24 03 2011

I swore that I’d never mark anniversaries of bad events.  This one, though, has been hard to ignore for reasons that I cannot explain fully.  On March 24, 1996, my dad passed away.  Each year, I think about this day for weeks as it approaches.  That’s not all bad.  It just is.

One of the things that always linked my dad and me was music.  Last night I was reminded of a song that he played for me not too long before he died.  That got me to thinking about the songs that trigger memories of time spent with him.  Maybe we talked about the song or maybe I just remember hearing it in his car.   These jumped out at me.

“Dust In the Wind” (Kansas) — It must’ve been on the radio when I was with him.  He liked it, which probably triggered me to ask what it meant.  I was only 6 at the time, but I remember him telling me that we’re all born, we’re here a (relatively) short period of time and then we return to dust.  We return from whence we came.

“Hello Goodbye” (Beatles) — I remember that it was on the radio when we were driving somewhere.  The conversation wasn’t very deep, but it stands out.  I asked Dad if John was the singer.  He said, “No, it’s Paul.  Paul wrote this.  You can tell by the lyrics that John didn’t write this.  He wrote songs that were more like ‘Come Together.'” Excellent point, Dad!

“Better Off Without AWife” (Tom Waits) — Not too long before he died, he had been divorced.  He played this song for me at his place and said it explains why he’d never marry again.   It’s kind of funny if you know the song.

“The End of the Line” (Traveling Wilburys) — This song’s connection is a little less direct.  During Christmas 1988, I worked at Musicland in our local mall.  Because I got a discount, I got tapes and CD’s as presents for some family and friends.  For Dad I got him the Traveling Wilburys Volume 1 on tape.   I sent him a note saying I thought he’d like these guys because he would’ve grown up listening to some of them.  It was forgotten until maybe a year later or something and I said, “Dad, did you like that tape I sent you for Christmas?”  “Oh, yeah! I wore it out.”  I think he mentioned The End of the Line as one of the highlights.

“Give Me One Reason” (Tracy Chapman) — It was released months before Dad died, so I don’t know for sure that he was a fan, but I always assumed he was.  Even 15 years later, every time I hear it, my thoughts immediately go to him.  Why?  It just sounds like a song he would have loved.  He might have, but we never had that discussion.  It was definitely his style and I can’t separate the song from thoughts of him.

“Sister Golden Hair” (America) — The only explanation for why this song and my dad are linked in my mind is that I’m pretty sure I first heard it on one of our long trips up north.  It was just in the background.  Maybe he turned up the volume a bit when he heard it.  I couldn’t swear that he liked it, but I flash right to the interior of his Volkswagen Beetle whenever it’s played.


La Fhéile Pádraig Shona Daoibh

17 03 2011

Looking around, reading people’s Facebook walls and posts, listening to the radio and listening to talk amongst my friends, it seems — and I recognize this is patently obvious — that St Patrick’s Day is about drinking. More broadly, for the average American, it’s about having fun.

My St Patrick’s day has evolved — and I’m not patting myself on the back or anything — from me drinking beer out of a plastic bowler hat and trying to pick up girls at the pub, to having a sip of whiskey, eating a nice meal, and sharing time with my wife and daughter.

Moreso than in my twenties, in the last few years, I’ve gotten fairly reflective on March 17. I wonder what it must have been like for my Irish ancestors to leave everything — they probably were leaving because there was nothing left for them in Ireland — to come to America. I imagine that would be pretty sad and quite stressful for them. I think it probably took guts to do that.

Unfortunately, those people are so long gone that I’ve never had a chance to hear their stories. I am left to make guesses about the lives they lived. Imagining their stories takes up much of my thoughts and feelings on SPD.

There’s little left for me of the party hard approach to St Patrick’s Day. Mostly, I don’t miss it, but a small part of me wishes it wasn’t Lent, that I had taken the day off work and hit the bars in downtown Detroit for an all day whiskey fest.

What I do have that I can celebrate is the music. It’s impossible to think about this day and not think about all the great music that came from, is inspired by or is about Ireland. Is there a nation that has better folk music than that tiny island?

Artists that have been and will be in heavy rotation today are Sinead O’Connor, the Pogues (I know they’re not really Irish), the Chieftains, and an assortment of lesser-known performers.

Irish music is the only music I’ve seen that can convey misery and the joy of life simultaneously. The music makes you glad to be alive and even grateful for the misery that sometimes comes with living.

If you’re celebrating the day, have a wonderful St Patrick’s Day. Crank some great music and love life.

Sammy Hagar’s tell-all autobiography hits shelves on March 15

11 03 2011


Sammy Hagar dishes on his life in rock and roll in his autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock, which will be released on March 15.   Not surprisingly, much of the book deals with the highs and lows of being the two time frontman of Van Halen.

This month’s “Rolling Stone” magazine included some excerpts from the book, mostly about Sammy’s relationship to the nutty alcoholic genius, Eddie Van Halen.  If what Hagar reports is even half true, Eddie does not look good.

Normally I don’t like to read about the downfall of others, but I must confess I want to know more about what went haywire in Van Halen.  I might get my hands on this book.

You Still Believe in The House of the Gods

7 03 2011

Some Pogues fans, or at least people that took some issues with my post about the recent Detroit Pogues concert, made reference to me being a Beach Boys fan of sorts.  I’m not sure where that came from since I don’t write about them a whole lot, but I do like the Beach Boys.  In fact, I’d say I’m a huge fan of both the Pogues and the Beach Boys.

What maybe they don’t understand is that the hard-livin’ members of the Pogues, who apparently represent the “working man,” ripped off one of the Beach Boys’ softer, silkier melodies.  “House of the Gods” opening riff was stolen from the Beach Boys’ “You Still Believe in Me.”  This is no accident.  “House of the Gods,” one of my favorite Pogues songs, is about drinking on a (Thai) beach and other adventures in Thailand.

The Pogues in Detroit (3/4/11)

6 03 2011

Here are some videos from Fridaynight’s Pogues show at the Royal Oak Music Theater.

If you wondered what the show was like and how the band sounded, this will give you a pretty decent idea.

The Pogues: Still a Full Contact Experience

5 03 2011

Approaching 40, and understanding that many other Pogues fans are of my generation, maybe even a few years older, I expected last night’s Pogues’ concert to be a somewhat quiet affair.  But the band, the members in their 50’s, have a quite a following of younger fans.  They put on a full-tilt, high energy show.  The music’s great, as it has always been, and the fans responded with a level of vigor I didn’t expect.  Some were practically manic!

My friends and I went right down to the stage, and get a place right against the barricade.  Most of the night I was one or two people from the barricade, with one or two friends rotating in between me.  I kept my arm around a friend and on the barricade most of the show, after the Pogues hit the stage, that is.

Before the opening act started, one of the drunkest human beings I have ever seen came up and stood next to us.  The crowd near the stage was still sparse, yet he couldn’t help but swaying, wobbling or stumbling into our group and the people around us.  He made the mistake of repeatedly bumping into M_____, a 6 foot something 200-something lbs bear of a man.  We expected said drunk to puke on M___ at any moment, which would’ve lead to a very bad outcome for both.  M___ finally forcefully removed the guy from our area and sent him off to other environs.  Mr. Drunk was not seen again the rest of the evening.

Somewhere during the opening act, a small dark haired girl, obviously inebriated, and her brother, stumbled over to us.  D_____ says she tried to force her way past him, right up to the barricade.  “Where are you going?” D____ asked. “I’m going to the stage,” she replied.  “No you’re not.”  “What?”  “No you’re not!”  “Why?”  “Because I’m here already. You’re not coming up here.”  She turned away.

I had a number of weird little exchange with her because she kept stumbling into me.  At some point she declared she needed to find a husband and I suggested she go off somewhere else in the crowd, as there were plenty of single men around.  For reasons unknown she decided to tell me, “You’re an asshole!” and pushed me half-heartedly.  I said, “Alright, if you’re going to act like that, you have to go.  Get out of here.  You stay over there.”  I wasn’t mad, but there was no need to tolerate her obnoxiousness.  “What? Why you making me leave?”  I just turned my back and pushed her away with my butt.  She eventually came around, acted mildly polite but completely polluted, smoked a joint with her brother and generally annoyed the people in our area.

The drunk girl and her brother were finally sent off when our waitress was forced to make three trips to our area because the drunk girl bumped into the waitress and spilled 1/2 the drinks on her tray.  After that mess — and the waitress did a great job of keeping her cool — some of us guys in the area tried to keep a clear path so the waitress could get back to us.  She made it, too.  My Diet Coke and glass of Jameson cost me $20 because I didn’t think it was right to ask the waitress for my $10 change after all she went through to get it to me.

The obnoxious fan fun hardly ended there, though.  A couple of Canadian guys were pretty drunk and jumping around, a major theme of the evening.  The jumping around would’ve been OK  by itself, but it seemed clear they wanted to mosh.  No one around us really did, though, so they made enemies quickly.  Eventually one of the Canucks got up on top of the crowd and was surfing.  [EDIT] The Drunk Canuck lost his shoe but continued surfing during various parts of the show.  I saw him afterward and he had both shoes on; some kind soul retrieved the missing shoe for him.

Just after the drinks got spilled, the Pogues came on and there was kind of a rush toward the stage.  A woman tried to get back to her friends who had been at the barricade, just to the left of our group.  It was packed, though, that she refused to push her way through.  The rest of the show she more or less hung out within the perimeter we set.  We exchanged pleasantries and it was nice to have a decent person near us who respected others.  She said the concert was her Christmas present and seemed to have a great time.

In front of me were D_____ and B_______.  Behind me were M_____ and A_____.  The most exciting action of the night might have been either as the opening act was ending or as the Pogues were opening the show.  A backwards baseball hat wearing mouthbreather kept slamming into this couple behind Aron and I that were in their 50’s.  They were cool enough people that they were there to dance and sing but clearly not to mosh.  The lady asked Mouthbreather over and over to stop running into her.  We’re not talking casual bumping.  He was trying to slam dance, basically.  Apparently what he wanted to do was more important than anything anyone else around him might have wanted.  The husband kept shoving the guy away and yelling at him.

Tension was rising.  The guy wouldn’t listen.  A_____ reached over with an open hand and slapped the guy across the face!  He froze in his tracks.   I had to turn around and get into it, not because I wanted to fight, but because I wanted to know if punches were going to start flying.  The guy took a minute or so to back down, with people yelling at him to walk away.  M____ shoved him hard in the chest.  Of course, once people started separating the little fella from A_____, Mouthbreather decided he wanted Aron to step outside.  It’s always easiest to fight back when there are three people between you and the guy that’s about to destroy you.

But it wasn’t over…  Toward the end of the show, I had to contend with another girl that wanted to force her way to the stage and kept slamming into the back of me or trying to fight her way through me.  I wasn’t going to let her in.  I tried elbowing her, tripping her, pushing her back, bumping her with my hip — anything to keep her off me without hurting her.  After about a 1/2 hour of her shenanigans I turned to her and said, “Look, what do you want?  I’m not letting you through!”  “But you’ve been up here this whole time…blah blah blah…”  “How about you ask me nicely, say please, and maybe I’ll let you stand in front of me.”  “Can I please stand there? ”  “Yes.”

What doesn’t come through in all this is the exhilaration, good and bad, of being in the press of a crowd.  There’s a combination of fear and excitement that comes when the crowd rushes the stage, and you’re between the barricade and hundreds of other people pushing forward.  It’s an adrenaline rush for sure, and it causes you to react with force you might not be used to generating.  Holding the barricade wasn’t about marking territory as much as it was about not losing space needed to breathe.

None of this sounds like fun, but actually it was a blast!  I felt like a fighter that had gone 6 rounds.  At various times, I would just rest my head on someone’s back to get a rest.   You try standing on a beer-soaked tile floor, wearing a rain coat and cashmere jacket, while fighting off people climbing over you for 2 hours, and see if you don’t get tired.

The show was awesome.  That band is tight!  Shane MacGowan, who by all rights should be dead, did a pretty good job and seemed in only modestly bad health.