Music is a Restorative Art (When the Devil Leaves the Porch Light On)

Dino CorvinoBy Dino Corvino

I confess to being burnt out, at the thin end of the spectrum, the thin part of said long tail, a little bit crispy, a tired big man.  Sad droopy eyes, and short fuse and rage in my heart.  Boredom, city life treating me badly, workload overwhelming.  All of it.  Questioning my life choices, the way I live my life, all of it.  But Saturday something changed.  A giant geyser of hope opened in front of me, and made it all right.  Made the sky brighter, the water cleaner, the soapy soapier.  It made every pen a Parker Jotter, and every laptop a Powerbook G4, and everyone interested in Web 2.0.  It was amazing.  Tom Waits sat giggling on my couch.  Yeah, Tom Waits was giggling on my couch.

All of this because I went to Scott Street Pub to see a band.  Yeah, I am a homer for the Pub — but its more than that.  Bars take on new personalities from time to time.  Right now the Pub is Mohawk Matt, and I like Mohawk Matt.  Its funny to see him change to a grown up, but that is another thing.  The live music venue reflects the taste of  the boss, or the guy booking.  It just does.  And Matt has a pretty static palate as far as music goes.  His name is Mohawk Matt, so what do you expect.

The band was Lucky Stiffs from San Fransico.  A truly amazing band.  So tight, so rehearsed, so fearless.  They are a five piece, two guitar players, a singer, a bass player and a drummer named Rico, I think.  They are on a 70 day tour, 70 shows in 70 days.  Living in a van, selling their wares around the country.  Amazing young men.

The rock power was unstoppable.  Dangerous, aggressive, and amazing.  It reminded me the difference once again between a local talent and a national talent.  Local guys kind of sing songs, smirk and go about their business.  Not willing to risk alienating anyone with greatness, they settle in the shallow water musically.  Not nationals — they come to your town, rock your socks off, drink your beer, kiss your sister, and sleep on your floor.  They play their show, and while they want you to like them, they trust themselves to rock harder than your hometown guys.  They have committed to this adventure.  They are living in the van, they love each other, and this is what they are doing.  And Lucky Stiffs do that.  They bring the heat.  They blew the other two bands away that day, and honestly they blew everything I have seen away this year.  Across all genres

I like the spectrum’s end musically.  I like bands that are dangerous, and music played with real emotion.  It had been so long since I saw risk, that seeing this risk on stage made me happy in a way that only comes from seeing real rock and roll.  It was funny to see the crowd faced with greatness, unflinching power and passion, the crowd at the pub literally shirked.  It is funny to see in so many ways.  We scream for greatness, for inspiration, for someone to rise above the tree tops — and when they do, we have no idea how to respond.  My soul leapt to heights I had not expected.

I remember a few years ago seeing a band called The Shakin’ 78’s.  They will always be one of my favorite bands.  Always.  They dared to be great, and they delivered on it.  And people had no idea what to make of them.

So I say this: “Thank you to rock and roll.”

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5 responses to “Music is a Restorative Art (When the Devil Leaves the Porch Light On)

  1. When I read this….

    But Saturday something changed. A giant geyser of hope opened in front of me, and made it all right. Made the sky brighter, the water cleaner, the soapy soapier. It made every pen a Parker Jotter, and every laptop a Powerbook G4, and everyone interested in Web 2.0. It was amazing.

    I assumed you had found yourself a girlfriend.

  2. Thanks for your shout-out to the 78s, Dino; they were definitely a great band, although (since they’re my close friends, and I wrote some songs for them), I must admit being biased. You were always a consistent supporter, and I appreciate it.

    Still, I have no idea how someone like you – with such a keen eye, ear and heart for the talents of area musicians – can make this generalization:

    “It reminded me the difference once again between a local talent and a national talent. Local guys kind of sing songs, smirk and go about their business. Not willing to risk alienating anyone with greatness, they settle in the shallow water musically. Not nationals — they come to your town, rock your socks off, drink your beer, kiss your sister, and sleep on your floor. ”

    What does this mean? Even though the 78s played gigs across Wisconsin, they were primarily a “local” group. I’m a “local” musician, albeit with two locales (Wausau and Madison). You’ve admirably praised many “local” musicians on this blog, and your own, and now you suggest somehow that they’ve got less integrity or edge than “national” musicians, whoever they are?

    I’m lucky enough to play with musicians – in both Madison and Wausau – who are talented and interesting enough to make my various musical activities most rewarding, and – judging by their reactions – my “local” audiences (in both places) seem to agree.

    I’m not settling for anybody’s musical “shallow water,” nor do I think that living in a van will reward me with any extra talent or authenticity. Frankly, and with all due respect, that’s total garbage.

    You’re a smart music guy, Dino, and I’m sure that you can clarify your remarks. Otherwise, kindly give me a break…

  3. I had written a nice long response here. But I won’t do it.

    The fact is Charles that you and I both know that your musical expectations are high, and you do not play with morons and mouthbreathers. You play with guys who musically swim in the deep water. I know it. And you know that I know. Your musical pedigree is earned, and it is not uncommon knowledge, you earned it, and I know you earned it.

    I had a peak experience on Saturday, and wrote an emotional blog post. Sent it to Bill without too much thought, because I felt good.

    I suppose the picking out the section you did is okay. I understand. It makes me feel less than good, but okay.

    Thanks for expecting more of me.

  4. I don’t disagree with you that there’s a discernable difference between musicians who have “lower expectations” or goals and those with higher artistic/professional ambitions. I just don’t think it has anything significant to do with whether they’re “local,” “regional” “national” or whatever. More than that, I find myself ESPECIALLY disagreeing with the assumption that living in a van, traveling all the time and drinking other people’s beer is some entry into a higher level of musical pursuit. To me, it just sounds like the hard, sometimes tragic, life of working musicians who – in the service of following their passions (which you beautifully describe) – commit themselves to such pursuits.

  5. well written and enjoyable entry but where is the knockout tom wats denouement? i love tom waits stories but i feel widbagged by this one

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