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Friday, September 17, 2010

183. "What Goes On" by The Velvet Underground

Folks, as of today, the 39-40 project is more than halfway completed. My original plan was to celebrate this milestone by doing, for perhaps the only time, a song of my own choosing (and I know what it would've been). But after I posted an alternate mix of the Midlife Crisis cover of "Sacrifice"/"Radio Free Europe", Lisa Rodeheaver, the hostess of the show at which it was recorded, asked me if I had a recording of our performance of the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" from the same show. And then a couple of hours later I found out that her daughter Ivy was suffering from pneumonia, a condition about which I know more than I'd like. Now, I don't think Lisa realized this, but I'd actually dropped Ivy's name into the lyrics of that very song, so it seemed like the cool thing to do would be to honor Lisa's request as the very midpoint of 39-40 and post a mix of that performance. It's also a sort of symmetry-- the very second 39-40 cover was a VU tune as well, with my own kids singing on it.

In any case, this also gives me an opportunity to wrap up:
BEHIND THE MUSIC: The Midlife Crisis Story (Part 2)

When I left off last time, Heckman and I were plotting three weeks worth of musical mayhem in and around Keyser, WV, piggybacked on a series of Thunderhill shows. And I was thinking a drummer would really put us over the top. Heckman and I talked this over and considered a few options before he put a call in with Chris Dixon in New York. Chris was our drummer in most of our High School era bands and a key part of our creative brains trust all through that time. He hadn't played drums in a while, but after some consideration he decided to give it a go, and we were almost "getting the band back together" (not quite, though; we had never played as a three-piece back in the day and I hadn't been a frontman at the time). So the garage was once again converted into a rehearsal/recording studio, with Heckman bringing in a full PA and drum kit from Morgantown, and all my recording crap being folded into it and off we went.

The denouement of the first night's rehearsal can be heard on 39-40 here; that's Dixon's end-of-the-night monologue while Heckman and I make stuff up in the background.

Now, at this point, given that I'm also supposed to be on vacation and taking care of my kids as well as maintaining my daily 39-40 schedule, and rehearsing Thunderhill (including learning a bunch of lead parts I'd never played before and helping Dad through relearning a few of the tune he was kind of nervous about, although please don't tell him I told you that), it was pretty obvious that I had way more going on than I could handle. For some reason I had imagined that in addition to learning an hour or so of music, the new/old band, which Dixon named, appropriately enough, Midlife Crisis, could bash out a few covers for 39-40 as we went. But the opposite happened: MiLC required a pretty laser sharp focus on the setlist we'd hammered out, and in fact took time away from my regular recording duties for the blog. Thus you got some real crap covers and my mumbling about how playing music was cutting into my playing-music time.

And a lot of other shit happened, a good deal of it fairly insane. Small town, old friends reconvening after 20 years, high profile jobs, and, it bears repeating, small town. But somewhere along the way I'd casually set up a warm-up gig playing a party at the Rodeheavers' place on Hooker Hollow Road. (I can't make this stuff up.) Billy and Lisa (then Chaney) were classmates of all of us MiLC guys and just plain the coolest people in the area, and they had converted this stand-alone garage at their house into a bar, called the Barage, and thought it would be cool to have bands play there. Sounded groovy to me.

We almost didn't make it, for various reasons all related to the fairly insane circumstances sketched out above, but we did-- we moved the entire band's gear from one garage in the middle of the woods at my parents' house to another one at the Rodeheavers, and added our racket to the katydids in the woods and had a grand time. And we were pretty good, dammit. I can be heard on the recording saying how wonderful the audience is and how it was the most loved I'd ever felt performing music, and that's pretty much true. There was a lot of unjudgmental, unjaded embracing of us just doing what we'd managed to put together; there was Lisa actually singing along with my songs from the Skates & Rays record, standing there radiating good vibes and joy like some astonishing goddess-muse-patroness of Rock As We Know It; there was Ivy, cartwheeling in front of us; there was Bill, beaming at having us inaugurating the Barage. Dixon held it together and completely rose to the occasion; Heckman and I seem from the tape to have been pretty well on our game... it was a small miracle. Ramshackle jams went on well into the night... too far into the night, really, considering that we were playing again, this time "in public" at thew Wing Shack, opening from Thunderhill, and that we had to tear all the gear down, move it to the Shack, and set it back up again before then. It... could have been planned better.

Midlife Crisis pretty much bombed at the Wing Shack. It wasn't disastrous; in fact it was more in line with what a band who'd only gotten together and learned an hour-long set in less than four days should sound like. But it didn't live up to, and of course was probably diminished by the long hours that went into, the show at the Barage the night before. Thunderhill's show, sort of ironically, was probably the tightest of the three we did. Heckman's excellent band Double Dragons finished out the night and graciously allowed me to sit in on lead guitar and occasional vocals throughout their set. Basically I played and sang my ass off for a good solid 24 hours.

And then we all went our separate ways again. But Heckman and I have multitracks of a fair amount of the shows, and I'm finally getting some mileage out of all that work here on 39-40.

Rex Broome: guitar & vocal
Tom Heckman: bass & vocal
Chris Dixon: drums
Recorded at the Barage on August 20, 2010 by Tom Heckman
Mixed today by Rex

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