Brian Wilson Review – St. Louis, MO 7/21/16

A bucket-list item happened for me last night. I got to see Brian Wilson perform all of what is widely regarded as the best album of all time, the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” in sequence, along with a lot of other hits (and not-so-hits!).

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This is the best photo I got out of 1,000,000.  As good as phone cameras have gotten, they still suck.

I went with my Dad, Susan, and my brother. While there, I also met up with some old friends from high school that I don’t see enough of, including the guitarist from the band I was in as a teenager (union jack/Marc Schneider).  Didn’t think to do a group shot with the family, but did do a group shot with the friends, which I have stolen from my friend Nik’s Instagram page…

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I think they’ve all aged better than I did.  But in case you’re not used to seeing it, that is genuine happiness on my face.  🙂

My relationship with Brian Wilson’s music is a little unusual.  I described it in brief in the review of the Love & Mercy movie I wrote last year…but there’s more to it (isn’t there always?)  There have always been at least a handful of Beach Boys tunes I’ve liked, even if there were years that I denied it because I was in a punk band and I thought it was cool to hate nice things.  (There were also years that I claimed I hated the Beatles.  Didn’t always make good decisions.)  I remember when I was a kid (like under the age of 10) during the Summer where our air-conditioner stopped working so we stayed with Grandma for a little while, there was a commercial on TV for a Beach Boys greatest hits collection.  I remember asking if we could get it.  Dad, wisely, said that we could get A Beach Boys hits record, but it didn’t have to be THAT one…and of course I was young and an idiot and wanted THAT one…  So I never followed up and didn’t own any Beach Boys until I got old enough to by a greatest hits (but not the one from TV) with my own money.

As I said a year ago, I spent most of my Beach Boys fandom as a casual fan, but a much bigger fan of Brian Wilson solo, beginning with his release of “Smile” in 2004.  Since seeing the movie last year, I’ve been working to correct the deficit of knowledge on the band itself.  Along with getting more and more familiar with the hits, I’ve also been listening to the weird 70s stuff, when it was mostly Carl Wilson’s show.  Brian and Co. did a good deal of that stuff at the show, which was a nice surprise.  (They did two sets and an encore.  Set one was “hits” and album tracks.  Set two was all of “Pet Sounds.” The encore was more hits, ending on Brian’s signature piece, “Love & Mercy.”)  If you ever want to have the experience of saying, “How can THIS be the Beach Boys?” to yourself, I recommend picking up copies of “Surf’s Up,” “Sunflower,” “Holland,” and “Wild Honey” and just making a night of it.

I’m glad I’ve been on a Beach Boys kick over the last year.  Made the show a lot of fun–but I think it would’ve been fun even for the people who only know them from their Full House episodes. “Fun” is the best word for the show.  (“Fun, fun, fun” in fact…sorry.)  I genuinely can’t remember the last time I had that much pure, free, fun at a show.  The Who might’ve come close…but that was more of an emotional journey for me than a celebration…  Seeing Brian Wilson was a joy throughout–a celebration of all he’s overcome and the stuff his music has helped me get through.  And those songs are just so infectious and filled with so much joy (even the sad ones) that it’s almost impossible to have a bad time to that soundtrack.

The band was great.  Fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine accompanied Brian and sang a lot of leads.  He still sounds great.  There were a couple of points in the night I considered trying to get a “YOU’VE STILL GOT IT!” chant going for him.  Jardine’s son Matt is in the band too, playing a little guitar and singing the high-parts Brian isn’t able to hit anymore (no judging–it happens).  He did a phenomenal job.  And Blondie Chaplin was there too… He’s kind of a cheeseball and seems to think he’s Keith Richards…but whatever, it was fun!

The only thing that wasn’t fun was something I fully expected.  The average age of the crowd was probably 483-years-old, and a lot of them had obviously not been to too many concerts.  There was a guy behind me having a good time, cheering, letting out “whooooo!” sounds in quiet moments, like ya’ do.  People kept turning around and saying shitty things to him and commenting about it like he was being an awful person or something.  So Dave and I started joining in with the guy–again, like ‘ya do.  At one point a couple several rows in front of us got up and either relocated or left in a huff when the guy behind me let out one too many “whooooos” for their taste.  That’s when I shook my head, looked behind me, and saw that the guy whoooooing was in the handicapped section in a wheelchair.  So…it was the kind of crowd that has less fun than a guy in a wheelchair and looks down on him for it.  At that point I went over to the guy, thanked him and the girl with him for having fun and hooting and hollering and we shook hands probably four or five times and had a good time celebrating being there together.  So even the only down-part turned into an up.

…and good God, hearing the guy that wrote “God Only Knows” sing it was a breathtaking moment.  I was sitting listening to Brian belt it out and near the end of the song, I realized that I’d had my hands folded in a prayer-pose the whole time.  It was a spiritual moment, man.  Even the whooooo-less among us felt it as the whole crowd rose to their feet at the end of the tune.  Brian, being Brian, after the ovation went on for a while eventually said, “please be seated” and got a good laugh out of the crowd.  The memory of him doing that song is one I’ll carry with me as a warm feeling for a long time.

And talking of Brian himself…  There have been reviewers throughout the tour (and probably from last night as well) who have pointed out that he’s showing his age.  He’s not hitting all the notes.  He’s not even TRYING for some of the notes (ha ha).  He’s a little visibly shaky.  He seems to not be very energetic and just sits behind the piano all night…etc etc…  Well…some of that’s true.  But it’s also true that he’s 74 years old.  More than that, it’s not your average 74, either.  It’s a 74 that has seen extensive drug use.  It’s a 74 that saw both of his brothers die; one WAY too young.  It’s a 74 that was held a psychological and physical prisoner to a deranged “physician” (Eugene Landy) who kept him virtually catatonic until he needed him to dance in the spotlight.  It’s a 74 that before THAT got hit so hard by his dad when he was younger that he lost hearing in one ear.  And I could go on…  The point is, he’s still DOING IT.  It’s shocking that of the three Wilsons, he’s the one still living.  If the 70s and 80s didn’t take him, the 90s should have just from getting off all the drugs Landy had him on ALONE.  But he’s somehow still with us, and he’s somehow still playing the best album anyone’s ever written.  How DARE anyone criticize him for not being a tenor anymore?

There is so much more I want to say about what seeing Brian Wilson meant to me.  However, I have absolutely no idea how to say it.  Even though as a fan, you don’t KNOW your musical heroes, you do get to experience something very intimate in hearing them perform their songs that mean so much to you.  Maybe that’s why I found myself unknowingly praying during “God Only Knows.”  Maybe only He does.

There are still some dates left on the tour.  If you can get to a show, do it.  And buy one of the shirts.  They’re neat.

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See?

 

Like I said, I got to cross off a bucket list item last night.  And I got to do that with people I celebrate being with.  It was a good night.  Hope you have one too.

Love & Mercy to you.

A Dumb Survey

I’ve wanted to write about the violence and bloodshed in the world for several days.  I’ve wanted to talk about how I grieve with a people who’ve once again seen their innocents slaughtered by those who should be protecting them.  How I think that even if the anger is justified, the murders based on badge alone are not justified.  Those policemen should be mourned too.  I’ve wanted to talk about how senseless driving a truck into a crowd seems–I can’t think of what point it proves.  “We’re mad as hell and have licenses?”  The world is a bad place this week.

…but that’s all the energy I have for it right now.  It’s hard to find the motivation to say more when the words don’t seem to make a difference…  So I’m going to answer a dumbass blog survey I found at this link.  Let’s have some fun in the face of the insanity, huh?

  1. Who are your top three lady heroes?
    Interesting one to try to answer as a guy.  I’m not sure I’ve thought a lot about that.  I’ve definitely known and read about some very heroic women though…so…  This is going to be a little off-the-cuff…  I’m going to say Alanis Morissette, as weird as that might sound.  In the era of the boys’ club of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica, et al, she put out “Jagged Little Pill” and it still holds up. Then maybe (actress) Maggie Smith because of how long she’s been turning in awesome, brave performances. And…I don’t know…as much as I’d have preferred it to be Bernie who got the nomination, I’ve respected Hillary Clinton for a long time, even when I haven’t agreed with her.  I should probably have said Anne Frank or somebody like that, but I wanted to go outside the box and also name living people…  I don’t like this answer, but off the top of my head, there you go.
  2. When you were little, what did you want to be?
    I think a ninja.  Probably a ninja.
  3. Who do you think should run for president in two years?
    I don’t think that’s how it’s going to work.  But, the hell with it, Bernie again.
  4. What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year? Ever?
    This year, it’d be something from the Dennis Lehane books I’ve been reading.  I liked “A Drink Before the War” a lot, but “Mystic River” actually really stuck with me too.  All time is difficult…  I point to “Catcher in the Rye” as being my favorite book pretty often, but I’m not sure it’s the **best** book I’ve ever read.  “Best” and “favorite” are two different things.  But I also can’t really think of what else it could be. Maybe “Angela’s Ashes?”
  5. What makes you feel afraid?
    Spiders.  And dying alone.  In that order.
  6. Would you rather get lunch with Gillian Flynn or J.K. Rowling?
    I really liked Harry Potter but I don’t know that Rowling and I would get along face-to-face from what I know of her… I know next to nothing about Flynn.  So let’s go with her, because at least it’d be meeting someone new and maybe we’d hit it off and I’d end up as a background character in a book or something.
  7. What’s your most embarrassing childhood memory?
    I don’t know, man…  All of it?  I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my childhood embarrassments.  I farted in church once…let’s go with that.
  8. If you had the option of adopting a baby fox or baby koala, which one would you choose?
    If I had the OPTION, I would adopt neither.  Those are both animals not meant to be domesticated.
  9. What’s your dream job?
    Sitting on my ass, but I’m still applauded and rich.  But I’m just not sure how to get into the field.
  10. Who is your favorite mythological god/goddess?
    Cthulhu, if he counts.  If not, I don’t really have one.
  11. Who was your first crush?
    I don’t want to put her name in print, in case she ever goes Googling.  She knows who she is, and that’s fine.  It didn’t work out, obviously.
  12. If you had to choose between using Internet Explorer forever, or permanently using an AOL e-mail address, which one would it be?
    Explorer, no contest.  I’ve never stopped using it (although it’s called “Edge” now in Windows 10).  I like it.  It’s familiar and it works fine.
  13. If you could either be a duck or an owl, which would you be?
    Duck.  Because I don’t really want to be up all night, and it seems like ducks have more friends than owls…ducks travel in flocks, while it seems like owls just sit alone in trees.
  14. What do you love about yourself most?
    “Love” is a big word…but I think one of my better qualities is that I’m loyal.
  15. What don’t you like so much?
    Short temper.  (I assume we’re talking about what I don’t like so much about MYSELF, right?  If not, then I don’t like Imo’s Pizza very much.)
  16. Rugrats or Doug?
    I don’t think I’ve ever watched a full episode of either…although I probably find Rugrats more infuriating, as a general rule.
  17. Which house would you belong to in Game of Thrones? Like, very honestly.
    Never seen it, never read it, don’t plan to do either.  No idea how to answer.
  18. If you got a (new) tattoo, what would it be of?
    It’d be The Who’s logo.  I presently don’t have any tattoos, and The Who has meant a lot to me for decades.
  19. What would you like to eat for your last meal?
    Something that takes a very long time to make.
  20. If you had to be on a reality TV show, which one would you choose?
    I don’t know if I even know what reality shows are still on…  One of the cooking ones, maybe?  Because that seems the most harmless.
  21. Who has influenced you the most?
    That is a very big question.  I could probably list a few dozen names…  A bunch of different family members and close friends.  Maybe the odd celebrity or two.  I don’t want to start listing people and risk leaving somebody out…  I hope I’ve done okay letting people know what they’ve meant to me in-person, though.
  22. What are your favorite lyrics?
    It changes almost daily.  Let’s go with pretty much all of The Who’s “The Real Me” as a safe answer though.
  23. Real jeans or jeggings?
    I’m going to go with the jeans, mostly for testicular reasons.
  24. On the first day of ruling the world, what would you do?
    Probably stay in and rent a movie.
  25. If you were forced to open a bakery, what would you name it?
    Cakes n’ Shit
  26. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done on a date?
    I don’t know…just fail at it, mostly.
  27. What do you hope to achieve by 50?
    That’s tough.  I think I’d just like to know I’m doing something that’s either important, or at least that is fulfilling.  Mostly I’d just like it if when my name comes up people say, “Yeah, he’s a pretty good guy.”
  28. What has been your best moment this year (so far)?
    It’s been a weird year.  I’m proud of the record I put out.  I’m proud of the Rickenbacker I bought.  I’m proud of the work achievements I’ve had.  I have trouble thinking in “bests.”  I’ve had a lot of stuff that’s gone well.  That’s good enough.
  29. Would you rather be stuck in traffic for two hours, or have Chipotle run out of guacamole forever?
    At present, the traffic thing.  Once you’re stuck, who cares?  Nothing you can do about it.  A traffic jam is a temporary inconvenience.  The guac thing, however, would be highly detrimental to several people I know.
  30. Why are you so amazing?
    Oh, hush!

And that’s it for now…

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Current Listening:

  • Michael Penn – Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea
  • Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

Quick Musical Roundup

I’ve got some other stuff I want to write about, but I’m organizing my thoughts on that stuff.  So in the interim, here’s a post about music I’ve recently picked up.

  • Mumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best, & Beatenberg – Johannesburg
    AKA – Mumford & Sons & A Shitload of Other Guys.  It’s a good listen.  Great blend of the folksy Mumford sound we all fell in love with in the first place and the electric sound we got to grow into on “Wilder Mind.”  Suffers a **little** from not being a Mumford-only release…but not much.  I dig a good EP and this is a GOOD one.  (Side note: I find it infuriating that they did not use the Oxford comma in the list of band names.  Had to Google to find out that The Very Best is one act and Beatenberg is another one.  You’ll notice I have placed the comma where it fucking belongs in this write-up.)
  • The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab
    Paul Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield fell in love, I assume, and released this album.  It’s apparently some of Paul’s unreleased stuff and presumably similar to what we would’ve gotten had he managed to get the Replacements into the studio.  (Although it does contain a weird cover of one of Paul’s songs off of “Suicaine Gratifaction” that I wish they’d left alone.)  It’s okay…but just okay.  Had too high of hopes and got an album that would’ve benefitted from being a little shorter and a little heavier.  But, that said, if you’re looking to get a Westerberg fix, this’ll do it.
  • The Deep Hollow – Self-Titled
    I’m going to keep it simple.  This is what I thought The Civil Wars (or as I call them, “The Civil Bores”) was going to be.
  • Hatebreed – The Concrete Confessional
    Loud, mad, and heavy.  (There’s the Oxford comma again!)  About what you want out of a band called Hatebreed.  Not quite as good as “The Divinity of Purpose,” but still does the job if you’re looking to stick all ten middle fingers in the air and bang your head a little.
  • Tegan & Sara – Love You to Death
    Excellent synth-pop record.  At first I didn’t think it measured up to “Heartthrob,” which I absolutely adored…but I’ve only listened to it twice and I’ve woken up on separate days with either “That Girl” or “100x” stuck in my head with only those two listens.  Infectious record.  Highly recommend it.
  • Andrew Bird – Are You Serious
    Hipster-sheik violin guy makes violin music for hipsters.  A little embarrassed that I like it…but I like it. Folk-rock based, but the guy plays a violin as a lead instrument.
  • Los Straightjackets – The Further Adventures of Los Straightjackets
    It’s from 2009 and I may have even mentioned it here before, but I can’t remember.  Recent purchase.  Los Straightjackets is a surf-rock band that plays dressed in Mexican Luchador masks.  What’s not to love?

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    Lucha-Derek approves! (Thanks, ProWrestling Loot!)

     

  • Rufus Wainwright – Take All My Loves – 9 Shakespeare Sonnets
    Rufus has finally written his opera, and good-God is it ever beautiful.  It would have benefitted from less spoken-word segments in the CD format…but even so, those moments are still effective.  I feel ill-equipped to comment for very long on opera.  I listen to certain classical pieces, but I’m under-educated on the qualities of opera as a genre.  However, to my ears, this is a really beautiful and moving production.  (It probably helps that I’m a huge Rufus Wainwright fan and have hoped he’d do this for close to 10 years, though!)

And that’s it.  Maybe I’ll write something else soon.  Maybe not.  You know how I am.

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Current Reading:

Dennis Lehane – Shutter Island. – I’d breezed through “Mystic River” in two sittings and loved it.  Going to try to take it a little slower with Shutter Island though.  Saw the movie…know the big twist…so I’m just reading it to enjoy it, not to lose myself in it.  Liking it so far, though!