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Entry date: 4-14-2024 – Proud Papa – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

There is something really satisfying about watching your child perform on a stage that has meant a lot to you over the years. I’ve probably spent days of my life on that stage (or the stage it once was when it was the Mason Jar). 40 shows? 50? I have no idea, but yesterday seeing Liam and Teresa both perform on the stage was a great moment.

 

Sure, I was secretly sending daggers from the back of my head to the sound person who was butchering the mix. You’ll very rarely hear me say this, but the bass was way to fucking loud. If Liam’s guitar would have been louder, Teresa would have had a much easier job trying to stay in time with the song (The Cranberries “Linger”)…but that’s just me being a nitpicker.

 

It was great.

 

Dad and Lori were there, too, which made it even better. They were so proud of both of them. I’m getting used to seeing Liam on stage. He played the hell out of the lead guitar part for Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes.” Not the easiest song in the world to cover, but they did really good.

 

What a great way to spend an afternoon. We got some food afterwards and then Rhondi and I tried to solve the a few of the bathroom remodel riddles after taking Liam to work.

 

I hope I get the chance to see them play music together again.

 

*****

 

On a basketball note, I’m guessing the Suns will be playing the Lakers at home on Tuesday night. That is my prediction. I think Minnesota has more to play for than the Suns do and the Suns haven’t shown up very often when it counted this year. Either way, I doubt I will watch the game.

 

*****

Some bands come into your life like a shot from a gun.

 

Ray and I went to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Nita’s Hideaway in 2001 expecting to be wowed by Blues Explosion and maybe impressed by Yeah Yeah Yeahs who were getting tons of press at the time. We ended up missing Yeah Yeah Yeahs because they opened that show. That ended up being a blessing.

 

I’ve never been super impressed with Yeah Yeah Yeahs and, to be honest, I haven’t explored them very much. I was mildly bummed, though, because I’m always interested in seeing what people are oohing and ahh-ing over when it comes to music. As Ray and walked up toward the stage, the second band, Liars, was getting ready to start.

 

Sometimes you can tell from the first few notes that you are going to like someone. It happened to me a year or so ago when a band from Portland, Oregon called Yuvees opened for Quasi at Rebel Lounge. They started playing and I left my comfortable seat and went up to the stage to get a closer look. This is how Liars made me feel too.

 

The two of us couldn’t stop talking about how cool they were. At that point, they were a four piece and their singer, Angus Andrew, completely owned the stage. They had a bit of Butthole Surfers going on in them at that point and Andrew was making noises, kinda like Gibby Haynes, with a little keyboard kinda thing he was playing around with.

 

The rhythm section of Pat Noecker and Ron Albertson were super cool, as well. Just tribal and powerful…they were driving the songs in an almost hypnotic way. We talked to Pat afterwards and he was a great dude. They were just top notch and Ray and I were very inspired when we went to the next Hillbilly Devilspeak practice.

 

I picked up a copy of They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top that night and proceeded to wear it out. It was almost as good as hearing the songs live and for a while, I gobbled up all their releases, but I would still go back to that first one.

 

Liars do the herky-jerky start/stop thing so well. The songs, in a way, resemble Andrews. He’s a tall man, maybe 6’6” or 6’8”, and he has these gangly dance moves that look just a bit off but also work. “Mr Your on Fire Mr” is not just a great song title. It’s also a great song and is the perfect embodiment of this Gang of Four meets The Fall kind of thing.

 

“Loose Nuts On The Velodrome” is another choice cut. It degenerates into madness then swallows itself and is born anew as a big noisy spectacle. I love it.

 

Gang of Four, as I listen and think of it, is just all over this record. “The Garden Was Crowded and Outside” is full-on Gang of Four-style post-punk. I’m sure Andy Gill would approve. “They threw me in a ce-ment mix-ah..” Brilliant.

 

I have to believe this album is pretty influential to bands like Idles and Shame. As I listen again for the first time in a couple of years, I am taken right back to how much I dug them 23 years ago. People are probably a lot more ready for this today than they were then. In some ways, our world is kinder, I suppose, and more accepting.

 

“Tumbling Walls Buried Me In Debris” has this great bridge that kind of slows things down and lulls the listener into a false sense of security. Will they or won’t they? You can’t help wonder if they are going to explode out of your speakers again.

 

Liars built tension really well on They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top. It’s a record that seems to want to teeter on the edge of a cliff at all times. Much of this is the juxtaposition of Noecker’s rad basslines and the noisy bits going on around it.

 

After getting a little noisy and atmospheric for a few songs toward the end, “This Dust Makes Mud” is a super strong closer. It was so good live outside at Nita’s Hideaway. People, including me, didn’t know what to do with themselves.

 

“We’re the ones who can’t sleep at night…”

 

Makes me want to get another crazy noise machine and make some truly fucked up music.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



If Jimmy stopped playing, the bear would surely eat him.


Jimmy was four-years-old. He woke up one Sunday morning before his parents and decided to go downstairs. The house was so quiet that he wasn't sure what he wanted to do first, but the piano was always a tough thing to pass up.


Even at his tender age, Jimmy felt a connection with the piano. His father, Bob, often said that Jimmy was a natural. He had never had a piano lesson, but he could pick out simple melodies from music he heard and repeat them on the piano. It was his one gift and Jimmy loved how special it made him feel.


Not wanting to wake anyone up, Jimmy ignored the urge to play piano and walked into the kitchen. He was shocked at what he saw.


In fact, there was no reference point in Jimmy's brain to explain what he saw when he looked at the place where the backdoor had been. It had been smashed and the door frame had broken in several places leaving a jagged outline of wood and glass. He never even thought to ask himself how this had happened without someone hearing it because Jimmy was four.


The world is still full of magic for four-year-old children.


He turned to run back up stairs and that's when he spied the bear out of the corner of his eye. It was sitting in front of the cupboard where his family kept things like cereal and oatmeal and cans of corn. The cupboard was no longer a cupboard, much like the door was no longer a door. It had changed forms.


The bear turned away from the can of baked beans it had bitten the top off of and regarded Jimmy just as he was regarding the bear. For a moment, there was an uneasy understanding that passed between them. The bear knew he was going to eat Jimmy and Jimmy knew he was going to be eaten.


Without thinking, Jimmy quickly but carefully went to the piano and hauled himself up on the bench. He felt the presence of the giant bear behind him, but didn't not turn around. His brain urged him to play something and fast.


As Jimmy hit the first note, the bear nosed the bench out from under him and trembling a bit, Jimmy stood there and continued to tinkle out a quiet, yet charming melody. It was almost time, Jimmy thought.


The notes came out of the piano and hit the great bear like a ton of bricks as he prepared to stand on his hind legs and crush the boy with his giant paws. Instead of ending the boys life, the bear sat back, almost like a man, and Jimmy was forced to clumsily sit on the animals hind leg.


I better keep playing, Jimmy thought.





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