Friday, September 16, 2011

Steve Winwood - "Night Train" from the Album Arc of a Diver

Steve Winwood Arc of a Diver CD cover"Night Train" from Arc of A Diver played on the way home, and it got me thinking of the time I saw Steve Winwood in Europe.

A little internet research just now and I can tell the tale: That my grandfather had decided he would take me to Europe after my high school graduation on or around the 15th of June 1983.

While Europe is pretty amazing even if you limit yourself to the parts your grandparents might dig, for the most part the excursion was exactly the whitebread sightseeing kind of trip you'd expect when you're with your grandparents. But on a couple nights they handed me some dough and let me run around the town we were in on my very own. And I of course did the things an 18-year old kid would: those having to do with drugs and rock 'n' roll. When we were in Amsterdam, for example, I hit the world famous Milky Way and bought and then consumed some Afghani black hash, the cottonmouth then averted with a bunch of skunky Dutch beer. And in Luxembourg, on the 20th, I went to see Winwood at the Théâtre Municipale.

It's a long time ago now, but I still do remember a long and excellent version of the same song I heard this evening while driving home. It's funny: Because I remembered "Night Train" so clearly, I'd long thought that this tour Winwood had done, and this show I had seen, was in support of Arc of a Diver, but I'm realizing only now that in fact the tour was behind Talking Back to the Night.

I really don't remember much of the concert, but I've found it interesting to find that this guy here says that the show was in his "top ten gigs of all time." Not going there, but I definitely remember, and always have remembered, the experience as being one of an ace rock 'n' roll show.

Steve Winwood 1983 Tour shirtFound the image next door on eBay, and looking at the back of the T-shirt now, I see that the gig I attended in Luxembourg is not even listed. Winwood had been in Brussels on the 19th and was in Saarbrucken on the 21st; I guess they decided to turn the day off into a payday sometime after the tour was booked and the merch was manufactured. I seem to recall coming across a small handbill for the event--rather than a grandiose poster--during the day while I was touring with my grandparents, which would reinforce this idea I'm getting that the show was scheduled and promoted last-minute.

Another, and probably the most vivid, thing I remember about this concert is that, arriving early, I hooked up and started chatting with a pair of Luxembourgians who were sitting next to me. I babbled something about Yes no doubt, and they recommended in return Barclay James Harvest. I mentioned Kansas, and they had no clue at all. Then the house lights went down and the three of us enjoyed the show as you do. The band was energetic, and the crowd was enthusiastic, and an encore got played, and Winwood said good night, and the house lights went up and the drummer threw something into the audience landed a few rows behind us, I figured it was a rag or whatever and I bid my newly met friends good night, told them well met and they said: hold on.

They said yeah, let's sit here and talk a bit more while the crowd files out, and I said sure, why not, time's not precious I'm on vacation. And we talked some more rock and roll, can't remember what but I'm sure it was pleasant enough, until the theatre was basically empty, one of the guys climbed backward over his seat and then crawled over a couple more until he found what he was looking for.

Climbing back towards us, he explained in a lowered voice that in European countries with harsh drug laws, and Luxembourg was that, it was fairly common for musicians passing through to toss their fans a bone so to speak in the form of little drug packets tossed into the audience.

I'd never heard of such a thing before, and I've never heard of such a thing since. but Luxembourger prog-rock brother sure enough had some dope in his hand when he arrived back in our row.

So I hung with my buddies a little longer. With no small aura of paranoia, we left the theatre and found a thousand-year old bridge or something nearby that gave us some cover from the long arm of the Duchy's law while we smoked the pot and let the buzz spreads it wanton fingers through us.

Then the moment was gone, and my Central European buddies and I parted for good, and I wandered stoned and more than just a little paranoid through the dark stone streets of Luxembourg for a short time, trying to and eventually succeeding in finding my hotel.

Good memories brought on by a good song.

Steve Winwood - Night Train.mp3

File under: Multi-instrumentalist Rock

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Lack of Favorite Things


Don't worry, Hipster Kitty, and Hipster Kitty fans, I haven't decided to change featured memes for this blog, although I will admit to having briefly considered it. But no, Music Nerd Octopus is just a guest today, on loan from his real home at

(And OK, before we move on, let's give that hyperlink address just prior a second look:
It may just be the greatest url ever).

Anyway, Mr. MNO is here to help me tell a story . A story about how last week Melanie and I were invited to go down to the Grand Central Club in downtown Miami to hear her Whole Foods co-worker play a set with her synth 'n' laptop band. The music was . . . not for me. The word that came to mind as I sought to explain was "techno," although they describe themselves as "rave/house,". which probably only serves to highlight how disconnected I am from music of this sort.

A horribly blurred picture I took at the Grand Central Club. Can't tell the musicians, but aren't the colors pretty?
But good for Khadija and Mike, you know? And then after the show, we ran into them in the parking lot, and Melanie said nice things and in doing so pointed at me and muttered something about the weird music I listen to. And suddenly I was being asked by Melanie or Khadija about my favorite band or bands, and I literally had no clue as to how to respond. I muttered something like, "I don't really have any favorites," which sounds like I'm just not that much into music, and which is of course totally inaccurate if you're trying to figure out just what it is I am also.

So fuck. It's complicated. Melanie says something about "Sonic Youth" for me, and Khadija nods her head, saying "yeah we like Sonic Youth, too" and I nod my head also, but inside I'm like, No! I have real issues with Sonic Youth. They're not my favorites, they're just a band that was really good for a good while!, though fortunately I kept my mouth shut.

So what's the point here, beyond the fact that I am just as socially inept at age 46 as I was at age 16? Well, I think it's that in my old age I've moved past this concept we've all had of "favorite band." I remain enthused about music. With the resources available these days, I continue to discover new music all the time. I love music as much as I did as a teenager. Music may in fact be the only thing holding me together, with the household going bankrupt and the Astros in the shit-tank.

But I don't have a favorite band, and haven't had as I think about it, for quite some time. I don't know how to answer the question. I know of bands who used to be my favorites, Iron Maiden and Yes and Sonic Youth, but now they're each just one of many whom I like, each one of many with highlights and lowlights and stories and albums and songs, and I really can't say I prefer one to any other any more.

I think I have said something like "Boris are the best band on the planet" in the recent past, and on reflection now as I write I do even believe that to be true. But still, I wouldn't say Boris are my favorite band. Maybe it's splitting hairs, but I think not.

Perhaps it's that I now realize everything will turn to shit at some point, every band will break up, or release their sell-out album, or get in a lifechanging car accident, or just reach a point where they now no longer agree with me on the things I listen to them for.

Or maybe it was the fallow period that I had, four or five years in the mid nineties when I paid less attention to music than at any other time in my life, a time when I was led to concentrate on other things, a time which passed without anguish and relatively painlessly while my formerly favorite outfits worked on without my attention.

But mostly, I think it's this: of course I've had fun with my blogspot and now with my tumblr, but I believe I have a greater respect for the music now, as I now have a greater respect for growing older. I do take it more seriously than I did back when I was riding my bike to the record store. This isn't making silly lists in history class anymore. It's the way I live my life, powerful music to accompany me and to grab hold of as I struggle through. What it is, I figure, is that I've dropped some of my adolescent enthusiasms while still maintaining my enthusiasm.