All Writing and Photography © Alex Livingstone/Owner's Closet

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let Me Be Clear

Now, let me be clear. Playing music with my good friends is more fun than anything I've ever done. It is when everything leaves my mind except what is happening that moment. Anyone who has played in bands would probably agree that playing high energy rock music with your friends can often be a cathartic, disencumbering experience. I believe this so much so that I have emotional withdrawals when I don't play gigs for while. I realize that I may be heading into a performance drought when I move in July, but it will hopefully allow me to concentrate on other things that are important to me while giving me a little distance from something that has been a huge priority in my life for nearly 20 years.
While I may have had a harder time relaxing than I may have wished at the D.C. Hoot Night, playing those songs with my bands brought me unparalleled happiness and satisfaction. I will miss that a ton. The music I've been making with Excited States has been extremely fulfilling. As evidenced by our healthy contribution to the hoot night, 90s indie rock is right in our wheelhouse and is my second language. It is the more underground dialect of rock music that helped form my musical vocabulary 20+ years ago. The songs and melodies that Beaty Wilson comes up with are spoken in that dialect and I often know exactly how to respond. Andy Thompson fits perfectly into that three-piece equation by providing a rhythmic stability for our dynamic discourse. No matter what the speed of the dialogue, Andy measures it out and keeps the intensity on a level we can hover around. He is the oxygen atom and to him we are  electrically bonded hydrogen atoms.
That we were able to play Shudder To Think's  "X-French T-Shirt" was huge for me. James Adair introduced me to Pony Express Record in 1994 and that album, and song speciafically, got under my dome in a big way.  On my way to class one rainy winter morning, I remember walking through one of N.C. State's tunnels with the song's outro stuck in my head. It was like that for at least a week. I'm sure songs had been stuck in my head before then, but that was the first time it became a mantra.
"Static" is off of my favorite Jawbox album Novelty. In high school, I learned all of those songs on guitar (to the best of my ability) and it's rhythmic idiosyncrasies and discordant melodies have stuck with me to this day. The song I wrote for my old band eddy entitled "Under The Influence" was directly influenced by Novelty's "Linkwork."
We played eight Fugazi songs which was as cathartic as it gets. At the Holden Beach with my friend Will and his family during the summer of 1990, I remember listening to that album over and over again. It was a true revelation. Having been turned on to heavy, dynamic, powerful rock by Led Zeppelin (and soon thereafter Metallica in my case), Fugazi quickly became a band we fully believed in. There were others we adored like Soul Asylum and Operation Ivy, but Repeater really blew everyone to pieces. The funny thing playing those songs for me was that until we started learning songs for the hoot night, I had never thought to learn any of Joe Lally's incredible basslines. Lally is one of my all time favorite bass players and I had never thought to explore his work. This wasn't weird to me until I learned them all and realized for the 231st time how incredible he and the whole band were. They were such an amazing BAND!! 
The songs Grand Champeen played from Red Medicine were equally as exciting to learn and cover. Grand Champeen has learned a ton of covers over the years but we had never ventured into Fugazi territory, perhaps because it was so daunting. Perhaps because their albums are such masterworks in songwriting, musicianship and performance that it seemed a bit outside our scope. How wrong we were! As Channing intimated the other night at practice, we should have done that years ago.  Of the four songs GC learned, we played two of my favortes from that album, "Target" and "Forensic Scene." I have such strong memories of Red Medicine being in my life in 1995 because I moved to Tennessee by myself three months after the album came out and I know it kept me company and gave me strength when I left friends and family in NC and settled down in the small town Murfreesboro. I rented a room from an ad I saw on a bulletin board near the housing office on MTSU campus and for 8 months I lived with three guys who couldn't have been more dissimilar to each other and myself. When I was home, I stayed in my room a lot and listened to records. For the record, the other album on constant rotation in that rented room was "Tomorrow the Green Grass" by the Jayhawks.
 I gotta go. Grand Champeen is playing with A Giant Dog  at Hotel Vegas April 30th. I'm moving to NC in July so if you want to see Grand Champeen you had better come out.

No comments: