We’ve been playing regularly at Poopy’s for about five years, 3-4 times per summer. Last night was at least our 15th show there, possibly closer to our 20th.
It was our best gig there by far. Not just because naimhe and monkeyfrog and johnnnytooobaddd came out, though that was certainly a huge part of the fun. Normally when you drive 2.5 hours from your home base to play a biker bar on the banks of a muddy creek in the middle of nowhere, you don’t expect to have friendly faces in the crowd. A huge bonus to have them, for sure, and it was great to hang out a little bit between sets.
We play a lot of biker bars; it’s kind of what The Recliners do, even though none of us are bikers. For whatever reason, they like us. But here’s the thing about bikers: most are way, way too cool to do anything demonstrative in public. Or maybe it’s not about the cool; maybe their leathers are just so tight that they can’t move their asses, or breathe. So while we know they love us because they say so, and these venues keep bringing us back, we don’t expect a lot of feedback from the crowds at these gigs. Very little applause, zero dancing. You get the occasional fist pump when you start a song they like, or, rarely, you’ll see a foot tapping or head bobbing. Not much more.
There was something different yesterday, though. Maybe it was because we played late, and a lot of the actual bikers had ventured back onto the roads towards their points of origin. The crowd that remained last night, especially for the third set which started at 9:45, seemed more like non-biker locals, based on their age, clothing, and drunkenness. (Bikers rarely get wasted when they have to ride.) We had a big group out there, dancing, singing along, buying us shots, making ridiculous requests, and just generally having visible, over-the-top fun.
Of course that translates right back into the performance. No lie—on a number of occasions out there, we’ve delivered a competent but by-the-numbers show. We love to play and to hang out with each other for the day, but sometimes it feels like an open rehearsal, and I’m sure that’s obvious from watching us. We do our best, but it’s just hard to really lean into it and push when no one out front gives a shit. Last night we had no such lack of energy. I think, in fact, that energy managed to bust us out from what should have been an inch-thick coating of rust. Due to our busy lives, we haven’t played together in six or seven weeks, and I don’t think any of us really practiced individually very much during that time. We soared right over those potholes. I certainly surprised myself, and as a bonus, the mysterious problems I have been having with getting proper tone were much, much fewer last night. Wasn’t perfect, yet (will it ever be?), but acceptable.
It wasn’t without a little weirdness. The mayfly eruption that was big enough to make weather radar reports last week? Yeah. We were just a few hours south of that, and those stupid motherfuckers were everywhere. LED-based stage lighting is a wonder of modern technology in every sense, most notably the fact that they generate no heat. But they do apparently generate a lot of UV wavelengths that bugs can’t get enough of. With old school incandescent lamps, the heat would ultimately keep them away or fry them. (And fry the band, too. God, I don’t miss those.) Last night, hundreds of mayflies swarmed the stage and every white surface on it, including my amp and tool bag pictured on the right, above. And many flew right into the PAR cans and rested right on the surface of the LEDs, blissed out, closer to a pure source of that magical UV light than could ever be possible during the first umpteen million years of their time here.
After the bugs came the bats. That was cool and freaky and unnerving. Eat ‘em up, guys, just don’t attack the ones in our hair, please and thanks.
I got home last night at 2:45am after a harrowing drive through very thick fog. I was exhausted, but still had a little too much residual energy to get right to sleep. Still feeling that hangover now, a little. It’ll feel good to sleep it all off with a three-hour nap this afternoon.
I’m reading Keith Richards’ fascinating autobiography, Life, and as a result I’ve dug back into the Stones catalog over the last few days. I know a lot of these songs are badly overplayed by classic rock radio stations, sports events, whatever, but from 69-72 or so, these guys were making some of the best rock and roll of all time. It stands up to critical listening today. And in their day, they took on real issues in ways which some of their megastar peers didn’t dare to. I love Zeppelin but they didn’t have the balls for this.
Like Vietnam. Listening to this on the El this morning, I got chills at the refrain after the guitar solo, sung so forcefully by Merry Clayton.
Rape, murder—It’s just a shot away.
Her performance is hair-raising. She screams at the top of her lungs with no apparent regard for her own safety. Listen carefully to the third time through, when her voice cracks on “murder.” An iconic moment; historical. Turn it up: in the background, you can hear Mick go “wooo!” just after it happened. (Why he was in the vocal booth with her, I don’t know.)
Clayton was pregnant when she sang this and miscarried not long after. She’s said repeatedly that this performance had nothing to do with that, and I’m sure that’s true, but it’s entered the folklore just the same. It fits, somehow. These guys were all kinds of trouble.
Maybe instead of taking to social media to take a giant crap on a thing that a bunch of your alleged friends care about, you could go take a walk outside? Read a book? Go do something that you love which many people probably loathe, but have the common decency to keep their mouths shut when streams get busy with it, knowing that like everything else, it will pass?
Why do people continually feel the need to shit in someone else’s pool?
Now, I will state up front that I’m an engineer and musician by training. I am not a biologist. But I believe myself to be well acquainted with matters of science, including evolutionary biology. Hell, any high school kid in this country, at least the ones in regions where we still use non-fiction textbooks, will know that features which give organisms a greater chance to survive long enough to reproduce will lead to that organism’s success as a population. It’s a beautiful, simple idea, as all the great ones are. It just makes sense.
We, of course, are products of this process, too. It’s been particularly successful in selecting for our brains, though very clearly not in every individual case. You can consider other features of our bodies and understand how they were selected for, either by the time we were clearly separated as homo sapiens, or long before. Opposable thumbs, upright locomotion, stereoscopic vision, mammary glands: these are all obviously winning concepts when you’re trying to eat, defend yourself, and raise the next generation until they’re old enough to make yet another generation.
Sensory perception is a particular wonder to me. The retina, the cochlea, and the dense webs of nerve endings in our fingertips and feet are astonishingly successful wet engineering projects. Critical for survival, sure, but also our gateways to so much beauty and pleasure for these giant brains we carry around.
But sweet, crispy jeebus crackers, I need someone to explain to me, right here and right now, what possible advantage to us as a species is manifested in wiring up our teeth with so gotdamn many ways to feel pain. They are stupid bones, vitally and obviously necessary chunks of calcium phosphate. How was their 400 ways to hurt (and hurt like a BITCH) helpful to us as we were advancing from whatever predecessor species that only slurped tiny sea critters or whatever? Why are they wired up with the same nerve density as, apparently, our sexual organs, although only in ways that cause excruciating pain? Why do they need any nerve endings at all? It’s not like early mammals or precursor homo went to the dentist. Seems like this is a pure failure of the process. There is no reason for this much pain. If a tooth dies or is damaged, shouldn’t it ought to just go away and let the host get along with the other 30-ish? Do we have to be tortured? Unable to enjoy cold beer or hot coffee or hard candy? God dammit, Charles.
ti;dr: I’m getting a crown this morning and I’m a giant baby and it’s gonna hurt and I hate teeth.
Remember racist Greg? The guy from the other company I hear bloviating all day over my cube wall? This morning, he’s talking politics—domestic and middle eastern—just as eloquently and deeply informed as you’d expect. Get here, new office. Guys like me do poorly in jail.
We had to do a near literal 180° on our vacation plan. Well, probably closer to 135°, from Oklahoma towards Florida. And we had to do it with only 10 days to departure. But it was deftly executed and we’re all looking forward to a week in a place where they still have summers.
I’m getting more into the World Cup as it goes along. I could even see myself becoming a casual soccer fan over time. But one thing I will never, ever do is refer to teams with plural verbs. Germany is, Belgium has, Uruguay was. Not are/have/were. Never ever, nfw. This is America, goddammit. Speak American.
Related: I really want one of those “Through The Perilous Fight” scarves. No idea what I’d do with it. Just want.
Secret seemed like such a cool concept, but in practice it looks like another version of grindr. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, etc. Maybe if more of my friends were actually there and sharing secrets, I’d see those instead of what it thinks is “interesting” locally.