Friday, August 31, 2007

August and Everything After

I have a pretty nasty habit of overplaying albums I really like for a prolonged period of time and, by overplaying albums I really like for a prolonged period of time, I mean listening to these albums so many times that each and every silent pause seems to make a sound or, at least, take on some sort of personal significance. The trajectory is usually the same: I'll latch onto a certain song which in turn will lead me to explore a given album and, one-by-one, I'll conquer each and every one of that disc's tracks until they come to represent a certain moment in my life. Of course, like, say, eating only chopped up bits of hotdog for an entire year, which I apparently did when I was 2 years old, after a while I’ll inevitably get tired of these albums and eventually they’ll fall out of regular rotation. It happened with the Grateful Dead's American Beauty, the Beatles' Revolver, Phish's Billy Breathes, My Morning Jacket's It Still Moves, the Samples' Transmissions from the Sea of Tranquility, Ryan Adams' Cold Roses, Talking Heads' Remain in the Light, Guster's Parachute, R.E.M.'s Eponymous, Wilco's Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, the Disco Biscuits' Uncivilized Area, the Shins' Oh, Inverted World, and the Slip's Eisenhower and, soon enough, I'm sure it will happen to Arcade Fire's Funeral.

And, of course, more than any album, it happened to Counting Crows’ August and Everything After. That’s right haters, scenesters and each and every members of my Top 8 who keeps their copy of August and Everything After buried in some secret stack of CDs (right next to Gin Blossoms’ New Miserable Experience), I'm not ashamed to admit that I discovered 'real music,' or at least the classic-rock sound, through the Counting Crows and if I was stranded on a desert island with one album and all my adolescent insecurities, I’d hope I’d have August and Everything After in my stereo.

Before uncovering the Counting Crows via their infectious single “Mr. Jones,” I was mostly listening to alternative-rock, '70s punk (thanks Green Day!) and pretty much anything else I heard on z100 in 1994 (let us here tip our hats to the fallen prophet that is Mr. Leonard). While they were initially lumped into the alt-rock bin thanks to Adam Duritz’ post-teenage angst and funky hair cut, Counting Crows were really a classic-rock band at heart and recalled a time when bands created albums, not songs, and song lyrics still had an indefinable mystic quality. In retrospect, with the exception of the records my parents spun on vinyl when I was a toddler, August and Everything After was probably the first time I heard a mandolin, the Hammond organ and music that was melodic, not muscular. It was my most obvious reference point when I later discovered The Band, T-Bone Burnett and Bob Dylan, which in turn led me to classic-rock, jambands and in many ways the itself (indeed, Woody Allen aside, there is no greater neurotic Jew than Mr. Adam Duriwitz). I remember driving up to see the Counting Crows at SPAC one summer when their opening act, the Wallflowers, brought out some old dude named Levon Helm to play a Dylan song, which is still the classiest sit-in I’ve ever witnessed and, oddly enough, the also first time I explored my collegiate hometown.

I must have listened to that album every single day in high-school, on the way to school, during lunch, when I liked a girl, when I hated my life, when I wanted to feel deeper than I really am and, especially, when I wanted to perfect my bounce in front of a mirror in the bathroom. At one point or another I probably considered each one of August’s eleven tracks my favorite song in the world and, despite the honors degree which sits in my parent’s basement, if I could rewrite my yearbook page this spring I’d probably still cite two of my favorite lines from “Round Here”

(‘Round here we talk just like lions, But we sacrifice like lambs’ and ‘she knows she's just a little misunderstood/she has trouble acting normal when she's nervous’).

I can’t pinpoint exactly when August fell out of regular rotation, but by the time I entered college, I was pretty much only listening to music that included a vacuum solo and suddenly lyrics likes “bag it, tag it” took on some sort of strange significance.

Now and again I’d put on “Round Here,” usually to remember something or someone, but, if it says anything, I didn’t import the album onto my idpod until last Thanksgiving. But, as if by instinct, last weekend I pulled out that dusty disc on the way back to my parent’s house after Camp Bisco. As I drove through the streets of my old hometown, passing by houses full of people I’ve never met, but whose stories I know by heart, the album’s beat seemed to move in time with my tires and I realized that, almost a decade after leaving my hometown, I still know every word to each one of August and Everything After’s songs by heart. And, though I never mastered the formula for converting Celsius into Fahrenheit or even, say, the art of tying my shoes properly, without racking my brain I can tell you that August and Everything After starts somewhere between 11 and 12 seconds into “Round Here.”

Before pulling into my parent’s current driveway I drove around the corner to the house I grew up in, partially to see what it looks like now and partially because I've had this recurring dream about a random house located five doors down from my childhood home. In retrospect, when I was a kid I knew my block…every tree, every rock…better than anything in the world, mostly because it was my world and walking five houses down the street felt like the a trip to the end of the universe. But, now, I can zoom past that cluster of homes within that short twelve seconds of silence.

It’s weird how certain places, problems and particularly people can consume your entire world one minute and feel like distant memories the next; misplaced scenes from last night’s dream. In mid July, I had drinks with a girl who was once the focus of a great deal of my attention and who, in retrospect, probably knows me better than almost anyone outside my family. At one point a drink with her would define my day, if not inspire a handful of entries in this here blog, but this time our conversation simply reminded me of the lyrics to another overplayed song: “and I know I'd never trace her, I can barely begin to place her chronologically. Just a flurry of white dresses and second guesses, now lessons which martyr me.”

It’s funny, probably because I overplayed August and Everything After so many times, I made a conscious decision to only spin its sequel, the equally beautiful and self-indulgent Recovering the Satellites, on special occasions. And, though I managed to keep it fresh, it also feels somewhat sterile, like a pack of baseball card I never opened, but also never fully enjoyed.

I guess that’s the best part of an album like August and Everything After: no matter how many times I’ve played its singles or how far Counting Crows have drifted into Shrek’s cartoon kingdom, listening to that disc is like peering back at a time when the Hammond organ still sounded fresh and five houses down the block felt like very far away. Now, if only I could figure out a way to overcome my strange fear of hotdogs…

Step out the front door like a ghost
Into the fog where no one notices
The contrast of white on white.
And in between the moon and you
The angels get a better view
Of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.
I walk in the air between the rain
Through myself and back again
Where? I don't know
Maria says she's dying
Through the door I hear her crying
Why? I don't know
Round here we always stand up straight
Round here something radiates
Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
She said she'd like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis
And she walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land
Just like she's walking on a wire in the circus
She parks her car outside of my house
Takes her clothes off
Says she's close to understanding Jesus
She knows she's more than just a little misunderstood
She has trouble acting normal when she's nervous
Round here we're carving out our names
Round here we all look the same
Round here we talk just like lions
But we sacrifice like lambs
Round here she's slipping through my hands
Sleeping children better run like the wind
out of the lightning dream
Mama's little baby better get herself in
out of the lightning
She says "it's only in my head"
She says "Shhh I know it's only in my head"
But the girl on the car in the parking lot
Says "Man you should try to take a shot
Can't you see my walls are crumbling?"
Then she looks up at the building
Says she's thinking of jumping
She says she's tired of life
She must be tired of something
Round here she's always on my mind
Round here hey man got lots of time
Round here we're never sent to bed early
and nobody makes us wait
Round here we stay up very, very, very, very late
I can't see nothing.. nothing round here
Will you catch if I'm falling
Will you catch me if I'm falling
Will you catch me cause I'm falling down on you
I said I'm under the gun around here
I'm innocent I'm under the gun around here
And I can't see nothing
Nothing round here

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sounds Eclectic

I have no idea what the most overused adjective in the English language is, but when it comes to music, I guarantee it’s the word eclectic. According to the Webster Dictionary, eclectic means “selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles” which in laymen’s music terms basically means “diverse” or “all over the place.” Since the majority of the conversations I’ve had over the past decade have referenced music in some form or another, I’ve heard all sorts of people use the world eclectic and, over time, have come to realize that almost everyone I know considers themselves to be an eclectic fan when, in actually, the music the majoirty of my friends listen to can somehow traced back to the popular rock-band Phish and/or one of their Halloween cover choices.

For instance, last night I struck up a conversation with a random girl of average musical intelligence at a bar near my apartment. Inevitably, the conversation eventually shifted to music and when I politely asked her what type of music she liked she shrugged and said, “you know pretty music everything, sort of all over the map. I have pretty eclectic tastes.” Now, for many years when I’d hear such a response, I’d follow-up with something to the extent of “so you like Christian country, death metal, baroque classical and hardcore trip-hop,” but the inner lawyer in me realized long ago that without hard evidence an argument holds no water. So, instead, I followed her response by gently asking, “so what are the last three shows you’ve seen” to which she replied, no joke, “Ghostland Observatory, Blonde Redhead and Feist.” Maybe it was the look on my face or my eyes rolling back into my skull, but, either way, she felt the need to quickly prove her eclectic tastes and added, “but I don’t just like indie-rock, I’m into jambands too!”

Indeed, more than their religious views, political affiliations and/or preference in brands of chocolate milk, I’ve found that people are more reluctant to tag themselves as a particular kind of music fan than almost anything else. I’m not really sure what the problem is. In general, I like rock music, specifically classic rock, jambands and indie or, better yet, music that appeals to white, suburban-bred twenty/thirty-something’s who scored between 1000-1500 on their SATS. But, for some reason, it is much cooler to say that I like a bit of everything (even though a careful scan of my iPod quickly reveals that I really only listen to Phish songs written between the years 1992 and 1998, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Adams and Wilco’s Yankee Foxtrot Hotel.)

In think the real problem is that pop music’s most basic genres---rock, country, hip-hop, blues, jazz and electronica---are grouped by style instead of audience. The term "rock music" is too broad, and there is no simple way to describe the type of people who started listening to alt-rock in 7th grade, before briefly flirting with punk, digging into classic-rock, spending time on Phish tour, embracing jambands, discovering roots-music, succumbing to current indie-rock trends and eventually ending up back where they started watching Peal Jam headline Lollapalooza. I mean just because I have Outkast’s “Hey Ya” on my party playlist doesn't mean
I consider myself a hip-hop head and, likewise, playing “Ants Marching” on a jukebox doesn’t mean you dig jambands.

So next time someone asks you what type of music you listen to remember: there is nothing wrong with admitting that your iPod actually features 32 different versions of “Ghost,” and please remind me to save this dissertation for my blog, not the bars. Apparently, calling someone out on their non-eclectic tastes falls somewhere between chopping the check and picking your nose as a great way to end a conversation mid-sentence.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Social Tour Managing

I've come to accept in my ripe old age that it requires a scientific degree to figure out how to make plans with certain friends. There are some friends that need weeks of e-mail exchanges and phone conversations to pick out a date, confirm a time and mutually agree on a location simply to 'hang' and there are those friends that only seem to figure out their evening activities on a whim. Some friends can only commit when it comes to carefully defined events like concerts, while others take your security deposit when you loosely toss around the idea of getting coffee over AIM. Then again there are those indecisive friends who need to see a guest list before agreeing to any given agenda and I those I know I will end up running into when I'm out and about. Of course, there are those friends who are great at makings plans, but terrible about following through, and then there are those who like to weigh any and all social decisions like items on a menu. I’ve had friendships quickly pick up momentum before they ultimately reach a state of friendship supernova and other friendships germinate at a slow, steady speed. Certain friends stop by unannounced and linger for hours, others prefer the “pop-in and peace-out” and, with a select few, it's just best double book.

And then there are those friends who have appointed tour managers to oversee any and all of their social decisions.

We all have these friends: normal everyday people who, somewhere along the line, have elected to appoint their girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, best friends and estranged neighbors to take charge of their personal plans. And, much like the tour managers I deal with in my day job at Relix, even if you've advanced time with a publicist, business manager or your actual friend, it is ultimately up to their tour manager whether you will make the list that night.

Since I first aimlessly bounced into the music industry a few years ago, I've had the opportunity to meet an interesting mélange of people who hold down all sorts of high-stress jobs (as Kermit the Frog most likely mused when Bela Fleck stopped by Sesame Street, it ain’t easy being heady). But, I’ve come to realize over the years that the tour manager's job is particularly tough, not only because they have to baby sit bands, oversee crews, settle with promoters and horde publicists, managers and groupies like cattle towards the backstage bar, but because they have to deal with people like me: neurotic, scatterbrained writers who should probably have a tour manager, or at least a secretary, of their own.

Yet, I’ve also learned that if you have a good tour manager, it makes life easy for everyone around you. Take my dear friend Sarah for instance. I always have fun when I hangout with Sarah and wish we chilled more, but she is the type of person who is impossible to make plans with. But, since she started dating and ultimately became engaged to a fine young Jewish hippie named Hirsh, I’ve started to bypass Sarah in the decision making process altogether. Hirsh knows her work schedule, family obligations, moods, pre-wedding jitters and, most importantly, knows how to confirm plans in a short, succinct e-mail (thankfully he hasn’t figured out the all powerful tour manager’s ‘silent no,’ which will be the subject of its own Greenhaus Effect column in the future). It makes life easier and, with age, I figure that each and every one of my friends will eventually find a tour manager to organize their social schedule. I mean the last time my Dad picked up a phone to make plans he was wearing bell bottoms and going to see the Bee Gees, yet he still seems to find a way to go out every Saturday night. Now if only my Mom could figure out a way to tour manage my favorite dysfunctional live improvisational rock bands…

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Busted: Band of Horses

I have a theory that every rock musician who came of age in the late-1990s and sports facial hair or a college degree is secretly 1.5 degrees away from and the latest group to prove me right is…Band of Horses. Our favorite snide hipster scribes over Pitchfork have just outted Band of Horses bassist Ben Bridwell as a former member of Donna the Buffalo, which is probably why everyone in the Relix office has been geeking over the new BOH’s album like it was lost tracks from the Billy Breathes sessions of something. Just wait until they figure out that Interpol’s Daniel Kessler named his dog Reba.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jerusalem Rocks JS

We here at the Greenhaus Effect support both the Jews and the Jams and are always happy when those two worlds collide outside the phrases “Hassidic reggae superstar” and “I'm destined to end up with a neurotic, Jewish jamband girl who will drive me slightly insane for the rest of eternity.” So we are more than happy to show our love for the rapidly approaching Jerusalem Rocks Music Festival, which takes place at the Teddy Kollek Stadium on September 9 (though still slightly confused why after several years of blogging we have randomly decided to shift into the second person for this post).

What we do know, however, is that the all powerful General of Jam himself, my friend and former cubical neighbor Jon Schwartz (he now lives on the other side of the tracks, for away from the intern ghetto, in the Beverly Hills of Zenbu Media), has not only personally approved this concert, but is doing everything he can to upgrade Jerusalem Rocks to high holiday status. Schwartz has been talking about bringing Phish to Israel as long as I’ve known him and, though that dream is still a still a Phantasy Tour post away from reality, Jerusalem Rocks has managed to assemble a pretty impressive lineup, including Arrested Development and Black Eyed Peas (apparently someone over at Jerusalem Rocks figured out that Fergie is hotter than any member of Phish---sorry Gordo, we all love your new haircut).

According to the event’s co-Founder and Executive Producer Jacob Ner-David, “the goal is for Jerusalem Rocks! to draw concertgoers from all parts of Israel, as we plan to demonstrate the city's ability to host major performances annually,” meaning that it’s only a matter of time before Keller Williams and Tea Leaf Green find there way across the Dead Sea.

Unfortunately, budget problems will likely prevent Relix from sending Benjy and I to Jerusalem Rocks to podcast and I’ve already cashed in all my Birthright Israel chips, but if you live anywhere near Israel and enjoy Chinese food on Sunday evenings I highly encourage you to make the pilgrimage for me (and perhaps find out who sings that catchy song “Speak the Language of the Hebrew Man” which has been stuck in my head since late 5767).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Girl Talk

If only because I am basking in all my urban glory after a few wonderful days of hippiedom at Gathering of Vibes, I figured I would take advantage of a night at home in NYC and post a link to this Girl Talk interview I recently did. It turns out he is one of us, as long as one of us is a child of the 1990s who likes jambands. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I am enjoying my wireless.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Me, Myself and Mike Greenhaus

As some eagle-eyed blog readers may have noticed, last month I celebrated my 26th birthday and last week I finally accepted my new age by having drinks with a cross-section of the friends I’ve collected like trading cards over the past few decades (a social ‘greatest hits’ package for lack of a better term). Though it’s not surprising given my over analytical, introspective personality, I definitely enjoy planning my birthday gatherings more than I do attending them and most definitely spend a lot more time replaying the evening’s happenings in my subconscious than I do bonding with my bros. And while last week’s social greatest hits package seemed to flow between social circles tracks quite naturally, I can still always pinpoint when exactly I met any one of my friends not so much because of they way they act, but because of what they call me (think of last week like one of those awkward, all inclusion box sets that tries to compile Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna and Starship tracks on a single disc).

You see, for better of worse, the older I’ve gotten, the less formal my name has actually become. I entered this world in July of 1981 named Michael Cary Greenhaus and, sometime before Kindergarten, slimmed my name down to, simply, Michael (if only because seven letters was already a lot for me to spell back then). After a brief detour in a Lord of the Flies like environment for learning disabled adolescents (like me) I spent my high-school years exploring my A Separate Peace soul in prep-school as a mentally fitter, more cerebral, though no less neurotic, Mike Greenhaus. For a while I figured I’d eventually pickup my proper name along with button-up shirts and adult dietary habits, only to find myself trust into an upstate, hippie utopia where I was quickly rebranded Mikey Greenhaus. Living on my own allowed Mikey Greenhaus to do things Mike Greenhaus never did like stay up until 4 AM every night of the work week, while having a metabolism of a 20 year old allowed me to exclusively eat spaghetti-marinara, tuna and PB & J for four years without making it look like Mikey Greenhaus swallowed Mike Greenhaus. Perhaps it was some sort of rebirth or maybe it was just a bad prank someone (cough Sarah Boxer) pulled on me, but the name seemed to stick.

Michael Cary: Better get used to that haircut kid

After college I started working at Relix, one of the many offices where AIM has replaced the age old art of screaming over one’s cubical walls as the preferred means of direct communication, and someone took a few letters from my screen name to create Greeny. While I learned a lot about the world during those hazy early morning commutates from my parents’ house into the big/bad city and I’m not particularly fond of that period in my life and, as my “college” and “professional” social circles began to mesh, I seemed to revert back to Mikey (the symbolic moment being at JazzFest 2005 when I picked up a laminate with the name Mikey Greenhaus on it at Will Call---thanks to the Brothers Peck).

Michael Greenhaus: If only Transformers were still cool

Now, much like the miniature Mickey Mouse figurines Michael Cary obsessively collected as a child, while Michael Cary, Michael, Mike, Mikey and Greeny are all built out of the same wax molding, there are slight differences in both their personality and style (which, no doubt, reflect the ‘times’ as much as they do each character’s age). For instance, the foul mouthed Mikey Greenhaus would certainly say things that the clean, tongued Michael Greenhaus wouldn’t, though both have the same bad haircut and probably get way more excited about the chocolate milk than anyone should. Which originally led my to believe that one day I’d wake up to find myself with some new, horrific, but endearing, nickname which would reflect the increasingly thinning part in my bowl cut. And, in all honesty, over the past few I’ve noticed enough tangible changes in both my confidence and personality to make me wonder if this fall it would be time

Mike Greenhaus: Birthday in short shorts

yet another name switch. I mean while my walk still resembles more of a disheveled bounce than a stately swagger, I did finally discover button-down shirts and slowly sushi and Seagram’s have replaced tuna and chocolate milk in my daily diet. Since I’m down with the indie-rock I thought about turning my name into a preposition and adding a ‘The’ before Mike/Greenhaus Effect or maybe a random letter to my MySpace handle to create something similar to what ?uestlove or my friend Ian (sorry ION) did. I mean clearly M!@chael is a lot less afraid to air out his dirty laundry online than even Mike Greeenhaus was, if only because he is now old enough to legally download other people’s, um, laundry.

Mikey: Heady bra

But, as my birthday evening trucked on and my memories became a bit more blurry I began to realize something: I think I am finally at the age where I’ve stopped tracking my life in academic quarters and Michael/Mike/Mikey and Greeny have blurred into, well, just me. It’s definitely an interesting realization and one I think is important to make as my life has taken on some sort of permanence at Relix in New York with the people I’ve chosen to surround myself with (feel free to use the Woody Allen quote You're like New York City — an island to yourself” to describe that self-indulgent graph). Now if only Michael Cary could tell Mikey to stop making the same mistakes he did almost three decades ago…

Greeny: New Shirt, Same Expression

The Greenhaus Effect(.com): Can you tell I'm in Brooklyn in this pic?

Monday, August 06, 2007


I don't do this often, but here is an interview I did with Brownie. It doesn't explain the image above, but I think the kidz will enjoy

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lollapalooza Day 1: Via Chicago

In all honesty, for a while after my favorite touring bands veered off the road and into that never ending Shakedown Street in the sky, I was pretty apathetic about traveling around the country. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like visiting new places and, at some point, I still plan on conquering those six elusive states like kernels at the bottom of a bag of popcorn. It’s just that I didn’t have a reason to impulsively put up my ‘Out of Office’ auto-response, drop a weekend feeder in my fish tank and travel to some far off land in the hopes that I’d figure out where exactly on the Oregon trail soda became pop.

For, even though I may at times come off as a forgotten character from a bad teen movie, I genuinely believe there is something strangely cinematic about experiencing a foreign city through the eyes of a band like Phish, the Dead or Counting Crows (yes I just said that, I grew up in the suburbs during the 1990s, sue me). It gives a city context and a road trip a structure, if only because Live Nation parking lots tend to look the same across the country.

So, as the traveling festival faded away like Rod Stewart's credibility from his time in the Faces and my favorite mega bands slowed to a Coventry crawl, I began to fear that one day I’d begin to consider my weekly Saturday walk to New York’s west side highway some sort of cross-country road trip. That is, of course, until I learned to stop worrying and love the festival.

In an era where even the country’s biggest bands are favoring intimacy over long tours, single city mega-festivals, or destination events as us soft-tongued journalists like to call them, have taken the place of traveling summer caravans. And, thankfully, I now have a new reason to keep my suitcase by my bed and try my hardest to score a variety letter in festival hopping.

Now, for those of you who haven’t met me while bouncing around New York City, where I store my laptop during the Relix work week, or read my blog, where I store my typos after office hours, here’s a little background on my somewhat, err, muddy relationship with the summer rock music festival. I started attending Phish festivals shortly after scoring my senior drivers license and, over the past decade, have adjusted my musical taste in post-hippie-rock-snob accordance with the day’s blogs and message boards. In that time I’ve been lucky enough to attend both traveling and stationary festivals organized by everyone from moe. to Blink-182 to B.B. King to the Disco Biscuits and, of course, Bell Atlantic, Nantucket Nectar and Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’ve seen hipsters invade Langerado, hippies stake claim to Siren and the younger siblings of both groups converge at Dave Matthews Band’s Randall’s Island Summer Getaway, while somehow managing to explain to my mom, and later my boss, why I need to attend High Sierra, Vegoose, 10,000 Lakes and Wakarusa, even though Keller Williams played all three (ah, the beauty of the podcast).

I’ve visited the Acoustic Planet, seen indie-rock’s Unlimited Sunshine, Voted for Change, tasted the Green Apple, found my Citysol, counted to Live 8, spelled CMJ, been Snowcore and “jammed” on a River, Mountain, Cruise and Ski slope. Then again, I’ve also seen rock bands play the Montreal Jazz Fest, country groups at Jazz Aspen Snowmass and hip-hop collectives at the New Orleans Jazz Fest (but, oddly enough, jazz musicians at Rocks Off’s School of Rock festival). I’ve been hit by a bus at Berkfest, robbed at Bonnaroo and almost totaled my car at All Good. Unfortunately, I’ve also watched someone get struck by lighting at Gathering of the Vibes, fled from a tornado at Summer Camp and lost my shoes in Coventry’s mud. and, each and every summer, gone back for more (though, apparently, still haven’t figured out the importance of using suntan lotion). So, with that in mind, Lollapalooza seemed as good a reason as any to venture to Chicago this weekend and if only so I can spend three days listening to my college friend’s try and relate every site to see to one of New York’s hamlets (I hear they call “Scarsdale” “Highland Park” in these parts).

Ever since I first visited my girlfriend in Chicago during college I’ve always loved the Windy City because, for all intensive purposes, it is a more manageable version of my two favorite urban areas, New York or Los Angeles. It’s got everything that makes a city both charming and cool, from good pizza to clean subways and cursed baseball teams and, if my girlfriend’s parents didn’t make me sleep on the pullout coach, I’d probably have stayed there forever (or at least until the winter) And, while Chicago might at first seem like an odd place to throw a multi-band, multi-stage, multi-million dollar music festival like Lollapalooza, it is actually a note perfect location: big enough to absorb the festival’s shadow, but small enough for a sun baked visitor to feel at home.

Lollapalooza is also perfectly positioned to geographically balance out the country’s other three major rock-music festivals; Bonnaroo (which represents the east), Coachella (which represents the west) and Austin City Limits (which represents the gulf coast). Plus, I hear the locals needed something to talk about besides the Bears. Though a good chunk bands overlap at all four events, each gathering has founds its own niche: hippie, indie-rock, singer/songwriter and alt-rock.With the exception of the later category I’ll let you decide which category matches which festival, but I’ll end this post by saying it feels fitting that Pearl Jam, Daft Punk and, of course, Perry Farell himself are playing Lollapalooza this summer.

So, for the next three days Benjy and I will be onsite, podcasting some of our favorite bands, reporting on Eddie Vedder’s whereabouts and trying to find the original Pizza UNO. Now if only someone would teach me to put on sunscreen.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

26 Candles

guess what show I'm at (answer below)

Since my birthday is always the most self-indulgent day of my year, it seems only fitting that I post something in this space. Though I’ve never been much of a ‘birthday guy,’ I do like to throw parties and, just like in elementary school, I’ll most likely wait until September when everyone gets back from summer camp to truly celebrate. But, since July 16 is the only day of the year people actually take my trademark introspection seriously, I figured I’d fill today’s post with more than High Sierra leftovers and links to my podcast (which, by the way, can be streamed to your right).

Over the weekend, when I should have been working on my ALO feature for the next issue of Relix, I spent some time jotting down a bunch of creative things to post today. My initial idea was to look back at the best 25 nights of live music since I turned, well, 25 (if only to increase Sir. Joe Russo’s Google ranking), but figured if I’m going to write about music, I might as well try to turn in my homework on time. My next idea was to gently nudge some of the women who have passed through my MySpace Top Friends since the summer of 2006, but, to be honest, I’m kind of scared some of them are still reading this space. My last idea was to highlight the best spam I’ve received since entering my late, mid-20s but, luckily, since switching to Gmail all my spam problems have been solved (but, for old times sake, he is a preview of what that post would have looked liked (お嬢様 らエッチなおね㠁 ã‚Šé ってますï¼//üÆÆÅËÔÉ×ÎÏÓÔØ ÒÕËÏ×ÏÄÉÔÅÌÑ).

But, as luck would have it, the answer to my problems was actually staring me right in the face or, more accurately, sitting at will call: Dispatch.

For those of you over the age of 21 and/or who didn’t attend a small liberal arts college in the northeast, here is a brief synopsis of my somewhat embarrassing history with this trio of prep-school hippies from Middlebury, VT. Being a heady guy (well kind of at least) who attended a heady school (Skidmore), in a heady part of the country (upstate New York), during a heady era (ok I think I just reached my heady quota for this academic quarter), I saw a good number of bands pass through my campus green while living out my American Pie fantasies. Skidmore was a comfortable halfway house between New York, Boston, Burlington and Montreal, so, without fail, each week at least one jamband would roll onto our campus green (dude he said “roll” and “green”) en route to a more desirable, but less lucrative, weekend club show: AGP, the Slip, Miracle Orchestra, Rane, DJ Logic, Miracle Orchestra, Whose That Fat Guy?, Miracle Orchestra, Moon Boot Lover, Miracle Orchestra, DJ Logic featuring members of Miracle Orchestra, members of Miracle Orchestra featuring DJ Logic…you name it, we booked it and, usually, talked through it.

It was a simple time, post-Jerry, pre-9/11, pre-Coventry, but post-Billy Breathes. In retrospect, those were also probably the happiest days of my life ‘cause, when it comes down to it, all I really need to make me happy is some good music, friends ‘n family and a lawn big enough to allow my nerves to bounce around like oversized pin-balls (a game which, by the way, I’ve discovered I’m much better at after a few drinks).

In the middle of all this I was bunking with a good hearted, but simple minded, jock roommate who spent more time pissing in our room than listening to Phish, but who, in retrospect, probably had a better pulse on mainstream pop-culture than I did. Usually, when one of the above mentioned bands rolled through town, he’d spend the afternoon blaring Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from his stereo, but when Dispatch visited our campus he took note. If my memory serves my correct, we spent the evening pre-gamming in my friend Ken’s room and, maybe, jamming out to a version of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” (which was, at the time, the theme from the popular film of the same name), before slowly stumbling across the green to our Shakespearian-themed campus bar Falstaff’s (capacity 200).

While Dispatch’s music wasn’t as sonically tight as their jamband brethren, and certainly a lot less adventurous, the crowd’s energy was through the roof and, a few week later, my roommate decided to see the band for an unprecedented second time at some random club called Wetlands. Dispatch also brought along these two cute, high-school merch. girls from Dalton who may or may not have spent the night in my friend Ken’s window seat. Either way it was a smart marketing move.

Since Dispatch managed to, in my roommate’s words, appease both “my hoes and my bros, ” I decided to interview them for my beloved campus rag the next time they came to town. I found their manager’s e-mail address on a website, scheduled an interview and, one cold October evening, drove to Clifton Park, NY for my first rock-and-roll interview. My friend Amanda and I spent about 45 minutes on their six person van, Wimpy, ate dinner at the club and, later, convinced them to give Skidmore a nod from the stage. We also stayed around after the show and got to hang with the evening’s headliners, the Samples, who proceeded to get really stoned and rap about our college radio show, You Enjoy My Sound (see, I told you I was heady).

As Dispatch continued to grow I continued to interview them and scored my first VIP passes along the way. My interest began to wane by the time they played their final New York show in 2002, though I ventured up to Boston in 2004 to watch an estimated 100,000 people take a day off from their Mallrats existence attend their final show. So it felt a little strange, but not that strange, that on the eve of my 26th birthday I found myself backstage at Madison Square Garden, watching 20,000 kids sing-along to a band which not long ago played my college radio show for an audience of two (well four if you count my parents who were listening online).

Now, unlike the groupie fantasies portrayed in some Almost Famous alternate reality, every backstage scene I’ve ever experienced has been full of three very different types of people: fans, fluffers and, or course, haters. Fans are the easiest to spot. They are genuinely excited to be backstage drinking free beer and are blissfully unaware that the backstage they call home is actually a full ZIP-code away from where their band of choice is actually gearing up for the show. Plus, they usually put their VIP stickies in the most obvious places possible, preferably around the breast. Fluffers are a bit more incognito, often industry types who “love the band” and “they’re not just saying that." They usually store their VIP pass in a more concealed space, like the upper right thigh, and, of course, like drinking free beer backstage.

The haters make their case known early on in any conversation. They’re just there for the hang, because their girlfriend/boyfriend/younger brother/sister/dog sitter ‘really wanted to go’ or because they “had to.” They are usually ‘over’ the scene, the band and especially the music, though they usually think the bassist is a pretty cool guy and, of course, are excited about the free beer. Haters are also good at rattling of their credentials and, even though they don’t like the band they are about to see, have most likely seen them more than you over a longer period of time. They usually conceal their VIP passes pretty well too, but, as the conversation rolls on, reserve the right to pull out that lammy like a badge on an undercover cop.

At different points in my life I’ve fallen squarely into all three categories, especially when it comes to Dispatch, but, as my text messages over the course of the night can attest, on this night I fell squarely in the ‘fan category.” At the risk of surrendering all my underground cred, I actually felt like a little piece of me played the Garden that night, Dispatch being the first band I road from Wetlands to MSG and Wetlands being the last venue I loved like a band. At one point, they even rolled out that old van Wimpy and played “Bridges” acoustically on its roof. If I was half as deep as I pretend to be, I’d say the song’s lyrics were a fitting summation of my birthday eve thoughts:

The furrowed bed of sand worries again
As it had before, waves left the land
For the falling tide leaves the child weeping alone,
He's letting go of the anchor and all the lines...
waiting for the fingers of the grey wave
or his mother's hand to roll over him
with endless water...10,000 bridges
Show me father.
Now I'm older, now much older
And this wave can take me out to sea
I feel the pull beneath my feet
But I can see her, she is calling
I can feel her there...I can feel her there
waiting for the fingers of the grey wave
or his mother's hand to roll over him
with endless water...10,000 bridges
Show me father

But, since I’m really more dorky than deep, instead I will leave you all with this e-mail I sent to a few friends before some birthday drinks last night. Enjoy! .

Hi everyone. Just a friendly reminder that I'm going to be celebrating my birthday tonight with a small gathering at Hi-Fi on Avenue A and 10th at 8:30 PM. In case you were thinking about bailing, I've taken the liberty of debunking the top ten reasons Ive heard for not attending (then again the night is still young)

1) It's not actually your birthday and you're having a real birthday party this fall (which may or may not conflict with another previously confirmed event)

Ok, we'll start with an easy one. Sure my real birthday was a few days ago and sure I am having a big party with music, munchies and even more mass e-mails in September, but that doesn't mean we can't hang out tonight. It's not like I am asking you to give me a liver or even listen to a dissertation on how my life parallels Phish's evolution from a group of geeky suburban bookworms to a G.R.A.B-bag of sloppy New Yorkers. Err, shot on me?

2) 8:30 on a Tuesday is just way too late for my old, jaded blood

So, unless you are my grandmother, you're not going to bed at 8:30 tonight and even she is going to stay up to see MASH at 11:30.

3) I cant leave my pet alone for that long
If by pet you mean your MySpace/Facebook page I promise you no one is going to post anything that interesting on MySpace between the hours of 8:30 and midnight (except some more free Macys Coupons)

4) I'm feeling insecure about my new corporate job and like to tell people I have to work until 4:30 AM every night

Fair enough, I hear your pain. But if you really have that much work then why are you checking your personal e-mail at 1 PM anyway and why did you just check your MySpace page after reading bullet point #3? Close that inbox and hit the books so you can party tonight (if not with me at least someone more interesting)

5) Wait a minute, you said this was an intimate night of drinking for a
few people.. I only come out of the woodwork for 500 person, 10 keg raggers on alternate Thursdays in Williamsburg.

Then think of this as a VIP party only you a few others were invited to and feel free to causally drop your VIP cred. mid conversation when I have my real party this fall

6) Wait, did you just say VIP? If so, what type of access do I get? Can I bring a +2

I took the liberty of reserving the bar's back booth for you and your guests and will be happy to print out VIP passes color coded to match the era in which we met. And trust me, this is one time you don't want an all access pass (unless, of course, you do in which case I hope you're Jewish and call my cell)

7) I'm still pissed about some jab from your previous e-mail

Ok, Ok, sorry about that. Don't worry about it, I'm harder on myself than anyone else. How else can you explain my haircut and shoes?

8) There is this really, really sick show going on tonight that I really, really wanted attend

OK, I am going to call your bluff on that one. I go to every show, even if Ive never heard of the band, dont like the music and have to use Wikipedia during set break to know who Im seeing and the only cool thing happening tonight is Ben Kweller and he's playing tomorrow too!

9) I'm out of town visiting my estranged half-step brother

If you are really out of town on vacation, then why are you reading this e-mail! Enjoy the day and we will see you at the real party in September

10) Mikey, I know you well enough to know you clearly enjoy crafting e-mail invites much more than attending your own events

Well, you got me on that one. But since you know me so well then come have a drink and make sure to bring some single dollars for the jukebox/and or strippers or else tonight might start to sound like a band teen movie set in the post-jam era (boy am I going to regret making up that drinking game in a couple of hours).

See you at 8:32 or, at least, whenever you pull this e-mail out of your spam folder, Mikey