The Culture of Celebrity

I remember as a young kid my grandmother would always get the National Enquirer in the checkout lanes in the supermarket.  My parents used to laugh because she would believe all that celebrity gossip that went on in that rag, even though they spent a lot of time fighting slander lawsuits.  She died before the internet really took hold, but its really amazing to see how the National Inquirer no longer exists but the internet has replaced it ten fold.  The news breaks immediately, everyone sends out the same scoop and then they spend the next several days getting any additional information about a “news event” to push viewers to their site to view their content and advertising.

Take for example the recent death of Chris Cornell.  I get a text alert at 3am on Thursday morning, informing me of his death in Detroit.  No cause of death, just that he is dead.  By the time I wake up at 7am, still no cause. but by 8am it appears that he may have committed suicide, but its just speculation.  Rumors.

Then it becomes known that his wife had been trying to reach him after speaking to him and him saying “I’m just tired”.

Then it becomes known that he hanged himself in the bathroom of his hotel room.

The next day the coroner comes back with a report of his death ruled as a suicide.  The family denies this and asks for toxicology reports.

Then it becomes known that he was on a strong anti-anxiety medication, that he took too many that night.

Was that final performance that night, was he off?  Did he make some mention of what was to come?

What did him and his wife talk about before she hung up with him?  Why did she have security guards do a welfare check 20 minutes after they hung up?

Why did it take so long for his own security detail to get access to his hotel?  Why did he have an exercise band around his neck in the shower?

When will his memorial be?

Is there going to be a memorial concert?

Can we visit his grave?  When can we do that?

It just keeps going on and on…. and guess what?  His death should be no more than a conversational topic for you.  You don’t know Chris Cornell.  You don’t know what he was feeling that night.  You don’t know the anxiety that all of this gave him.  You didn’t know he was on anti-anxiety medication and none of us knows why either.  It doesn’t matter either.  He’s gone, he didn’t leave a note, he didn’t leave a bunch of breadcrumbs leading up to that moment, you can go back through his whole catalog, his whole career and find some deep, dark areas that most of us have never been nor would we want to go there.

You also have probably never experience fame or wealth at that level, where everyone feels like they are judging your body of work.  Cornell was one of the biggest talents to come out of the Seattle music scene– he didn’t have many enemies, he wasn’t add odds with either Pearl Jam or Nirvana, although they were at odds with each other.  He lived more in his years than 10 of us will –he was one of the lucky ones, one of the guys that made it, one of the guys that survived an number of addictions in his life, even after he had made.  He was like a Tom Cat with nine lives, but eventually, they wear out.  He burned out, came back and now he will fade away…. and so will this crush so many people seem to have on his death.  In the end, it doesn’t matter how we die, it’s that we are dead.  Our moment to meet the maker has come and we have chosen to walk with him.  The rest simply doesn’t matter, except for his family.

I’ll never forget the moment that Kurt Cobain died– it was April 8th,  1994, my great friend TJ and I were driving back from a Pearl Jam show in Rochester, NY.  During the song GO, Eddie dedicated the song to Kurt.  He had been missing for a couple of days at that point and they found his body the next morning, the same morning we were driving back from the show.  The details of that death came out a lot of the same way that this one did, sketch details.  They wouldn’t say who it was they found at Kurt’s house in Seattle, only that they had found a body.  Everyone knew what that meant.  A few hours later they confirmed, it was Cobain.  Still, years later, people are still convinced he was murdered– but guess what?  It doesn’t matter.  These are troubled people and maybe that’s why we are so attracted to them, we covet them and the reality is, they are becoming more and more rare as music becomes more electronic and more about what everything else sounds like instead of being angry and original.

 

Death on the High Seas

I have been thinking a lot about last weeks post about wrapping up seeing Dave Matthews at the Gorge– the tour ended soon after I wrote that post and I am still thinking about what it is about the music that kept me so loyal over the years — I found it something particularly hard to explain to my father, who has for years watched me to go to these shows and he and my mom would both ask why the hell I would go and watch the same band so many times.  My immediate response would always be that it is hard to explan, they wouldn’t understand, blah blah blah.

The reality is/was that I didn’t have a reason in particular other than the face that time after time, I would happen to catch what appeared to be a great set and I would just keep coming back for more.

But on the other hand, I also started to realize that what draws me to the music is that it all feels so genuine.  The songs he is writing come directly from him strange and twisted mind and that in some ways gives me comfort to know that someone so full of talent is just as confused and worried as the rest of us– his problems, his worries, they all feel like the same ones that we are dealing with and I don’t really get that from other artists.

A great example is juxtaposing their shows to the Foo Fighters, another band which I have a lot of respect for– while I found Dave Grohl to be an amazing front man, I didn’t find his stage presence genuine and slightly rehearsed (that might sound like I didn’t like the show, but I did).  You can tell through Matthews music that he really means what he is talking about with most of the lyrics– and the range of things he discussed are wide ranging.

The reason I bring this up is a song he opened up with on the last night of the Gorge, A new song called, Death on the High Seas.  My wife was really moved by this song and it kicked off a nice night of music which we both appreciated.  Today my friend McAdoo posted this song’s explaination, so I wanted to post this because I think you can really understand Dave’s process here: (Note the quirkiness of likeliness to a freshly popped pimple)

Now, here is a copy of the performance from Sunday nights show at the Gorge:

 

It’s the combination of these two videos that show the authenticity– its a little bit of joking, the freshly popped pimple.. but there it is, that’s how songs come together– as weird as it is, you get a little look into this process, but also the things that keep us fathers up at night– wanting to provide and protect our kids– that is some pretty deep stuff– and most of us don’t have the talent to take those fears and turn them into songs — songs that he pays for 30,000 people.  Sometimes they are good and sometimes they aren’t but his process is respectable.

Winding down

The end of summer has always been a busy time and this year was no exception.  Last week I talked about my last trip to the Gorge to see Dave Matthews for awhile, but I don’t think I mentioned that we were going to the Gorge the very next weekend to close out the season with a Foo Fighters show.  That is what we were up to this weekend and it was another great weekend with some good friends.  We opted to get a hotel at the last minute over camping at Wildhorse campground again.  We couldn’t get a place in Ellensburg, we Moses Lake was our destination for the night– 40 miles in the opposite direction, but when you are in Eastern Washington, 40 miles of road is like 12 miles of city road.  It added a little bit of time to get there, but overall it was worth it.

The show was a great one to end on– Gary Clarke Jr. was the opening act and I feel like he is my top pick for new music in 2014-2015– a talented bluesman from Austin, TX, Clarke was featured in the Sonic Highways documentary that this tour was supposed to be showcasing, but the Foo Fighters only managed to play a couple of tracks from the series here.

Overall, this was a greatest hits show– mostly catered to the loads of fans who have yet to see the Foo Fighters live, the show was full of their top songs and a couple obscure ones… but they rocked it.  Since it was my first time of seeing the Foos, I was amazed at the overall energy that they bring and how hard they rock and pay attention to make sure the fans are engaged.

Here’s the setlist:

foosetlistGrohl did a great job of entertaining the crowd, almost to the point where it got mildly annoying when he kept telling us how this show is going to go all night long, how this was going to be the longest set ever, how blah blah blah and yet it ended just prior to 11:30, blaming the curfew, but just the weekend before the Dave Matthews Band rocked it out until 1152.  The setlist was full of hits and full of covers that everyone would be familiar with, including Queens “Under Pressure”, which was good, but its not my favorite song.

The Setlists have been all too familiar, the same throughout this tour– which I am not a fan of– its makes the music stale for the band, which is turn becomes stale to the fans– I didnt feel too much of this during their set, except you could kind of tell that the band was stallking a couple of times– and they started late.  8:45 start time to 11:30 is 2:45 minutes– a good time for a set with 22 songs for sure, but there was a lot of chatter– most of it welcomed, but some of it was a little everlong– he kept asking the crowd if they wanted to party all night and everyone shouted yes, yes, but in the end they didnt break curfew— they didnt even do an encore– which is kind of unheard of, but after 22 songs, we were ready to call it a night and I wouldnt have mentioned any of this if Dave hadnt kept saying that we better be ready to go all night…

It was a fitting closure to seeing shows at the Gorge for awhile.  I love going to see certain acts there, but it is such an effort to get out there and see bands, particularly when you go out and camp at a place like Wildhorse– and as I mentioned in my prior blog post, I am wrapping up my Labor Day Gorge traditions to spend more time with my little ones, who are growing up too fast.  The crowd for the Foos was a lot more managable than with Dave shows, purchasing tickets was a lot easier– no going back and forth between fan club tickets and regular tickets, the General Admission area wasnt packed at all like it is with the DMB PIT area and the sing alongs were just as awesome as at a DMB show– and dare I say it, Grohl is MUCH more of a showman that Dave Matthews— he really works the crowd, hes very funny at the right times and holds almost a conversation with the crowd and he teases his band, which is also pretty fun to sit back and watch.  Pat Smear played the MTV theme song (which they seem to do in every city), it’s things like that where you notice these guys are really trying to entertain the crowd and for the most part it works– until you look at all the other cities and you see its virtually the same setlist from city to city– and then you wonder if it’s the same jokes– if its the same audience participation pieces, if every audience is going to be partying all night with the FOO FIGHTERS….

That and they didnt play I am a river… so here is a little clip of the song from behind the scenes…

Then again, this doesn’t show how it should end up when they play it…

I will be loading up a couple of videos I took of the show in the next couple of days, but here’s a little pano shot I took that doesnt quite give the perspective of how close we were…

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The Last Stop

IMG_6889As we rode up from the Gorge pit for the last time, I couldn’t help but get a little nostalgic watching the view from the back of a golf cart traveling to the General Parking area.  It is time to hang up my Dave Gorge shoes for a little while.  The band played their 50th show at the Gorge this weekend and its not too many of those shows that I didn’t attend.  I think the only three pack of shows I missed entirely was 10 years ago when I was in China.

Giving up the Gorge has been on my mind for a few years now, really since having children, but the addition of Liam makes it simply too long to be away from your family.  Four (for some five) days away from your kids is a lot of time– sure people do it all the time, but these little guys– I miss too much being gone.  I missed the life that we have now– and I would say I also missed my wife, but she was able to sneak away for a night, which was perfect.

And that is the other reason why this is specifically the year to say goodbye.  Perfection is every way– it took many years of going to the gorge, sleeping in the shithole that General Camping used to be, then moving to Vantage and sleeping down the road at Getty’s Cove, then sleeping in the hippy hills to the left of the Gorge until finally finding Wildhorse.  Wildhorse in the real Mecca– and Dave is the Jesus that we follow. I use that term because there isn’t anything I have done so many times (82 shows in 20 years, which equates to about 4.2 shows a year).  Every year at Wildhorse, it is much like the last– good friends, good fun, great music and a chance to let it all out– party up however you choose, there is a bus (DO-NUTS, DO-NUTS, DO-NUTS) to take you to the show every night and get back to the campground, where they are serving Burgers (WILDBURGER!!!) and Chicken, Garlic Fries, etc– and its not even that much of a rip off!

This year of course, was perfect.  My buddy Sully and his amazing wife held me a spot since they decided to arrive on Wednesday and we couldn’t get there until Thursday, so he held tight to a spot right across from them. I went up with my buddy and brother, Sam Ali.  Sam knows how to throw down proper.  I couldn’t have asked for a better co-pilot on this last Labor Day– we did it right.  Upon our arrival at the campsite, in the dusk of the setting sun, we quickly set up our camp and got down to business.  We loaded up the battery, turned on the tunes and let the party begin!  The night before the show, the campers are always a little looser, wanting to get to see everyone together, to say hello to old friends and our camp was one of the places to check in and do that.  Dance party at 1am was pretty epic.  And that is a big part of it all– the camping and just hanging out with friends without a care in the world, except how much ice is in your drink or cooler at any given time.

But I started to notice that the shows themselves have a lot of lulls for me personally now that I used to look past as additional songs would play.  I have now seen Ants Marching performed 40 times, Billies 39 times, Two Step 39 times– you kind of get my point.  Every show has its moments, but having seen DMB for 20 years now, there isn’t enough new stuff for me to keep seeing them multiple times a year– which is where my other problem lies– I am not a fan of the newer stuff.  The last album, Away From The World is a good album to listen to, but the songs live just don’t seem to do it for me. All in all, there are about half the songs in the catalog I really like seeing live and about half that I never heard them again, it would be okay.

Which is where I started to notice the difference in my personal view of the band and other fans.  I don’t need DMB to liberate songs that suck just because they haven’t played them in awhile.  A bad song is still a bad song, so the last few years have brought back some songs, particularly from the Stand Up days, that I would have preferred that they stay in the archives.  People want to hear stuff they haven’t heard before– I get that — and that’s the thing– I have pretty much heard it all, and in some cases 40 times!  Now that being said, 40 times over 20 years isn’t terrible, but I think its enough. 🙂  The community in the DMB has changed dramatically over the years, in the original days, it was the frat dick partiers who would constantly scream “HAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOWWWWEEEEEEEN” and that took a LONG time to die off (and then I tried to bring it back #zerofucksgiven) With the onslaught of the internet, the band is much more viral than they used to be– and constant new groups polluting the web talking about anytime any band member does anything– its crazy and overwhelming.  Keeping up with groups and information and coordination can be a full time job with no pay if you let it– and you have to have a thick skin for all of the drama that comes out of people– but for all of that, good things happen.

IMG_6832Take for example the outpouring of support for someone in our community that died suddenly a couple of weeks before she was set to come and get married at Wildhorse Campground.  I had the pleasure of knowing Carrie and Jeremy over the last couple of years and having a lot of fun with them as a couple– when she died suddenly, the group stepped together and got some fundraising together and followed it up with an auction of items to help pay for costs — and Jeremy decided he needed to come out, which he did.  They held a simply beautiful memorial for her, planting a tree and a dedication plaque at Wildhorse.  That was a highlight of all the years– to see a group of people coming together to help support Jeremy and Carrie in such a great time of grief– I am sure he will always appreciate that and I know she will always look down and smile upon all of it.  The community is a lot like your own family– there are some that are pure love, some assholes, some people you would rather not talk to, but most of them are people you would loan money to or give the (Dave) shirt off your back.

It really comes down to my kids, my family.  5 days away from the kids is tough, even if you are partying down and having a good, good time, I realized this weekend that I am taking time away from all of them and that’s not fair– they are young guys and Elliott said he missed me and you could tell that he meant it.  He doesn’t get it and he shouldn’t — I should be here for him, going to the park or whatever it is that he wants to do– and I realized that this weekend, like an epiphany.

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It’s been a great run.  I have seen some REALLY amazing things in my 70 or so shows since that first show in 1995, but its time to find new adventures on Labor Day and commit myself to seeing only one DMB show a year at most.   I have met some GREAT people over the years and we will keep in touch and hopefully camp and do all the things we enjoy. Who knows, maybe in 13 years, they will still be doing the Gorge every year and Elliott and I can go for the weekend… but I will be 56 years old then and Dave will be pushing 60… God help us.

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