The Music Box: Lotusflow3r & Tambourine

prince-lotusflower3-mplsound-elixer1 Prince is an artist I’ve never been overly interested in. I missed out on the Purple Rain-era (I knew the Milhouse line “So this is what it’s like when doves cry,” long before I knew the song) and by the time I was paying attention to pop music, he was in the middle of changing his name to a symbol and other silly activities I didn’t care about. A few years back, I found Purple Rain for a few bucks at a mall record store and decided to give it a shot. It’s been a while, but I wasn’t impressed. My memory is that the singles were as solid as they’ve always been, but the other tracks were pretty unimpressive.

So, when my pal Jesse sent me 2009’s three disc set of Lotusflow3r, MPLSound and Bria Valente Elixr for my birthday I wasn’t sure what to think. Then, I hit a point last week where I wasn’t feeling podcasts and figured I’d give it a shot, especially after seeing the artist’s recent appearance on New Girl. Holy crap, these are great records!

My problem with Purple Rain — again, if memory serves, which it only does about half the time — was that the non-hit songs felt stale, antiseptic and maybe too produced or electronic. I’ll give it another listen and see if those thoughts still hold up, but that’s what I went into these two records thinking. Instead, I was treated to an awesomely funky, guitar-filled pair of discs packed with songs I can see myself listening to over and over again. From the opening guitar calisthenics of the first track “From The Lotus” to the killer “Crimson & Clover” cover and beyond, I was sold right away and kept getting surprised by how much I loved these two records.

Originally, I skipped over Elixer, but after listening to these albums for a second time and writing most of this post, I figured I should give the third part of this trilogy a listen. Bria Valente has one of those classic female R&B voices that those of us who came up in the late 80s and early 90s remember as being super prominent. Those records weren’t my thing back then, but I found myself enjoying these tracks for their mix of quality vocals and diverse backing tracks that go from slow jams to funkadelic and back again. As far as I’m concerned, the funkier this record goes the better everyone sounds. I’m not sure how often I’ll be jonesing for this kind of listening experience, but I like keeping it around just in case.

tift merritt tamourine After intentionally listening to the Prince discs, I figured it would be a good time to reach into The Music Box and go the random route again. This time I pulled out Tift Merritt’s 2004 album Tambourine. As with many of the Music Box discs, I knew nothing about this going in, popped it on and gave it a listen.

Merritt’s sound reminded me a lot of Sheryl Crow. I’m not sure if that’s altogether fair but they’re both women singing country-tinged songs about their life experiences, so that’s where my head was at. With that comparison in mind — and the fact that they do sound sonically similar at times — I had trouble really getting into these songs. I think the person-playing-guitar-and-singing-quietly thing just isn’t all that interesting to me in the first place. I love that people do it, but it’s not always something I want to listen to unless the songs are super original, hit me in a truly emotional place or do something really interesting with the backing tracks.

When Merritt and company pick things up on tracks like “Wait It Out” and the title track, I’m in, but those wound up being a bit too far and few between for me to keep this one in the collection. Hopefully someone at the library will find it and dig the heck out of it though!

Casting Internets

My Pocket is overflowing with stories I want to read, so I figured I’d spend New Year’s Eve cleaning things out and creating one last Casting Internets post for the year. inspector-gadget-2

One of my all-time favorite toys, Inspector Gadget for the spotlight on Fwoosh. I had two different versions of this toy, but both broke. Wah wah.

In 1963 a kid sent a bunch of authors a questionnaire about symbolism. Most of them said it just kind of happens, which I’ve always suspected. Thanks to my wife for sending me the link and Mental Floss for posting about it.

Back in October, Clive Barker wrote a piece for THR about the time he gave up on watching horror movies because the experience was just too intense.

This one’s also from October, but I loved reading Fred Armisen talk to Esquire about filming the above video with the Clash.

I heard about all the craziness that went down with the Kim’s Video VHS and DVD collection after the store closed on an episode of Killer POV, but reading the actual Village Voice story from 2012 is long yet fascinating.

Joe Dante’s using FundAnything to help make his next movie Burying The Ex starring Anton Yelchin and Ashley Greene. I don’t have any extra money, but I hope this one gets made. (via Deadline)third man paramount set vol 1

Jack White’s The Rise And Fall Of Paramount Records Volume 1 vinyl set is insane. Just look at it and if you have an extra $400 buy it from Third Man Records.

Esquire celebrated Nirvana Week back in October by talking to Rob Sheffield about the band’s lasting legacy. The Kurt Cobain/Taylor Swift comparison therein is pretty right-on.

According to Rolling Stone, there’s a never released Johnny Cash record from 1980 coming out called Out Among The Stars coming out on March 25. This seems like pretty good news to me.

Here’s something I never thought I’d write, but this Joe Jonas piece on Vulture is pretty intriguing.

And finally, enjoy 9 minutes of rad action movie lines. (via The Mary Sue)

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Lionel Trains With Johnny Cash

I’m mixing things up a bit with today’s TCT. As it is, I’m not much of a toy train fan. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually played with one, but how can you not like a spot for toys featuring none other than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash?! “If anybody loves trains, it’s me, Johnny Cash.” What a fantastic line! I wonder whether it’s true or not, but it doesn’t really matter. Heck, I’d buy trains just from the dude because he’s wearing such a badass shirt. Does Lionel sell that?

 

My 12 Favorite New-To-Me Records Of 2012

It’s impossible to keep up on every record ever made, but I do my best. This is a pretty eclectic mix of missed out classic rock, folk revival, stripped-down rock, dirty blues, weirdness and pure, unadulterated funk. It’s a fun mix. pogues if i should fall from grace with godI freely admit that I actually discovered The Pogues by way of a cover of their classic downtrodden Christmas carol “Fairytale of New York” and the use of “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” in a car commercial. I am not proud of these facts — well, mostly the latter one — but that’s how it is. I’m mostly disappointed that it took me so long to discover this band and this record which is filled with the kind of Irish punch rock folk spirit still alive in bands like The Dropkick Murphys and Mumford and Sons. It’s like finding an integral piece of history that also happens to rock my face off. thin lizzy jailbreakSpeaking of face-rocking, I picked up Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak this year. It’s the first of their records I’ve ever actually owned, but I used to listen to my dad’s copy of their greatest hits record. This record of course contains “Jailbreak” but also “The Boys Are Back In Town.” It gets a little slower in the middle than I expected, but those songs are still well crafted and solid, I just wish this was wall to wall block rocking beats. zuzu's petals music of your lifeAs part of my only completed Ambitious Reading List, I read Laurie Lindeen Petal Pusher about her time in a band I’d never heard of called Zuzu’s Petals. After finishing the book, I was super interested in listening to her music as well as her husband Paul Westerberg’s first band The Replacements. So, I hopped on Second Spin and found four records that I wound up really enjoying. Zuzu’s Petals only recorded two records, Music Of Your Life and When No One’s Looking, and while the first one is definitely better, I found the mixture of honesty, pop and rock to be incredibly appealing. Plus, it’s cool to have some legit lady rock for Lu to listen to when/if she’s interested. the replacements let it beI felt the same way about The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me and Let It Be. I know very little about pre-grunge 90s rock and roll and honestly assumed it was all kind of in that same downer vein. And while many of the subjects that The Replacements wrote about are similar to songs by bands like Nirvana, there’s a more positive feeling behind them. Listenting to these records was kind of like discovering an alternate universe and wondering what music would have been like if these bands blew up all over the world. gary clark jr self titledI’ve been hearing a lot about Gary Clark Jr. lately. He’s been featured by some news outlets I keep an eye on and also had a stellar performance at the 2010 Crossroads Music Festival which I watched on Netflix Instant. I was happy to see his self titled EP on sale on Amazon and gave it a download. Clark’s the real deal when it comes to down and dirty rocking blues, something most people have probably heard here and there with the track “Bright Lights.” He’s definitely one whose records I want to explore more deeply. flaming lips yoshimi battles the pink robotsIt’s funny how we develop preconceived notions about bands with minimal exposure to their actual music. I had developed one about the Flaming Lips that they were just a bunch of weirdos making weird music. And, you know what, they are and that’s okay. I like weird and I’ve liked weird for a long time, so why didn’t I give them a shot earlier? No idea. Wayne Coyne was on an episode of WT with Marc Maron that reminded me that I knew very little about that band, so when Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots popped up on Amazon for $5, I gave it a whirl. I haven’t listened to it a ton, but when I did it was kind of a full experience. I’d like to sit in a dark room and just listen to this record, or maybe write to it. It creates a really dense atmosphere that I want to wade into. Stretchin' Out In Bootsy's Rubber BandSometimes you just need to funk it up. My experience with Parliament records has not been the best. Sometimes those long, winding intros and funkadelic jams just get a little tedious. But, I did not have that same experience when listening to Parliament bass player Bootsy Collins (and bass hero of mine) on his solo record Stretchin’ Out In Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Wall to wall funk, the tracks are long, but always interesting. You WILL dance to this record.Avett Brothers EmotionalismMy buddy Jesse Thompson has turned me on to some of my favorite records in past years, most memorably Stephen Kellogg. We’ve talked quite a bit about The Avett Brothers, one of his favorite bands, so when I saw them on the cheap, I had to give it a listen. Emotionalism is actually the perfect title to this record which digs in like a less Irish, but still folky Mumford and Sons and doesn’t let go until all the tracks have said what they have to. hanni el khatib will the guns come outI don’t remember how I heard about Hanni El Khatib or why I downloaded his record Will The Guns Come Out, but I’m glad I did. This record is definitely in the same vein as Jack White’s music, but with maybe a bit more stripped down/punk rock vibe to it. I dig it. Sleater-Kinney Dig Me OutSleater-Kinney and Wild Flag are two more bands that I started listening to because of a podcast. Well, a podcast and a TV show. Carrie Brownstein is on Portlandia, a show I quite enjoyed the first season of (season two just hit Netflix Instant!). I also liked her interview with Marc Maron on WTF and decided to check out her first band Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out and her current group Wild Flag’s self titled album. I intended to do a Supergroup Showcase on Wild Flag, maybe this will be my incentive. Anyway, I like rock and roll and powerful women, so this combination of the two is aces in my book. There’s a certain chord that Brownstein hits with her vocals that lingers in my chest. I can’t explain it, but I like it. Dead Weather Sea of CowardsAs I wrote about, I got really into Jack White and his bands The White Stripes and The Raconteurs a few years back. I still haven’t gotten his solo record Blunderbuss, but I did pick up The Dead Weather’s Sea of Cowards. Jack’s really good at showcase individuality in his bands while still keeping things cohesive. The cool thing about White’s music is that they all feel like part of one big narrative or theme. It’s kind of like reading Grant Morrison’s DC comics. They’re all kind of weird and look different, but they’re all connected by pieces of what came before. In this case, that’s literally White’s voice, but also the kind of raw style he evokes from those around him. Black Lips Arabia MountainI discovered The Black Lips by way of their track “O Katrina” on the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World soundtrack which still gets regular play in my car (I still rock the CD visor holder in my ride). I loved the song’s surf rock vibe, a kind of music that seems somehow imprinted on my soul. Since then I’ve kept my eyes peeled for one of their records on the cheap and came across their most recent Arabia Mountain. I can’t compare it to their previous works, but I really dig the old school feel that mixes everything from 50s/60s surf pop and New York punk rock. This is good music to get things done to.

I picked up a lot more albums than these ones, but this dozen really made its way into my brain. Some I just haven’t given enough listens to to give a solid review of, but I’d put my seal of approval on these bands and records without batting an eye.

My 6 Favorite Compilations, Soundtracks & Greatest Hits Records Of 2012

As it turns out, most of the music I bought this year came from Amazon and their awesome $5 album (and under) deals. I’m a sucker for a deal and an even bigger sucker for paying a little for what I consider to be a lot. That’s the case for most of the five records on this particular list which features a soundtrack, the complete recording of a particular artist from one record label and three greatest hits packages. This is a good way to mainline lots of music from a particular artist on the cheap. muppet soundtrackI wrote about how much I enjoyed The Muppets earlier this year. That love translated into the purchase of the soundtrack as well, something that hasn’t happened in years. This one is a great mix of soundbites from the movie, original songs and a few known songs like Starship’s “We Built This City” and Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyeard.” I would have probably bought this record just for the amazing “Life’s A Happy Song,” the fact that the rest is so awesome is gravy. ZZ Top Rancho TexicanI only really know ZZ Top from their singles, a greatest hits collection my dad had and seeing them live also with my dad. I do have one of their early records, but have to admit, it gets a little slow and I tend to lose interest. So, when I saw Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top — which features 38 tracks! — on Amazon for a fin? That was an easy purchase. The great thing about this collection is that it’s not just all the songs you know like “Tush,” “Cheap Sunglasses” and “Gimme All Your Lovin'” but also some deeper cuts that flesh this record out. A great example of what a greatest hits collection can be when not limited to a physical disc. Also, proof that this is one of the greatest damn bands around. aretha franklin 30 greatest hitsSometimes you just need some soul in your life. That’s why I snatched up Aretha Franklin’s 30 Greatest Hits. Also, Lu likes listening to music with some swing and jazz to it, so this was an easy buy. Listening through these tracks was an interesting experience because I didn’t realize that some of these songs were hers. That’s probably a reflection on my ignorance of Franklin’s career, but I enjoy getting educated. willie nelson complete atlantic sessionsOne of the reasons I shied away from greatest hits records in the past is because I like discovering some of the deep cuts on records, the ones you don’t hear on the radio. Now that I’m getting older though, I find myself becoming more “Get to the hits!” It’s not a feeling I like and one I’m trying to work beyond. Anyway, Willie Nelson’s Complete Atlantic Sessions is like the antithesis of those hits records I avoided as it contains all 61 tracks Willie recorded for them. I haven’t gotten all the way through this one yet, but I like what I’ve head enough to warrant the purchase and its spot in this list. beach boys 50 big onesFor years and years I heard how great the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds was. When I finally picked it up, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. It’s a great record, don’t get me wrong, but it lacks the fun, surf rock songs I love (for the most part). It just wasn’t what I was expecting. So, when I saw The Beach Boys’ 50 Big Ones: Greatest Hits, it was another no-brainer. The beauty of this collection is that it literally has every Beach Boys song I know of. I’m sure it’s missing the deep cuts I talked about above, but I’m okay with that. The one downside to having so many tracks, though, is that I realized I’m not built to listen to 25 Beach Boys tracks in a short period of time, let alone 50. Those amazing harmonies they do can get a little annoying when listened to in a short period of time. However, I’m still glad I have this record because I can listen to what I want, in small chunks, whenever I want.

pitch perfect soundtrackThe Pitch Perfect soundtrack is exactly why I don’t post these list before the end of the year. I actually wrote the first draft of this post a week or so back, but saved it as a draft. I’m glad I did because my wife and I watched Pitch Perfect for the first (and then second) time recently and I kind of fell in love. As I mentioned in my post about the film, I was something of an a cappella fan in college, so this brought back some memories. It also reminded me of how good that B.O.B/Rivers Cuomo song “Magic” is, which I really appreciate. I’ve had that and a few of the other songs from the film in my head since watching the movie and I actually don’t mind it, so that’s a pretty good sign.

My 6 Favorite New Albums Of 2012

I’m going to toss out a few caveats right at the top of this post. First of all, I’m a huge fan of Amazon’s MP3 section and how they sell 100 different albums for $5 every month. That’s where I bought all of these records except for one, which I bought from the band themselves. The only problem with this easy, cheap access to records is that I can get behind in what I’m listening too. Plus, if something might not be appropriate for tiny ears, I have to hold off on listening to that particular record. Holding off can mean I don’t listen to something nearly as much as I should or want to. As such, I haven’t given these records the attention they deserve, but I really enjoyed what I heard. As in years past, I’ll have multiple lists of favorite records. This one is albums that actually came out in 2012. I’ll also have a much longer list of New-To-Me records I bought in 2012 and even one of the best greatest hits, soundtracks and compilations I picked up and enjoyed in 2012. But now, here’s the new stuff. k'naan country god or the girlI’m not super tapped into the music world anymore. The extent of my knowledge mostly comes from reading Rolling Stone’s website, following @amazonmp3 on twitter and scoping out the new, cheap Amazon MP3 records on the site. As such, I didn’t know about K’Naan’s latest record, Country, God or The Girl until it wound up on one of those three radars (or possibly all three now that I think about it). K’Naan made the list back in 2009 with Troubador, my first exposure to his hip hop stylings and I’m happy to say that this record has more of the same absorbing, thoughtful and fun tracks. willie nelson heroesFor the longest time I didn’t have much of an opinion of Willie Nelson. Country music wasn’t really my thing, but I thought his cameo in Half Baked was pretty funny. That was the extent of my exposure. Then I listened to him in The Highwaymen and eventually picked up Stardust, a beautiful record that made the New Old list for 2010 and I was in. This year, I picked up two more of his records, The Complete Atlantic Collection and Heroes, both of which made lists. Heroes not only features Willie’s sons Lukas and Micah, but also songs that jump effortlessly from soul searching to hilarious. Snoop Dogg, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson also lend their considerable talents. Yeah, that’s right Snoop Dogg, marking a great Half Baked reunion on “Roll Me Up.”the hives lex hivesI wasn’t hugely into the garage revival of the early 00s. I never bought a Strokes record and the Vines ones I did buy were kind of disappointing. Others felt like three or four singles wrapped up in 8-10 extra tracks of padding. But, I really liked The Hives’ Veni Vidi Viscious. It was a rocking good time that played fast and loud and didn’t take itself too seriously. I didn’t keep up on the rest of their records, but when I saw their latest, Lex Hives, pop up for a few bucks, I had to check it out. I’m pleased to say that this record has that same energy with songs that make you want to get up and dance. Better yet? Lucy liked the jams too and danced along with me! Also, I don’t say this much anymore because I don’t see them nearly as often, but I really dig that cover. Van Halen A Different Kind Of TruthAs regular readers might remember, I saw Van Halen with my dad in March of last year. The worry going into something like that with any older band is that you don’t know if everyone still has their chops. Luckily, that was an unfounded worry when it came to the band. Even with that in mind, I had similar fears when sitting down to listen to Van Halen’s new record A Different Kind of Truth. I mean, how many records from 70s bands that have come out in the past five years do you really listen to? Again, I was happy to discover that this new record had a lot of the goodness found on classic Diamond Dave-era VH tracks. Sure, they’re often goofy tunes about tattoos and whatnot, but it’s okay to have a little fun with a record. It definitely helped that most of these songs actually have their roots in the group’s writing sessions from the mid 70s. faulkner detectives modern handshakeMy pals Alex Segura and Elizabeth Keenan-Penagos are in a band called Faulkner Detectives with Meg Wilhoite and Vanessa Lopez. Because they are my friends, I bought their seven song EP titled The Modern Handshake, but that’s not why they made the list. There’s no room for nepotism on UnitedMonkee! Alex is actually the person who, when I was a Wizard intern, got me into The Talking Heads and Elvis Costello. Not surprisingly, his band has a somewhat similar vibe to those bands, which is something I don’t have enough of in my life.bob mould silver ageI realize it might be kind of weird how I keep explaining how I came to an album. I just think the reason you buy something plays an important role in both your expectations and how you react to the material. I found Bob Mould by way of The Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light which he did one track on. That got me to Husker Du’s Zen Arcade which melted my brain last year. Then, when Bob Mould’s solo record, Silver Age, came out earlier this year and was discounted, I was sold. I just listened to this one again and I just love it. I admit, I have difficulty figuring out exactly why, I just dig it. It’s good rock and roll music by a guy who knows what he’s doing after years of experience.

I realize after writing this that nearly every album on here is by an artist or group that I was already familiar with. Most of the bands I listened to for the first time this year were older bands and will show up on my New-To-Me list later this week. A few days before the end of the year I even picked up The Vaccines’ Come of Age, but still haven’t listened to it yet and therefore it can not make the list. I also picked up the first two of Green Day’s three new albums this year, but haven’t listened to them yet. I also grabbed Soundgarden’s King Animal and while I liked it, I wasn’t as blown away as I wanted to be. Maybe I’ll have more time next year…

Casting Internets

My friends Alex and Elizabeth and their bandmates in The Faulkner Detectives just got signed to Livid Records!

I need to get some bitters so I can try Michael Ruhlman‘s recipe for an Old Fashioned.

I love what Mark Waid is doing with Thrillbent (which launches in a few days now that I think about it). It’s really interesting reading this post about changing how he writes for the new format.

I’ve never heard of Pajiba.com, but I thought this post written by Dustin Rowles about how pop culture sites make money off of annoying pop up ads was really interesting and surprisingly honest.

Wired posted this piece about why the Super Mario movie sucked. Very interesting stuff. I love behind the scenes explanations. The most surprising bit? How little Nintendo seemed to care about the whole thing.

The timing on this one was pretty funny, just after my wife and I purchased a used 2012 Mazda 5, GeekDad did a post about buying the same car!

Jack White is creating these core for The Lone Ranger flick. Not really interested in that movie as of now, but this is a very interesting move. (via Variety)

Speaking of White, Rolling Stone gave his first solo record Blunderbuss a really glowing review, making me even more excited to get my digital hands on it.

Wynton Marsalis isn’t my favorite jazz guy around, but the idea of him teaming up with Paul Simon is very intriguing. I’d like to hear how those tunes turned out. (via Rolling Stone)

Speaking of epic team-ups I read about on Rolling Stone, the Johnny Cash tribute concert featuring Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow sounds pretty fantastic as well. They even covered a Highwaymen song with Nelson, Shooter Jennings and Kris Kristofferson!

I agree with Robot 6‘s Tom Bondurant (aka Grumpy Old Fan) when he says that DC keeping Batman and Green Lantern continuity mostly the same creates only headaches for the New 52. His assessment of the continuity for those two properties before and after the reboot seem pretty right on.

Finally, congrats on The Fwoosh‘s 10th anniversary. Head over and check out their celebration of a decade on the nets.

My 10 Favorite New Records Of 2011

Had I been more organized, I would have had this post ready to go on New Year’s Eve or Day, but as it is, I was busy and just didn’t have the time or wherewithal to get it together. I have been doing my research over the past few weeks and have come up with not one, not two, but three music-related best of lists for 2011. Like last year, I will list my favorite new music of 2011 as well as the older records I discovered in the year, but I’m also adding a new section about bands that I really go into this year. I’ll get into more detail when I get to that post, but there will be some albums on that list that could or would have been on this list, so technically, I had more than 10 favorites this year. As always, this list is in no particular order, so here we go. Continue reading My 10 Favorite New Records Of 2011

Music Musings: Bonnaroo 2002

My actual ticket stub.

I originally wanted to write this post the week leading up to this year’s Bonnaroo, but I got busy. As it turns out, though, I’m writing this on the 9 year anniversary of the first day of the very first Bonnaroo. Yeah, I went to there. It was the summer after my first year of college and earlier in the year, while I was home on break, my buddy Toth told me about this new festival in Tennessee. It was three days, tickets were $100 and that included camping spots. I wasn’t the biggest jam band fan in the world, but the line up seemed interested enough and I liked the idea of being able to tell people I went to the first of something I figured would wind up being a pretty big deal (I guess I was right on that point). To make matters better, Toth figured we could head down to Nashville for a few days and then drive the next hour to Manchester and watch the show. Seemed like a good plan to me.

Our days in Nashville were pretty fun, though would have been even better had we been 21. I have a very distinct memory of walking down the main street wherever we were and hearing all this different music coming out of the bars and clubs that we couldn’t get into. We did however find a Charlie Daniels museum (I love the Charlies Daniels Band), ate at a Hard Rock Cafe, went to a few record stores and also got some “rock star clothes” as Toth called them. I still have the redish pink 70s pants and bright green button down shirt I bought there. I also remember having a conversation about this new show called American Idol. Toth thought it was a big deal and I thought it was BS. Guess I was wrong about that one.

Our Nashville Hotel Room

On the morning of June 21st, 2002 we packed our crap up, stocked up on food at a grocery store and then went to make the hour-or-so drive down to Bonnaroo. Seems pretty simple, right? Heh. No way. Instead of taking the hour that Mapquest told us it would, we wound up being stuck in traffic for 7 or 8 hours. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the exact amount of time because it’s been so long and I was kind of losing it at the time. I don’t know if it was the wide open space, the insane gridlock or the fact that no one else seemed to think this was a big deal, but I was starting to have a serious panic attack as traffic all but stopped. I was very seriously doing the math in my head, trying to figure out how long it would take us to get home if I just turned around and started driving. How mad would Toth be? How would I pay him back? My better judgement won over and I wound up just sitting it out. To give you an idea of how slow the traffic was moving, people were getting out of their cars and tossing the frisbee around for 15-20 minutes spurts and only had to move a few feet to catch up to their car. It was insane.

Toth, The Camp Site & My Old Van

Eventually we got in, though and went to our camp site. As you can see from the pic, they were basically as wide as a car and twice as long. Toth had a ton of camping equipment like the tent, chairs, a grill, the awning, the whole works, plus he knew how to cook on the camp stove, so we were pretty set. We had a pretty good set up across from some older biker-looking people from Chicago who I remember talking about quitting heroin,or “H” as they called it. That kind of freaked me out, but they seemed nice enough. Again, I’m relying on memories that are a decade old that were probably fuzzy to begin with thanks to poor sleep, a lack of showers and (I assume) some kind of contact high. While I didn’t partake in anything while there, there was plenty around being imbibed freely. I even saw a guy with two different colored eyes. I guess they could have been contacts, but he looked REALLY messed up.When we got to the actual gate, we were given a schedule and a map to help us find our way around. I don’t have it here in NY otherwise I would scan it. I believe the camping areas essentially surrounded the concert area which was split between four stages of increasing size. At least one–and I think two–were under huge tents while the larger two were just gigantic, open air venues. I remember having a general feeling of calm and ease while there even though it was beastly hot and really big. Everyone seemed cool and I saw all kinds of things I had never seen before, from the guy with the crazy eyes to some of the wildest frisbee catches I’ve ever seen. And that’s not even taking the music into account.

The Stadium, Bonnaroo's largest venue that year

Thankfully, I wrote about my experiences at the show on my old website which is still around thanks to Angelfire (that’s also where I swiped all these pictures from). According to that, these are the bands I saw along with some modern day commentary.

Friday

Big Wu
Jim White
Umphrey’s McGee
Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade
Gov’t Mule
Widespread Panic (the first set)
Keller Williams Incident (kinda)
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (for a few minutes)

I couldn’t tell you thing one about Big Wu or Jim White. You’ll see me writing that a lot in the next few paragraphs, but I think it’s because I wasn’t familiar with most of the music going in, so there aren’t a lot of touchstones. However Umphrey’s McGee made a big impact on me. They really impressed me and I still remember their show as being my favorite. It was in one of the smaller venues and I think we got pretty close to the stage. We saw Frog Brigade from way back, but it was rad seeing Buckethead play. Gov’t Mule and Panic are mysteries, but I do remember sitting on the side of the tent for Keller’s show and peeking under to see what we could see. I actually really regret not sticking around for Karl Denson’s set. It was one of the late night ones and I actually had listened to one of his records, but I think I didn’t want to be on my own that late. Such a wuss…

Saturday

Ben Harper (solo)
Jack Johnson
String Cheese Incident (I think)
Jurassic 5
Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains
moe (the first set)

Harper played the largest stage they had all by himself. I wasn’t really familiar with his music at the time, but that really impressed me. I don’t believe Jack Johnson was a big deal at the time I saw him, but I do remember him bringing out a 6 or 7 year old Australian girl named Scarlet to play drums at one point. I have no recollection of String Cheese Incident, but Jurassic 5 was awesome. That was my first and only hip hop live show experience. Maybe I was thinking of Bucket of Bernie Brains when it came to seeing Buckethead? moe was the late night show that night and it was pretty cool. Toth and I met some nice people while waiting for them to go on. I think the band was an hour or so late (which anal retentive me did not appreciate), but we all wound up talking bootlegs for a while which was cool. I think Toth stuck around for the second set, but I was exhausted and headed back to the camp site.

Sunday

Ween
Bela Flech & Edgar Meyer
Phil & Friends with Bob Weir
Superjam
Trey Anastasio

Ween is another one I have zero memory of, though I know I was interested in checking them out because some dudes I worked with in high school were HUGE Ween fans. I remember being in the thick of things for Phil & Friends, but am not a Dead fan, so it was another “I have to say I was there” kind of a thing. I wandered away from all that craziness and hung out towards the back of the second biggest stage to check out the Superjam which I remember being really sick. The last show of the night was Phish’s Trey Anastasio playing with his then-new band. At the time, Phish had “broken up” and word around the festival was that Phish would be reuniting. That wasn’t the case, of course as Trey went on and played with his big band. I wasn’t all that interested in this particular show and really didn’t feel like wading through a literal sea of people, so I hung back at the camp site while Toth went and watched. I was able to get one of the camping chairs up on the roof of the van and wound up watching from there. It was actually a pretty awesome moment. I’d love to watch more concerts that way.

The Arena, Bonnaroo's second largest stage

By Sunday, I was more than ready to get the hell out of Tennessee. I had had a good time, but that was a completely different kind of living than I was used to. I had spent the whole time in a uniform of cargo shorts (the same pair I believe) and white under shirts. The cargo shorts were important because I could put water bottles in the extra pockets. Man was it hot. Oh and showerless. There were a few rigged-up sinks that helped a little, but I had never been that sweaty and gross for so long.

Phil & Friends with Bob Weir on stage

We had decided–thanks to my prodding, I’m sure–to head home right after Trey’s set. My plan was to get out of there and drive for as long as I could before needing to get a hotel room and sleep.That’s not how it actually went down, though. It took Toth a while to get back because of all the people, but then it took three hours just to get out. My figuring was that that was still better than what it would have been like the next day. I only got an hour away from Manchester before needing to stop. The hotel we wound up stopping at must have made a killing that night because they charged us for a full night even though it was late and we had to be out by 10 or 11 the next morning and we were definitely not the only Bonnaroo attendees staying there. At the end of the day, though, we didn’t care because we got to sleep in an actual bed and even got to take showers. I’m fairly certain that was the best shower I’ve ever had. I also had the best chicken sandwich of my life the next morning at a nearby Cracker Barrel.

Looking back, I’m really glad I stuck with it and didn’t let my craziness get in the way of a really interesting and fun experience that left me with a lot of memories, even if most of them don’t have much to do with the music itself. Toth went back to Bonnaroo a few times after that, but I bowed out. I spent a ridiculous amount of money that summer between the Tennessee trip, visiting the future-missus in New Hampshire for a few weeks and buying a guitar (the last one I bought now that I think about it). Would I go back again? Yes. But only if I was taken in via helicopter or didn’t have to deal with all that traffic thanks to a parachute drop or some such.

Dad Stuff: Music Lucy Likes…And Doesn’t

Ask any dad and he’ll tell you that he’ll try anything to stop his kid from crying. In my case, after changing our darling daughter and bouncing her around or trying to burp her, there’s not a whole lot I can offer. The missus is still breastfeeding and not pumping quite yet, so my options are limited. With her still home, that option is obviously open and I’ll practically be a bottle feeding ninja by the time she goes back to work, but as of right now, I’m trying out different music on Lucy to try and calm her down.She likes the Beatles, but the one performer who always seems to calm her down–with some accompaniment by dear old dad–is none other than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. For Christmas, my inlaws gave me the Legends box set, which is on my computer, as opposed to all the other Johnny Cash records I have which are on my iPod. For whatever reason, the other day when Lucy was having one of her mini freak outs, I decided to try playing Johnny Cash’s music and guess what? She loved it. Better than loved, she was transfixed. The first track on the first record of that set is the classic “I Walk The Line.” I’m not sure if it’s the staccato guitar playing, Johnny’s deep voice or me singing along that gets her or all of the above, but that one track seems to always calm her down. Now I’ve just got to learn every other non Super Hits track on the records to be in a place where I can warble along with the master and hopefully calm the kid down.

I’ve tried some other music with differing results. I was hoping the faster aspects of The White Stripes or The Raconteurs would appeal to her delicate sensibilities, but that wasn’t the case. I also tried a little Fall Out Boy because I know all the words, but she was lukewarm to them. Finally, after somewhat successful forays into Charlie Daniels Band, The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, I hopped over to the weirdly smooth tones of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, but she wasn’t having any of that. Maybe I should start her out on something a little jazzier like A Saucerful Of Secrets. I can forgive her for that as she seems to get a little bored with the solos and just wants to hear the lyrics. She’s definitely my girl. I do my best to vocalize the solos to keep her interested. You should hear me do “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” I’ve got the violin and guitar solos down better than some of the words.

Needless to say, most of my music listening has been predicated on her moods and what I think might lead to less screaming and more sleeping. I’ve got a LOT of music on my iPod and a good deal on my laptop to try and go through. She also seems to be as big a fan of Stephen Kellogg as I am which is good because I know a good deal of the words to his songs. The only downside I’ve found is that singing some of them–like “A (With Love)”–make me a little teary eyed and she doesn’t like the interruption in my singing. I’m starting to understand why people think they’re good enough to go on American Idol, especially if their kid thinks they’re a good singer. My daughter’s only a few weeks old and I think I could fly to the moon on the slightest, possibly-from-gas smile I get as I sing along to “Ring of Fire” or “Octopus’s Garden.” It’s shocking how tightly we can get wrapped around those tiny little fingers, isn’t it?