Ted Hawkins

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I can't say that I know the specifics of his story, but I know it goes something like this: Ted Hawkins was homeless and collecting change by strumming his guitar up and down the Santa Monica pier. One day a record producer, or maybe it was an A&R rep, passed by Hawkins and was mesmerized by his mix of soul, blues and folk. His sound was as much Otis Redding as it was Townes Van Zandt.

He subsequently went on to land a recording contract and spit out some of the best records of the 80s and 90s. Despite critical acclaim, he remained under the radar for most of his short career. He died in Los Angeles in 1995 and it was his posthumous release "The Final Tour" (1998) that summed up his genuis. If there's ever an artist that deserves more praise, it's Ted Hawkins. Start with "The Final Tour" and then move on to "Happy Hour" and "Watch Your Step". You won't regret it.

Top 10 of 2006

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It was a week year, but here's what I've got:

1 Bruce Springsteen: We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions
2 Centro-matic: Fort Recovery
3 Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
4 Cat Power: The Greatest
5 Tim Easton: Ammunition
6 Richard Buckner: Meadow
7 The Pernice Brothers: Live a Little
8 The Drams: Jubilee Dive
9 Vetiver: To Find Me Gone
10 Cold War Kids: Up In Rags

Overall

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The ten most important musicians in my lifetime (to me):

1 Bruce Springsteen
2 Jeff Tweedy
3 Bob Dylan
4 Richard Buckner
5 Elliott Smith
6 Nick Drake
7 Jay Farrar
8 Neil Young
9 Gary Louris
10 Townes Van Zandt

Others: Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, E, Damien Jurado, Joe Pernice, Will Oldham, Beck, Aimee Mann, Josh Rouse, Mark Bolan, Kevin Russell/Jimmy Smith, Ray Davies, Will Johnson, Paul Westerberg, Johnny Cash, Rhett Miller, Tim Easton, Brent Best, M. Ward, Paul McCartney/John Lennon, Michael Stipe.........

The Pernice Brothers

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It's been a long time since a new record really blew me away. I've probably bought about 40 new releases this year and, until recently, I couldn't think of one that should top my year end list. Centro-matic maybe? Cat Power? Good records, but not great records.

I fell in love with The Perince Brothers before they were The Pernice Brothers. It was the summer of 1995 and the Scud Mountain Boys were opening for Wilco and Blue Mountain at Tramps in New York City. Joe Pernice and two others sat around a candlelit table and strummed through some of the prettiest songs I'd ever heard. I really dug "Massachusetts". Then came The Pernice Brothers and the brilliant "Overcome By Happiness". "The World Won't End" followed and was nearly as good. Then came a step back with "Yours, Mine & Ours". Then I lost interest.

A few months ago a colleague from the D.C. area was raving about their new one "Live a Little". I hated to admit it, but my time was up with Pernice. Then a friend sent me the track "PCH One". I liked it. But not enough. At the end of that month I had just enough tracks remaining in my eMusic montly to pick up the record. I hesitated, but I bought it.

Now two months later this record's a strong contender for record of the year. It's Pernice's best output since 1998. It's everything Joe Pernice was set to do in music. Beautiful vocals, moving lyrics and a solid backing band. Right now I'm listening to "Somerville" and it reminds me of that June night back in 1995. That was when music was my life. I guess it still is. It sure feels that way right now.

Gimme Shelter

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This afternoon I watched "Gimme Shelter" for the first time. What an amazing take on a rock n' roll band in its prime. Granted the Rolling Stones are nothing but a laughable cash cow these days. But back in the 60s and 70s The Rolling Stones changed the face of music forever. Blues. Rock n' Roll. Country. They covered just about genre and they blasted through songs like no other band then or now.

This fantasic documentary got me thinking about music today. Well, it got me thinking about how vapid music today is. We don't have The Stones, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen (in his prime), The Kinks, The Replacements or anyone even close. I mean, when was the last time a band really influenced music, the nation or the people.

Who are the best bands going today? Radiohead? C'mon they're the most overrated band in decades. Wilco? They're probably the closest, but they haven't released a moving record in half a decade. That's about it. Radiohead and Wilco are probably the most important bands today and unfortunately, they don't touch any of the bands mentioned above.

With the War in Iraq blazing and the country in desperate need of change, it's amazing that nobody's risen to the forefront in rock n' roll. We need another Rolling Stones. We need Bob Dylan. And what do we have?

A Week in the South

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A trip to my father's house was oftentimes a bit trying. In the past, the time spent with my father would usually be spent alone amidst a swirl of booze, parties and strangers.

My dad's gotten older. He can't drink like he used to. He hasn't stopped altogether. But he just doesn't have the stamina that he did back in the 80s and early 90s.

This past week in Myrtle Beach was one of the most memorable trips I've taken to see my father, stepmother and siblings. Sure, we drank. But like we have in the past. I caught a matinee with my father on a cold Friday afternoon. We talked about my future. He displayed a newfound generosity that was usually reserved for my half sister and half brother. We ate.

I also spent a great deal of the week with my brother John. I whipped his ass in a ping pong tournament that just wouldn't come to an end. We split in bowling. We bought a bunch of shots. We talked about the Yankees and music. We bolted onto a stage at 2am to duet on Springsteen's "Thunder Road" (yes, I was down on one knee).

It was what Thanksgiving is supposed to be. Family. Cheers. And most importantly, a load of memories.

Dems Good Beeble

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It was mid-2000 when I read a classic NY Times piece on Al Gore. I can't remember the details, but it was one of those Times features on the candidates. It completely changed my outlook on politics. The guy seemed real. In an odd way, he seemed like me. I started following.

Bush won in 2000. I was angry. I felt about 3 or 4 days like GWB in the days following September 11th. I was in New York at the time and I was humbled and oddly touched by Bush's speech at the WTC. That lasted for about a week. Then came the real George W. The hypocrite. The liar. The biased prick. The man that left me wanting to leave the United States. I started to dislike my country. This wasn't America. This was ideology. This was fear. This was a man ruling like a psychopant (that can't be spelled correctly).

Then came 2004. I quit my job and worked for John Kerry. Unlike most, I truly believed in the guy. I saw him speak in the Bronx and felt something. I thought he had it. But he shrivelled under the pressure. He was a hero in Vietnam and couldn't stand up this absolute sick freak. I knew it wasn't going to happen. And it didn't.

When I walked into my apartment tonight and hit cnn.com and saw that Jim Webb won Virginia I had a chill down my spine. Finally! I often wonder who in their right mind votes Republican. The Democrats want an increase to the atrocious minimum wage. They want health care for everyone. They want peace. How in the world does this country not support such causes. Gay marriage? The death penalty? Are people really that fearful? Does this REALLY drive folks to vote for sickos like Bush, Santorum and the rest of the lot.

The Democrats have won the House and the Senate. And once again I feel American. I can only hope that we're back on course to being the American that we all love. I think we are. The days of George W. Bush and his elitist pricks are coming to an end. My days of feeling like an American have returned.

Top iTunes Play Count

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I've been listening to music almost solely (exception: vinyl (mostly on Sunday's)) via my iMac and iPod for going on two years.

Over that time, here are the song I've listened to most:

1 Blinking Lights (For Me) :: Eels 61
2 Bobby Rodan :: Kenny Roby 49
3 Triggers and Trash Heaps :: Centro-matic 47
4 Little Bombs :: Aimee Mann 45
5 Papercuts :: The Havenots 43
6 I See Through You :: Centro-matic 40
7 Just Like Anyone :: Aimee Mann 39
7 Sometimes Always :: Brakes 39
9 Underwater/Overland :: The Havenots 38
10 Before the Deluge :: Jackson Browne 37
11 Today Is the Day :: Apollo Sunshine 36
11 Rise Up With Fists!!! :: Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins 36
13 NY Pie :: Brakes 35
13 Devils & Dust :: Bruce Springsteen 35
13 Saint Augustine :: South San Gabriel 35
16 The Way :: Bonnie "Prince" Billy 34
17 History of Lovers :: Iron/Wine & Calexico 34
17 Calling Thermatico :: Centro-matic 34
17 El Otro Lado :: Josh Rouse 34
17 Our Way To Fall :: Yo La Tengo 34
21 My Heart Is Like a Day :: The Havenots 33
21 Decatur, or, Round of Applause... :: Sufjan Stevens 33
23 Simple Hello :: Damien Jurado 32
23 Gravity's Gone :: Drive-by Truckers 32
25 Jackson :: Brakes 31
25 The Greatest :: Cat Power 31
25 In Such Crooked Times :: Centro-matic 31

Now THAT could make for an amazing mix disc.

T. Rex

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If you don't own T. Rex's "The Slider" and "Electric Warrior" then you are an asshole.

Born To Run

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Tower Records opened up the world, but Springsteen's "Born To Run" is where it all began. I think it was the summer of 1980 when I first heard this record. I was seven years old at the time. Every other weekend my mother would drop me off at my dad's house a few towns away. I'd usually spend the weekends trying to occupy myself in front of a television, behind the screen of a video game or shooting hoops in the driveway.

Every night I'd stroll up to bed around 10pm, but this is usually when the night began. As I'd crawl into bed the party downstairs would just be getting started. In the early 80s my dad and his group of friends drank a lot. And I mean a lot. Each night the only warmth and comfort I'd find would be the guitars, words and spirit of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run". My dad loved Springsteen. If it wasn't "Born To Run" then it was "The River". But most nights it was "Born To Run". I followed the stories throughout the songs. I followed the struggles. I followed the people.

At the time, very little in life made sense to me. I was lost in a divorce that left me lonely, scared as shit and searching. But there was Springsteen. This made sense. I was hiding on the backstreets of Ramsey, New Jersey until the end.

"Somewhere tonight you run sad and free
Until all you can see is the night"
-"Night" / Bruce Springsteen

The End of an Era

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If there was ever a place that shaped my listening habits and ultimately my career course, Tower Records was it. During my teen years, the Tower Records on Route 17 in Paramus, New Jersey provided respite from the conservative crap that inhabited suburban New Jersey. I would spend entire Saturdays listening to new releases at the listening stations. I'd scour the singles. I'd sit and read Rolling Stone or Spin. I was in heaven. Every time I walked out the doors I'd be anticipating my next return.

Throughout college, the Tower on Newbury Street in Boston was my second home. It was massive. When you scurried through the revolving doors you found yourself in a mecca of music. There were FLOORS of cds. Rock was on floor 2, while Folk was floor 4. The t-shirts were on floor 3. I bought hundreds and hundreds of cds there. I spent many Monday nights waiting for the clock to turn to midnight. When it did, the Tower doors would open and the new releases would sit crisply right before your eyes. I bought Wilco's first record at this Tower. And Son Volt's. And tens of others.

The digital age is here for good. And unfortunately that marks the end for Tower Records. The thrill of a manic trip down the aisles of Tower Records left a huge stamp on the early part of my life. Nirvana. Uncle Tupelo. The Replacements. Public Enemy. The Kinks. I discovered them all at Tower.

Tuesday's Return

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Since the age of 17 or so, Tuesday's have been somewhat special. And that's because Tuesday's are the day that new releases hit the shelves in the music industry. While in college, a number of friends and I would often go to "midnight madness" on Tuesday's. As the clock turned from 1159 to 1200, the Tower Records on Boylston Street would open its doors and a few music freaks would rush in to get the new release or releases that they just couldn't wait another few hours to hear. I bought Wilco's first record "A.M." at midnight madness, and there were countless others.

With the onset of the digital age and the closing of record stores from coast-to-coast, the lure of Tuesday has lost a lot of its appeal. With a few clicks of the mouse we now have instant access to basically everything that we want. Although I'm a tradionalist at heart, like many, I have fallen into the digital space. It's just too easy.

Today felt like a Tuesday in the late 90s. Although I didn't hop in my car and head to Amoeba, I did find myself spending this evening picking up one release after another. And after the new releases came others that I'd been waiting to cross off my list. By day's end I've picked up four records, three that came out today. New releases by Beck, The Hold Steady and the Pernice Brothers have been downloaded and added to my ever-growing iTunes library. While searching around eMusic, I also grabbed the exclusive live Gillian Welch cd.

I made very little effort to buy these records. There was no rush to the store. There was no rippng open of cd cases. No liner notes. And oddly enough, I sit here with my ears glued to Solomon Burke's "Nashville". I suppose it just isn't the same. But it is Tuesday. And any music lover knows what that means.

Bill Clinton on Fox News & Tim Easton

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If only he could serve again.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, President Bill Clinton handed it to Chris Wallace of Fox and it's about damn time. Why didn't John Kerry do this? Why doesn't Hillary do this? When will the democratic party understand that 50% of the country detests the conservative right and all that goes with it. W, Cheney, Frist, Santorum and the rest of those sickos are the most corrupt and yes, EVIL, leaders that this country has ever seen. SOMEONE NEEDS TO SPEAK UP ABOUT THIS!!!!

Sure, maybe Clinton went a bit overboard for a president. But there are millions out there who feel the same anger towards these crooked, narrow-minded, greedy bastards.

Tangent: Singer-songwriter Tim Easton sums up my feelings about how the conservative right has co-opted religion and turned it into a political tool. That's all it is folks. George W. and his cohorts contradict the teachings of the bible nearly every minute of every day. They're thirty for war. They abandon the poor without blinking an eye. They discrimate against millions. They pad their wallets. These are not altruistic people. They are sick freaks. Tim Easton says it best:

"J.P.M.F.Y.F" by Tim Easton

Jesus, protect me
Jesus, protect me
From your followers
Not all of them
Just the ones
Who turn love into fear and hatred
And the ones who say they are above me
And then point their fingers down at me
And the ones who judge me when I'm troubled
And they tell me on the street that I am lost
And they tell me on my doorstep that I will burn in hell
Jesus, protect me
Jesus, protect me
From your followers
Like the ones who only speak with anger
They're screaming from my television
While stealing from the hand that feeds them
And demanding that you are the only way
While spitting in the face of love
With the one hand on the bible and the other in the purse
Jesus, protect me
Jesus, protect me
From your followers
Like the ones who turn their back on the dying
And laugh in the face of pain and suffering
They would kill in the name of freedom
Or the ones who would manipulate the Constitution
And try to make laws of their opinions
While walking shoulder-to-shoulder with greed and violence
To the ones who would start wars in your name
To the ones who would attack me for this song
I sing
Jesus, protect me
Jesus, protect me
From your followers
Not all of them
Just the ones
Who turn love into fear and hatred
Yes, they turn love into fear and hatred

20,000 Songs Later

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And here's the tally of the artists I've listened to most since June of 2005.

1 Bob Dylan 600
2 Wilco 585
3 Bruce Springsteen 575
4 Josh Rouse 494
5 Elliott Smith 472
6 Eels 451
7 M. Ward 450
8 Damien Jurado 391
9 Centro-Matic 341
10 Richard Buckner 302
11 Uncle Tupelo 291
12 Iron & Wine 284
13 Bonnie 'Prince' Billy 283
14 Aimee Mann 274
15 The Jayhawks 253
16 Neil Young 240
17 Son Volt 227
18 Kenny Roby 225
19 The Wrens 222
20 Nick Drake 218
21 The Gourds 216
22 Sufjan Stevens 203
23 The New Pornographers 188
24 Beck 183
25 Tim Easton 171
26 The Decemberists 166
27 Okkervil River 165
27 Townes Van Zandt 165
29 Spoon 158
30 Richmond Fontaine 157

Records of the Month

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I've had a minor resurgence in my listening. Here's what's been hitting me the past month:

RICHARD BUCKNER - MEADOW
STEVE EARLE - GUITAR TOWN
THE FORMAT - DOG PROBLEMS
VETIVER - TO FIND ME GONE
BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY - THE LETTING GO
THE ROLLING STONES - THE SINGLES COLLECTION, VOL. 1-3
OKKERVIL RIVER - BLACK SHEEP BOY
RAY CHARLES - MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC
CENTRO-MATIC - LOVE YOU JUST THE SAME
THE BAND - MUSIC FROM BIG PINK
BAND OF HORSES - EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME
ELLIOTT SMITH - FROM A BASEMENT ON A HILL

Childlike and Evergreen

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In January of 2005 I departed the East for the West while simultaneously labelling myself as single for the first time in close to three years. I left behind quite possibly the most wonderful person I'd ever met, but something drove me to break ties. Freedom? Uncertainty? I still don't know. And neither does she. It still stands as the greatest relationship of my life and provided memories that I will reflect on until the day I die.

Since supplanting myself in the Bay Area, my romantic life has been quite possibly worthy of a weekly column. I've had one sort-of relationship that lasted about two months. Ironically, she was in New York. I knew from the outset that it wouldn't last, but there was a passion to it that kept me around for a while. Right before Christmas of last year that came to a close.

There have been a smattering of dates throughout 2006, but none seemed destined for anything beyond a few good nights out.

However, there were two. The first I met one night in Los Angeles and was immediately floored. And I mean floored. We spent the entire night laughing, drinking, talking, and after endless hours of talking, finally dozed off around 7am. I awoke the following morning and couldn't believe what'd happened. We went on to speak everyday on the phone for two months - usually multiple times a day. I finally made it back to LA for a business trip and the plan was to extend the trip through the weekend and spend a few days with her. I couldn't wait. It appeared as if she couldn't either. When I arrived in LA I called her and invited her out for drinks with a few colleagues. I sensed a distance. Something had changed. And it had. I was never given a reason, but the extension of the weekend was nixed and I returned to SF broken. Sure, it was only one night with her. But man was this one night (and I don't mean the way you're thinking).

The second likely came to a close today. I met her the first day I landed in the Bay Area. She had a boyfriend at the time. And she still does. However, over the course of the past 20 months or so we've kept in close touch. Nothing has ever happened aside from growing closer through conversation. We've both admitted that there was more. But we left it at that. Until today. She'd made a few trips up to SF to visit me over the past few months and we both realized that things were coming to a head. It had to. Last week she said she wanted to come visit and finally decide what we should do. As always is the case with us, we spent an amazing day together. We had lunch in Sausalito, drank a few bloody mary's, stopped for coffee and the conversation flowed. I could sense the decision was coming. As has happened every time that she's visited, she missed her train home. With an hour to kill, we stopped into a local pub. I knew that this was it.

"I came here with the intention of saying that we have to stop", she said.
"And is that what you want?"
As she looked away, I had no clue what to expect.
Next came a very slight nod.
"It's ok", I sheepishly replied.
We sat in silence for what seemed to be ten hours.

I then walked her to her train. As the conductor was prodding her to step through the gates, she grabbed me. "Good luck to you", she said. She then wrapped her arms around me. She looked me in the eyes and kissed me. The embrace got tigther. We couldn't let go. "Now", said the conductor. We ignored. I finally let go. We kept looking at each other. I finally turned to walk away. With each step, I wondered if we were walking away for good.

Brooklyn To San Francisco

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Where is the San Francisco that I thought I'd find? I've now lived in the Bay Area for close to two years, and I must admit, this is not the city I thought it would be.

I lived in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn for six years prior to moving to SF. After just six months of living there, I felt at home. I knew the owners of the local shops. I had stumbled upon the local bars that played the right music and served the right drinks. I found the parks. I met the right people. Brooklyn became home. There was the Italian Ice shop on 7th Avenue. There was Holy Cow Records (RIP) on 7th. There were great shows at Southpaw on 5th. There was that classic tavern beside Southpaw. There was the classic Polish family at the local laundromat.

Here in SF, I've yet to find much. I have yet to locate a bar that feels like home. The neighborhoods leave much to be desired. The people are, well, just not that welcoming.

Sure, the weather and scenery is absolutely stunning. But it feels like a city lost in its cliques.

Whatever It Is

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Here goes my once every six months personal post.

I've been a bit quiet of late. I guess the inspiration's been a bit lagging. I can't really pinpoint why as there haven't been any significant tumultuous moments in my life of late. Actually, maybe that has a bit to do with it. The past few months have been, well, a bit of a bore. While experiencing this malaise, I've also been going through a little overall life transitional period. The life that I've led from say age 21-31 is a life that doesn't particularly interest me much more. What was that life? Well, I certainly have tons of great memories, a few that have been bubbling in my head lately, but overall that decade was a decade of drinking, a decade of inconsistent relationships, a decade of family troubles. I don't know where things go from here on out, but there's definitely a change on the horizon. I seem to appreciate differen things today. Things like the grass in my backyard, a hello from a stranger, a catch-up e-mail from a friend, a call from my sister. Perhaps it's maturity. Whatever it is, it's an odd transition and I'm just getting used to it. I'm sure it'll all fall into place soon.

Although I feel this transition taking place, as I mentioned above, there are a number of memories that have been hitting me lately. These are moments when I felt utter and complete happiness. These surges of joy usually only lasted a few minutes or even a few seconds, but as I move into this next phase, I want to get these down in writing so not to forget:

-I often rehash a moment I had while on a vacation with a former girlfriend in Ponte Vedre, FL. One morning, we set the alarms for 430am and trekked down to the beach to watch the sunrise. Well, we got there a bit early and sat in pitch black for about 45 mins. As the sun started to creep over the Atlantic, we caught sight of another early riser. As he got closer, we noticed that he was running with his dog. As his dog pulled ahead of him, my girlfriend stood up, grabbed a random tennis ball buried right next to us and started playing with the dog. It was a moment. Something hit me and I almost lost it. Complete happiness. It's a moment I'll remember until the day I die.

-Austin, TX, 2005. I arrived for the South By Southwest Music Conference and headed out to see the band South San Gabriel. For the previous six months or so, the SSG song "New Brookland" streamed through my ipod about 500 times. As I walked into the venue, I was immediately greeted by my closest friends from New York. They ordered up a round of beers and we headed to the outdoor patio as SSG hit the stage. It was an absolutely stunning Texas night. The faint drumbeat started up and glimmering blue lights danced across the stage as the band one-by-one walked up to their instruments and crept into this stunning song. I was uplifted beyond belief. I remember turning away from my friends because I felt the tears coming. It was another one of those moments.

There are so many more: 1) Experiencing a magical Yankees World Series game from the Stadium bleachers on my brothers 21st birthday 2) Every time my younger sister makes me laugh 3) Talking to my grandmother about her life just days before her life was coming to a close 4) A 105 degree day in Cincinnati while driving around and listening to Son Volt demos in my brothers piece-of-shit AC-less Honda Accord.

Next week I head back to the East Coast to see my first sibling get married. I suppose that this day may bring on another one of those moments. And throughout this long weekend, I'm sure that her sense of humor will once again have me bursting with laughter.

The best to you all....

Oh, and going forward I'm going to start including my record of the week in each post. This week it's Bobby Bare Jr's "From the End of Your Leash" (2004)

Steve Earle's "Jerusalem"

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I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin' in
And I can't lay me down
And the drums are drummin' again
And I can't stand the sound

But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Pitchfork Music Festival (4.5)

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I don't know, maybe I'm just too old for this. Had it not been for work, there's no way in hell I would've wasted a weekend at this festival. Actually, I wouldn't waste a weekend at any festival. Outdoor festivals are, for the most part, fairly miserable experiences. The music never sounds good. There are always way too many people. It takes too long to get a beer or to go to the bathroom.

Pitchfork did a number of things right. For one, ticket prices for the entire weekend were a mere $30. That's insanely low given the Live Nation's and Clear Channel's of the world. There were plenty of restrooms and plenty of places to get food, water and beer. The problem: the bands. This was hipster-nation and the choice of acts was awful. Band of Horses, Mission of Burma, Glenn Kotche...all told, I could barely tell the difference from one act to the next. They were all loud, lacking in harmony or depth and altogether just flat. Even the Silver Jews and Spoon did very little at this event. The bands were rushed and couldn't get into a groove.

And oh boy was the scene downright pathetic. I now equate hipsters with frat boys. They're basically the same. Tight t-shirts, those absurd big sunglasses, moustaches. This was just hilarious. I couldn't have felt more out of place.

This wasn't a music event, but rather a stomping ground for people to show off their vintage T. Rex and Velvet Underground t-shirts. I wanted music. I got nothing even close.

record of the weekend

1 comments

and i am now off to watch 'short cuts'

For Squirrels

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I recently mentioned the For Squirrels gem "Mighty K.C." Well, thanks to the magic of youtube:

Number 1

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How does one explain rock n' roll? I mean, isn't rock n' roll just a feeling? It's something that enters you and, in many cases, sticks there for a lifetime. To my ears no genre compares. Rap, Hip-Hop, Country, Jazz, Blues...to me, they're all sub-genres of rock n' roll. All of them. And that's because rock n' roll is a fusion of them all.

What is the perfect rock n' roll sound? Well, I heard it when I was about five years old. And to this day it STILL sounds perfect. It still sounds new. It still captures EVERY element of the spirit that is rock n' roll.

Of the 3,000+ records in my collection, it's Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" that captures it all. This record was released over 40 years ago, yet it's all brand new. This record defines rock n' roll.

Top 50 (2-10)

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2 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN "DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF THE TOWN" (1978)

3 RICHARD BUCKNER "DEVOTION + DOUBT" (1997)

4 NICK DRAKE "BRYTER LAYTER" (1970)

5 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN "THE WILD, THE INNOCENT, THE E STREET SHUFFLE" (1973)

6 UNCLE TUPELO "STILL FEEL GONE" (1991)

7 THE BEATLES "THE WHITE ALBUM" (1968)

8 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN "BORN TO RUN" (1975)

9 ELLIOTT SMITH "FIGURE 8" (2000)

10 SON VOLT "WIDE SWING TREMOLO" (1998)

Top 50 (11-20)

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11 THE JAYHAWKS "HOLLYWOOD TOWN HALL" (1992)

12 NEIL YOUNG "AFTER THE GOLD RUSH" (1970)

13 WILCO "BEING THERE" (1996)

14 THE WRENS "THE MEADOWLANDS" (2003)

15 UNCLE TUPELO "ANODYNE" (1993)

16 PAVEMENT "CROOKED RAIN, CROOKED RAIN" (1994)

17 TOWNES VAN ZANDT "HIGH, LOW AND IN BETWEEN" (1996)

18 PUBLIC ENEMY "IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK" (1988)

19 JOHN LENNON "PLASTIC ONO BAND" (1970)

20 THE GOURDS "STADIUM BLITZER" (1998)

Top 50 (21-30)

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21 BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY "MASTER AND EVERYONE" (2003)

22 SON VOLT "TRACE" (1995)

23 THE JAYHAWKS "TOMORROW THE GREEN GRASS" (1995)

24 THE ROLLING STONES "EXILE ON MAIN STREET" (1972)

25 THE REPLACEMENTS "TIM" (1985)

26 WILCO "SUMMERTEETH" (1999)

27 REM "MURMUR" (1983)

28 LUCINDA WILLIAMS "CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD" (1998)

29 MARAH "LET'S CUT THE CRAP AND HOOK UP LATER ON TONIGHT" (1998)

30 BILLY BRAGG & WILCO "MERMAID AVENUE" (1998)

Top 50 (31-40)

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31 THE CLASH "LONDON CALLING" (1979)

32 NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL "IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA" (1998)

33 ROBERT BECKER "LOT #099-0038" (2000)

34 BOB DYLAN "THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN" (1963)

35 STEVE EARLE "EL CORAZON" (1997)

36 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN "NEBRASKA" (1980)

37 VAN MORRISON "ASTRAL WEEKS" (1968)

38 WHISKEYTOWN "STRANGERS ALMANAC" (1997)

40 BIG STAR "#1 RECORD/RADIO CITY" (1978)

Note: The Top 20 will include brief reviews/reasons/pleads for forgiveness

Top 50 (No Longer 100) Albums of All-Time (41-50)

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41 SCUD MOUNTAIN BOYS "MASSACHUSSETS" (1996)

42 THE MODERN LOVERS "THE MODERN LOVERS" (1976)

43 TOM WAITS "CLOSING TIME" (1973)

44 ELLIOTT SMITH "XO" (1998)

45 OLD 97S "TOO FAR TO CARE" (1997)

46 JOSH ROUSE "1972" (2003)

47 OLD 97S "FIGHT SONGS" (1999)

48 DAMIEN JURADO "GHOST OF DAVID" (2000)

49 AIMEE MANN "THE FORGOTTEN ARM" (2005)

50 CHRIS MILLS "EVERY NIGHT FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE" (1998)

Ten Most Important Musicians Right Now

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1 Jeff Tweedy
2 Bruce Springsteen
3 Will Oldham
4 Will Johnson
5 Beck
6 Britt Daniel
7 Sam Beam
8 Damien Jurado
9 Bob Dylan
10 E

Mighty K.C.

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In September of 1995, Gainseville, Florida's For Squirrels were returning to Florida following a performance at CBGBs at New York's CMJ Music Festival. The van they were in blew a tire and the van spun out of control. The lead singer, bassist and manager lost their lives in the wreck. The remaining two members suffered extensive injuries, but survived. One month later, Sony released the band's first and only record, "Example". It was a smash hit on college radio, primarily due to the haunting "Mighty K.C.", a beautiful and tragic pop masterstroke, which also served as a tribute to the late Kurt Cobain. In the mid-90s, this record rarely left the tapedeck of my Mazda 626. "Mighty K.C." along with "Orangeworker", were, and still are, two of my favorite pop songs ever recorded.

The career and art of For Squirrels was cut short just before they were set to leave their mark on the pop-rock world. Although a few of the tracks ultimately garnered a bit of attention from the music masses, this shortlived act has largely been forgotten. That is, until you get around to putting the record on. When you do, as I'm experiencing as I type this message, it's clear that For Squirrels are hard to forget.

And It's Hard To Believe.....

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YES YES YES YES

9/6
Bottom of the Hill, SF
CENTRO-MATIC

I may take the week off and travel with them up-and-down the West Coast.

Aside from Springsteen, this is the most inspiring band out there right now.

Racing In The Street

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1980 would probably be the year that I fell in love for the first time. Mind you, I was only seven years old. And it wasn't falling in love with a girl. (That happened for the first time ten years later.)

My folks divorced before I hit the age of five. It was a fairly amicable split (mostly because my mother was and is so classic). Following their divorce, I was raised by my mother. She supported my brother and I by working as a crossing guard in our suburban town in Northern New Jersey. She put every penny earned towards feeding us, clothing us and paying rent in our two-family house. My father's career was taking off at the time, and he only lived one town over. Nevertheless, we still lived a pretty meager life, but I look back on those days as a strong source for what I believe shaped my character.

Ok, back to falling in love. Every other weekend (or so), my brother and I would head to my father's house for the weekend. Given his penchant for the bottle (err, the beer can), and other things that probably shouldn't be mentioned, those weekends were far from memorable. However, there was one thing that those weekends brought to me, and that was music. Whenever my father would have one of his weekend benders with his friends, I'd lie in my bed late into the night, grasping for sleep while listening to the rock n' roll that vibrated throughout the house. The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan and others were often in the mix. But it was a New Jersey up-and-coming phenomenon named Bruce Springsteen that captured my pre-teen soul. Of all the great Springsteen records already released through 1980, it was "Darkness on the Edge of Town" that FLOORED me. I can't say I understood the political and social lyrics that made up this record, but the fury, passion and longing bled into me.

Now over 25 years later, this record has not lost an ounce of luster. It's all still there. It's all still just as relevant. Fawn Hill Court, Ramsey, NJ was where I first fell in love, and that love was for the ten songs that make up Springsteen's fourth record.

A True American Hero

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Coming (Not As) Soon (As Expected)

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Those Top 100 Albums of All-Time. I've decided to take more time and actually include a little review of why each record made the list. And keep in mind, this list will not be the records that I think are the greatest of all-time, but rather MY Top 100 (which, if I were more of a narcissist, would mean the greatest ever).

This is going to be one hell of a list.

Show of the Year?

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This could be it:

The Independent, SF, CA
June 28
Apollo Sunshine
Cold War Kids

Coming Soon

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My Top 100 Albums of All-Time. It's been about ten years since I've put together such a list and it's time to see where things stand. Many of the records that stood atop my list in 1996 will probably still be there, but there's been a lot the past decade that should position pretty well.

On the weekend front, just a great few days in SF. Finally met my buddy Joel's wife and adorable daughter, shot some hoops in the park, saw an outstanding new band called Cold War Kids, sat on the fringe of the Pacific Ocean in Ocean Beach, caught up with some siblings, family and a long-lost friend in London.

Technology, The Rush, Not a Moment

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Last weekend I went to my local park to sit on some grass, read a book and waste away a few hours on a Sunday. I've actually started doing things like this quite a bit on the weekends. Whether it be sitting on a bench in the Marina, driving up to the mountains and having lunch or just driving, I've felt the pull to spend maybe half a day each week just doing, well, nothing. I never bring my phone on these mini-trips and usually the only thing on hand is my ipod. It's been unbelievably cathartic.

While laying in my local park last weekend, a young couple walked up and sat a few feet from me. They rolled out a blanket, dropped some snacks on the blanket and before sitting, both fired up their cell phones (the man was actually alternating between two phones). I tried to relax for about 15 mins. but I couldn't help but listen in on their conversations. I moved. While I finally managed to find a little peace, I looked over a few times and sure enough, both of them were on their phones. What was the point of this trip?

I hate to sound like some existentially-driven freak, but I've noticed this type of behavior no matter where I am. This isn't a big city thing; this is an everywhere thing. People are always either on their cell phones, in a rush to get to their next destination, or planning their next move via text or e-mail. I'm not one to argue against technology, shit I work in technology, but there's a simplicity that's all but void in most of society. Does something need to be accomplished every single second of every damn day? If I had to pinpoint the most memorable moments of my life, nine out of ten would be unplanned events: something I witnessed, something I felt, something I was moved by. We need more of this. It's all right there for the taking.

Latest Playlist

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I've been on a bit of a media craze lately. Having been bitten by a bit(ten) of the flu, I've had a lot of time to listen to records, read books and watch movies. Here's what's captured me attention:

MUSIC
Neutral Milk Hotel "On Avery Island" (John's pumped)
Emmylou Harris "Wrecking Ball" (Belgium)
K. McCarty "Dead Dog's Eyeball" (Brings me back to 1995)
Damnations TX "Half Mad Moon" (SXSW)
Cracker "Kerosene Hat" (Boston)
Tim Easton "Ammunition" (New one)
Yo La Tengo "Fakebook" (1995)
Bruce Springsteen "The Seeger Sessions" (Shocking)
Cat Power "The Greatest" (Favorite Record of 2006)
Paul Westerberg "Stereo" (It's about time)
Luna "Lunapark" (Oh yeah)
Sam Cooke "Portrait of a Legend" (Most accurate album title ever)

BOOKS
Raymond Carver "Cathedrals" (Brings me somewhere)
Harp Magazine (Great new issue)

MOVIES
"Murderball" (moving)
"We Don't Live Here Anymore" (Watched over and over)

Now Playing: Tim Easton "Jesus Protect Me From Your Followers"

A Real San Francisco Weekend

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I'd have to say that this past weekend was the most satisfying weekends I've had in this fine city. One of my closest friends from NYC arrived on Thursday night. We made pretty much no plans and figured we'd just do whatever comes to mind.

Friday: Outstanding mexican food in Noe Valley followed by a trip to see an MIA-imitation hailing from Japan named Tigarah. She was ok, but left a lot to be desired. Another friend met up and she was in quite the jovial mood, somewhat surprising given that by the time she landed at the bar we were about 48 drinks in. We all ended up going back to my apartment, drank a bottle of wine (ok, I drank a bottle of wine) and listened to T. Rex, The Replacements, Centro-matic and other great shit until about 4am.

Saturday: Late start. A great breakfast. A trip down to the Embarcadero to catch "An Inconvenient Truth". Although Al Gore remains one of the my present-day heroes and his environmental ambitions are extremely inspirational to moi, the movie left a bit to be desired. A good movie, no question, but it could've been more powerful. Then some great Chinese food. Then Vesuvio for a few beers. Then sleep.

Sunday: Another great breakfast. Trip to the airport to drop off NYC. Then I sat in the park in the blazing sun and read a book. I ended up down at the Ferry Building and had one of those moments. The moments that are fleeting. One of those moments when something grabs you. I think it was the wind, the sky, the spirit and just a moment of perfection. It was while I was walking back to my car. Everything washed away. It was the first time in years that I'd experienced this feeling. The last time was on a beach in Ponte Vedra, Florida a few years back. I stopped. I took a breath. I looked up to the sky. I walked slowly and that feeling drifted off. It was there and it was gone.

Monday Sounds

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Sunday Sounds

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Home

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This afternoon I found out that my mother and stepfather bought a new house in Maryland. This news means that the home in which I was raised will offically leave the family. After my parents divorced in the mid-70s, I was essentially raised by my mother and stepfather in Allendale, New Jersey. For around 20 years, this white house, built in the late 19th century was my home. I grew up with my older brother, younger half-sister and I have thousands of memories from this three-bedroom house in the suburbs of Northern New Jersey.

My memories of New Jersey are essentially mixed. That said, I'm ready to bid farewell to this home. And I'm ready to bid farewell to New Jersey. There's little question that the years spent in this home shaped who I am today. We had a fairly tight family, though all told, it was a pretty quiet household. Over the past few years, since leaving New Jersey, I've actually grown a lot closer to my mother, stepfather, and most recently, my sister. I think we're all ready to bid farewell to the house on West Maple. We'll all take some great memories with us, but the time has come to move on.

When I spoke to my mother and stepfather today I could sense growth in their voices. I know they'll miss it, but it was clear by the excitement in their voices, that they're ready to move forward. I will head home one more time for my sister's wedding in the fall. Following that, my new home away from home, will be about 500 miles to the South. And at the age of almost 60, my mother finally has a swimming pool. She's dreamed of this day.

Howard Fineman on Al Gore

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May 24, 2006 - In Washington the other day, I got a chance to tell Al Gore something I’d meant to say for a long time, which was that I thought his real strength, his real contribution, was as an observer—writer, explainer, outsider—and not as a politician.

The new movie about him was evidence of that, I said. He gave me a blank, dismissive look, and an “umm” for a verbal response.

I’ve known and covered Gore for decades, so maybe his reaction was inspired by Groucho Marx, who always said that he would never join a club that would have him as a member. But I think the brusque reply carried a different message: don’t assume that I’m ready to be put out to that pasture just yet.

Gore has a certain aura of nobility about him these days—a mixture of rue, acceptance and lofty goals that makes him almost, well, endearing. As I talked to him at the East Coast premiere of the documentary film about him (“An Inconvenient Truth”), I wondered whether his newfound sense of peace and purpose meant that he had given up the idea of ever running for president again—or whether that is precisely what, in an indirect, Zen-like way, he’s doing. My answer to my question: he’s available if fate decides to befriend him.

The premiere, at the headquarters of the National Geographic, had the aura of a Washington homecoming. But it was a nonpolitical political re-emergence after an (understandably) long, post-2000 convalescence. It didn’t feel like a fund-raiser or a campaign launch—just a chance to see an unusual film starring a fellow that everyone in the auditorium knew, and many admired.

It seems hard to dispute that Al Gore finally has built the life he wanted—and that it is outside of electoral politics. Davis Guggenheim, who directed the documentary, focuses on everything but. The core of the film is Gore’s famously apocalyptic slide showon global warming. But Guggenheim weaves around it the story of the former vice president’s roots and rising, starting with the summers he spent on his parents’ (now his) cattle farm in middle Tennessee.

Gore is depicted as a guy who learned to love the land, who was exposed to the pioneering work of an environmentalist at Harvard and who, seeing his older sister die from smoking cigarettes, came to despise the misuse of science in the name of commerce. Now he’s found his life’s calling in his missionary work: an itinerant preacher dragging a black wheelie and an Apple laptop through airports as he summons mankind to repel the Forces of Doom.

The movie works better—is far more inspiring—if you don’t think that Gore is running for president. And, at the reception afterward, he didn’t seem to be. He has lost a bit of his fastidiousness; all those globe-spanning trips through airports have left him on the portly side for the first time in his life. He was clutching a glass of red wine, not the early-evening drink of choice for a man prepping for a campaign marathon. Rather than work the crowd, the crowd worked him, and in the brief moments when there was a lull—when no one was pressing in on him—he was content to stand alone amid the babble.

If he is happy to be a selfless oracle, perhaps that is partly because he’s become a very wealthy one. I’m told that he has a ton of Google stock—he got in early—and that his investment firm is doing well and that its work dovetails very nicely (logistically and financially) with his more visible environmental evangelism. He’s always been a devoted family man; now he’s a doting grandpa.

So why would he even fleetingly consider politics again?

For one—to paraphrase a slogan once applied to Barry Goldwater—in his heart, Gore knows he’s right. He’s been ahead of more curves than a NASCAR driver: the concerns about global warming, the implications of the rise of the internet, the need to be wary of deadly friction along the faultline between Islam and the West, his early and deep opposition to the launching a war in Iraq. It’s an impressive record.

“The reason people don’t like Gore is that he has been right so damn many times,” James Carville told me with an appreciate laugh.

The Worst Band I've Seen...In a While

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Good god was this band bad. I'd heard a bit of a buzz about these guys. I'd heard that they had a unique sound. I'd heard that they could be something special.

What I witnessed tonight at the Great American Music Hall was everything that's bad about indie rock. I can't recall if there were ten members or fifteen or fifty. I just remember that there were too many. And their whole schtick about switching instuments, along with a silly horn section was just laughable. The songs sucked. The stage presence was high school marching band at best. The outfits just made the whole extavangandza even funnier. The cliche lead singer with the cool cap. Throw in the hippie bass player, or whatever the fuck he was playing. Add the fat girl on the keys and the cool dude banging whatever was in arms reach. Ugh. This was so bad that I'm getting tired typing about it. Shit, I was so bored by these guys that I don't even care about correcting my grammar.

Ladies and gentleman, this was Architecture In Helsinki. Isn't that a cool name?

Triggers and Trash Heaps

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http://youtube.com/watch?v=gBTaa5_KHfQ&search=centro-matic

Travel

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I've seen so few places in my life that it's downright embarassing. I guess I've seen a good portion of the United States. In addition to living in NYC, Boston, NJ and now San Francisco, here are a few cities I've visited that spring to mind: Austin (loved), LA (some good, some bad), Seattle (short stop but liked), Minneapolis (one of my favorite cities), Chicago (good time), Philadelphia (LOVE), Orlando (HATE), St. Louis (fun time), New Orleans (blast), Las Vegas (eh), Cincinnati (most underrated city in the US), Cleveland (yuck), Raleigh (pretty fun), Jacksonville (yawn), Providence (not bad), Myrtle Beach (rednecks), and some others that aren't springing to mind.

Outside of the States, I have only been to Puerto Rico (blah), St. Thomas (I don't wear speedos), London (fun time but nothing extraordinary) and Amsterdam (absolutely beautiful).

Over the next few years, I would like to visit the following stops:

US: Joshua Tree, Portland, Albuquerque and somewhere in Alaska. Again, I don't wear thongs, but maybe Hawaii since it's close.

The real travel will be outside of the US. On the top of my list are the following destinations (hopefully one per year): Bangkok, Barcelona, Scotland, Melbourne, Brazil (roll out the sleeping bag, Newton) and Iceland.

I am looking to book my first trip outside the US in five years and one of the aforementioned places will be the city/country of choice. Leading the pack is Thailand, but I wonder, does Wilco tour there?

29%

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Oh Lord, Ain't No End

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Seriously, does it get any more beautiful? When it comes to music, the unison of Gary Louris and Mark Olson elicits perhaps the most beautiful sounds on Earth. I've heard thousands of artists harmonize, but none blend like Louris and Olson.

Tonight at the Great American Music Hall, after a decade apart, I was finally able to see these two vocal and songwriter masters together. They played just about everything imaginable from The Jayhawks catalogue: "Settled Down Like Rain", "Blue", "Ain't No End", "Nothing Left To Borrow"...oh man could this list go on. They looked happy. They looked inspired. They looked like two singer-songwriters who were meant to be playing side-by-side.

It is damn near criminal that the room was only about half full. Dave Matthews Yawn and Coldplay can sell out Giants Stadium, yet two of the greatest singers and writers of the past 20 years can't fill a room that holds, what 600 people? I rarely get worked-up when I see a sparse crowd at a great show, but come on people, this is Gary Louris and Mark Olson. This is absolutely beautiful music.

Ok, I'm off to put on the latest Lenny Kravitz cd.

Jay Farrar

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Back in 1995, while wading through my junior year in college, I was desperately trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was majoring in sociology, taking a lot of black studies courses, and thinking that my career would take me to a possible phd in sociology. Though I was passionate about this line of studies, there was something missing. I was looking for something that would take me to that next level. Something that would grab my soul and clear up my career uncertainty.

Right around this time I saw Son Volt at the Mercury Lounge in New York City for the first time. After watching Jay Farrar, Jim Boquist, Dave Boquist and Mike Heidorn play one of the most inspiring rock n' roll shows I'd ever seen, I left the venue that night knowing what I'd do with my life. Music. Something, anything in music. I went on to spend the next decade spending countless nights out seeing live music. Wilco, Steve Earle, Springsteen, The Gourds, Slobberbone, Centro-matic, Elliott Smith, The V-Roys, Whiskeytown, Kelly Willis, Richard Buckner, Bob Dylan, The Damnations, Joe Henry. I couldn't get enough.

My career started out doing a summer internship at Bar None Records in Hoboken, NJ. Since then I've worked my way through music publishing, music television, business affairs, mobile music, music management, and I'm now working with indie bands and artists in the digital space. For the most part, I've loved working in this world. It allows me to be closer to the art that fuels my soul.

Last night at The Fillmore in San Francisco, I watched the Drive-By Truckers tear the joint up, followed by Son Volt. When Son Volt hit the stage, my buddy and I headed right to the front of the stage. Jay's new incarnation of Son Volt isn't what they were back in the mid-to-late 90s, but it's still Jay Farrar. His music is one of the main reasons that music essentially shaped my career and ultimately, my life. "Chickamauga" closed the set. The houselights came on and I stood there with chills up-and-down my spine. It wasn't the first time, and it certainly won't be the last.