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July 10, 2003

Humble Pie, Crow: Whatever it Is, I'm Eating It

Shannon and I spent the Independence Day weekend in Beaufort, NC, at my in-laws' house. While we were pretty much offline (for cable modem-spoiled folks like us, 56k is painful), I wrote the following blog entry, which is followed by an almost-complete retraction of everything I wrote. It's about a great band, obsessive fandom, and a little touch of hypocrisy (my own).

July 4, 2003: I saw the most serious man in America last night.

Shannon and I saw Carbon Leaf at The Pour House in Raleigh last night. (We're spending the weekend in Beaufort with her family, who picked Will up a day early.) The band -- roots rock with a decent helping of bluegrass and Irish influences -- was in great form, and you could tell from their audience that if the band lasts, they'll have a Deadhead/Phish Phan-like following. There was a heavy-set guy in a Hawaiian shirt in the front row, throwing his head back, singing lyrics, dancing -- clearly having the time of his life. (Though the fact that he was surrounded by three nubile twentysomethings surely contributed to his experience.)

But then there was the Serious Guy. Carbon Leaf doesn't discourage audience members from taping their concerts -- they have even let some of their fan club record from the sound board. When Shannon and I saw their CD release concert at the Canal Club in Richmond in April, we saw two guys spend what seemed like the entire concert shining flashlights on microphone rigs mounted among the rafters. They were frowning and pointing while people were dancing around them. I figured that something was broken.

Nope, those were their game faces. And the first thing I saw when we entered The Pour House was a towering tripod-mounted pole with microphones at the top and a frowning guy at the bottom, tweaking settings on an iBook. As the band prepared to take the stage, he was still frowning between a set of huge headphones.

I don't know if this is consistent with taping culture in general. But I sure hope these guys trade off their taping duties or something. No one should be so wrapped up in trying to re-create something that they can't enjoy the moment. A good concert, full of vertical movement, alcohol and waves of sound, is no time to be frowning.

Confession: The weekend was extraordinarily restful. On the ride back, we listened to Carbon Leaf's 5 Alive, the CD released in Richmond. And I started to think about how much fun we had in Raleigh.

Then I thought -- and here's where the hypocrisy kicked in -- I wonder how that tape of the Raleigh show sounds?

A couple of days later I checked out the Carbon Leaf message board, which includes a haven for their tape traders (or so they would have been called back in the Analog Age). A message from the taper, "CMJohn," allowed that he had taped the show, and that it was an incredible set list marred by drunken Pour House patrons shouting in the general direction of the microphones.

Hm. Pity.

Wait. Shannon and I weren't feeling our best at the Canal Club, and actually had to leave early.

And here's a message that someone named TJ got a really good recording from those mikes...

I wonder where I can find them?

Tonight I have a beautiful two-disc set of a wonderful show that Shannon and I can relive at whim. I find myself wishing my favorite band, Seven Nations, allowed audience taping -- though I think the bands are in different situations and I sure don't fault them for not allowing it. And God help me, I'm looking at Carbon Leaf's tolerance of videotaping with interest.

I still think the show recorders should leave enough room in the night to enjoy the shows. But in retrospect, I have to say -- God bless the serious tapers. And thanks for the music.

July 1, 2003

Miracle Hangover Preventative?

You be the judge.

Department of Misplaced Optimism

...but one thing for sure is we are at the dawning of a new spiritual age of awareness and that complacency is fast becoming a thing of the past. ...So if ever you feel you can't go on, rest assured that you are not alone and that fast changes are arriving.

Seal, in the liner notes to his 1994 self-titled album