Best of R8B on 1150AM from September 13th, 2007 with musical guest Jon Auer
Jon Auer of The Posies returned to Radio8Ball on September 13, 2007 for a series of questions from some of our favorite guests from other shows, including songwriters Scott Taylor, Willie Wisely, Mike Ruekberg, and Robyn Lynn Thoren. Willie, Mike and Robyn are all from Minneapolis and you’ll notice a Minnesotan theme running through this show. Funny how that works.
Here’s the setlist:
1. Lady Sweet
2. Dream All Day
3. Four Letter Word
4. Swinging Party
5. Wicked World
Best of R8B on 1150AM from August 9th, 2007 with Jon Auer
Jon Auer lent his indie rock star credibility to Radio8Ball at exactly the right time (for us), and he continues to be a good friend of the show. On August 9th, 2007 he joined host, Andras Jones for a deep, dark, truthful R8Broadcast.
Please share your question and interpretation below.
Season Zero – Epsiode One The Radio8Band tributes The Posies with Jon Auer & Ezra Sandzer-Bell June 11, 2014
Paul Pearson of The Radio8Band is an accomplished music blogger. He has documented his experience with The Posies tribute Radio8Ball Show below. To view and listen to the show, check here. “So I think what all the great records and great songs say is, ‘Hey, take this and find your place in the world. Do something with it, do anything with it. Find some place to make your stand, no matter how big or small it is.’ And maybe in some fashion that directs you toward some sort of honest life. That’s a pretty wonderful thing for a record to do. Particularly since it only costs about ninety-nine cents.”
— Bruce Springsteen
August 1991. Glen Canyon Park, San Francisco. I’m in a state of mind I now wish I had more greatly appreciated at the time, or more accurately taken better advantage of. I’d spent most of the previous year-plus in some agitated state between anticipation and mourning. It doesn’t matter why, and if by chance it did I wouldn’t know what to tell you. I was in public, beneath my most immediate self-preservation and protection device: my Sony Walkman. What it was preserving about me, and what it was protecting me from – well, whattaya got?
I’d begun listening to the album on the walk down to the Glen Park neighborhood. I was planning on going to late lunch, or maybe actually taking part in the softball game some buddies of mine from the local bar were playing in the park. But I couldn’t, because what was playing through my Walkman had the floor, and was insisting that I spend 40 minutes or so in input mode.
So instead of brunching it, I’m hearing what this person has to say. I guess love had been one of my subconscious ruminations, because this guy seemed to be addressing a lot of topics I was responding to. “So you think you’re in love?” he asked. “Well, you probably are, but you gotta be straight about it.”
For the record, I wasn’t, but maybe there was a chance. I know I was feeling constricted or groundless, like very little was going my way, and at that point the voice told me “No one gives you anything. Unless, of course, you ask for it.” I was emotionally stranded in a big city, and felt like I was lacking some vital substance that would refocus me. “In this city of lies,” the voice said, “real life is a crime.”
From that point forward, I knew something was going on, so I just let this album spit out its truisms, each one hitting on something I’d been feeling or thinking. “Everybody misses you, but nobody shoots.” “They say you’ve been poisoned, they say you’re closed down, but I saw a light ‘neath your door.” “She doesn’t exist anymore.” “I circle your heart like I circle the world, but I never touch down.” And: “But if you don’t love yourself, what’s the use in someone else loving you?”
And you know what? That day in Glen Canyon Park, when Robyn Hitchcock was talking to me via his band the Egyptians and his album Perspex Island, was neither the first nor only time I sought music for counsel. In fact it was probably something like the 100,000th time, and since then there have been maybe 300,000 more. It occurred every time I didn’t wait for a track to end before I rewound it to hear it again from the start. It occurred when I was among others, having a perfectly smooth conversation, but some album the host placed on the stereo suddenly grabbed my ear, and I stopped talking for two minutes to deal with it. Anytime I heard music, and the end product was not elapsed time but a newly erected benchmark I would have to pay special attention to, it occurred.
I only happened to notice it as it was happening that time. Now, how many times has that happened to me? Ten, maybe.
Whether they know or admit it or not, musicians make music with that intent: to carve out something you will respond to, to create a solution to effect you laughing, crying, kissing, screaming, or dancing. They don’t know who’s going to respond that way; they don’t have a list of intended targets. They create it to cause that spontaneous reaction, in hopes that whatever they’ve provided – a wise lyric, a celestial harmony, an insistent beat – will cause someone, somewhere to feel that kind of magic of recognition apart from their own music. They have no control over who hears the music or how they feel – they just send it out there hoping someone will do so to their song more than others.
So you see artists are in the synchronicity business from the start, and they’re successful at it in ways they usually can’t confirm. Sometimes we listeners and fans are not agile enough to know when that moment is happening, when that question or need is truly being answered.
That’s why there’s this thing called Radio8Ball.
Radio8Ball is one of those ideas that after you hear about it, you kick yourself for not having come up with it. At least I do. Its existence traces back to the nascent era of the Internet when interactivity was still only a modest aspect of our entertainment experience. And although R8B sounds like an idea born for the nervous algorithms and randomness of the cyber age, it has always worked best as a shared experience with actual people, with all gears exposed and crafted care.
Andras Jones created R8B in 1998 at the studios of KAOS Olympia, a community radio station on the campus of The Evergreen State College. KAOS has often seemed confused about how to administer its own legend. These days they’re almost too winded or annoyed to bother with their being the breeding ground for bands like Beat Happening, Sleater-Kinney and Nirvana. I always got the feeling they considered that legacy something they just had to deal with rather than use it to their advantage. (I can say that; I programmed a KAOS show for over six non-consecutive years.) But at one time it was accommodating to shows with the approach of R8B.
Jones said his father, Richard M. Jones, was the prime inspiration for R8B. Richard, who was an ardent advocate of Freudian dream theory, was one of Evergreen’s founding fathers. During the ‘70s he led dream seminars at Evergreen that served as an inspiration when Andras developed the R8B model, which interestingly draws from the Jungian concept of synchronicity.
Every week Jones dragged his 100-CD shuffler into the KAOS studios, got on the air and fielded questions from callers. I can’t say how seriously callers took the situation, but I expect some of them had real issues they were contending with. Jones hit the random button on his shuffler, and whatever song came up would serve as the answer to the question.
R8B being very specifically defined as an oracle, not a fortune-teller, is key to understanding how the answers are processed. Oracles don’t answer you with itineraries or definite events; often it seems like they may not be answering anything you might have been asking. Sometimes oracles even ask more questions on top of the ones you already had. That’s how they’re supposed to work. They give you another avenue to question your role and understandings about your dilemma, and your own interpretation of the oracle’s revelation is every bit as important as the person behind the controls.
The presentational possibilities of R8B were evident from the start, and eventually Jones restaged the forum as a live show. In shows around the U.S., live bands and celebrities served as guests and in-person oracles throughout the 2000’s. The list of participants over those years is impressive: John C. Reilly, Patricia Arquette, Seth Green, Calvin Johnson, Dan Bern, Tracy Bonham and “Weird Al” Yankovic have all sat in the visitor’s chair.
Radio8Ball ran until June 2008 on KAOS, when it was cancelled. I’m exempting myself from telling that story without prejudice. If you wish to read Andras’ version of events you can pick up his book Accidental Initiations via Sync Book Press.
From there R8B moved to an AM station in Seattle for a time, until it was revived in 2014. I got a phone call from Jones shortly after I’d started a new job. R8B was being restaged as a live show and web series, and Jones asked me if I’d want to participate as a band member and chronicler of events. I hadn’t played a show in almost a year, and had spent a good part of that time in inconsolable frustration about where my music and career were headed. R8B sounded like a great, familiar way to either further that reconciliation or at least point somewhere else, so I pretty eagerly accepted.
By the way, I believe I availed myself of the R8B oracle three times: twice (I think) when it was on KAOS, and once during the new version. I don’t know what Andras thought about the spirit in which I summoned the oracle, but I can tell you my questions were dead serious. Every time.
At this point I should probably tell you something about Andras Jones. I think that’s a great idea. But I don’t really know that much about Andras Jones. We met a little over ten years ago, but I can’t recall for sure the exact reason. It might have been to start work on My Brave Face, our tribute band that focused exclusively on compositions by Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello.
MY BRAVE FACE DEMO
“Back On My Feet” by Costello & McCartney
I know he’s a complete music freak. When we start talking music, forget it: We’re occupied for 30 minutes minimum, 60 if neither of us have a plane to catch. I know he’s acted in films, written his own songs, has a rich vibrato I’m jealous of, and is probably a Red Sox guy. I know he’s great at executing somewhat complex ideas like Radio8Ball and Accidental Initiations. But my grasp of his tale of the tape isn’t that strong.
And he’s also not here. Well, he is. When he has to be. He’s here in spirit for sure. But the public reins of R8B have been handed over to Andy Shmushkin, something of an agit-folk provocateur. A very genteel, somewhat charming one, but a shit disturber at heart. He’s been pretty reserved in my experience so far. To be honest everything I heard about Shmushkin was third- or fourth-hand and couldn’t be backed up by real reporting from sources like TMZ. So I really didn’t know what to expect. But he’s fine so far, and fairly tidy for a, you know, shit disturber.
After it was clear Andras wouldn’t be running the show in Olympia I sent him a note asking what the deal was. I didn’t get an answer until an email in July that first went to my spam folder three times. That’s how scarce Andras has made himself.
He said: “Shmushkin doesn’t have any of my baggage in this town. If I’m hosting Radio8Ball in Olympia all I’m going to want to ask are questions about KAOS, but that’s a bummer. Unfortunately it’s the truth, and a Radio8Ball host has to be truthful. So we have Shmushkin as host, and he can keep it positive and funny and sexy, which is his thing, while I produce the show from behind the scenes and continue to work for justice which, I guess, is mine.”
I don’t know. I haven’t lived in Olympia for nine years now. Maybe it’s a small pond sort of town, but I can confirm the fishbowl exists. It helps to develop gills. In Seattle the pressure’s off, but the line is longer.
Andras couldn’t have picked a better band to open the rejuvenated Radio8Ball tribute series than the Posies. Remember that whole business with me and Robyn Hitchcock in the park? Right around that time the Posies released Dear 23, their second proper album, and another one that wore out the capstans on my cassette player.
Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow were always precocious as lyricists. Their earliest albums found them trying to navigate themselves through churning waters we all tend to face when we’re newly post-graduate. These weren’t songs full of unobstructed bliss, untested love or unchecked rowdiness. The Posies talked about the layers beneath those surface-level placards we wear for easy identification. True, they may have interrupted your conveyor belt, but The Posies sang about stuff that needed to be dealt with.
On Dear 23 it was an endearing but serious process. On their most recent album Blood/Candy it loaned itself to some scary, unsettling moments. Through the years in between, the Posies sang stories with ideas, real chains of education, with just enough vulnerability that you knew they were trying to uncover something deeper about themselves, as they were trying to key the locks of their followers.
None of what the Posies sing is easy. The way it goes down is easy, for sure, but even with a song as straightforward as “Dream All Day” there’s an undercutting menace, a context of minor-key power chords and looming voices that might constitute an unwanted side-effect of said all-day dreaming. Their songs are going to elicit a lot of stuff to just come out that they may not have realized were there when they were writing them.
So for Radio8Ball, where the answers come from unexpected places, Jon and Ken’s songs were ideal divining rods. The audience heard ideas they didn’t see coming, from songs most of them had probably never heard before. They are deliberate, wordy, cave-resonant truths, near-truths and dream sequences, and there are a surprising amount of ways those specific words, phrases and emotions can be taken. Many of them will be brought into existence by accident or chance.
How could we have started this shindig without the Posies? Besides, none of us wanted to learn Spin Doctors songs.
From Left to Right: Luke Ogden, Jon Williams, Paul Pearson, Jon Merithew, Olivia Love, Scott Taylor
I’d played with everybody in the Radio8Band at some point before except for one of them. Part of the allure of this whole gig for me was the idea that it would be something like a supergroup of people I’d previously had the privilege of playing with, except for the drummer, who I just imagined was Jim Keltner.
There is no opportunity to play with Scott Taylor that I will turn down. Maybe as part of the band on the Titanic. That’s the only one, and that’s just because of hindsight. If I didn’t know about the Titanic incident I’d probably take the gig. Hell, even if I knew about the Titanic, if you promised me a good rowboat for the band and me, I might take my chances.
From Left to Right: Skyler Blake, Scott Taylor, Luke Ogden
Scott’s a lot like me when it comes to how we experience music: It’s the most personal thing in the world for both of us, something we hear in our own little silos. At that point we’re just taking in information and figuring out where it goes with us personally. When it comes time to turn it around and give it back to an audience, neither of us has any trepidation about taking the stage. But in performance I frequently buffer myself a little bit with humor and something just this side of aloofness. Scott doesn’t. He throws himself into every song. I may mean most of it, even a healthy 80% of it, but Scott never means any less than all of it. It’s a full-time job for him. And he’s the loveliest guy in the world, but doesn’t suffer fools when it comes to music. We have a great time, but we always get a ton of work done. Andras and I have spoken before about how much this guy means to us. If I had a type-A personality with a laconic drawl, no sense of personal barriers, and a frequent flyer card I earned through blood and malice, I would be Scott’s manager in a heartbeat. In lieu of that I keep coming up with dream scenarios about projects we can play together, and sometimes they really happen.
Jon Merithew underplays his experience a lot, so in the interest his abiding humility I’m not going to name-drop. I’ll just say he’s played alongside some very notable people, including a band (maybe two) who’s on many people’s shortlist for The Greatest Rock Band Of All Time. He was/is/could be in a couple of Olympia bands who are key parts of the city’s musical legacy, The Noses and C Average. He will shred if necessary. He could also be a comedy juggernaut if he so chose. I’ve always liked his workability and his willingness to try anything.
I’ve known Olivia Love for almost 15 years, since she was still a teenager and I wasn’t. I believe the first thing we ever worked on was a Carpenters song (“Top Of The World,” no less) that our friend Jim wanted to make into a dirge. We were also in the most successful band I was ever in, although our renewed partnership in Radio8Band couldn’t be a more different experience. Olivia’s another one of those people who just slips into unfamiliar situations and winds up putting her own stamp on them. There’s a lot of stuff she holds in reserve, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to come flying out at some point soon.
Luke Ogden and I have played before, but it was a brief pick-up session at Hannah’s after the peak of the evening had elapsed, so Scott, Luke and I just drunkenly plucked songs out of Scott’s songbook. This was our first planned activity. He locked right into it. I’m not sure how much he listened to the Posies before the show – whether he sat down and tried to absorb every song for hours, or whether he had it figured out in ten minutes. But you couldn’t tell either way. He’s what you’d call a blithe spirit, and he did this whole thing in the midst of his wife’s final trimester.
The only person I’d never played with before was Jon Williams, the drummer from Scott’s group the Fond Farewells. I joked to a couple of people during this experience that it was a weird and unfamiliar feeling not to be worried about the drummer, carelessly and unintentionally maligning all the other drummers I’ve worked with. But he’s really that good.
See how much I’m gushing over here, lighting sunshine bombs up these fine folks’ earholes? But there was really something unique about R8B from the start. We were relentlessly positive about the whole thing. Not a cynic in the house, not a single dropped sense of purpose. There was a lot of laughter of recognition between everybody, like we were a crack commando unit sent to Rock School for a crime we didn’t commit. It was really the ideal workplace. I wish we’d started a company in the late ‘90s; then I wouldn’t have had to work for Microsoft.
I’m one of those people who gets almost as much juice from rehearsing as I do from playing in front of an audience. I suppose this comes from the experience I had holing up in a wide array of studio apartments and garages with musicians of varying degrees of accomplishment and just being happy everything wound up on a 4-track cassette. I have always tended to be process-driven than goal-oriented and that’s worked both ways. The good: I’m a reliable go-to guy for the nuts and bolts, finding out what to do and getting the details in order. The bad: I’m never considered for promotions or business trips.
My first rehearsal with the Radio8Band was very probably the best first rehearsal I’d ever had on a project. It was a huge help that Scott had mapped out the chord changes and the musician assignments in exhaustive detail, so everyone had a few weeks to hammer out their parts in the privacy of their own harems. I took Scott’s chords and converted them into lead sheets, with the melodies and lyrics put on actual staff paper with the chord changes shown in place, like The Real Fake Book that every jazz musician’s dealt with before. This was an extra step I did for my own purposes, mainly. I have this music notation software that makes the process fairly simple; it was also freeware so that fit within the budget. I make up leadsheets to cut down on my own mistakes, but I shared them with everyone else as well. I still wound up using Scott’s notations more than mine, but especially in the process of learning the material the leadsheets were of tremendous assistance.
To a certain extent everybody was already prepared. The first rehearsal on a Sunday afternoon was us just learning the songs as a group, without really thinking about the context of the show. By and large, the number of elements we had to learn after roughing our way through the first rehearsal was comparatively low, for a first rehearsal. Everyone had something to work on.
Scott, Merithew and I go off on tangents quite a lot. I probably do it the most, since the piano is relatively easy to set up and I’m typically ready to play anything while everyone else is setting up. That tends to sidetrack our rehearsals, just in small, minuet-sized diversions where we’ll start doing something completely unrelated to the show. This is why in the middle of some perfectly productive rehearsals we swung into impromptu versions of “Brandy” by the Looking Glass and “Bargain” by the Who. During our first soundcheck we inexplicably starting playing Supertramp’s “The Logical Song,” until Andras suggested perhaps we should actually play a Posies song for that. Left to our own devices, I think we’d make the greatest low-attention-span band since the Replacements. There are about 1,000 songs that all of us could just spontaneously break into. (I wonder if I could talk Andras into making it Radio64Ball. You’d still have the whole 8 thing intact, mathematically.)
We basically get the show down in two quarter-day rehearsals. Not counting a couple of timing quirks in the Blood/Candy songs (“For the Ashes” and “Licenses to Hide”) everyone’s got a fairly full sense of the song structure. The qualms any of us feel are about the vocals, for different reasons. Olivia, Merithew and I sort of jostled around our harmonies a little bit, something that was addressed in some vocals-only rehearsal the following weekends. I can’t remember exactly but I think it was Olivia’s first prolonged exposure to the Posies, and she was working to find the voice to use.
I hadn’t sung anything meaningfully in public for at least a couple of years. (Karaoke does not count, but for the record, I still bring it.) As far as going out there and singing a straight ballad like “For the Ashes,” which I’d been assigned, it had been awhile – definitely a time when I was more carefree/careless, was more concerned with looking impenetrable and horsing around than turning in a pitch-perfect performance.
Now I’m a bit more concerned about getting it right, and it’s as if two or three years (I can’t remember how long, honestly, it may have been four) has erased whatever conquistador leanings I might have had in the vocal department, and I’m clearly not comfortable. Andras notices this and he’s exactly right. There’s a lot of anxiety about “For the Ashes” with me. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t totally grasp the subject matter – Ken’s lyrics are resolute and downcast, and the relationships in the song are hard to envision, beautiful and gripping as it is.
Or maybe I’m bringing my own personal insecurities, which have been extremely loud neighbors to me over the last two years, into this whole affair. I tell nobody this (so now, of course, I’m telling everyone), but I’d been grappling with the apparent realities of my particular station in life for a long time, and “For the Ashes” seems to speak to part of it. I feel I’m no longer getting the opportunities I had received when I was younger. I’m frustrated at not working in the music field for which I’m clearly suited, and have sort of resigned myself to being a wage slave with a music hobby until shortly before my funeral. I’d almost gotten exactly the job I needed just a few weeks before, but came in second out of over 250 applicants. I figure it took five years for that chance to show up, and the next chance, if it happens at all, won’t be coming any sooner. And it’s killing me 24 hours a day. This is gnawing on my spine constantly.
Again, nobody knows this is the case in Radio8Band, because… I don’t really have a good reason why, or why not. But that’s what’s happening, and I’m also not telling anyone how much I value the fraternization that’s going on, how much it’s making me feel involved again.
The second weekend of rehearsals we actually run through a mock show with Shmushkin. We’re each asking questions and “spinning” the 8-Ball – actually just picking the cards, since it’s a rehearsal and the wheel is still hibernating – and playing whatever Posies song comes up. The band is taking this at varying levels of seriousness. Scott’s first question was “What rhymes with ‘orange’?” He’s talked into asking about what’s going to happen with his upcoming album, what he needs to do to get it going.
I forget what song came up for Scott, but he’s asked to pick the next inquirer, and he chooses me. I, quite seriously and sincerely, ask the question “What’s going to happen with the Boston job?” The song that comes up: “For the Ashes.” Perfect. Crap. (A month after the show, as I write this, I’m resigned to the fact that the Boston job isn’t happening. Would’ve heard by now. Back to the catacombs.)
I throw it to Merithew, who asks a perfect question about his eldest son, who’s having some emotional issues. Not anything that any of our other parent friends aren’t dealing with; in fact, Merithew’s description of his son sounds very similar, if not a carbon copy, of some of the issues that come up with my middle child Hank. Hank does not like disappointment and is very vocal about it. Sometimes we forget that he’s six and this is comparatively normal. But I hear Jon’s question and I keep thinking, “That’s what Hank’s going through. I really should have a chat with Jon about this. We could exchange information or ideas.” I mean to mention this, but forget.
This is going beyond the point of the rehearsal, but it’s probably slightly more important (if not as time-sensitive) as the rehearsal, and the fact is it wouldn’t be coming up if we weren’t specifically rehearsing for Radio8Ball. If this was Night of the Living Tribute Bands or Live Aid we wouldn’t even be thinking about these things. Certainly not vocalizing them. That point is not lost on us, and that’s one of the reasons I think R8B might have a chance.
I’ll be honest: Up until showtime, I didn’t know if the synchronicity thing was going to go over. This isn’t out of lack of faith in the concept; I’d seen it executed before, perfectly. It’s simply the approach I’ve brought to every single show that I’ve ever played. It may be a deliberate mechanism on my part, to keep me from getting too expectant or keyed up in the wrong direction. I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to plan as if you’re playing from behind. In a sense it removes the pressure. But this time, I’m feeling a little pressure.
I had no qualms about the band, I had no uncertainties about Shmushkin’s presence, and certainly had no misgivings about how the show would unfold. All that seemed well in hand, stuff we would control. But it was the synchronicity angle, which was not and could never be in our control, that I was worried about. It was the least tangible, most indescribable component of our show, and naturally the most important. That it was outside of our string-pulling was a given; I just didn’t want to blunder in and disable the strings with sloppy scissors. I wondered if the fact of the show being taped for video is going to disrupt the flow and stem the current.
But in the end that’s exactly how it should have been played: We control what we control, and the intangible element susses itself out just as long as we don’t suffocate it.
I get there about 3pm, driving straight from my job in Seattle to the gig in Oly. The rest of the cast dissolves in between 3 and 4. We get set up. I can’t drink enough water. And, of course, this being taped for video posterity means we’re all going to have to get made up, a duty that’s handled by a very nice local salon owner named Carly. I sit and get dabbed over for about five minutes and we have a nice chat. At some point – I don’t remember this happening – Merithew snaps a picture of me getting made up. I am very uncomfortable having my picture taken, but for some reason I love this photo of me getting made up by Carly. It says a lot about who I am these days and the people who are helping me out in their own small ways.
The band is squished together at stage right. Not the tightest quarters I’ve had to endure but we jokingly pretend it’s putting us out in some way. Certain lineups have to be followed to some extent that we’re not used to because this is all being filmed for television, but it’s not prohibitively uncomfortable.
The show starts at 8:30 with the theme song, which we’ve Nilsson-ized a bit so it sounds like the opening chords from “One.” I’m still unaware of any sea change in the synchronicity front. I still have no idea how all these songs are going to fall in perfectly, or if the general concept is going to transfer successfully to the crowd. The procedurals with the cameras make for some moments of stillness that some players might panic over. None of us are panicked though. I think we’ve gone through too many of these situations that have worked out (or not) to get panicked.
And there is some gentle indication via the first few questions that levity is still the expected order of the day. They’re not dismissive or outright rude questions, and certainly Shmushkin is making each one count as a legitimate inquiry. But I’m sitting at the piano wondering why nobody’s taken our bait and asked for clarity on a seriously pressing issue. I’m fretting over the sanctity of the concept more than Shmushkin, fer chrissakes.
It’s not a total surprise, since most of the audience is comprised of people Shmushkin and the band know personally, but it’s a bit startling to see so many people with fairly close ties to us getting selected to have their questions read onstage. Luke’s dad is chosen; so is Skyler Blake, who’s played with Scott for years, in The Hard Way, The Fond Farewells and other projects.
There’s a moment when the show changes dramatically, though. It’s when Liz gets selected to read her question onstage. I’ve known Liz pretty well for over a decade – we’re not blood buddies, but we’ve had our fair share of meaningful conversations and encounters. She’s also Scott’s ex. They played together in Scott’s band The Hard Way, which Luke plays in. There’s a palpable but not unfriendly tension onstage, but fully half of it is how the question of someone the band is fairly close with is going to engage the pop oracle.
It turns out to be the most poignant question of the night: I’ve recently moved to a new town, and I want to know if I’m ever going to make any friends. Frankly that gives me a lump in the throat. When Liz lived in Olympia she was never at a lack for friends, or at least that’s how I perceived it. Just right off the bat the thought that’s she’s experiencing any kind of unwanted solitude is sad for all of us, I think.
The song she gets is “For The Ashes.” It’s a tough one. That’s all I really know about how to decipher the lyric. It’s one of Ken’s. There’s a semblance of death in it, or at least a reference to the finite. It carries the uncomfortable sense of final preparations, of not having all your efforts and time pay off in as complete a result as we’d wish. There’s a part that Scott sings at the onset of the bridge: “Someday I’m gonna wake up dead, I know.” Considering the context of everyone who’s hanging onstage at the moment, it’s a frightening, sad, resonant line.
That’s when all the pieces fall together, where the narrative of the show becomes clear. And for someone like me who prefers their storylines to be relentlessly tangible and couched in utmost logic it might take some time to grasp the intangible traits of Radio8Ball. Andras and Shmushkin have dealt with this strain for almost fifteen years; I’ve just had to get through the set and cash in the drink tickets all my life. Yet I know this is something I like to be involved in. I frequently underestimate my relish for surprise, especially in advance. It feels a lot better than it sounds in pre-production. It’s something I’ve sought to ease back into my life after ten years of necessarily being ordered, the sort of shakeup that I can deal with.
Everyone’s inordinately happy with how it turned out. When’s the last time you finished a show and felt optimism that it wasn’t really over yet?
Remember when I said I was worried the synchronicity angle wouldn’t take? Yeah, that was a silly concern.
Not two minutes after the show ended, Skyler met me outside Rhythm & Rye with the excitement you usually see from someone who just scored a hundred on a scratch-off. “That was a great show!” He was amazed at how fully the synchronicity angle played itself out.
Luke’s parents, Evan and Donna, seemed to feel like they’d just discovered a whole new way to approach music, along with a band they never knew about.
The cameras and technical procedures didn’t affect the rhythm of the show at all. Perhaps they enhanced it. Maybe everybody got the chance to breathe.
I couldn’t hear a damn thing in my monitors. That was something I failed to communicate. Everyone said everything sounded great. I still give myself notes.
I say goodnight to Erin, our bartender, who makes a point of leaving her station, coming around the bar and giving me a hug on the way out. Before 6pm we didn’t really know each other at all. I find that pertinent in some way.
After I pack up everything I get a second with Andras before I head out the door, and I think for the first time in the entire process I let myself ruminate on just how far this can go. There are so many things this format could work for. Introducing artists. Revisiting styles. Encouraging the band to create their own songs. Investigating themes. Comedy opportunities. Dramatic opportunities.
For once it feels like we’re all working for a new way to re-enter into a relationship with music. And that’s exactly how things are shaking down, given the current state of the music industry. The numbers aren’t there anymore, Goliath’s in the nursing home. And at least for this transitional time and hopefully forever, it’s going to be more about the experience and the context, turning that into an art form in itself. The audience used to be nothing more than a headcount; now they deserve a little more than that. They have to be a real component of the experience, part of the animal. They have to feel they’re thinking, discovering, and even giving back to music in a way they haven’t expected before.
“There are so many things we could do with this,” I say to Andras.
But what I really mean is: There are so many things Radio8Ball can do. Pretending we can control it will only mess it up. I have the rest of my time to be a pent-up control freak. Here, I’ll just nudge wherever I’m asked, the same as everyone else does. The payback, I assure you, will be greater and longer.