Sunday, July 31, 2011


To believe or not to believe? That is the question...for a lot of folks anyway. I've pretty much given up the argument. Still, I found the responses interesting. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Night I Saw U2

I’ve been trying to write about Saturday night off and on for about 36 hours. It’s not coming easily. Words can be a bitch somedays. How do you put words to something that encompasses so much more than what they offer? That void where words fail…this is the place for art, for music.  So to write about that thing that fills in the wordless void?
I don’t know. I’m struggling.
I want to breathtakingly describe those precious hours. I want to remind myself, I want to share with you that feeling of absolute excitement that left me jumping in an erratic and giddy manner. I want you to understand fully that sense of awe and wonder and beauty that lead to being able to do nothing but stand completely still and allow whatever the hell it is that moves through music move into you. God, I think. There are differing opinions.
 But to recreate those moments, and moments similar, I think not even the best writer can put into words. Those moments are not what words are for.  But still….still I try to write.
I keep trying to write about my experience, about the details of what happened. About how when “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” started, I leaned over to my friend and said “Sorry if I start crying. I’m an emotional sap and music has a strong effect on me.” And how I was reminded the next day by another friend that “That’s what music is for.”
I want people to know the simple joy of been standing outside, content with the excitement of being so near, the sound and the monitors making it seem we were there. The brick walls of the stadium seemed like nothing but a thick paper separating us from such an event. Because, when tickets sell out in 20 minutes for a fairly substantial price, being this close is what you know will be the closet you will ever come to seeing them live.
Until it’s not.
I want you to read these words and your eyes grow wide as you see the unattended gates, know that fraction of a moment  when it’s now or never, feel the air rush past your face as you run through rain and crwod, ignoring that secrurity guard who is yelling powerlessly at this homeless mob who have suddenly been let in on Thanksgiving dinner. I want your mouth to drop agape at that moment you realize…We’re in.
I want people who read this to feel the rain pouring down on their heads, feel their clothes soaking wet, hanging heavily from limb and torso. I want them to feel the anxiousness of lightning bolts striking around the stadium, to tremble at the immensity of thunder that came from above… and from the kits of Larry Mullen, Jr. I want you to see the look of pure happiness on Adam Clayton’s face, despite 30 years of limelight and lots of the same songs. I want you to do a little dance for joy when you realize, “Oh my God, The Edge is right there.” I want you to feel the movement of 60,000 people fall into a silent stillness while the first notes of “With Or Without You,” began. To know the power of 60,000 people singing “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” To see the power of lanterns held aloft, circling the stage, in a beacon of hope while Bono urges us to “Be Strong. Walk on.” I want you to be totally absorbed in a chorus of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” only to be swept into a place “Where The Streets Have No Name.”
I want my words to have the power that Bono’s words have…when millions of people worldwide, and tens of thousands around me, sing them, word for word. When his influence is such that people are moved into action to seek justice, fight AIDS, poverty, hunger. His words effect me, they bring me to a place beauty, hope, strength. But he has more than words, he has that undeniable power of music, which bring me to those same places.
So as I try feebly to use my own words to describe they seem so insignificant. Words are just not enough. And so, despite the poor quality, I leave you with the best thing that I can to share the evening with you: Two videos I took from some outstanding, unexpected, much appreciated seats at the U2 concert I wasn’t supposed to see.  It’s the best I can do. It's not much. Because it was too much.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Music Snobbery (Why Pop Radio Blows and Music Snobs Have A Handle on Something Grand)

I’m sorry if you think I’m pretentious. There’s more than a good chance I come across that way. I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve discovered I’m a self-proclaimed snob. And I think I am not alone. There are countless others out there in the world just like me, strutting around with our heads held high, sure to make it known that we like what we like and it’s better than what you like. Again, we’re not trying to be rude (okay, some of us get off on being rude, but I don’t count myself as one of them. I actually worry about being rude.) but we just happen to be thoroughly convinced that what we like IS better than what others around us like, for good reason. Let me clarify, folks like me who know what they like, which is most likely contrary to what is popular with the general masses, are the ones who come across rude or pretentious mainly because what we like is in fact not what is embraced by most of society.

What is the meaning of all this blathering, you may be asking. Let me back up a bit. As per usual, this blog post is simply stemming from things that have been stewing around in my head for quite some time. Usually, after things have been stewing for quite some time, something I see, hear, overhear, or somet unknown muse sends a spark and the whole batch of stew erupts like a gas station falling victim to a careless smoker (a la Zoolander). Suddenly all that has been swimming around in my mind comes spewing out of my fingertips and into words read here or elsewhere. As I’m bad (aka lazy) about editing, I fear that often these words stay a jumbled unorganized mess, but since I know what I’m saying, I simply leave them be. There’s always time for editing, I tell myself. It’s nice to tell yourself things sometimes. This is not where I’m going with my self-proclaimed snobbery post, but is indeed a preview into the chaotic inner-workings of my mind. Perhaps what you read here or hear me say in person will now make a bit more sense with the knowledge that most of what’s written and spoken by me is simply verbally processed spew…which in itself aids in the mental processing, uh, process.

All that to say, as I was on my way to my coffee shop the other afternoon, something lit the match and the gas station erupted and now I’m spewing wordy flames, sorting out the idea that somehow it became okay for music to cease to be art and instead become a mindless opiate for the masses. And that’s when I started to think about how I sound (and probably am) really pretentious. Yet, I remain firm in my convictions.

The music I like, the music my friends like, and that several of my friends make, is in fact better than most of what is heard on popular radio. Let me clarify by what I mean by “better.” Let’s be honest, if we’re basing what is considered “good” music solely on numbers sold and amounts of money amassed, then the majority of true music is not considered good, and therefore definitely not better than what’s on popular radio. But herein lies the problem. Good music doesn’t sell. I mean, it does, but not nearly in the amounts that its popular counterpart does. I suppose that what I mean by “better,” is mostly “higher quality.” So if good music doesn’t make millions of dollars, what constitutes as good/true music?

One word: artistry.

It is the time, dedication, hard work, and yes even natural abilities that makes one a good musician.

Just because someone puts on a pair scrubs, tosses a stethoscope around their neck, that doesn’t make them a nurse. In the same fashion, just because a person is handed a guitar, a microphone, or even a recording contract, that doesn’t make them a musician. I hesitate to even use the term “recording artist” as the word “artist” is involved. If it didn’t make them sound like a small woodwind instrument given to elementary school students, I would just call them “recorders.” So…what do we call the individuals who get so much radio play today, but do very little besides gyrate their bodies while scantily clad? Who cares! It’s sexy, and sex sells. And besides sex and money, what really matters anyway?

I’d like to know who is responsible for deciding music no longer needs to have any sort of quality before being fed to the masses and punch them in the face. You know, if I wasn’t a borderline pacifist. Maybe I can just glare at them intensely and make them uncomfortable with my unwavering stare. But it’s not just their fault. Folks line up to buy this fabricated crap (Well, not so much anymore. Now they click their little keys and make sure gratification is nothing but instant.) The masses feed the industry that feeds the masses.

Okay, obviously not all popular music is terrible. It’s catchy and thus fun to listen to. That has to count for something. I’d say it’s fun to dance to, which given the right crowd, it can be. But dancing these days has turned into nothing more than rubbing against one another’s genitals in a public space with lots of flashing lights…and generally really off-beat.

I often have people ask me how I learn about the musicians that I listen to. It starts with turning off the radio. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Wanna find out about good music? Turn off the radio! Hmm, no, turn off pop radio. Feel free to leave it on the classic rock station, the classical music station, or NPR (I promise they’ll play you good music and not turn you into a flailing socialist.) Also, stations like KEXP and The Current do a good job at playing music that wasn’t written in 45 minutes by some dude with a computer in a cubicle. Though, theoretically, they’re tied to public radio, so return to the NPR comment and move on.

Fellow music snob friends help, too. It’s important to keep the cycle flowing of telling folks you know about a new band you just heard, so that they may return the favor. And on and on it goes. And you know, the internet might have a little something out there about music. I’m not sure. It’s pretty vast.

Let my conclude by showing you two videos. One is of mega popular multimillion dollar pop star Rihanna. “Her” song “Rude Boy,” was a chart topper written by several dudes (okay, in her defense, she helped) whose native language isn’t even English. Hope you don’t have to dial 1 to understand the lyrics, cuz you know, it would be absurd to be a multi-lingual nation. Wait….that’s off topic and being saved for another blog. Honestly, I think I’d prefer Rihanna’s song in another language. If I couldn’t understand it, I wouldn’t feel the need to douse my eardrums in Holy Water every time I’m unfortunate enough to fall within earshot. Obviously, singing about sex isn’t a bad thing. It’s a totally natural event that people think about on a daily basis. Good music and art and the like lose their power if they aren’t engaging in that which makes us human, both good and bad. But, if I want to hear a woman describe how she’ll give her man an erection, I’ll just hang around the condom aisle in Wal-mart.

The second video is by Drew Grow (formerly of the band Five O’Clock People) who while makes a decent living, continues to play sold out shows to possibly hundreds of people. He is a working artist, constantly developing his craft. Ever evolving as an artist and human, rather than changing with the passing trends. I chose to pair Drew Grow with Rihanna relatively arbitrarily. He just came on my ipod as I’m finish up this post. So I went to his website where he has a post that touches on things similar what you’ve just read. He, as a quality musician should, wrestles with the larger questions and struggles of life and invites his listeners to do the same. He, like a quality musician should, convies emotion and moves his listeners, with and without words.(Close your eyes and listen instead of watching the video.) He might even talk about sex sometimes, who knows. He's playing here with The Portland Cello Project who also find themselves to be pretty outstanding musicians. He also often plays with a band and together they are called Drew Grow and the Pastor's Wives, if you should feel so inclined to check them out. You should feel so inclined. :)

I know stylistically these two songs are super different. Apples and oranges if you will. I'm not so much focusing on that though. For the moment, ignore style. Focus on quality.

You’re free to like what you like, and we're all going to stick with what we like anyway. But I'm going to  stick with quality artistry. (Okay, with the occasional guilty pleasure of music that falls short of the title of “good,” because, damn, that mass-pleasing music is catchy!)

At last, the soap-box is free now. I’m off it.

++It should be noted that simply because someone writes and sings a song in a language other than their own, it doesn’t have to suck. Example here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
--Barbara Kingsolver--

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Bit of Excitement

While I'm not going to see the mighty Led Zeppelin, we are however taking a long overdue family vacation. I can already taste the fresh salmon. Begging, pleading, needing a reunion with that which I love the most...The Sea.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Imprisoned Bees and the Terror of Mercy

I see metaphor everwhere I go.

I just released a bee trapped inside the coffee shop. There he buzzed and buzzed, constantly hitting the window, desperately trying to get out. He could see the other side, but to get there? He had no idea how to go about it. He just repeatedly threw himself into the glass. Occasionally, he would rest on the sill, ever staring out at where he once had been; separated unwillingly from the place he belonged.

He was trapped. No matter how hard he tried, he could not break through the pane.

So finally, I rose from my seat, retrieved an empty cup from the barista, and confined the poor thing inside. I placed a thick piece of a newsletter under the cup between rim and window. The bee now found himself in total and complete darkness. A darkness he neither asked for nor desired.

For what I imagine to be terrorizing and agonizing seconds, an eternity in bee-time, the bee remained in this strange new petrifying new environment. You know, because I’m sure bees can consciously feel and comprehend human emotion. ;) His life was over. It was only seconds until he was squashed, he was certain.
Then suddenly, the temperature changed. It was surprisingly warm inside the cup and somehow less dark. Light was trying to sneak through the thick sides. In a single instant, all at once, the paper cell door was flung from place, light and the warm July air flooded in, and the bee found himself flying in the brightness of the sun. No longer crashing into his glass prison, this strange gigantic being that his bee friends had said squashed so many, had instead see him free. The terror was all for naught. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Every Tear is a Waterfall

Yep. Turns out I still love Coldplay.
I just moments ago finished watching the video for thier new song "Every Tear is a Waterfall." I liked it so much I apparently had to rush right on over here and write about it.
And by write, I mean process, usually. So here I go.

First...I'm going to go watch/listen to it one more time.

Yep. Still liked it. Though this time I was able to avert my eyes a bit. The first time I watched enraptured. This second time I was able to look away, not because of the bright flashy colors, but because I started thinking about the song, about music, about what this particular song means, about how dancy it is, about life.

Honestly, when I first saw the title "Every Tear is a Waterfall," I was a little hesitant. It's a pretty cheesey title. I had my doubts. I waited a while to watch the video, which would also be the first time I would hear the song. I wanted to be able to give it my full attention, and I'm often doing other things or only half awake while putzing around on this internet thing. I kind of imagined it to be a fluffy little piece about how it's okay to cry or you're beautiful just they way you are sort of thing. And I suppose those fluffy pieces have thier place. But I don't think that's the fate of this new Coldplay song. For one, it's way too danceable to be fluffy piano-y elevator crap. Unless there's a dance party in the elevator. Then it's perfect.

Bah! Coldplay is so damn hopeful! Their songs are happy and uplifting and not in the painful KLOVE way. And the word that came to mind during this song was "beauty." Perhaps because I find waterfalls to be some of the most beautiful things one earth. (Unless they're being chased...then they're a bitch.)
If every tear is a waterfall, then every single one of us emits beauty. (Some of us fairly regularly.) Beauty when we're happy. Beauty when we're sad. "You can't hurt me, hurt me bad."
Kids are dancing and there's singing coming from underneath the rubble.

No matter what, there is life, and there is beauty in that life. And here, within that life, "Heaven is in sight." and "My heart is beating and my pulses start cathedrals in my heart."
I'll leave out the excellent theology of that last line. That's a whole other thought process.

Jonny Buckland: Not that you'll ever read this, but that riff...yeah. Good job. <3

Lots of times, I wish I was a musician, because so often, music proclaims what words cannot. And so, I'll cease with the words for now and you should watch the video. And then go listen to more music or do whatever it is that moves you to soak up beauty.