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Dick Howser died on June 17, 1987, at the age of 51.
Tonight, my friend Will is having a record release party. You might know Will’s work from The Sundogs, the band that does the intro music to the Will Leitch Experience podcast, or from their albums “Instrument of Change,” “Cut & Run” and “BB Gun Days.” These are excellent albums and you should buy them. His record tomorrow is from his new/other band, The Haraway Brothers, and it is called “The Haraway Brothers Wish You Love & Luck In The World.” I have listened to it many times and enjoy it very much.
I’m going to miss the release party — though you should go, it’ll be a blast
— because I’ll be at the Atlanta United game, but I suppose Will is
used to that by now. Haraway has become one of my better friends down
here, and a near-nightly text partner to complain about Mike Matheny and
what has become of our beloved St. Louis Cardinals. He likes to call
himself my Cardinals Fan Anger Translator, because I’m too polite to go
on the aggressive with that team (and people who hate that team) as much
as I might like to. Haraway is. He’s my Cardinals Fan Anger Translator.
But I have never, in now nearly seven years of being friends, never actually seen his band play. I have all the albums, I know all the songs, but I still, after all this time, haven’t seen him play. There are three primary reasons for this:
- I’m extremely busy with work and kids and travel and all the things that get in the way of all we actually want to do.
- I am a bad friend.
- I hardly ever go to shows.
I listen to music constantly — I type this to you as Mastadon rattles
around my upstairs office — but I just have never gone to that many
shows. My first concert was Metallica at Assembly Hall in 1991, right
after the Black Album came out. For the next, oh, 15 years after that, I
saw U2 and Pavement and Stone Temple Pilots and Nine Inch Nails and
Arctic Monkeys and Band of Horses and Rage Against the Machine (twice)
and Radiohead (three times) and R.E.M. (at least six times), roughly a
show or two a year, but then, around 2006 or so, I sort of just stopped.
Rock shows just stopped having a schedule that fit with my life. They
simply start too late, and I wake up too early. I’d like to blame it on
children — and certainly, the fact that I’ve seen one show (Drive-By
Truckers) in the last five years is entirely to blame on them — but the
real reason is that in order to be as productive as I am while still
having time to occasionally wave to my family as I pass them in the
hall, rock shows just don’t have a space in my life. We all make
sacrifices as we get older, and one of mine is going to concerts. Those
guys don’t go on until 11 p.m.! That knocks out two days.
I wonder if part of this too is that I never got to see Nirvana live. I was actually on the phone with the ticket agent to see them play at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago back in 1993, but all the guys in my dorm backed out at the last minute. I figured that’s OK, I’ll just seem them next summer in Lollapalooza. It turned out that Nirvana did not play the 1994 Lollapalooza. (You can listen to the whole Aragon show on Youtube now. Know that I have many, many times.) I’m still sore about that. I’ve always wondered that if you live a good life, if after you die you get the opportunity to request an experience you never got to have on earth. If so, seeing that Aragon show is one of my first 10 requests. Maybe top five.
But now, it just doesn’t fit. This doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t listen to music constantly. But I listen to it almost entirely by myself, while working. This is a sort of sad way to listen to music — music should be shared and experience communally — but it is a very honest one. With the social context stripped from music, you end up only listening to what you want to listen to rather than what you are being told to listen to. I have so many useless albums I bought (oh, yes, kids, you used to have to buy music) simply because it was the hot thing everyone was listening to at the time. Suffice it to say, I don’t spin The National, or Odd Future, or Silversun Pickups that much anymore.
As I go through my listen counts on iTunes — oh, yes, I still use iTunes to listen to music, which in the year 2017 is pretty much the stupidest way to listen to music — here are the albums I have listened to the most in the last 12 months. (When you write as much as I do, you listen to a lot of music.)
Andrew W.K., “I Get Wet”
Arctic Monkeys, “A.M.”
Band of Horses, “Cease to Begin”
Band of Horses, “Why Are You OK”
Bob Dylan, Essentially anything from any of The Bootleg Series
Death From Above, “You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine”
Dinosaur Jr., “Without a Sound”
Drive-By Truckers, “American Band”
Eagles of Death Metal, “Zipper Down”
The Flaming Lips, “The Soft Bulletin”
The Hold Steady, “Boys and Girls in America”
Jack White, “Lazaretto”
Jason Isbell, “Southeastern”
Jason Isbell, “Something More Than Free”
Kendrick Lamar, “DAMN”
Manchester Orchestra, “Cope”
Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend”
Meat Loaf, “Bat Out of Hell”
Metallica, “Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct”
The Misfits, “Collection”
Modest Mouse, “The Moon & Antarctica”
My Morning Jacket, “Okonokos”
Neutral Milk Hotel, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”
Nirvana, “In Utero”
Paul Simon, “The Rhythm of the Saints”
Pavement, “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”
Pavement, “Slated & Enchanted”
Pavement “Wowee Zowee”
PJ Harvey, “Rid of Me”
Public Enemy, “It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back”
R.E.M., “Automatic for the People”
Radiohead, “The Bends”
Radiohead, “In Rainbows”
The Ramones, “Hey Ho Let’s Go: Greatest Hits”
Sturgill Simpson, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth”
The Sword, “Age of Winters”
A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here”
The War On Drugs, “Lost in the Dream”
Wilco, “Being There”
Wu-Tan Clan, “Wu-Tang Forever”
The statistics do not lie. They might make me look lame (and white, and male), but they do not lie.
Anyway, I wish I listened to better music, I wish I went to more shows, I wish I wasn’t sort of stuck in thinking that music was best when I was most obsessed with it, every generation’s core fallacy. But I have gotten older and there is no sense lying to myself and anybody else about it. Have a great time at the record release party, Haraway. Your album is excellent. I will continue to listen to it, by myself, in a dark room, having it only to myself. And then I’ll switch to a Built to Spill album, because in this office, it’s always sort of 1995.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. Review: “Rough Night,” Paste Magazine. The movie isn’t good, but I was happy with how the review turned out.
2. The USMNT Has a Bonafide Star: Christian Pulisic, Sports On Earth. Get excited! I’m out there putting an ungodly amount of pressure on an 18-year-old. Who’s with me?
3. The History of Baseball, As Told By Edwin Jackson, Sports On Earth. One of my favorite baseball lives, tracked from team to team. Plus, he’s from Columbus, Georgia, like my wife.
4. 2017 NBA Tortured Fanbase Rankings, Sports On Earth. These are harder to update when the same teams are in the Finals every year.
5. Pixar Movies, Ranked, Vulture. Vulture re-ran our Pixar rankings, updated with Cars 3.
6. The 10 Best Active Players Without a Title, Sports On Earth. Rick Ankiel isn’t on here, but only because he’s retired.
7. The Best Active Players to Never Make an All-Star Team, Sports On Earth. Nick Markakis gets his moment.
8. Dive Dive Dive, Sports On Earth. I have already forgotten who won the Belmont Stakes.
As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. You don’t even have to listen to them! Just download them. Here they are:
Grierson & Leitch, we disagree on It Comes At Night, we defend The Mummy and we Hitchcock it up with Shadow of a Doubt.”
The Will Leitch Experience, no show this week.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no show this week.
Have a great weekend, everyone. Happy Father’s Day. Here is a picture of my father giving a toast at my Rehearsal Dinner.