Archive for ‘Flashback’

November 10, 2010

Flashback: Life Is Good

A couple of days ago, I looked down at my most-worn pair of boots and noticed that they looked weird. They used to be a nice polished grey, and after four years of frequent use, they have a cool vintage weathered look, but looking at them, I noticed that the toe was discolored an odd khaki-tan. Upon closer inspection, the tan turned out to be dust and dirt, and I realized it was the residue from a trip out to Canton, MA, back in September for the Life is Good festival. (I should start cleaning my boots.)

The festival was a two day event but we only went on the second day to see Guster and Jason Mraz. Getting to Canton from Boston meant taking the commuter rail for the first time, which was a 20-minute non-adventure, and to get to the 40-acre farm that hosted the festival took another bus ride. But not just any bus ride. On September 12, 2010, I rode my very first yellow schoolbus. It wasn’t as magical as I’d been led to believe it would be (a friend of mine calls me Miss Frizzle because of my hair, and because we’re not friends), but I was still pretty excited. I won’t lie, though: I’ve been more comfortable sitting in coach on a transatlantic flight. But that was one more thing off the bucket list! Another thing I can check off? Seeing Guster.

The first Guster song I ever heard was “Amsterdam”, and it was the gateway drug that triggered my addiction. Or something like that. I put Guster on repeat when I was packing for college, and whenever I listen to “Careful”, I’m immediately transported back to my room deciding which useless thing I should leave, and which I should bring before ultimately packing both. I packed so many useless things. But Guster will forever be the soundtrack to my last summer living at home, and I mean that in a wonderful way.

Unfortunately their set at Life is Good was short, but it was also wonderful. There’s nothing like standing in a field with a couple hundred strangers scream-singing and counting down “4, 3, 2, 1…”. My boyfriend had to explain to me what “Barrel of a Gun” was actually about, though. I won’t write it out, but let’s just say it’s a euphemism, and that the song makes so much more sense now.

The farm was the perfect place for the festival. Even though Boston isn’t a particularly “Big City” city, getting away from it for an evening was a nice change of pace. And getting away from it to see Guster was a pretty great excuse.


October 2, 2010

Flashback: The John Butler Trio

We listened to a lot of music on our Eurotrip, but the culminating event was undoubtedly the Optimus Alive!08 Festival in Lisbon. We heard about some kind of music thing from Australian backpackers who were on the train with us from Madrid to Lisbon, but we didn’t realize the scale of it until we saw the billboard outside of the train station. It announced Bob Dylan, Rage Against the Machine, Neil Young, The National, Ben Harper, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, The Hives and just about everyone else you could think of. But for my best friend, Irem, and I, only one name stood out — The John Butler Trio.

His album “Grand National” gave me one of my favorite songs of all time: “Daniella,” a funky, sexy tribute to his wife. (Listen here.) Besides having the honor of being on my “Favorite Songs Ever” playlist, I instinctively put on “Daniella” whenever I’m on a plane or get into a Shanghai cab. It never fails to put a smile on my face or get me singing and dancing, which is pretty much the criteria for getting on my “Favorite Songs Ever” playlist. It’s just a wonderful song written by a man for his wife. It’s a song you want to jam to, while secretly hoping that someone’s writing a song like this about you too. Unfortunately, the Trio didn’t play it at Optimus Alive!, but they did play “Zebra.”

“Zebra” was the first John Butler song I ever listened to. It introduced me to this bluesy, country twang, sometimes reggae-inspired jam band genre that later made me love Dispatch and the Black Keys. And when I heard John Butler play “Zebra,” I was screaming by the opening note. People turned with raised eyebrows and looked at me, but it really didn’t matter. Come on! It’s Zebra! And it was amazing.

We got to the concert at around four, and after making the rounds and checking out the other booths, we decided to head to the still pretty empty stage area and wait for John Butler. They weren’t scheduled to play until around 7.30, I think, but we didn’t want to risk ending up in the back. The only other people there were dressed all in black. They’d been standing there in the hot sun since the gates opened, waiting for Within Temptation, a goth-rock band following the Trio. They made it very clear that they weren’t moving for nobody. So instead we joined them. By the time the first act, a ska-folk-gypsy big band, was done, the audience had filled the space completely and we were locked in. We had forgotten to get drinks or food, but I had danced so hard to the other band, I asked the kind woman in front of us for a sip of her water. I’ve never asked a stranger that before or since.

Around a quarter to six, an announcement was made that Nouvelle Vague, playing before JBT, were stuck at the airport and wouldn’t make it. Instead, the John Butler Trio had agreed to go on early. Yes. Irem and I were a little disappointed to see that John Butler had cut off his beautiful signature dread locks. “It’s not the real John Butler,” we whined. But as they opened with “Treat Yo Mama,” maybe the only twangy rock song that makes me want to start recycling, we quickly realized that this was definitely the real John Butler. And he’s amazing.

“Zebra” was their closing. Every single person was singing along, which is easy because it doesn’t have that many real words in it. It made me understand why Woodstock 1969 was so special. It truly was music bringing people together. I wrote in my travel journal that night that walking to the gates of Optimus Alive! felt like our holy pilgrimage, and that I only wish it was annual. Irem and I have been to quite a few concerts together, and there’s few things as cathartic and scream-singing with your best friend. That’s what John Butler was, combine with the awe of seeing one of your favorite artists do what they do best.

I found a video of the festival on YouTube, but excuse the poor quality:

Here’s the real video for the song:

Sadly, I lost my camera’s memory card, so none of us have pictures or videos of that night, although many were taken. I found this video from the festival of Shannon Birchall’s solo on the bass, and Michael Barker’s drum solo. It gives you an idea of the musical genius we witnessed. When Michael Barker threw his sticks into the crowd, this very very tall, very very scary Scandinavian guy behind us caught one. We asked if we could have it, but he refused, saying that he’d sell it on eBay later. He didn’t even know who John Butler Trio was! We didn’t press it, though, because earlier he’d yanked a drunk girl by the hair unto the ground because she was pushing her way to the front. He apologized profusely, but still, a very very scary guy.

While I was watching the video, I thought to myself, “You know, we were pretty close to the stage. Couldn’t it be possible that you can see me in this video? I was wearing my red shirt that day!” So I looked, but it was harder than I thought: Red was popular.

But then! Was that me?It could be! But even though that person’s wearing red, I don’t think I had my bag with me that day, and their hair looks darker. Also, I think that’s a man.

September 27, 2010

Flashback: Miracle Fortress

Poetaster by Miracle Fortress

After I graduated high school, my friends and I went on a one month backpacking tour of Southern Europe. Starting in Istanbul, we took a train to Athens, but suffered a minor setback when my best friend was asked by Greek border patrol to kindly return to Turkey. It was 3 am, and the official noticed that her visa wasn’t valid for another 24 hours. As reasonable as any border patrolman can be when dealing with an 18 year-old girl at 3 am in the middle of nowhere, he told her to get off this train at once, stand on the opposite platform, next to a tack board plastered with Missing Persons posters, and wait for the next train to take her back to Turkey. No amount of in-plain-sight money counting or wink-winking could convince this guy to just let her stay in Greece. Our friend accompanied her back and they caught a flight to Athens the next day, meeting the rest of us at the Acropolis, where I was contracting a violent case of food poisoning.

Leaving Athens, we took a ferry to the tiny island of Corfu where we had the glorious sun-burnt beach vacation we all desperately needed. (My best friend almost experienced another immigration complication when a few people in our group wanted to go to take a boat to Albania for the day. Luckily the kind ferryman informed her beforehand that her EU visa was only single-entry and should she enter Albania, she would be forbidden to return to Corfu.) From Corfu, we left Greece and took a ferry to Serranto, Italy, which is when I took this picture.

It was an overnight ferry that was scheduled to leave Corfu at 6.30 pm and actually left at 11.45. We couldn’t afford a cabin, so instead we made ourselves comfortable on the deck, on top of our luggage, wearing every long-sleeved long-trousered piece of clothing we had packed. It was freezing, but we tried to get some sleep. I woke up around 4 or 5ish in the morning, put on my iPod and watched the sunrise. The sky turned that shade of pink the moment “Poetaster” by Miracle Fortress came on. It couldn’t have been timed better. I might have actually shaken my head because it was too perfect. It has that new beginnings, everything’s going to be okay, we’re heading into the unknown and it’s awesome feeling to it. It’s ideal for a sunrise.

I put this song on whenever I get on a plane, too, but it doesn’t have the same effect as when you’re watching the sunrise from the deck of a Greek ferry as your friends are lying all around you approaching hypothermia. That’s magic you can’t fake.