Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Honest Soldier


Its funny the way your mind views the past. Things that meant one thing to you then fade and change in memory.  Sometimes perception shifts and though none of the facts have changed, the way you view them morphs into something new with the clarity of hind sight. Not as much of a tarnish but a patina forms around things you once held dear that now have to be handled with a different kind of care.

Ganging Up On The Sun was released in 2006, while the man I was going to marry was sleeping with my best friend. Granted, this things didn't coexist in the same plane of my life, but looking at it from a decade away I cannot separate their timelines in my past so easily. Though the blow up (and break up) wouldn't come for another year, I can see now how this was the beginning of the end (Guster pun intended.)

I have been counting down the days to #Guster25 with a construction paper crafted paper chain, like the kind you made in 2nd grade. I wrote a song on each slip, and each day as I tear one off I am surprised with a randomly selected Guster song to ponder on. When I have the time I try to turn each one into a simple project for myself like finding a video from a show I attended, or singing a new harmony as I listen on repeat during my commute. Anything to distract myself from the ever-barreling freight train of Holiday Retail Madness that I hear echoing in the background. Today's song was Lightning Rod, and it struck me more than I was prepared for.

I have this album on vinyl so after work I threw it on. It happens to be the opening track to this album, and I was immediately flooded with memories of post college life. Where I lived, where I worked, what hair cut I had - all these things attached to this song as if a movie montage. That phase of life is always full of change and big decisions. Figuring out my career was my main focus, but I had also been shacked up with my boyfriend for a few years and china patterns had been chosen. I was settled down and happy* Stress in our jobs had sent us through a rough patch but things were leveling out and I was optimistic about our future. I played this song often then. It's steady and simple, the same way I wanted my life to be. (*little did I know, I wasn't happy at all)

Standing on a building, I am a lightning rod
and all these clouds are so familiar
descending from the mountaintops the
gods are threatening
but I will return an honest solider 

Then it all came down crashing. My lover and my friend, a tale as old as time. And seemingly everyone around me had known through the entirety of their affair. When the flood broke and I came out of hiding I found the hardest part was just being seen. I felt like everyone who laid eyes on me knew that I was a mess and there was nothing anyone could do to help. Anyone who is going through the stages of grief learns quite quickly to put on a happy face. The kind of tired you become from pretending that you're OK is easier to manage than the kind of tired you become from rehashing your nightmare over and over. You learn to steel yourself, slide on the mask of "over it" and carry forth.

Steady on this high rise like everything lightning rod
and all these clouds are boiling over
swimming in adrenaline the sky is caving in 
but I will remain the honest soldier 

The thing about losing your entire support system in one fatal blow like that? It forces you to figure it out alone. You comfort yourself. You console yourself. You cry to yourself and you laugh to yourself and you listen to records and think to yourself. Or at least I did, anyway. Was it the healthiest of attitudes to turn so inward? Likely not, but you have to do whatever it takes to get through the day. What got me through those days was this album, and hearing this song now feels as though I'm looking at an x-ray of my past. I can hold it up to the light and see where the fracture was, but I don't feel that pain anymore. I realized today that I visit this song less frequently than I do others in the catalog, though maybe unknowingly so.  These words and notes are the cast I wore around myself as I healed, and for that I am grateful. My life today is not like I thought it was going to be 10 years ago, but it is steady and simple the way I wanted it to be, and there's so much beauty in that.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

That Was For You, Darlin' (Part Two)

(This post originally appeared on Facebook 5/17/2010)

That was for you, darlin' (Part Two)


Four days of unbearable waiting were over. Its all I could talk about, all I could think about....Ed had promised to play my favorite song ...just for me. It was like a dream. I was 90% excited, and 10% nervous he'd just honesty forget. "Its the thought that counts" always rings true, but I knew I'd be pretty disappointed if it didnt happen.

I meet a slew of people in the Old Seelbach Bar for dinner and drinks before the show. At various points in the night we talked about my (wishful) moment to come. At the venue, after finding out seats, we mingled about finding old and new BNL/Ships and Dip/Twitter friends. I felt like I showed people my back more than I showed my face! :) Everyone was pulling for me!

Luckily, Kristen knew early on how to put me out of my misery. A quick snapshot of the setlist that had already been taped down on the stage revealed that no, he hadn't forgotten. After 15 years I was finally going to hear MY song. Ingrid's set was blur of singing and excitement for me, but the anticipation was nearly palpable.

Another first for me this evening - keeping up with the song order. I'd decided that I really wanted a complete set list at the end of the night, but couldn't see in the dark to write one out. So I just decided to Tweet each song title as the song started, giving myself not only a song list, but a pretty accurate time-line of the night.

It was the 8th song of the night. I saw Kevin and Tyler clear the stage, and knew it was about to happen. Jim pulled out the big mama jama - The Double Bass, and joined Ed in the far stage left corner of the stage. A few kind words and a simple "This goes by special request" was all I head before the tears started. The opening notes - the very same ones tattooed on my back - seemed to float straight to me. I cried harder. I made my way down to the very front, and just stood there, crying and singing. Around the beginning of the second verse, Ed looked down and saw me hysterically crying, and proceeded to serenade me with the song. It felt like we didnt break eye contact for an eternity. He liked the tattoo? Wow! He remembered to play the song? Double wow! But then he SINGS IT TO ME?! From 5ft in front of me?! That one gets the full-on Christopher Walken "Wowee wow wow wow"

When I Fall
When I Fall

A few songs later, as Jim took the keys for "On The Lookout", Ed played the bass in Jim's traditional spot, putting him right in front of me once again. As he looked down at me, all I could do was grin wildly and mouth "Thank You" at him. He grinned back, nodded and mouthed "You're welcome" to me. As I started to say "Love you!" he messed his guitar playing...laughed a bit, winked at me, and wandered back over stage right to play for others in the audience.

After the show, we hung around out back again to see the guys again and say "Thanks!". I waited patiently (ok, maybe NOT so patiently) for my time with Ed, and he walked to me with open arms, saying "That was for you, darlin'", and I felt like I could have cried all over again. I told him how phenomenal it had been, and he just grinned and said "It was no problem....for you"

I back away to let some other people have a chance to meet him (I cant hog ALL his time, I guess), and as another fan mentioned When I Fall, he searches over the crowd for me saying 'That was for Chan, she has the melody tattooed across her shoulders!" I blushed (maybe for the first time ever in my life) and happily turned around to show off the music. When the crowd died down, we chatted a bit, had him sign my record, which he gave a me a double meaning for:

To be read as "I <3 U & I <3 Your Tattoo"
To be read as "I <3 U & I <3 Your Tattoo"

I also had him sign the shirt I'd made, to be used as my "permission slip", in case I ever ran into any "legal copyright issues"

Im sure this is 100% official
Im sure this is 100% official

We left, and headed over to the BBC Brew Pub, where unknown to us, the rest of the band members were waiting. We all laughed, chatted, had a few drinks, and enjoyed the beautiful night.

It could have been a blizzard out, and I doubt I would have noticed.


That Was For You, Darlin' (Part One)

(This post originally appeared on Facebook 5/17/2010)

"...and if I try, would you catch me if I fall? " 


I head down to Nashville to meet up with Erin for dinner before the BNL show at The Ryman. I meet her at my favorite haunt - SatCo - for some quick and yummy tacos before we head downtown. Through her supreme ninja skills and the idiocy of the people who never showed up in my row, we sneak Erin up to sit next to me in row K. The lovely Ingrid Michaelson plays her set (MUST check her out if you haven't before), and after a small wait, its BNL time. 

The show was amazing, as always. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, in true Nashville style, Ed calls up a man from the audience named David Mayfield who proceeds to WAIL on an inpromtu jam of the old Country Gentlemen tune "Fox On The Run". David belongs to a band called Cadillac Sky, whom the guys had seen play the night before at Station Inn in The Gulch...

After all our favorites, including a great crowd sing a long of Kenny Roger's "The Gambler", the guys take their final bows and head off. Which means, of course, Erin and I instantly head around the back of the venue to wait by the bus. And wait we did. Nearly 90 mintues of it, on an unusually chilly night. We make a few friends out of the other waiting fans, and just sit and twiddle our thumbs...

Ed was the first one out. Tosses his stuff on the bus, and comes back out to say hello. My moment was here. I'd waited nearly 5 months to show him the tattoo of his most beautiful song "When I Fall" that I had tattooed on my back just before Christmas. 

"When I Fall""When I Fall"

He was speechless. He ran his fingers over the notes as he hummed the tune to himself. I stumbled over my words, muttering about how "After 15 years of being a BNL fan I decided to make it permanent....When I Fall was my favorite song..." and he truly seemed touched by the gesture. I then mention to him that I'd never heard the song played live in any of my 14 BNL shows. Ed was shocked and exclaimed "OH fuck, we' shoulda played it then!" and looked truly remorseful. I told him he could easily make it up to me by playing it on Saturday night at the Louisville show. He couldn't agree fast enough. He pulls out his cell phone, sets a reminder to go off on 5/15 at 10am so he wouldnt forget. He then asks to take a picture of the tattoo. I felt so warm and fuzzy inside! It was amazing to think that someone who's made me so happy for long could possibly have been made happy by something I had done. Another sweet hug and pic later, Ed was gone. I couldnt stop smiling. 


Tyler, then Kevin, then Jim all make their way out to the bus one by one, and one by one I gave them the story and showed them. Their reaction was more than I could have hoped for. Each guy said "thank you" to me so sincerely, I couldnt have asked for more. Even a quick jab from Jim for my choice of the Treble line instead of the Bass line (haha) 

Jim was diggin' itJim was diggin' it

Tyler even felt the need to label the song, and sign my back! Silver Sharpie comes off well with makeup remover, FYI :) 

Ty felt the need to label the tattooTy felt the need to label the tattoo

My official BNL label!
My official BNL label!

I drove home that night grinning from ear to ear. Not only had I had a wonderful meet with all four guys, I'd received the official stamp of approval for my tattoo. All I could do then was wait anxiously for the next few days to pass, and for Saturday's show to arrive. 


Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Guster Summit; or Music as The Great Connector


What you wish for could come true, you aren't surprised love, are you? 

I'm 13 years old, a month away from graduating 8th grade in 1999. My parents indulged me with my first pair of concert tickets. Not a show they're taking me along to, but the first concert I picked out for myself - Barenaked Ladies. The night before my mother fell very ill and I didn't think it was going to happen at all. Luckily my best friend's mother stepped up to drive us down to Nashville for the event. There was an opening band I had never heard of, but hundreds of people around me not only knew the words to their songs but seemed to be having a damn good time singing along. That band launched into a track called Barrel of a Gun, and I was enthralled. The harmonies of the two singer/guitar players were stunningly perfect, and the drumming was positively hypnotizing. Who were these dudes? How could there be such great music I had never heard of until this moment?

I immediately headed out to the merch table to buy my first Guster CD, Lost and Gone Forever. I stood frozen for a few moments when I realized the band was sitting there, chatting with people. The drummer, who plays with his bare hands, was resting his fingers in a large bowl of ice. I had just signed up to play drums in the high school band that fall, so I asked him if he had any advice for me. "Use sticks" he said with a dead serious look on his face as he handed me a tiny box of animal crackers. You know the kind - small and red with a string that you can use to carry the little train car shaped box by. He drew a little drummer dude on my t-shirt, thanked me for coming to say hello, and flashed his big grin at me. "I'm Brian, by the way." I was a young girl smitten. I would go home to Kentucky and hang a poster of the then-trio above my bed, as teenage girls with rockstar crushes are wont to do.

Can we keep it together? We're singing a new song now...

As the years would pass, all the milestone moments in my life would seem to coincide with the release of a new Guster album. When I graduated high school and started college there would be Keep it Together. The dissolution of my first grown-up relationship (and the abandoned wedding plans that went with it) would be soundtracked by Ganging Up On The Sun. A few years later when I quit my job as a pastry chef to work for a band myself, I would have Easy Wonderful to accompany me as I drove around the USA selling t-shirts and making friends. I settled back down, and went back into the restaurant industry as the executive chef of my own restaurant. When my pub closed abruptly and I felt more lost in life than I ever had, along came Evermotion to inspire me all over again. Same as it ever was and yet totally new, I would find in those songs a renewed sense of self that I had lost in my failures. Every step of my journey became a little lighter because I had a song to sing along to. I would see them perform live over 20 times through the years, often dragging friends along just so I wasn't alone. They would indulge me, clap and dance along and say "Wow they really are great live! Thanks for taking me"...but never could I truly get my companions to see the music, to FEEL the music the way I did.

Guster has always been an incredibly internet savvy band, long before social media became so ubiquitous. One day in 2011 singer Ryan Miller offered to play song tracks from their upcoming EP on the now-defunct site. As myself and other fans sat in a virtual waiting room, we began to chat about Guster - our favorite songs, favorite albums, and shared our stories from live shows and band encounters. After a few weeks of casual conversation within the chatroom itself we were all friending each other on Facebook, Hooray internet friends! When the band would tour around the country, we would compare set lists with each other - "Oh man, you got Hercules? That's awesome" or maybe "They played Center of Attention? I'm jealous!" It was such a thrill to discuss our Guster shows amongst the group because we all shared the same massive love of this music. These total strangers could understand more than some of the real-life friends I had known for eons. It's an incredibly strong bond that forms when you can share your passion for something as universal as music with people who feel that same unconditional love.

This could all be yours someday...

In January 2016 the band had to postpone a show in Philadelphia due to a massive snow storm. They apologized to their Philly fans and promised when they made it up to them in June it would be "a doozy". My friends and I speculated about the make-up date...wouldn't it be fun to to all meet up at one show together? After years of messages, shared photos, and long distance friendships wouldn't it be spectacular for all of us to share in our favorite past time in person? The planning began immediately. We would be traveling from Wisconsin, Connecticut, New Jersey, Kentucky and even California to the city of Brotherly Love for one night of music. Unbeknownst to us, there would be a Yahoo! Live Nation TV livestream broadcast from the Fillmore that night so our buddies who couldn't make the journey would be able to watch along with us at home. Its a strange and wonderful thing to meet someone for the first time but yet already have such a long history with them. As we all stood along the front row (is there any other place to be?) for the show that night my heart couldn't have possibly been fuller. Very few words needed be exchanged throughout the band's superb performance. Did Ryan just mix up his words? Did Luke just nail that bass line? A simple glance at each other was all we needed. Unspoken understanding is a beautiful thing. After the show that evening, Brian would refer to our presence as "The Summit of Super Fans". Though there were a few pals that were absent from our evening that we wished could have joined us, we all knew how special it was to finally be in one room together. We spent a few days there in Philadelphia together, exploring that great city and its rich history as the Birthplace of America.

And its true, I know, we're never coming down...

My friends at home, and the fine folks along the way to Philadelphia asked me the same question over and over again..."You're driving 15 hours to see a band you've already seen 20 something times before?" and they'd chuckle at me. I could only nod and smile back at them. No amount of explaining could offer up a proper view of what this band and these people mean to me. Its been 17 years, 24 shows, two countries, a 965ft Ocean Liner, one tattoo, and approximately 13,600 miles I've traveled in the name of Guster. (Really...I spent a solid hour with Google Maps trying to concoct that figure). As time passed I have been fortunate to forge a friendly rapport with these musicians that I am so fond of. Amazingly accessible to their fans, they don't mind you saying hello in the hallway or as you pass them on the street near the venue. Ask anyone who's met them, and they'll reinforce how down to earth, humble, and flat-out sweet these four gentlemen are to their fans. Adam is kind and will share a hilarious story with you like an old friend at a reunion. Ryan loves to talk music (not just his own), and is quite loquacious if you catch him in the right mood. Luke is gracious and goofy and so charming you feel bewitched after a few moments with him. But it's Brian the drummer, affectionately known to his fans as The Thunder God,  with his warm smile and easy attitude that makes you feel as though he's as fond of you as you are of him. This band, and the people that this band have led me to, have been absolutely life altering. Music is such a universal language, and the emotions invoked through song are more powerful than can be described. They say you should find your tribe and love them fiercely. I say I've found my tribe and they're called Guster, and I will love them and my fellow fans forever.

EDIT 7/4/2016
After the positively overwhelming response, I have started a Gusterrhoids fan page on Facebook as a place where we can all connect and share out Guster stories together. Won't you join us, Big Friends? 

Friday, October 15, 2010


The image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and is endowed with energy.  - Ezra Pound

Ive always enjoyed "clusters". Grape clusters, the clusters in my Honey Bunches of Oats, even those brainstorming clusters they taught us as writing exercises. Sometimes you have a cluster fuck, but that's a separate topic, I think. 

Recently Ive experienced one of those "good" clusters - where for a few days, everything clicks and falls into place. New friends, new experiences, and as of today, new jobs. All the bad things seem to come in clusters, too. Ive often thought that makes it easier, in the end. Emotionally draining yourself all at once is sometimes easier than doing it repeatedly over time. Ive been through that kind of cluster recently, too, so I'm happy to see the upswing. 

Ive been in such a rut recently, and I feel a change is long over due. I chopped my hair off, and was offered a new job in the last 24 hours. Thats change enough...for this week.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Actions have consequences (who knew?)

What is it about the concept of consequence that seems to elude people? Myself included, no matter how much you weigh the options before hand, it never hits you until the deed is done.

 "If I eat too much, I'll feel so sick later"....

(an hour later)

"OH I'm so sick!! Why did I eat so much??"

Sometimes its not so trivial as eating too much.

 I bought new shoes, now I'm short on paying rent., or whatever.

I personally seem to have this block against owning up to my own decisions. I'm not speaking of hidden disasters, but full blown "You should have known better" situations. Ive been an adult in the legal sense for 7 years now, though I feel it may be that many more before I figure out what that means. When do I find that moment of clarity?

I look to my "adult" friends for guidance. You cant learn from anyone's mistakes but your own, but you can try to absorb what they took away from their experience. There are a certain few people that I lean on for true advice. The people I view in my life as my own "wise old owls". But what happens when their gone? They have their own problems as well, and maybe they don't need the extra burden of mine.

Times like these make me happy to live in South, where you can find a colloquialism for any occasion.

"Put on your big girl panties and deal with it"

So it goes.


Monday, October 11, 2010

25 things about being 25

There's not really a point to this, other than hopefully in another 25 years from now I can look back and see how full of bullshit I was when I was 25

1. My parents are right. MOSTof the time. Learning that distinction was very, very hard.

2. Alcohol is NEVER the answer. It is, however, sometimes an educated guess.

3. Sometimes sitting in front of the TV with milk & cookies can make it all better.

4. You will laugh. You will cry. As long as you search for more of the former, you'll be alright.

5. Your friends will NOT always be there. You must learn to live with this.

6. The one you love the most is the one who holds the key to your greatest pain.

7. A shower, a cup of coffee and a few iburpofen can sometimes get you further than a good night's sleep. That being said, a good night's sleep is sometimes worth more than you care to admit.


9. You are in control of your own happiness.....not Visa.

10. "Kids" and "their music" are highly irratating.

11.  No inanimate object is replaceable.

12. You can't go home again - but you can stop by for dinner and to do laundry.

13. Yes YOU have to take the trashcans to the street. Once a week. It never ends.

14. Choices have consequences. You must learn to see through the now and figure out if dealing with it in your future is palatable.

15. You cant change people. Only your reaction to them.

16. SING AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS. Its alarmingly cathartic.

17. Some people deserve second chances. Some people dont.

18. You can do what you want - even if its nothing.

19. Invest in something you cant control. Its good for you soul.

20. You are your own worst critic. If you can also be our own best cheerleader you'll be lightyears ahead.

21. No one has it all together - even if they look like they do on the outside.

22. Actions speak louder than words. Words speak louder than purchases.

23. Trust is like gravity – you only notice when it's missing.

24. You're never too old for ice cream sundaes, Disney movie marathons, slumber parties or playing dress-up.

25. Everything comes to an end, eventually.