Monday, October 30, 2006

Distant Gold

Band of Horses - Monsters
Joe Strummer - Coma Girl
Guided By Voices - Everywhere with Helicopter
Lost Armada - All Light Exchanged for Sight
The Swim - Julie
Jesse Malin - Wendy
Jeff Tweedy - Is That the Thanks I Get?
(Bob Dylan on drinking)
The Little Morts - Sober
Merle Haggard - Mama Tried
Guy Clark - She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Bob Dylan - Dixie
Emmylou Harris - Red-Dirt Girl
Neko Case - Hold On, Hold On
Jackson Browne - For a Dancer (live)
Iron & Wine - Trapeze Swinger (live)
Rainer - Last Fair Deal (live)
Honeysocks - De La Sierra
Sam Cooke - You Send Me
Brenton Wood - Lovey Dovey Kind of Love
Fishbone - Everywhere Sunshine

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


September is a yo-yo; September branches out, roots digging deep and wide for life, for a chance, for stability, to raise itself upright.

September is worldly, a traveling rogue and a fond friend, the long-faced journeyer back after years in the cold, a horseman ready at last to dismount.

September is loud and fast, a clock-racing hellion on a last-call weekend bender. It wants urgency, but doesn’t need it. September is a curly-haired goofball, a wedding reception dancing machine, never asked to leave, but always watched with a wary displeasure.

September is the open highway, a dotted-line mentor free and kinetic, always a half-step short of an answer it’s learned how to do without.

September has a broken-knuckled swagger, a brawler made of dynamite, swinging wildly in a crowd, unprovoked and furious. September is a waterfall, suspended beauty and rock-crunching force.

September is the Institute for the Betterment of Summer’s Weary.

September is an entrepreneur, a wide-eyed genius, a gizmo inventor entranced by subtlety and dream-driven to new heights.

September is intergalactic, a cosmic philosopher, a MacGyver for the digital age, poised to conquer the inconsequential with uncompromising flair. September is space, at a dreamer’s pace.

I drove through a moonscape battlefield, midnight fast approaching with a party just over the horizon. I drove down a canyon and up a hill-perched ghost town. I drove up and over and across, a perpetually content horizon chaser.

September is seeds flung away, a last-chance effort, trying to find solid ground.

September asks for sunsets, delivered sparingly against mountain backdrops of bruised oranges dancing in the pale blue of a late evening.

September was never meant to last, time passing unbidden, through waking hours unbroken by sleep, a misery lost in the rain. September is circular, brightly painted memories of a love that couldn’t last, with an element of danger hidden just out of reach.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Vacation, BBQ, friends and tunes...

Sitting here with a cd going on the stereo, trying to put myself back in the mindset of an overwhelming weekend, what I’m struck with most is the notion that recorded music is shit.

And that, friends, is how awesome the Club Congress 21st birthday festival was.

The wake of three days of live tunes – of hours and hours of watching and nodding and even some unlikely dancing – is infested with an inability to really grab onto these sounds coming out of the stereo, even from one of my favorite local albums.

In the wake of the past weekend, recorded music seems mild, sedate, lifeless, part of a damn little black box across the room instead of a living, breathing, sweaty, wrinkled, (likely drunk), dude or dudette.

You climb a mountain, you gotta come back down, and it’s the same with this. It’s just far too much to ask that all the music I listen to could come from a band or a performer 10 feet away, amps turned high, the singer’s face scrunched with pain or joy. The sound envelopes you in the live context, whereas it just kinda comes atcha recorded.

And what I was enveloped in was such a strange mix of styles and sounds, from aging punk legends taking the acoustic route to guitar torch mechanics to rock ‘n’ roll bands as full and broad and pounding as there ever were.

Club Congress commands much, and for its 21st the bar is set even higher. Last year was historic, but this year is when it got to come alive, bring along a few friends and settle into being a tradition.

I took a vacationer’s strategy for the weekend, leaving my apartment (just four miles away) about 7 p.m. Friday and returning home just after noon on Monday. In between it was me and Congress, friends and music and downtown and three nights spent on my brother’s floor.

I hit into the Rialto just before Dave Alvin’s set on Friday, anxious to hear an artist full of contradictions. His history is all blues and rockabilly, then he joined X briefly, continuing on with the Knitters before turning out amazing solo albums. With a deep, rich, outdoorsy voice, Alvin the singer is best as a country-folk acoustic dude. But his guitar work screams and shimmies, an effortless expertise best suited to the old school rock ‘n’ roll of his roots. But he’s not necessarily a bandleader – so often an appreciator of his own influences. Stu ditched out not too far into Alvin’s set – just too damn much guitar. I can understand that, but I was transfixed.

Friday closed with the Pork Torta and Weird Lovemakers both cramming sets into the final hour, but the energy was incredible. I jutted out to catch a bit of the Jons meld of Arizona horn-punk on the outside stage for a bit and jammed with some Chango Malo friends. Back inside, rock was punk and the crowd was pogo sticks, at least up front near the stage where I finished the night.

Waking up, there was no doubt that Saturday’s low-key time was going to be devoted to the new Bob Dylan. It was the only album I brought on vacation and Stu hadn’t heard it at all. So we chilled with that for a while before catching lunch and friends at Epic Café. I spent the afternoon with a girl and some dogs before reloading for Congress 21: Night Two.

Al Perry’s BBQ Extravaganza served up some old school guitar crunch in Gila Bend, train-whistle-blues-harp from the Hecklers (I swear the local legends at the helm made that band up, complete with back story), beautifully crafted neo-country from Lonna Kelly and the Broken-Hearted Lovers (or as I called them: Hot Chick and the Dudes), and beef brisket or pulled pork at $8 a pop.

The Tucsonan in me couldn’t stop running into the Tap Room (shout out Tokar!) to catch the Wildcats score, another world away even though the lights atop Arizona Stadium were just visible from outside the club.

Jello Biafra was in all likelihood the most anticipated act of the weekend, a politically radical punk whose spoken word work of late had a lot of humor and more than a touch of vaudeville. Biafra came out with a satiric screed on the new world order of G.W. Bush and then got political. He toned it down for a long list of bad band names, going as far as Dr. Chung and I used to in assigning them genres as well. Some weren’t bad – or maybe were bad but just barely so; I thought Sausage Gong could’ve fit as a real band name. Jello’s performance continued with the backing of Al Perry, a see-it-to-believe-it combo if there ever was one. The Phil Ochs cover “Love Me I’m a Liberal” and the newly anti-war spin on Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me” were true gems, and the showmanship of Biafra, combined with Perry’s hot-shit band, was the weekend’s highlight.

The schedule threw a curveball and I missed the first song from the Drakes, who’d been moved inside. One of the highlights of last year’s festival put on probably an even better show this time around, with more of the two guitar attack and a violinist the whole way. Gene the Audiologist and Tom the Newsman turn it up and turn it down, jam on cue and drop a spare tune beautifully on a dime. Add in a brass section for a few numbers and just enjoy.

Following the Drakes inside was Richard Buckner, an honorary Tucsonan I’d seen close to a dozen times before. It’s been amazing to watch as he’s become an absolute expert in looping guitar parts on top of each other. The performances have become more nuanced and detailed as his distinctive strumming has evolved into a whole other instrument with the technique. The trouble is, it leaves little room for applause, but I reckon Bucker kinda set it up that way. He played more songs of Since than I’ve seen in ages, and from the buzz of his new record being more of a full rock band affair in the same lines of Since, I’m excited.

That was mostly it for the tunes Saturday, as Stu and I got to talkin’ a lot with Charlie and folks, riding high on the great sets of the festival so far.

Club Congress isn’t Lollapalooza, or Coachella, or SXSW – the scale just isn’t possible, but even more importantly it isn’t driven by the fly-by-night buzz of new acts. Every set there was earned by years and years of good records and Tucson-crowd-pleasing shows. And in that you have an audience so tailored to the music, performers so tailored to the fans, that it can’t fail, not for a second.

I seem to recall Sunday morning being a bit easier to digest than Saturday… Epic Café again was the lunch spot and again I couldn’t have had a better afternoon with a girl and her dogs…

Howe Gelb was BBQ Master for Sundays festivities, and my only regret is missing the Golden Boots set by just a few minutes. I’m told that band has great promise… but onto the main acts.

Vic Chesnutt blew me away, with a passionate voice and brilliantly crafted songs. Kristin Hersh was the perfect antidote to Chesnutt’s pained tales. John Doe covered Joni Mitchell… and for a moment I could imagine “A Case of You” as an X song, with Doe and Exene’s intertwined wail turning folk to punk – just as Doe has turned punk to folk.

Howe sang his “Ballad of the Tucson Two,” celebrating the reemergence of common sense, with felony charges against two activists dropped, a reaffirmation of human dignity.

Howe brought up the night’s supergroup – Vic, Kristin and Doe – to sing “Wayfaring Stranger” and then Dylan’s new “The Levee’s Gonna Break.” It’s just a shame they kept it to two songs.

Fourkiller Flats took the stage next and for a band that took a three-year hiatus, proved its return to the fold of Tucson’s best with no questions. It was the third time in a month or so I’d seen the Flats, following a loose Che’s show and opening for the Little Morts. About six or seven songs in their set were unrecorded, at least to my knowledge, so here’s to another album from one of Tucson’s finest rock bands.

The manic Doo Rag closed out the festival with rapid-fire slide blues and trash can banging that probably would have never existed if not for them. Every Congress festival should close with Doo Rag, if for no other reason than to remind you you’re in Tucson.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fare Thee Well

I never saw anybody smash a banjo before. But neither could I have dreamt of a better description of the drunken punk-country of the Little Morts, or a more fitting moment as their final show spun out of control and crashed in sweat, smiles and tears.

It helps that the Morts aren’t just another band, but friends and a tremendous set of musicians, some who are off to Austin, counting down the miles as in another of the band’s hard-charging fiddle and Telecaster romps.

Irish and proud, Daniel Long is a red-headed growler, not so much a stranger as an friend as he writes of booze, jail, travelin’ and the last moments of reason in a day, the strange, uncomfortable, curious sobriety of a bright noon. Just wonder.

The Little Morts stole from Johnny Cash and Tom Russell and the Stones (and not just songs for their last show), a while back borrowed a guitarist who elevated the performance past great to incredible and begged a lot from their audience (mostly shots of whiskey and Jaegermeister). But they loved a lot too, the tunes, the fans and the stage.

I’ll leave it to someone down the line to write the history of the Little Morts, because they sure as shit ain’t done yet. Bigger stages are waiting out in the Texas night.

But I will say that as I stood in front for their final show, head bobbing in a corduroy cowboy hat, ears open and joyous and mind swimming in a whiskey river, the Little Morts couldn’t have been better. It was a good-bye full of swagger and joy and 20 songs that weren’t nearly enough.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


May is the long dusk of a Sonoran summer. May is solitude.

May is an exploration, a down-river journey, camping on a soft beach under sandstone canyon walls. May is the vibrations of the silent moon.

May is a guitar solo – bended triumphant notes disappearing into feedback ether.

May is cellophane-wrapped and hand-crafted, a craft-fair treasure, just what you’ve been looking for.

May breaks open, a wide, bright expanding cloud of stars and dust and hours and emotions and new realities, reflections by the hundreds blending into one light.

But May is hesitant of taking too many steps, of becoming his own self too soon, of leaving too many behind, of staring too long into the sunlight.

May battles its way through new heat and old messes, through new noise and old crushes, through new addresses and fumbled old promises.

May is standing in the kitchen, window-paned light on bare feet, distracted by fleeting memories, fictionalized by distance and desire.

May is momentary, a blood-red rising moon balanced on the horizon.

May is a storyteller. It paces and gestures, voice rising with danger and falling with secrets, as ancients dance from his lips to the eyes-closed curtains of cinema-mindscape.

I didn’t plan May, but it signed me up. Signed me up for sunburns and mirage, signed me up for mainstreet handshakes and empty pages. Signed me up for stacks of songs and typical absurdity. Signed me up and sent me off.

May is a sky-lit lake, downtown walls of glass and neon eyes.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Self portrait

Self portrait
Originally uploaded by lionelfrailey.
Late Sunday sun...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Double Dylan

You wouldn’t believe how tough it is to catch a Dylan song on the radio the day he’s playing a local show. Amazing. Speeding through the desert Saturday I had my fingers scanning every Phoenix station I knew, just waiting and hoping the classic rock stations would throw me a tune to set up the evening.
One, just one, beamed into my car, from the random Wild West station in Florence that inexplicably never has commercials. And of course, it was Don’t Think Twice, and for the several hundredth time, I was certain I knew exactly what Dylan was talking about. Don’t Think Twice encapsulates that singular moment when the protagonist finally shuts the door on his unrequited love, finally can say that it just doesn’t matter, that the target of so many intense thoughts just can’t take up space in the mind anymore.
It’s not a “fuck off” – not like Positively Fourth Street – there’s no venom. It’s not a “you got what you had coming” as in Like a Rolling Stone. It’s not the tattered broken soul of Idiot Wind or the deep longing of Sara. Don’t Think Twice applies to the protagonist as well. There are no second thoughts once you’ve made peace by separating yourself from the longing, cut off the bad fruit and closed your life to the one who never cared.
And damn if the high empty desert on a silver cloudy day, windows down in a clunker just hanging together, the clarity of a mind relaxed for a few days and a notion of freedom just don’t make Dylan all that much clearer.
I hit the PHX and caught up with the Butterman, concert companion in light of Stu’s Fiscal Plan. We chatted and swapped stories, but really the reward was perspective, to see how a pal from the olden days has fared, to hone in on where the hometowner took the different path, to see choices and results all at the same time.
Then, of course, there was the show.
The Hag was already on as we crept toward the seats, a legend in clear, crisp voice backed by a band all eager to please. I don’t know much of the Hag, but whooped it up when he hit into Mama Tried. Most of his set switched back and forth between boogie and ballad, short enough to be a good appetizer and long enough to say you’ve seen a legend.
I hit the can and walked around between sets, and saw Bill Walton just kicking it. We didn’t chat, unfortunately.
The lights dimmed and the curiously chosen Copeland music led into Dylan’s introduction. The set was an amazing mix of unexpected gems. I follow set lists closely and this show had just one repeat so far this tour, outside the written-in-stone encore.
Particularly appreciated gems were Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll and Every Grain of Sand. Mr. Tambourine Man was a great showcase for his new band, a soulful, bluesy new mix with Dylan on keyboards exclusively and amazing pedal steel work.
Absolutely Sweet Marie heated up the show, but Masters of War sent it into a different realm. Dylan sang it angry, sang it with an accusatory ring he never achieved in the original recording. He sang it so my only reaction was instinctual – to scream and yell and holler as chills hit me that had less to do with Dylan himself than the visceral truth he spoke to our country this very day.
He played Don’t Think Twice and I got to relive my afternoon revelation, just as true, but softened, by time and distance, mentally and physically. You never forget the doors you shut; that’s not the point. You just shut ‘em ‘cause they’re done; you don’t need ‘em anymore.
Dylan’s encore is as close as he gets to trying to actually please the crowd in general. Geeks like me may go nutso when he plays a long-forgotten tune and will appreciate how he just twisted one of his most memorable melodies into something else entirely. But two thirds of the crowd – easily – fought to be more appreciative than bewildered until he played Like a Rolling Stone, with George Recile’s gunshot drum launching the gig into orbit. Here’s where I loved Dylan’s keyboard playing the most – finally I got to hear Al Kooper’s light-as-air bouncy organ part duplicated live.
And if it’s mean, loud, guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll you want, just try and catch Dylan and his band’s current run through All Along the Watchtower without burning your fingertips. It’s 99 percent Hendrix and 1 percent John Wesley Harding, a flaming ball of outsider honesty and ancient intrigue.

Part two of Double Dylan was the hometown show, in an arena I last got to experience for the couldn’t-be-different Motley Crue. For every tucked-in polo shirt of the middle-aged Monday there were a few missing teeth in October. I probably fit in better with Tucson’s skuzzy than I did with the disappointingly minded “better see him before he’s dead” crowd that showed up for Dylan. Tough to blame, though, I was the same at a B.B. King show a few ticks back, giving more weight to my presence there than to any of the songs, save the one or two “hits” I actually knew.
I caught the start of the Hag’s set this time, with his band running through a hopped up version of Okie for a while before he strode on stage. He had the same stately presence, the same command of a crowd that wasn’t his as before. Hag hits a bit of a lull when he throws too many ballads in, but goddamn it if he can’t turn right around and knock your skull with the most righteous version of Folsom Prison Blues ever performed (outside the composer, of course). I’d do hard time to sing Cash like that.
Once again, Bill Walton was in full effect. He had two fannie packs on – front and back – and just Frankenstein-loped his way around the arena at will, frequently passing to my right and emerging from the beer stand to head back to his seat.
SKC was the concert companion (and Dylan newbie) this go ‘round.
It must be said that the security guards were absolute asshole-fascists who needed punches in the teeth pretty much across the board. I just don’t buy the line that it’s “Dylan’s rules” that every ass must be planted into a seat not to move for the show. That big vacant area right behind the floor seats was ripe for dancin’ – either the middle-aged honky-tonk slow dancers who emerged during Just Like a Woman or the Outcast Patrol of high schoolers who were inclined to invent a new version of hippie dancing.
This show returned to the set-list pattern of the tour's first four shows, kicking off with an amazing Maggie’s Farm, bluesified remarkably.
Dylan stuck in the past next for She Belongs to Me, than jumped right up to the present with Lonesome Day Blues.
The fact that enough years have passed for Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft to have sunk into the Dylan fan consciousness is just incredible, because it allows such pairings without ever seeming disjointed or forced.
Queen Jane made me wish I had been “That Guy” and worn my weirdest Dylan shirt to the show (I went with the Superchunk Monday and the Son Volt Saturday).
It’s Alright Ma approximated the force of Saturday’s Masters of War, and the “president must stand naked” line got the biggest in-song cheer of the night.
To Make You Feel My Love made me wish hacks like Billy Joel and Garth Fucking Brooks just left the damn thing alone. Corruption of art in the name of record sales is a bit disgusting, but then again, Dylan’s had to deal with that his entire career. And I wouldn’t want to put the complete kibosh on covers, so I’ll just chose to talk shit about hacks like Billy Joel (late career only) and Garth “how many sappy ballads do I need to sing to take batting practice with the Padres?” Brooks.
Girl From the North Country took the late-show, back-catalog ballad slot over Boots of Spanish Leather (which was played tonight in El Paso). What’d ya think, SKC?
The most unexpected treasure of the night was High Water, with a banjo solo unlike anything I’ve heard before. It was as rough as an electric guitar, but quicker, and without screaming. Dylan’s completely reinterpreted that one in less than five years and it hit with such force you knew it was the set closer. It’s amazing, that performance got more out of the crowd than his Saturday night closer of Rainy Day Women, which you could just tell set the Barely Fans at ease, finally hearing something they knew.
The encore again was Greatest Hits Bob, his only real in-show concession to the fact that he wrote not only generation-changing songs, but actual popular ones too.
The Stones and McCartney charge well over $100 per show. Dylan easily could too, if he stuck to faithful reinterpretations of the chart-toppers. The comparison makes me think a lot less of the Stones and McCartney. Caution is the word least likely to be used in reference to Dylan – and praise his name for it.
Dylan on just keyboard infused the shows with a whole new focus and purpose. His current band hasn’t reached the battle-tested brilliance of the Larry-Charlie-Tony-George era, but they’re no slouches either. Donnie Herron is the star of this lineup, no doubt.

So that’s that. It’s been three and a half years since my last Dylan shows and in an era of unprecedented personal show-going, he still stands out among the rest, still compels me to write thousands of words when others don't.
He’s a chameleon, the single most adaptable artist in American history. Picasso would’ve loved to have had as many periods as Dylan. He’s into a new one now, I reckon. His Never Ending Tour had its start toward the end of the 1980s when he set his mind to recapture audiences – and succeeded. This epoch had its middle period, when Dylan’s cultural renaissance started with Time Out of Mind and continued through his memoirs and Scorsese blowjob. And now it’s a new scene in this late-career act. He has a new band, has reclaimed every bit of relevance he ever had, wows fans in bigger arenas than he has in years. And, perhaps most importantly, I have it on good authority that a new album is due, a step toward the soulful, a sound unlike anything he’s created before. Just keep listenin’.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Too many times blank, too many times lost.
Too much time unequilibriumized.
Fight through the Tuesdays, with their beatnik rhymes and Circle K poetry.
Fight through cable television.
Fight through atrophy…
The quads, the heart and the brain…
Photographs of smiles – no memories to match,
Tripping time to mind, the key’s lost in the latch.

To many, time’s blank – two-penny time’s boss
Two such crime’s inconsequencialized.
Fight through my blues ways, uncommitted eyes and Glory-Tried growing beans.
Bite two ladle-dipped contusions.
Fight through apathy…
Death squads depart from the train…
Photographs of miles – never eyes-glazing back,
It’s my mind to trip – three knives into the back.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


March is shining. March is a symmetry.
March has been awake too long.
March is extended family, after too many years. March is sunlight in the leaves, tea in a lawnchair, feet crossed, head back and eyes closed.
It’s when your dark T-shirt soaks up the sun and you hunch your shoulders to transfer the energy right to your spine.
March is when things get started. March is certainly an endeavor, long but balanced.
March is social and eager, a teen-ager hitting his stride. March is baseball, in short sleeves and
March is hookey. It’s a long to-do list with next to nothing scratched off. It’s audacious and bold, but behind closed doors.
March has been trained to be polite, but doesn’t always remember.
March is that new song you just heard and can’t get out of your head. You’ll be lucky if it stays there.
March is complex – it’s two directions at once, choices at either fork of the road that are calling. March could use a road map.
March is an old friend’s laughter echoing in your head once again. It’s an inside joke that cascades from a chuckle to belly pain.
March’s equinox is the perfect metaphor. March is in the pen of the greats and the songs of the ancients. It holds more inspiration than all of winter combined.
March is batting third, just ready to jump on a hanging curveball. It’s a nice hamstring stretch, energized blood giving muscles new electricity.
March is a dandelion chase. I’ve drifted and caught myself and been lost again.
March is a confusing calm, an un-quiet relaxation and a conscripted vacation. March has already built a little steam.
March has been winning at the black jack table, but isn’t quite ready for craps.
Don’t confuse March as a preview – it’s the real deal.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Westward Look

I survived a weekend in the Valley of the Sun. Actually it was a great time. I saw three different groups of friends and family I hadn't seen in ages.
I proved my resourcefulness at least once.
I caught a ballgame.
And the bad omen of starting the journey by driving away with to-be-returned DVDs on top of my car only manifested itself in a forgotten phone charger and a flat tire that fortuitously occurred mere blocks from a Discount Tire that had me on the road again in less than 45 minutes.
The return drive - the back way - was beautiful as usual and with the sun sinking as I sped through the northern suburbs, I stumbled on a road named Westward Look. I turned and drove along to a resort parking lot, where I captured the sunset you see below.
Today is the vernal equinox and it's been downright decent.

Equinox sunset

Equinox sunset
Originally uploaded by lionelfrailey.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Spring becomes Summer

(This form, rythym, style and all copped from one of my new favorite songs: The Trapeze Swinger)

Please remember me, leisurely
While you’re pacing in the kitchen
And light, window-paned, falls ‘cross your face
With the warmth of Mexico.
A trip two other lives took in love
Now seems faraway fiction.
In life, senses fail, love is bare
And all memory is stealthy.

Please remember me, as you sleep
In a land not seen in daylight.
My face, young again, as we met,
A swirl of colors never painted.
And as you walk, across the falls,
The clouds start raining blood like roses
You dropped in fear, feather-light
And tears washed my gifts away.

And please remember me, at nineteen,
Surprised at your affection –
A new friend, hesitant,
My dreams all wrapped around you
And despite freckled cheeks and nervous eyes,
I pretended I was cool.
We danced on your bed, in monsoon rain
And in the back of your old house.

Please remember me, across the street
Washing dishes in the café,
Your hair spiked and bleached, you call to me
“Baby let’s take off today…”
Your tanktop tan, and mischief eyes,
You were an artist with my time,
But, at summer’s end, your back to me
With downcast eyes on your doorstep.

So please, remember me, through whiskey –
Fleeting wisdom your new power
And your eyes, in soft light
Neon iris reflection.
The candle in your hand, a cigarette –
A burst of immortality.
But nothing’s free, not whiskey
Not your mind to forget me.

Please remember me, before you leave –
I was once your promised future
But now, my time has shrunk,
Like dried flowers on your dresser.
And when we meet again, a shoulder shrug,
Our eyes blind to recognize
The rebel youth, impatient truth
Devouring all we ever wanted.

And I’ll remember you, as I please,
Casting off all the danger
Of growing close, like as one –
Airport hugs lift off the ground.
So, when we talk, long-distance calls
All the strength I have is for you
Just as if our time had never stopped
And the spring’s becoming summer.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Masked and Anonymous

So, the Wildcats are teetering – at best. But the Suns are riding the NBA’s best winning streak and spring training is in full swing, so maybe it all evens out in my sports world.
Backup tournament favorites: UAB, because they have a guy named Squeaky Johnson; Gonzaga, for the NCAA’s Bravest Moustache; NAU (hopefully), for the pot-smokin’ brethren on the mountain; and SIU, for Spills’ one-time residence and the ridiculous notion of a small-town Midwestern school with an Egyptian dog for a mascot.
Actual tournament prediction: Connecticut, I ‘spose, because from what I’ve seen they really can suffocate teams. Just so long as it ain’t those pricks from Duke…
My days of giving Barry Bonds the benefit of the doubt are officially over. I never really cared – my thoughts on steroids in baseball are complex and I’ve always considered Bonds primarily a fierce competitor, which he is.
As a sport, baseball has gone through so many evolutions that to set steroid use apart completely from everything else that has gone before it just misses the point. I don’t support steroids in any way, but I think their impact on the game is overstated. Until the 1980s, baseball players never even thought about lifting weights or training year round. And you better believe pitchers are every bit in the mix as much as the hitters. Steroids are another evolution in the game – though perhaps the most unfortunate one. I don’t think any records should be abandoned outright, just understood within the proper context.
My solution on steroids and performance-enhancing drugs and all the like is to institute one single standard. Ban everything, starting with the Olympic committee and running on down to every professional league in the world, and college athletics. Everyone should ban the same stuff, test the same way and to the greatest degree possible penalize athletes the same way for violations.
But to throw away all that’s been done in baseball’s “steroid era” seems to be extreme. It’s not a good thing and it must be corrected, but objectively it’s one of the evolutions of the game, just as variations in mound heights, segregated teams, relief pitching, athletic conditioning, expansion, night games and domes.

This crazy guy in Mesa frat-guy’d a sheep. And got caught red... handed.

So, during my mostly upheld, personally imposed ban on political writing in the last 16 months, our criminal president and his trigger-happy first mate sure have slid downhill, haven’t they? (Just thought I’d point that one out – and say how enjoyable some commentary on scandals 1 through whatever might have been. But I’m good like that, yo.)

Anybody heard any good records lately?

Live music season is slowly but surely returning here to the desert. My note page of dates and bands is mostly full and looking really incredible.

I’ve turned back to Masked and Anonymous a couple times lately, trying to burrow myself deeper into what even I will acknowledge is at first glance an absolutely nonsensical, really quite awful movie. But that’s certainly not the end of it. I keep finding pockets of brilliance in the allegory and the commentary. Basically, as I’ve told the Minions, it’s a feature length music video (with dialogue, a rough plot and at times allegorically heavy-handed characters) to a Dylan song that hasn’t been written yet. That doesn’t quite make sense, and neither does the movie, but to simply dismiss it as nonsense or a vanity project risks throwing away an awful lot of intriguing notions.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


February is a rainbow; February is midnight. It’s a month both rare and strange – beautiful in the right light, at the right moment. February might be a treat, or you might never see it before it’s gone.
February is still, an after-the-storm still, more wrapped up in hesitancy than expectation. February is tentative and a bit lost, just behind the curve, waiting for cohesion to step in and order things.
February is quiet, shying away from the blustery antics of January’s new year. February is an arrival of a different sort, the underlying reality on the other side of the coin. February bids goodbye to football and keeps checking his watch for baseball.
February is content with 28 days. It’s more efficient, quicker, taking a no-nonsense approach to the calendar.
February asks little and is well suited to give little in return. February’s treats are irregular – a wildflower bloom one year but not the next, feet of snow or days of sunshine, the occasional late Christmas gift will trickle in.
The advertisements will tell you February is a month devoted to love, but it’s far more devoted to expression. February is imposed tradition, a manufactured series of holidays and observances, from Valentine’s to the Super Bowl.
February can be drab, dry and dreary. It’s the universal movie setting for the doldrums. But that’s just the spin – February is also true and honest, curt and direct at times, but unfailingly accurate.
You’ll learn more in February than any of its 11 brothers and sisters. February is an introverted bookworm who’ll grow up to be a Trivial Pursuit master. February is a time to improvise and expand, it’s a trial run for yourself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Two years...

Two years and a few days ago, a bright new face in blogging burst on the scene.
Even from his first tentative posts, it was evident that Catfish Vegas was a singular talent, ready to turn the blogging world on its ear.
Vegas' strengths were in his voracious posting, usually several a day, and his keen eye for new details in the latest political scandals of our land, or the latest in cinema and popular music.
Vegas' popularity grew and grew, with thousands of new readers pouring in day by day like pilgrims to soak up his poetic wisdom.
It's safe to say the world would be a frightfully different place without the measured wit and soothing observations Vegas brings to his blog.
If he accomplishes little else over the course of his long life, Catfish Vegas will be remembered as an American hero for even his first two years on the blog. Vegas has profound insights and a deep connection to the shared human experience. His words ring out as if from mountaintops, and soothe as if from the very springs that have eternally kept man alive.
Check out a review of his first year.
For the sake of his millions of fans, here's a prayer for Vegas to continue his amazing blog, less we all suffer as life dims. Rejoice in the Vegas!

Catfish at the record shop

I started blogging just 'cause I wanted my own place to write about the top albums of the year. Go check out 2003 and 2004. And without futher ado, Catfish Vegas Presents... the 20 best albums of 2005:

1. Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy / Black Sheep Boy Appendix.
2. Calexico and Iron & Wine – In the Reins
3. New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
4. Crooked Fingers – Dignity and Shame
5. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
7. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
8. Bruce Springsteen – Devils and Dust
9. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
10. Mike Doughty – Haughty Melodic
11. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary
12. Rogue Wave – Descended Like Vultures
13. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
14. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
15. Decemberists – Picaresque
16. Beck – Guero
My Morning Jacket – Z
And a live album, a collection of outtakes and demos and a reissue:
18. Wilco - Kicking Television
19. Bob Dylan - No Direction Home
20. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run 30th Anniversary

As usual, I ought to mention that I'm neither filthy rich nor an actual music critic with access to free records. So I miss some stuff. Here's a list of 'honorable mentions,' albums I really feel I ought to catch up to, and ones that based on what else I've read could very well be among the top: Sleater-Kinney - The Woods; Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production of Eggs; Son Volt - Okemah and the Melody of Riot; Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree

Thanks for visiting and have a kick-ass 2006! - Catfish

Catfish on 2005

I decided I'd take 2005 a little bit further and start 2006 today. Never mind the New Year's Celebration, I just didn't want to go through the whole internal reflective stuff whiles out of town.

On the personal/friends front, it was an entirely absurd year. People lost their minds, their homes, their jobs, their pancreases... Good, bad or otherwise, the word of the year was FLUX.
People found and lost love and just simply moved, moved, moved and moved.

I kicked into a few new gears, switched from working nights to days, joined the world of the Property Owners, saw about as much damn live music as I possibly could, wrote weird cryptic things about months, hit the road a hell of a lot, spun myself in circles on a few issues and generally absorbed an awful lot of FLUX. It's out there; it'll catch you.

The world was in many ways a terrible, terrible place in 2005. We found out our president is a criminal, and an unrepentant one at that. Our societies racial divide was shown so clearly in the mishandled response to an actual whole (black) city being destroyed. The War of Stupidity chugs along. The dominant party of Congress is collecting scandals faster than I can count. What a political mess.

The entertainment world was dominated by batshit crazy, talentless people: Tom Cruise, Paris Hilton, Trump... Most movies sucked, record sales tanked (not for lack of good music, but for major labels being blind to what's great out there).

Anyway, thanks for sticking around. Music deserves its own post, but here's Catfish Vegas' rundown of some of his favorite shite from 2005.

1. Sin City
2. History of Violence
3. The Aristocrats
4. Crash
5. King Kong
6. Batman Begins
7. Land of the Dead
8. Forty-Year-Old Virgin
9. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
10. Star Wars - Revenge of the Sith

(And that's all I even saw, so no complaining.)

Television - I usually try to stay away, but here's a thin list:
1. Arrested Development - quite simply the funniest show ever.
2. Grey's Anatomy - Tremendous cast lifts hospital drams from cliche land.
3. My Name is Earl - Jason Lee plays the funniest sit-com character around.
4. The Office - Strange and snappy humor borrowed from the British.
5. Craig Ferguson - Now the funniest man on late night television.

Stay tuned...


December is the star at the top of the Christmas tree of the whole damn year, the ham at the fulcrum of the Feast of 12 Months, the beautiful wrapping and gorgeous bow on the biggest present in sight, the long and low belch as a gluttonous day fades into an afternoon nap.

When it comes down to it, December really is the Godfather, the patriarch who’s earned all of the feasts and grandchildren's smiles out there. December will eat until he’s full.

On one side of December is a warm nest, comfortable like your youngest days, fitting just right. On the other is a steep cliff, a dizzying drop-off into the uncertain but deadly ether.

December is a vice, 31 turns that’ll squeeze your mind out your ears.

December overflowed a long time ago, and you’re left slurping at the edge of the mug, trying to catch more of the steaming tea. Scald your tongue or scald you toes; that’s how it goes.

December’s a mug of hot chocolate – sweet but fattening, a treat that’ll cost you, rich but deadly.

They put December at the end of the year because nobody could take another month.

December brings the house down, smashing guitars and hurling drumsticks at the crowd. Not another note out of this year’s band.

December’s motto: Saddle up and get spit out. He’s better than you.

December’s like Manhattan stretching across all of West Texas. Jesus F’ing Cristo…

December is when you realize you’re not young anymore, when the excitement of innocence seems quaint rather than urgent. If only December would pull the wool over your eyes like it used to.

I went home, saw 1,000 people per hour, celebrated quickly and left even quicker. December is a hit-and-fade attack, everybody’s last damn chance to do something before the year rolls over zeroes again.

But in the end December is merciful, an opponent who knocked you down on the way to glorious victory, but before settling into the post-game celebration and interviews, walks back and gives you a hand up. “Don’t worry about it, chief,” December says. “January’s coming soon and you can take it easy.” Then he winks and trots off.