Rain, reigning o’er me…

Tonight, as I was trying to work on my research paper, the rain outside my window distracted me. It wasn’t an easy week; one of those where you drop stuff, trip, stumble, the pause button annihilates your syntax, you spill stuff down your shirt (twice in the same day), you wonder if you’re ever going to find that incredible person and get down about it (see also “Down About It” by the Lemonheads) taking so long, your checkbook is out of balance, your life is on hold, you’d rather be in the Blue Ridge Mountains but can’t quite budge yet, you have no idea what your next move is, work is frustrating…Well, you get the point.

Thankfully, I have one or two things to look forward to this week and next, but nevertheless, hearing and smelling the rain transported me directly to my musical world of escape. My mom used to drive around the neighborhood looking for me when I used to get caught in a rainstorm. She’d come looking for me, of course, but I always waved her on. Tonight, as I heard the rain pick up, I also heard Eddie in my head, (though I know it was a Who original) singing “Love, Reign O’er Me.”

(Pete’s theme)
Only love
Can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Only love
Can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers
Laying in the fields.

Love, Reign o’er me
Love, Reign o’er me, rain on me

Only love
Can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love
Can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high

Love Reign O’er me

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool cool rain
I can’t sleep and I lay and I think
The night is hot and black as ink
Oh God, I need a drink of cool cool rain

Yes, Pete, yes, Eddie. I need a drink of cool, cool rain. And that cool, cool rain that reigns over me is your voice, your words, your spirit, your passion.

The first time I heard Pearl Jam’s version, Jeremy (brother) was watching the credits for “Reign Over Me” and yelled, “Hey, sis! Is this Eddie? This is Eddie, isn’t it?” I must admit that while re-makes never turn out better, for a long time (and maybe even still) I favor Eddie’s version. The way he wails, “LO-OVE!” makes every hoppy, testosterone-infused part of my female body stand at attention and want to scream “hell yes!” in return. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a dude, but sometimes I think I appreciate rock like a guy does. I’m not keen on jumping into pits and “destroying,” so to speak. But there’s something primal about hearing a deep wail, moan, scream, powerful declaration, all of the above, that calls your entire being into action. For women who adore male musicians, there’s definitely an element of attraction that fuses together with the appreciation for the music and the energy it creates. It reigns completely over your being. Robert Plant can be quoted with saying, “Sweet music, what you do to us!” I agree, Mr. Plant.

So, yeah, love, I love to walk in the rain, so why don’t you reign o’er me? You’d have a good partnership with music if you did.

Casting the umbrella aside,

Rachael

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Tom Waits and tattoos…

It’s taken me a long time to conjure this one up because I did not, nor do I still, feel that I am qualified to speak of the greatness that is Tom Waits. For a long time before that long time I’d been debating this post, I had never (gasp!) really heard much of his music. A few of my art-and-writerly-minded acquaintances and friends have totally ranted and raved about him, though. Still, life rushed by me and I did not run to the record store to make a new friend in Mr. Waits.

It wasn’t until I was on the tattoo artists’ table that I began my genuine appreciation for Tom Waits. First, let me replug: http://www.britishinkdc.com and tell you Liaa is a gem. One of her reviews even said that the whole experience was made better by her music, and I have to agree. I’d recognized his velvety growl from the nights of spinning wax with friends, but my darling and hilarious mom inquired, “Who is this? It sounds like Joe Cocker’s father! I love it.”

Liaa recommended the epic album “Orphans, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards.” http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=Tom+Waits+orphans&cid=14492898569017379342&os=sellers#

There was something about the poetry of his songs, the gravel in his voice, and the gut-wrenching wails that made me smile while the needles pressed into my skin. I was looking down at a picture of my belated cat, Snakes, cut out from last year’s Christmas card, and smiling.

For a moment, I thought that we were hearing her Pandora station but it turned out it was just her own collection of music on shuffle. “This will, ironically, feel like a long cat scratch,” she told me before the process. His voice was raw and soothing, simultaneously. The pain I felt from losing my best buddy was eased in the mourning song vocals that finally, I tuned into. I didn’t think the tattoo was bad at all, and wondered if it was a bit messed up that I was smiling the whole time. Maybe it was Tom, maybe she was watching over me, maybe it’s because I know she had a good long run of it and made my life (the hardest parts of it yet and hopefully ever) better.

There’s healing in that ragged, soulful wail. You should tune in to Tom.

No matter how you are introduced to him (maybe it was me, just now!) one thing’s for certain. Pretty soon you’ll be declaring:

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Songs that will be played at my wedding, edition one (yes, I’m still hopeful.)

Walking in the park this beautiful spring day, I heard Pearl Jam’s “Wishlist” and I thought, “I have to play this song at my wedding.” For a while now, I’ve mentally compiled songs I have to have played if I am fortunate enough to find my soul mate and get married…this is only a beginning:

Fisher “I Will Love You.” (I might just sing this one.)
Elton John “Your Song.” (He should sing this to me.)
Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love.”
Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day.”
Pearl Jam, “Just Breathe.” “You.” “Wishlist.” “You Are.”
Tom Petty “Here Comes My Girl.”
Eric Clapton “Wonderful Tonight.”
Tonic “Lemon Parade.”
The Cure “Just Like Heaven.”
New Order “Regret.” (But for no intrinsic meaning, of course, just because that song feels so good.)
Jimi Hendrix “May This Be Love.”
The Lemonheads’ “It’s About Time.”
The Cranberries’ “Stars” “You & Me” “This is the Day”
The Beatles, “I’ll Follow the Sun” “Here Comes the Sun” “All My Life”
Donovan “Jennifer Juniper.”
I’m sure I’ll play a lot of Toad the Wet Sprocket and/or Glen Phillips
Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours” especially if Abbey still likes it. 🙂
U2 “The Sweetest Thing.”
Natalie Merchant “Kind & Generous.”

Here are the lyrics:

I wish I was a neutron bomb, for once I could go off
I wish I was a sacrifice but somehow still lived on
I wish I was a sentimental ornament you hung on
The Christmas tree, I wish I was the star that went on top (FAVORITE LINE!)
I wish I was the evidence, I wish I was the grounds
For 50 million hands upraised and open toward the sky

I wish I was a sailor with someone who waited for me
I wish I was as fortunate, as fortunate as me
I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good
I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro’s hood

I wish I was an alien at home behind the sun
I wish I was the souvenir you kept your house key on
I wish I was the pedal brake that you depended on
I wish I was the verb ‘to trust’ and never let you down

I wish I was a radio song, the one that you turned up
I wish…
I wish…

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/pearl+jam/#share

I wish he’d be all those things and more…

…and I know there will be more to come…

Meanwhile, what are yours? Please post!

Toad the What…?

It seems like I’ve been fortunate enough to plan a few good concerts in the earlier part of 2011. I got to see Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, the Bouncing Souls and Toad the Wet Sprocket, performing with Deep River at the 9:30 Club.

Here are my thoughts on the matter. First, the opening band, Deep River, is really excellent, if you like easy and rootsy folk rock. The singer emanates a good energy, plays the harmonica and sounds like a hybrid of Trisha Yearwood and Sarah McLachlan. Their song “Virginia” made me a bit teary-eyed, but I’m still in a rough patch being without my dear Snakies (the cat.) Maybe it also had to do with the fact that I was in beautiful Virginia, beside my lifelong best friend, after a turbulent year. You should give this group a chance. The singer, Rachel, is energetic, plays a drum and harmonica and incites the audience to dance and clap and groove. Her beautiful harmonies matched the voices of her bassist and guitarist and their songs left me feeling peaceful. They are definitely a good opener for a Toad show. Check out more about Deep River here: http://www.myspace.com/deeprivermusicva
They are also very crowd-friendly and hung around to talk to fans and sign their CD, which I bought and recommend.

Toad the Wet Sprocket. Where do I begin? A lot of people who aren’t familiar give you a confused look when you say the name. Let’s clear up some confusion: The band drew its name from the Eric Idle monologue “Rock Notes” on Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album from 1980, although the name is featured in a parody of The Old Grey Whistle Test on Rutland Weekend Television in 1975. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toad_the_Wet_Sprocket)

You can read more there about them by using the link above. Toad (the loving abbreviation given to them by fans-from-the-early-days) give one heck of a show. They are always good to their fans and often come out and sign items and chat with fans up to the point of being kicked out of the venue. They afforded such a kindness on Saturday evening, as well. They are currently working on their first album since Coil, in 1998. Since 1998, they still do intermittent touring and those are the shows where the true fans shine. We are the type that will drive four hours just to catch them again.

This particular tour finds them with Jonathan Kingham, a friend and fellow musician who toured with Glen in 2009. He is playing mandolin and keys for them, as well as playing guitar and providing supporting vocals. To learn more about Jonathan and his varied and exceptional talents, go here: http://www.jonathankingham.com/file/splash.html

Saturday found Toad singing old favorites with new variations, like the ever-popular “All I Want” “Something’s Always Wrong” and “Good Intentions.” Glen played one track from one of his (three?) solo albums, “Finally Fading.” If you like Toad you definitely should check out Glen’s solo stuff. It falls into a more mellow groove, but feels like you’re listening to an old friend share his life and advice for yours, with you. I highly recommending walking in the park with him.

What I find incredible about the band…well, are a few things.
1) Glen was only 16 when the band got rolling and they are still a tight unit all these many years later
2) The drummer, Randy Guss, who is afflicted with Osteogenesis Imperfecta http://www.oif.org/site/PageServer?pagename=AOI_Facts has been living with this condition since the before the band began. His brother gave him a drum set to ease his suffering and bring joy into his life. That subsequent joy became Toad the Wet Sprocket. One thing I noticed, in particular, about Randy is his pure joy during the show. Over the drum kit you can see the eyes closed-playing-his-heart-out stance and a bright grin so big you’d think he was a kid on Christmas morning.
3) You can see their sense of comraderie and feel good because of the good relationship that is evident on stage
4) Glen always plays barefoot.
5) They are incredibly good to their fans, ALL THE TIME!!!

I happened to tell Randy after the show my insights on his joy and how it emanates off the stage. I had envisioned writing their story for the longest time (and I’ve mentioned it more than once) and I told him it should be written down. We always hear about pitches in Creative Writing sessions but when it comes down to it, you can practice your head off, but what comes out, will come out naturally. He told me I had pretty eyes, as I introduced myself and my proposition to him.

The music started blaring (the club trying to kick us out for the rave about to take place) so we went to the stairwell where he expressed that he’s always wanted to talk about his story with OI and Toad and the drums, but wasn’t a writer. I told him I’d gladly help him tell his story and he put my number into his phone. It felt a little surreal. I’ve met some famous people before but this was more exciting than any of them. The idea that I can help him write about triumph through music? That’s what my story is about, and I think I could write his well.

Meanwhile, if you are a Toad fan, send me your comments. If you aren’t, check them out. I’m pretty sure you will be in no time.

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

In punk rock, you can “Say Anything.”

Though I’ve been a Bouncing Souls fan for about seven years now, my first chance to see them was Friday, April 1st at a cozy venue called Eleanor Rigby’s (http://www.myspace.com/eleanorrigbys) in Jermyn, PA. It was my first punk show and I had a fantastic time.

The writer in me couldn’t help but people-watch, especially the angry-looking dude with the Elmer’s Glue spiked mo-hawk. His spikes had to be about six inches off his head! I wondered what he’d do if I told him he was adorable. Probably punch me in the face. 🙂 But he was a little less staid, of course, when the Bouncing Souls came on. By the time the Bouncing Souls played, it was so sweaty that his mohawk had drooped considerably during the show, making for a half-hawk that took away a bit of his fierceness.

I was outside what is called a “circle pit” but felt only a few blasts and only got my toes stomped once. I still need to re-polish my boots. At one point, I went airborne. I was trying to do my whole mosh/bounce-dance and the energy from a nearby circle-pit gave me air for a moment. My friend, Brian, was a pretty good defense against the insane energy beside us. A boy, about 12, must have picked up on this because, for the latter part of the show he used Brian as his body shield. It was pretty much adorable. The boy and his other young friends were buzzed, singing the lyrics into each other’s faces and looking like toddlers on Christmas morning. It might have been their first show ever.

They reminded me of my first show with Susan. The Offspring and Quicksand ON A SCHOOL NIGHT in seventh grade. We thought we were so cool dancing on the bleachers. The coolest part of that night, though, was Mom’s presence and support of our musical passions.

I’m going to cheat a little and tell you to check out Brian’s post about the Bouncing Souls because he puts it so well…

http://wp.me/p16Gnt-3Y

But I will say my Bouncing Souls highlights were singing/hearing:
Fight to Live
True Believers
Hopeless Romantic
That Song (the one that repeats “I put the needle on the record and I played that song again.”)
The Something Special

It certainly was a special evening, commemorated with an ice-cold PBR in the punk-rock way.

What I’d like to talk about is how the Menzingers totally rule and how you should check them out if you can. They are natives of the Scranton area and just got signed with a good label. http://www.facebook.com/themenzingers
http://www.myspace.com/themenzingers

You should definitely give them a listen.

Be well and “punk rock” on,

Rachael

P.S. The author of this post would like to assure you that she remains true to her grunge-rock roots, but has found a new genre to love in addition to her rock roots, and hopes, in no way, did she sound like a punk-rock poser in the above posting.

Bonus listen:

What if Stephan Jenkins was your boyfriend?

What if Stephan Jenkins was your boyfriend?
If you based your answer as if his lyrics were a true reflection of what kind of man he is, you’d probably be able to consider yourself lucky. But the poem is never wholly the poet, the singer rarely the song. That’s not to say, of course, that pieces of us aren’t grounded in the art we create. (But there’s a danger in falling in love with the performers that make the music/art/poetry/whathaveyou because we are taken with what they’ve created. Take it from a woman who knows!)

Today as I walked in the park, Stephan Jenkins held my hand (well, it was actually my ear drum) and we felt the almost fall-like weather together. Geese sailed across the pond and I laughed at his overemphatic ululations about love and sex and the crazy state of the world. I sang aloud with him and didn’t care who heard me. The geese didn’t seem to mind.

For whatever reason, I call Third Eye Blind my guilty listening pleasure. I say guilty, though, because of the bold and creative discourse on sex that sometimes appears in the lyrics. Maybe, as I watched teenagers find an abandoned bench to make out or wait for a turn on the swings, I love them because they take me back to a younger me. I think I’d really like them even more if I was a dude. But for me, I am transported directly back to the front room of my first boyfriend, whose door was a sliding glass one and whose stepmother was a peeping pain in the ass. The band has a way of singing about passion and longing and sex in a tactful and tangible way. You find yourself torn between wanting to laugh about their candor, (or maybe because of the sexual elements) and standing back and saying, “Damn, that’s great stuff.”

It was 1997, the time of my life when Third Eye Blind’s debut album became the soundtrack to my first love and my first almost everything. It’s possible I can sing every single word to that whole self-titled album, from the opener “Losing a Whole Year” to the beautiful swan song “God of Wine.” In concert, they usually end with this one and Jenkins will empty a bottle of wine slowly (either onto the stage or into his mouth, depending on his mood) during the opening, while the guitars are soft and beckoning.
Don’t be so quick to judge them by the overplayed, buried, dug up, shot again and left for dead radio edit “Semi-Charmed Life” or worse, “Never Let You Go.” These radio cuts do nothing to justify the truly dense talents of the band. They are decent enough, but the radio has definitely overplayed them, and sadly, that is all that some listeners know of the band. Jenkins is able to mesh a hearty stockpile of freestyle singing and plain-old rocking out. One thing that allows them to stand free of the mainstream is their unique driving rhythms and Jenkin’s freestyle vocal tracks.

After 14 years, the band still has a following and goes on tour. Should they be in your neighborhood, you simply must see them. First, they give one hell of a show. They play for a long time, induce a lasting energy and good relationship with their fans and are just downright fun. When I saw them (only once, in 1998 with my best friend, Lindsey) Jenkins chided the dudes who were trying to crowd surf. “Man, don’t you know?” He called out. “Crowd surfing is for chicks!”

If you are just getting into them I do suggest you check out the debut album, but you might also check out the latest, Ursa Major. The album has great promise and gives me hope that they’re still alive and kicking.

I’ll admit at first I wasn’t too crazy about their follow-up album, Blue. But it is good in its own way. It was one of those albums that I had to put away and come back to, and sure enough, I learned to love it. If you are planning a sunny drive somewhere, you have to have Out of the Vein. One of my favorites, “Can’t Get Away” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc98m5-LnFM

finds me, hand out the driver’s window, surfing the wind and singing the “Bop, bop, bop ba-ba bop bahs” in the chorus of this one, with my boyfriend, Stephan Jenkins. The bops are pretty fun, I won’t lie; and as I cruise the cratered streets of Pennsylvania, I wonder if there is a deeper truth to the lyrics after all:
“And I walk alone
And the ghost that I carry is your
Tiger shark in azure blue
The vision that we had will all return to you, return to you, return to you.”
I have to give him credit for using the azure in a song so well.

When the parade of sun and clouds had passed this afternoon, I found the swing beside me empty but was comforted by the “Dao of St. Paul.” If you do nothing else, check out these tracks:

Bonfire (Ursa Major) http://3eb.com/discography
Dao of St. Paul (Ursa Major)
Slow Motion (Blue)
Motorcycle Drive By (debut / self-titled album)
Can’t Get Away

Here’s one:

Or two, because I can’t help it:

And I know you’re bouncing up and down to hear about the Bouncing Souls show. I’ll get there when Stephan drops me off…thanks for your patience!

Be well and rock on,
Rachael