diamonds in the rough...

am I buggin you? I don't mean to bug ya.

Tuesday, 03 January 2006

New Year's resolutions. Bah. Who keeps those things? Well, this year I've got a good one for you, one that should be easier to keep than the rest.

You should see more live local music in 2006.

Yes, yes, I'm more than a little biased. I play music and write about music for a living. God forbid you're one of those poor souls who has randomly asked me a question about music only to be treated to a well-intentioned filibuster about some aspect of playing, recording or writing about music. Sorry 'bout that. But what can I say, I dig it. You should see more of it.

I was talking with a friend recently who lamented never having seen Ray LaMontagne play in Portland prior to his meteoric rise. She goes to Portland often on business, and now she's a huge fan. "If I had a nickel for every time I saw him listed in Face Magazine...," she said bitterly. That's how it goes though. No one knows him for 29 years, and then boom, nobody can get enough of him. Was his amazing voice any less soulful a month before he was discovered? I don't think so.

It's funny to think of LaMontagne's well dressed, hushed, sold out audience from his November show at The Music Hall climbing down the stairs of Portland's grungy Alehouse back in the day. They probably weren't there, but Ray was. Or if not there, he was playing some other dive. Songs aren't born in a vacuum. They need a place to grow up, like in the little haunts that freckle the Seacoast: The Press Room, The Blue Mermaid, The Brick House, The Stone Church and The Dolphin Striker among many, many others.

The point isn't that you should expect you're seeing the next huge national star when you head out to a local room on a Thursday night, but that Ray L. was Ray L. before you knew about him. He's out there right now in bars and clubs across the country, and not every Ray LaMontagne "makes it." Quite the opposite, in fact.

And if you really think about it, can anyone deny that this work, these songs, helps make up the very fabric of our lives? Taking away songs would be like if you took away the fall foliage, or coming home to the smell of your mother cooking something wonderful, or if a beautiful sunset were cancelled.

Do you know who Mildred and Dr. Patty Hill are? They're the sisters who wrote "Happy Birthday." What would your next birthday be like if you just kind of stood around and looked at the cake and didn't sing that song? It's a simple change, but it would be weird. What if Neil Doherty hadn't suggested I tell the DJ to play "Stairway to Heaven" at the end of that freshman year high school dance? No eight minutes dancing with Jen Jandebeur. What if Randy Newman never wrote a score to "The Natural?" Would you still get goosebumps without that? No, "Duh NUUUUHH NUH-nuh-nuh!" Just a crack of the bat, and you know, cheers from the crowd, I guess. Slow motion as Redford rounds the bases in silence. Hmm.

My passion hasn't completely blinded me. I know I'm an idealist, and there are very few open mics that I can honestly compare to mom's cooking or a sunset. The point is, musical greatness doesn't just happen. It needs to be molded in the trenches of a hundred gigs, in front of real people like you.

Jon Nolan (was!) the contributing music editor for The Wire.

1 comment

  • Jon Nolan

    Jon Nolan

    this is an article i wrote when i worked at the wire..

    this is an article i wrote when i worked at the wire..

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