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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2010/01/27
by David Steinberg

Resolved: See More Music

About 11 years ago I wrote a column about aging and seeing music. It made sense at the time as I was turning 30 and that seemed like a big milestone. The problem, of course, is that I didn’t know anything about the subject yet.

While turning 30 feels like you’re getting old, I found the big change was going from 35 to 40. That’s when the lure of home got stronger and the novelty of music faded. When I could get myself out of the house to see a band, usually it was pretty fun – if not quite as intense as it was when I had fewer concerts under my belt to compare it to – but the effort required rapidly grew. Adding to that, this is also the age where friends start to have kids, and while we’ve resisted that temptation, it makes it more difficult to go out when you know that it’s less likely you’ll see your friends there.

So between getting older, having to plan a wedding, and – oh yeah – the return of a certain band – I found that I saw very little local music in 2009. I kept wanting to go out, but I’d find an excuse or two – the show was on a weeknight, I didn’t want to spend the $20, it was raining – to not go. As I flew into Miami for the New Year’s run, I reflected on that and decided that that situation was untenable in the long run. I love Phish and it made sense to spend a year reveling in their return but on the airplane I made a resolution to go out and see more local – as in closer to my house than the Gorge – music.

Fortunately, my resolution didn’t take long to try to fulfill. Harking back to an all night concert in a warehouse 10 years ago, some friends organized a Living Daylights reunion show for mid January. Not just would this be my first chance to see the full band in well over a year, but they had some guests, McTuff’s Joe Doria and Andy Coe on keyboard and guitars respectively and extra saxophonist Craig Flory [1]. This effectively eliminated the one problem I’ve had with the band. Living Daylights shows can get a tad repetitive by the end. The song starts with a theme, Jessica takes a few interesting solos, she grabs her shaker device and there’s a drum or bass solo or two, Jessica goes back onto the sax or flute to take another solo, and then the theme reprises. It’s a good enough routine to make shows enjoyable but things got more interesting with other non-percussive instruments in the mix. There were keyboard and guitar jams, multiple saxophone improvisations, flute and keyboard interactions. The complexion of the music changed dramatically, which is probably why I got so excited back in the Seattle funk/jam days when keyboardist Dara Quinn would sit in with the Daylights or Jessica would play with Rockin’ Teenage Combo. In a jamband, the second non-rhythm section instrument can be crucial.

As much fun as it was seeing my friends hang out in a condemned, graffiti covered building, seeing great music, that wasn’t the end of my January music adventures. The following Saturday brought the Greyboy Allstars to Bellingham. Bellingham is a small college town [2] about 80 miles north of Seattle, just a hop away from the border. Midway between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. it’s a good place for small bands that want to get one more show in if they’re going to come all the way to the Pacific Northwest. Not only does it have a geographical advantage, but the town itself is suddenly becoming quite interesting. Seattle had an influx of youth in the 80s and 90s, which created all sorts of energy, but that flow has largely ceased. The town has aged, leading to fewer hipsters and more families. Bellingham – on the other hand – is still small enough that the energy of WWU [3] can dominate the downtown area on a weekend. When your city evolves in a direction, it’s easy to assume that this is happening everywhere, but the short drive was a reminder that there are still places where people dress in hippie fashions. There were some minor costumes and even some patchwork, and – while people in Seattle also like to get wacky at shows – this was lower budget casualness. Sometimes costuming can be intimidating, making people feel like they’d have to be incredible seamstresses or have enough money to hire one to play. Bellingham had more of a spirit that anyone could join in.

That ultimately was the lesson I took home from my first two shows of 2010. The reminder I needed is that not every show has to be the best show in the history of mankind. You might not even want to hear it again [4]. There’s energy in a room full of people out to have fun and it’s possible to get so caught up in the discussion and the dissection to forget why we all started seeing music in the first place. This resolution is off to a great stop. Next stop – a date with Tea Leaf Green!

[1] Percussionist Elizabeth Pupo-Walker also sat in, but she’s played with them so often, that I think of her as an honorary member of the Daylights.

[2] In this case, small modifies college (Western Washington University isn’t exactly Ohio State or something) as much as it does town.

[3] Which unfortunately is not pronounced “Waaa-wooooo!” by anyone but me.

[4] But if you want the Living Daylight’s show, it’s available here .

David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the Phish.net blog.

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