Over the Wires : Brent Best

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I've been fortunate to see some pretty outstanding rock n' roll in my life. Although my tastes can sometimes steer towards the quieter songwriter types (Townes, Rouse, Buckner), when it comes to my love affair with music, there's still nothing that can touch an impassioned rock n' roll show. This is why I've squandered savings and spent chunks of paychecks to see live music for the greater part of the past 15+ years.

When thinking of the most memorable shows, those shows where I walk out sweaty, raspy-voiced and feeling as if I saw and felt something beyond explanation, I revisit about 40 Springsteen shows, along with incredible late nights with Marah, Wilco, Arcade Fire, Centro-matic, The Gourds, Brakes and Apollo Sunshine, to name a few. And then there's the afternoon of March 18, 1999. I was in Austin for my first of six trips to the South by Southwest music conference. Now ten years later, those rainy few hours at Club de Ville in Austin, Texas stand firmly as the day that I was on hand for what I consider the greatest rock show of my life. And the band to put on that set was Denton, Texas' Slobberbone.

If memory serves, this was my second Slobberbone show (Brownies in NYC being the first). Performing in an absolute downpour with nothing but a scant tent to cover their equipment, Brent Best, Jess Barr, Tony Harper and Brian Lane reminded maybe 100 people that sometimes nothing, absolutely nothing, can transcend the spirit like rock n' roll. After blasting through hard-charging Slobberbone songs, suddenly came the words: "Look out mama, there's a white boat coming up the river, with a big red beacon and a flag and a man on the rail." As the rain drenched us all, I'll never forget turning around to locate my friends in the rear of the venue. Everyone was smiling, dancing, and screaming the lines to Neil Young's "Powderfinger." And after "Barrel Chested," "Front Porch," Judas Priest's "Breakin' the Law" and The Gourds' "Web Before You Walk Into It," to name a few, my favorite Neil Young song was the perfect inclusion.

I've gone on to see Slobberbone, and its sister band The Drams, whenever in Austin or when they make the all-too-rare jaunt out west. Most nights down at South by Southwest, when not watching Brent and his band perform, it seems as if we're almost always at the same shows, taking it in from the audience. Over the years, we've talked about music, books, sports and just about every other topic of interest over beers and smokes, often until the pub doors closed for the night. I consider Brent Best not only one of the greatest songwriters and rock n' roll voices of our time, but also a friend.

In 2004, after four incredible albums, highlighted by 1997's Barrel Chested and 2000s Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, the band posted a message on their website informing fans that the run was over. Best would gather the majority of Slobberbone to form The Drams, who released the fantastic Jubilee Dive in 2006. But the Slobberbone story wasn't over. Early this year they resurfaced and have since played a date here and there. Despite the excitement surrounding their return, no one knows for sure what's next. I figured it was time we just ask Brent.



I suppose I should just get the obvious one out of the way first. I see that you're playing dates with Slobberbone and solo. Since there's been no official announcement, what does this mean for the band situation? Are The Drams still active? How's it all shaking out?

Drams are still semi-active. We just played a show last night. The idea is to do both but obviously we'll have to kinda focus on one or the other at one time and it looks like we're gonna focus on some Slobberbone stuff for now. Keith and Chad are playing and doing quite well in The King Bucks right now and with Brian back it seems like a good time to fire up Slobbebone and maybe start laying down some tracks. And then hopefully do it all again with The Drams in a year or so. I like the idea of having both and having them be very different things. Solo shows just sorta fill the cracks in between.

How has it been maturing with Jess, Tony and now Brian back in the mix? With families and such, how has that played into the decisions you make around the band(s)?

We're definitely not as balls-out as we once were in regards to just touring all the time like we used to. We have to plan and be a bit more surgical with it but that seems to suit us all just fine nowadays. It could change to some degree once we have a new album we're psyched over but it's fair to say our approach has softened for now to some degree.


I've always thought that "Placemat Blues" was about the music industry/business. I'm guessing its open to interpretation, but am I onto something? Either way, can you share your thoughts on the business.

Most definitely. It was directed a little more to radio at the time (1999) but obviously nothing's gotten better on that front and certainly not with the rest of the old-school industry at large. Of course the internet has leveled the field a great deal but they still seem to be just as backassward as they always were inasmuch as not embracing the inevitable but rather fighting to maintain a status quo that has sucked for years. It's lined their pockets for ages but sucked for everyone else. Now when I see them trying to do things like fight Net Neutrality and suing kids for downloading it just confirms that they are clueless as to what it means to actually be innovative and competitive as companies. Unfortunately, we see that in all areas in these days of bailouts for giant corporations. They got so used to running the show that when they fuck it all up they suddenly abandon all their free-market principles, really, by demonstrating they don't actually want to have to compete or be innovative, but would rather fight to keep an always changing marketplace from changing. Sucks.

What's your relationship with New West right now? Every time I've seen Slobberbone or The Drams play at SXSW, I've always seen Peter Jesperson (A&R for New West, signed and managed The Replacements) and he always looks like a wide-eyed kid.

Haven't talked much with them as of late but it's because I haven't done anything really since the Drams record. We love Peter very much. He's always graciously hosted us when we were in LA and it's always a blast to get to pick his brain and hear some of the old stories. He is a died-in-the-wool music lover for sure.

As I mention in the introduction, I still cite your SXSW show at Club de Ville in 1999 as the greatest rock n' roll show I've ever attended. I stood next to (The Gourds') Jimmy Smith for most of the show. That is, until he went onstage to sing one of his own songs before forgetting the words and turning it over to you. Given the pouring rain and amount of water that was onstage, people in the crowd were actually a bit worried about you guys. Do you recall that show?

Oh yeah, we still remember that one. We were more than ready to be off that stage once the water rose more than an inch above our pedals but I seem to remember it was Jimmy that was egging us on and then left! It was fun, though, and a lot of people seem to have fond memories of that show. I do remember that none of our shit worked the next night at our actual showcase.

Slobberbone's Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today finished at #2 in the Postcard From Hell poll of the best records of the 2000s (Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came in first). Better than a Grammy?

Had not heard that. Crazy. What the hell do you do with a Grammy anyways? Can you Ebay them for cash?



Can you tell me about the song "Robert Cole?"

I wrote that some time after SB broke up. I hadn't really written in a while and then that just presented itself one night almost fully formed and really kinda got the wheels cranking for me again. It wasn't really connected to anything else at the time, other than another song I had just written called 'Aunt Ramona' and I didn't really know what it was for. Some time later I was contacted by Tim Lee who was putting together the Larry Brown tribute album Just One More and then I knew what it was for. That was a cool little gift at a time when I was sort of rudderless. It'll probably show up some day on an album of like-minded songs.

One late night at SXSW, I recall you mentioned that your home is basically nothing but CDs. I hate to ask, but can you share some favorites? I won't say "top five or ten," but that's really what I'm getting at.

Yeah, that's tough. A few years ago I moved out to the country into a little shotgun house and all those CD's are behind me in my main center studio room. They just kinda loom there at a time when I rarely buy CD's ever. People give me stuff and I listen online and record a lot of other people's stuff so I've kinda become disjointed from the process of coming in and putting on a record and I don't know how I feel about that. I listen as much as I ever did but the ritual seems to have changed. They're still there and I can't ever relinquish them 'cuz there's always that night when I've got some old thing in my head and am maybe kinda drunk and I can't sleep until I find it and listen to it and then get online and search it and youtube it and read a bunch of bullshit blog posts about it and play some video games and read some more and then maybe go to sleep. I have uncles who can barely get out of their chairs but still keep 7 or 8 tractors in their barns. It's kinda like that.

What are you listening to lately?

Changes weekly, almost daily these days. I guess I've succumbed to the modern-day-induced short attention span but I always end up fixating and staying with the things that grab and shake me. Love The Hold Steady. Love the new Low Anthem disc. Isbell's newest. A lot of local stuff here, The Slow Burners in particular and a duo called RTB2. And of course, Glossary. Best band in America, maybe.


Got a good book recommendation?

Larry Brown, always. Cormac of course, Crews. There's so much, you just gotta dig. Right now I'm reading a book on the history of Amsterdam by Geert Mak that a friend of mine from there gave me and I'm totally enthralled. Sometimes I need great fiction and sometimes I need compelling facts and in the end they mostly do the same thing for me.

And lastly, for fans who are itching for something new out of Slobberbone or The Drams, anything we can pass along?

We're looking to start woodshedding and screwing around with some new Slobberbone demos so we'll just have to see what happens. We never ever really had a plan before we ever started anything and we still don't. We'll just let it tell us what to do, if anything.

Also, I don't know when you're planning to post this, but being how my online acumen has severely waned the last few years and I don't have a lot of outlets on my own, I'd like to let people know that Slobberbone will be on the road starting Dec. 1 in Little Rock at The Whitewater Taven, Dec. 2 at Newby's in Memphis, Dec. 3 in Nashville, Dec. 4 in Knoxville, and Dec. 5 at Smith's Old Bar in Atlanta. Come see us and let's have a drink. Thanks for the interest and take care, buddy,

brent

24 Books

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Cheese by Willem Elsschot, Fiction, 1933 : 7.9

Pitchfork Tosses My Top Album of the Year a 4.9

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I checked PF today for the first time in a week or so. They have finally gotten around to reviewing the Farrar/Gibbard record. This is the site that gives 8.0+ ratings to absolute wankery like Foals, Yeasayer, and man, I can't even recall the names of all those crap noodlers that they adore.

To give One Fast Move or I'm Gone an awful rating is just downright silly. It's a very good, if not great record. This site jumped the shark years ago, but this is the nail. What basura.

Songs of the Decade : Wilco "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" (2002)

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I suppose it's pretty rare that songs play a part in a monumental change in your life. I can think of a handful that have truly changed something inside of me for good. Most likely, that shift is the result of some life happening that ties into that song: lost love, death, birth, falling in love, viewing something in nature, etc. Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" is one of those songs. I got my hands on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, from what I remember, a few months before 9/11. I was absolutely floored. It took me weeks to get even a little understanding of the complexity of the album, but it was the lead track that had my jaw on the ground. Opening with fuzz, distortion, bells, buzzes, clocks and pianos, the song felt like a soul-altering listen. And then came the acoustic strum and the erratic drums. And then, "I am an aquarium drinker, I assassin down the avenue, I'm hiding out in the big city blinking, what was I thinking when I let go of you" followed by organs, cascading guitars, tight drum fills, slaps and a near explosion of words and sound.

And then came September 11, 2001. And this record was a musical version of the chaos that I witnessed for one day beginning on the F train around 9am.

More Beck Record Club : Skip Spence "Diana"

Tom Petty on CBS Sunday Morning

My Mayor!

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I've never particularly liked Newsom, but this interview is downright embarrassing. What an arrogant, dismissive, whiner. I can't wait until this fool is out of office. And good luck reaching the governorship someday, slick.

Parking Glare

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Favorite Books. Well, Forty of Them

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I was just perusing a few 'best of' lists in search of some books to pick up, and, of course, decided to compile my own list. This is far from comprehensive as I really just scanned my bookshelf and tried to recall others that influenced me. And obviously, some were read many, many years ago and may not hold a candle if I were to read them today. Nevertheless, here it goes (no order):

Rule of the Bone Russell Banks
Watership Down Richard Adams
Black Boy Richard Wright
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
The Bluest Eye Toni Morrisson
South of the Border West of the Sun Haruki Murakami
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass
Darkness Visible William Sytron
Straight Man Richard Russo
Revolutionary Road Richard Yates
Hunger Knut Hamsun
In the Lake of the Woods Tim O'Brien
Into the Wild Jon Krakauer
Where I'm Calling From Raymond Carver
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint Brady Udall
It Ain't No Sin To Be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen Eric Alterman
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neal Hurston
The Road Cormac McCarthy
The Awakening Kate Chopin
The Fall Albert Camus
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle Haruki Murakami
As I Lay Dying William Falkner
Oxherding Tale Charles Johnson
Nickel and Dimed Barbara Ehrenreich
Empire Falls Richard Russo
Things the Grandchildren Should Know Mark Oliver Everett
In Cold Blood Truman Capote
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway
Edson Bill Morrissey
The Brooklyn Follies Paul Auster
Cash Johnny Cash
On the Road Jack Kerouac
A Happy Death Albert Camus
Native Son Richard Wright
Siddhartha Herman Hesse
The Risk Pool Richard Russo
High Fidelity Nick Hornby
Motel Life Willy Vlautin
No Country for Old Men Cormac McCarthy

Songs of the Decade : Beck "Lost Cause" (2002)

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Having decided that a career in law was not for me, in early 2004 I left my job at a Manhattan law firm and plunged full-time into a volunteer role within John Kerry's presidential campaign. After that inspiring and energizing experience wound down, I was headed off to graduate school in public policy. But something changed. Maybe it was the Kerry defeat or the impending loans. At the last moment (literally), I backed out. With a full mind and an uncertain future, I headed to Myrtle Beach to take some time and help out in a family restaurant. Outside of Houston, Texas, I can't imagine a place where I fit in less. Sporting the Kerry badge on my workbag nearly cost me a few teeth and any mention of my political beliefs or social positions was asking for major, major trouble. As I drove those long byways with nothing but Home Depots, Wall Marts, fast food chains and bars on the perimeter, despite being a fairly (very) melancholy record, Beck's Sea Change rarely left the changer. And it was "Lost Cause" that I'd be singing along to while working through where I was headed.

Vinyl Advance of Uncle Tupelo's "No Depression"

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Purchased at Nuggets in Boston for $5.99 in 1997. The sticker on the vinyl says WMBR. I am guessing that this is now worth just north of $3.8M.

Songs of the Decade : John Prine "Clay Pigeons" (2005)

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I'm probably breaking some self-imposed unannounced rule here by including a cover song, but this one's just going to have to slip. John Prine's cover of Blaze Foley's "Clay Pigeons" is a stunning rendition. At SXSW '00, I walked into Waterloo Records for my annual record haul and the store was playing Foley's Live at the Austin Outhouse. I bought the record that day and fell in love with "Clay Pigeons." Last year a friend led me to this Prine record and I fell for it all over again. A truly beautiful song.

The State Dinner

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If this guest list isn't indicative of how little has changed in Washington, well, I don't really know where else to look. Cards went out to media elites, government insiders, big money buffoons, Obama's "friends" and a few authors and poets for good measure.

Colin Powell? Ya mean that fella who sold his soul, lied to the world and played a huge part in leading us into the fiasco that is Iraq.

Michael Bloomberg? Big money = one can even destroy term limits.

Katie Couric? Ugh.

Ed Rendell? Odds that he had scorching body odor? Pretty high.

Bobby Jindall? Ugh-squared.

Timothy Geithner? Hope he picked up the tab.

Kirt Wagar? I hope this is a simple typo and it's actually Kurt Wagner from Lambchop. If so, disregard this entire post.

Jim Messina? Loggins got the shaft?

Marland E. Buckner? This better be Richard Buckner's brother.

Ari Emaneul? Yeah, now that's a guy who needs to hang with more celebrities.

Granted, it's a huge step up from a Bush/Cheney State Dinner, which were essentially attended by oil and insurance execs and authors as deep as James Patterson, but come on, how about a teacher or a doctor (whose mug isn't on CNN daily) or the parents of a soldier lost overseas? Maybe someone in the Peace Corps or doing great community work?

By the way, anyone know where Obama stands on health care because I don't.

I'm going to cook up a chicken parm. Texting Gavin.

Greenberg

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Songs of the Decade : Arcade Fire "Windowsill" (2007)

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Arcade Fire released two records in the 2000s, both of which are among the best records of the decade. The second, Neon Bible, is often overlooked due to the hysteria around its predecessor, but it may be as good, if not better. The album is full of powerfully spiritual? songs, but it's "Windowsill" that seemed to sum up a lot of my feelings during the era of Bush and Iraq. Man, what a song.

Don't wanna give 'em my name and address,
Don't wanna see what happens next,
Don't wanna live in my father's house no more.
Don't wanna live with my father's debt,
You can't forgive what you can't forget,
Don't wanna live in my father's house no more.
Don't wanna fight in a holy war,
Don't want the salesmen knocking at my door,
I don't wanna live in America no more.
'Cause the tide is high,
and it's rising still,
And I don't wanna see it at my windowsill.

Morning Smoke

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Morning Smoke, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

A Day in Pacifica

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Sarah Palin Book Signing!

The Lives We Lead

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Last night I had dinner with some friends about an hour North of San Francisco. Both the husband and wife have been throughout many parts of academia and both appear on a constant journey to educate themselves. I'm sure their opportunities are fairly endless, and maneuvering into a career that would inflate their bank accounts would not be too difficult. But they both remain committed to educating others and themselves, research and overall understanding.

They've also both spent some time in Nicaragua and both possess a true commitment to the people of the country. One story that they shared really hit home.

As they were scrolling through pictures of children sitting in decrepit "classrooms," I was amazed by the looks of hope and curiosity in the eyes of these kids. The realities of where they were remained years away from settling in. But even when those kids do mature into adults, it's unlikely that cynicism will truly set in. These people seem to work with what they have and complaining about their lots in life seems fruitless.

There was a moment when my friends were taking pictures of the students. A number of them eagerly approached having little idea what was happening. As my friend continued to shoot, he explained that it was a digital camera. When he turned the camera around to reveal the photo window, the children were befuddled. It turns out, not only had they never seen a camera, but they'd never seen of photo of themselves. They didn't seem to comprehend what they were looking at.

After hearing that story, I could only imagine being in that situation. As those kids looked on perplexed, what I would have been witnessing would have been crystal clear.

Artist of the Decade

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First, let's mention some artists who were in contention:

Josh Ritter was clearly near the top.
Eels were right behind or alongside Ritter.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were't far behind.
M. Ward, Damien Jurado and Okkervil River certainly cracked the top ten.
Josh Rouse and Bonnie "Prince" Billy were in the mix.
Despite only releasing two records, both of which are phenomenal, The Arcade Fire have to be considered.
Spoon made some good records.
Nathan Moore quietly became one of the best songwriters around.
Austin, Texas' The Gourds continued doing what they do and doing it great.

But this one was fairly easy.



Although they arguably released their best and most consistent material in the 1990s, Wilco are the top artist of the 2000s. Through numerous lineup shifts, label changes, rehab stints, hairstyles and even a very untimely death, now 15 years strong, Wilco have solidified themselves as one of the greatest American bands ever, and undoubtedly, the best of the past 15 years or so.

They opened the decade with their second Mermaid Avenue installment, one that didn't live up to the brilliance of its predecessor, but still contained some great Tweedy songs, including "Remember the Mountain Bed," "Airline To Heaven" and "Secret of the Sea." It didn't contain the depth of Volume 1, but Wilco and Bragg still gave us a solid effort.

And then it all changed. Lead members Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett were clearly reaching a creative apex together and that madness and mania resulted in what many consider the best record of the decade, 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This record is worlds away from Tweedy's work in Uncle Tupelo and really anything that preceded Bennett's invitation to join the band. It was clear following Wilco's 1995 debut A.M. that Tweedy was looking to expand, and there's little question that a lot of the band's maturation can be attributed to Tweedy simply evolving, but there's also no questioning Bennett's influence. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, at least to my ears, feels like a complete divvying up of roles. Tweedy took the reigns as the songwriter and wrote some of his or anyone's best lines to date. Bennett oversaw the sonic mayhem that ultimately made this record an artistic dream.



And then came the dreaded masterstroke follow-up. And they came through. They didn't try to toss out a YHF sequel, but rather took some of the elements that made Foxtrot so mentally transcendent, but pulled it back a bit. More reserved, yet equally as touching at points, tracks such as "Hell Is Chrome," "Wishful Thinking," "Company In My Back" and "Handshake Drugs" are poignant stories and fill out A Ghost Is Born. Some of the unexpected charm and adventure is clearly lost, but no one expected a repeat performance, especially following Bennett's departure/dismissal. But they came through again.



And then the band returned to its bread and butter on 2007's Sky Blue Sky. Instead of shooting for the stars, it seems as if they just made a record, and a very good one. The endless tinkering that had come to be a cornerstone of the new Wilco was either abandoned or shelved in favor of a fairly straightforward collection of songs. "Maybe just need some time alone," Tweedy questions on the opening track "Either Way." And maybe this was just it. This feels like a record that Tweedy had unconsciously been writing for a while and this was the perfect time to let it out. Although not as "daring," Sky Blue Sky is more consistent top-to-bottom than Ghost. Sit back and listen to this record all the way through and you're likely to fall into its gracefulness for an hour. And forgive me for this, but you'll walk away enriched because, sometimes, "you're trying to paint a picture, but you're not sure which colors belong."



To close out the decade, this year brought us Wilco (The Album). As always, it has its moments, most notably "I'll Fight," but this may be their most fractured effort of the decade. It's hardly lackluster, and sounds like the band was genuinely just trying to have fun, but the results don't live up to the band's greatness. But having assembled such a masterful catalog, how could they? And like many Wilco records, time will reveal this record's true artistic value. It took me about four years to truly appreciate A Ghost Is Born. This one's barely had time to press on through.

Twenty to thirty years from now, Wilco will be considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, band of this period. And Jeff Tweedy will be mentioned right alongside Dylan, Young, Springsteen, Lennon, Drake and Van Zandt as one of the greatest songwriters to ever marry words to music. And in many senses, if we're lucky, it feels like there's still a lot to come.

Wilco in the 2000s
Mermaid Avenue, Volume 2 (2000)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
A Ghost Is Born (2004)
Kicking Television : Live In Chicago (2005)
Sky Blue Sky (2007)
Wilco (The Album) (2009)

Jeff Tweedy, Jay Bennett, John Stirratt, Leroy Bach, Pat Sansone, Glenn Kotche, Mike Jorgensen, Nels Cline

Pre-2000 : Ken Coomer, Max Johston, Bob Egan

Garage

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

23 Books

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Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy, Memoir, 2009 : 8.0

The Sunday New York Times

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Take a look at the website. Sarah Palin is literally splashed all over the place. How this complete imbecile could be considered for the president of a local PTA chapter, let alone President of the United States lays bare some of the integral problems that could drive this country into a deeper abyss.

With all the issues and troubles both domestically and internationally, the New York Times opts to go Palin crazy. Truly, truly sad.

You Never Know

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Sunday in Buffalo

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Tomorrow night Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band wrap up what's seemed like a decade-long tour of the world. After a very quiet 90's where Bruce released only three records, 1992's double set of Human Touch and Lucky Town and 1995's Nebraska-light Ghost of Tom Joad, once Bruce hit the age of 50, it's as if his rock n' roll life was reborn. He's released five studio albums this decade, the highlights being 2002's The Rising and 2005's Devils & Dust, along with a few live records, the phenomenal Born To Run re-issue, DVDs and assorted other goods. Although the last two records were sub-par by Springsteen standards, the Working on a Dream tour has been one of the most energetic and relentless tours of the band's career.

I was astounded at how tight and true-to-form they sounded about a month ago at Giants Stadium. Since that night, friends have seen them perform every record released from 1973-1984, with the exception of his debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, which will close out this whirlwind tour in Buffalo tomorrow night.

There's a palpable sense on message boards and amongst many of my closest friends, who, yes, follow Bruce as closely as I do, that this may well be it for Bruce and the Band. They've been on the road almost constantly for the past few years and some members, most notably, Clarence, are really showing the wear. With the loss of Danny Federici, you have to wonder if they're ready to finally put it to rest. Whatever they decide, there's little question that they still have it. With Bruce at 60, they are still the greatest live rock n' roll band on the planet. That is an amazing reality. And every single night they bring it all. They're still playing for 3+ hours per night. No folks, this isn't The Rolling Stones or some other ancient band that's phoning it in to feed the rock corporation, this is entirely different.

Last week I looked for a flight originating in San Francisco and heading to Buffalo. I thought about it for a bit but the economic reality set in and I closed out the window. To my friends in Buffalo, enjoy it tomorrow, and not just because this could be it, but most importantly, because this is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the greatest rock n' roll band that you'll ever see.

The hungry and the hunted, explode into rock n' roll bands

Songs of the Decade : Freedy Johnston "Anyone" (2001)

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Freedy Johnston may be responsible for my career over the past 13+ years. In the summer of 1995, while home on summer break and working an awful part-time telemarketing gig, I was finally starting to think about what course I'd take following one more year of college. Waffling between another decade or so of post-grad study and my purest passion, music, I sat one day in my bedroom and flipped through the liner notes of Freedy Johnston's Can You Fly. I was in love with the record at the time and played it endlessly throughout that summer. My eyes suddenly locked on the label: Bar None Records, Hoboken, New Jersey. I lived only about 25 minutes from Hoboken. The next morning I called Bar None and asked if they needed any summer interns. "Sure, come down tomorrow," said the cool woman on the line. And thus it began....

Charlotte Gainsbourg/Beck "Heaven Can Wait" (Video)

Songs of the Decade : Solomon Burke "Don't Give Up On Me" (2002)

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Sometime around the mid-2000s or so there seemed to be a resurgence in the popularity of soul music. Folks were suddenly dropping Sharon Jones and Raphael Saadiq in the same breath as tedious hipster acts like the F**k Buttons and, I don't know, other shitty bands. Given the deluge of love for these acts, I was naturally skeptical. Few of these acts ever settled into my rotation. When it came to 2000s soul, no one nailed it like the preacher of soul, Solomon Burke. In his mid-60s and hovering around what must be about 400 lbs., Burke assembled an amazing project that enlisted Dylan, Costello, Lowe, Brian Wilson and others to contribute songs. Joe Henry turned in one of the most masterful production jobs of the decade, and Burke had created a masterpiece. Any song on this record could likely land on my list, but the title track is the first one that grabbed me. And for an entire year, Solomon Burke was my present-day Sam Cooke.

The Primitives (Later Uncle Tupelo) Perform "Smoking Gun" (1986)

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Yes, that is Jay Farrar (UT, Son Volt, Gob Iron) on the left and Jeff Tweedy (UT, Wilco, Golden Smog, my apartment) on the right. I think the lead singer found his way into a scene in Karate Kid, Part 8.

Rod Stewart Nixes Faces Reunion

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Is this really a surprise? Rod Stewart isn't even a shell of the person he was when The Faces were one of the greatest bands ever. When is the last time that the feather-haired asshat released something that wasn't absolutely atrocious? That would be 1972's Never a Dull Moment or The Faces 1973 swan song Ooh La La. Correct, that's 36-37 years ago. That is a year before I was BORN and I have gray hair and a flabby ass. I mean, can we let this one go already? Ronnie Lane was an integral part of the band and he left us over a decade ago. Since Rod turned into a L'Oreal model 35 years ago, it's time to put this idea to rest. I mean, they're in talks of adding the lead singer of Simply Red? Good sweet god, please stop.

Let's remember them for this:

March 1st @ The Herbst Theatre

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The Magnetic Fields


Tix now available. I am very excited about this.

Songs of the Decade : Guided By Voices "The Brides Have Hit Glass" (2001)

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For years, friends had been pushing Bee Thousand on me. Yes, I got it, but it was just a bit too lo-fi for me. I enjoyed the record as a whole but I just didn't feel the spirit. Then came 2001's Isolation Drills. This I got. This is Bob Pollard going with full-on rock n' roll, and unlike the nearly dozen records he seems to ship each year, it sounded like he took his time on this one. "Glad Girls," "Twilight Campfire," "How's My Drinking?" and "Fair Touching" were just a few of the songs that made this my favorite GBV record. But it was "The Brides Have Hit Glass" that I played to death. A few friends and I used to sit around our Brooklyn apartments drinking and listening to music until the sun came up. Around 2-3am we'd often go to request hour where we'd each get to pick the next track. I can't count the number of times I surveyed thousands of CDs but ultimately landed on this track.

Songs of the Decade : Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros "Coma Girl" (2003)

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The opening track from Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros' fantastic Streetcore record jump-started my immersion into Strummer's post-Clash career. After raving about this record on a listserver, a kind subscriber sent me a Strummer mix that I've now listened to hundreds of times over. And whenever I hear "Coma Girl," I recall that fateful night when I turned down a ticket to see Strummer at St. Ann's in Brooklyn. It wasn't long before that opportunity would never again present itself.

New Eels Video : "Little Bird"

Television

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I have officially canceled not just cable, but television altogether. The Comcast rep. was actually very kind and refrained from trying to steer me to some new "package deal." She almost seemed psyched that I was getting rid of the crap.

This is the first time in my life that I've been without television. As a child, I spent most of my waking hours sitting before a television. During my teens, I watched college basketball, the Knicks and Yankees just about every single night. From 2000 on I became a full-on news addict, spending hours upon hours watching MSNBC, C-Span, PBS, etc. The last few years my viewing has been fairly limited to HBO and The Office. Since I can wait for the former on Netflix (Bored To Death better come soon) and the latter on Hulu or NBC.com, well, it was time to bid farewell.

Not only will I save over $60/month, but I will have to fill that time with other activities, hopefully reading, writing and jet skiing.

22 Books

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Edson by Bill Morrissey, Fiction, 1996 : 10.0


This is my favorite book. I first read Edson over a decade ago and on second reading, I relate to the protagonist just as closely as I did back then. A perfect novel.

Songs of the Decade : Beulah "Burned By the Sun" (2001)

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It truly is a crime to pop music that Beulah remain hidden from the masses. I hate when bands that I love call it quits, but hell, if I were in a band as good as Beulah and we couldn't make a living making music this good and this accessible, well, I just might call it a day too. 2001's The Coast Is Never Clear is an absolute pop masterpiece. Every single time I go to Amoeba in town and pass Beulah Street the following song immediately pops into my head. Pop greatness.

Biden / SNL

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Dog in Duboce

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

I Got Some Beer and the Highway's Free

Songs of the Decade : Apollo Sunshine "Phyliss" (2005)

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My South By Southwest '06 experience with Apollo Sunshine is well documented. With an open slot in my schedule, I casually bounced over to see the spinART showcase. As I walked in, a three piece was setting up. Apollo Sunshine was the name. Never heard of them.

About 45 minutes later, I departed the club soaked in sweat with the greatest natural high (fine, about 19 beers as well) I'd experienced since those Marah shows back in the late 90s. These guys were young, loud, raucous, sloppy yet incredibly tight and full of rock fury. The highlight of the show was a song called "Phyliss," which had a room of newcomers dancing, yelling and standing in awe. Three guys. They switched instruments numerous times throughout the song. Guitarist/vocalist Sam Cohen must've played about six instruments during this one tune. Picks were flying, snare drums snapping, strings busting and voices howling. It was an escalation of in-your-face blazing rock n' roll. And the whole room felt it.

Favorite Neighborhood Dog

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I really want this dog, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

House Passes Health Care Bill

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We're still a long way off, and I'm very, very surprised that 39 democrats voted against, but the bill has passed. My representative, Nancy Pelosi, deserves an enormous amount of credit. We, as a country, stand one step closer to the biggest legislative victory of my lifetime.

Songs of the Decade : South San Gabriel "New Brookland" (2003)

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When looking at my overall love for music, there's little question that I'm drawn to albums over single songs. Despite now being fully into the digital era, I like to look at an artist's work as a sequencing of songs and lyrics that tell an overall story, or some shit along those those lines.

All that being said, there are certain songs that absolutely nail me. Songs that I listen to over and over sometimes for months at a time. And these are usually songs that open my mind to possibilities both attainable and reserved for dreams. These are the songs that I can't shake.

For the rest of November, I'll highlight my favorite songs of the past ten years.

The confusing yet beautiful opening 30 seconds of this track are a world somewhere. It may be a carnival, maybe a backyard bbq, maybe a mall somewhere, but whatever it is, it's a blend of children, dogs, change rattling, machinery, perhaps rain and there's the backdrop of a violin. And then this entire mess calms and Will Johnson and his band slowly edge into one of the most beautiful songs of the past ten years. It's past 90 seconds when the vocals finally hit. "Make no mistake, we'll be the ones, to happily set you on fire. You hit the brakes, a little too late, securing your date with the lake." The words may haunt but the instrumentation, clarity of Will's voice and the impeccable pacing make for one of the prettiest compositions I've ever heard.

Slab City, California

Flight of the Conchords Likely Done

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Says Jemaine

I'd say this is a good move. Following a fantastic first season, the writing suffered throughout Season 2. Nearly every episode of the first season had brilliant moments, but it became clear over the second season that the material just wasn't there anymore. Nevertheless, it was a great show for a time.

Jay Farrar on Kerouac

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The idea of getting your first thoughts out there and not worrying about form and structure. By doing it that way you're sort of helping to ensure that what you're getting out there is more ultimately individualistic instead of following someone else's structure.

This sums up exactly how I feel about art, whether it be literature, photography or many forms of personal expression. I think grammar in writing and texture and lighting in photography are clearly important, but not nearly as integral as just getting things out or capturing something that moves you.

Gifts

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.



Last night I almost pulled the plug and bought Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. Given a tight budget, I opted to pass for now. This morning I stumbled upon the above mini-library on Sutter Street and buried in the middle was the Dee Brown classic. I grabbed about eight others. As I was finishing my pillage, an older gentleman walks out with another box. "I'm moving and I just have too many of these," he said. "Thank you," I replied and he slowly walked away.

The Light In Darkness

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A book that covers the 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour? Nah, doubt I'll pick that up.

Something in the Night

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Something in the Night, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

21 Books

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Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, Fiction, 1961 : 9.5

Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?" in Merrill Lynch Ad

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Can't say I do, Wayne.

I understand that the days of ripping bands for licensing their tracks have about come to a close. With declining physical sales, a recession, and so forth, it's hard to argue against a band in need making a quick buck on the backs of some corporate suckers. That said, I think it's worthwhile to point out the ones that go, perhaps, a bit too far.

Merrill Lynch, one of the major recipients of bailout cash, and one of the companies responsible for the near dismantling of the world economy, is in a different category. And the Flaming Lips are a band that have been selling out venues for 20 or so years. They've certainly paid their dues, and although their silly live shows have become incredibly tiresome, I can understand the appeal for a quick buck. But I can only guess that Wayne and company live fairly comfortably now. And they're deserving. But do they really need to take one of their best songs and sell it to the frat boys at Merrill Lynch? I haven't cared much for the Lips since The Soft Bulletin, but c'mon fellas, find a better suitor.

A Song For You : The Minus 5 "Winter Goes Away" (1995)

Technology, Boredom and Creativity

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The new reality that we live in seems to be on my mind quite a bit lately. With texting, e-mail, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, iPods, on and on, it truly feels as if there's very little time for introspection, imagination and thorough thought. I stumbled upon the following Boston Globe article via a friend's blog that takes a look at these issues. It's worth a read. And then maybe a little time to think about it.

7th Street, San Francisco

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, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

This American Life : The Book That Changed Your Life

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Wonderful listen. The Lewis & Clark story is a classic.