First, some relevant family history: my brother is 13 years older than I am. He is solely responsible for getting me into good music, inspiring and teaching me to play guitar, and taking me to my first concert. I was 15 in 1995 and just a sophomore in high school. By this point in my life he had already ignited my love for music and guitar; I was in a band and I was writing songs, but I had never been to a live music event. On the other hand, my brother was 28, seven years removed from a Cornell education that saw him end up with a business degree. After college he worked as a desk jockey for a few years at Chase before deciding that he had missed his calling in life to be a writer. Eventually he quit Chase and moved to Boston to pursue a Masters in writing at Emerson College.
Periodically I’d receive packages from him in the mail that contained magazine clippings and guitar tabs, cassettes with demo songs he’d been writing, etc., all kinds of stuff that 15-year-old-me thought was fantastic. At some point in late March I received one of these packages; one of the enclosed snips of paper was this:
As a 15 year old with few friends and no social life, it wasn’t difficult to clear my schedule.
April 14th, 1995 was Good Friday. He had driven home from Boston to celebrate the Easter holiday with the family. I was always especially happy when he would visit. He often came bearing musical inspiration and musical gifts (guitar strings, cassettes, picks, etc.). But what could possibly be so important that he made me reserve Holy Saturday? Friday night arrived and I went to bed, still completely in the dark about the plans for the next day. He woke me on Saturday around 10am and told me to get dressed and to meet him out front. I hastily threw on some clothes and grabbed a slice of toast as I ran out the front door to an idling car. “Get in!” he shouted through the drivers window, “We’ve got to get going!” I opened the door to that old teal Ford Escort and slid into the seat. Before I knew it we were on the road - destination: unknown, at least to me.
My memories of the trip itself are vague, but I remember that as a 15 year old, I didn’t know much about the roads besides “I’ve been in this car long enough to know I’m not in Rochester anymore.” I noticed signs indicating we were on the NYS Thruway, I-90, heading eastbound. “Where are we going? Where are you taking me?” I asked repeatedly. It may as well have been “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Surely I was driving him insane, but he was a rock and gave me no indication of what was in store. We continued driving east for quite a while. Hours and mile markers passed by. I was no travel buff, but I knew my geography, and I understood that heading east on I-90 would be sending us towards Albany, New York City, Boston, and other assorted points east. Eventually I noticed a sign indicating a major split in the roadway: keep left to continue towards Boston, keep right to head towards NYC. “This is it,” I thought to myself, “this should answer my questions.” Sure enough, and not entirely surprisingly, he kept to the left, continuing on I-90 towards Boston.
At this point it became pretty clear to me where we were headed. I had never been to Boston so that prospect alone was totally awesome. Soon though, my mind turned towards my mom, and home, and Easter, and “Holy shit! Tonight is the Easter Vigil at church. Mom’s gonna be so pissed if I’m not there!” I continued to beg him to tell me what was happening, but still, informational silence… that is, until we stopped for dinner at a rest stop on the Mass Pike between Worcester and Boston.
After scarfing down some McDonald’s, we returned to the car to continue our trip. We were close enough to Boston at this point that the car radio could pick up some FM stations. He had tuned into WFNX and just as I was buckling my seatbelt, I heard the DJ say it. “We’re gearing up for the big show tonight down at Axis; we’ll be on location. Slash’s Snakepit is in town! I hope you’ve got your tickets because this show is sold out!” Did I hear that correctly? My face must have lit up like a Christmas tree. I turned to him: confused, excited, sheepishly grinning.
Slash stood tall above all other influences on my music and guitar training (still does). My brother had weaned me on a steady diet of Guns N’ Roses as I was learning to play, and when that band imploded I discovered the first Slash’s Snakepit album after reading a review in Rolling Stone. As far as I was concerned, Jesus had already returned to earth: he let his hair grow wild, smoked cigarettes, shaved his chest, drank heavily, wore assless chaps and a tophat, he could fucking shred, and now… now I was only miles from the savior himself. As I begged my brother to tell me what was happening, he pulled two tickets out of his pocket. We were going to the show. I have no idea what happened between that moment and the moment we arrived on Lansdowne Street. I only remember pulling onto the street - a long row of bars on my left and the towering walls of Fenway Park on my right - and seeing tour vans parked in front of Axis. We parked somewhere nearby and made our way toward the club.
We were a bit early and had beaten the majority of the crowds; only a few people were standing outside the club waiting to get in. We stood at the end of the line and I don’t think I uttered a single syllable for a few minutes while I stood there and took everything in. This was all so new to me: my first time in a big city, my first time near a real baseball stadium, my first time standing outside a rock club, and ultimately, my first concert. Then I felt him tugging on my shirt. I looked over and he was pointing up the road… pointing at a group of people walking towards us. At such a great distance it’d be nearly impossible to identify any mere mortal, but what I saw standing in the middle of that group was no mere mortal. Rising above the head-line I saw a little black tower, a smokestack of sorts. Before I knew it, we had sacrificed our place in line and were walking towards the group. We met them half-way. There before me stood Slash’s Snakepit, including ex-Gunner Gilby Clarke, and the messiah himself, Slash.
Was I starstruck? You have no idea. I’m fairly certain I didn’t say a thing. I probably didn’t even look him in the eye. I mean, what are you supposed to do for royalty of this sort? Bow? Genuflect? All I know is that my brother slyly had pulled an index card and a sharpie from his pocket and handed it to Slash for an autograph. He signed the card, kept the sharpie, and continued walking towards the club. I stood there dumbfounded as my brother handed me the autograph. “What do I do with this?” I wondered. This belongs behind glass, perhaps behind an altar somewhere. He took it back from me and carefully put it in his back pocket. We ran back to the club and got back in line.
Eventually they opened the doors and let us in. I remember entering and being completely baffled by the whole scene. I’d never been inside a bar like this. If you’ve never seen Axis - it’s a truly tiny club. To think that just a few years prior Slash was performing for hundreds of thousands of people at festivals internationally, and now I was going to see him in a bar barely bigger than my garage - it was simply overwhelming. We pushed our way towards stage left, where Slash always stood, and took up a defensive position right at the front of the stage. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. If you had told me it was all a dream, I might have believed you. In fact, it WAS a dream; it was a dream come true.
The band came out, and they fucking rocked, and they rolled, and they grooved… but mostly they rocked. I distinctly remember them performing a cover of Magic Carpet Ride. Eric Dover (who I would also love a few years later as the singer for Imperial Drag) had a true rock voice and enough charisma to stand on stage and not be completely dwarfed by Slash. The band was clicking on all cylinders, but most of all, it was Slash. It was Slash standing right in front of me. It was Slash flinging sweat on me while he furiously strummed his Les Paul. It was Slash redefining, in an instant, what I defined to be cool. It was Slash setting the tone for the goals of the rest of my life.
After the show, we went back to my brothers apartment and I called home. Repentantly… “Mom, I’m in Boston. Sam took me to Boston to see a concert. It was amazing… sorry we missed the Mass. We’re driving home tomorrow, but I don’t think we’ll be back in time for dinner… I’m sorry.” (To this day I struggle with overcoming my Catholic Guilt. My mom is so dedicated to the church that I joke to people about how she is next in line to be the Pope.) It wasn’t until many years later that my mom confessed that she knew about the trip the whole time. The next morning, Easter, we drove back to Rochester. Along the way we heard the news about the Oklahoma City bombing. We got back to Rochester late Sunday afternoon, in time for Easter dinner, and the next day my brother packed his things and drove all the way back to Boston - ultimately he made two round trips to between Boston and Rochester in 4 days.
In 2008 I read Slash’s autobiography. He talks about how that first tour with Snakepit was an almost therapeutic experience for him. After dealing with the stresses of touring arenas and stadiums while a member of GN’R, and putting up with Axl’s bullshit night after night, he described the Snakepit tour as a return to what he loved most about being a musician: the experience of standing on stage and performing for a roomful of people that genuinely care about the music itself, rather than all the pomp and excess associated with major tours. I couldn’t stop smiling while reading that chapter of the book. To know that Slash himself enjoyed my first concert just as much as I did is undoubtedly among the most satisfying emotions I’ve ever experienced.
Back by popular demand for its 5th year… though I did not go to church this year, so I’m just a big hypocrite now.
- Out of a deep respect for my mother, who might very well be next in line to be pope after this dude dies.
- It’s a genuinely awesome story. Whether or not we choose to believe it, none of us should deny that it’s pretty awesome, and perhaps even more impressive if it’s all invented (The Greatest Story Ever Told?). All religion is pretty interesting when you really dig into it.
- I usually go alone which means I don’t really have to talk to anyone and I can stand in the back or on the side and just observe the proceedings. Yes, I’m judging most of the people there, like the parents with their flamingly gay son wearing a bright purple shirt under a white jacket, and the old people who themselves sit there judging everyone else for not wearing a suit or a dress or not following along with the traditions (even though their religion tells them not to judge others), and the parents who let their teenage daughters wear too much makeup and too short skirts in a so-called holy place of worship.
- To see (watch) people I knew in high school. Maybe they were friends, usually they weren’t, but I like to see how they turned out.
- It’s usually true when they say the “hot girls” get “uglier” and the “ugly girls” get “hotter.” I don’t feel guilty for thinking about that kind of stuff in a church.
- Oh, she appears to be single… nice. If you need me I’ll be available on Facebook chat while I see what she’s been up to for the past 10 years and then close the page without making any attempt at communication with her because I’m anti-social to a fault.
- Stop judging me!
- I like when the priest walks by and sprinkles holy water on everyone. It’s like we’re the fans at a sweltering rock concert and he’s in the band spraying us with his water bottle.
- What? It’s not like that at all? Yes it is. Shut up.
- The body of Christ is the most delicious little cracker in this world. I wish I could buy those wafers and put cheese and pepperoni on them to make little tiny Jesus Pizzas.
- I’d probably put Nutella on the wafers too. I bet that’d be delicious. Nutella Jesuses.
- What was I talking about?
- Now I’m gonna go listen to Jesus Christ Superstar for the millionth time.
- Maybe Ian Gillian is actually the second coming of Jesus and his gift to the world is Smoke On The Water, Highway Star, and the rest of his excellent work with Deep Purple. And maybe the day of reckoning will come at the hand of his servant Richie Blackmore’s blistering riffs.
- Oh look! I found some jelly beans!
(Originally posted 20090412.)
- This is the first time I’ve ever participated in this little weekly meme that some of you seem fond of. I guess I just don’t often have very much to say and certainly not five things to say once a week.
- So far, 2013 has been astonishingly situationally bi-polar. Something good happened, then something incomprehensibly bad happened, and now good things are happening again.
- Sorry about the vagueness. The bad thing just isn’t meant for public consumption and the good thing is too fresh to truly celebrate. I’ve learned my lesson about getting all of your hopes up only to beg for your shoulders to cry on a short time later.
- I bought a new guitar yesterday, bringing my total to 11. This, however, is my first big boy acoustic. I played approximately 65 guitars in eight music stores in two cities over the past two weeks before finding one that immediately felt right to me. The fact that the price was on the low end of all those that I’d tried was just icing on the cake; it plays and sounds better than some guitars I played that cost over ten times as much. I’m glad I was patient.
- Speaking of music, there is some good live music in my forecast. Next week is a They Might Be Giants show in Rochester. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen them play, but I never get sick of them; their catalog is so deep that I’m guaranteed to hear something new every time. There will also be a few Burning Snella gigs in the next couple months and there’s nothing I love more than performing live, so that’s a ton of fun. Deftones are playing in 2 weeks, but I’m not sure I want to spend $30 to see them in an acoustically terrible venue. Additionally, I’ve been enjoying free performances down at the Eastman School of Music about once a week. It’s one of the world’s most respected music schools and it’s mesmerizing to see its students performing excellent music, at no cost, in some of the city’s most beautiful venues. Related: I’ve got a big star on my calendar for May 30th, when the RPO will be performing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It’s one thing to listen that masterpiece on record, but seeing it live is spine-tingling.
Dude. Life…man; this shit ain’t easy.
David Bazan Band - Live on KEXP
Hi, internet. I kind of a had a miserable day.
The morning sucked for a variety of reasons. Just a bunch of general emotional weight on my shoulders.
The afternoon was spent in a high school auditorium full of crying students and staff as I supported a video stream of the funeral of a student who recently lost his battle with cancer. So that was… not fun.
Then I came straight home and received a phone call from my dad (who is on his yearly migration to Florida, until March) and he wanted to know how I was feeling and we talked about the hockey season that is about to begin and then I hung up and burst into tears because goddamn, even though he is 76 and strong like bull… he’s 76. I kind of hate that he spends over two months of every year away from home, but I very much hate that I don’t spend enough time with him when he IS home, and that’s entirely my own fault. I’m just a tiny bit afraid of dying, but I’m very afraid of losing the people I love.
Then I watched this Bazan video and cried some more because those songs mean way too much to me and speak to me far too deeply for a narrative that is purely fictional. Also, I can’t help but feel bubbles of depression rise up through me when I see musicians making a living from doing what the love - what I love. Where did I go wrong that I didn’t end up there too? Yeah, “it’s never too late” blah blah blah, right; I know. I get it. Shit. I think I’d be happy doing pretty much any job that went into the making of that video - from being the musician or recording the audio/video or asking the questions.
Now it’s only 7:21pm on Thursday and I’m not tired enough to sleep but I certainly don’t feel like being awake. I’ll just do what I always do and pick up my guitar and see what happens. Lately, more often than not, it’s not much.
So… that was awesome.
I attempted to make a video of the experience but I couldn’t get the suction cup to stick to the window, so I gave up and decided to just live in the moment.
My flight instructor was in control during takeoff, but once we reached our cruising altitude (2,500 feet) I was in control. We were in the air about 35 minutes as I flew over my house, southeast towards Canandaigua Lake, then north up to the Erie Canal, turning west over Fairport, over my parent’s house (where I grew up), towards downtown Rochester, and then back southwest to the airport; he took over again for landing.
I’ve wanted to fly planes ever since I was a kid. I was only 6 years old when Top Gun and Iron Eagle were released. Sure, they’re both super campy with ridiculous cold war era plotlines but none of that mattered to a little kid; I just loved seeing those awesome jets flying around and blowing each other out of the sky. My best childhood friend moved away before the start of 6th grade. I never truly recovered, from a social perspective, and to this day I’m sure a big part of my social anxiety and introversion can be traced back to that event.
It was around that time when the first Gulf War started (just as I was entering middle school) and I was awed by the scenes unfolding on TV every night. I spent hundreds of hours through middle school and into high school building model airplanes. The smell of Testors model cement and paint will always conjure up great memories of time spent in the basement carefully airbrushing wings and missiles and gluing them together. When finished, they’d get strung up with fishing line and hung from my bedroom ceiling. The walls were emblazoned with posters of jets. I devoured aviation magazines and could rattle off facts and specs for dozens of famous military airplanes, both old and new. You could say I was a bit obsessed, and it was largely driven by the fact that I didn’t really have much of a social life. Rather than hanging out with other kids, I was building models and memorizing wingspans and airspeeds and learning the principals of flight.
As high school began, I very seriously envisioned myself enlisting in the Air Force upon graduation and pursing a career in military aviation; I I was frequently talking to recruiters in school (I don’t think local districts even allow recruiters to come into the buildings these days). Then during my junior year I got glasses and the recruiters basically gave me the bird and told me to get lost - anything less than perfect vision was unacceptable. That sucked, but in hindsight it was probably for the best. My obsession and dedication to aviation diminished as my talent and love for music grew, and now, rather than dropping bombs on foreign countries, I get to spend my time making music and posting poop jokes on the internet.. not a bad trade off, I guess.
Some days, a contemplative walk through the woods with a soothing soundtrack is more important than eating lunch. #gpoyw (Taken with Instagram at Center Park)
Some days I’m Crazy Monster.
Some days I’m a guy on the floor.
Today I’m the latter needing the former.
On Halloween of 2011, after hearing rave reviews for a few years, I began listening to the WTF with Marc Maron podcast. I started with Episode 1 - though he had already released 225 episodes. I wondered how long it would take me to catch up (I had an unofficial goal of doing it in under a year) and if I’d actually enjoy it enough to do so.
Well - 303 days later - I’ve finally caught up with all 317 episodes. That averages to slightly more than one episode per day, but in reality it came in larger chunks. Sometimes I’d go a week without listening to any, but then I’d listen to 7 in a single day.
That’s 317 episodes (308 originals + 9 special episodes) clocking in at - are you ready for this? - 15 DAYS, 21 HOURS, 15 MINUTES AND 54 SECONDS.
In reality it’s closer to half of that time, because I listened to almost every episode at double-speed. But even still… let’s call it 8 days. In the past year I’ve spent eight full days with Marc Maron in my ears, and I’ve enjoyed just about every minute of it.
I need to reconnect with old friends as well as try to make some new ones.
There are two things you need to know right off the bat: yesterday I ate a huge burrito for lunch and my family is not very close. We’re not UNclose, I guess. It’s just that we have better things to do and I’d be willing to guess we all register somewhere in the Asperger’s spectrum.
[Read the rest at The Atlantic.]
I just finally got around to reading this piece by Alison and, let me tell you… you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to floss your teeth while sobbing.
Honestly, it’s a great piece of writing. It moved me like few things do. Go read it.
- My sister visited a psychic last week and the first thing she was told was that her younger brother (me) was a “wild man” and that the girls were all crazy for him to the point that he was having to fight them off and well I guess that makes it pretty clear that my sister just paid a crazy lady to tell her a load of absolute bullshit.
- Currently: mornings are painful; days fluctuate; evenings are lonely.
- It took about eleven weeks, but I’ve successfully written lyrics to another song. (That’s better than eleven years.)
- My goal is to write three more songs before the end of the year, record them in the winter, and release them in 2013. I’m hoping for a ten track album, with five songs performed twice each*: once electric, once acoustic.
(Image via http://www.explodingdog.com)
Visited my old stomping grounds today. Worked here for 11 years. Some days I really miss it. (Taken with Instagram at Shadow Pines Golf Club)
Yes, I did indeed go to school to study music; In 2001 I received my Bachelors of Music in K-12 Education.
I regret choosing Education as my major. The way education degrees are structured is bullshit, but it’s necessary. Generally you don’t get to do your full student teaching placements until your senior year, mostly because you really don’t have the knowledge of how to manage a classroom before that point. Unfortunately, by then it’s far too late to realize you don’t actually enjoy teaching… so you’re stuck with that degree unless you want to waste another few years pursuing something different.
If I could go back and do it again I’d look into either Music Performance or Music Business. Better yet: I’d skip college completely, buy a van, and hit the road with a band that was intent on playing no fewer than 25 cities per month. It would be far cheaper and endlessly more rewarding.