Train Musings

I’ve had three recent encounters with trains.

The first was in the Mojave Desert. Blinding heat, socially very-distant. We spotted it from afar, way up ahead and miles away. In the expanse of the desert, we watched the train grow closer and larger as we, driving, continued along the open road. This went on for miles until unbelievably, our paths met at the same point. We rolled to a stop just as the rail crossings lowered. The train blasted in front of us. 

Train two was south of Shasta, by the campground, next to the river. It appeared in the early evening, and with horns blaring it rolled to a stop. We stood at its side, hopped up on some rungs, and marveled at the feat of construction. We were drinking wine. 

The third was near the Oregon–California border, along highway 97. Driving parallel alongside a moving train is trippy. I tried to keep my eyes on the road but the train demanded my attention. My perception of speed blurred. 

Trains. Sheer masses of iron and steel. The freight containers green, orange, brown, all of them rusted. Each one the same, each one different. One after the next, seemingly endless. What was behind those doors? Where were they headed? 

Under the strange cloud of quarantine, these days pass by like train cars – each one the same, each one different. Our only choice is to keep moving in the same direction. 

The beautiful new album from Mtbrd plays like a train. Smooth beats move one after another, without any notice one track has passed to the next.  Seamless.  Start at the beginning and in the blink of an eye you’re on track 10.  Each one the same, each one different. 

Tommy Guerrero

As a skateboarder on the Bones Brigade, Tommy Guerrero was known for his “relaxed style of street skateboarding.” In Future Primitive (be warned, it’s 80’s skating) he can be seen bopping down the streets of San Francisco, sliding around cars and pirouetting across the skate park. He doesn’t look choreographed or refined in the way modern skaters might – he’s having fun. He’s cruising San Francisco and enjoying the open air.

I like to keep the image of the younger Tommy carving down the streets in mind when I listen to his music. While his playing is clearly tight, that relaxed playfulness and joy always comes through. There are some artists you listen to and can just tell they put painstaking effort into every sound and note. It never feels that way listening to Tommy Guerrero.

As a Jazz professor once told me: “no matter how hard you’re playing you gotta make it look eeeeeasy.” Tommy Guerrero feels eeeeeasy.

Skateboarder or not, when you listen to his music, you can sense what it would be like to glide around the streets of SF on a perfect day. Lean your face into the sun and take a second to enjoy it.

Treasure Trove

I dislike when music blogs come clean about not posting.  It’s always something like, “Sorry been crazy busy with work, haven’t been able to blog in awhile but here’s a new one from…” and then the recommendation.

It feels kind of disingenuous. Nothing should get in the way of posting if it means that much to you, right? Work-shit, relationships, even fun should take a back seat to blogging – if you really care about it. Not posting probably means you shouldn’t have a blog.

Harsh, dude.

Usually it happens a few times in a row. You can almost see the blogger connecting the dots – noticing the pattern. It happened to Auditory Remembrance, Tiny Rockets, and others. I have folders of dormant music blogs.

But here I am drafting something up after not blogging for two months – tail between my legs – wondering what I could possibly say to peak anyone’s interest after not writing for two months.

The truth is I simply haven’t felt like writing about music. And to force it felt like a disservice to all the good that has come from blogging consistently. Not good as in Davey Pageviews good. Or good as in attracting attention. But good as in committing to something. Good as in loosening a creative valve to let it flow freely.

For some reason today it was happening. By some good grace I started listening to a playlist from longtime Afmth fan, Seve, and one after the other, new-ness started flooding in. Add in a little weed and a glass of booze and a beautiful concoction of loose energy took over. I think it was the Darius song that really did it. Even one step beyond Pryor. At least at first. It’s still early.

It’s good to find new music again. It’s been hard recently – maybe something to do with getting older – you experiment less and stick to the tried and true. If you know This Must Be the Place will work, why mess with anything else? And the harder you look, the less you find. But take your foot of the gas and sometimes new melodies start to flood in. 

Lane 8, Darius, Amtrac, Tourist – all familiar names. DJ’s we’ve featured on the blog many times. But for me this is all new.

bending notes bottoming out on a beer soaked floor

When I was fourteen I used to practice the solo from Smells Like Teen Spirit with the guitar hoisted over my left shoulder. Not looking at the frets was a total rock and roll move – one step removed from playing with your teeth or mastering the hammer ons for Eruption but come on – still very rock and roll.

I ran through the progression over and over again so it would seem effortless, but that’s about as far as my guitar playing abilities went. I was discouraged when I couldn’t make it through what I considered to be the most desirable solo of all time – the six minute mark of Stairway to Heaven – even when Damien, the instructor with curling fingernails tabbed it all out on lined paper. I sold my hefty Line 6 amp at a pawn shop for cash, and got really into digitized beats.

The EDM-blitz lasted quite awhile, but the gravitational pull of guitar is tugging me back. I’ve re-discovered classics (Crosby, Stills & Nash), geeked out on Mac DeMarco antics, and bit off pieces of jam bands, shoe gaze, and slacker rock – a slow, dystopian groove that’s both haunting and energizing (Japanese Breakfast).

I like the introspective nature of slacker rock. I like that you can lean back in your car and let the reverb wash over you. I like that I’m not listening to a long-haired rocker rifling through a million notes. It’s sleek and slow and kinda sad.

New York Part 3

Saying yes to the concert on night one set the stage for what was to come.  Long days followed by longer nights. Constant movement, coffee, alcohol, minimal sleep. Rinse and repeat. It was a bender. It was New York. There was no slowing down.

Another whiskey? Well of course. The stale bar began to blur; the darts landed further and further from their target. In hindsight, a brilliant metaphor.

Was that the same night we popped into the jazz club, or the night after? I don’t think they liked us there.

On night four we struck up conversation with some girls standing nearby. They seemed fun, but I quickly learned they were from Florida – which is to say, the only thing we had in common was our shameful presence at the bar. I was handed another Negroni, and focused my attention to a girl wearing stripes. She had blue eyes I could’ve stared into for eternity. Feeling more confident than usual, I approached her and gave it a go. I can’t recall what was said, but I remember thinking the conversation ended too quickly.

(revisit New York Part 2 – in which Jab searches for lust)