Wednesday, September 24, 2008

a brand new morning.

So the trilogy of embarrassing stories of meeting musicians i really dug continues today.

Not many of you will remember David and David (weclome to the boomtown) from the 80s but most people at the time liked the song and a few of us bought the album and really liked it.

I owe credit to my pal Marc Serra for making me aware in 89 or 90 that David Baerwald (the singer from david and david) had launched a solo career. There was a big live broadcast on WBCN when his Bedtime Stories tour came through town - and while David and other's have since described Bedtime Stories as 'his label trying to force him to be don henley' it was a good enough album with some great songwriting - "Siren's in the City" and "Liberty Lies" really resonated with my "cia is the root of all evil" thing i had going on in high school and college - after having read a few books about nicaragua and other 1970s/80s CIA exploits.

Anyhow - we dug the disc but weren't by any means megafans and life went on.

Then a couple years later - 92 or 93 - my dad and i took a great vacation together in March - flew to Albuquerque and rented an SUV - spend a week driving from Albuquerque to sante fe to taos to Roswell (of course!) to Carlsbad back up to rt40 and across to Winslow(yes i got out to stand on a corner and yes a girl in a flat bed ford did slow down to take a look at me!), meteor crater, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.

I think in flagstaff we stopped at a little strip mall and i of course had to check out the record store- they were giving away these little cassette samplers from what i hadn't been aware was coming - the new Baerwald album. i picked up a copy and for the rest of the trip - being that we had already listened to our only tape 10,000 times (blood on the tracks - i had camper van beethoven but dad wasn't digging it) - we listened to Triage top to bottom about 150 times. talk about riling up my CIA thing.

The album was a loose concept album about the CIA and the damage they (and the military industrial complex in general) had done mixed in with dark societal commentary and dark personal sounding songs. It became one of my main soundtracks for the next year and a half.

No tour ever materialized and i more or less stopped expecting that i'd ever see him live. Then all of a sudden with like 2 days notice that next september i see that he's about to be part of a songwriter's symposium series at the middle east downstairs. No one i knew was around that night and i was going to go alone but my dad called me up to say that he'd seen that baerwald was coming and though he had little interest in seeing baerwald the blurb in the paper mentioned that david had driven cross country with his pal sean penn for the gig - and my dad is nothing if not a movie buff. penn was at the top of everyone's cool list that year after carlito's way anyhow - so he asked if we could both go. I was trying to leave behind that teenage 'uncool to hang with your parents thing' and my dad is cool to hang with anyhow - so i said yeah.

now i guess i'd just turned 21 and had at any rate never been to a boston club before - but among all the hipsters and johnny clegg fans (johnny was on the showcase as well) i was feeling like a kid from the suburbs who shouldn't be at the middle east down with a bunch of scenester insisders. ugh insecurity.

the show was cool - it was seated - really sparsely attended and really initmate. it was clegg, baerwald and the dreamydreamydreamy lisa germano (formerly of meloncamp's band) doing the gig - and they had guests come up ranging from Jimmy Ryan to Aimee Mann (just pre release of whatever) I will never forget her version of 4th of july from 3 feet in front of me alone on acoustic that night. damn. anyhow the crowd was about 99% clegg fans so he monopolized the thing - but david played some of his songs, told some stories - the show was really cool and good.
(no sean penn sightings though). ha.

Then after the show - the low key vibe continued. David headed over to the upper bar, sat down and ordered some brown liquor.

now at that moment i wasn't thinking 'i'm a fan' i had just heard the guy discuss songwriting - and be very chill with the crowd [though - not to be mistaken - he was at that time among my top 3 or 4 most listened to artists - and certainly most respected songwriters - i didn't know anyone else at the time singing about things i was also aware of and into - (of course the DEA is corrupt and the CIA is bringing in the very drugs that the republicrats are at war with!) - etc.] so seeing him sitting a few feet away i decided to go over and chat with him, adult to adult, about songwriting, about the cia, about being a musician, etc. but as i approached someone else moved in and stuck up a conversation with him. Not wanting to be rude or impatient i moved off aside and just sort of hung waiting for a moment where it was cool to say something.

this moment is where most things like this go wrong for me - for as more time goes by i become less and less sure of what the value of what i'm doing actually amounts to - just walking up and chatting is one thing - sort of natural, but waiting around to do so starts to feel like being a superfan waiting for a bus (thats another story). All this while i've taken for granted that my dad is somehow occupying his own time. and in my conflicted/feeling out of place/not being sure if i should wait to talk to David state i really haven't had any practical thoughts beyond how i want to be cool and just chat with this songwriter i respect and talk as two musicians would talk.

Next thing i'm aware of my dad has apparently grown really impatient waiting for me to be ready to leave - walks his way over, and literally (gently) pushes the person talking to David out of the way, saying: "excuse me Mister beeerwall, my son is waiting patiently for your autograph and we got to go, could you take a minute and sign it for him, we listened to you in arizona."

Now i LOVE my dad with all my heart - and i respect the hell out of the guy for 100000 different reasons, but in that moment my brain completely exploded in a swirl of ebarassment, betrayal and indignation. i still feel less sane to this day than i did before that moment. it was all about beeing cool and being equal and having a meaningful interaction and all in one moment his action reduced me to a fat kid at ballgame with his dad waiting for an autograph. I couldn't speak - litterally. David Baerwald sort of smiled and said - 'oh sure, whats your name?" and i just gasped in his face. stuttered 'uh, i don't want your autograph. i just wanted to say i loved triage a lot' and turned around a left.

i still feel like a jerk for being mad at my dad over it - he had good intentions and i think i stewed for 3 or 4 days. (of course i sound like a jerk here, but those who know me know that this occured at the end of a stretch of years where i was well known for a lot of the embarrassing things my dad had said around my friends - there was a lot of history leading up to it) and anyhow - it wasn't really that big a deal - what difference does the quality of the interaction you have when you're meeting a stranger make in the long run. i guess i operated then (as now) colored by so many years of watching people approach comedian's after shows - and knowing that there were those who acted as fans and got treated as such - vs. those who talked to comics as equals had normal interactions and got more out of the experience

i don't know what i'm ever looking for when i meet a musician - in most of these early cases it would be a lie to say that there wasn't some thought or idea of hoping for invites to jam or joining their band or somehow otherwise having a chance to act as musical equals... and that though at the time i thought that this some how made me cooler and more normal than being some star struck kid looking for an autograph - that it was actually just as if not more kooky.

but hey - for a kid playing guitar in his bedroom and at college pubs in the early 90s, having grown up in your early teens playing guitar in revere with the speaker out the window hoping Joe Perry would be driving by, hear you playing 'SOS too Bad' and ask you to replace whitford in aerosmith - well asking cracker, baerwald, the black crowes, or sarah mcclachlin if you could join their band - seemed normal to me at the time.

coming over the next days - sarah mclauchlin, black crowes, james brown, mark sandman and jeff tweedy.

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