Culling the herd. It lives!
A couple weeks ago we had a meetup for the community that has grown around this blog. Okay, it was me and my friends Jim and Paula going to a Marshall Crenshaw concert in a dive bar on the west side of town, but it was a meetup nonetheless. By the way – hi Paula!
We three have seen Marshall several times over the years, starting with a drive through a driving ice storm to Washington DC in 1994, and while I still love his music, his concerts have gotten…oh, how should I say this?...well, they’ve gotten slower. Really slower. I mean, the guy’s 60 now – of course he’s slowing down. But we’ve seen him a couple times where I just wanted to shake him, or at the least take over the drums and pick up the damn PACE. This time, he was billed as Marshall Crenshaw with the Bottle Rockets. I assumed that this was just what he was calling his backup band.
Boy, was I wrong. The first indication of this was Jim telling me that his friend Boyd had said he' be more excited to see the Bottle Rockets. Wha...? Turns out, the Bottle Rockets are a band in their own right, and they're a good one – a glorified bar band, yes, but they’ve been doing it for 20 years, and it shows. They blasted away at our eardrums for an hour or so, (I bought five songs from iTunes as we watched) and as they took a break, I thought that the rest of the night could go two ways. Either Marshall would prove once and for all that he’s done, or they’d push him back into some semblance of his youth. So, of course, he came out, said something about a friend that had just died, dedicated the first song to him, and absolutely drag-assed his way through about three songs, including “There She Goes Again” (I think that was the one, I don’t remember). He just sucked every bit of energy out of the room. All I could think was that I’d had some good times at his concerts over the years, but that this was going to be just about enough, thanks.
But then something clicked, and he spent the next 90 or so minutes doing terrific, sometimes loose and possibly boozy renditions of some of his best songs, including “Something’s Gonna Happen,” which I don’t believe I’ve ever heard live. It was like he was 50 again (ha!). The Bottle Rockets, it turned out, were exactly what he needed.
As he finished, he said he would come back out in a while to sell merchandise and sign stuff, and while we waited, my reading public (again – hi, Paula!) talked about my “blog” and where it went.
So? Where did it go?
The answer is multifold, and one my readers and I discussed at length in that bar while we waited for Marshall. My original premise was (and kinda still remains) that I listen to everything I own, in alphabetical order, rate it and either keep it or dump it, and (most importantly) write about it…but No More New Music until I’m done. And that was just silly, for a variety of reasons. First of all, it assumed that I wouldn't get bored with it and quit. And duh. Second, that the urge to buy something wouldn't override the urge to finish the project. Another duh.
But something else, happened, too. For each of the last two years, NPR has picked out songs 100 new or emerging bands at South By Southwest and dumped those songs on to the listening public. Well, I can’t resist free downloads, so I got them, then realized that a) the music was all over the map and wildly uneven in quality and b) holy shit, what can I possibly say about 100 different bands, all at once? It seemed overwhelming and completely blocked me. My readers told me to lighten up and write. Don’t worry about the alphabetical thing, don’t feel like I have to do every single damn song, just write. Write. My readers were right, of course.
All of which is just another preface to this: time to pick up the old pen once again. With new rules…well, “rule” – that rule being, “shut up and write.”
Okay, fine. For whatever it’s worth, I do want to do this in some sort of systematic way, but I reserve the right to completely dump the system in favor of making sure that my fingers keep making the clicky noise on the keyboard. As the question goes – how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course.