Top Track: "Make Me A Bird"

I was watching something the other day and something happened that doesn't happen very often these days.

I heard something I had to hear again, immediately. 

I nearly forgot to pay attention to the show, I was so busy trying to listen to the music. But the scene itself did in fact strike me as pretty interesting.

A lanky blonde Swedish kid with lips like Angelina reclines in a chair on the bottom of the vast, white basin of an empty indoor pool, lit from above by a single broad beam of bluish light. It's that lighting reserved for classic interrogation scenes, the kind that obscures everything not directly beneath it. He's brooding (which is typical of this particular character) and sulky (also pretty typical) and by now I'd say he has pretty good reason. He's working on a dark bottle of something, and a cigarette. There's a small stereo next to him, blasting out this song. 

And I just imagined the weird and fabulous acoustics of an indoor pool, and I thought to myself, if I were in that position, I'd probably play this song exactly. It reminds me of everything I like about the Donnie Darko soundtrack. It's like The Smiths, it's like Skream. I'm probably going to need to check out a little more of Elektrik People. 

One of those rare moments when the context and the content fit perfectly.

Don't you love it when that happens? Nothing at all could come of the spark of interest, or it could become the flavor of the month, or your new favorite band, but it doesn't really matter because you got what you didn't know you were looking for? 

It made me so happy. I'm going to listen to this song all by myself with my headphones on tonight, and shake my head in time when it says "beyond the comforts of the sick, sick game". 

Dedication: To My Dad (and all other dads who love Led Zeppelin)

My dad, very famously, hung onto his bell-bottom pants well into the Eighties. He once explained to me that he realized the whole bell-bottoms movement illustrated to him that Fashion was fickle, and the rules change on an unfair dime, so wear what you want whether it's trendy or not ("There was an Alice Cooper album that came out around that time called 'Flush the Fashion'... I took it to heart." -Dad). When bell-bottoms returned to the mode, he triumphantly held it over my mom ("See? Everything cycles back." -Dad) who had made him get rid of them, at some point ("Yeah, but never exactly the same way." -Mom).

Well, like father like daughter. I still internally mourn the return of skinny jeans because I love living in "flares". I got my first pair when I was twelve, I think, and fact: I still own a pair, purchased new in the last 9 months. I was a little more sensitive about my clothes when I was a middle-schooler, before I realized I could always just Flush the Fashion. A boy in my seventh grade once said to me, "Hey, Brooke! The Seventies called. They want their clothes back."

I took this arrow to the heart and laid bare my hurt (and confusion) to my father that night, who said "Well, you just tell him, 'Hey Trey, Led Zeppelin called. They said they like my clothes.'" 

Since we all know comebacks are a dish best served cold (right? oh, wait), I did tell that to Trey, the next day. He made a surprised face and said, "Your dad likes Led Zeppelin?" (In retrospect, since I was a bespectacled twelve-year-old grammar nazi with tucked-in t-shirts, he probably figured my dad was essentially pre-time-travel-encounter George McFly .)

I know it might seem that way, but I've inherited a lot more from my father than my passion for music. I look just like him, for starters. I have my dad's face, transposed onto a girl's body, with a reasonable filter of Mom. We've got the same green eyes and skinny, tan-resistant legs (by the way, thanks again to Trey for the comment "Day-um, girl, you got some white legs," which signified the end of my wearing shorts for the next seven years). We both are good listeners. We both have weird senses of humor. Neither of us have much use for the insincere. We both have warm hearts and we both love the Gospel. We both have testimonies of the good that comes from sharing it, he from his mission, me from my missionary experiences. I hope when I grow up I also develop his patience, his determination, his aptitude toward forgiveness, and his love for his children.

He doesn't always say the right thing, but when it matters most, I can always count on him for sage advice. He's a wise man, longstanding affection for bell bottoms notwithstanding. I thank my mom for taking a chance on the bachelor whose silverware was rusted together from disuse, who bought dog food weekly from a convenience store, and who unceremoniously dumped crumbled Doritos on top of the first meal she ever cooked for him. And I thank my dad for being the guy he is, because it definitely helped to make me the girl I am.

Yes, my dad likes Led Zeppelin. In fact, I think all dads like Led Zeppelin, and definitely, all dads who like Led Zeppelin should make it part of their child's education and upbringing. The future will probably be a little more secure if the upcoming generations know the virtues of Led Zeppelin. And friends, I am here to report it is capable hands.

As evidence, I submit Rigby, heretofore known as "The Boy" on the Internet. Named by his bodaciously cool parents, Adam and Lydia, after a Beatles song, Rigby charmed me into oblivion one of the first times I met him. We had a conversation a few months later that went something like this:

Me: (fiddling with the music) How about this band?
Rigby: (listens for a moment; lights up) Yeah! Led Zeppelin!
Me: Led Zeppelin? Why are they your favorite?
Rigby: (grinning) Because of "Black Dog".
Me: "Black Dog"? Is that your favorite Led Zeppelin song? Will ya sing it with me later?
Rigby: (nods, plays with Gameboy Color)
Me: When do you like to listen to Led Zeppelin?
Rigby: When I'm with my dad in the car.
Me: Do you sing real loud with it in the car?
Rigby: (flops his head in an emphatic nod, smiling) Yeeeeaaah.
Me: Any other songs you like?
Rigby: "Rock 'n Roll". (EDIT: He is also known to cite, among others, "The Rain Song" and... "Going to California" if I'm not mistaken?)
Me: What would you say to a friend who said he didn't like Led Zeppelin?
Rigby: (stumped, avoids the question by further playing with Gameboy Color)
Me: You probably wouldn't have a friend like that, huh. We don't associate with those kinds of people.

Then we put on "Black Dog" and had ourselves a good old time. Watch an earlier "Black Dog" jam sesh here.

Yes, thank heaven, stairway included, for Led Zeppelin. And bell bottoms. And especially, for good dads.

Since Spotify does not have Led Zeppelin (boo!), I have put together a makeshift (very makeshift) list, similar to the one for Mother's Day, that further represents me and my papa bear. You will find it here: Dad

For Your Playlist: Side A
1. "Be Free" by Loggins & Messina
2. "Far Cry" by Rush (live 2008 version)
3. "The Pretender" by Jackson Browne
4. "John, I'm Only Dancing" by David Bowie
5. "Rich Girl" by Hall & Oates
6. "Cosmik Debris" by Frank Zappa
7. "Mistral Wind" by Heart

For Your Playlist: Side B
1. "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young
2. "Pancho and Lefty" by Merle Haggard
3. "Victim of Changes" by Judas Priest
4. "Enter Sandman" by Metallica
5. "Shape of My Heart" by Sting
6. "Dogs" (live version) by Roger Waters

"I have no time for your cynic's mind": Mumford & Sons (Concert Post)

So, how was Mumford and Sons round two?

Everybody who's known me longer than a year or two (or knows me really well) knows I saw Mumford and Sons in 2011 when they last came to Arizona, for their Railroad Revival Tour. It was one of the best concert experiences I have ever had, although about 90% of the rest of the attendees would disagree. I got lucky and wriggled to the front long before the Gentlemen of the Road took the stage- I'm not one of those jerks who lunge through the crowd at the last minute, drunk and/or toting a girlfriend who whined about not being able to see. (Obviously I wouldn't be toting a girlfriend in any condition, but you know the front-row usurpers I mean.) Short people  single girls have it easy at general admission shows. Look up (way up) from under your lashes at just the right tall wifebeater-clad bro guys and you practically part the red sea, because you take up so little space that nobody minds if you stand in front of them, and they like to feel gallant. Mumford & Sons held their last Arizona show in a parking lot between some apartment complexes and the railroad tracks- and they probably oversold it just a little. I hear the people in the latter half couldn't see a darned thing.

But I was there, all by myself, and by the time the first two acts- the fabulous Old Crow Medicine Show and the breathtaking Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- finished, I was about three or four "rows" back. Alex from ESMZ even hopped over the fence to fraternize with us and I gave him something like a slow motion rapturous high-five. (Side note, I still don't listen to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros very much but they blew my mind with their live show.) We'd been standing for at least three hours by the time Mumford & Sons took the stage but the moment they did, a kind of euphoria swept the crowd. 

They were a much younger band, then. I know it was only two years, but it makes a big difference in band years. Musically speaking, they were not so good as they were on Wednesday, I think. Not that they were bad, mind. Not even close to bad. But I was still in shock of the Edward Sharpe business and the thought crossed my mind that they were good in concert, but not maybe great. But the spirit of the audience rose and rose, and we sang along, every word we knew. In fact, so many voices joined in the singing that more than once the audience drowned out the band. Yes. Just like how it happened according to Beatles lore, with screaming overpowering the amplifiers, only this audience was singing. 

A girl a few paces from me actually cried. I watched her passionately beat her fists in the air and bawl out the lyrics to "Winter Winds" as tears fell from her eyes. I've never seen that before.

Nor have I ever seen, before or since (although this is very circumstantial), how a crowd of people actually formed on the rooftops of the aforementioned apartments throughout the night. It gave one a feeling of being completely and utterly surrounded by music lovers, and that can really go a long way to connecting you to the music. 

The boys debuted "Lover's Eyes" that night, which would appear on Babel and it was so wonderful I paused to make a note of the lyrics. "Lord, forget all of my sins/Or let me die where I lie/Beneath the curse of my lover's eyes." Quintessential Mumford. Ok, so they never deviate from their favorite rhyme scheme. Ok, so sometimes they wax a little cheesy. But the lyrics (and the banjo/mandolin usage, and the fact that Marcus plays the drums and sings at the same time) are my favorite part of the Mumford and Sons act. I love, and always have loved, the way they capture what you might call big little moments. 

I've read criticism of Babel that complained that it was still playing the same everyman archtype- an average man's interactions with God and love, more melodramatic than momentous- that Sigh No More did. I think that if you've ever felt how big small moments can be, you know how much they resonate. Some people do not understand how strong such a frail thing as faith can feel, when you exercise it. That is what M&S's more spiritual songs make me think of: that moment when you discover, or rediscover, the power of small and simple truths. I can't even tell you how it felt, in my personal experience, to have left a bishop's office with a temple recommend in my hand after several years without. But the boys captured it to a degree when they wrote "The Cave". To most people, it was a little moment. To me, it was huge, swelling: "'Cos I need freedom now/and I need to know how/to live my life as it's meant to be." Mumford & Sons is, to me, the soundtrack to both struggles and, more importantly, second chances.

Anyway, the best part of the entire evening in April 2011, the night before my epistemology final, was the very end, when everyone on the train- all three bands, families, crew, everyone- got onstage together to sing a couple of songs, including "This Train Is Bound for Glory" by Woody Guthrie. The song lasted about eight minutes and it blew my mind. It was so genuine. Even the children up there with their parents were singing and wriggling with camaraderie. This, I remember thinking, was how music should always feel. Like being together joyfully with your loved ones. Oh, and the bearded, strumming ghosts of the folk singers who came before you. 

There was no such grand finale to the show on Wednesday. But that was ok- after a dynamite closing number ("Dust Bowl Dance") the encore was 2/3 acoustic (an intimate cover of "I'm on Fire" by Springsteen, & "Reminder", plus a full-throttle rendition of "The Cave"). I wasn't in the front- I was in the back, on the lawn, where the dust and grass and marijuana smoke were tickling my allergies. But that was ok too- I was with my irrepressible husband, and my friend Caitlin and her sister Tory. The unified crowd did not overpower the band this time. But that was ok too- it let their musicianship really show through, and I was proud that they, like me, had grown into themselves since the first time we met. I still thrilled and my heart felt full to bursting. What more could you ask from a band, or from a show, than to be sorry when it's over? 

In answer to your question, the second time was still really awesome. But I'm glad I've seen them twice.

If you've never heard Mumford & Sons (where have you been?) here's my favorite picks, even though they only have 2 albums and an EP or two's worth of material available. No Time For Cynics is the name of the Spotify playlist, and these are the tracks:

For Your Playlist: Side A
1. "I Will Wait" from Babel (I was disappointed with it as a single but it grew on me in a big way)
2. "The Cave" from Sigh No More
3. "Roll Away Your Stone" from Sigh No More
4. "Below My Feet" from Babel (My favorite)
5. "Dust Bowl Dance" from Sigh No More 

For Your Playlist: Side B
1. "Awake, My Soul" from Sigh No More 
2. "Lover's Eyes" from Babel
3. "Not With Haste" from Babel
4. "Devil's Spoke/Sneh Ko Marg" from the Dharohar Project EP with Laura Marling, & Dharohar Project
I actually wanted to make it "To Darkness" which is the early version of what became "Broken Crown" on Babel but Spotify's copy is missing the last half of the song... :(
Bonus tracks:
5. "Janglin'" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
6. "James River Blues" by the Old Crow Medicine Show
7. "I Will Wait" cover by Gavin Mikhail
Covers are a good way to tell if you like the song itself- more on that in another post. I thought this was a beautiful cover of a beautiful song.

My prince & me, 6 months 
"Now you can have butterfly shoes AND go to Mumford & Sons."