Scattered Points in Space. And Hop Along.

I wake up early to make lunches for myself and my fiancée to take to our jobs. I put on headphones and listen to something as I shuffle back and forth between fridge and countertop. Some days I listen to a podcast. It’s conversation, it’s pleasant and funny and it’s like I have company. But on days when I start with podcasts, that usually turns out to be all I listen to–I get sucked into other human’s voices and let myself zone out and pass the time without thinking about my own voice or my work. Most days, I try to at least start my days with music. It’s stimulating, it’s active, less like pleasant company and more like an intense date. It structures the day. If I’m dancing by 5:30 am, what do I have to fear?

Last Friday I listened to The Coroner’s Gambit by the Mountain Goats–an album from 2000 mountaingoatsproduced and played and written solely by John Darnielle. Person, guitar, voice. I heard the line “the wind began to wail / and you gathered your hair behind your head / like god was gonna catch you by the pony tail.” If I’ve heard a moment of such powerful, pummeling beauty by 5:45 am, coming from one single person, what else is left to accomplish today?

Later that night, my fiancée and I went to see the Florida Orchestra play a few things I’d never heard of: Barber’s “The School for Scandal Overture,” Mozart’s “Bassoon Concerto, K.191,” and Holst’s “The Planets.” In relief of my Darnielling that morning, the orchestra interested me for its lack of vocals–which seems obvious. Here were dozens of musicians speaking to each other, playing with such impressive dynamics, communicating the character of the cosmos with just wire and wood and brass; here was a conductor making me realize the heft of that job for the first time, conducting the music from the players to the audience, from the dead composers to the players, from the vast history of far-off everything through those once-living men–like lightning that could pass through much more than atmosphere. I understood so much by watching him; and none of it could match the significance of Darnielle’s single line, which dealt with the same cosmic emotions by tossing off the god reference and investing everything in the girl in the scene. Darnielle is a great conductor.

hopalongFrances Quinlan and her band Hop Along are great conductors. Like Darnielle, she can deliver you a line obviously brilliant and make it seem like she just stumbled upon it. She comes upon a line and her voice coils around it. She squeezes it until the last breath, but not like murder, like murder-suicide, like something mutual and powerful enough to shove back at life. “The world’s gotten so small and embarrassing,” she screams. To me, it’s an answer to her call from the last album, “Why’s everything so expensive?” The band is masterful at intensifying conversation. Like an orchestra, the band and her voice can surf awesome dynamics–swells of terror and confessional whispers and harsh silences. No band right now captures as much cosmos in pop song as Hop Along. Painted Shut, their Essential Listening second LP, is out on Saddle Creek.

A last grasp at meaning: A week after the orchestra, Dave Dondero played in Ybor and he played a cover of Don McLean‘s “Vincent.” “Starry, starry night, portraits hung in empty halls / Frameless heads on nameless walls.” In between earlier songs, he yelled at the Scientology center across the street. A week before I had pitted an orchestra against John Darnielle as conductors. Now it was Dondero and Scientology: once again, a guitar and a man, whose van had broken down earlier in the week, and who had then, in thanks, brought along his mechanic (himself a songwriter) to play the rest of the tour with him…strumming to handful of people in relief of a religion purporting to literally channel the cosmos. A cosmos they, or one of them, invented for profit. Is that a different kind of conducting than Darnielle or Quinlan or Dondero or Van Gogh or McLean’s version of Van Gogh or Mozart? Is it a question of who would be there for me at 5 am with a short, sweet song?

From Hop Along’s new Painted Shut. Get it all the ways from the band. Or from Saddle Creek.

Horseshoe Crabs

Powerful Man

From the Mountain Goats’ new Beat the Champ. Get it all the ways from Merge.

The Legend of Chavo Guerrero

Heel Turn 2

TAMPA/ST. PETE: TO DO: THIS WEEKEND: DAVID DONDERO & wHISKEY & CO. @ NEW WORLD and HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL @ ELLA'S


This time last year I was in total panic mode trying to get everything right for the wife’s 30th Birthday. This year we’re back to the annual Halloween Party and Erin has more help than she knows what to do with, so I am free to get my rock shows on. So let’s talk rock and roll this weekend….

Thursday night we have David Dondero, Whiskey and Co. and Christina Wagner kicking the Halloween weekend off at New World Brewery. David Dondero is probably best known to locals here for the following lyrics from “South of the South”; “so I jumped my pogo stick all the way to Ybor City where they burned up a couple blocks and to me seemed like a pity that was once a Cuban district and a center for the arts / was now a mall like atmosphere homogeneous and insincere they burned its heart right out down South of the South”. Fans of Bright Eyes will drop maps of Hawaii all over the place over this guy, while Whiskey and Co. have plenty of drug and whiskey-laden country songs to keep spirits high and heads higher. Oh, by the way…did I mention that this is a ninebullets.net / thxmgmt collaborative show? Well, it is. In the interest of honesty I have to say we’re (9b.net) really just riding on the coat tails of thx, but I am really happy they offered up said coat tails. I’m telling you, I want 2k10 to be the year 9b takes the next step and I’m hoping thx is gonna help us do it.

Whiskey & Co. – Nightlife
Whiskey & Co. – One Man (too many)

David Dondero – Rothko Chapel
David Dondero – Twenty Years
David Dondero – We’re All Just Babies In Our Mama’s Eyes

Saturday night is Halloween night, and like I said earlier we’re throwing a big ol’ party. If you live in Tampa / St. Pete and wanna attend…holler at me, I’ll give you the particulars.

Sunday afternoon everyone’s gonna have the same thing on their mind….last night’s revelry, and I’m sure that shit is gonna hurt. Everyone knows the best cure for a hangover is a little hair of the dog, and a little rock and roll music just helps the liquor work its magic quicker. Well fancy that, one of the prides of the local music scene, Have Gun Will Travel, will be playing at Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe’ for Sunday brunch and BBQ. HGWT will actually be playing a lot around town in the coming weeks/months as they support their upcoming (released in Nov.) album, Postcards From The Friendly City. Have Gun deserves your attention, and that goes for every out of town reader of this site, too. These kids write great songs and it very well might become my personal mission to make sure every single one of you hear their new album. It’s on par with every other Americana album you’ve purchased this year. I promise.

From: Casting Shadows Tall As Giants:
Have Gun, Will Travel – Blessing and A Curse
Have Gun, Will Travel – Come, All Ye Sinners
Have Gun, Will Travel – Pins And Needles

From Postcards From The Friendly City:
Have Gun, Will Travel – Sons And Daughters Of The Gilded Age