Jun 23

Raise your hands high

Guess who we’ll be spontaneously seeing soon? I’ll give you a hint.

That’s from the last Indigo Girls show I saw, in Indianapolis in 2017. This will be my seventh show. Reportedly, they’re on the road with a full band right now. I’ve never seen them play with a full band. This is quite exciting. And it moves us, quite neatly, into …

The latest installment of the Re-Listening project, the thing where I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which they acquired. And this installment is the Indigo Girls’ “Come On Now Social,” their seventh studio album, released in 1999. I guess this was my third Indigo Girls album, after “1200 Curfews” and “Shaming of the Sun.” I caught up on the rest of the back catalog later, and this album’s consistency was what made me commit. You wear out a double live album and then find two studio albums in a row that you lean into, hard? Caught the live act two or three times by then, too? You found yourself a band.

This is one of those things I wish I could go back in time and put this on again, turn up the sound and hear it for the first time. I’d love to have this first impression again.

I won’t do this through the whole post, but since we’ll see them in concert again soon, here’s a live version.

I want to hear that again for the first time, almost every time, because even now, decades later, I’m still finding new things to be awed by in that track.

Also, I suppose that’s the second protest song (of my generation) I ever picked up on as being a protest song (non-Buffy Sainte-Marie division.) Anyway, I’m trying, right now to read the Meridel Le Sueur essay that’s spoken into that song. But Amy Ray just buries herself and she’s beautifully, wonderfully distracting.

Always with the Re-Listening project I am trying to find some memory that matches a track, a mood that meets the album. Sometimes these things stand out. But, always, when Emily Saliers is painting a picture, it’s just an attitude. It’s a credit to her storytelling ability. Her imagery crowds out my memories. But to think of whatever this inspires in you isn’t such a bad thing, even if it is an imagination rather than a memory.

The difficulty here will be in not playing the entire album. But it’s my site, and I’ll play a half dozen tracks from it if I want to. Anyway, if you’ll overlook the VHS and NTSC analog quality that YouTube compressed here, this is a gem. For fun, I always sing the chorus as “There ain’t no way I’m gonna let this heart win,” and it changes the song substantially. That’s neither here nor there.

When the banjo and the mandolin come out … God bless the Indigo Girls.

Speaking of imagery. The other day, when this next track came on, I was at a red light. It was a bright morning. Lots of sun. But the mood here is anything but. I was initially drawn into the band for the harmonies, but then found the … let’s call it the visceral, emotional core of truth … but the thing that’s not at all subtle, not at all to be disregarded, is the quality of storytelling Ray and Saliers can put around all of that.

But then they have to pep it up a little. Here’s a little drum fill, a few horns, and an under-appreciated song from Saliers. This is the one song that charted off the album, small HAC hit that marked the end of the Indigo Girls’ crossover success. (Because the music industry is powered by corporations and so often has no real relation to what we hear, what we like or what artists play. But I repeat myself.)

Feels like a cookout song to me. Who needs a cookout?

This song references a real person, it was quite high profile in the late 1990s. Do you remember?

The hidden tracks are in that YouTube video, if you are interested. Just scrub to about the seven minute mark.

And, when we see the Indigo Girls next weekend, we’ll be having a blast.

Jun 23

The cats, bike rides, video and more

Since we were away visiting last Monday we didn’t have our regular feature — the site’s most popular feature, mind you — of checking in with the kitties. And they have been sure to remind me of that omission continually. So let’s dive in.

Phoebe has thoughts on all of these notions of travel. She is not a fan.

She would much rather I stay here and admire her stretching abilities. And also give her belly rubs.

Poseidon, meanwhile, was a little more chill about it — and that’s a phrase I never thought I could use with him. Here, he’s just snoozing a day away on the top of the sofa.

He was, however, none too pleased with our spending part of Sunday afternoon on the back deck without him.

The cats, in other words, are doing just fine.

We went for a bike ride on Saturday morning. Up and away before it got too warm. We finished and it was about 80 degrees and I was once again amazed at the difference in the last moments of a ride and the first moments after you dismount. Nothing ever seems so hot as those few seconds where I am turning my bike computer off, taking off the bike shoes and trying to get inside to cooler air.

We did about 27 miles. I was ahead of her by just a few seconds when I took that photo, somewhere in mile 11 or so. She would catch up with me in the 14th mile, we stayed together for a few more miles, and then I dropped her. So, nice guy that I am, trying to demonstrate good bike date etiquette, I waited for her. Then, after mile 17 she recovered, just as I predicted, and shot herself out of a cannon.

I did not see her again on Saturday morning until the odometer read 26.59. And, even then, she was but a colorful dot way up the road.

Today, it was just me. I put in 29 more miles, basically the same route, with a slight change at the end. It was harder, I was faster, and now I’m trying to keep my shoulders from cramping up. But there’s video!

Today’s ride made this year my fourth-best in terms of miles. By the end of this week 2023 should be in third place. It’ll take some time to crack the top two, however.

Sunday scenes. This is the big beautiful maple tree in the backyard. It dominates one half of the view from the deck. It’s a good view.

And it has been a long time since I noticed this, but the way the house is oriented, and because of the features around us, we don’t see the best sunsets here. But if you look around at the right time you get a nice sliver of light coming through the front door.

The light is pointing east. So was I, more or less, when I shot that photo of the maple tree. The photo of The Yankee on her bike? I’m facing the west. The two shots of Poe? He’s pointing east-ish. Phoebe? East, then west. What does it all mean? Not the first thing.

May 23

Photos from the drive back

The long weekend was long and fun and now it has come to an end. I know this because we got in the car and drove in the reverse direction we enjoyed last Friday. Through the hills and onto the interstate, meeting a friend for a quick lunch in Nashville, and then back to the big roads to go all the way to Indiana.

Here are some of the views. These are, I believe, from somewhere in western Kentucky.

And this one too, out of the passenger window.

Near the Kentucky-Indiana border there’s a weird turn we always miss. We even make mental notes of it, and sometimes say it aloud: don’t miss the weird turn. We missed the weird turn.

So we went eight miles up the road, took the next exit and a scenic detour.

Everything looks great to start the summer.

Seasonal changes happen at their own pace, and our perceptions of them take their own time, too. In a few days we’ll grow accustomed to all of that green again.

May 23

Press the long one on the right

Reading a site regularly gives you great insight into its habits and routines. The page, when consistently produced and consistently read, at least, can certainly have a personality. For example, when you see a hastily composed and carefully cropped photo — shot from the hip and edited for more than 11 seconds — like this …

… or another shot, with tint and flares like this …

Then you know we’re on the road. I suppose the long weekend was another clue. Anyway, we’re headed south for the Memorial Day weekend. Family, sun, good fun, some time by the pool, and … BARBECUE.

It is the little things — like slow slow-cooked meat — that you miss the most when you don’t have them close at hand in in abundant supply. But over the course of this trip, I’m getting barbecue at least twice.

And so we drove all through the afternoon, stuck in traffic at the Kentucky border, near a place where authorities are presently looking for an escaped murderer, and slowed down again several times north of Nashville because of the hour, picking up some ‘cue from Jack’s a proper little joint right there in the Gulch. We finally exited the interstate for exiting the interstate at a quiet little part of Tennessee, where the community is named as a portmanteau in honor of the guy who either influenced or bribed lawmakers to get the train to run through the area.

In the day’s dying light, we glided through 11 miles of a U.S. highway that, if you were ambitious, would carry you some 2,300 miles from where my sister is in North Carolina to a place in Arizona where no one I know is. We were racing daylight, because we still had 22 miles to go on a little county road up in the hills where the darkness comes early. You pass through towns that show up on a map, but not in real life. Then there’s the state line store, and the big right turn, past where some of my family is buried, on roads that seamlessly put you into another unincorporated place that stretches to each horizon before, finally, there’s a four-lane road straight and true, one more turn, and then there’s the warm light shining in my mother’s yard.

She’s got the hugs. We’ve got the barbecue. And that’s how we started the weekend.

May 23

This (Re-Listening) band is for lovers

There were two highlights to my day. First, and this came late in the day, so you can tell how quite things were otherwise, we took a nice long walk after I got in from the office. The temperature was mild-trending toward warm and the views were just right for the back half of May.

That’s on the path behind our house, which winds through the neighborhood and connects to other paths and sidewalks that will take you most anywhere in town, if you are willing to walk or run there. The path system, let’s call it, continues to grow, and all of that access is one of the more wonderful features of Bloomington, even if we tend to haunt one particular section of them.

The path closest to our house does stop on one end. If you walk behind some of the new developments you can pick up another part of the paved route, but first you must walk over grass. The horrors!

City or county, and I’m not sure which, because this spot is right at the line, takes good care of this area. There’s always a walkable, mowed stretch through here. They do take pretty good care of their multiuse corridors here.

The other highlight was that, when we came back in from our walk, we ran into our neighbor. It looks like we’ll be sitting out and chatting with them tomorrow evening. They’re funny, witty, have just the right sort of enthusiasm and are polite enough to laugh at all of the better-ish jokes. So, good neighbors.

We’re making good progress, of late, catching up on the Re-Listening project. Writing one of these every day has helped. And, believe it or not, we’re only two discs behind right now. The point here, of course, is a quick breeze through of all of my old CDs. I am listening to them in the car, in the order that I first came to own them. This is fun for memories and singalongs and good filler for the site. They’re not reviews, but whimsy, as most pop music should be.

So it is 1998 or 1999, though this is another 1997 disc. I remember specific things around this record, firstly that I came to find the band through streaming an alt station out of Atlanta. And this really gets down to two groups of people. OK, musicians and two other groups of people. Record label A&R types and the music programmers that put up with them.

In the 1990s there were maybe six or eight real programmers of what was left of alt rock. There were other stations, but they were following the leaders. One of those guys was in my hometown, but another was just a short car ride away, the late Sean Demery, who was the music director at WNNX, 99X Atlanta. Here’s a guy who was doing the morning drive, realized there was a guy already in their building who would be a better morning jock, and stepped away from that to take on the afternoon shift. This is all but unheard of. But Demery was also the guy who, a few years earlier, turned that station on its head, and made it the mad hatter of musical taste that it was. As his AJC obit says, “Demery helped turn 99X into a hugely successful station in the 1990s, a ground-breaking blend of Gen-X insouciance, goofiness, sophistication and musical diversity which cemented loyalty among its listeners.”

That’s where I found him, doing wild stuff in the afternoons. I had a small town morning show that was punching above its weight because I was inspired by guys like Demery, who like a few other pros’ pros were willing to spend a few moments listening or offering advice. The people that taught me broadcasting said, on the first day, that “dead air was the work of the devil.” Demery walked away from his microphone mid-sentence for a punchline, or to make a point. He’d play the same song over and over when he had a hit, and in those days he was never, ever wrong.

He was a pirate working for corporate media. A confounder, the tail end of a now-dead art, a visceral force of taste, the match that made the spark. The sounds that maintreamed into modern rock, the strains that influenced the generation that came after, his colleagues sold it for revenue, but in the 1990s Sean Demery was one of the few people in the country putting it before us. (Demery wrote, “99X never referred to itself as an Alternative station until after 2000 which is funny because by the time some consultant decided we should call it Alternative it had become a music and cultural norm.”)

And so it was with Guster. Here’s three guys from Massachusetts, with an incessant rhythm section of … bongos?

“Airport Song” was the debut single from their second studio album. People like Demery helped push it to 35 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. “Goldfly” was an independent release, but this was the album that got them picked up by Sire Records and Warner. It was all edgy, a bit ragged and spotty in places, and everything on it fits the moment.

I think, for about three years, this was what I listened to when I exercised or mowed the lawn, all of which comprised most of my music listening.

Now, I bought this late, because their third album was coming out. But this one will always be a favorite.

And I got to see them live for the first time not too long after that. They’re a band best seen live.

That explains why I’ve seen them three or five times. In fact, a Guster show was on our calendar for the day that everything shut down in March of 2020. I found out at the box office of the local venue. And so it was happy and sad, in May of 2021, to see them live in a documentary format. It was a hint and a reminder and just a great, great band. I’ve watched them their whole career, through the alt and the boop boop beep boop, the Beatles pastiche and everything else.

Probably I would have found them somewhere else, but I found them because of Sean Demery and the legendary 99X.

Go see them this year, because I can’t.