music

Folklore

Is there a more nerdy musical category than prog rock?

If so, I don’t want to know.

All of Big Big Train’s Folklore is a delight, but the title track and “Wassail” are my favorites so far.

So dorky! So English! But such a great tune.


Inevitability Of Death

Tragically Hip in Windsor, Ontario

Saturday night, The Tragically Hip played the last show on their most recent “Man Machine Poem Tour” in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario.

The show was notable because Gord Downie, the Hip’s lead singer, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year. Saturday night’s show, broadcast on the CBC to a third of Canada’s citizens, could be the Hip’s last ever – capping a 30-year career.

Imagine that in America. What U.S.-based band would garner a national broadcast on its last show ever? Bruce Springsteen, maybe? What modern music act can unite a country on what night in the way the Hip did this weekend? It’s amazing when you think about it.

I have a great history with the band. My friend Chris took me to a Hip show in the summer of 2000 at DTE Energy Music Theater (Pine Knob to those who remember the good ol’ days), north of Detroit. Since then, I’ve seen the Hip more than a dozen times: in Detroit, in Grand Rapids, in Sarnia, in Toronto, in Windsor (photo above). Their country and my own, I’ve seen them on almost every tour since 2000, sometimes catching them on several dates on a given tour.

Saturday night was emotional for me. It was especially difficult watching Gord, obviously frail and tired, giving it his all. He was spent emotionally, physically, and perhaps even creatively. But he went out with a bang. Here was a guy who has dealt with terminal cancer, on the last night of a country-spanning tour, deliver a three-hour performance in front of his hometown crowd and his nation. That’s grit.

Not that I think about death a lot, but watching my musical heroes pass away over the years makes me think about mortality, and the limited time we have.

It’s hard not to dive into the live-like-you-were-dying cliché here, but hear me out.

What would you do, artistically, if you knew you were on borrowed time?

And what’s holding you back from doing that, right now?

I try not to be morbid about this stuff. But it’s hard, having kids, not thinking about being taken away suddenly, and what kind of situation I’d leave behind. The unexpected happens all the time. Any of us could get a diagnosis that changes everything.

We can’t think about this stuff every day. That would be paralyzing in a way. Then again, that’s the whole point of the your-life-changes-after-you-get-the-news storyline – hardly anyone young-ish sees death coming. Saturday’s concert was a good reminder.

I mean, if a guy with terminal brain cancer can hit the road with the band one more time, travel the country and give it his all every night in the name of art and performance and duty, surely I can get that undone project completed. Right?

Watching Gord’s exhausted face melt into anguish at the end of a barn-burning song? Yeah, there aren’t too many excuses left after seeing that.

 

 


On Greatest Hits

 

Ghost, performing in Grand Rapids, Michigan

You know that new thing where a band goes out on tour and plays an entire classic album of theirs live?

For the fans, it’s great, especially if it’s a truly beloved and well-known album. It’s a well-worn reminder of why you love the band and their music.

What if we could go back and try our hands at an old project, and reinterpret it years later?

William Christenberry made a career out of it, coming back to the same location year after year, watching it fall apart.

I often wonder what i would do if I took my life-changing Route 66 roadtrip and did it all over again, but with the photo skills I have now. It would probably be a longer trip out of necessity.

Pulling over, after all, takes time.

A greatest hits in photos, knowing what I know now? Let’s hit the road.


365 Singles

365singles:

Blackest Eyes, Porcupine Tree

Many, many years ago, this post by @365singles led me to one of my now favorite bands. All because I gave it a chance (and the artwork was so cool).

It’s fine to share your own work. But it’s worth sharing the stuff you dig, too.


Ghost

Had a chance to see one of my favorite recent discoveries, Ghost, in Grand Rapids with my pals Don and Joe.

Ghost put on a great show in a small venue, and Papa was in rare form chatting with the crowd and encouraging us to enjoy our Friday night.

As Don pointed out, it was one of the calmest, most respectful crowds we had ever seen. Everyone was there to have a good time. And there was even a kid! That’s good parenting.

I haven’t been able to shut up about Ghost since discovering them last summer. It was so great to see them perform live. They have the Satanic shtick, but deep down there fantastic musicians and great songwriters.