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

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