The F Word. An online column for Frank De Blase to pontificate, ruminate, placate, and salivate. We'll have reviews and previews, we'll discuss trends in local and national music scenes, and we'll try to do it as reverently as possible. Yup. Let's get started.
This F word is gonna deal with lyrics, real and non-existent. You see, artists don’t always write lyrics for a piece of music, relying instead on the title to convey what the music means. Sometimes, that's with mixed results: Link Wray’s 1958 hit, “Rumble,”
was banned because authorities saw it as a way to fire up juvenile delinquents. They were afraid it would cause knife fights and rumbles to break out in the playground, just because of the title. And poor ole Link was just trying to write a stroll.
Instrumental music can be a catalyst for those words and urges in your head, and a song with lyrics can be flexible and contradictory as well. I’ll never listen to Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle” the same way again after seeing the bloody scene Quentin Tarantino used it in in “Reservoir Dogs.”
I’m sharing this practice, this quasi-meditation, with you because we’re not always graced with the fidelity to audibly pick out the words in a performance. Or maybe you just like to daydream. You can, however, join the band in your head and create specific, personal music — your own private symphony with its own story line. It may sound nuts, but I do it at virtually every show I check out.
I applied this technique when I went and saw Tom Hanney’s “Blues and the Harmonica” class recital at the Backroom Lounge with some 20-odd harmonicas on stage. I didn’t have my expectations set too high, and I figured there was the possibility it could be a trainwreck. It had the potential of sounding like a fire drill, what with all that stainless steel up there, all trying for the same notes. That’s what I thought anyway, and I was all prepared to set it to the fractured words in my head.
With a prompt from Hanney, the harmonica orchestra set upon “When the Saints Go Marching In.” And you know what? It was absolutely gorgeous. It sounded like tiny violins played by butterflies that fluttered by my imagination.
Here are some hints: Next time you’re in an audience or underneath your headphones or in the car, try to visualize the mood or the colors the music conveys. Are the instruments angry? What are the drums saying? And again does the title say anything? Try this exercise to get more out of your music listening experience. More on this in the future.
I Scene It
Wednesday, and it was back at the Backroom happy hour with some ska band aptly named Some Ska Band
. The joint was packed. I’ve seen the pre-gig jitters before — hell, I’ve had them. But Some Ska Band was in a dead panic as I arrived: the band’s lead singer was home worshiping the porcelain god. Fortunately the band knew a fair amount of instrumentals that I could dig and let loose in my brain. Between that and a couple of fellows in the audience who knew enough ska standards to fill up the set, Some Ska Band emerged victorious and one step beyond.
It was the most anticipated show of the year so far: Abilene’s 10th anniversary show at The Harro East Ballroom Friday night with JD McPherson, Woody Pines, and Jake La Botz
. I missed Woody Pines but made the scene in time for La Botz’s set of primal, blues-based
rock ‘n’ roll. Just the man and his guitar captivated the capacity crowd with satirical, lyrical tunes from a dark place deep inside. His guitar sounded menacing as he picked random patterns beneath his reedy baritone. I could listen to this cat all night.
McPherson and his band burst out onto the stage in a cloud of feedback and preceded to shake the walls. The light show belied the bands dungaree demeanor
a little, but the songs are so good that they could have been wearing clown suits and it wouldn’t have mattered.
After the show I watched the crowd pour themselves across the street into Abilene without a funnel to hear Bobby Henrie
strum and croon with The Goners. By the time I made it outdoors I had somebody else’s wallet in my pocket and a ringing in my ears.
By the Way
Check out my interview with songwriter Mary Gauthier
. It’s online now and in print Wednesday.
We've got a Fresh Cut coming Wednesday with Komrad's newest single, "Control."
And I’m curious: What are you guys looking forward to at this year’s Jazz Festival? Or if there's anything you want to discuss, catch me at email@example.com
. F out.