This song by Brandy Clark, We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat, is all over the radio.
The duet with Randy Newman is pretty catchy — and certainly timely in these crazy times — but it’s sure to make Jaws fans cringe. As so many people do, she misquotes the iconic line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Does the one word make a difference? Yes.
Chief Brody’s use of “you’re” instead of “we’re” is telling. It seems to be him saying, “OK, let’s get the hell out of here and come back when you get yourself squared away with a proper boat.” But in Quint’s world, that’s not an option. There is no bigger boat, and more importantly, here we are — and now we’re all in this together. This is no longer about me, it’s about we.
The subsequent scenes in Jaws show Brody, Quint, and Hooper coming together as a team, forming a bond that is one of the beautiful things about the movie. You’re boat is now our boat.
So, I’ll stop being an annoying purist with my complaining about a silly movie quote. And if there’s one thing we need now, it’s a bigger boat.
It had to be 1981 when me and my friends drove from Plattsburgh to see the L.A. punk band X play in Montreal. They were my favorite band, so it was a real thrill to press up against the stage and watch John Doe and Exene exchanging vocals, the blonde and ridiculously cool Billy Zoom effortlessly running through his punk meets rockabilly riffs, and D.J Bonebrake who was, well… the drummer. It’s breathtaking to be so close to a band you idolize.
Fast forward to 2019.
Hearing that X would be play in Albany on June 9 blew my mind. What? Albany? Why?
They were scheduled to play at The Skyloft, the new music venue at Crossgates Mall. Seeing a band like X at the mall — any band at the mall — felt a bit weird, like my mother should be dropping me off at the show, or something. It turns out that Skyloft is a great little place to see a band, even while people are walking by outside with shopping bags from Old Navy and Best Buy.
As for X, well, they were unbelievable. It was flawless musically, and the signature harmonies of John and Exene were as beautiful as ever. Billy Zoom maintained his studied cool, albeit while perched on a stool, and D.J played the drums like a man who was a third of his age.
I’m old enough now that aging rockers seem more like older brothers, sister, and cousins. Interestingly, there were a lot of young kids at the show, people in their twenties, to whom the band would be old enough to be grandparents.
This brings us to the most wondrous thing about the age of rock: the way people can discover and enjoy music that’s forty years old or more. In 1945, young people weren’t discovering music from 1905, and saying, “Wow! This is great!” Today they do, and we all rock on together.
English folk singer Martin Carthy was at Old Songs on Sunday night, playing a delightful set whose topics included betrayal, beheadings, vengeful ghosts, imprisoned maidens, losing one’s pants, and a wife beating her drunken husband. Such is the world of British traditional music — and it was a great to see this legendary figure in such an intimate setting.
The crowd at an Old Songs show is what you’d expect: like the bus to the co-op collided with a bus full of WAMC fund drive volunteers. They were a receptive and gracious audience — except perhaps for the two characters sitting in front of us.
A man and a woman — presumably a married couple — raised their phones every time Carthy named the song he was about to play and began pecking away. It turns out they were pulling up the lyrics, and heads bent, they would follow along as he sang, their faces bathed in a blue glow.
Where do I start?
First, if you are so keen on the lyrics, maybe you should pay attention to that man on stage twenty feet away. He’s about to sing them to you.
Second, your glowing phone is in my field of view and very distracting. There’s a reason they dim the lights for the audience: it’s to focus your attention on the performer.
Third, and most important, it’s incredibly disrespectful. Old Songs is a small venue, and to sit a few feet from a performer and mess around with your phone while he’s singing is outrageous.
A woman down the aisle asked the people to put away the phones. They didn’t. My wife did the same later, aided by a few cross words from me. This worked somewhat better, but the husband would not relent with his phone. They looked to be pushing 60, but acted like a pair of 14-year-olds.
Look, I get that a there’s a scholarly element to folk music, and the origin and lineage of the work is sometimes as interesting as the songs themselves. But if you want to look up the lyrics or song facts, how about you do it after the show, not during?
Otherwise, I wish on you a fate like that which befalls those in British folk songs. Perhaps having your thumbs lopped off or being transformed into weasels would be fittingly folky.
Anyway, about Martin Carthy. This was one of the memorable songs he performed solo on Sunday, an updated take on a tale of your son going off to war.
I do try to avoid indulging in “when I was your age” stuff.
A young lady who works at the coffee shop was bopping around as she did her chores, decked out in punk regalia that would have fit right in at a Sex Pistols concert 40 years ago. By young, I mean young enough to be my daughter. She was rocking out to — wait for it — Green Day.
Waiting for one’s tea to steep, it’s hard to resist the temptation to strike up a conversation and say things that would make you seem like a ridiculous old geezer — or worse yet, a creepy middle-age guy trying to make time. So, one keeps one’s mouth shut.
But how would that go?
“You know, I was really into punk when I was your age. I was just unpacking my records and came across my copy of Never Mind the Bollocks on vinyl. Oh, and the Clash? I saw them live. Me and my friends at the college radio station, everybody hated us because of all the punk we played. Do you ever listen to X? Los Angeles and Wild Gift are like the best albums ever. You know, a lot of people slam Green Day, but you can really hear a lot of what influenced them if you listen to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
Yes, pathetic. We thought we were so cool back then.
But it is interesting that there are still punks, isn’t it? The rock era may be unique in the enduring nature of its genres and music. A record from the late 70s might interest a lot of 21-year-olds — but could the same be said in 1970 of music that was popular in 1930?
So, ridiculous old geezers, feel good that your music survives. But please do so quietly.
Music often carries a connection to a time in your life; maybe that’s why the death of David Bowie affected people so powerfully.
NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts recently featured a performance by Natalie Merchant, and it transported me back more than thirty years to a dingy bar in Plattsburgh, NY. The Rook was holding a show by 10,000 Maniacs, who at the time were an obscure indie band known only to college radio DJs and our tiny group of listeners.
Ad from Cardinal Points, the SUNY Plattsburgh newspaper, January 20, 1983
The usual suspects attended, a small, ragtag crowd of students that made up the local new wave/post-punk contingent. It was not much of a scene, but as much of a scene as one could have in Plattsburgh, NY in 1983.
Naturally, Natalie Merchant was the center of attention. She was maybe nineteen, and her singing and movement on stage were exotic in a way that left us all deeply smitten. The band was crashing with a guy we knew, and at a post-show party we struggled awkwardly to make small talk. She was wisely having none of it.
So here we are, 33 years later. Look how old we’ve gotten! Personally, I think most people improve with age. Thank goodness.
Horner died in a plane crash this week. It’s telling that he escaped to the sky, a very American pursuit, which you can hear in his music. And you can certainly hear it in that title theme to Rocketeer, titled “Takeoff.”
When I said that to my wife I was just kidding, but only a bit. Many of the little kids wildly dancing around in circles at this month’s Irish 2000 Festival, really were terrible dancers.
But could it be that some of them couldn’t hear the music?
A number of parents had outfitted their little squirts with earmuff style hearing protection to guard their wee ears from the Screaming Orphans up on stage.
I’ve seen this before, but never have I seen so many kids with the colorful protective devices. And they were side-by-side with just as many (or more) young kids without them.
Now, this is not the place for my observations about the parents. It would be wrong to make snap judgements based on their appearance, and I would never suggest that the ear muff crowd looked like insufferably annoying people. That would be wrong, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, I trust that the ear muff children will grow up enjoying the benefits that come with having better hearing: they will be more attentive in school, get better grades, go to more prestigious universities, earn more money and subsequently be better citizens.
In the end, the ear muff parents will have the last laugh against those fools that allowed their kids to enjoy themselves bare-eared without the encumbrance of those ridiculous looking but extremely practical accessories. The rewards in life will not go to the best dancers, but to the ones with the clearest hearing.
It was great to see Neko Case at The Egg Wednesday night.
I bought the tickets in January, so the waiting seemed interminable, but the payoff was a tremendous show. Our seats were great, too: second row center. It’s nice to be up close, not just because it makes for a more intimate experience, but it’s cool to see what the musicians are doing — and you can their tattoos.
On Neko case’s arms is tattooed the phrase, Scorned for Timber, Beloved of the Sky. Turns out it’s the name of a painting she loves. Thanks again, Google.
I credit Neko Case with teaching me to be respectful of warmup acts.
In 2003 I went to see Wilco in Montreal. As we waited for the band to come on we, stood around in the back of the theatre drinking beer and talking loudly (how typically American), paying no attention to the opening band.
In short order a woman marched forward to admonish us for our boorish behavior. She did so in a very politely Canadian way, saying something like, “Excuse me, but you’re making it very difficult for us to enjoy the show with the noise you’re making.” That always makes it worse, when people scold you politely.
And who was this singer she felt so strongly about? Neko Case. It was several years later that I discovered how much I loved her music — and I still kick myself for completely missing her show.
So now I arrive on time — and in this case enjoyed a set by The Dodos, a San Francisco band that I’m glad I didn’t miss.
I love the Super Bowl, but I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate hate Super Bowl halftime shows. There has never been one that I’ve ever wanted to watch, even if a band that I like is performing.
The halftime show is the crown jewel of the mind numbing excess that threatens to smother the game itself — and nothing would make me happier than to see it eliminated.
And it’s not just about hating the show — even though the music usually sucks.
A normal NFL halftime is twelve minutes long — but you can expect Super Bowl halftime to last upwards of 30 minutes. This is objectionable because all year long players get a short breather between halves; why change this for the most important game of the year?
OK, maybe that’s extreme. Perhaps we should allow some time to accommodate the eating and socializing folks like to do at halftime, so let’s compromise and say 20 minutes. BUT NO MUSIC! Instead, let’s have more analysis. More replays. More heartfelt features. Yes, make halftime more like pregame — which in my opinion can never be too long.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, I love those I’m Going to Disney World commercials as much as I hate halftime. Here’s the first one, with Phil Simms in 1987: