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i’ve got a rock & roll heart: my top ten wedding songs

June 5, 2015

044-jagger-theredlistI got engaged this past weekend and we’ve set a wedding date for later this summer. Of course, one of my first wedding planning tasks is creating the ultimate playlist. Me being me, I am handpicking every song. It’s a slow process and I usually sit down and add just a few at a time, then I use the playlist as it forms for background music whenever I’m cooking or cleaning, that way if I somehow hit a sour note in my selections I can make changes as needed. Or if my fiancée walks in while the playlist is rolling and says something like “I hate this song” I can at least consider removing it…. (Joking. Mostly… He’s stuck with me now.) I’m an Event Planner by trade – so ordering rentals and catering and figuring out logistics comes pretty easily and doesn’t inherently get me very enthused. But building this playlist is probably the aspect of the wedding planning that I am most pumped about (take that, dress shopping).

My best friend got married three years ago and he handpicked every song on his wedding playlists and I can’t even tell you the difference it made. Find me someone on earth who wants to hear “We Are Family” or “YMCA” at a wedding and I will find you a liar. The wrong music can take things south real fast and I’m not about to let “Celebrate” somehow sneak its way into my big day. So, I know what music I don’t want to hear – that part’s pretty easy, but what songs do I want?

I wrote a post several years ago about my top ten most romantic love songs and some of those are obviously going on the playlist. (My mom, who is being super chill about the whole wedding planning process has insisted on just one thing – that Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways” be played at some point during the evening. Uhm, done.) But while I stand by the romance factor of all the songs on that list, I’m not sure “Lay, Lady, Lay” is exactly what I want to have playing in the background while I greet my grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins in the buffet line, if you catch my drift….

So, in that spirit I have created a list of my top ten wedding songs. Here they are, in no particular order, and I’d love to hear your picks in the comments. (Disclaimer: I will probably/definitely steal your picks and add them to my playlist. Obviously, this whole post is a pretty transparent ploy to get help with making it – so thanks, in advance).

My Top Ten Wedding Songs


1)      “True CompanionMarc Cohn – I’ve known this song would be part of my wedding since I used to play it on my CASSETTE player, so….

2)      “If I Should Fall BehindBruce Springsteen – This one has been on my wedding list almost as long as “True Companion.” Plus, the Boss and Patti Scialfa have been married for almost 25 years so he obviously knows what he’s talking about.

3)      “Give Yourself to LoveKate Wolf – This one is kind of a gimme because it’s literally written about a wedding day but it’s also just a beautiful sentiment.

4)     “True Love WaysBuddy Holly – Because you should always listen to your mother…

5)     “Angel Dream (No. 2)Tom Petty – Somehow, in a weird 90’s turn of events, Tom Petty created the soundtrack for the film “She’s the One” – one of Jennifer Aniston’s millions of romantic comedies. I don’t think I’ve even seen it, but the soundtrack is good and this sweet little song has always been one of my random Tom faves.

6)    “Baby, I Love You Terry Reid – Terry Reid’s version of this song makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. That voice…

7)     “That’s How Strong My Love IsOtis Redding – Because if you have a wedding without some Otis Redding, you’re doing it wrong.

8)     “If I Needed YouDon Williams & Emmylou Harris – Written by the incomparable Townes Van Zandt, this is just truly one of the loveliest songs I know.

9)     “Can’t Help Falling In LoveElvis Presley – Kind of an obvious Elvis pick, but it’s a classic for a reason.

10)     “If Not for YouBob Dylan – Because this is my list, and Bob Dylan is in the Top Ten of everything in my life.

So, what would your picks be? Let’s hear ’em!

gig grab bag: dylan goes “across the borderline”

May 17, 2015

gig grab bag logoWith Bob Dylan’s 74th birthday coming up on Sunday, and his appearance confirmed as David Letterman’s final musical guest on Tuesday night, it seems an appropriate time to feature my main man in the Gig Grab Bag. This video comes from Farm Aid 1986 where Dylan appeared via satellite with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from their joint True Confessions tour. (Sidenote: since I was just shy of 2-years-old at the time, this tour will always remain near the top of my concert time-machine list.) I like this performance for several reasons. Partly, because it’s two of my favorite artists performing together, and also partly because it features Dylan covering someone else’s song. “Across the Borderline” was written by Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, and Jim Dickinson and appeared on Willie Nelson’s album of the same name in 1993. Dylan had debuted his version of the song at the opening date of the True Confessions tour in New Zealand in February of ‘86. With a catalog hundreds of incredible songs deep, Dylan certainly doesn’t need to add any covers to his live rotation, but I’ve found that when he does they are often some of my favorite performances. For example, in the fall of 2002 I skipped my senior-year homecoming dance to drive down and see Dylan at good ol’ Mac Court on the University of Oregon campus. This was right during the time that news broke of Warren Zevon’s terminal mesothelioma diagnosis, and Zevon was at work on his final masterpiece of an album The Wind. That night in Eugene Dylan performed a breathtaking version of Zevon’s “Mutineer” in a nod to his ailing friend and it was one of the most beautiful moments I can remember from all of my 13 Dylan concerts. I digress, but the point is I love the opportunity to hear Dylan’s interpretations of other writers’ songs and this performance is no exception. Bonuses: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as Dylan’s backing band, a virtual jewel-tone-rainbow of perfectly 80’s fringed jackets on the back-up singers, and Dylan’s vest/pants combo creating the illusion of black leather overalls…. (seriously, does anyone else see that??) Essentially, there’s something for everyone in this video. Enjoy.

gig grab bag: history of the eagles

April 22, 2015

gig grab bag logoI finally watched the History of the Eagles documentary last weekend and it more than lived up to all the hype I’d heard. It’s a tremendously well done portrait of one of the most successful and least simpatico bands of all time. I’ve read that Don Felder wasn’t totally pleased with how the film portrayed his involvement and subsequent falling out(s) with the band. But, while Glenn Frey definitely did get some jabs in during his interviews, I really didn’t think the film glorified any of the members. In fact, some of the more groan-worthy sound bites from Don Henley and Frey especially could have been lifted straight out of the lead singer meltdown scene in Almost Famous. Ah, band dynamics.  Spinal Tap will be funny forever because as long as there are bands there are egos, personality clashes, and varying degrees of talent. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Eagles earlier work, especially the two albums produced by Glyn Johns.  I also think Don Felder was a great addition to the original lineup but they kind of lose me in the Joe Walsh era. Today’s Gig Grab Bag is a 1974 performance of “Already Gone” from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert featuring my favorite incarnation of the band. I’ve got a particularly soft spot for this song because my darling dad, who happens to be a phenomenal guitar player, has always said that the signature screeching guitar lick in the album version (Felder doesn’t do it in the video) was the reason he wanted to play the instrument. So, thanks Don Felder. Without that guitar of his my dad may never have scored my mom and created me, so hat tip for that because I’m pretty glad to be here.

History of the Eagles is available for streaming on Netflix now. Watch it and then mentally fast forward six years from this performance to Frey literally threatening to kill Felder on stage, during a song. Nothing lasts forever…

behind the venue: a brief history of red rocks amphitheater

April 19, 2015

It’s no secret that Red Rocks Amphitheater is an epic venue. It’s always topping lists of the most beautiful, best places in America to hear music – and for good reason. Proximity to Red Rocks was one of the things I was most excited about when we moved to Colorado last summer. With the 2015 concert season kicking off this weekend I thought it was an appropriate time to look a little deeper into the story of one of Mother Nature’s greatest musical gifts…

TPHB at Red Rocks

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Red Rocks, October 2014

I’ve been to three shows at Red Rocks so far – Bob Dylan with My Morning Jacket in 2007, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Joe Cocker in 2010, and most recently, another round of Tom and the boys with Steve Winwood this past October. At this latest show my Tom Petty partner-in-crime and I found ourselves wandering backstage with All-Access passes. (You’ll have to buy me a beer to hear that whole story…)  I mention the passes because while we were actually backstage for part of the 2010 show as well, we didn’t have the same freedom to wander that the passes gave us this time. And let me tell you, if there’s a place that’s fun to wander – it’s backstage at Red Rocks. The walls are lined with framed prints of the legends that have graced the stage in this historic venue and the stairwell to the stage is covered with hundreds of scrawled signatures from those performers. Even without such decoration the backstage is unlike any other, built as it is around the natural rock formations of this incredibly unique place – some rooms have huge boulders for walls, bringing the outside right in. Wandering these hallowed grounds we did our best to balance freaking out and keeping our All-Access cool.  But it got me wondering – how did this majestic venue, 15 miles outside of Denver and surrounded by wilderness on all sides, come to be?

Technically, you could start a history of Red Rocks about 160 million years ago. Contained in the two gigantic sandstone monoliths which form the natural amphitheater, Creation Rock and Ship Rock, are fossils and tracks from life in the Jurassic period. But, this isn’t a science blog so let’s skip ahead a few million years. In the early 20th century a magazine publisher named John Brisben Walker (fun fact: the founder of Cosmopolitan magazine) recognized the incredible natural acoustics at work and began producing small concerts on a temporary stage built into the space, then known as the Garden of Angels. The City of Denver purchased the land containing Red Rocks from Walker in 1927 and began expanding on what he had built there. After the onset of the Great Depression labor from the Works Projects Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps built the venue, with a strong focus on maintaining the natural integrity of the area.

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1947 saw the first official concert season at Red Rocks, kicked-off as it has been every year since with a sunrise Easter service. Performances in that era were largely visiting symphonies, ballets, and big bands, with legends like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald making appearances. But on August 26, 1964, the sea change that was washing over the country swept Red Rocks up with it when The Beatles made it a stop on their first U.S. tour. Interestingly, it was the only date on that historic tour that didn’t sell out. Some blame the distance from downtown Denver and the lack of public transit options available at the time. Others blame the steep ticket price ($6.60), but for whatever reason only about 7,000 of the 9,000+ seats were officially filled. The Fab Four played a 30-minute set out of a two-hour show that also included The Righteous Brothers, The Bill Black Combo, Jackie de Shannon, and The Exciters. The 6,450-foot altitude hit the lads from Liverpool hard and they had to use oxygen canisters on the side of the stage during their performance. More than fifty years later, Red Rocks is one of only four venues played on that 24-city tour that is still operating today.

After The Beatles, Red Rocks hosted a stream of legendary performers. While the concert seasons were still dominated by the kinds of shows it thrived on pre-Beatles, a new wave of popular acts were now sprinkled in the mix. Artists like Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, The Mamas & The Papas, and Peter, Paul, and Mary all made it onto the roster.

In September 1968, Jimi Hendrix took the stage for a concert with Vanilla Fudge and Soft Machine that remains the only known contemporary show at Red Rocks without a single documented photo or video. I‘m sure there must be fan photos stuffed away in shoeboxes somewhere but not a single official photo exists. Sadly, it is left purely to the imagination but the sonic prowess of Hendrix bouncing off Creation and Ship Rock could certainly have created something approaching a religious experience.

Also in 1968, Aretha Franklin refused to take the stage for a scheduled performance due to a contract dispute. The news caused the crowd to storm the stage, destroying the venue’s piano and causing a riot scare. The city, shocked and concerned by the intense reaction of the crowd, enacted a one-year ban on rock concerts at Red Rocks. But the worst was yet to come…

A stage built in stone

A stage built in stone

While Red Rocks sat on the musical sidelines during the summer of 1969 (no big deal, just WOODSTOCK and whatever…) they were back in the rock game the following year, but not for long. On June 10, 1971 Jethro Tull stopped at Red Rocks for the second date of their Aqualung tour. In the post-Woodstock world the unpleasant phenomenon of “rock should be free” gate-crashers was a plague on festivals and concerts nationwide. When an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 ticketless gate-crashers showed up at the sold-out show police tried to direct them to an area outside of the amphitheater where they would be able to hear, but not see, the concert. But the crowd wasn’t looking for a compromise and many attempted to storm the gates, scrambling over fences and past barriers into the seating area. A full-scale riot broke out, culminating with the Denver police chief himself dropping tear gas onto the crowd from a circling helicopter. The members of Jethro Tull fought past police barriers to take the stage, in an Altamont-type effort to calm the crowd and end the riot. Emergency medical efforts were taking place backstage as Ian Anderson urged the crowd to cover their faces with clothing and bring any children up to the relative-safety at the front of the stage.

After that disastrous debacle, deemed “The Riot at Red Rocks” Denver’s mayor, William McNichols, vowed that there would never be another rock show at the venue so long as he was in office, and enacted a ban on rock performances that stood until it was challenged in court by concert promoter Barry Fey in 1975, where it was overturned.

So from 1971 to 1975 while albums like Exile on Main Street, Eat a Peach, and Led Zeppelin’s IV were being released, the Red Rocks concert seasons included performances by Burt Bacharach, Pat Boone, The Carpenters, and Johnny Mathis… To be fair, these were also the years that songs like “Seasons in the Sun” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” were topping the Billboard charts, but Red Rocks was once again sidelined from the rock & roll scene.

Folk acts did thrive at Red Rocks during the rock ban. Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrie all made appearances in those years, along with acceptable popular artists like Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Merle Haggard. When the ban was lifted in 1975 Red Rocks didn’t exactly dive headfirst into the rock scene – booking artists like James Taylor and America. But it didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things, and by the end of the decade Blue Oyster Cult, the Eagles, the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers, the Kinks, Cheap Trick and many more would grace the stage.

Since then, Red Rocks concert seasons have included a steady stream of up-and-coming artists, megastars, jam bands, and legends. A staggering number of live albums and videos have been recorded at the venue, trading on the incredible natural acoustics of the space. U2, The Moody Blues, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, John Denver, The Dave Matthews Band and many more have all released live Red Rocks performances.

The 2015 season promises more memorable performances at the legendary venue. Jackson Browne, Mark Knopfler, Steely Dan, John Prine, Steve Miller, and many others are all scheduled to take the stage before the Colorado weather shuts the place down in mid-October.  If you haven’t experienced the splendor of Red Rocks I would certainly encourage you to make the pilgrimage to this great national treasure.

PHO-Red_Rocks_Amphitheatre_with_Shiprock-Don_Peitzman-photo_contest-10.13.09_small_2

sound man: glyn johns

April 1, 2015

9780399163876_large_Sound_Man3If you don’t know who Glyn Johns is, let me just introduce him with this quote from his book:

“The following day I returned to California to start the Steve Miller Band’s third album, Brave New World. We were getting on fine until I got a call from The Beatles, asking if Steve would let me go for a couple of weeks, to return home to London to do some sessions for what became Abbey Road… I went straight from the plane to Apple for a couple of days, and then to Olympic Studios for an all-night session with the Stones till six a.m. Then to Apple again in the afternoon before going on to the Albert Hall that evening to record Jimi Hendrix in concert.”

So yeah, that’s Glyn Johns.

If I asked you to name a dozen landmark rock albums from the Sixties and Seventies, chances are your list would include several that Johns mixed, engineered, and/or produced. His staggering discography includes Let it Bleed, Abbey Road, Harvest, Who’s Next, Led Zeppelin I and those really aren’t even the tip of the iceberg.

After getting his start through a chance connection with IBC Studios in London, Johns became easily one of the most sought after men in the business when it came to creating phenomenal albums. And last year, after decades of being behind-the-scenes, he put his incredible story to paper and gave us Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Eric Clapton, the Faces. . .

I just finished this delightful little read and the best way I can describe it is that it’s like skipping stones over the vast, deep, and murky sea of rock & roll history. Anyone who authors a memoir has the absolute right to relinquish as much or as little of their personal story to the public as they choose. Sound Man is refreshing in that it isn’t a lascivious tell-all, and it isn’t driven by any personal vendettas (cough, This Wheel’s On Fire, cough). He stays remarkably above-board when describing the many characters he has worked with over the years; more often than not, heaping generous praise on his colleagues and only occasionally indulging his less favorable opinions. Those rare flashes of actual scrutiny are some of my favorite moments of the book, for example when describing his discarded mix of Let It Be: “John [Lennon] gave the tapes to Phil Spector, who puked all over them, turning the album into the most syrupy load of bullshit I have ever heard.”

The book moves swiftly and slightly haphazardly through time, touching down for the brief vignettes that form each chapter. He never lingers too long on any particular experience or album, but the stone keeps skipping and the stories keep coming. It’s especially fascinating to hear the perspective from the other side of the glass as these legendary albums were being made. Like, who knew that Keith Richards only ended up singing “You Got the Silver” because Johns accidentally erased Mick Jagger’s vocal while Jagger was out of the country and unable to rerecord it???

Glyn Johns has given us many incredible albums over the years and his contribution with Sound Man is no less of a gift. I can only be thankful that he has offered us this glimpse into his extraordinary story.

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Johns in the studio with Keith Richards

 

gig grab bag: grateful dead – jack straw

March 10, 2015

gig grab bag logoGrateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter might be my favorite songwriter after Bob Dylan. The beauty in his lyrics has always resonated with me – especially on masterpieces like “Box of Rain” and “So Many Roads.”  Reading Hunter’s recent interview with Rolling Stone inspired me to share one of my favorite Grateful Dead videos. This performance of “Jack Straw” comes from the 1972 concert in Veneta, Oregon that went on to become the Sunshine Daydream film. The concert was a benefit to raise money for the Springfield Creamery, run by Ken Kesey’s family. Part of my fondness for this footage is that it takes place in my home state, only miles outside of Eugene – that sweet, glorious little city of my alma mater. My other favorite thing about this video is obviously the opening moments captured between the dog and the baby in the tire… a pairing of words I truly never thought I’d write on this website. See for yourself but I’m pretty sure it takes ‘heartwarming’ to a whole new level. So here is the Grateful Dead performing “Jack Straw” and if you haven’t yet seen the Sunshine Daydream film from this concert I highly recommend it.

gig grab bag: tom petty – willin’

February 21, 2015

gig grab bag logoIn an effort to return to consistent posting here on that mercury sound I’m resurrecting the formerly dormant Gig Grab Bag series. The goal here will be to highlight songs and performances that are particularly captivating as I come across them. I’ve been meaning to post this installment for awhile and finally, on this snowy Colorado day, I’m getting around to it.

I saw Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers at Red Rocks back in October. It was the last night of a three-night run at the storied venue and the band was in fine form. The first night had been freezing cold, the second pouring rain, and finally this one was just a perfect crisp October evening. The musical highlight of the concert, and a number that only appeared on this final night, was a cover of Little Feat’s road-weary anthem “Willin.” The Lowell George ballad has been covered by everyone from The Byrds to Linda Ronstadt to country duo Brooks & Dunn, but Tom’s version is the best I’ve heard. As he did with his ’06 Bonnaroo rendition of “Learning to Fly” he brings a certain nuance to the song, softening the edges with the kind of knowing that only the passage of time can bring. In a cosmic gift from the universe some wonderful soul filmed and posted a video of the actual performance from that night at Red Rocks. If they’d panned a little further past Benmont you actually probably could have seen my best friend and I on the side of the stage, but that’s another story…. Here’s the video, I hope you enjoy it as much I did. Cheers.

dear mr. fantasy: a word on festivals

December 1, 2014

woodstockpostersI’ve spent a pretty staggering amount of time in my life daydreaming about what it would have been like to be young in the Sixties. In this daydream fantasy world I live a very Forrest Gumpian existence – somehow breaking free of the shackles of geography, time, and funding to have been at Monterey Pop, and in Haight-Ashbury, and part of the Sunset Strip scene, and Greenwich Village, and surely I would have skipped across the pond to witness Swinging London, and of course I would have been at Woodstock.

Right?

The hard truth that I’ve come to accept is, probably not. This article recently reprinted by The New Republic illuminates part of why Woodstock really wasn’t all sunbeams and rainbows but also the fact is – I just don’t like festivals.

There, I said it.

Maybe I’m just getting old (I am). Maybe I’m not as hip as I’d like to think I am (I’m not). Maybe going to Burning Man in 2006 just ruined port-a-potties for me forever (It did). Maybe it’s all of the above.

I know I’m risking all my music-blog-writing-street-cred here but festivals are like the prom night of the live music world: so much hype and so much fanfare over something that rarely achieves its promised potential. (Not to mention so much strategic “festival costume” planning that there’s now a whole cottage industry behind it. I’m looking at you Coachella.)

I’ve been to a fair number of festivals, and every time I walk away from the weekend wishing I’d saved my money to go see the handful of bands I wanted to see in the first place playing full shows on their own. I wouldn’t have had to juggle competing schedules, only to catch the last 20 minutes of every set I wanted to see. I wouldn’t have had to fight through phalanxes of drunk college kids in crop tops and neon hats fending off dehydration with an endless stream of twist-top Bud Lights. And I wouldn’t have had to question my own commitment to the music at the end of every day when I felt more bummed out than energized by the previous 8 hours of fighting for a spot to see and hear.

I used to fight this feeling. Every year when festival lineup announcements started rolling out I’d get amped up – of course I’d want to see Iggy Pop and Bob Dylan and Sharon Jones in the same hour. And then my annual trip of remembering how I really feel about festivals would start to bum me out. But then a year or so ago I read Rolling Stone’s expansive coverage of the Altamont nightmare from their January 1970 issue. In it was a quote from legendary concert promoter Bill Graham that seemed to perfectly capture so much of my own anti-festival sentiment:

As Graham sees it, about the only good thing that could possibly have come out of this festival is that it means the end of festivals. “The strange thing that went on this past weekend is that in the long run, it may help to eliminate festivals, which I think is one of the best things that can happen to rock and roll. Woodstock — the film that is coming out of Woodstock, is a masterpiece; I’ve seen it, but the after-effects of Woodstock and the after-effects of this one and the after-effects of many of the others. The question that I’ve asked after every one and that hasn’t been answered by anyone justifiably is: Who gains? Other than the people in the 50-foot perimeter of the stage? 290,000 others can’t see or hear anything. But I think that we are losing the major groups because they’re becoming as guilty as anyone else . . . the big dollar very quickly. It’s not for me to speak for any of the groups, but if you speak to the Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, any of the heavy groups who have tremendous integrity, they’ve gone sour. They went sour before this weekend, but this weekend, I think, blew their minds. I knew it blew mine.”

In 1970 Graham was already calling out the major problems with the rise of the mega-festival. While in the immediate wake of Altamont the festival utopia dream did seem to fade away it returned with a vengeance in the late 90’s and has exploded in the past decade. A more recent Rolling Stone special report titled “How Coachella, Bonnaroo and More Festivals Revamped the Music Industry” explores the new reality of the festival economy and how it now governs tour decisions for bands large and small.

That is one thing I will give festivals, they can be a great forum for up and coming bands. If they can land a time slot where there’s enough of an audience to play for, and if some part of that audience is new ears that didn’t get there early just to see them, then there is a lot of exposure to be gained by playing the festival circuit.

But as a fan I have to say unless the universe puts together some kind of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, CSNY, Dolly Parton, Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin reunion festival-specifically-for-old-people-and-Alison I think my festival days are through. I’m certainly not trying to knock the whole scene – a lot of people love festivals, and have a great time at them. And they are one of the few remaining ways the music industry still generates revenue. They just aren’t for me.

So I’ve had to modify my Forrest Gump fantasy life a bit, and bring it just slightly back to reality. Maybe instead of being at Woodstock I would have just lived in Woodstock… Probably as Rick Danko’s girlfriend. Yeah, I think that sounds about right.

Hey, it’s still a fantasy life. A girl can dream.

 

a soundtrack for the big 3-0

October 10, 2014
Living every moment, from a very young age...  (I promise it was juice in that cup.)

Living every moment, from a very young age… (I promise it was juice in that cup)

I turned 30 yesterday. And while I’m very firmly in the “age ain’t nothing but a number” camp (see inset photo) 30 did make me stop and pause. It happened while I was driving to the grocery store a few days ago. “Against the Wind” came on the radio and I could see a montage of my twenties forming in my head. It was then that I realized that this mile marker on life’s journey would best be passed with its own soundtrack turned way up loud. So here are my selections for turning 30. What would yours be?

Against the Wind Bob Seger

The catalyst. This is certainly a song that can find new meaning at many stages of life but I think it’s particularly apt for the transition out of your twenties. The video below is from his 2013 tour because when I saw it this song was the highlight of the whole evening. Like all the songs on this list, it only grows more meaningful as the years roll by.

Learning to FlyTom Petty & The Heartbreakers

I saw Tom and the boys at Red Rocks this past Friday (another story for the memoirs…) and standing on the side of the stage during “Learning to Fly,” on the brink of my thirties, was a powerful moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I’m sure I’ll continue to find meaning and comfort in this song until I’m 100 years old, particularly in the gentler and more knowing live version.

The Circle Game Joni Mitchell

For someone as prone to nostalgia as I am, listening to this song can be a bit like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes I can just appreciate the utter beauty of its poignant message and sometimes it can send me into a morose tailspin that can take hours or days to recover from. Whatever the outcome, it’s always worth it… Footnote – we cued up a couple episodes of The Wonder Years after my birthday dinner last night and just happened to watch the “touch football” episode with this song at the end. There really aren’t any coincidences are there?

Long May You Run Neil Young

Yes, I know it’s about a car. Yes, it can still make me cry.

Live Every Moment – REO Speedwagon

Okay, before you go and skewer me for including REO Speedwagon on a list with some much heavier hitters let me defend myself. My dearest aunt turned 50 this summer and my family celebrated the only way we know how – with an epic living room dance party that stretched into the early hours of the morning. My REO lovin’ aunt requested this song from the Speedwagon vault and it turned out to be the perfect anthem for the evening. Just try not to smile while listening, even if only because of the fabulous fashion on display in the video.

home(sick) on the range

July 22, 2014

HorsetoothAfter three years in Minneapolis that mercury sound has relocated, yet again, this time to Fort Collins, Colorado. Hopefully this will be the last move for awhile/ever, but that’s a different story. We’ve been in the city now for about a week and are adjusting to our beautiful new surroundings. While I’ve been nothing but excited for this move I seem to have conveniently forgotten about the stage of this process that should be all too familiar to me by now – the limbo. It’s the phase where you’ve left what used to be home and arrived in your new home, technically, but it doesn’t feel at all like home yet, so in a cosmic sense you find yourself somewhat homeless. This feeling is compounded for me at the moment as we are in temporary housing until the end of the month, delaying nesting for another couple weeks.

However, I’ve been in this situation many times before and while I may have childbirth-style-amnesia’d the memory of being a stranger in a strange land, I do know where to find my personal remedy – my stereo.

I have vivid memories of my first couple nights in my college dorm room – laying in bed a jumble of emotions and hormones, physically crossing the narrow bridge from childhood to adulthood. My companion on those mentally tumultuous evenings was my CD player (it was 2003 y’all) and my arsenal of Bob Dylan albums. To borrow from his own words, Dylan’s voice was my shelter from the storm, my anchor in a sea of confusion and new experiences.

In the 11 years since (yeesh, really?) and through multiple nationwide moves, Dylan’s role as my voice of “home” hasn’t lessened any, but a few other jams have been added to this soundtrack of support. Like the version of “Althea” from Grateful Dead Go to Nassau that always feels like being wrapped up in a warm, spacey blanket. Or Tom Petty’s Bonnaroo performance of “Learning to Fly” which has not just Tom’s unmistakable voice going for it, but also some truly applicable lyrics.

1934667_596846173436_3480548_nI also feel incredibly lucky that I have the good fortune of being able to tune into the favorite voices of my literal home: my dad’s band The Beckerheads and my sister’s band Mount Joy. I’ve sung along with my dad and the ‘Heads since I can remember and their music is as familiar and comforting to me as my own backyard. Mount Joy’s incredible debut album (more coming on that) includes a track called “Canby” my sister wrote about our hometown that can bring tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

So, while the settling-in process can’t be sped up, and the feeling of displacement just has to just be ridden out, my sonic home can be tuned into anytime night or day. And that’s pretty fantastic.