Billboards Along the Highway
Two Gallants, The SLIP. Charlie McAlister ETC Down South
June 6. Two Gallants is the first show I will see since my move back to South Carolina. I drive up to Asheville, two hours into the mountains where the air gets crisp again. Kids in Birkenstocks and flowing skirts snake the venue in wait for the headliner, Les Claypool. It is off-putting — I haven't cared about jam band music since Phish fell apart. Adam and Tyson play some of the regular songs as well as new ones, but it's to a big crowd that only kind of listens. Ashleigh and I go into the Green Room and Adam is hard on me for the job I admit to getting at an insurance firm. He says that I have changed. I will not take the job, though the money is good.
June 19. The SLIP play with Bobby Bare Jr. at the Orange Peel. Lead singer Brad Barr is a talented lyricist whose ballad "Suffocation Keep" hooked me last year, along with that fast, happy-gloss explosion, "Children of December."
I hold every person I meet like a treasure
I defend the ones I love to whatever the end is
And that's why I take it to you through the music
'Cause when the music's connected it's like everyone's protected
I should turn in an article but have forgotten how to write, and so I don't.
July 21. I downloaded a lot of Richard Buckner. Wikipedia defines alt-country as: "any musician who plays a type of country music different from the prevailing trend." Well, okay.
My introduction to music was Guns N' Roses, U2, and country. I was ten, had heard about mixed tapes, and would press “record” as the station played. I did not get why you would record a station or how you were supposed to have certain songs. Buckner plays with Six Parts Seven, a band I found on MySpace last month on of those nights I searched the internet for new music. It's my scene now: virtual sites for the old city ones, and even more alienating.
Aug 19. I went to a dance party at the Whig and danced for three hours to garage funk. Brantley tape-traded with The Mountain Goats in the ‘90s and gives me an education in some music history via ripped CDs. I discover Half Japanese, SMOG, Sparklehorse, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Hypertext almost replaces the lack of scene here in this nowhere country place where I am not enough of a herd creature to gel with the small pack, and so I stay in my room, cultivating what it means to be alone. Yes, almost; perhaps music is seduction. Perhaps it exists most fully when stress due to lack becomes an active, gnawing one.
Oct 20. Leslie and I go to Atlanta to see Division Day. I have promised my editors a story but worry about that. You can fake it, but it will only be okay. I can't afford the weekend off or the gas, but it is my birthday next week, so what. I ask for the guestlist at the show — petty at such cheap tickets, and yet look at the price of gas. I have seen them twice in San Francisco. About a dozen people have come to The Loft for the show. It is weird to see them on the East Coast and the equilibrium is wrong, their sound too much pressure for the insipid crowd. Yet the conversation backstage afterward gets me juiced.
Rohner Segnitz says that "nine kids who are enjoying themselves and giving back is a million times better than a room full of disinterested people who aren't paying attention. We don't like indie rock, but what that signifies is that we don't want to play the same shit we've heard over and over but something totally different. Ultimately, we're just trying to galvanize things that we find exciting." Rar! Leslie, who works for MAC Cosmetics, mentions how they don't have “the haircut,” long bangs swooped to one side and the short, stylized back.
Nov 22. Matt Adams from San Francisco's The Blank Tapes plays at The 511 House in Florence. I have become obsessed with the concept of ennui; not a mere boredom but an actual boredom of the soul. There are 15 people in the house, which is dimly lit and most people sit on the floor, legs crossed, listening to songs played quietly into the fold. KO opens. They play a song that sounds like "Waves of Grain," admit to liking Two Gallants a lot, and wince when I scream out, play a Two Gallants cover! Everyone laughs. It is a cute and uncorrupted evening and feels like summer camp.
Jan 21. Charlie McAlister comes to Columbia. He used to trade tapes with Brantley and The Mountain Goats, and 10 years later, he is still hacking a machete through the lo-fi backwoods. His songs are set to the banjo. They are funny and nasty like Hawaiian shirts from the closet of somebody dead. Lyrics from Sardines in a Bastard Suit: "Candy apples, cigarette butt pushed by a gas power whirling brush while the harp is playing in the thick orange Sunday morning fog as pigeons flap and die and bums collide it's time to go for a ride I can't remember what we did last night, can't remember what we did last night."
I Google around to find Last Plane to Jakarta. The writer (ahem) calls McAlister's SARDINE MAGOZINE "a proper old-fuckin'-school ZINE, people; no web presence, no e-mail address, no promotional strategy. No actual ads." I am sure that this writer is aware of the irony here, the fact that he writes this on a blog with a web presence, an e-mail address, and a link that says, “Sign up for web hosting.”
Feb 2. Today's counter-culture perhaps becomes vital not because it finds true meaning, but rather in the way that it self-consciously creates it. Nor does it exist in the cities or in the subterranean highways stretching through and out past them, but rather in the tension between the two and how this tension creates a frenetic energy. This tail-eating snake roots into undeveloped meadows and brush, into Americana, frantic as the cement chases behind it with the flag-fare, press machines, its hordes. Where will it go when all of the green has gone? Well, into space, of course.