March Madness Revisited pt. 1

14 Jun

Before the new year began I bought myself a dry erase board. This was a way to achieve two things:

1) I could keep track of weekly activities and duties.

2) I could have my yearly goals set right in front of my face and be accountable for them.

There were silly ones like get a membership at the local Y,

get myself a colonic,

take piano lessons.

Then there were the serious ones like buy a longboard,

take a cruise out of New Orleans and most importantly hit up my old stomping grounds for SXSW.

Last year I badly wanted to go because there were so many bands I wanted to see.

The Great Lake Swimmers interested me, I believe M. Ward was playing, this band out of Quebec, Final Flash was making an appearance. Unfortunately I didn’t get my schedule request in on time and couldn’t get the days off I wanted (I just cringed remembering that I wanted  to go see Donald Glover perform as Childish Gambino).

So I didn’t go.

This year it was a priority.

But with my recent increase in pay, I was delighted to find that I could afford to purchase really good seats for Thunder games. I bought 3 for the month of March alone.  I had tickets to see the Clippers, Timberwolves, and the Spurs.

I also had lucked into a ticket at the Radiohead show in Austin. On top of that Of Montreal was playing in Dallas at Trees.

Something had to give. It was going to take some serious creativity to do all of this AND keep my job.

SXSW was suddenly looking iffy. Two trips to Austin in a week seemed a bit crazy. But as some who know me would say, crazy was what I was best at (especially when it came to women).

Radiohead would be easy. That fell on the 7th which was an off day. I took the first bus out of Tulsa ( 4AM) and got into Austin about 3 that afternoon. I met up with my friends around 5 and we got ready for the show.

Let’s just say I ingested an assortment of party favors so that by the time the boys from Oxford took the stage I was seeing tracers ( and it wasn’t just from the light show).

Some quick history about me and Radiohead:

I’d first gotten turned on to them before my freshman year of high school. There was this punk ass kid who lived in my apartments who liked making trouble even more than I did. We immediately took to each other. We’d open unlocked cars and pilch through them, smoke cigarettes and drink beer from his mom’s fridge.

We eventually had a falling out over a girl. He asked out someone I was digging on at the time and this soured things between us. She would come spend the night at this place which perturbed me because he was already sexually experienced and I hadn’t even French kissed a girl yet.

One night when we were chilling at his place–the three of us– time got away from us, and before we knew it, six in the morning had come. A mixture of fatigue and melancholy hanging over me when this video came on MTV. It was a slow ditty, with this fella who had a beautiful voice, and it just captured me. There was a build up that led to a well timed feedback, and then it had this nice crescendo. Obviously this was the Creep video.

I went to school the next week and during social studies I looked over at this guy’s notebook and it had the words

“I wish I were special. You’re so fucking special.”

Yes. He knew. And I looked at him differently from that point on (PAUSE).

1993-1994 was a pretty interesting period for music when I look back on it.  At the time I was only into hardcore hip-hop and totally missed out on the alternative wave. I couldn’t understand what all these white people were so angsty about in their dull flannel shirts and weird hairdo’s  (though I do remember digging on some Mazzy Star–that shit went hard).

Fake Plastic Trees/High and Dry was the first single I bought when it came out in ’95 (I didn’t finally get Pablo Honey til ’97 because the only song I knew was Creep). I jammed the fuck out of that during my teen depression period–having finally kissed a girl but still not gotten laid.

At this point I was listening to the shit out of some U2 along with the hardcore hip hop (I was progressing) hiding my “white boy shit” in the closet whenever my black friends came to hang out.

By the time OK Computer hit the shelf I had graduated high school and was completely intrigued with this band that kept coming up in different junctures of my teen aged years.

This album  got me to buy in completely. I first heard it on headphones and it completely blew me away. Took me to places I’d never been. I spent months just driving around North Dallas listening to that album on full blast.

My friends called me a pussy. Though critics were hailing their latest work, most of my friends still knew them as the ‘Creep band’. Radiohead were certainly not in the mainstream quite yet.

When I found myself driving to Fair Park Music Hall to go see them, I was driving alone because no one I knew wanted  to go to the show. I didn’t have a ticket–in fact I had planned on watching a Red-Sox game on ESPN. It was a last minute decision to check them out.

I found a scalper and paid $80 bucks for a third row seat then I walked into the venue. It was pretty awesome to say the least. It was a life changing experience, one that I shared with only a few hundred people. It felt like being in a cool little fan club. It seemed like all the artsy kids I never hung out with in high school were there.

After the show I went out and bought their previous album, The Bends, and having heard a lot of the material live; I was officially a fan.

In the fall of 2000 I  met a guy at North Texas who had all the B-sides. He burned them for me and I couldn’t believe how many good songs there were that had never made it to an album. He had to put them onto two discs so that I could get them all.

This couldn’t have been timed any better because Kid A was their highly anticipated release. No one knew what to expect. When it came out I was a little disappointed. The beautiful depressing songs were few in number, replaced with these weird electronic beeps and noises.

What the fuck? I thought.  Yorke has this beautiful ass voice and he was hiding it behind synthesizers and weird effects and compressors. I couldn’t understand it, and just as weird as their music would become, so would the decade.

Every time I could finally catch up to what they were playing they would go in a different direction. And man the B-sides from that Amnesica-Kid A period was pretty fucking grooving. Some of them were better than songs that they put onto album(Fog is definitely in my top 20). Eventually I stopped trying to get it and just started digging it. Some songs of course were easier than others.

When In Rainbows came out I felt like that was the album I had expected to hear when they dropped Kid-A. It was an album I wanted to shag to, cry to, laugh to, dance to, it was impeccable.

When King of Limbs came out I knew better than to try and guess what it’d sound like. I even gave it 50 listens before I made a judgment about it. I knew there were some songs I liked, but some I wasn’t quite sure of (I still can’t listen to Harry Patch or Daily Mail).

I did know this would be a different show. They’d added a drummer to their stage show, and I was hoping this would be the thing to shake things up. I’d always been vocal about something having to change. I wasn’t sure if they were going to break up or what,especially after hearing how funky the Atoms for Peace band was.

My biggest fantasy was them doing an album with Brian Eno just to switch things up ( It made sense to me. Work with the guy who worked with the Talking Heads? they got their name from a Heads’ song).

But as always, the artist knows what’s best for them, and adding Clive Deamer (the drummer from Portishead) was a solid decision.

Every Radiohead concert I attended seemed to coincide with a transitional period in my life.  The first concert that I’d seen them in Dallas (OK Computer tour) was a pivotal period in my life. I was 19 and was just tapping into this other side of reality (beyond what I had known as a dumb jock). My tastes in art, fashion, and music (and consequently drugs) would drastically change. My reality would forever be altered.

I missed the Kid-A/Amnesiac tour because I was saving my money to make a move to Austin.

I caught them on the Hail to the Thief Tour which signaled my return back to university life back in Denton. I had moved back to the north Texas area after being swallowed alive by the Austin rat race. My grandmother had just passed away as well and I had just moved into my own apartment. The highlight of that night was seeing them play Lurgee off the Pablo Honey album (Jonny’s guitar wailing made me misty-eyed)

There was a touch of bitterness because I wasn’t close enough to the stage (my mother had purchased me GA tickets because she didn’t think I’d want to stand up all night in the Pit seating). The whole show my eyes looked longingly towards the pit area, wondering what if.

I had ridden with this girl that I had known back in the dorm days.  She had an OK Computer tat on her ass. She and her boyfriend drove down (with me in tow) and that was the first time I had a listen to the Gagging Order b-side, one of the prettiest tunes Thom had ever written.

In 2006, a buddy and I drove up to Toronto from his parents’ home in Michigan hoping to score some tickets to a show at the Hummingbird Theatre. They were only doing select gigs in theaters in a few cities across America. We scored some balcony seats for about 120 US dollars.

It was a great show. Very small and intimate. Not a bad seat in the house. But the night was soured because I couldn’t quit thinking about how much we’d spent to see them. I kept hoping that they’d play certain songs (Talk Show Host mainly) and frankly felt a little ripped off ( PLAY SOME B-SIDES DAMMIT!!!).

To punctuate the evening me and my buddy got into a fight because I wanted to eat at this Hooters by our hostel and he wanted to go somewhere local. We ended up wandering the streets looking for something open, both of us hungry and bitchy. We finally settled on a Falafel joint and went back to our room to smoke and go to sleep.

I’d go on to stand outside of 3 more concerts that tour, increasingly dissatisfied with their set lists. Why was I such a malcontent? Why did I suddenly dislike them?

Or was I just frustrated at how distant the band seemed from me in relation to that first concert? It seemed like every frat boy and douchebag liked Radiohead now.  Some of these yahoos probably couldn’t tell the difference between them and Coldplay. But Radiohead’s increasing popularity was driving the price for tickets up and it was damn near impossible to get floor seats for their shows.

So yeah I was sour. This was (probably?) silly backlash, and a juvenile response for their success. They were no longer this underground band that made me feel cool to be at their show. Just observing the crowds and hearing them scream like groupies at Thom made me sick. I  needed a break.

I skipped the In Rainbows tour for that reason and because most of the songs on that album I’d seen previewed on the theaters tour in ’06.

I wasn’t exactly sure if i’d see them on the King of Limbs Tour. My buddy Roach was very excited about the new stuff and had already bought a floor ticket for the Dallas show. He’d had good reports. Said it was easily the best show he’d seen by them.

This was encouraging.

So there I was.  I was 33 years old watching a show in a venue I’d worked at in my early 20’s, working shows like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tool, and Tom Petty. Hanging with some old school Austin friends. The moment was speaking to me. The douchebags and sorostitutes weren’t bothering me that much either. I even had a real job.

But what the fuck was I still doing in Tulsa when there was a bad ass city like Austin for me to live in?

“If you think this is over then you’re wrong.”

The show was incredible. And easily the best set I’d ever seen by them. They had somehow surpassed the Dallas ’98 gig. I realized a few things that night.

They were not going to break up. In fact they were better than ever. Somehow they were also super funky, with lots of poly rhythms and percussion. The addition of Deamer added a lot to the set (kind of when Talking Heads added more musicians to their live act).

They seemed so loose also. In my head I attributed it to them taking a dip at Barton Springs, and getting in tune with the city.

Greenwood was wearing a Texas shirt. The audience showed them so much love. You could tell they were enjoying themselves. Yorke even told jokes on stage.

” what do you call a fish with three eyes?”

A Fiiish” 

Yea I didn’t get it either at first.

But it was a perfect night that had given me something to think about. Mainly that I was way too liberal to be living in Oklahoma. But I was living there for a reason. Part of that was because I had a decent paying job that would allow me to do some crazy shit like I was doing this month.

I only got to spend a day and a half there on this venture but I’d be back in four short days for a week of mayhem. But I was not prepared for what I was about to encounter in the monster that SXSW had become.

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