Tuesday, January 29, 2013

For the Turnstiles, Vol. II

A professor asked me to write something on Burning Man for a book he was putting together on modern rituals. The basic gist of the book was that rituals are important rights of passage, but many rituals are outdated, and their meaning, and therefore their power, has been lost. Rituals act as external symbols of internal processes within our psyches, and are therefore crucial to our development. As our consciousness and culture continue to evolve, we need a corresponding evolution of our rituals to continue our psychological and cultural development. Without this evolution, we get stuck in permanent adolescence, both individually and collectively. 

Does this permanent adolescence sound like American culture at all? Is Burning Man a ritual, or just decadent escapism? Can a party be a ritual? Is it a reflection of our arrested development, or a post-modern experience of transcendence? 

The book remains unpublished, so here's my story and I'm sticking to it. It will be up to you to answer the questions above, and any others that come up while reading.

One Night in Bangkok: Burning Man Reflections

          I’m trapped, crawling head first through a narrow passageway that seems to be getting tighter and tighter as I inch forward. I’m not sure where I am or what will be waiting for me if I can get out of this tunnel. Excitement turns to anxiety, my breathing speeds up and my heart starts beating like a bass drum as I struggle through the cramped darkness. Finally, I see some light breaking through a vertical slit ahead of me. I hear a familiar voice calling out, but I can’t quite decipher the message. “What?!” I yell. My friend Tim responds, “Don’t forget to kiss the clitoris on your way out!”

          “Ah-ha!” It all dawns on me as I pull myself through the flaps of a gigantic vagina, constructed of wood, carpet, etc., and lay a big wet one on the clit. And there I stand on the other side, born anew into the wonderful world of Burning Man.

          Past the lips of the vagina, there’s a dance party going on inside a wooden fort. The artificial birth canal is the entrance to the party. A DJ hovers in the watchtower up above, spinning a most fitting song for my entrance into this new land and life:

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you're lucky then the god's a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

“What the hell is going on here?  Where am I?  How did I get here?” I wonder, as I stand giggling in awe, trying to take it all in.  Just a few days before I was flying from Chicago to San Francisco for a much needed vacation.  San Francisco was a haze, as San Francisco tends to be.  Then this morning I drove up to the Burn with my friend Tim and two buddies of his, all of us Burning Man rookies, not really sure what we were getting into.  We had heard stories, seen pictures.  It would be hot.  There would be lots of topless women.  Drugs and dancing.  Freaks getting weird.  What more could you need?  Apparently at the end of it all there is supposed to be a giant wooden statue of a man that gets burned down, hence the name, “Burning Man.”  Big deal, right?  Wrong, but more on that later.

We pulled in under the cover of darkness, gazing from afar at the strange scene developing all around us.  A temporary city constructed from scratch in the middle of a Nevada desert, just past Nowheretown, USA.  Around 30,000 people set up camp, trucking in U-hauls, RV’s, and semis filled with sound-systems, giant tents, art pieces, and various other amusements, plus all the food, drink, and supplies they’ll need to survive in this harsh climate for about a week.  This little city is more than a little different from any other city you may have encountered.  The normal rules don’t apply here, mainly because there are no rules.      
Even now, it’s still hard to put a finger on exactly what Burning Man is, or even what it isn’t.  There are such a wide variety of experiences to be had, that I imagine everyone who attends would describe it differently.  For some it’s a sacred pilgrimage, the culmination of an entire year of preparation, and a chance to express and explore their soul.  For others, it’s the height of decadence, a chance to shed all inhibitions, express oneself creatively, and dabble in the taboos of our dominant culture -- particularly drugs and sex.  For most, its probably somewhere in between the sacred and profane.  But after a few days in the desert, with all the chaos swirling around you, the profane may become sacred, and vice versa.  With my new post-Burn perspective, I’m quite sure that celebrating life, partying as hard as you can, joyously and deviously expressing yourself, shedding your inhibitions and persona, sharing this experience with others in community, and just plain getting your ya-ya’s out, is a most sacred thing to do.  

I’m not sure what all the necessary components of a ritual are, but I think Burning Man can be seen as the ultimate post-modern do-it-yourself ritual.  With a smorgasbord of activities, everyone tailors their experience to suit their needs, delights, and interests.  People have asked me what Burning Man is all about, and in the past I’ve described it as a cross between the parking lot scene at a Grateful Dead show, a giant rave, a post-apocalyptic Road Warrior landscape, and an adult amusement park.  Those are my reference points anyway, and to some they would do little to relate the nature of my experience.  So I’ll do my best to describe what went down in the desert, step by step.

Step 1: Apply sunscreen.  The sun and sand are everywhere, you can’t escape them.  You must submit to the will of the harsh desert climate.  Reapply the sunscreen continuously and generously, strap on your sunglasses, and keep a bandana over your face to keep the dust out.  Drink lots of water, as well as any other beverages you need to get you through the night.  These are the habitual, as opposed to the ritual, necessities of Burning Man that quickly become second nature.  

Step 2:  Bring a bike, and ride off into the sunset.  My crew brought a few pawnshop dirt bikes, just like the kind I had when I was 10, which had the effect of transporting my consciousness back to that age of innocence and wonder.  We rode across the desert like a gang of marauders, ready to take on the new world, and see what it had in store for us, just like when we were kids.  

Step 3:  Reapply sunscreen.  Dance on top of a pillar with half-naked women.  Pick your jaw up off the floor.

Step 4:  Stick your head up the ass of a gigantic two-story tall homemade goat.  Speak to the strange men inside the belly of the goat.  Ask them where you can find god in the desert, and eat the Cheeto they put on your tongue.  Pull your head out of the goat’s ass, and stumble away dazed and confused.

Step 5:  Did I mention the sunscreen? 

Step 6:  Confess to your friends that the goat, and the guys inside, freaked you out.  Laugh and smile till it hurts, as they tell you the same.  Plot to steal a car and crash it into the goat, and imagine watching the goat go up in flames.  

Step 7:  Get out of the way of the dragon!  There’s a giant metal dragon coming your way, breathing fire, and the driver is pissed that your crew is blocking its path.  It eats hippies for breakfast, so you better think fast or you’ll soon find yourself in the belly of the beast.

Step 8:  Visit the Temple of the Sacred Tears.  In the midst of all the chaos swirling round, a hush will overcome you as you encounter the Temple of Sacred Tears.  A giant ornate wooden structure in the middle of the desert, ineffable, the most beautiful structure this side of Gaudi’s La Segrada Familia.  A moment of reflection, as you take in the beauty of this building dedicated to suicide victims.  There are wooden blocks for you to write down prayers, or the names of the departed.  This is a holy place, with a feeling of reverence.  At the end of the festival, all of this will be burned to the ground. 

Step 9:  Sunscreen anyone?

Step 10:  Return to your camp to recharge.  Burning Man can be both physically and mentally exhausting, with the intense climate, plus all the chaotic festivities.  Your campmates are like-minded in exhaustion.  A brief return to normalcy is needed, so Classic Rock Happy Hour is spontaneously thought up.  Beers are cracked open as you kick back in a comfy chair, and Tom Petty’s American Girl blares out of the speakers.  Naked women are bathing in a pool set up across the street, and you can’t look away.  Everything in the universe is exactly as it should be.  You are smiling.  

Well she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there
Was a little more to life
Somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to
Yeah, and if she had to die
Tryin’ she had one little promise
She was gonna keep

Step 11:  Your peace is disturbed, as you notice a strange commotion headed your way.  A group of naked people, bodies painted completely red, are chasing down a poor soul.  They pick him up, and start to carry him off.  As you attempt to take a picture of this bizarre scene they spot you and start pointing in your direction.  You better high tail it out of there.  They’re coming for you.  

Step 12:  Find Camp Boognish.  In your escape from the red people, you stumble across a geodesic dome, with triangular spikes in an arc around the top.  You have just encountered Camp Boognish, named for the band Ween’s morally ambiguous god, the Boognish, both god and Satan rolled into one.  Inside the dome Ween is blaring, naturally, so you go check it out.  It’s empty, except for a man with pink hair.  He tells you his name is Pink Money.  He has come to Burning Man to get married in the desert.  You congratulate him, tell him about the two Ween shows you just saw in San Francisco, and how you were pleasantly surprised to find Camp Boognish.  You invite him back to your camp, Camp Juicy, for a drink.

Step 13:  Bring new friends to Camp.  On the way back to Camp Juicy, you spot a green shack in the distance.  Spray painted on the side is “Camp Skynyrd.”  A scantily clad woman is leaning in the doorway.  This shack could just as easily be a roadhouse in Alabama, but its not out of place at Burning Man.  You’re curious who this woman is, and what’s inside the shack, but you have to get back to Camp Juicy.

Step 14:  Share the wealth.  Why do you call it Camp Juicy, you ask?  The collective I’m camping with has brought several hundred pounds of frozen fruit, many bottles of liquor, and blenders out to the desert.  Someone even managed to procure a license to operate a kitchen.  We make frozen fruit drinks, throw a party, and hand them out to anyone who shows up.  This is how the economy of Burning Man works.  There is no buying or selling of goods, or even bartering.  It is a gift-based economy.  People give things away.  If you need something, you ask if you can have it.  Sometimes you will be told no, but usually yes.  Sometimes you will be asked to perform a service in return.  This is such a dramatic departure from American culture that it takes some getting used to.  Once you get the idea, you realize it’s like a non-stop Christmas, except you get to play the role of both the kids and Santa.  Not bad. 

Step 15:  Get weird (as if you weren't weird enough already).  The witching hour.  The gloaming. 
You can hear howling out in the desert.  Music is coming from all directions.  You’re excited and apprehensive at the same time.  If you’ve brought any mind-altering substances, and haven’t ingested them yet, now would be the time to do so. 

Step 16:  Ride the giant ark.  A giant ark is passing by, so you climb on in for a spin around the desert.  Actually it’s a converted school bus, but your legs are a little wobbly, your stomach a little queasy, and damn if you don’t feel like you’re on a ship.  Ahoy!

Step 17:  I've got ants in my pants and I need to dance. The first stop of the evening is a dance party.  The music is bumping, but the few people inside are all sitting on the side like wallflowers.  Your crew is feeling it, and you’re all out on the dance floor cutting a rug, spinning around the room, doing the Charleston, running man, and whatever other dance moves you can remember.  The DJ’s are loving it, and respond in kind.  The wallflowers are brought to life, and join the fun.  And just as quickly as you’ve arrived, its time to leave.  On to the next one. 

Step 18:  Be born again.  Crawl through a vagina and be born into a new world and new person.  One of the ultimate symbolic experiences, with others still to come (but more on that later).  As a wise man once told me in broken English, “the night, it is like a little baby.”  

Step 19: Follow the laser.  Marvel at the giant green laser beam emanating from a neon Mayan temple, shooting across the entire desert, off into the mountains in the distance.  Walk under the laser; follow it to see where it leads.    

Step 20:  Stay on course. Apparently you weren’t the only person following the laser, as you stumble across a man rolling in the desert sand, laughing.  You say hello, and he smiles back at you with pupils as big as silver dollars.  You ask him if he’s ok, and he just laughs and falls down.  There’s nothing you can do for him.  Either he’s a raving lunatic, or he’s found the secret of life, or both.  You wish him good luck, and continue on your way; you’ve got a laser to follow.

Step 21:  Check out art installations.  Scattered along the path of the laser are many strange occurrences in the desert.  Most of these are referred to as “art installations.”  They’re art pieces of various size and wide variety that people have been working on all year, brought out, and constructed in the desert.  Some are meant to be pondered, others interacted with.  I can’t really do them justice, and my memory is quite likely distorted, but examples can be viewed at www.burningman.com.  

Step 22:  Enter the maze.  The laser leads you to a large wooden 2-story building.  You enter, and quickly find yourself in a maze, winding down passages, running into dead ends, going through doorways in the dark.  You get separated from your crew, and somehow wind up on the 2nd floor by yourself.  There’s a fire pole on the side of the building, the night has been long, and your senses are distorted, so you decide to get out of this madhouse and slide down the pole.  Minutes later your friends find you, and we carry on the way.  The laser beckons.  

Step 23:  Better safe than sorry.  A man asks you if you have any shrooms (a.k.a. “magic mushrooms”).  He looks like a narc, so you tell him “no.”  He says, “thanks anyway,” and hands you a nice homemade Burning Man sticker that will be attached to your coffee table for years to come.  You feel bad for thinking he was a narc.

Step 24:  Connect with your inner child.  The laser leads you further out in the desert, and back to your childhood, as you encounter several games from your youth.  The games aren’t the normal size though, as they’re built to Alice in Wonderland scale.  A four-foot tall Connect Four set.  A six-foot long Shoot the Moon.  Etc.  You don’t feel like a child.  You are a child.  

Step 25:  Beware the dark side.  Child’s play is over.  There is a sinister side to the desert too.  You encounter a large dome, just a naked metal frame.  Inside two bungee cords are attached to the top, and combatants swing from either side of the of the dome and hit each other with padded bats.  Spectators dangle from the outside of the dome to observe the potential danger within.  Brave souls line up to take their turn, as the leather-clad man with the Mohawk prepares them for battle.  Chants of “two men enter, one man leaves” erupt through the crowd.  Burning Man is not all peace, love, and sunshine.  Darkness lurks here too.

Step 26:  Get lost.  You’ve lost track of the laser now and are in the open desert.  Big mistake.  A sandstorm whips up, and you can’t see a foot in front of your face.  You wander aimlessly for what seems like hours, stumbling across other lost souls, and encountering art installations that appear seemingly out of thin air.  Finally, the storm dies down.  You’re exhausted, and can barely stay on your feet.  But as the man said, “You’re wasted and you can’t find your way home.”  Burning Man is a city, and if you lose your way you’ll be in for a long night.  But truly, “all who wander are not lost,” and you come across a dapper gentleman in suit and top hat.  You ask him for directions, and he grins like a Cheshire cat.  He’s told this tale before, and he does it in style.  He shows you the simple way to get your bearings straight if lost, with the Burning Man statue in the middle of the desert city acting as the compass.  You’re glad you got lost, since it gave you the opportunity to interact with this character, whose class, impeccable style, charisma, and generosity embodies the Burning Man ethic.         

Step 27:  Return to camp.  You stumble back into camp, and reconvene with a few friends who are off to one final party of the night.  You can’t resist.  You come upon a smallish tent that, from the looks of it, is about to explode.  It’s filled to the gills with gyrating bodies.  There’s a band onstage throwing it down hard, fast, and heavy; a mini P-Funk orchestra, horn section and all, blaring away.  The trumpet player is going off.  The music is building and building to peak after peak.  Hands are up in the air.  Everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs.  The trumpet player is walking the tightrope, hanging on for dear life, letting it all hang out, holding it for an eternity, then hitting that one final note causing the collective third eye of all in attendance to explode.  Thirty seconds after you entered it’s all over.  The greatest 30 seconds of your life, you’re quite sure.  It didn’t last long, but you now know that these moments are possible.  These little moments of ecstasy are what life is all about.

          Hey Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me.  You’ve given all you can, experienced more than you can digest, and fall asleep before your head hits the pillow.  Sleep for two hours, wake up, and do it all over again.  Start with the sunscreen.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

            After a few days of that, I started to get the hang of it.  Initially I found myself hesitant and overwhelmed by everything that was going on around me, and the drastic departure from the reality I was used to.  Eventually I was able to shift from the role of observer to participant.  At Burning Man the humans are the art pieces.  Truly a transpersonal festival, Burning Man gives the opportunity to shed your persona, or identity you present to the world, and express your true self.  Or try on different selves and see what you like.  There is no right or wrong way to be, so the shadow can come out to play.  Burning Man operates on multiple levels, showing us what is possible for each of us individually, as well as collectively, within American culture and humanity.  It opens the door, and allows you to peek inside.  Maybe you can see how wrong you’ve been living your life, and how screwed up American culture is.  But it gives you hope, because you can see the possible.  That eternal dream of personal liberation and communal living is realized every year for a few days.  Hope.

                  Everyone at Burning Man realizes this.  And on the final night, 30,000 strong participants stand in a circle around the Man, a 100-foot tall wooden statue of a man.  He has a skeletal frame of neon lights.  His arms, which had been down by his side, are now reaching up to the sky.  He stands at the center of the desert city, and the center of your experience.  Night falls, and the previous insanity is taken to a whole new level.  A band behind you is playing a variety of appropriate tunes, including Disco Inferno by the Tramps, Burning Down the House by the Talking Heads, and Fire by Jimi Hendrix.  Let me stand next to your fire/ motherfuckin fire!  People are decked out in their finest threads.  Others are running around screaming.  Fire dancers are twirling their flames.  The energy is building.  And then, BOOM!  Fireworks are set off from the Man, and he is ablaze.  He catches fire fast, and it spreads quickly to his head.  Everyone is howling.  The heat is building.  Hands are thrown up in the air.  One of the Man’s arms falls.  Then the Man topples over.  There is a great rush.  You come within 20 yards of the Man, and the heat is intense.  Hotter than anything you’ve ever felt.  People are going berserk, ripping their clothes off and throwing them into the fire.  The circle starts moving clockwise around the flaming remains of the Man.  30,000 people running in a gigantic clusterfuck.  It’s both exhilarating and frightening, as the heat and sea of people is overwhelming.  

You hang on for as long as you can, but you can take no more and you retreat.  You take a few steps back, as bliss overtakes you.  How is this possible?   What is this?  You can’t consciously make sense of it all, yet it makes perfect sense.  This is how rituals, and their symbols, operate: on an unconscious level.  The cleansing fire, burning the past and all of its attachments away.  Burning away your past self, your previous conceptions of humanity, and even the festival experience itself.  A destructive act of creation.  Killing the past, to allow for a new future.  Don’t look back.  

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
(“Four Quartets,” T. S. Elliot)

            And so I returned to the world, to Chicago, to my job, to my friends and family. But I wasn’t the same person, and I saw the world with new eyes.  The Burning Man ritual, and all of the symbols contained, take you on a journey out to the desert, away from the world.  But more importantly, as you’re on this outer journey in this peculiar land with its experiences and symbolic content, a corresponding inner journey is taking place.  All true rituals are the outer representations of inner processes of transformation.  Burning Man symbolizes and conjures up the journey to a strange a challenging place, filled with mysteries, wonders, fears, and bizarre characters, all inside yourself.  Analogues to many of the experiences I had in the desert, and people I encountered, can be found in fairytales and myths told since the beginning of time.  It is the archetypal Hero’s Journey.

            With these new eyes I saw the world one week later, on the morning of September 11, 2001.  I arrived at work just after the first plane hit the Twin Towers, and my coworkers couldn’t believe what was happening.  I acted shocked, but all I could think was “of course.”  This was bound to happen.  We live our lives so out of touch with ourselves, the people we know, other cultures, and the earth, striving after purposeless goals, mindlessly going through the motions, the truth of our humanity buried so deep, that this was bound to happen.  

            Rituals continue to inform us as we move through life and find ourselves in new contexts where we can explore the meaning of previous experiences.  And Burning Man continues to inform my life as I work through stages of development and personal growth, and watch the world around me change in kind.  It isn’t until now I realize that on 9/11 the archetypal Burning Man experience was being created in the real world, the symbols coming to life, on a disturbing and drastic level.  The Twin Towers, just like the Man, were set ablaze by people fed up with American culture, repressed by their own cultures, and striving for personal and spiritual freedom.  And just as we danced around the remnants of the Man with feelings of both fear and bliss, people in faraway lands were out dancing in the streets as the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground.  It seems strange that these two profound experiences of mine, Burning Man and 9/11, occurred within a week of each other.  Maybe Burning Man prepared me for what was to come.

Maybe the sun will shine today
The clouds will blow away
Maybe I won’t feel so afraid
I will try to understand
Everything has its plan
Either way

            My coworkers went home that morning on 9/11.  I kept on working, I can’t say why.  Maybe I didn’t want to give in to the fear.  Maybe I just had some work I wanted to get done.  I called my future wife and told her I loved her, and then drove off to an adult day care center in a lower income area of Chicago.  I had some cognitive testing to do with Alzheimer’s patients for a research project.  These people had lived hard lives personally and been witness to some of the great tragedies of humanity: wars, racism, the bomb.  For the most part they were oblivious to what had happened that morning.  Those who could, smiled and joked around.  We bounced a ball around the room, did some exercises, and they answered my questions.  For them it was just another day.  Maybe it was.    

See here how everything lead up to this day,
And it's just like any other day that's ever been.
Sun going up and then the sun going down.
Shine through my window and my friends they come around,
Come around, come around.

          What does it all mean?  Even after writing all this, I still can’t quite say.  Hopefully the mysteries of Burning Man will continue to inform my life all the way up to the end.  I don’t think its possible to ever fully understand a ritual from the intellectual perspective of our normal waking consciousness.  Maybe if we could it would rob rituals of their mystery and magic.  But I do feel it is fitting to end this piece by paying tribute to the wisdom of a man who died on the day this story was conceived, 4/11/2007.  Much of life and all its wonders and tragedies may make little sense: “But trust me on the Sunscreen.” [1]

“So it goes…” [2]

[1]: From Always Remember the Sunscreen, by Mary Schmich, The Chicago Tribune, 1997.  This piece was often misattributed to Kurt Vonnegut.  
[2] : From The Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut, 1969, Dell Publishing: New York.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kind Youtube of the Nanosecond

Steely Dan Reelin in the Years

I'm not a huge Steely Dan fan. For me, not much of a need to get past the greatest hits or radio stuff. Just not my thing. But there's no denying their genius. Here they are on the Midnight Special in 1973. I think Becker is playing bass, and they've got someone else in full tie-dyed jumpsuit playing dual Fender Telecasters along with Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Or maybe that is Becker, during his King Charlemagne phase? Whatever the case, mainly posting this for Bill Cosby's introduction, long before the sweater era.

Friday, January 25, 2013

El Gato con Botas


Radiohead, Bonnaroo 2006


A soundboard recording of what is generally considered to be one of Radiohead's finest shows. The sound quality is astounding, and the performance is excellent to these ears, although I can't say I've logged too many hours listening to live Radiohead. Excellent stuff, but still doesn't compare to the multi-sensory overload and Thom Yorke/Johnny Greenwood alien insanity of seeing them in person. But this is about as close as we can get until they release a DVD of this performance. 

Radiohead probably don't quite crack my top ten favorite bands of all time, but I will say they are the greatest band I have ever seen live. The psychedelia of Floyd meets the intensity of Zeppelin in a modern context. Some worship at their alter, others could do without, and it will probably be much the same with this recording.

1. There there
2. 2+2=5
3. 15 step
4. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
5. Exit Music (For a Film)
6. Kid A
7. Dollars & Cents
8. Videotape
9. No Surprises
10. Paranoid Android
11. The Gloaming
12. National Anthem
13. Climbing Up the Walls
14. Nude
15. street Spirit (Fade Out)
16. The Bends
17. Myxomytosis
18. How to Disappear Completely

Encore I
1. You and Whose Army
2. Pyramid Song
3. Like Spinning Plates
4. Fake Plastic Trees
5. Bodysnatchers
6. Lucky
7. Idioteque
8. Karma Police

Encore II
1. House of Cards
2. Everything in Its Right Place

The sound of a brand new world.


Evolution of the Wall


Here we have the evolution of Pink Floyd's last masterpiece, from rehearsals to Roger Water's current incarnation.


Live at Nassau Coliseum in 1980:

The movie:

Roger's version from 2010:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Martha & the Vandellas

A few years back I saw Ted Danson walking down the promenade in Santa Monica. A buddy yelled out "You've still got it Mayday." He turned and nodded, seemed to appreciate the subtle shout out.


Later that night I saw Ween with the Frenchman and Snowpants. Things got weird. I'm freaking out.

Kind Tune of the Moment

I'm Your Puppet

If you grew up in Chicago listening to Dick Biondi on Magic 104.3, or any city that had an oldies station, you're probably familiar with James and Bobby Purify's Motown version of this classic tune. I always assumed they were the original artists. A few years back I was watching the great BBC show Later with Jools Holland, which featured a wide array of musical acts playing a song or two, plus the occasional interview or jam session. A great opportunity to see some of your favorite bands live, and also discover some new artists. The group that left the greatest  impression on me is when I caught Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham performing their original version of I'm Your Puppet. The vocals are beautiful, the instruments haunting, the melody and groove hypnotic. And I've never seen anyone pull off the overall and sport coat look.

You can buy a similar version of this track off itunes from the album Moments from this Theatre. Here's the Purify's version:

The song has been covered by many artists over the years, including the Box Tops, who you might be familiar with for their version of the song The Letter, also written by Dan Penn.

Alex Chilton was the leader of the Box Tops, and he went on to lead another band, Big Star, which has gained quite the cult following over the years. If you're not familiar with Big Star, then at least you've probably heard the intro song from That 70's Show, as done by Cheap Trick:

And here's Big Star with a live version:

But my favorite Big Star song has got to be The Ballad of El Goodo:

How'd we get here from there, and how do we get back to where we started? Fuck it. A few years back the  Drive By Truckers toured with Spooner Oldham, and they performed I'm Your Puppet. So let's close things out with their version, with Kelly Hogan sitting in:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Suck it Jesus!

A friend was on a roll and texted me these pics. They say that in the next life, the paradox of duality will be resolved. Until that happens, and since it probably never will, in the meantime, enjoy the irony.

Kind Boots of the Week

Neil Young - The Complete Joel Bernstein Tapes
November 1976


1976 Tour Compilation. These songs that make up this boot come from "The Joel Bernstein Tape," compiled by long time friend/photographer/ musician of Neil, that surfaced after many years in Joel's personal collection (what else does he have?!?). This is an all acoustic boot that includes songs not, yet released and songs that didn't appear for many years, including an early version of "White Line", among others.

You can watch it on the youtubes.

Or you can download it on the internets, here, and likely other places with a google search.


01 Campaigner (Boston 11/22/76 E)
02 Old Laughing Lady (Atlanta 11/24/76 E)
03 Human Highway (Madison, Wis. 11/14/76)
04 Tell Me Why (Chicago 11/15/76 L)
05 After the Goldrush (Houston 11/11/76)
06 Harvest (Boston 11/22/76 L)
07 Mr. Soul (New York City 11/20/76 E)
08 Here We Are in the Years (Atlanta 11/24/76 L)
09 Journey Through the Past (Boston 11/22/76 L)
10 Heart of Gold, Fort Worth (Texas 11/10/76)
11 A Man Needs a Maid (New York City 11/20/76 L)
12 White Line, Fort Worth (Texas 11/10/76)
13 Give Me Strength (New York City 11/20/76 L)
14 No One Seems to Know (Boulder, Colo. 11/7/76)
15 Mellow My Mind, New York City 11/20/76 E)
16 Too Far Gone (Boulder, Colo. 11/6/76)
17 Needle and the Damage Done (Atlanta 11/24/76 E)
18 Pocahontas (Atlanta 11/24/76 L)
19 Roll Another Number (Boston 11/22/76 L)
20 Losing End (Atlanta, 11/24/76 L)
21 Love is a Rose (Houston 11/11/76)
22 Sugar Mountain (11/24/76 L)