Jeff Tweedy plays “Jesus, Etc.” with Yo La Tengo live at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ.
Two years ago, I moved to Hoboken to start law school in Manhattan, and back then, because of the ongoing construction, when the PATH train pulled into the World Trade Center stop, you could see into Ground Zero. On September 11 of that year, my train into Manhattan pulled to a stop, awaiting clearance to pull into the station. As the train stood still, I lifted my head up to found I was looking directly into Ground Zero. At that same moment “Jesus, Etc.” by Wilco started playing on my iPod. It may have been written before September 11, but that just seems to make it ghostly more powerful.
Everyone was silent for the few minutes we sat in waiting. I’m not sure what anyone else heard while we sat there; but I heard Wilco… or maybe it was ghosts.
My commute to school that morning turned out to be an eery, yet serendipitous moment of reflection. It is something I will never forget.
If you’re living on the East Coast like me, you’re sitting inside right now and reading this post while you sit on top of an air conditioner. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to go outside eventually. After all, in a couple of hours it’s going to be “Friday night in New York City!” as your friends will say.
Let me get to the point…
Last night, I stood alone on a subway platform, still wearing the clothes I had worn to work earlier that day. You could see the air. When a train passed by, no one’s hair could sway with the breeze because the sweat had glued each strand to each respective head. Everything was moist, including fingertips, which is an iPod user’s worst fear if trying to change a song. Anyway, I needed the proper music to power me through this upcoming 40 minute commute back to Hoboken. I wasn’t looking for something to relieve the heat (because that doesn’t exist), but rather something to embrace it.
My instincts told me Born To Run. In retrospect, I think my mind jumped to “Backstreets” because of the line - “Sittin’ in that old abandoned beach house / Gettin’ wasted it the heat.” Either way, I put on Born To Run. It wasn’t quite right, but it was close. Then it hit me. I knew exactly what I needed. The answer was hot and sticky rock and roll with fuzzy guitars and sweaty choruses - The Hold Steady.
So, if you find yourself stranded on a subway platform this weekend, late one night with sweat in your eyes and damp clothes… just wasted in the heat… rather than throw a fit about it, please, hold steady.
Lisa Hannigan’s solo mandolin performance of “Passenger.”
If there’s only one thing Lisa Hannigan has, it’s charm… effortless, permeating charm. This song is a perfect example of that.
Last Thursday during her concert at Maxwell’s, she treated the crowd to a couple new songs off her upcoming record [Setlist]. Stand-outs from the show included an excellent cover of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me In The Morning,” and two of her new songs; ”Passenger” (above) and “Safe Travels, Don’t Die” - a humorous advice column that could easily be mistaken for a Loudon Wainwright III original.
Lisa Hannigan covers Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” live at Dick Mac’s Pub in Dingle, Ireland (2008).
One rainy day in Dingle, Ireland, Lisa Hannigan (you know her as the girl who used to sing with Damien Rice) and her bandmates had the day off. So they stopped in at the local pub and played a couple songs just for the fun of it, filmed them, and created one of the most captivating things on the Internet.
Honestly, I think this is the most mesmerizing thing I’ve ever watched on any visual medium - including that “Everybody Loves Hypnotoad” marathon I watched once. I still can’t pinpoint exactly why I can’t take my eyes off of this video, but I’ve narrowed it down to either the joy in the music, the fact that fresh Guinness is being poured only feet away, or Lisa. It’s probably just Lisa.
Also, it’s not only this song that is captivating - it’s every performance they recorded in that pub. I simply chose to post this song because it was the first one I saw. If I were you, I’d go watch the rest.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t have a TV show to invite her to perform on; but all is not lost. In a unsuspected stroke of good fortune, she just happens to be performing at my local pub, Maxwell’s (Hoboken,NJ) this Thursday. I’ll be there, pint-in-hand, not blinking. I’d invite you to get tickets too, but they’re sold out.
When the change was made uptown And the Big Man joined the band From the coastline to the city All the little pretties raise their hands I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half With a Tenth Avenue freeze-out
Bruce Springsteen’s solo piano performance of “Thunder Road” on VH1 Storytellers.
There are a few reasons I decided to initiate Across The Porch with “Thunder Road.” For one, Across The Porch finds its namesake in this song’s opening lines:
The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
“Thunder Road” will always remind me of this time of year. Yet, even though Spring is winding down into the slow burn of Summer, this song doesn’t fit that rhythm. “Thunder Road” is what happens when that slow burn flares up, when chemicals combust, when the rocket lifts off. Perhaps some of you Seniors know what I’m talking about. Are starting to feel the cold shadow of graduation looming overhead? This one’s for you… especially all you Jersey kids.
It’s no exaggeration to say that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone from Jersey who doesn’t idolize Springsteen. He is The Boss, our patron saint. That being said, not everyone from Jersey is born a Disciple of E Street. For many, including myself, it takes a little while to have this epiphany - the music and the moment have to be right. Personally, I had to start living a little before Springsteen really made sense to me. And so, as I teetered on the brink of adulthood, sometime during the year leading up to my high school graduation, the engine finally turned. “Thunder Road” was the key in the ignition. I probably heard the song 100 times before that time in my life, but I didn’t understand it until then.
I’ve become a full-fledged fan of The Boss since then and I’ve noticed that plenty of other people had similar experiences discovering Springsteen’s music. Jon Stewarttold a similar story a couple years ago when Bruce received his Kennedy Center Honors.
“I didn’t understand his music for a long time, until I began to yearn, until I began to question the things I was making and doing in my own life…”
Brian Fallon, lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem and another New Jersey native, had a similar story:
Everyone has their own story. “Thunder Road” isn’t the song that does it for everyone, but it was for me. One of the reasons I enjoy this particular rendition is because of Bruce’s description of the song at the end of the performance:
“What’s it about? It’s really an invitation. The opening of Born To Run was my big invitation. That big album, when it used to fold out, with me and Clarence smiling on it - that was the invitation card, ya know? We invite you to… something… we’re not sure what yet. So, ya know, the music was sort of, was important. The music, the beginning, sounds like an invitation.”
It took a little while, but I finally got around to accepting that invitation… thirty years after it was first issued. To different people it’s an invitation to different things; but perhaps most importantly, to it was an re-invitation to Bruce’s music. Brian Fallon said it best - “the first three records will change your life!”
Another reason I chose this performance is because I don’t think people realize what a skilled songwriter and versatile musician Springsteen is. Did you know he played the piano? Probably not. If you’re a casual fan - if you’re not paying attention - it’s very easy to peg him as merely some charismatic and energetic front man who’s only there for his voice and swagger; but that would be a criminal underestimation.
Another great thing about this performance is that it’s stripped-down. Without the E Street Band reeling away behind the Bruce’s vocals, you can focus on the lyrics and the story. I’m not going to get into some deep explication of the lyrics, but if you’ve never paid any attention to them, do yourself a favor and read them. Sidebar: for my money, along with “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys, “Thunder Road” has one of the all-time best opening lines.
As I dig deeper and deeper into Springsteen’s catalog, I find new favorite songs all the time; but I’ll forever be indebted to “Thunder Road.” If you never paid attention to Springsteen before, here’s an invitation. I suggest you accept it.
NOTE: I drafted this post a couple days ago, but news just broke today that Clarence Clemons, The Big Man, has suffered a stroke. Please keep him and his friends/family in your thoughts and prayers. [via]
Welcome to Across The Porch - an online home for music-related videos. I also run a tumblr called Certain Songs where ”you will find a daily song - some new, some old, all good.”
So, why start another music blog?
I don’t really have a good reason. Truthfully, I enjoy the fact that Certain Songs consists of only music posts. It’s a one-stop shop for good music - there are no distractions, just music. The downside is that I never post videos… and there are some great ones.