15 May 2007

Why I am not a Music Writer

First thing: this is not a coy denial to encourage the "oh, of course you are" response. I am venting and do not wish to be comforted or coddled. Sure, I am writing this right now and therefore could be called a writer. But we live in a predominantly literate society where really everybody knows how to read and write. By that fact, pretty much everybody is a writer. But did not say I am not a writer, I said I am not a Writer.

Norman Mailer once said something about the difference between a professional [W]riter and an amatuer writer is the ability to work on a bad day. That makes a lot of sense to me. Anything someone has a thought on can be written up nicely given the time and space to do it. But to come up with thoughts everyday and articulate them as fast and naturally as the rain falls down...I can't do that. I can't really write on rainy days, so to speak.

But I also said I am not a music Writer. I put that adjective in there because this is the type of writing I most often decide to make public, in a zine or a blog, and music Writer is what I am sometimes called (not by me.) But I am not a music Writer because I don't always have something to say. Sometimes I don't even really have much of an opinion about something I hear. But then nobody is expecting me to have one. Nobody is counting on me. If I don't have something I think is relevant, new or interesting to add to the conversation, I just don't write about it.

Why do I write about music when I do write? Because like every other music writer (and music Writer) I can make the corny but true statement: music has saved my life. Music saves my life. Repeatedly. I could not live without it and probably neither could you or you wouldn't be reading some music fan's blog.

Why do I have these blogs going? Because every once in a while I have a thought I do want to share. And I presume if you don't want to read it, you won't. You don't have to. It's a great thing about blogs.

And why do I write for zines? I wrote for zines in Kentucky that covered the local music scene there when I lived in Kentucky because I loved it. I now write for zines in Colorado because that's where I live now. And I love much of what is going on right here. Recordings are great and essential and good music comes from everywhere, yes, but you live where you live and the music that is made there could only come from there, at least exactly as it exists. It would be different if it came from somewhere else. Maybe just as good, but it would be different.

I write for zines because they support and exist in the local music scene, whatever state that scene is in, and local music scenes are the only sort of place that's ever felt like home to me. I don't make music, but I do possess the common skill of writing sentences. Occasionally a good one. So I keep writing and try to do my little tiny part for whatever it's worth. Times are that I think maybe it's not worth too much and I maybe I won't write anymore. But then I do it again.

But still, I am not a Writer.

10 May 2007

elvis costello & the imposters

Elvis Costello is important. Everybody knows it. It's true. Just last year I was standing around waiting for my kid at the house of one of his friends when I saw, on top of a stack of stuff to be returned to the library, a copy of This Year's Model, the Rhino re-release. I was looking at it when the mom walked up. I asked who was checking out EC. She said that she had picked it out for her daughter to listen to because "you know, Elvis Costello is so important she should know who he is." I nodded and thought, yeah he is, but although I couldn't put my finger on exactly why...it felt more than a little weird. I recalled that weirdness and felt it amplified at the Elvis Costello show at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver last Sunday. The tee-shirts hanging in the merch booth said "30:10" and next to it was a little sign explaining the meaning of this: thirty years, re-releasing the first ten. And indeed it was the theme of the night. Drums, keys, guitar and an almost audible bass dialed it back to 1977 starting out the show with "Welcome to the Working Week" the first song on the great My Aim is True. The cover of that album, with the checkerboard pattern spelling out a repeating message of "ELVIS IS KING" and the indelible image of EC in that knock-kneed pose, signature chunky black glasses and cradling his Fender, was retro-50s in the 70s and now thirty years later, I wonder what it is now...retro retro? Because here we were in 2007 hearing the old songs rolling: "Less than Zero" "Watching the Detectives" "Alison" off My Aim is True; "Lipstick Vogue" "The Beat" "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" off This Year's Model. Looking around it was clear that all the songs are very familiar both with the portion of the crowd who looked like they might've caught the songs the first time around and the younger set who's just getting to them. They are great songs and the talent on the stage wasn't lacking in delivering them. But just as much as they are great songs, and ones I have listened to in recent years, there was a weirdness in hearing them delivered live, as the focus of the show. The Imposters are not out to promote Elvis's new stuff, they are out on the road to play the old stuff. And that feels a little like trying to re-kindle a love affair with your sixteen-year old crush. I know there's no shortage of artists touring on their old great stuff and they have every reason and right to do so. If there's re-hashing going on the original artists should be the first in line to cash in on the interest. Especially artists who were underappreciated in their time but became "musician's musicians" and got fabulously popular after their time. It's not new either. Seen it before and sometimes actually had fun with it. But though I was glad to see him again, I for one couldn't enjoy the nostalgia on this particular night in spite of my love of old Elvis songs.

04 May 2007

head like a kite - larimer lounge

One of the amazing things about computers and music is the astonishingly vast realm of sound one person can pull together on their own. But sometimes what makes for a great recording just doesn't translate to the live performance realm. Knowing this, I was a little bit nervous about seeing Head Like a Kite live. I really like Random Portraits of the Home Movie, a lot, and didn't want anything to spoil it. Head Like a Kite is basically a one man creation, (albeit with a stellar contributing guest list) and although I knew that Dave Einmo tours with the talented and likeable Trent Moorman, I wasn't sure how a live performance would actually look and sound. I headed to the Larimer curious and with my fingers crossed. A sigh of relief. Obviously Einmo and Moorman have put a lot of thought into it because in spite of the invisible musician aspect of a laptop and such other devices, which in other situations have left me a little cold and uncomfortable, HLAK put on a warm and dynamic performance that had me appreciating the songs even more, kinda almost dancing. I got a serving of fine musical victuals, just the kind of sustenance that has kept me getting out to shows for decades. Not surprisingly, seeing the performance of songs from Random Portraits with the super 8 footage the songs were inspired from running in the background made a cohesive and more complete impression of the work as a whole. I've seen film running behind the band at a live show before and when thoughtfully done, it can really work out for a spectacular embodiment of the music. HLAK definitely fits that categorization. The few who made it out to the show experienced a treat. Sorry if you missed it, I'll try to spread the word better next time.