Friday night Kate and I ventured forth to Andyman's Treehouse, a nondescript (except for one critical feature, noted below) dive bar in an industrial neighborhood of Columbus, to see a couple bands. Andyman is program director at CD101, Columbus' "alternative" station, which means that, in contrast to QFM96, which is stuck in a late '70s Boston/Fleetwood Mac/REO Speedwagon timewarp, the alternative station is stuck in a Nirvana/Pixies/Smiths/Cure late '80s/early '90s timewarp. It's okay. I'm convinced that Columbus will eventually have a station that plays non-Top-40 current music.
In any event, the Treehouse is aptly named. There is a large tree that protrudes up through the middle of the floor in the performance area. It's kind of cool when you aren't trying to watch bands perform. It's fairly intrusive when you are. I had a hard time seeing around the massive trunk.
I caught Frontier Ruckus and Southeast Engine, my first time for the former band, and maybe my fifth or sixth time for the latter. Frontier Ruckus, from Lansing, Michigan, played a short Americana-laced set; all banjos and keening vocals, with occasionally unexpected trumpet and musical saw peaking through to set them apart slightly from the other thousand bands plying their rootsy trade. They were decent; nothing to get overly excited about, but I liked the trumpet and musical saw. Southeast Engine was out promoting their new album From the Forest to the Sea, and it's another great one. Adam Remnant is a very, very fine songwriter, and I love the mix of cracked, world-weary vocals and early Elvis Costello and the Attractions musical accompaniment. Those who love poetic, biblical imagery and songs about being a sinful asshole loved by God will find much to admire. Fans of bands such as Vigilantes of Love, Pedro the Lion, and Sixteen Horsepower should take note. I left before The Coke Dares and The Kyle Sowashes took the stage. It was 11:30; time for all good middle-aged-slouching-toward-senility music writers to be in bed.
Saturday morning we ventured down to Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University, and current residence of my daughter Rachel. She's doing well, and it was great to see her. We ate lunch at a place called Bagel Street Deli, where the winsome young coeds behind the counter were making sandwiches and singing and boogieing along to a song blaring over the speakers. The song? The Brazilian Girls' "Pussy Pussy Pussy Marijuana." Ah, Athens. It's amazing to me that in the space of 85 miles and an hour and forty-five minutes one can travel to a different universe than the one I normally inhabit.
After lunch I ventured over to Donkey Coffee and Espresso, the best coffee house in Ohio. I had a great hour and a half conversation with owner and proprieter Chris Pyle, who also doubles (triples? quadruples?) as music impresario, record producer, and rock 'n roll band member. There aren't that many people in my life who will throw out statements such as: "True or False, R.E.M. is the second greatest American band ever." Chris is one of those people. We had a great time, talking about music and life, more or less in that order. The guys from Southeast Engine (Athens natives) stopped by, too, and it was fun to hang out with them and debate the merits of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. Then I wandered over to Haffa's Records, where the guys behind the counter were debating whether Elvis Presley was the third-best rock 'n roll performer ever. It must be something in the water. These conversations never seem to occur in Westerville, Ohio. Ortho Weed 'n Feed vs. Scott's Turfbuilder, yes, but not Elvis Presley or Van Morrison.
Kate and Rachel and I took a long walk around the campus and environs, and eventually ended up at Salaam, a Turkish restaurant, for dinner. There a woman belly danced with a sword on her head. I studiously looked down at my Lamb Kofte and tried not to look at the belly, although the sword was a little worrisome. It was exactly parallel to my jugular vein. She was a pro, though, and finished her performance with nary a slip. Thank God.
We drove back home in a snowstorm and made it to church on time yesterday, bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to take on fourteen toddlers in Sunday School. It was a fun weekend.