moments before the wind.

July 23, 2006

i can’t think for ya

Filed under: folk, live shows, music, writing — alimarcus @ 9:21 pm

Just a quick stop here. John Shaw’s written a beautifully incoherent rumination that struck me today. Here it is. I myself took awhile to get into Gram, but it’s worth it, b/c he did some kickass stuff. His entire career is the stuff of Romance. Very dramatic. Its funny how hokey this video is. You think perhaps we are romanticizing him because he died young? Probably.

More to the point, music plays you. Read it because it’s about folk music. And consesquently, all music.

music reframes your goggle-eyes, opens your pores, pours your openings, unclogs your spirit-veins, rains your mains, re-trains your brains, soothes your chilblains, music gets under your skin, music plays you.”

I am disappearing into the chasm where past and present become pretty much indistinguishable. Come see me play next week in Virginia ( or hang out and in August we should be rollin’ again.


July 21, 2006

i would walk five hundred more

Filed under: music, reviews, writing — alimarcus @ 7:07 pm

Okay, well, as part 2 I was going to describe what it is about Ben Gibbard that rubs me the wrong way, but I sat down to write and realized that my job is already half-done. Not that he sounds like Jeff Tweedy, but there’s the same blah factor. His words don’t interest me, they are totally depressing and on a really basic level I just don’t feel that way, have those kinds of reactions to things I guess. Not once have I heard a DCFC song that I’ve been able to relate to. Even Tweedy got me on one.

There’s more to say about Ben Gibbard though. He sings with this weird accent – a little bit of Colin Meloy’s accent, except also a little bit of Madonna: maybe it’s an affected British thing, this kind of over articulation. It feels like he is making weird shapes with his mouth as he is singing, and i get hung up on it and it bugs me. I almost feel like I could get past the nasally sound if he wasn’t trying to pull this pseudo-stylized thing as well.

And still more. I have been known to say that DCFC, and Ben Gibbard in particular, symbolize everything that’s wrong with boys. I don’t mean his personality because obviously I don’t know the guy, but the air of this super self-conscious, insecure, overanalyzing guy who has no chutzpah. When I hear his music, Postal Service or Death Cab, I can feel no backbone. This is a metaphorical backbone, a sense of self, a possession of peace from the inside out, that I am talking about. The whisperiness, the anthemic anxiety, and devastatingly self-defeating words assail my senses when I hear it.

People don’t seem to understand why I feel this way, but all the above complaints could very well be describing various members of the guys that I’ve known over the years (no, I don’t mean YOU, silly!). As if the reason why Ben Gibbard is such a hero is because all of a sudden he speaks to an entire generation of lost, scared people. Too bad it has to be my generation.

July 20, 2006

you got me feelin’ emotions

Filed under: country, folk, live shows, music, reviews, rock, writing — alimarcus @ 8:44 am

To answer the inevitable question, this time from somebody I’d just met (not an unusual discussion topic with strangers):

I don’t like Wilco because I don’t respond to two of the main elements of songs that are most important to me: the lead singer’s voice and the lyrics. Jeff Tweedy’s voice is boring. There’s nothing in there that does anything for me. And voices don’t have to be “weird” like Natalie Merchant or Adam Duritz for me to like them, but in this particular case, it just doesn’t. It sounds like every other guy in every other bar, and i guess that’s a part of the appeal. But not to me. And the lyrics have never resonated either. And trust me, I’ve been forced into a LOT of Wilco listening. People think I’m arguing just to argue, that I am too stubborn to ever admit otherwise.

But I’ll do that right now. “Bob Dylan’s Beard” is a kickass song. I love it.

Another thing. When I say I dont like a band, it doesn’t mean that I don’t think they are talented. If I don’t think a band has any talent, I’ll say so. But I am allowed to not like a band even if they’re the best musicians in the world. What Jeff Tweedy and Wilco have done in their career is admirable, sure. Groundbreaking? I don’t know about groundbreaking. But they know what they’re doing. They can sing on key. And they get a nice little groove on the songs that sound like big Beatles rip-offs (words aside, of course). And any band that’s been around that long deserves commendation.

People say their live shows are amazing. Even last night, someone said a concert was what pushed him over the edge. But you’ll probably not find me at one of those. I’d fall asleep.

July 19, 2006

how the west was won and where it got us

Filed under: authenticity, business, marketing, music, writing — alimarcus @ 8:21 am

Do you ever feel sometimes that it’s hard to tell the difference in, say, a magazine, between the editorial and the advertising? Lately I have been noticing this trend more and more often, and now the whole idea of the thing is mixing into other areas of art, further worrying those of us who believe art and commerce are two different things.

I remember when I was younger I thought it was clever to run an ad that looked like a newspaper article; what a great subversion! Trick the reader into consumption. Somehow that’s less portentous than the opposite, which is all over the place: pander to the allure of shiny things. Not that no magazines should do this, but surely it’s more appropriate in certain types of publications than in others.

I was meeting with an ad rep from one of Seattle’s lifestyle mags and as soon as I began to hear about “special advertising sections,” a.k.a. bought editorial space, I completely lost interest. It’s funny because the rep described the look of the section as a slightly modified article. Normally, one would think that this is an exaggeration, but in this case she was absolutely right – to the fault of the articles, not the special section.

Why do I expect a certain aesthetic logic? Well for one thing, a lot of publications take pride in the fact that their editorial and advertising departments are completely separate; no back-scratching to dilute the power of either side. I wonder often if this is just the publication deluding itself, avoiding responsibility. But there’s also the larger trend in overall design, morphing into this image-heavy, de-emphasized text, ADD-friendly universe, so that even with staunch separation of departments, the look is pretty consistent.

But clearly this is a common theme in more places than print. Blame MTV, or commercials, but everytime I see a TV (not often, as I haven’t had one in a few years), my eyes actually start to hurt from the quick shots and bizarre camera movements. Just as one’s eye is no longer expected to spend a few minutes on a page, it is no longer expected to take in a good 2 minute shot either. It seems sometimes unwatchable to me, but then again I have been out of the loop for a while now.

And then there’s music. Music and advertising go way back. In fact, the more I read about it, the more impossible it becomes to see mainstream music (all genres aside) as anything more than business schemes. Of course I don’t really believe that, being a product of all the good parts of that system (as well as the bad, I suppose). Nevertheless, it may be true. And if it is, then it may also be true for these other art forms, and the recent frustrations I have are just how that weird dichotomy registers with my own experience. I don’t know enough about the other ones to say.

July 16, 2006

my mistress with a monster is in love

Filed under: authenticity, live shows, music, news, reviews, writing — alimarcus @ 1:15 pm

Benjamin Kunkel is a young writer who has been getting a lot of acclaim recently. I heard about him regarding n+1 magazine, profiled I think in the NYT a few months ago. He’s published an essay in today’s Books section that really touched on something I’ve been thinking about this weekend.

It’s been years since I’ve read Thoreau’s “Walden,” but I’m going to seek it out today. The copy I keep with me and read at least once a year is The Fledgling, a children’s book, short novel really, by Jane Langton. Set at Walden Pond, it follows a time in a young girl’s life where she befriends a Canadian goose who teaches her how to fly. But I think it’s time to revisit the primary source.

Today Kunkel laments the absence of forward-thinking, positive life-giving inspirational memoir writing. He notes the proliferation of nostalgia and tragedy-driven chronicles of people’s lifes. Acknowledging their ability to inspire, he nevertheless wishes that what people write about felt more assertive, more in control and above all, more actively involved in engagement. He writes, “Contemporary memoirists have taught us mostly how to survive. They haven’t begun to teach us how to live.”

And that’s a powerful statement. Now, I’m not sure that it’s up to the memoirists at all. However, I understand the attraction to the Romantic kinds of “secular autobiographies,” as he calls them, where a powerful philosophical force comes directly from a person and directly from their personal experience. To take advice from one who knows. (As a side note, there’s also a review of Edward Said’s newest book on musician’s late periods, and he may just be one of these people in our era.)

But this was already on my mind because of last night’s excursion. I watched a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in my neighborhood park, and left with that puckish sensation of otherworldliness. That play has always spoken to me; on so many levels do I feel exactly what Shakespeare was trying to convey. The surety of it, and the seamless transformation from his day to ours, is astounding, really. That one moment, I am in a high school play rehearsal thinking one thing, and another, I am on a blanket in a sunset viewing of Pyramus and Thisbe in Seattle, is a strange thing to behold. But works of art connect our experience in ways unexplainable, but always thrilling.

What Kunkel is saying about teaching us how to live is important because AMND shows, rather than tells, the weight of our daily decisions, the motivations behind them, and the mystery implicit in a fantastical dramatization of  the real world that we may not believe we live in. Most likely, humans are not at the whim of faeries in the wood, but that does not deny their existence.

Suggested Reading:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Will Shakespeare (amazon)

The Fledgling – Jane Langton (amazon)Walden – Henry David Thoreau (amazon)

“Misery Loves a Memoir” – Ben Kunkel (new york times book review)

July 13, 2006

you fake just like a woman

Filed under: authenticity, live shows, marketing, music, news, reviews, writing — alimarcus @ 7:19 am

Mr. Kelefa Sanneh published an article in today’s NYT. And, for the first time, I think ever, I really enjoyed it. It’s funny. It’s about Justin Timberlake. Is this not funny?:

And there’s no particular reason to think that on his forthcoming album, “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” due Sept. 12, he will continue the fight on behalf of “sexy” boys everywhere. (Though it seems his assault on the lowly space bar WillNotEnd/AnytimeSoon.)

Maybe Justin Timberlake is too obvious of a target. Though I wouldn’t say there’s any major critique going on. Sanneh even begins to compare JT to Prince, just a little bit, and that’s sort of true, though not many people would like to admit it at this stage. The Musician Most Like Prince is, in my book, Beck. But that’s just musically; these things about sex appeal I can’t really judge b/c I missed the boat on Prince, whether a result of age or just lack of exposure.

on another note:

Last night at the Hopvine a couple next to me was paying their check and I was eavesdropping on their conversation.

He: mumble mumble mumble, looking for Eddie Vedder

She: mumble mumble

He: I mean, that’s why people come to these things, hoping that he’ll show up, or something, right?

She: mumble mumble mumble

He: Or someone like him

I guess I couldn’t understand a lot of the words. But he’s definitely wrong. Practice. That’s why we go. Well, that’s why I go, anyways. Also to see friends and to hear their music. More on the friends and the music tomorrow, post Song Circle.

July 12, 2006

wade in the water, children

Filed under: music — alimarcus @ 7:07 pm


In case anyone is ever wondering, this is how I spend 90% of my time.

July 11, 2006

my pockets were heavy

Filed under: live shows, music, rock — alimarcus @ 9:01 pm

The mention of Georgia Avenue and our 352 parties got me thinking about those crazy days. So here is a little homage to TBPOC (The Best Parties On Campus) based around the various bands we hired to play. First and last weekend of school every year, 352 was the place to be. That untouchable universe in-between 350 and 354 which only materialized twice a year amid the crowds. I think the spirit of 352 emerged at other times (and still does!) but the actual place is, sadly, gone.

August ’01: We never intended on having a band but someone offered the morning of the party. I can’t remember the name, but it was then and always has been referred to since as “Rob’s band.” It was this night that set the tone. How many kegs. What kind of beer. Sure, the police can hang out across the street and listen to the music. It doesn’t mean we’re getting in trouble, they’re just keeping folks off the roads. Who are half these people. Etc. It was also here that Cameron and I began our tradition of singing with the band. I can’t quite remember what it was this time – “Babylon” I think.

May ’02: Had to follow up with another kickass band, but the one we had booked flaked out at the last minute. My roomate ventures down to the strip of bars at lunchtime, looking for a band, comes back with Benny Dodd, the past-their-prime bunch of Allman Brothers wannabes. Benny Dodd was famous among the crowd who frequented a super-UVA bar called Coupe’s, due to their weekly gigs. They were fine. Novel, anyways. Yeah Benny Dodd played a 352 party.

August ’02: Junior year, Georgia Avenue. Our first out of town band, came with a trailer and everything. I still have the slip of paper that says “call me for bass tracks.” Making musician friends even then. Though I can’t remember the guy’s name, of course. They were good, but I think even at that point they had plateaued.

May ’03: Imported from North Carolina we had Jake’s band, another name that escapes me. There was a violinist who attracted lots of girls. Cannot remember music here here at all. Did Cam and I sing Dave Matthews? I think we did.

August ’03: Someone finally got sick of all this college rock and hired a funk band, Boogiehawg. They rocked. I think they are still gigging restaurants and small shows in Northern Virginia, three years later. Only recently have I stopped getting their newsletters. Makes me wonder. I remember they left me their CD that night and said they wanted me to sing harmony on one of their songs. Never talked to them again.

May ’04: Oh boy this was the kicker. We got Jon Thompson’s band to play. Where is he now I wonder. Cam and I did our folkie version of “Killing Me Softly” except not folkie, and had a lot of fun. Especially my trademark move: forget the words, collapse on the stage in laughter, and chalk it up to the champagne. That was a true moment.  

These were my early experiences in event production. Oh, the meetings and the money collecting and the decision making. Anyone will tell you they were the best parties around, so I think 352 left a kind of legacy all it’s own. I learned about keg tapping and the frat-boy power of being the one behind the bar. I learned how not to get wasted and then get on stage. (Collapse in laughter, works every time.) I learned the true meaning of Launchpad after I slept on it. I learned about the crusty strangers who come around in the mornings with trash bags and clean up all the beer cups. I learned the true importance of chord sheets that have the right chords on them. That was probably my most relevant lesson.

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