing it, but while watching Guided by Voices last night at Asbury Park’s famed The Stone Pony, I was thinking that Bob Pollard was a Mark Twain superstar kind of guy.

Click the image below to see him nail Tractor Rape ChainScreenshot (254)True, he got so drunk that he not only told the audience to “Fuck off” more than several times and played I am a Scientist twice, but also fell down in a heap at the end. 20140823_233030But I stick to my theory, based not only on his out-spoken, sardonic nature and belligerence, but Bob as an exhaustive, creative force. Screenshot (266)And he drinks a lot too.

Guided by Voices: The Club Has Reopened

Guided by Voices, featuring Robert Pollard on lead vocals, have a full-on sound, murky and raw, a straight shot of indulgence and jolly vice, like nothing else.

The band has been around for over 30 years and, despite never cracking into a major market, has maintained a loyal following known for their chant of the faithful, “GBV!” The show is made up of some 65-80 songs – 10-14 songs in the encores alone, almost all of which – like the above Alex and the Omegas – are barely 2 minutes in length, all replete with power chords, chants and leg kicks.Screenshot (1342)They are not a traditional band, although oddly enough that is exactly what they seem, a case of beer on stage, bottles of Jack Daniels and plenty of smokes to go around…yes, even today.
20140524_011359They have split up and got back together numerous times. The last CD – Motivational Jumpsuit – was to be the last, but now there’s another coming in a month – Cool Planet. artworks-000071966118-y2juzs-originalThis, their final reunion tour, is returning to New York this summer and will play The Stone Pony, which according to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame is “one of the greatest rock clubs of all time.” An intriguing combination to be sure.

Gord Downie & The Sadies Play Harvard

Gord Downie and The Sadies played at The Sinclair in Cambridge on Saturday. 20140503_215803The opening song, Crater, is the kind of music that comes over you and drives hard, perfect for sitting back and imagining that life might not be that bad, that there is joy in the night. View concert clip here.20140503_230605The band offered a superabundance of terrain – rock, punk, surfer, country, folk – melding their new-found energy with sincerity, talent and screams. 20140503_220921And all of this, only the band’s third show together. Their cover of Guided By Voices, I Am A Scientist, makes one wonder what might be next, the hot summer nights ahead, when they will get deeper into their groove.

Top Ten Concerts

Yes, I admit this is both anal and childish, but I like to remember the places where my thoughts worked best – even if I didn’t remember much of it at show’s end.

10. Ravi Shankar, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto (1983) Beautiful hall, incredible music. Ravi Shankar performs at Paleo festival, Switzerland in 2005

9. Emmylou Harris, The Boot Saloon, Toronto (1992) A honky-tonk night.Musician Emmylou Harris performs during a concert celebrating musician Pete Seeger's 90th birthday in New York8. Tragically Hip, Cleveland Flats, Cleveland (1995) Canada’s greats, straight & full-on.20140504_2316477. Guided by Voices, Fillmore West, San Francisco (2002) The club is open.GBV Philly 6. Jane’s Addiction, Key Arena, Seattle (1995) Farrell and Navarro in summer dresses. perry-farrell-of-jane-s-addiction 5. Low, The Aquarium, Fargo (2012) Three full sets.Phone 061 4. My Bloody Valentine, Roseland Ballroom, New York (2008) Ears are still ringing. IMAG3757

3. Noel Hill & Tony MacMahon, Mother Red Cap’s, Dublin (1994) The pure drop in a tavern.

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2. Sufjan Stevens, Bowery Ballroom, New York (2013) The end of the world – December 21, 2112 – with a few hundred others. IMAG2066 1. Grateful Dead, Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma (1985) Full moon, at a zoo.Grateful_Dead-Greek_85-1 (walstib)

guided by voices

The Club is open! Guided by Voices have returned to the stage with their original lineup, including lead man Robbert Pollard. I was fortunate enough to see them at Trocadero’s in Philadelphia (see below) which featured some 60 songs – almost all of them new – as well as dozens of leg kicks, mic twirls, guitar poses and countless bottle spins and cigarettes. (Aren’t those things supposed to be bad for you?) They’ve also released two new CDs with another on the way next month. (How is that even possible?)Dates are set for the fall. Go to see the best low-fi there ever might be! More on Guided By Voices can be seen at their website.

Pollard does a half kick