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Everything is Free

You know, I go see a lot of live shows and it's easy in Portland because so many bands and performers make their way through here on their way to Seattle or San Fran... Portland is just a natural stop. As well, if a singer gets a good base of fans here, it bodes well for them since we have so many well versed music appreciators and musicians in our midst. Anyways, I haven't made it out to as many shows this year as I have in years past. I've actually been feeling a little apathetic recently on the live music scene.

And the thing is... I've tried to figure out where this apathy comes from but it's been hard to pin down and find an exact source. I don't know if it's because I've been busy with other things like bike racing or maybe I haven't been really "wowed" by new talent? Maybe its just that some of my favorite artists haven't released a new album this year and so aren't touring? Maybe they are touring but playing the same songs I've heard over and over again? Or maybe it's just because my favorite filming camera broke and I couldn't bare the thought of going to see a show without it?

Or, maybe it's because I've had a list of "favorite artists to see before they or I kick it" and in the past year I've been able to cross off a lot of those artists. Living in Savannah Georgia, I hardly ever got the chance to see artists I liked and so as soon as I moved to Portland - I jumped at any opportunity to see a band I sorta even kinda liked. I mean, if I had heard of an artist and they had at least one song I liked, I went to go see them. And well, when it came to bigger ticket shows... I even coughed up the money to go see them along with a few thousand other people. Most memorable was two years ago when I went to see Bruce Springsteen. Even though I was in the nosebleeds at the Rose Garden (and I never go to see a show at the Rose Garden), it's one of my top ten concert experiences ever... just because, well... it's Bruce F*cking Springsteen!

Or, maybe it's because recently I've been able to have a more personal interaction with some of my favorite performers? Take for example: I for the longest time have love love loved Natalie Merchant (who I consider to be my gateway drug to intelligent music). I listened to Tigerlilly until the tape deck wore out and I had to buy a new one on CD. I went to Lilith Fair to see just her. I drove across state lines in tiny little New England towns so that I could see her again. At every show I went to, I stood there amongst all the other fans and sang along to every song. But, never in my life did I ever think I'd have the chance to meet her until this spring when my "Special Friend Scott" invited me to go see her at Kink FM's Live Performance Lounge with him. After the short set we got to meet Natalie and I'll never forget the moments that followed (nor will I really want to remember it for it was one of the weirdest, most awkward and oh so embarrassing moments of my life that followed).


(Natalie and Scott and I, Don't Ask)

As well, if you know me you know that I'm a HUGE Brandi Carlile fan. In fact, I never never never miss an opportunity to see her when she comes to town or has a smaller show up in Seattle. And well, I've had so many great Brandi shows and Brandi experiences in the past years that sadly, I've become a little bit spoiled and a little bit jaded. I mean, I actually have to lower my expectations for each show to be amazing because I don't want to walk away disappointed. But, it's hard and unfair to the band to beat some of the experiences I've had. I don't think anything could top being able to see Brandi in places like Portland's tiny Mississippi Studios (and have Brandi give you a shout out). I don't think anything could be better than Brandi coming up to you at a bar afterwards to say "Hi" and you then proceed to talk with her about the Mayor of Seattle and his pussy cats (also one of the most embarrassingly awkward moments ever). Nothing could ever really beat that. So, it's a weird place to be in for anyone who's seen as many shows from one artist as I have - and well, I feel a little slightly... um well, nonplussed. And sadly, I feel it's best for me to kinda walk away for a bit so I can come back refreshed and excited for Brandi's next work.

Anyways, when I think why I went to so many shows for so many different artists in the first place, I get a big rush of memories in return... exciting memories, non apathetic memories. I think about all my favorite shows, all of my favorite artists, all my friends, and all of the great venues I've been to and subconsciously, I make a list in my head. It's things like that that make me excited to see live music. Stuff like that is what I need to remember.

And you know what the funny thing is, speaking of going to see live shows and favorite shows, if I had to tell someone what my favorite concert was... I don't think I would be able to. That was at least, until last night. Out of all the amazing shows I've seen ONE really stands out. Ideally, there are a lot of things that make a show a "good show". Sometimes its your seats, sometimes its the people you're with, sometimes its things that happened before or after the show that made it memorable, sometimes it's the distance you had to drive to make it worth it. When I remove all those things that I normally attribute to a concert... and I focus on just the performance, just that moment in time, just being there and everything being amazing, one concert without a doubt stands out.

Last night, while seeing Chris Pureka play a cover, "Everything is Free" at Mississippi Studios, I realized that my favorite concert experience ever (no offense Chris) was seeing Gillian Welch and David Rawlings play and sing that same exact song at the No Depression Festival last summer in Seattle. Yeah, I drove to Seattle for the show. Yeah, I went to the show with friends, but while they held their ground on our blanket in the grass, I went to the front. I stood by the stage and I took all the amazingness in. And, you just can't put a price on an experience like that. I personally think Gillian Welch is one of the best singers and songwriters of our time. She has a certain authenticity and timelessness to her voice that you can't replicate. As well, David Rawlings is a friggin beast on the guitar. Watching him play the chords with his fingers... just using the instrument for all of it's god intended full most purpose, is just... wow. Also, there is no show business to their show. There is no rock and roll, no smoke and mirrors, it's just them on stage doing what they do best. Singing songs.

And the thing is, that's the first time I've seen Gillian and probably the last time for quite some time. She doesn't tour round these parts much and it's hard to make it to her shows. But... all that doesn't matter. It's shows like that that remind me that it's the quality of the show that makes the show, it's not the quantity of them that you go to. And, in order to not be apathetic I think that's just what I need to remember.

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