Belle & Sebastian = Happiness

I first heard of the band Belle & Sebastian from a John Cusack movie. I know. I can practically see the expressions of shock and awe on your face.

The movie was called “High Fidelity,” a Cusack film all the way from the year 2000. I first saw the movie in high school. Junior Year to be exact. It was the same year I had somehow convinced my mother that I was of proper age to start watching R-rated fare that I had been dying to watch for years but had been unable to watch because I was “just a kid.” The fact that I was in the throes of puberty, and all the joyous awkwardness and heartache and squeaky voiced goodness that that entails didn’t help my righteous cause of proving to my mother that I was no longer a boy, but rather a man. Specifically, a man who Needed To Watch R-Rated Movies In Order To Figure Out How The World Worked. It was that simple. If I was never allowed to watch Terminator 2 I don’t think I would have turned out to be the same man I am today. I would have been weak. Squeamish. Faint of heart. I would have never been able to Get Shit Done unless I was exposed to the wonders of R-rated cinema, I felt. That was my argument I presented my mother. I begged. I pleaded. Finally, she consented.

Woooo hoooooooo!!! I quickly raced to the local movie rental establishment and stocked up on all of the Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Willis movies my young brain could handle. After a few months of frying my brain on images of violence I finally decided to go for some “lighter fare.” I rented “Rushmore,” and quickly fell out of love with explosions and started tracking down movies with things like “character development” and “witty dialogue.”

One of the first films I rented after my cinema awakening was “High Fidelity,” which tells the tale of an unhappy record store owner named Rob Gordon (played by John Cusack) who, in an attempt to figure out The Meaning Of It All, decides to look up all of his ex-girlfriends and figure out What Went Wrong. Somewhere in between all of the existential angst his character actually manages to play some really good tunes at the record store, Championship Vinyl, that he owns and operates with his two employees Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (pre-fame Jack Black), the “musical moron twins,” as he refers to them.

During one of the scenes at the record store Dick plays Rob “the new Belle & Sebastian record,” which they both listen to quietly for awhile before Jack Black comes in an starts yelling at them for playing such “sad bastard music.” Sad bastard music or not I really liked what I heard. After the movie was done I grabbed a pen and some paper and sat close to the TV intently watching the credits to figure out who that band was that I liked so much. The song was “Seymour Stein” from the album “The Boy With The Arab Strap” by the band Belle & Sebastian.

I hopped on my bicycle and peddled over to the nearest record store and combed the isles for the band. They had one album: “If You’re Feeling Sinister.” I liked the cover a lot. I payed for it and hopped back on my bike and peddled home, locked myself in my room and listened to the album. Then I listened to it again. Then I listened to it a third time. I was in love. I quickly got my hands on every Belle & Sebastian album I could find and listened to them consistently for the remainder of my high school experience.

The band has remained a cherished staple in my musical library ever since. When the rain is coming down and all I want to do is sit on my couch curled up with blanket and a cup of tea, I listen to them. I listen to them when I’m driving and the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.

They remain one of my favorite bands and when I learned that they were finally on tour in the United States (for the first time since 2007) my heart skipped a beat. I was finally going to be able to see them live! They were playing the Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco this year, I learned. I had been to the festival last year and had seen many great bands, including Beirut, Grizzly Bear, The Decemberists, and headliners The Flaming Lips. It was an incredible night and I really liked the venue. Belle & Sebastian was a natural fit for San Francisco, I felt. Plus so many of their songs took place in the historic city.

The concert took place over the weekend of the 16th and 17th, and lucky for me my friends Pat, Adrienne, Steven, and Katie were planning on going and were nice enough to let me bum a ride. Road trips by yourself are not nearly as much fun as road trips with your friends. I know I’m not really blowing anyone’s mind with that Truth Bomb, but I felt like it had to be said.

We were set to depart at 8am sharp on Saturday morning, which is about 4 hours earlier than I’m used to being awake so I set the alarm on my dresser and the alarm on my phone so I wouldn’t oversleep. I didn’t sleep well that night for two reasons: 1) I never sleep well when I know I have to be awake early 2) I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. So I spent much of the evening watching Louis CK stand up clips on YouTube and giggling to myself. I have a pretty loud laugh I’ve been told, so my neighbors must have thought I was going insane or something. Oh well.

When my alarm finally rang I hopped out of bed in a crazed daze. I looked at the alarm and it read 7am. Awesome. I did some mental math. Awesome. I’d got 2 whole hours of sleep! This was going to be an interesting trip. I hopped in the shower, blasted myself with hot water, and then I gingerly packed a bag to last the weekend. It was going to be cold as the Dickens in San Francisco this weekend, I reminded myself, so I packed 3 extra sweaters and my bomber jacket, just in case.

The drive to the Bay was beautiful. It was foggy and wet for most of the morning, which made the Redwoods look all the more majestic as we drove south down the highway, singing along to Belle & Sebastian along the way. Everyone in my group was pretty sleep deprived, which made for great conversation as we all tried to outdo each other in a contest of Who Was More Exhausted. We all tied for first place.

We pulled into San Francisco around 4pm or so and stopped at Trader Joe’s and picked up some snacks, all the while marveling at what a magical wonderland Trader Joe’s was. “There must be something in the water that makes everyone who works here so manically cheerful,” I mused while we stared thoughtful at their vast array of hummus.

Pat and I both bought 6-packs of beer for $2.99 because we’re classy like that. Besides, I’d heard that their lager was pretty damn delicious, especially when you factor in the price. Not all cheap beer is bad, I have come to realize. Besides, I was on a bit of a budget because I was “in between jobs” for the first time in over 7 years and I had to be very meticulous about what I spent my money on if I hoped to survive the experience.

After Joe’s we split up into two groups: Team Steven and Katie met up with Steven’s brother and went back to his dad’s place, and I joined Team Pat and Adrienne and we ventured into San Francisco proper to go vintage clothes shopping and meet up with her sister, who was kind of enough to give us food and shelter for the evening.

After spending a good 20 minutes or so looking for parking we finally found a spot to park and proceeded to have a lovely time waltzing around and commenting on the vast array of humanity that is San Francisco. We meet up with Adrienne’s sister at one of the many vintage clothing outlets in the Haight-Ashbury District and went back to her place, which her and her boyfriend shared with two other guys. It was a really nice spot, complete with a backyard in which they raised chickens. I’m being completely serious. Fresh eggs. It was awesome.

We spent the night drinking beer and watching the Giants game. I used to play baseball when I was younger and have always enjoyed the sport, but I realized while watching the Giants beat the living tar out of the Phillies how much I enjoyed the game! The fact that I was actually in SF to watch them win only added to the experience. Plus Brian Wilson’s beard was a sight to behold! “That man is completely insane,” I was informed. Fantastic. I like crazy pitchers. It adds to the drama of the game, I feel.

After the game we talked for awhile and then decided to watch “Hot Tub Time Machine,” which is a hilarious film which just so happened to star John Cusack (it’s interesting how everything is connected, isn’t it?). After the film and it was declared that is was in fact “late,” so we promptly passed out.

The next morning I awoke to the sound of my cell phone ringing. It was Steven letting me know he was outside and politely asking to be let in. It was quite cold out. I yelled at Pat from across the room and he groggily got up and let them in. We sat around for awhile in the comfortable silence of people who not quite awake yet. We had some coffee and a shot of vodka, which seemed like a good idea at the time. “It’s a Russian blanket,” Pat told me with a smile. “Why not?” I said, downing the shot and shuddering a bit. “You only live once, right?”

We piled into Adrienne’s car and she drove us to the shuttle bus, which took us the rest of the way to the island. Once on the island we were greeted with the glorious sight of hipsters in all shapes and sizes. “Wow! I’ve never seen so many ironic mustaches in one place before!” I declared. My group nodded in agreement. “It’s pretty impressive.”

Half of the bands that were playing that Sunday I had never heard of so I was excited to expand my musical taste. Also, I was excited to see the band She & Him play, because I’ve spent the last two years of my life head over heels in love with Zooey Deschanel. Ha. Right. Me and half of everyone else in hipsterdom.

The day passed quickly and before I knew it Belle & Sebastian took the stage and I started screaming like the fan boy that I was directly into Steven and Katie’s ears. Sorry about that, guys. I just got a little too excited for a second there.

The first song they played was the single “Write About Love,” which was from their new album that I hadn’t heard yet, so I was experiencing it for the first time live, which is a blessed thing that I will never forget. Most of their set consisted of their older, better known tracks though, and the crowd loved it. I decided then and there that Belle & Sebastian was like the Rolling Stones for indie kids. We love seeing them live, but we really want them to play the older songs that we grew up listening to. I was especially pleased when they played “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying” which is one of my favorite tracks of their “If You’re Feeling Sinister” album.

I teared up a bit during front man Stuart Murdoch’s tender rendition of “Lord Anthony,” not going to lie. Actually, in all honesty I was teared up through most of their set. Tears of joy, really. It had been a life long dream of mine to see them live and here I was, freezing my buns off in San Francisco doing just that. At that moment there was no place in the world I would have rather been than right there, huddled en masse with my fellow Belle & Sebastian fans. It was a moment that I will always remember with fondness.

The band played for over and hour and a half and when they left the stage I felt completely euphoric, as if all was right in my world. It was a precious feeling that I dwelled upon during the drive home, even though Pat and I were blasting 90s gangster rap in our effort to not stay awake on the drive home. Pat was driving and I volunteered to serve as his co-pilot, offering helpful suggestions such as “please don’t crash into that car that is ahead of us.” Everyone else slept peacefully in the back while we told stories of our childhood and pondered our own mortality.

We arrived back in Humboldt around 5:30 in the morning. I thanked Pat for getting us home in one piece, and told everyone that I loved them and thanked them for such a special road trip. I grabbed my bag and headed up to my apartment, barely managing to lock the door before I slumped into my couch and promptly passed out until noon. It was a good night.


Confessions of a Dreamgoatz Groupie

I awoke at 7AM on Monday morning in a cold sweat, gripped by Fear and Panic. It was the first week back to school for HSU students, after all. I lied in bed for awhile until it dawned on me that I had graduated last semester and was thus free as a bird to do whatever I wanted to do. I promptly fell back to sleep and slept past noon. It was my first day off in 5 days and I promised myself that I would Rest and Recover.

When I finally dragged myself out of bed I flipped on my laptop and put on Dean Martin’s Italian Love Songs, which I hummed along to as I made coffee and fried up some eggs and toast. I’m a classy guy. My brother Matthew always gives me a hard time for sleeping in until noon, and then not eating anything until 1 or 2PM and having the audacity to call it “breakfast.” To which I respond: “Hey man, if it’s the first meal of the day it’s called breakfast, no matter what time it is. I win.”

I was on my third cup of coffee when I received a text from Tom Vidosh, who along with Oren Beckman and Patrick (no last name required), form the folktronic dance band Dreamgoatz, of which I am a huge fan. Tom’s text asked if I was busy that night, which I thankfully was not. He then invited me to see his band perform at The Barn in Fortuna, which was a venue that I had always wanted to check out. I said “hell yes” and that was that.

That put me in a rather jovial mood. I love the band Dreamgoatz with a passion. I feel that the music they are making is wholly unique, and the small fact that I am friends with the band only adds that little extra “something something” to my enjoyment of their music. I jokingly refer to myself as their sole “groupie,” much like Mel in “Flight of the Conchords.” And like Mel, I am completely adorable and in no way Creepy or Insane in my dedication to the band (or so I tell myself).

I spent most of the afternoon running errands, soaking up the sun like the delicate flower that I am. Living in Humboldt County has it’s advantages and disadvantages, as many people know. I try to live my life by a few simple rules, one of the first rules being: If it’s sunny out, go outside!

After my errands are over I sit outside of my apartment and flip through Hunter S. Thompson’s “Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 80s.” Granted, I was born in ’84, so most of what he is talking about takes place before I became the handsome intellectual my friends and family know and love, but hey, the man’s a great writer. He could have been writing about the Civil War and I would have found it fascinating. Fun Fact: Before I switched to the dark path that is Journalism, I was a History Major. So now you know.

Being unsure of where exactly “The Barn in Fortuna” was located I called Tom and asked him for a ride there (for the record, I do own a care, in case you thought I was one of those hippies who walk everywhere because driving is “bad for the environment”). He graciously agreed and we met up in Eureka at the Co-Op, hugged and hopped into his car and sped off into the sunset.

We arrived at the venue around 6:30PM or so. The gig was scheduled to begin at 7PM, which of course means that the music did not begin until 9PM. Not that I’m complaining. When we arrived I didn’t see anyone I recognized right away so I hung out with Tom and let my bearded friend do most of the talking to the people that we met there. Tom, friendly fellow that he is, introduced me to everyone right away, and by 7PM I was BFFS with everyone there. Typical conversation:

Them: “Hey man, what’s your name?”

Me: “Nate.”

Them: “Are you in the band?”

Me: “Nope. I’m their groupie, some might say.”

Them: “That’s awesome.”

Me: “Thanks?”

Them: “Hahaha! That’s funny. You’re hilarious. Let’s be best friends!”

Me: “If you say so…”

Yeah. That’s pretty much how I spent my time while waiting for the show to start.

As the sun set the crowd at the venue (which was an actual barn, by the way) had increased greatly. The last of the bands scheduled to perform had arrived and everything was set up and ready to go.

The first band was a funk band who got things off to a good start. Their high energy set even involved two guys rapping at one point, which came as a surprise to me because up until that point their set had been entirely instrumental. But hey, it worked for them.

As the crowd was dancing to the funky funk tunes that was being blasted at us at an impressive volume, Tom and Oren and Patrick worked like the busy little bees they are to set up their equipment in the adjoining barn, which was a genius idea.

As soon as the funk band’s set was over, a tall man by the name of Quentin shouted at the top his lungs: “Alright guys, Dreamgoatz in the next room! It’s going to be amazing!”

By this time of the night people had been dancing and drinking for a while, so everyone was feeling pretty loose when Dreamgoatz started their set. I danced along wildly to the music, and jumping up and down with joy. Sadly, no video footage exists of my sweet dance moves (there is a God), so you’re going to have to just take my word on this.

After the Dreamgoatz finished their set I was an exhausted, sweaty mess. I made my way outside for some fresh air and a nice cold beer, which tasted amazing after dancing for the better part of an hour.

I chatted a while with Quentin, who, I quickly learned, thought I was a “pretty cool guy.”

“Oh yes?” I asked with a smile. “What makes you say that?”

“Well,” he said, pondering for a moment, “I’ve seen you at shows around town and you always struck me as a friendly fellow.”

“Awww shucks,” I tell him with a wave of my hand. “Friendly is what I’m going for, actually. I get paid to be friendly, as a matter of fact. I work as a waiter at Lost Coast Brewery.”


Just then music began to seep out of the building and the two of us rushed inside to see a singer whose stage name is “Nicole Kidman,” strangely enough. I tried hard not to shout out “I loved you in Moulin Rouge!” at the top of my lungs. It wasn’t the same Nicole Kidman. For starters, this “Nicole Kidman” was a man in his twenties who had never actually seen “Moulin Rouge!,” ironically enough. His singing style reminded me of a young Daniel Johnston, with a little bit of Bright Eyes thrown in for good measure (and indie cred). His songs were about loneliness and lost love and were quite beautiful. After the show I bought two of his homemade CDs, which came with original art by the man himself. He was shy and modest when I told him that his music reminded me of Daniel Johnston in the best way possible.

“You really think so?” He practically whispered to me. “Wow. Thanks!”

“Of course, man. Keep up the good work!”

I shook his hand firmly and thanked him for sharing his music with us. Then I turned to Tom, who had somehow managed to sneak up on me, and said “well, time to hit the ol’ dusty trail?”

We packed up the last of his equipment in his van and drove off into the night with the windows down, cool breeze in our hair. It was a good night.

Good luck with school, kids!

Oh Frank Fairfield, you magnificent vaudevillian bastard, how I love thee!

The musician Frank Fairfield looks like a gangster from the 1950s. His hair is greased back. His smile is knowing. He seems like a man capable of great violence, if the situation called for it. Luckily for me (and everyone else in attendance at Monday’s $3 “budget rock” night at the Jambalaya in my humble town of Arcata), ol’ Frank chose the life of a musician, rather than a life of crime.

Frank had the soul of a vaudevillian, it seemed. When I strolled into the practically deserted venue around 9:45pm there sat Frank, alone on stage, a single spotlight shown on him. His face was lowered as he strummed his guitar. He was dressed in a simple button up work shirt, with gray wool pants and a tattered old sports coat that looked like it had seen just about every weather known to man. Frank’s voice reminded me of the 1930s blues musician Robert Johnson, who, legend says, sold his soul to the devil to become a better guitar player. His voice quivered dramatically as he played, tapping his worn leather shoes in time to the music. After a few songs about life on the road, women he had loved, and great regrets, he set his guitar down, took a drink of water and stared out into the audience. It was now well after 10pm and more than 30 people had arrived since I had been there. Frank smiled and picked up his banjo, hopping into a tune that would make Steve Martin smile.

A tap on the shoulder jolted me out of my blissful trance. There stood my friend Pat, smiling at me. Beside him were Zachary, a bearded fellow who dresses like an English Lit. professor most of the time, and his long-time girlfriend Darlene, whom I tend to go to for advice in regards to my perpetual “girl problems.” They’re a  couple whom I am proud to call my friends (awwwww!).

“Did we miss much?” Pat asked, looking a bit panicked.

“You’ve only missed the greatest half hour of white man blues of your life!” I informed him with a laugh. “This guy’s fucking fantastic!”

As Frank plucked away diligently at his banjo I hopped over to the bar, ordered a tall PBR, and was back in my former spot in no time. Zachary looked at my beer choice and laughed. We both fancy ourselves to be beer enthusiasts, who usually favor the darker side of beer (the darker it is, the more I love it). I defended my choice, saying “I always buy PBR at shows, man. It’s a tradition.”

I buy PBR at shows for the same reason I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunchtime. It’s cheap, it tastes good, and it gets the job done. So there. Now I’ve defended PBR. It’s a whole lot better than Bud Light, Steel Reserve, or Natural Ice, let me tell you!

My eyes gazed back at the stage, where Frank lovingly set down his banjo and picked up his fiddle and started playing. I was pretty much in love with the guy at this point. What’s not to love? The man played 3 instruments, and he played them well!

As he played an old-time jig furiously on his fiddle a few horse hairs from his bow went flying across the stage.

“That’s how you can spot a good fiddle player, by the wake of broken bow hairs,” I whispered knowingly to Pat, who nodded solemnly.

I used to play the violin, as some may recall. I took lessons when I was a shy and sensitive high school student. I never really got good enough to brag about it, but I rather enjoyed myself. My brother Matthew was taking trumpet lessons at the time, and I felt it would be good for me to attempt to learn an instrument as well. Why not? I was too shy to actually talk to other people (read: most girls), so why shouldn’t I use the free time that I had for good, rather than for evil?

I didn’t stick with it, sadly. I enjoyed playing, but my instructor’s insistence that I “practice for at least an hour every day” didn’t sit with me very well. I retired my violin to be returned to the music shop and I walked off into the sunset, never looking back. Except when I come across a violin/fiddle player who can actually play, then I get more than a little jealous and curse myself for giving up on my musical dreams. But fret not, gentle reader, for I purchased a banjo as a graduation present to myself not too long and I’m getting pretty good, if I do say so myself!

I sipped my beer thoughtfully, gazing at the stage while Frank blazed through another fiddle number. I stood as if in some kind of trance. “This guy’s good” would be an understatement.

I hopped back to the bar to grab another brew and my thoughts turned to my brother Matthew’s wedding. We’ve always been close, Matthew and I. “Thick as thieves” some might say. For as long as I can remember Matthew has been in my life. I mean sure, there have been times when I wished he’d never been born (such as that instance in the 90s where he slammed the car door on my thumb and then laughed at me as I burst into tears), but for the most part I rather enjoyed the little bugger’s company. And now he’s married and gone to live in Oregon. I’m happy that he found someone to be with, naturally, but I miss him at times. When the minister said “I now pronounce you man and wife” my entire childhood flashed before my eyes and it took all of my willpower not to fall on my knees and weep like a baby. We’ll always be brothers, I know, but things won’t be the same, and I’m still working on accepting that fact. The times they are a changin’ Bob Dylan once sang, and he was right. It was such a bittersweet moment.

I paid my $3 for the beer, left my usual $1 tip and headed back to be with my friends and enjoy Frank’s musical prowess.

After the show ended I headed over to the corner of the joint to buy Frank’s LP. I have a record player now (thanks Max!) and it’s been really fun slowly amassing a record collection for myself (as if I didn’t collect enough stuff already, what with the comic books, movies, and literature and all that jazz!).

I took my newly purchased record on stage and introduced myself to Frank, who turned out to be one of the shyest, must humble musicians I’ve ever met.

When I told him how much I’d loved his music he could barely look at me, his eyes fixed to his shoes while he muttered “Oh really? You liked it?…. Wow…. Thanks.” As if I were doing him a favor by liking his stuff!

“Yeah man, you were great!” I shook his hand and asked him to sign the record, which he did (in itty bitty writing, which I found to be strangely endearing).

I walked out of the joint to find my friends waiting patiently for me.

“Bought yourself some wax, eh?”

“Yeah! I’m pretty excited about it!”

I hugged Zach and Darlene goodbye and me and Pat hopped into his car and sped off to my friend Joanna’s bonfire, talking all the way about our love of blues and all things soulful and beautiful. It was a good night.

House Show Goodness: Dreamgoatz, Shark Sandwich, and more!

Friday morning began as all of my mornings begin, with me swearing loudly at my alarm clock as it blasts me into consciousness with it’s shrill siren call. After 25 years of existence I have come to this conclusion: I am not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. Even on days that I have to get up early for school I still stay up until 2 in the morning, simply out of habit.

After I hit the snooze button 4 or 5 times I finally dragged myself out of bed and into the shower, and then off to my statistics class, which is a pain in the butt, but a necessary class to take so that way I can finally graduate college and then…… Do stuff.

I had a hop in my step after class because I knew that in a few short hours I would be doing what I do best: eating food and talking about movies with my friends. As I arrived home around 10 a.m. I waved hello to my neighbor Kelly, and we chatted a bit about health care reform. After that I went to the gym, and worked out while flipping through The New Yorker. Yes, I know that sounds pretentious, and it really was. I’ve never been one to enjoy flipping through muscle magazine while I work out, they make me feel weak and flabby. Why would I want to do that to myself?

When lunchtime rolled around I hopped into my freshly washed and much beloved Ford Focus (2006 model, so the breaks work just fine, haha!) and speed off to Rita’s in Eureka to feast with my friends Tom and Oren (of Dreamgoatz fame) and their friend who was both bearded and friendly, so we got along just fine. While at lunch Tom casually mentioned that “Dreamgoatz” was going to play a house show in Eureka that night, and that I was invited. I pondered this for a minute.

“I would like that,” I said, gazing into my enchilada thoughtfully.

“Chill,” he said, and grabbed his phone. “I just texted you the address.”

“Nice, I’ll see you there!”

After lunch I went back to my place and fell into a “food coma” for a few hours. It was lovely.

As the sun set I listened to the Icelandic band “Sigur Ros” play softly in the background. I checked my watched. It was 7:45 p.m. “Well, time to hit the road,” I said to nobody in particular, grabbing my comfy brown sweater and hoping into my car, gunning the engine wildly and scaring the birds that were perched on the telephone poll.

I found the house without much difficulty, which was nothing less than a miracle, since I’ve been cursed with my father’s total lack of a sense of direction. It’s pretty sad sometimes. When I drive around big cities (i.e. San Francisco), it’s all I can do not to have a panic attack while I drive around like an idiot, trying to find my destination. Pulling over to the side of the road to consult my maps, as if the city were the ocean and I was the brave sailor traversing it’s dangerous waters. Or that’s how I view myself. To everybody else I just look like a tourist who has never seen a city in his life. “Poor little fellow,” they say to themselves. “How hard it must be to be in the big city for the first time.”

But I digress. Back to the subject at hand: the house show.

As I walked into the house I immediately ran into Tom, who was dressed in what appeared to be pajamas from the 1960s (“Groovy!”), and he gave me a big hug.

“Glad you came out, man!”

“Me too,” I said with a grin. “Has anybody played yet?”

“Nah, man, they’re just getting set up. I’ll introduce you to the other band,” and he turned to his left and pointed to two guys, one short and one tall. “This is Shark Sandwich.”

“Shark Sandwich, eh? Wow! I feel like I’m meeting minor celebrities. How is it going, fellas?”

We shook hands and laughed and I learned that they named their band after a fictitious “Spinal Tap” album, by the name of “Shark Sandwich.”

“You named your band after a Christopher Guest film?” I said. “That’s awesome!”

“Yeah, man, we love that movie!”

“Me too,” I said, hopping across the kitchen to grab a beer from the counter, “it’s such a cult classic!”

Just then the lights flickered in the other room, so the masses migrated into the living room, where a young black kid by the name of “Danny Blues” (his real name is Daniel, I learned later) picked up the mic and told us that he was going to share some hip-hop with us. Sweet, I thought to myself. I’ve been getting into a lot more hip-hop lately. The “good stuff” (i.e. Mos Def, Aesop Rock, MF Doom, The Grouch, among others).

He plugged his iPod into the speaker system, cranked up the beat and immediately launched into a song that was part autobiography, part political commentary, and I was hooked.

“This kid’s got skills,” somebody next to me said, and I agreed with her, nodding my head enthusiastically while bobbing along to the beat.

After about 20 minutes or so he put down the mic, and told us “Well, that’s all I have so far” and thanked us for being a wonderful audience. I immediately ran over to him like a fan boy and said “Wow, man! That was amazing!” He thanked me and the two of us went outside to take in the air and hang out with all the smokers. I learned that he was only 16 years old and I was amazed. “You remind me of the young Mos Def, if you don’t mind me saying. The way you rapped about growing up was really well thought out for a person your age.”

“You think so?” He asked, laughing a bit.

“Yeah, man! Keep it up, you’re really talented!”

“Thanks! I appreciate that.”

The two of us then migrated indoors to the kitchen, grabbed another beer and chatted about the shirt that he was wearing, featuring Mork from Ork with the word balloon “Shazbot!”, from “Mork and Mindy.”

“I got this shirt for free actually. It was just lying on the side of the road and I picked it up, washed it, and found out it worked perfectly. I get a lot of compliments on it from older people who like the show.”

“Older people, eh?” I said with a laugh. “I can imagine.”

Music began seeping into the kitchen from the living room and I followed it like a moth to the flame. It was a girl named Kelly (not to be confused with my neighbor of the same name), who was a mutual friend of Tom and Oren’s. I think she’s really cute. Just putting that out there. Oh yes, and she has a beautiful voice, which caused me to swoon like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert in the early 1960s. Besides having a lovely voice she is also a talented artist, and while she sang Tom and Oren took turns moving her artwork around on a projector. It was pretty cool.

After Kelly’s performance the band “Shark Sandwich” set up their equipment, which consisted of a whole lot of drums, and a keyboard. I was intrigued.

When the band began to play (pictured above, at the beginning of my tale) everybody started dancing. You couldn’t help yourself, the band was immensely danceable. The drums filled the room with energy, and then the girl of the band whipped out her trumpet and blasted us, causing people to cheer and dance with abandon. It was awesome. I love to dance. There. I said it. Deal with it.

After “Shark Sandwich” ended their highly energetic set, everyone flooded outside, gasping for air mightily. Dancing in small rooms gets pretty hot pretty quick. But it’s all part of the experience, really, when you stop and think about it.

The minutes passed easily as I chatted with the other people about how awesome that band was.

“Alright everybody,” someone screamed from the living room, “Dreamgoatz is about to begin and they’re going to blow your fucking mind!”

I smiled at this and walked happily back inside. I love “Dreamgoatz.” And it’s not just because I’m friends with the band, as some have accused me of (this whole “unbiased journalism” thing is for the birds, in my opinion). I’m being completely sincere when I say that their music is so unique and wonderful that the fact that I know them personally only adds to the enjoyment, if that makes sense. Even if I had never met the guys, I would have been charmed by their music.

“Dreamgoatz” began and immediately everyone started dancing in time with the music. Kelly even projected some of her art on the walls behind them while they played, which only added to the automosphere. The fun thing for me, besides the great music, is seeing Tom and Oren transform from being “Tom and Oren, humble and thoughtful college students,” to “Tom and Oren, rock stars.” It’s really quite something, and it never ceases to make me smile.

The band played for 45 minutes or so (my sense of time always fails me in house show setting, for some reason) and I danced for 44 minutes, stopping only to catch my breath for 58 seconds (give or take).

After their set was over they thanked everyone for coming out and enjoying their music, which caused people to cheer. Slowly people wandered into the crisp night air and went their separate ways. I moseyed on over to Tom and Oren, congratulated them on a good show and said my goodbyes. Hopping once again into my trusty car and speeding off into the night.

It was a good night.

Drinking Music: The Smashed Glass

Drinking music is a beautiful thing to behold. You stand there, rocking back and forth in time to the music, sipping on your drink of choice (for me, Guinness). Perhaps you pump your fist into the air if you’re feeling frisky. It’s up to you, really. Different music inspires different reactions. Folk music inspires contemplation (and plaid clothing, apparently). Doom metal inspires a whole lot of headbanging. And Irish folk-punk inspires, well…. Drinking.

I discovered the Eureka-based band The Smashed Glass by accident, really. I was at a show over the summer at my favorite bar in Arcata, The Alibi, seeing local melodic metal band Fall The Giants play. I was about 5 beers and 2 shots deep when The Smashed Glass took the stage and quickly broke into a rapid fire rendition of one of my favorite Irish folk songs, “Nancy Whiskey.” Even in my ever so slightly inebriated state I was impressed. As I stumbled home (I love living within walking distance of the bars!) I hummed that song happily to myself.

The next day I awoke around 11 a.m. and dragged myself out of bed, wrote the name of the band, The Smashed Glass, on a cocktail napkin and went back to sleep until noon. Then I took a shower, grabbed my skim board and a book and hopped into my car and headed off to the beach. It was my day off and I decided that it would be in my best interest to get a sunburn in the name of freedom and summertime revelry.

But enough about the past, with all it’s comings and goings, it’s the present I want to talk about. The present I say!

Let’s talk about this last Monday, shall we? The Jambalaya on H St. in Arcata has been featuring local bands as part of their “Monday Night Budget Rock” nights, which only costs $2 to attend and features $2 PBR and $3 Guinness and $4 shots. As part of my “get out there and experience life and all that it has to offer” mentality, coupled with the fact that I don’t have class until noon on Tuesday and I live alone, this works out perfectly for me! Living alone has it’s perks, such as time to study without noisy roommates, and it allows me the pleasure of being able to walk around my apartment in my underwear whenever I the mood strikes me, but on the downside, life can get a little lonely sometimes, so any excuse to leave my apartment sounds enticing. I do enjoy my evenings alone on nights that I’m not working, watching movies wrapped in my comfy Batman blanket, drinking hot cider, but the occasional night of drunken debauchery does the body good. Or so I tell myself.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Monday night. The show was advertised to start at 10 p.m., and so at 10 p.m. on the dote I show up with an eager smile on my face.

“The featured band tonight is The Smashed Glass,” the bearded fellow at the door tells me. I nod enthusiastically. “But they’re not going to go on for another hour.”

Dang it! I decided to make the best use of my time by jogging home, hopping into my car and driving to Safeway for some much needed grocery shopping. I like to use my time wisely, if I can help it.

When I show up at 11:05 p.m. the band is just about to start so I order myself a can of PBR and a shot of Jim Bean while I wait. I chat a bit with the girl sitting next to me and learn that she too goes to HSU, with an major in Biology.

“Biology, eh? Well good luck with THAT. Science was never my strong suit, to tell you the truth. I fancy myself a writer, but lately all I’ve been writing is rubbish, not gonna lie. It’s frustrating.”

The girl sips her drink and ponders my situation. “Well the important thing is that you don’t give up,” she tells me after a moment of contemplation. “If writing makes you happy then go for it! Follow your dreams, I say.”

“Follow my dreams? Wow, you should write inspirational greeting cards.” She laughs because I am very witty. I buy her a drink and then the band begins to play.

There is a kind of special feeling you get when a band that you enjoy is playing songs at such a loud volume that you feel like the room that you are in is the only place that matters in the world. Everything else fades away. It’s just you, the band, and a room full of people who you’ve more than likely seen before. The rock crowd sticks together, so it seems.

Songs about drinking, love, working dead end jobs, and fighting for your honor fill my ears and I am happy. These moments are where it’s at, I think to myself.

The band plays for more than an hour, joking around with the audience and each other.

“This next song is about drinking,” the lead singer announces, causing the crowd to cheer. That’s another thing I’ve noticed, people love to cheer at shows. It doesn’t really matter the reason. The lead singer could have said “I’ve always been afraid of Gumby” and I think the audience would have cheered just the same. I really need to be in a band. If you know of any bands that are looking for a charismatic and dashing lead singer with very little musical talent let me know, okay?

The next song was indeed about drinking, and the hardships of love. A deadly combo, really.

After all the songs were sung and all the drinks were finished the crowd dispersed into the chill night, shoving their hands deep into their pockets and heading off to their cars, or in my case, staggering home like a maniac, humming Irish folk tunes.

You should see these guys sometime. You won’t regret it. First round is on me!