Tuesday, May 5, 2009

There's a fine line between dodging a bullet and missing the train.

Tonight I was out at Pearl Street, totally digging The Thermals (left), a Portland, OR trio that plays very satisfying rock music...indie rock if you must. I am 45 yet this is a typical evening for me, not a wild night out. It is my actual JOB. Sometimes I feel like I've escaped growing up. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if I had married or had kids. I'm sure I'd be just as happy. I tend to be happy (with a slight undertow). But tonight I was feeling great about my autonomy, my life-long career in music, and the fact that in a culture of 20somethings, I've recently met someone my age in a similar...untraditional situation. No prior commitments or obligations.

As for the music, tonight Brendan and I were working late watching old YouTube videos of Joni Mitchell and Loudon Wainwright. When Hannah came into my office to say goodnight she caught me crying at the Joni video. I wasn't even aware of it until she came in. Joni's first few albums resonate for me because they were always playing in my house when I was in single and early double digits. That shit echoes in your bones.

But Brendan turned me onto this new breed of video from bedroom musicians playing versions of their favorites, from the Innocence Mission to Nick Drake to anyone you can think of. If not health care, then certainly music has become socialized. The raw emotion of these videos can bring tears to your eyes. Well...especially if you're a little drunk and feeling sentimental. Go to YouTube and enter the name of your favorite song followed by 'cover' and see what I mean. I mean, Jesus, watch this. How awkard and beautiful.

And tonight, after watching the Thermals with about 75 people I thought, why aren't there more people here? I realized that the era when we could realistically know most of the major acts is long gone, as is the era that was the birth of the rock and folk genres and the lucky artists who got to make those sounds and put those words to them for the first time. They were talented but they were also the lucky ones. You hear these old classics and you realize that someone was going to write them. Jackson, Joni, James, Nick, Sandy, Bob....they were just there at the right time and tuned into the collective consciousness and playing the right chords in the right order with the right amount of emotion. It's all old news to us oldsters. We hear the sources too easily. It's not as obvious to the new fans, and that's okay. But the kids are finding the sources too and embracing them, playing them.

And there's so much to choose from for the new generation that any long term relationship with a band is rare. These days it's about flings with bands and singers. There are so many that are excellent, or at least competent, that there's no end to the supply. So except for the Radioheads, Decemberists, and Modest Mice, the rest are out having fleeting love affairs with fans that are madly in love with them...for the time being. But oh, look, who's this? The Pains of Being Pure at Heart? Indeed.

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