Monthly Archives: July 2003

U-haul, We Die

My parents sold the house that I grew up in last week. This conjured up a few emotions for me. Mainly I was struck with panic; I had to get the piano out of there as fast as possible.

I started playing piano when I was four years old. It was a perfect way for me to disappear into the love of music I was born with. I could play before I could write, and even in my noodlings on the ivory keys I was smitten with sound. My mother wanted us to learn to read music because she never had the opportunity and eventually I taught her to play. My grandmother Stella used to come over on Sundays and spin these gorgeous tunes out of the piano. “Stella by Starlight” was one of her favorites and I learned it myself after she died. She was a natural musician and writer, but the home life she was caged in didn’t allow her to explore either of these talents except in guilty stolen side moments. I think I owe her for my creativity.

When I moved into my apartment four years ago, I wanted to get my piano. I starved for it through college; the dorm had a baby grand in the lounge but I didn’t have the balls to play it with other people around. I’ve always suffered from performance anxiety. So when I had the opportunity to house the enormous instrument in the privacy of my own home, I managed to persuade my parents to let me take it into the city with me.

The dilemma was how to move it from my parents’ house in Connecticut to my apartment in Boston. I guess it wasn’t the actual distance that presented a problem.

It was all those stairs.

I called Death Wish Piano Movers. I had met two of them in O’Reilly’s pub one night my senior year of college. We got shit-faced together and they were duly impressed that I could keep up with all 500 pounds of them. One of them said he fell in love with me the second I downed a flaming shot (something about lighting amaretto on fire and dropping it into a coke … I don’t really remember) so he gave me his card and told me if I ever need a piano moved to call him and he’d do it for free. I laughed and shoved the card into my wallet. Funny guy.

It wasn’t so funny now that I was struck with the actual dilemma of moving this hulking beast of an instrument into my tiny apartment two weeks ago. I remembered his name. It was one syllable and it rhymed with “puke.” I called Death Wish and asked for him. I was laughed at. He got fired for showing up to work drunk and dropping an ivory grand piano on the sidewalk. But hey — he assured me — I could still hire them for a disgusting sum of money.

So I decided I was going to orchestrate the whole affair myself. I cultivated several willing friends from Boston and lined up half a dozen guys in Connecticut. I rented a U-haul to be picked up in New Haven and we were on our way at the crack of dawn Sunday.

We get to the U-haul pick up place in New Haven. It’s actually a hot-tub showroom. I distrust the two guys behind the counter immediately. As I approach the counter dead center holding my documentation, he addresses Benjamin, standing to my left. Because with all that estrogen I couldn’t possible be in charge.

He finally put his attention to me and I detected his age much more quickly than he would probably have wanted me to. He clearly had seen one too many years under the tanning bed and his orangey skin shone bright against his white polo shirt. His hair and eyebrows were bleached blonde. He made my skin crawl.

His sixty-something sidekick began the sale without making eye contact. They were visibly irritated by one another. But Too Tan Guy took the opportunity of the presence of two young men to talk loudly on the phone about his fleet of Vipers. Funny thing is, we didn’t even know what a Viper is but we should have been impressed, I think. This display was probably just some post-coital self-cuddling after he was done masturbating over his bank account statement in the back room.

I am not impressed.

We were there less than ten minutes, but he managed to work in some meaty sexist remarks about women drivers while I was standing there, keys in hand. “No offense,” he said to me. I should have said, “You’re an asshole — no offense.” But I was trying to play nice. I should have told him that I learned to drive at 15, on my dad’s utility truck — standard — at rush hour in downtown New Haven. I have never been in an accident and I have never gotten a moving violation. But who really gives a shit.

I get in the U-Haul barefoot because I can’t stand driving in sandals and it’s off to my parents’ house.

My dad is hyper. I get my obsessive planning/time scheduling affliction from him. I am never late. I always have the necessary paperwork, documentation, signature and peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the road in a cooler with ice and sodas. By the time we arrived at 11:03 he was having a coronary because we were late. Three minutes.

He’s rounded up a handful of beefy locals to help move the piano. I admit at this point that I’m nervous. It’s the first time I’ve been nervous yet. Shea has been assuring me in his corpse-like calm that it’s not going to be a big deal. But watching the grimace on my dad’s face as he pushes the thing across the hardwood floor (and it’s on wheels) my stomach falls.

I should add that I threw out my back when moving furniture the previous day and so was rendered useless to do anything but stand with my stopwatch, clipboard, visor, and walkie talkie.

There were six or seven men involved. Two of the guys were under 30, so I felt okay about them. But my dad, well, he’s 65. I think he aged five years before the ordeal was through.

The only truly scary part was watching the actual weight of the instrument become reflected on the simultaneous contortions of their faces. Unbelievably, the piano was ushered sloppily, but without damage or injuries, down the flight of stairs and onto the sidewalk. And into the U-haul.

We also moved an entire apartment worth of furniture at the same time — couch, easy chair, big TV, etc. And then all the men dispersed.

We felt good. My mom dispensed libations and made brownies. We were ready to hit the road.

And then I get a voice mail message. “This is Elm City U-haul — you have to bring that truck back IMMEDIATELY. It’s very dangerous. Very dangerous. Please call me as soon as you can.”

What?

First of all, the moron leaves the message on my 617 phone number. So he’s calling my house in Boston where I’m moving to. Technically, I could have not heard the message until I arrived. Second of all… well, I just told you. Five tons of furniture have been moved by six men who have vacated the premises.

I’m already running through the drama of nothing ever works right for me…I’m a cursed individual… in a former life I was a cockroach and I’m paying for that piece of bread every day of my existence…

I call the guy. I calmly ask him what seems to be the problem. He won’t tell me. He says U-haul called him and told him to immediately take the truck off the road. No time to spare. I told him I had just finished moving everything into the truck. Brilliantly, he says: “Drive it down here. We’ll help you pack the new truck.” I’m like, “Fuckhead, I said I moved a piano.” I picture the two of them sitting in their office, elderly and sunburned. Regardless of Viper possession, these two old farts would be lucky if they could lift the dolly the piano was rolled on.

“I want a refund.”

“Why? What the hell do you want a refund for?”

“Because I just paid six people to move a piano into my truck and they are no longer here. And I have paid six people in Boston to move the piano further, and I will be late for them if I don’t leave right now.”

Apparently, his concern over my safety (or pending lawsuit) paled in comparison to the $175 he collected from me that morning.

“Fine. Have it your way. Drive the thing like that.”

I wasn’t sure what to d
o with his last statement. In a court of law I would have had to sign my life away in order for him to claim I was free to “drive it like that.” I just didn’t understand what was going on here.

I know my dad. I know he definitely would have succumbed to a heart attack had a even let a flicker of hesitance run across my face. So I pulled Shea aside for a consultation.

He understood there was no way we were unpacking the truck. My sister would win, and this piano would be sold with the house. I would be left music-less for the rest of my life. Doomed. I refused.

Because my dear friend has both a stolid belief in reincarnation and vast experience driving complete wrecks, he tells me he’s comfortable driving the truck as is. “Give me Ben,” he says. “I’ll take Ben and you follow me in your car.”

I barter Benjamin. Then we consult him. He calls the U-haul company for further details.

Our friendly neighborhood dickhead tells Benjamin that the brakes on the U-haul are shot, which is why we need to take it off the road. He refuses to give us his full name. Adam. He’s as legendary as Elvis; he only requires two syllables. In not so many words, we tell him to fuck off.

We hit the road.

I drive in front of the truck, in case I need to break the fall of the downhill speeding U-haul when the brakes give out. If need be, I would surrender the shiny black Verna to save an unsuspecting vehicle at an intersection. I call the boys on my cell phone and neither of them answer. They both have cell phones. Neither one of them has turned them on. I was holding mine out the sunroof, shaking it to get their attention. This fuels my anxiety.

Ironically, we stop at my sister’s house on the way. She’s giving me a bed. A peace offering? Before we hit Hartford, I have smoked four packs of cigarettes. I decide it best if I follow the U-haul instead of worrying about breaking anyone’s fall. Somebody’s got to clean up the bodies.

We stop at a gas station. I run twitching and in tears to the U-haul. “How is it?” I ask them frantically. “Are you freaking out?”

Benjamin: “Yeah. I almost fell asleep.”

Those boys. Shea decides the highway won’t be so bad, and once we get off we’ll just be careful. Careful?

By the time we hit Mass Pike I have smoked eight packs of cigarettes and I have arthritis in my hands from gripping the steering wheel.

The whole way I imagine the headlines in the papers, I imagine me standing teary-eyed in church, the guilt that the piano was worth more than my friends’ lives. I mentally write letters to parents explaining what happened. I send flowers.

It occurs to me at this point that I have never seen Shea display anger or nervousness. I have known him for seven years. He’d probably make a good brain surgeon.

After that epiphany, the rest of the way I imagine the headlines in the papers, I imagine us standing victorious in court after we win the lawsuit against Too Tan Man. I imagine the vacations we will take to exotic locales. The stereo system I will buy. The CDs I could call my own. I make a list.

We get off at the Newton exit because there’s fewer stop lights. We are grateful to have made this last minute decision because Memorial Drive is closed on Sundays and we would have been re-routed directly through Harvard Square. Omigod.

When we get to my house, I am jumping with joy and screaming in relief. Shea parallel parks the huge vehicle without mirrors, between two cars in one go. I can’t stand him.

Phase Two has been completed.

Phase Three involves a mid-day July sun and two flights of stairs; one of them cement.

Both of them upward.

I have hired two students to help and I am anxious until they arrive. One of them is six foot seven and his name is Thor. The other was wearing a t-shirt with the arms sliced off because his pecs had split the seams. They are shining with sweat and raring to go.

The piano came off the truck easy as pie and the boys took to the stairs with spirits high. They began their ascent. On the step between the first and second flight up, there was three pure seconds of absolute terror during which time stood still as I watched my beloved piece of history sway, an ankle falter, the piano rock precariously, and I turned away.

“Got it?”

“Yup.”

And they were through the door of the apartment.

I don’t recall ever having been so relieved. Aside from that pregnancy test a while back.

There is one last challenge. I feel like I’m watching an episode of American Gladiators. Veins are standing out on foreheads and forearms. Water is drunk by the gallon. They boys have taken to communicating in grunts. The last challenge that remains: The entrance to my apartment is 33 inches wide. The entrance to my bedroom (the destination) is roughly the same. They are perpendicular to one another. Thus, the piano would have to either bend in half, or be stood up the long way on its side to get it into my room.

Now we’ve already established that both my father and I are completely anal. So we conspired over the phone before I even rented the U-haul. I was armed with a tape measure, he a calculator. There were diagrams and algorithms established. It would work. There would be a few inches on either side. As I deliver this piece of information, Thor leans over, turns the piano on its end, slips it through the doorway and tosses it down in my room against the interior wall. It is ready to be played.

I doled out $80 and sent him and his compatriot home.

So the U-haul.

In the morning, in my sun dress and sandals with my sensible bag I am driving the behemoth around the city in search of Diesel fuel. I remember there is a place next to the highway that has it. And a big turn-around because of the trucks that pull in. So off I go.

It takes me half an hour to find the gas tank but once that’s settled I’m ready to pull out. Except I’ve forgotten that every freaking street in Boston is a One Way. You never go out the way you came in.

Or is that Lynn?

It’s rush hour on a Monday.

I get completely lost. I have no working mirrors. And to make matters worse, I have a *general* idea of where the U-haul place is. Stopped at a light, I call across the cab to a female truck driver who pulls up next to me. I ask here which way Boston Ave is. My ex lived on Boston Ave and I went there, oh, a million times. I’m asking for a point, just one extended index finger to lead me in the right direction. She tells me to pull over, pulling out a map. So I double park the house-size truck on two lane Main St., backing up traffic for miles. This is a dire situation.

She’s driving a truck full of Port o Potties, which need desperately to be sanitized. I hold my breath as she searches the map. She’s from Wisconsin.

In a moment of serendipity, she’s actually making a delivery on Boston Ave so she tells me to follow her. As we pass the U-haul place, she stops her truck in the middle of the street and runs halfway toward my vehicle waving me wildly in the direction of the clearly-labeled flourescent orange parking lot. “Good luck, kid!” she yells, manning her Port O Pots and driving off into the sunrise.

I arrive at U-haul safely. During the inspection, I relay to the guy that the brakes are shot. He asks me why, and I tell him the story. He looks upset and puzzled. Goes out and checks the vehicle while I wait.

When he comes back in, he says briskly, “The brakes are fine. U-haul would never put a truck on the road that wasn’t completely safe. And if they did, they wouldn’t tell you to drive back from wherever you were to return it (good point). This guy rented you the wrong truck — this one is for round-trip only. It has to be returned in New Haven. So he’s just trying to cover his own ass by getting you to bring it back so he doesn’t have to drive all the way up to Boston to pick it up himself.”

My teeth hurt from clenching my
jaw for 24 hours. I looked down at my swollen knuckles, sore from gripping the steering wheel. I remember the empty packs of cigarettes piled up in my car from driving 45 mph on the highway all the way to Boston, having a nervous breakdown.

And having returned the truck, I take the bus to work, smiling to myself over the thought of Adam having to close his business for the day and endure the self-important prattlings of a Viper-obsessed, sexist Too Tan Man for three hours on the drive back to Boston to claim his vehicle.

I smile even more when I fantasize about the day his lawyer gets my certified letter.

Wordless

I’ve been to a few shows lately that I’ve written about but haven’t posted. One was a piece that I’m working on for freelance, but it stalled because I don’t know how to write without sounding melodramatic. I realized I just cannot explain it — the experience. Which is rare for me. It’s not that I’m out of adjectives. It’s just that there are none. Not only did you have to be there, but you had to be me.

The show was Andrew Bird, the violinist who performed at the Middle East. I am quite aware that I am guilty of hyperbole and exaggeration (I have been to a million shows and they were all the best ever) but I have to tell you, seeing Andrew Bird live was even more powerful for me than seeing Jeff Buckley. It broke my heart and I couldn’t listen to anything else for days. I started listening to Andrew Bird a few years ago — his post-Squirrel Nut Zippers era — after he was recommended by another musician. I try to check out the music other artists I like listen to. It’s generally a safe bet. His albums The Swimming Hour and Oh! The Grandeur were the soundtrack to my summer two years ago. These albums are heavily Irish-influenced and swing-inspired — most of the material is bright and reeling. I was not prepared for the show at the Middle East.

It was just he and his ethereal voice. Instantly you could tell he was from somewhere else. The sky. The moon. He was a ghost. The music was otherworldly. The audience looked stunned and awed. After the first song, Ruby turned around to deliver the dropped jaw. “Holy fucking shit.” Who knew?

He was so unassuming and humble on stage. He was playing violin and guitar and keys at the same time. Violin under his chin, guitar slung on around his back, switching off between the two and playing the keyboard when he wasn’t strumming. I have never heard a violin played with loops before, but he had delay and all sorts of loops and as the song progressed he ended up with a full symphony of strings behind him while he sang.

As he sang, his operatic voice hung in the air and he stared off beyond the crowd, beyond the club walls. He looked like an angel that wasn’t sure how he ended up on Earth and was trying to sing his way back into Heaven. As you can imagine, expletives don’t describe how this show was damn near a religious experience for both Ruby and me.

The other show that I haven’t written about was my friend Jon’s performance at the club he and his brother opened recently in Connecticut called The Space. There is a long history of both my friendship with Jon and his brother, and also The Space, some of which is detailed (with my living color photographs) in Mighty Catastrophe & the Magic Hat and Birds and Starlight. I wanted to write in depth about the show but it kept getting tangled in that history. The club itself is amazing, a listening space designed by musicians solely for music. The décor is overwhelmingly creative and the seating comfortable. There is no talking allowed.

So when Jon played, it was the first time I got to hear his solo magic live when he wasn’t sitting on the sidewalk or in the corner of the practice space where no one was paying attention. There were a dozen people on stage. He played guitar and sang, others used piano, drums, percussion, upright bass, cello, violin, horns and assorted other instruments as the mood struck. It was like his gorgeous soul finally had sound. Like his TV had been plugged in for the past 10 years I’ve known him, but suddenly he turned on the volume. It was a whole new program.

The most amazing part was the crystal glass symphony. Two people playing wine glasses filled with water. They were tuned to specific keys and the players ran their fingers slowly along the rims to create a haunting swell of sound behind the other dozen instruments being played. Jonny sang. And in one song, he was so overwhelmed with emotion that he thoroughly broke down at the end, shaking and crying. We all love him infinitely.

So Jon and I have been talking about organizing some space for him to play up in Boston where he can perform a similar show (that has been the only one of its kind thus far) and I’m struggling to come up with a venue. On my end we’ve been brainstorming the use of The Garden Room, which is this deserted 50’s jazz club next to my house that I’ve been wanting to buy and open for years.

This morning Jon emails me and says we need to discuss a date for his performance because he’s got a show at his club, The Space, in Connecticut. And he says something to the effect of, “This guy Andrew Bird is playing with me. He’s really good.”

Oh my god.

I’m almost puking in disbelief. My first reaction is to call Ruby. It’s only 8:30 in the morning. Ruby’s phone must not ring until noon. This is a rule and always has been, especially on mornings after she has hosted karaoke night at Charlie’s. I call her at 12:01. She too is in disbelief.

This guy. It’s like oh yeah — this guy Jesus will be there. I’ve heard he can do some pretty neat shit.”

It’s like that.

And Andrew Bird is probably one of two people in this world I couldn’t imagine talking to. What would I say? Because I don’t have the words. Even Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, who I worship endlessly, was worthy of a simple, “Hey thanks for the music. You’re amazing. You were the soundtrack to my winter last year.” Done. Whatever. But Andrew… I couldn’t say anything because it would never be enough.

I got his new album a few weeks ago (the day it came out – freak) Weather Systems. I listen to it nightly in my blue and amber room, staring out the window and wondering… what? What. I don’t even know. What it would feel like to be that inspired. What it would feel like to know your art was so important to you that you gave up all of your worldly possessions, rented a barn in some corn field of middle America, played violin alone for two years and wrote an album called Weather Systems.

I don’t even know what to do with myself. I better go call Jon and inform him that I’m coming over early on that Saturday to be baptized for the show.

Your Summer-end Social Calendar

Holy shit with the upcoming good music in this fine city and zip codes nearby. Can you believe August is almost here? Don’t even get me started on what magic is brewing for September, including three dates in a row that I am pissing my pants over. Sometimes I make musical discoveries alone in the middle of a silent office and I want to leap from my cube, grab the nearest coworker for a bear hug, and scream: “Jump, Little Children is beginning their fall tour!”

But no one really cares.

Instead, I’ll gush to you people.

  • Pernice Brothers — Paradise, Boston 7/24

  • Alex Dezen (of the Damnwells) — Paradise, Boston 7/30

  • Porterdavis — Toad, Cambridge 7/31

  • Eels — Irving Plaza, NYC 7/31

  • Walkmen — Paradise, Boston 8/6

  • Bob Mould — Paradise, Boston 8/8

  • G.Love — Lupo’s, Providence 8/14

  • Anne Heaton — Paradise, Boston 8/15 (Victoria says: “Put it in in pen, I promise.”)

  • Liza Phair — Avalon, Boston 8/17

  • The Gentlemen and the Damn Personals — Middle East, Cambridge 8/21

Joy & Release

Last night was the record release show for Leo Blais‘s Beethoven Never Heard This. The event at Bill’s Bar was doubly wonderful. First, if I hadn’t gone, it would have taken me an additional three days to discover that my car was missing. Second, the show itself cured me of all the demons poisoning me this week. Well, the ones that can be cured by a good show at least. There are topical treatments for the others.

The car problem is infuriating and I won’t waste too many words on it other than to say that I realized when leaving for the show that my Altima wasn’t in the neighborhood and easily could have been missing for days. I knew it was either stolen or towed, so we jumped in Cindy’s car and drove to the show because we were going to be late.

We park Cindy’s car on Newbury to walk over to Lansdowne Street and she and I are laughing hysterically because I forget the route. I lived in Kenmore Square for four years — between Lansdowne and Newbury Street — but it’s all very confusing sober. Hand me a bottle of Jose Cuervo and I’m sure my feet would find it on their own, like a lost dog running home.

We get to the club around ten o’clock, and the place is so packed we can barely get in the door. The opening band is still on stage. Bill’s is a decent sized venue. I haven’t been there in years, since my friends’ band came up from CT to play and we hung out in the dressing room sharing illicit substances with this trio of crazy UK rockers — the lead singer of which was wearing a chartreuse rubber cat suit that he said his grandmother made for him. Anyway. Things have changed at Bill’s a bit.

We are squished against the back, in the entrance by the merch booth. Cindy isn’t havin it, so she tells me to follow her up toward the front, through the cheering and dancing throng. I don’t maneuver well in small crowded spaces. I broke my ankle recently and my balance isn’t ship shape. She is, literally, a foot shorter than I, so she slips unnoticed between everyone. At six feet tall, I am genetically predisposed to standing at the back of the room at shows, seeing happily over everyone’s heads. But I follow her up. The sound is better at the front of the room anyway.

The band on stage is good, a Highly Marketable Rock Band, and we enjoy their last few songs. Often it’s tough for me to pay attention to openers. It’s awful, but sometimes I’m like, “hurry the fuck up and get off the stage,” no matter how engaging they may be.

Once they clear out, I survey the stage in my ritualistic pre-show inventory, overwhelmed by the veritable playground of instruments lying around, being tuned, strung, sound checked. Electric Wurlitzer, xylophone, congas, electric violin, harmonica, chimes, bells, flute, trumpet, plus your traditional acoustic and electric guitar, bass, drums… and I stop stage right. That is not a theremin. That is not a theremin. Leo Blais is not going to play a theremin in his rock and roll.

He has a theremin.

I point to it in disbelief, hand quivering. My friend asks for clarification. A theremin is this weird instrument from the early 1900’s that emits frequencies changed by hand motions. You play it without touching it. It’s that wavering, trippy sound of sci-fi movies from the 50’s. You dance with it and it sings to you.

I am both awed and jealous. Technical details like that make my head throb.

They are taking forever to set up, so we have plenty of time to check out the crowd. People are excited. There’s a mad energy in the club. There are definitely a couple of parents in the house. “So proud of my boy!” That’s one of the best parts of a record release — it’s not just a show. It’s The Show. The one we’ve all been waiting for — the one the artist dreams about. Like your birthday; the one day a year you get to be the center of attention. And Cindy and I keep turning around to marvel at the size of the crowd.

Leo and his band start playing without introduction or fanfare, and the cheering and dancing begin immediately. It’s a freakin party, and they are playing very large rock. It fills me. It sounds very little like his subway performances and is bigger and harder than the record. I think it’s the guitar in the forefront. And I’ve always been a fan of acoustic guitar played over loud electric and drums.

Leo’s voice is incomparable and, I think, the strongest part of the performance. I’ve talked about this before, but I’m not a fan of those lazy writers who rely on “…like Band X meets Band Y” comparisons. Even using a shoddy analogy of that sort, I’d be hard pressed to find someone who sounds like him. His voice is at the same time joyous, warm and sorrowful, and his melodies are unique.

The band cycles through the huge supply of toys on stage, percussionist peeping his head above the congas and shaking little bells. There is both plaintive and prancing piano. The electric violin lends a sweetness to the edgy rock, and the violinist plays with the finger-plucked technique that sounds a bit like elegant banjo.

I love that the band encorporates so many instruments, carts them all the way there, sets them up, only to use them for 30 seconds during one song. But the details complete that song so you couldn’t imagine hearing it without the nuance of flute, the half minute of pulsating theremin. I love it. I love it.

Through the whole thing, the audience is right there with the band. They are dancing, singing — they know all the words. To be in the middle of it is something else. I’ve been to a stream of moody emo shows and sedated folk performances lately, and it’s adrenaline-inducing to be bouncing around with a roomful of exuberant fans. After they play the hearty piano tune “Oh Girl,” the applause is thunderous and for a minute the venue feels enormous. It’s nuts. The shouts and stomping continue for several minutes after the last song, chants demanding “one more!”, but the club has already turned on the house lights.

Endearingly, Leo looks completely blown away by the experience. Seeing all of us there, he is honestly amazed and filled with gratitude — shaking his head, trying not to smile so excessively. That kind of reception at a record release must feel like more than just your birthday — maybe like getting a car on your sixteenth. I can only imagine.

Still buzzing from the show, I remember my missing car thing. When I come out of the police station, Cindy is playing Leo’s CD she just bought. We have violated the 24 Hour Rule twice in one day; I had listened to the album that morning. I insist, “No! You can’t do that. You have to wait 24 hours before or after a show!” But neither one of us turns it off.

I found my car. Pat’s Towing earned $150 last night.

Must-hear du Jour

The hours at work are dragging today because we’re going to see Calla tonight. This band is dark and gorgeous. In fact, legend has it that Robert Smith listens to Calla when he’s feeling a little more down than usual. I’ve been listening to their new album Televise while secluded in my dark air conditioned room and it’s damn near perfect. We will be braving T.T. the Bear’s Place this evening to see them live — another surreptitious show I tripped over yesterday while reading the fine print that got my heart racing. T.T.’s will be unbearably hot and dirty as usual — in July it’s actually a rainforest — and I even passed out at a Jack Drag show a few years ago. It’s before noon and I’ve already begun hydrating in preparation.
Listen to me, people. If you go to ONE show this summer, see the Starlight Mints. I swear to you. Their new album Built on Squares completely blows my mind with weird ass pop-n-roll — sexy vocals, unpredictable melodies, slippery bass lines, sawed violin and samples of tap dancers. It’s nutty and campy and original — even more so then their debut. They are playing pretty much everywhere on their national tour in support of the new album so if you aren’t in town for the Middle East show on July 23rd, check them out in your city of choice. They’re playing with the Flaming Lips on some dates. GO!!!!
Next week is the Joyful July Manic Music Spree. These dates are for your listening pleasure:

O’er the Medfit We Watched

Every Fourth of July, I trek up the hill to see the fireworks and every year I swear that next year I’m not doing it again. This cycle of denial has become a more important ritual to me than the holiday itself.
Our place of viewing is a short walk from my house, and very high up so mid-breeze, and therefore not quite as traumatic as The Downtown Esplanade Boston Pops Are You Insane Fiasco. I do not like the following: heat, bugs, crowds, bright light, loud noises, or mass transportation. Nor do I enjoy being surrounded by other people’s bodily emissions (sweat and piss being the two in question here) or their flagrant inebriation.
And so the festive trip down to the Charles River is one I can say I’ve never made after nearly 10 years in this fine city. Instead, I go to Medford, where the locals are surly but predictable and everyone has a sense of humor about the fact that we’re on the roof of a library viewing the Boston fireworks pretty damn close to New Hampshire. The repeat offenders bring boom boxes and re-broadcast the symphony orchestra as it plays the soundtrack to the explosions downtown.
Medford itself can provide hours of entertainment, especially the residents — who make the most fascinating anthropological studies — calling their hometown “Medfit”.
The beauty of experiencing July Fourth on the roof of the Tufts library lies in the sheer determination of those arriving early to secure front row seating. The dedicated arrive en masse beginning at noon, setting up lawn chairs and coolers, beach umbrellas and kiddie pools on the grass that, strangely enough, grows on the roof of the building.
By the time you arrive at 9:30 or 10:00 at night, the rowdy crowd is sauced up and rarin to go. The highlight of the evening was a misty-eyed rendition of The Star Spangled Banner performed by frat boys who wailed full tilt while patriotically trying to shove each other off the roof.
During the orchestral performance of a certain classical number, two 14-year-olds exchanged the following wisdom:
“I know this song — what is it?”
“Oh yeah — it’s from the Beef commercial. ‘Beef — it’s what’s for dinner’.”
“Yeah, totally!”
Ah, Medfit.
I survived the day sans sunburn, hiding my Irish ass in the cool filtered light of my back porch, alternating between iced coffee and soaking my head and linen dress with icy water from the garden hose.
The culmination of the evening was the consumption of grotesque quantities of pulled pork and fried catfish at Redbones at 1:00 AM. The restaurant was playing the violently somber How it Feels to be Something On from Sunny Day Real Estate, the juxtaposition of which caused widespread confusion and made an ironic end to a traditionally celebratory day. After dinner, the echoes of Denis Leary rang in my head: “I’m going to wipe my mouth on the American flag!”
My legs hurt from climbing that hill and I didn’t sleep well just thinking about the infiltration of the commercial media on the minds of future music audiences.
I’m not going to see the fireworks next year. I swear.