World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking passed away last week. He left us with several gems worth pondering:
This seems like a fitting song for Professor Hawking…
I saw Steve Earle perform at the venerable Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati last night.
It wasn’t a full-on concert, it was a “Words and Music” performance, meaning Steve did about eight songs, and also read from his novel and collection of short stories, then took questions from the audience.
He talked about his heroes – Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan. He mentioned how the Vietnam War changed not only those who went and their families, but the entire country… and inspired his album Copperhead Road. He played his song “Devil’s Right Hand” after telling a funny yet moving story about his then-14-year-old son (Justin Townes Earle – a great singer/songwriter in his own right) stealing one of his guns, and how it changed his views on gun control.
Steve dropped out of school and ran away from home at age 14. He talked about how he regretted his lack of formal education, and often wished he could be a Writer (capital W)… until someone pointed out that as a songwriter he was writing stories that people could sing along to as they’re riding in their cars. Damn straight! One of the songs he did last night is probably my favorite tune of his, called “Someday.” In four minutes, it paints a vivid picture and captures the yearning of small-town kids better than any novel I’ve read. (The lyrics and a live performance are below.)
I saw Steve in a similar intimate, small-room setting back in the early 90s, at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California. That was back when he was hooked on drugs. He wound up homeless, then in jail.
He’s been sober for 20+ years now, and I’m sure glad he’s still around to share his Writing with us.
Here’s the song wrote for Guy Clark after he passed away:
This past weekend, my wife, my oldest son Gabriel and I went to L.A. so that he could visit college campuses (or is that campi?).
The fact that my favorite band happened to be playing a concert in L.A. on Saturday night was purely coincidence. (And by “coincidence” I mean “the main reason for the trip.”)
Yes, faithful dubbatrubba readers will know that I’m talking about Buffalo Tom. They play very infrequently these days, and usually only the left and right coasts of the U.S. of A. When I read that the west coast dates would feature two sets, including them playing their 1992 opus Let Me Come Over in its entirety, I figured I had to go see them… I’m not getting any younger and neither are they. As the opening track of the new album Quiet and Peace says “now my time behind is greater than my time ahead.” Besides, my son wanted to visit UCLA and USC… “Father of the Year” + Concert of My Dreams = win-win.
I won’t bore you with the details… chances are good that 70% of the 10 folks who actually read this blog don’t know who Buffalo Tom is and don’t care. Suffice it to say it was a fantastic evening, a borderline religious experience. They sounded great. I loved and savored every damn moment. They’re not the biggest band in the world by any stretch of the imagination. They’re semi-retired for all practical purposes. But to the 500-some-odd true fans in the Teragram Ballroom, most of whom are in their 50s, the three guys in their 50s up on stage crushed it.
For the three readers who do care, here are some links:
Great profile in the L.A. Times. (You can — and should — stream the new album there.) Love this quote:
Instead they live their lives, occasionally regroup, record and head out to perform for a fervent fan base. Some fans are simply enjoying reheating the embers of the heady club days of their alt-rock youth and others are following along with each album.
Super fan Mike O’Malley is in the latter category. Quite frankly, the actor-writer-producer — likely familiar to some for his comically poignant performance as Kurt’s dad on “Glee” or the early 2000s CBS sitcom “Yes, Dear” — is much more perturbed than the members of the band that Buffalo Tom has not achieved a higher level of mainstream recognition.
“I feel a little bit like Arthur Miller, ‘attention must be paid,'” O’Malley says with a laugh on the phone from New York, where he is putting the finishing touches on the book for the new Jimmy Buffett Broadway musical “Escape to Margaritaville.” “But, attention must be paid! I don’t understand why they’re not Wilco or The National. They deserve to be as well-known by a new generation of people who love music.” (emphasis mine.)
Lead singer Bill Janovitz was a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. (Bill comes on about 31 minutes in. Marc Maron was at the show – I said howdy.)
And this mini-review of the new album in the Boston Herald nails how I feel when it says the new album is as good as their older material:
The Boston trio of singer-guitarist Bill Janovitz, singer-bassist Chris Colbourn and drummer Tom Maginnis have nothing to prove. The guys will never make the band a full-time gig again — their ninth album comes after a seven-year break. Maybe it’s this freedom that allows them to write clear-eyed, adult rock ’n’ roll. (Note: This is not meant as a pejorative.)
They fill “Quiet and Peace” with tight rock about complex relationships. “Roman Cars” captures something between mature and playful, an aesthetic between the Kinks and R.E.M. “In the Ice” features a melody and melancholy that echoes Janovitz’s deeply underrated solo album “Walt Whitman Mall.” Flirting with folk, punk and rock drones, the band sounds endlessly comfortable with its art.
Buffalo Tom returns to the Paradise on April 20.
The things he’s writing about aren’t hard to figure out. Grant-Lee, who has a Native American heritage, sings “I’d rather go down fighting for the water than start another war for oil” in “Walk in Circles” – a clear reference to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
In “King of Catastrophes” we get the line “from what I hear of fascism, I wouldn’t put it past him”… sounds like he’s referring to our current prez.
Of course, even when he’s throwing shade, he finds a bit of sunshine. In “History Has Their Number” he tells us: “you can’t live in anger, nobody can… it means more to create than to destroy.”
And it’s not all folksinger protest ballads. He still can rock like he did in the early 90s with his band Grant Lee Buffalo. (Their album Fuzzy is one of my all-time favorites.)
Grant-Lee Phillips is probably better known for his role as the town troubadour on “Gilmore Girls” than for his albums.
That’s too bad, because he’s got a great voice, plays a mean guitar and has a lot to say that’s well worth listening to.
Don’t worry, I’m still a tree-hugging vegetarian. The “meaty links” that we’re serving up at the dubbatrubba café are longer reads/listens that are worth chewing on.
I recently posted about South African singer/songwriter/amazing human being Johnny Clegg. Here’s a great 50-minute interview and performance from a recent World Café:
Bill Janovitz is the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. He’s also a father. The latter is more important. He wrote a blog post back in December of 2012, about the Newtown school shooting. Sadly, it remains just as relevant today, in the wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (and dozens of other mass killings that have come since Newtown). Please read the entire post here… but if you don’t have time, please ponder these excerpts:
We may not be expected to stop every insane bomb-making McVeigh-like terrorist, nor will we stop every future mass shooting. But no one can deny that we need to start to take logical steps to regulating guns to make it more difficult for the most damaged among us to gain access to machines that slaughter the most innocent among us…
Each day that goes by without substantive corrective measures should bring each and all of us collective shame. As long as we are unwilling to take advantage our self-evident truths of individual liberty, enshrined in our nation’s most sacred documents, to speak out loudly and demand action, days like Friday should make us all feel ashamed to be Americans — ashamed to have done so little with the responsibility that comes with such advantages…
We have already failed these 20 first-grade children, as we have dozens, if not hundreds of others. What are we going to do to stop the next obscenity?
So while politicians often lean on mass shootings to call for gun control, the problem goes far beyond those incidents. Though it’s hard to fault them for trying; mass shootings, after all, force Americans to confront the toll of our gun laws and gun culture.
OK, let’s try to brighten things up a bit. Or not. Check out a Wired article about how social media is eroding our love/pursuit of knowledge. Here’s a quick excerpt:
Social networks, though, have since colonized the web for television’s values. From Facebook to Instagram, the medium refocuses our attention on videos and images, rewarding emotional appeals—‘like’ buttons—over rational ones. Instead of a quest for knowledge, it engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing. (It’s telling that, while Google began life as a PhD thesis, Facebook started as a tool to judge classmates’ appearances.) It reduces our curiosity by showing us exactly what we already want and think, based on our profiles and preferences. Enlightenment’s motto of ‘Dare to know’ has become ‘Dare not to care to know.’
Along those same lines, here’s a long, cleverly illustrated, irreverent article well worth checking out, about how our Social Survival Mammoth can block our Authentic Voice… and how we can overcome that.
Anyone who disapproves of who you’re being or what you’re doing isn’t even in the same room with you 99.7% of the time. It’s a classic mammoth mistake to fabricate a vision of future social consequences that is way worse than what actually ends up happening—which is usually nothing at all.
Let’s end on a brighter, sunnier note, shall we? Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes, one of the greatest comic strips ever) gave a fantastic commencement speech at Kenyon College back in 1990. It’s well worth reading nearly 30 years later.
I tell you all this because it’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few…
…having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.
Certain songs from my youth are forever etched in my brain. One of them is a one-hit wonder from 1980 from a Canadian band called The Kings. Actually, it’s a one-and-a-half-hit wonder, as the song was a bit of a medley/segue called “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide.”
I remember hearing it on WLS-AM, the rock and roll powerhouse (back then… now it’s news/talk) out of Chicago. (Yes, children, gather round and Grandpa Dubbatrubba will tell you of a day when folks actually listened to something called “the radio” and there was this thing called “AM” and you could pick up stations from all over the country if their signal was strong enough… now get off my lawn!)
The song peaked at #43 on the U.S. charts, but it’s a Top 10 memory for me. Every time I hear it (which is once in a blue moon), I’m immediately transported back to Hagarville, Arkansas (population: 100 if you count cows), and am listening to that song in a camper parked next to our house (why my never-been-camping father purchased a camper is a story for another day), with an extension cord running from the house to the camper to power my radio, and the TV so I could watch “Saturday Night Live” and the turntable so I could listen to Rush’s Permanent Waves and REO Speedwagon’s A Decade of Rock and Roll.
Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…
The Kings are still around… gotta love a band with a lead singer named David Diamond and a lead guitarist named Mister Zero! They even have a documentary about the making of their hit song, if you have 43 minutes to spare:
They were just a blip on the pop radar, but in my head, my heart and my ears, this beat goes on…
I love crate digging at the thrift store, you always find some classic albums. And by “classic” I mean “weird.” Check out these “mounds of sounds and stacks of wax, all designed with you in mind…”
Clyde doesn’t look the part of a blues man, but you have to admire his fashion sense. Plaid jacket, polka dot bowtie, boater hat at a jaunty angle… play that trumpet, Clyde, let’s get this party started!
(Quick Google search reveals Clyde was more of a Jazz guy, and co-founded Downbeat magazine. I’m learning while I’m dancing.)
Next up on Bandstand is a man who really needs no introduction. He also needs no more beads and rhinestones on his outfit.
Looking good, Wayne. But let’s pick up the tempo a bit… grab your batons everyone:
And now for the grand finale. Gents, break out your tube socks and tight shorts. Ladies, it’s leotard time. All together now…
Exercising to the top hits is the best. Although song choices like “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” may scar kids for life. Aw, what the heck, it had a good beat and you can dance to it, I gave it an 86.
Sorry to hit you with back-to-back posts about bands, but I can’t help it, I’m just a music nerd.
I mentioned Superchunk’s new album What A Time To Be Alive about a month ago. NPR First Listen is streaming it now. 32 minutes of powerful, poppy punk. Righteous anger… with catchy hooks. Check it out.
And then there’s Brandi Carlile, another dubbatrubba favorite. NPR is also streaming her latest album By The Way, I Forgive You.
It’s a real beauty. Brandi’s voice is like no other, and the new release is helmed by Nashville superproducer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and pretty much any other “twangy” artist who doesn’t cater to the bro-country masses).
A live in-studio performance of the lead track is below (twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth add so much – they are her not-so-secret weapons). The rest of the album is just as stellar.
OK, I’ll put my headphones back on and quit prattling about music now.
Another week, another new Buffalo Tom song to feast your ears upon. Premier Guitar has the exclusive, along with a nice article. The song, “Lonely, Fast and Deep” is also below. It’s my favorite track from the new album.
Premier Guitar article author Rich Osweiler puts it nicely when describing the new release:
….dynamic power-trio rock that drips with hooks, blends beauty with aggression and crunch, and adds more tunes to the band’s catalog that have an uncanny way of turning on the emotion faucet.
Two-thirds of Buffalo Tom also sat in with DJ Jonathan Clarke on New York’s Q104.3 for a nice interview, and did a cover that also appears on their new album. Simon & Garfunkel, meet Janovitz and Colbourn:
Check out the entire interview/video.
And one-third of Buffalo Tom (lead singer/guitarist Bill Janovitz) also did an interview and acoustic in-studio set with Nic Harcourt on 88.5 FM, a station in Southern California. That set is here.
Yes, I’m obsessed. I don’t care. Their music makes me happy. Pre-order the new album and get on board the Buffalo Tom bandwagon.
I still go to a fair amount of music concerts, though not nearly as many as when I worked at a radio station and could get free tickets… and not nearly as many as before kids came along (their “school night” is my “school night” too… 5:45 a.m. alarms don’t mesh well with a rock and roll lifestyle).
My wife and I both like Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin. When I saw they were playing an acoustic concert together at the Taft Theater, a downtown Cincinnati venue, getting tickets was a no-brainer.
Except for the Ticketmaster fees. Oh, the horrible, hideous, insidious fees! Tickets in the “cheap” seats were $32. But ordering just two tickets online would cost me another $32 in fees – basically you get two tickets for the price of three… what a bargain!
There’s the service fee – per ticket, mind you – then an order processing fee tacked on for your payment pleasure.
I love how those Ticketbastards put an exclamation point behind the “Free” in the Delivery method. I’m surprised they haven’t figured out a way to charge folks for using their own printer and ink to print tickets, or their own mobile phone for e-Tickets. If I’d chosen the snail mail option, I’m sure they would’ve charged me $4.90 for a 49-cent postage stamp.
It’s ridiculous. It’s outrageous. It’s usurious. And there’s not a darn thing I can do about it. Especially since Ticketmaster merged with LiveNation, a company that owns and/or operates hundreds of concert venues across the country. They own the theater (or at least have exclusivity rights on performances therein). They own the ticket seller. So they have a monopoly on the music (80%+ market share). Wanna see Lyle and Shawn? It’s gonna cost you. Dearly.
Thankfully, I was able to walk over to the concert venue’s box office, which is five blocks away from my work. That 10-minute jaunt saved me $27. I should’ve charged Ticketmaster a “pedestrian fee.”