Monday, September 26, 2005


ROCK CONCERT - Sufjan and Wilco

"But I want to go to the Rock Concert!"

Or something like that. Joy-Z will have to correct me if I'm wrong on that quote.

Last week, I was able to go to two rock shows in a row. Sufjan Stevens played on Wednesday in Lawrence, KS at The Bottleneck. And then Wilco played at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa.

The following anecdote will probably only seem funny to me, but I'm going to type it anyway. We all know I've run out of things to write about anyway.

I rode to the concert with my friends Casey, Traci, and Vance. Casey and Traci were in the front seat and Vance and I were in the backseat, I was riding on the passenger side. About forty minutes outside of Lawrence, traffic slowed to a crawl for some reason. After a while, three fellows got out of an SUV a couple cars ahead and walked off the interstate down a hill to some trees where they could relieve themselves. Traffic started moving a bit, so by the time they were done, their car had moved up quite a ways. They started walking, then jogging back to their car. As they jogged by our car, I rolled down my window and stuck my finger (index) into the air and started yelling "Woo hoo! Number one! Woo woo, Number One!" The first two guys looked confused and maybe a little nervous, but I think the last guy caught on.

We had dinner at a nice brew pub in downtown Lawrence, which turned out to be a pretty neat town. I left my fellow travelers a little early at dinner so I could be sure to catch Liz Janes, who was opening for Sufjan Stevens. I had seen her open for Sufjan last summer, along with the amazing Joanna Newsom, in San Diego. She started off accompanying herself with a ukulele, and then gradually her band joined her on stage. Sufjan was her drummer, and the rest of the band was made of other "Illinoisemakers," Sufjan's band.

Not from the show I attended...

So Sufjan Stevens and the Illinoisemakers came out all pumped up and cheering, dressed as an Illinois cheerleader/pep squad. The opening song was the 50 States song, with the chorus "It's part of the act, the 50 states, pack up your bags, it's never too late" and they mention every state and say a little phrase about it. Everyone laughed when he sang, "... go to Nebraska, there's nothing to do." This song can be heard on this concert recording from Toronto. They would often do coreographed cheers between songs, which was very fun and it kind of broke the pretension found at many indie-minded shows. The people that make up his band are extremely versatile, and they were constantly switching around instruments. At one point, I noticed the banjo player playing banjo at the beginning of a song, then picking up a trombone to play a horn part, then playing banjo again.

Almost all of the material was from his newest album, "Come On! Feel The Illinoise!" He played only one song from Seven Swans and for an encore he came back out by himself and played the song Romulus from the Michigan album, and the crowd was hushed. That's probably my favorite Sufjan song ever, so that was a treat for me.

If you're not familiar with Sufjan's stuff, Illinois is his second effort in the 50 States Project, which entails recording an album for each state. his first state project was Greetings From Michigan, which is still probably my favorite of his albums.

I have a feeling there would have been a longer set and more encore songs, but this was by far the hottest concert I've ever attended. It was crazy, and we were even standing in the back where it wasn't quite as crowded. It was a sold out show, so I know they were packed to capacity, but there must have been something wrong with the AC or something.

At the show I acquired what is likely to be a rare Superman edition of the vinyl LP version of Illinois. They had covered Superman with a balloon sticker. Earlier this summer they almost had a recall of the CDs because they hadn't licensed the image of Superman with DC comics, so all the newly pressed ones have that image removed.

We rolled back into Siloam at about 4:30am. Luckily, I had the day off from work, so I got a decent amount of sleep before I got up and prepared to head to Tulsa for the Wilco show Thursday night.

I had yummy homemade pizza with my friends Stephen and Joy-Z in Tulsa, and then we headed out to Cain's Ballroom.

Cain's is my favorite place to see a show these days. A few years ago they renovated it back to it's original state as a western swing joint, "Home of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys." Jeff Tweedy complimented it several times during the show.

I don't have a whole lot to say about Wilco, except that they are one of the tightest bands I have ever seen, and it's amazing how they reinvent their songs in a live setting. They leaned pretty heavily on material from A Ghost is Born though they played a wide variety of material, including a couple tunes from the Woody Guthrie Mermaid Ave tribute albums. They played two long encores, and closed with a cover of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."

So that was my Rock Concert excitement, hopefully that was sufficiently coherent.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Clean up... and up!

This upcoming week is Cleanup Week in Siloam Springs. That means that all week the city will pickup old furniture, appliances, etc... for free. The rest of the year you have to pay for them to pick up stuff like that.

I bought the house I'm in now about five years ago, and I like it here. Whoever used to live here did some kind of screwy things, though. One feature I kind of hated about the house is that it had built in desks in the bedrooms upstairs. This wouldn't be too bad, but they're kind of crappily built, and they're not big enough for a non-flat screen computer monitor. I tore out one of them last year. That one was in the bedroom that I turned into my guitarmaking shop. In order to help the town celebrate Cleanup Week, I decided to tear out the desks in the other two rooms.

Here's the aftermath of the second one I took out.

There's a few things that are dumb about this desk. The genius woodworker that installed it used nails instead of screws to attach it to the wall. This means you have to tear the drywall up and pretty much destroy the desk to remove it. If he'd used screws, I could have taken it all as one piece instead of board by board. I'm going to have to patch a bunch of drywall. Also, there's an area with no carpet now, since they installed the carpet around the desk.

Another dumb thing is the built-in ladder that you can see in the photo. It goes to the attic, but the entrance in the ceiling is only about 24" by 24" or so. So it's impossible to put any large-ish boxes up there. Of course, who would ever want to put boxes in an attic?

Here's the interesting part. I bet you didn't think there was going to be an interesting part. When I pulled out the desk drawers, I found bits of a torn up photo, a small bag of white powder, and a bottle wrapped in electrical tape.

I think the picture was just there as a result of falling out of a stuffed desk drawer, but the bag and bottle were definitely there on purpose. Now I'm an innocent cornfed Nebraska boy, so I don't have a clue about this stuff at all. The bottle is made of glass and has some sort of metal nozzle or something stuck in the top. Then the whole thing was wrapped with electrical tape, apparently to hold the nozzle in and seal it to the bottle.

I almost took the powder to the police just out of curiosity to see what it is, but I didn't really want to waste their time. I've been in this house for five years, and it was empty a year before that, so it's not like they would be able to bust anyone. So I flushed it. I should have called the police, and then when they knocked on the door I could have scrambled to the bathroom and flushed it like they do in the movies and on Cops.

Anyway, I feel dumb for asking. Does anyone want to hazard a guess on what it was based on the bottle/nozzle thing?

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Wurl'd Peace

I have a bad habit. I guess it's really just more of a habit, it's not so bad. I like to buy instruments that I don't know how to play, just because I think they're cool and I like having the instruments around. It's part of my neverending quest to be mediocre at many different things. It also explains the banjo, accordians, mandolin, and other instruments that are littered throughout my home. I'm terrible at playing all of them.

Here's the latest, it arrived a couple days ago from Texas. It's a late 60's Wurlitzer electric piano, an EP-200 to be exact. It's not a synthesizer, it has a real piano mechanism inside. Instead of hitting a string, it hits a little metal bar, and there's a pickup that amplifies that vibrating bar, kind of like an electric guitar pickup. It can be quietly heard even when it's not plugged in. It has a really cool jazzy sort of sound to it. Or at least it would if someone played cool and jazzy things on it. It needs quite a bit of work to get it fully functional.

As a little kid, I loved dinking around on the piano and playing things by ear, figuring out melodies and whatnot. My debut was at AWANA when I was five. AWANA is kind of like Boy Scouts except you memorize Bible verses and play games instead of learning to tie knots and start fires, and also there are girls. So there was a talent show, and at the end they asked if anyone had any other talents to share in front of everyone. I have no recollection of this, but apparently I stood up very quickly and announced that I was going to play Joy to the World on the piano. And I got up and did it, single note style as I had learned to play by ear at home. It's easy because the first line is just descending note by note for an octave, all white keys, C-B-A-G-F-E-D-C. It's weird hearing people tell me that story, because I've always thought I was naturally an introvert. Maybe the problem was that I hadn't heard of the Myers Briggs test, so I didn't know how to act like an INTP yet.

I'm also told that when I was five or six years old, I almost convinced my Sunday School teacher that I was adopted. So apparently, I was a show-off and a liar.

When I was nine or ten, I was told that I had to take piano lessons for two years no matter what, but after that I could quit. Even while I kind of enjoyed playing the piano, I hated the lessons. My mom got my sister and I these cool piano books that had a bunch of popular songs like Eye of the Tiger or a bunch of TV show theme songs like Cheers or Hill Street Blues. My favorite was the theme to Young and the Restless because it always got a laugh. The piano teacher was very rigid and traditional, and I suspect she didn't want me playing such drivel. She totally sucked the joy out of those songs by making me play it precisely as written which just didn't quite sound like the actual songs.

My worst piano lesson memory didn't involve the piano at all. I usually rode my bike to the teacher's house, which involved riding across the schoolyard at Laura Dodge Elementary. One winter day I was riding past the playground and there were some older kids up to no good. As I passed they started chucking snowballs at me and I almost fell off the bike (a sweet blue Murray BMX bike with yellow pads). I was so shaken up by the time I got to the teacher's house that I couldn't do a piano lesson and just had her call my mom to come pick me up. I think I secretly liked having an excuse (although the trauma was very real at the time) not to have to take the lesson. I bet the boys wouldn't have thrown snowballs at me if I had stopped and explained that I was an orphaned piano prodigy, then they wouldn't have hassled me.

And that's how come I bought an electric piano.

Monday, September 05, 2005



I've got three things working against me in this post about my road trip:
1.) I'm not one of those people that thinks to carry around a camera everywhere to take interesting pictures.
2.) Road trip stories are only good when they involve going with other people. Since I can pretty much do whatever I feel like, there's no conflict. Conflict is a major part of good storytelling.
3.) I'm not very good at vacation.

So I'll just post some photos I have with a few comments.

The first day I drove to Springfield, Illinois.

Thanks to Motel 6 and Hardee's, I was able to keep my budget for the night at under $40.

I saw some fire so I took a picture.

A bridge too far.

Working on vacation sucks. The joke's on them, though, as I wasn't very productive. I had my days free since the class was at night, but I mainly sat in my hotel room and read and took naps when I wasn't working. This doesn't make for good vacation stories, but it makes a nice vacation. Plus, it was too dang hot out. I was reading Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott.

This is the shop where I took the guitar finishing class. There was only one other person in the class, so it was basically the three of us sitting around that workbench learning stuff. We weren't allowed to take pictures for security reasons, this is lifted from their website.

After Chicago, I went to Dover, Ohio to visit some friends. This is me and my fan club in Ohio. I'm a gentle giant.

This is my sweet ride parked in front of one of the finer Motel 6's at which I've ever stayed. It's plain to see that I enjoy the finer things in life. This was in Missouri on the way home from Ohio.

This photo would be much funnier if I would have gotten the camera out in time to get the Motel 6 that was right before the Hotel 7. My guess is that the Hotel 7 is an empty shell of a building and is only there for joking purposes.

You can see why it took me two months to get this posted. [cough]

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