#SupportLocalArtists – Go See A Band This Weekend; Salina’s Rockgarden

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I can remember in college there were several kind of bars. There were pubs or taverns where you’d go to drink, talk loud and maybe shoot pool. These bars generally had juke boxes of varying quality. There were also “clubs” which typically had a dance floor, expensive drinks and music I considered awful. The third type of bar when I was younger, was a place with a stage or at least a cleared out part of the floor where a band could set up a drum kit and a few amps. The bands were like the juke boxes in the taverns, varying in quality, but I always loved going out to see a live band in a bar. My favorite type of bar in those days was probably a tie between the taverns with the juke boxes and the bars with live bands. Naturally most of the chicks were in the “clubs” dancing with sweaty dudes in polo shirts and a lot of Drakar Noir. At least I heard better music during this strange period of self-imposed celibacy.

As I’ve gotten older, I find myself drifting more toward dive bars with crusty bartenders, dark murky fluids and classic rock on the juke box or the house stereo. I’m not sure when it happened but I stopped going out for the express purpose of seeing a band. I’m not sure how this happened. I can still remember being on a road trip in college and walking into a bar just as the trio in the corner launched into “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin. I can tell you that’s not a tune you’re going to hear very often by a bar band. These guys nailed it. My friends and I just plopped down at the bar, drank all the beer they had (or at least tried to), and didn’t leave til the band did.

I spent my summer after college in Boston working in a liquor store, where the employees taught me that summah was for drinking with your friends. There was a rough and tumble, heavy metal bar close to where we lived, named (if memory serves me) Bunratty’s (or maybe Bonratty’s, the accent always threw me off). We’d put on our shittiest clothes, and head down to hear whoever that night’s headbangers happened to be. You had to be careful at Bunratty’s… we’d heard a guy had been stabbed there, which I still think is a story the Boston-ites told us Midwest guys to freak us out. I remember seeing a few bands there and thinking, I’m going to see these guys in arenas some day. I’m still not sure any of them made it, but it was summer and I was drinking beer with friends… my judgement can’t be trusted.

After I returned from my Arkansas exile, back to Kansas City, the blues became central to my evenings out. There was a legendary blues bar downtown, the Grand Emporium. They had a poster on the wall of a July 4th concert that Stevie Ray Vaughn had played there and the ticket price was like, $4. Had I only known. I saw Koko Taylor there one night, Blues Royalty. I think it was Wednesday nights when the Grand Emporium held “Reggae Night” and you could go down and see the best reggae north of Jamaica. I seem to remember being especially impressed by a group named The Bone Daddys. Nice name, guys. I even saw the famous Chicago blues harmonica player Sugar Blue there…but I might be confusing that with Kingston Mines in Chicago.

Before I met the Rock Chick I used to spend my Saturday afternoons in a bar named Harlings, that smelled like they had a plumbing problem, but they had a blues jam hosted by Big Mama Ray, a woman who could be 40 or could be 90… too hard to tell behind those Marlboro 100s. After the blues jam was over we’d wander down to the Hurricane and catch the locally famous Bon Ton Soul Accordion Band. I won’t even begin to attempt to describe the cajun gumbo of sounds those guys made. I was lucky if I made it to 10 pm on those nights…

Those days have quietly faded away. I don’t remember the last time I’d gone out in KC to expressly see a live band, which is weird because we have a great live music scene here, mostly blues based. Usually when I’m traveling with the Rock Chick we’ll end up in some bar listening to a band. We recently traveled to Austin with my friend Stormin and his lovely wife. We ended up in a blues bar for most the evening listening to a band that was fair. Finally the ladies had had enough and went back to the hotel and Stormin and I ducked into an Irish pub that had a 70s Glam Rock cover band and holy crap were they good. I wish I remembered the name of that band. They played Bowie and if memory serves a great Kiss cover. These guys all had make up on, they were truly committed to their genre. It was awesome. My only regret is we hadn’t checked that earlier, the Rock Chick would have loved that band.

I had the good fortune of meeting the drummer of a great regional band, Rockgarden, at a Black Sabbath concert last winter. As fate would have it, Rockgarden came to KC and played a show this weekend. I was pretty fried by the end of a long week of work and being over served bourbon the night before, but in deference to my newly minted friend, the Rock Chick and I hooked up with my pal The General, and headed out to the bar. Man, am I glad I did. Rockgarden plays a mix of great 90’s rock: the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Aeroplane, a personal fav), Lenny Kravitz, Foo Fighters and to my delight some Rage Against the Machine. If you get a chance and live around here, go see Rockgarden, they kick  ass. But this isn’t a review of Rockgarden, I have to recuse myself as I know the drummer. This is about the forgotten joys of seeing a band live in a bar.

There is nothing like hearing the crack of the cymbal, the squealing feedback of a guitar while you watch the guys on stage play. When a band, like Rockgarden, lock into a groove, it’s simply magical. There was a chick celebrating something, I think a birthday, she had a tiara on and her and her friends were clearly having a blast. That spirit was infectious in the bar. Having once again been over served vodka, even I got swept up during the Rage cover, “Bulls On Parade” and attempted to create a pogo’ing mosh pit. Alas, due to the vodka I fear I looked more like I was doing off balance jumping jacks and nobody joined me on the dance floor. The Rock Chick was amused, so I get points there. That’s the magic of live music folks, even a guy like me who is usually rooted to the bar stool finds himself in the middle of the dance floor jumping up and down.

Wherever you live there is probably, within walking distance or a short cab/Uber ride, a bar that has on the marquee or website the words “Featuring Live Music,” or something like that. Maybe you live in a rural community and there’s a street fair going on. In Kansas City the KC Blues Society has a calendar of where and when certain blues acts are playing. I have to think that something like that exists anywhere in any town or hamlet. And if you’re like me, and you’ve let the joy of seeing a band in an intimate setting like a bar slip by, or if you only go see big name acts in arenas (and believe me, there’s nothing wrong with that!) do yourself a favor and find a band to see this weekend. It’s critically important that you support local bands and local artists. Your help could foster a whole “scene” and who knows, before you know it your town is the Seattle of the 90s. There is something quasi-mystical about convening in a dark room, surrounded by friends holding strong drink and listening to the sounds of a band play live. No matter what you’re into – blues, jazz, madrigals (yes, Richie Blackmore), country, metal, reggae, folk music – do yourself a favor and gather some friends and go out and support a local artist. I’m not saying you have to buy a CD after the show, just have a drink or two and if you feel inspired, get up and move your body around. It will do you good!! Trust me, it did me good after a long and awful week.

Cheers!

BourbonAndVinyl Turns 1 Year Old: Thank You!

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Yesterday, July 11th, BourbonAndVinyl.net turned 1 year old… Happy Birthday to us! I just wanted to pause and thank all of you who have stopped their busy days to take some time to read B&V. When I started this music blog with my Mission Statement a year ago, I never thought anybody would actually read this. It was just something to do in between drinking and putting albums on the stereo. My goal was to entertain. I’m not sure if I’ve accomplished that or not, but over 2,000 people have visited us over the last year. Well, it’s either 2,000 different people or my mother has just logged on 2,000 times… My Sainted Mother is very supportive… Anyway, thank you to all of you who have read B&V. I appreciate all the support and comments. I hope you’ll continue checking us out from time to time. If you like something we post, please tell a friend.

Thank you!!!

#OrlandoUnited

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I started this blog to highlight the wonderful joys of sitting in a room or even better a bar, and enjoying your favorite libation while listening to loud music. My favorite libation happens to be fine Bourbon, but to each their own. There is little outside my family that I hold sacred. I’m not a religious man nor am I a political person. Outside family, one of the few things I do hold sacred is sitting in a bar or cafe with friends, sharing a drink and a laugh and if I’m lucky, some good music. Now it seems, from the cafes of Paris to bars in Orlando, drinking in a club with friends has become a dangerous act.

I had a great-uncle who was Gay. As Rod Stewart once sang, “Georgie was gay I guess, nothing more or nothing less.” It was never that big of a deal in my family. My great-uncle’s father was an alcoholic and a mean guy who abandoned my great-uncle’s mom, my great-uncle and his two siblings. His childhood sounds like it was pretty awful. Right after high school my great-uncle got a job and started supporting his family. College, or any other dreams the guy must have had were put on hold. He did what he had to do to feed his mother and the two kids she was raising. The man has always been a Hero in my mind. He worked hard his whole life. It never mattered to me who he lived with, who he loved or anything about what he did. To each, their own.

The thought that some mentally unstable, terrorist groupie could possibly hate anybody based on who they love or who they kiss is inconceivable to me. To turn what should have been a glorious Saturday night out drinking and dancing with friends for those patrons of Pulse into the horrific carnage we witnessed this weekend makes me livid. Anybody capable of mass murder doesn’t get to claim he did it for God. Religion doesn’t bother me but increasingly the religious do. Freud would have had a field day with this shooter. The fact that this guy could get access to legally purchased guns is the most disturbing part of this whole thing for me. Again, I’m not political but someone on an FBI watch list and who was clearly troubled shouldn’t have access to anything more dangerous than a butter knife. Spare me the thoughts and prayers… we need action.

The most heartening part of this story, which was highlighted on “Last Week, Tonight” hosted by John Oliver, was how the people of Orlando lined up around the block waiting to give blood to help the injured survivors of the brutal attack. I had actually seen that on the news earlier in the day yesterday and felt that swelling pride that I feel at these times of calamity. To watch the people of Orlando come together the way they did was both moving and inspiring. I salute you all. While my heart remains heavy today, seeing that line at the blood bank helped lift me up a bit. We’re not going to let the bastards drag us down.

I stand with Orlando. I stand with all those poor, sad families who were effected by this  horrible tragedy. I stand with all my LGBT brothers and sisters. My thoughts are with all of them. I don’t pray, but I believe a quiet toast and a moment of silence is in order. But most of all, I’m not letting anybody scare me away from having a drink with friends. Hang in there people, it’s a dark ride… take care of each other the best you can.

Cheers!

 

 

Review: Mudcrutch, Denver, Co; Ogden Theater 25May16

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*Mudcrutch takes a bow in front of your intrepid blogger (apologies to Tom Leadon on the right who I drunkenly cut off)

It was about a month ago I got the text…. it was from one of my dearest friends, Stormin’… it went: “My prayer has been answered. Mudcrutch May 26, Ogden Theater. Unfortunately my pre-sales code only allows for two tickets. Thoughts?” “Thoughts” indeed….the hook was baited but would I be able to take it? My first thought, as it always is when Stormin’ invites me off to an adventure was “How am I going to work this?…” The Rock Chick, strangely, is not a fan of Mudcrutch but is a fan of Tom Petty. It’s a little like saying you like Superman, but you’re not crazy about that Clark Kent guy. There were options… I could go alone but I quickly realized this was Memorial Day Weekend and that wouldn’t fly. I could buy the Rock Chick a ticket but that option was facing some stiff resistance. Or, and this is what we compromised on, I’d go alone with Stormin’ and the Rock Chick would get to go to Vail the next day… It was a dicey gamble, the Rock Chick likes to shop, but I can now say with clear hindsight, it was a good bargain all around.

In the old days, when Stormin’ and I went off into the night time, in search of rock and roll and other recreations, there was a good chance one or both of us would end up in shackles. There have been “episodes” in the past that decorum prohibits me from discussing in this rather public format. Things are quieter now that we’re both married dudes… I was on vacation all week anticipating this concert. The last time Mudcrutch toured they only played dates in LA and SF or maybe just LA… this was their first real trek across the States. I got to Denver Wednesday night to discover Stormin’ had his vegetable crisper full of beer and, of all things, “Sad Wings of Destiny” by Judas Priest on the stereo. Oh, yes, this was working out perfectly.

The only other time I was in the Ogden Theater in Denver was when I was there for the Cult’s “Electric” Tour where they performed, not surprisingly from the name, the entire “Electric” album. That was a banner evening. The Ogden seats, and I’m guessing here, maybe 1500 to 1600 people. I was assuming being able to see Petty and a few of the Heartbreakers in Mudcrutch in this small room was going to be something special. For once, I was right… It was an amazing night. Since we had the VIP package, we got in earlier than the rest of the GA crowd and ended up right at the stage, two people back from the barricade. There’s an intimacy in a small theater that I experienced first hand. When Petty came out, with his bass guitar slung low, he’d look slightly to his left, right into my eyes. As he sang, there were a few times I had to look away, it was like he was looking right into my soul. That’s how close I was. So naturally, this was not a normal show for me.

First and foremost I must call out Mike Campbell. He is one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever seen. Whether in the Heartbreakers or Mudcrutch, he’s (as my friend Stormin’ said) “the glue.” Whether it was mandolin or guitar, the guy just shredded. To see his dexterity up close was something I will not soon forget. Benmont Tench, the other Heartbreaker in Mudcrutch, on keyboards was equally amazing. His boogie-woogie piano was all over the music. Each member sang at least 1 song and I must give a shout out to rhythm guitarist Tom Leadon (Bernie from the Eagles brother) for the amazing lead, harmony and backing vocals he contributed. He and Petty’s banter caused most of the laughter during the show. Randall Marsh on drums was a big hitter – not a lot of swing – but he was very capable and his vocal turn on “Beautiful World” was spot on. Petty played a nice bass guitar. He seemed almost nervous to be away from his natural instrument, the guitar. His hands were even shaking a bit as they came on stage. His vocals were amazing as usual. “I Forgave It All,” a haunting ballad and “Hungry No More” were vocal performances that I will never forget. Simply beautiful.

The show opened with a tune off the first Mudcrutch album, “Shady Grove” which spotlights both Leadon and Petty’s vocals. They followed up with three more tunes from the first record until they got to the first single from “2,” “Trailer.” They played almost all of “2” with the exception of “Beautiful Blue” which I’d liked to have heard and a good portion of “Mudcrutch.” The encore was a Jerry Lee Lewis cover, once again spotlighting the amazing piano of Ben Tench. Anyone expecting to hear something from the Heartbreaker’s repertoire will be disappointed… I was not.

Highlights for me include the Byrds cover from the first album, “Six Days On the Road,” which is just a great, galloping road tune. “Beautiful World,” “Dreams of Flying,” and “Crystal River” were all great performances. The latter tune being the longest jam they played all night. The interplay between band members was a lot of fun. Campbell would walk over to Leadon to trade licks, or all the guitarist would end a song standing near the piano watching Tench bang out a solo. The song “Hope” from “2” which on the record is an organ driven Animals’ style rocker, turned into a muscular guitar showcase for Campbell.

“Bootleg Flyer” was the last song in the main set and it was a scorcher. It was the perfect way to wrap up the two hour set. The band quickly returned for the encore, the aforementioned Jerry Lee Lewis’ cover, “High School Confidential.” The crowd was frenzied at that point. I could barely hear over the screams as Petty and the rest of the band took their final bow, right in front of me, as pictured above.

My legs were sore, but I had a huge smile on my face as a hobbled out of the Ogden. I once again grabbed my buddy Stormin’s shoulder and yelled, “Fuck, wow!” It was all I could muster. Storm and I staggered down to a deserted bar and had a few celebratory beers and finally managed to convince the bartender to call us a cab.

Where ever you happen to live… if Mudcrutch is in your town, call the ticket broker, this is a must see show.

Cheers!

Review Redux: Mudcrutch “2” (Full Album) A Very Strong, Tighter Return

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First and foremost, I must apologize to any of you who read my original review of the full album “2” by Mudcrutch. I wasn’t happy with my original title, which included the words, “A Band Having Fun.” I felt like that title was misleading and made the album sound more upbeat than it is. I do think, in terms of fun, Petty is  having a great time playing bass, playing with different musicians and having the entire band contribute songwriting, but that doesn’t mean all the music is happy. So, I went in and tried to edit the title. Being the Luddite that I am, I didn’t realize that changing the title would delete all the actual text under the title in the body of the post. Technical SNAFU’s seem to be my specialty. I will attempt, in this Redux Review, to recreate what I wrote earlier from my notes. Again, I am sorry for my technical stupidity.

If anything, these few extra days have only made my esteem for this record grow… leaps and bounds, in fact.

I’ve always been a huge Tom Petty fan… I can still remember buying “Damn the Torpedoes,” my first Petty album, on vinyl at the record store in the mall. That album was a certified masterpiece. I’ve always felt Petty’s career had a bit of an ebb and flow to it until “Fool Moon Fever” came out. Petty’s popularity exploded. I can still remember driving to the office when I was exiled to Arkansas and hearing “I Won’t Back Down” on the radio and thinking, “this is my new theme song…” It didn’t work, I ended up backing down, I quit. It was the best thing for me at the time. As Keith Richards once sang, it was time for me to “walk before they made me run…” but those records are also sealed.

After “Full Moon Fever” Petty seemed to have had the Midas Touch. Everything the guy did, with or without the Heartbreakers, turned to gold. That purple patch lasted him from “Full Moon Fever” through the whole Wilbury’s thing up to “Wildflowers.” Even the departure of founding drummer Stan Lynch during this time period seemed to make the Heartbreakers even stronger, which many times is not the case with a band member’s departure. Then came the superb and highly under-appreciated “Echo” album. For reasons unclear, the album didn’t reach the heights of Petty’s then recent successes. I will say, “Echo” had a bit of a melancholy fog hanging over it likely caused by Petty’s recent divorce. Petty did not react well to the lukewarm reception of “Echo” and recorded what seemed like a very angry follow-up, “The Last DJ.”

But after “The Last DJ,” the strangest thing happened. It’s as if Petty decided, “fuck it,” and started making music that made him happy and music that the Heartbreakers clearly enjoyed playing. He has a trio of great, late-career. kick-ass albums – “Highway Companion,” “Mojo,” and “Hypnotic Eye.” These are the types of albums that inspired me to start writing BourbonAndVinyl in the first place. All three are on the highly recommended list.

During this late period surge, in 2007, Petty agreed to doing a documentary on his and the Heartbreaker’s history, “Running Down a Dream,” and I must say it’s a must see for Petty fans. In the documentary, they dedicate a section to Mudcrutch, Petty’s first band out of Florida. Randy Marsh (drums) and Tom Leadon (guitar/vocal) were in the band with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Petty on bass guitar. Later, after Leadon left, Benmont Tench (keyboards) joined. The band recorded a few singles that were completely ignored before disbanding. Petty switched to guitar, kept Campbell and Tench, formed the Heartbreakers and the rest, as they say, is history. But something in the documentary must have inspired the whole “what might have been” thought process…usually that leads to calling an ex-girlfriend, but in this case, Petty pulled together Mudcrutch in 2008 and recorded the album “Mudcrutch.” It was a loose-limbed, “jammy” affair, but I really liked that record.

I had always assumed “Mudcrutch” was a one-off affair, but then late last year the rumors began that Petty was reassembling Mudcrutch to record another record. This past weekend saw the release of “2,” the band’s second record. Clearly with album names “Mudcrutch” and “2” it’s clear that Petty and the lads don’t put a lot of time or thought into their album titles. Having had some recent “title problems” of my own, I get it. Damn technology. The record starts off with an old outtake from Petty’s “Playback” box-set, “Trailer.” “Trailer” is one of those wistful, looking back tunes about a relationship that failed. At first, I was surprised he dug out that old tune for this album, but the sentiments in the tune sort of sum up the whole Mudcrutch enterprise. It’s a great version of the song.

Petty required everybody in the band to write a song. My favorite band contribution is “Beautiful World” by Randy Marsh. I think he sings it. I do wish, as I stated when the single came out, that Petty had sung it, but it’s still a kick ass rock song. It and “Dream of Flying” (which Petty sings) are the closest you’ll get to a Heartbreaker-y sound here. “Dream of Flying” is superb. I do think Petty is enjoying this different group of collaborators but that doesn’t mean the songs are all as upbeat as “Beautiful World”.

The centerpiece of the record for me remains “Hungry No More.” It’s a defiant song about resilience that makes Scarlett O’Hara’s vow to never be hungry again seem tame in comparison. Mike Campbell’s guitar is all over “Hungry No More” and his performance here is why he’s one of the greatest to ever strap on a guitar. “I Forgive It All” is a beautiful, spare ballad in the manner of “Highway Companion”s song “Square One.” It and “Beautiful Blue” are the best love songs here. “Beautiful Blue” simply shimmers. “Victim Of Circumstance”is Campbell’s writing effort here and it’s another exceptional tune.

The only tunes that left me cold are Leadon’s “The Other Side of the Mountain” mostly because there’s a banjo (not to sound like the Rock Chick, but I am “banjo-interolerant) and Ben Tench’s “Welcome to Hell.” I love Tench’s boogie woogie piano on the song, but the lyrics are like a joke that just misfires. But these are minor complaints, neither song is terrible. Mudcrutch’s first album, as I mentioned, was such a loose jam, it’s nice to hear these guys so focused. The songs are finely crafted, much tighter than the first record and well played.

“2” is a highly recommended purchase from BourbonAndVinyl. Play it loud and often… and the best part of this album is that for the first time Mudcrutch is playing concerts outside the state of California… which means I’ll be heading to Denver for Memorial Day Weekend with one of my best friends Stormin’ and Mudcrutch. If you get a chance to see these guys, run to the concert, don’t walk. I’ll post an update after I’ve seen the show!!

Again, my apologies for accidentally deleting the original review of this superb record and as always, Cheers!

 

Summer Drinking: The Food Center Liquor Store, Brookline, MA

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“Time is a jet plane it moves so fast” – Bob Dylan, “You’re A Big Girl Now”

I was texting with my drummer friend yesterday. He’d read my review of the RHCP’s new song, “Dark Necessities” and had reached out. Like me, he’s a huge fan of bands with strong rhythm sections like the Who, Rush, Rock Garden and of course, the RHCPs. Give me that bottom. He was complaining about the overly-produced sound of the drums. I have to admit that Danger Mouse put so much polish on the record I can almost see my reflection in it, but I still love the song. It’s in high rotation here at the house. He then mentioned his band had a gig that night, and said, “It’s almost like summer, man!”

Ah, summer. It always makes me think of Boston and the Food Center Liquor Store, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s nothing better than summer drinking. And while I have to consume some bourbon today (I’m working on a “deconstructed” mint julep, straight bourbon from the bottle with a peppermint in my mouth) for the Kentucky Derby, the world’s greatest sporting event, when summer comes it’ll be time to put away the dark liquors and heavy beers. Time to dust off the vodka lemonades and the Blue Moon. I would suggest buying stock in Ketel One immediately, they’re about to have a sales surge. When summer comes to the Midwest the entire region opens like a flower.

This time of year always takes me back. It’s not only summer’s arrival, but the fact that it’s graduation season takes me back to my own college graduation.  At the time, I took all the money I’d been gifted for graduating and bought a ticket to fly to Boston to join my buddies Matthew and GP who were both living out there. Matthew was in Law School and GP was peddling soft drinks. I had somehow convinced GP to move out there with me…I’m not sure he’s forgiven me yet. My corporate overlords didn’t need me until September, so I thought, “What the Hell, why not?” Once I arrived in Boston and got myself ensconced at the apartment the three of us shared on Commonwealth Avenue, I immediately spent the rest of my Graduation Money at the used record store two blocks up from us, “In Your Ear.” I found all the Faces records on vinyl I’d been searching for in that used record store and I can close my eyes and still see myself standing there, mouth agape at my “huge” discovery. Unfortunately spending all my money on used albums wasn’t going to sustain me for the summer in super-expensive Boston.

Matthew and I went to the local grocery store on the outskirts of Brookline, the birthplace of JFK, and after watching Matthew fail while hitting on the beautiful, Hispanic store clerk, I noticed a “Help Wanted” sign on the window of the liquor store adjacent. My reduced circumstances made me bold and I strolled in and inquired after the opening. I was told the job was in the “other store,” two miles away, in the main village square of Brookline.

The next day, I set off on my adventure to find the Brookline Food Center Liquor Store. I walked for what seemed like forever until I finally spotted it, situated on a main street, next to a police station which I regarded with suspicion at the time. I strolled in and a man with sunglasses on (while inside) and a 70’s porno-star mustache was behind the register. I introduced myself and asked about the job. Being from Kansas, I had always thought I had no accent at all. Apparently to this hardened, Boston liquor store owner I sounded like I’d just wandered in off the plantation in Mississippi. He probably couldn’t delineate between Mississippi or Missouri as I was to find out later… He smiled at me and immediately started on my accent… “You ain’t from around here are you (it sounded like “ah yoo”)? You from down South somewhere?” I told him I was from Kansas and that was suddenly my name, “Kansas.” I asked again for the job and he replied “Uh, Ok Kansas, you uh, wanted for anything criminal? I got cop friends, I’ll know so don’t fucking lie to me.”His Boston accent was so thick I struggled to understand him. It took a while to adjust (he kept saying Food Center as Food Centah). It was an odd interview question. I replied that I had no record and I wasn’t wanted for anything criminal… well, nothing that would stick. “Ok Kansas, welcome to the Food Centah, you start (staht) tomorrow, be here at 3pm.” I had a job!

The next day, and really for the rest of the summer, it was my job to show up at the liquor store and a) stock the beer fridge and b) take the Massachusettes 5 cent beer can returns. The man with the mustache who was named Doug but referred to himself as “Uncle Chico” explained it to me my first day. He took me out of the cooler to the front of the beer display. We stood a few feet back and he said, “Kansas, look at that, do you see any gaps in the beer coolah?” There were none. “Thats how I wanna see my coolah from now on, no gaps.” I was literally responsible for walking into the cooler and pushing six packs forward so people could easily reach them. Every now and again, I’d get busy with beer can returns and I’d hear, in that thick Boston accent, “Kansas, Kansas?” and I’d run out to the store floor from the back cubby hole where we took returns and he would always say, when he was upset about the beer cooler, “Do you love Uncle Chico? Do you love Uncle Chico?” There was only one reply, I’d mumble “Yes, I love Uncle Chico…” “Then, uh, Kansas, will you do the fucking beer coolah, I see gaps.”

There were a group of guys that I worked with, salt of the earth guys, Kenny, Wardy, and Matt. The guy who was the night manager was named Murph. One was an artist, one was going to be a cop and one of the others was always looking for a construction job. People always speak of folks from the East being cold or stand-offish but those guys embraced me almost immediately. I have to admit they asked me if I grew up on a farm, I was from Kansas after all. I had to explain I didn’t grow up with a cow in my yard. I used to tell them the only thing different between Kansas and Boston was that in Kansas everything was in black and white and here in Boston everything was in color. They liked the Wizard of Oz comedy…

These guys went out drinking every night. The liquor store closed at 11pm and everyone on the shift was allowed to drink one beer of their choice. It was where I really developed a taste for good beer – not this American piss that passes for beer here – but good, exotic beers from far away places. That one beer after shift usually led us to the bar across the street. After the first couple of nights drinking with these guys, on a Tuesday night, I demurred when Matt asked me where we were gonna get beers later. He looked stunned when I said I was just gonna walk home. “Kansas, what the fuck are (ah) you talking about? It’s summah (summer)… you drink… you know, with your friends.” It was wisdom I carry with me to today. It’s what I always think of when I think of summer drinking. I was embarrassed I’d been so stupid and said “no” and at the same time I was honored that these guys had already accepted me as a friend. Although, I must confess they continued to ask me if Kansas was in the South… apparently I had an accent I was unaware of and they don’t teach geography in the Boston schools.

Now, here I am, all these years later and I’m on the cusp of summer. Another summer has snuck up on me. I’m not sure where all the time went… It slips away, people. Dylan was right, “time is a jet plane.” I’m happy, with a great family and my job now doesn’t entail pushing six-packs forward to the sound of “do you love Uncle Chico?” Although I have to admit, pushing six-packs forward was a lot more fun and it didn’t keep me up at night…

I always try to remember the wisdom of the Food Centah…. And, I hope you all will remember this wisdom folks – “It’s summah (summer), you drink beer, you know, with your friends.”

Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from B&V

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There are holidays sprinkled throughout the year on the calendar. Some were created by Hallmark Cards, i.e. Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and the grandmother of them all, Valentine’s Day. There are government mandated holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day and Arbor Day. Yes, Arbor Day, trees need some love, people. There’s even one holiday I actually like – Thanksgiving –  all I have to do is show up, drink and eat and watch football while napping after dinner, it’s almost perfect. Of course, there are religious holiday’s like Easter, Christmas, and Hanukkah just to name a few. For me, there is only one religious holiday I still observe and that is St. Patrick’s Day. Is there any other holiday that could better represent the ethos of BourbonAndVinyl than St. Patrick’s Day? I think not. St. Patrick’s Day is the BourbonAndVinyl “High Holy Day”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me. Italian, Austrian, Belgian, English, and who knows what else. I could be part collie, although I’m much taller than the average collie and not nearly as hairy. I’m the classic American mutt. But I love St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone is in green, everyone is drinking and everyone is just a little bit more friendly.

Perhaps it’s the timing of St. Patrick’s Day, in the spring, just after the Ides of March that I love so much. The weather is often sketchy but for the most part spring has begun to sprung and that rebel spirit of my youth is reawakened. My home town has purportedly the third biggest parade or the third biggest “celebration” (depending how you define that) in the U.S. There’s something cool about being the “third” best or biggest. Neil Young and Crazy Horse toured in the late 80’s billing themselves as the “Third Best Garage Band In the World”. They claimed that being first brings a lot of pressure: to remain on top, to remain #1. To be Second Best brings a lot of pressure to overtake the First Place guy. If you’re Third, you’re just cool and you know it. I can live with that title for my hometown.

In the old days, we’d go downtown to Westport and have breakfast at Kelly’s, the city’s oldest bar. From there we’d hit the parade, full of floats, some from old, historic Irish clans, others from local charitable groups and quite a few marching bands. As soon as that was over it was back to Westport. All the streets are blocked off, the cops form a perimeter, and drinking in the streets, where God intended it to be done, is legal for a day. We’d rage until the sun went down and beyond, eating from food trucks and staggering about women with “Fuck Me I’m Irish” buttons on. Ah, the wearing of the green. It’s a spring tradition in my town. Alas, now I work all day and if I’m lucky slip out to a local Irish pub for  one or two and then back home before dinner. But I always try to make it out however briefly to commemorate The Day.

In my early professional days, I’d always meet my buddy, the General, no matter what was happening and we’d head to Westport for St Patrick’s Day. We would occasionally slip down there early, but as the years wore on, we’d get down to the celebration later and later. We made a tradition of saying, “To hell with work and responsibilities, on this one day, we ride!!” The years seemed to strip away and we were college kids on spring break for eight or nine hours. Alas, my pal the General has disappeared into the fog of work and parenthood. I don’t get to see the General much these days. I keep telling him he’s in a tunnel and he will come out, but I digress. And my own situation has changed considerably. The Rock Chick loves St Patrick’s Day too, but I always feel overly protective of her while were out on St Patty’s. Work responsibilities have often shackled me to the desk just the same as it does the General.

Early in my career, I was interviewing internally for a job. The guy I was interviewing with decided to fly in on St Patrick’s Day. We were to meet at 10 am. Because the parade ran past our office he wasn’t able to even get through the parade traffic to the office until noon, my scheduled departure time. I can still remember sitting in a corner office, in what was an intense interview, while constantly glancing over the executive’s shoulder to the parade and my drunken friends who were waving at me below. “Why yes, I can be very responsible in a management position sir, uh, how long is this gonna take, I have a drunken, green train to catch?” He was a religious man so I had to tread lightly.

A few years ago, I drunkenly got on stage at an Irish pub up North and told my favorite St Patrick’s Day joke…which goes something like this… A proud Irishman in a kilt was walking home to his farmhouse after a wedding in town. He was terribly drunk and laid down by a tree and passed out. Around dawn a pair of milkmaids were walking by and spied our intrepid Irishman asleep. Shyly they approached the Irishman, and curious, peeked to see what was under his kilt. One of the milkmaids pulled the blue ribbon from her hair and tied it around his…manhood. They giggled together as they walked away. About an hour later the Irishman woke and feeling something was amiss “below”, pulled up the kilt. Spying the blue ribbon, he said, “I don’t know where you been lad, but I see you won first prize.” I think that sums it up.

While I’m not crazy about all Irish music I shall spend tonight listening to Van Morrison and U2, loudly! My day tomorrow won’t be complete if I can’t open my windows and hear a bagpipe or two off in the distance. Who doesn’t love bagpipe music?

I want to wish everybody out there in Ireland, the Irish diaspora and those of us who are merely Irish in spirit for a day – Happy St Patrick’s Day from BourbonAndVinyl!! Enjoy it people. Get out there and enjoy the spring weather (if it cooperates). Raise a Jameson or two! Put on something bright and obnoxiously green. Skip work and do something naughty! Head down to the tavern and “talk a little treason” as they say in my favorite John Wayne movie, ‘A Quiet Man’. Me, I’ve got work and responsibilities, so you all have to carry the torch for me… although I must admit I received a text from my old pal the General, my first in a while, asking what I was doing for the holiday… Hmmm, that rebel spirit just may be calling me. St Patrick’s Day, like Hope “springs eternal”…

Cheers! Slainte and Erin Go Bragh!