Charlottesville 


Today feels like Day One, A.C. Or, After Charlottesville.

I sat down at this same computer on Saturday evening with every intention of writing something about what happened. I stared at my blank digital page for a good five minutes, not even typing one letter, let alone a complete sentence, then I gave up. 

Well, now today I am at least past that.

I already know that anything I say here will mean almost nothing and any words I muster won’t change the fact that a woman died on Saturday, in my home state, while protesting Nazis.

Protesting fucking NAZIS!

I avoided the news after the true horror of the events came to light, and I escaped reality by watching movies from my couch. I am usually a very ‘plugged in’ person, always following political news and current events, but Saturday I was in shock. By chance I did turn the news on around 6pm so a friend who was visiting could hear the latest, and I did hear our governor speak and rebuke hate explicitly. But Saturday I just could not fathom how a protest rally under the guise of the removal of a statue – a fucking statue!! – ended with the deaths of three citizens and dozens injured.

Saturday I was shocked and saddened. Today that has given way to anger. But, I really don’t know what to do with that anger or how to channel it into something positive. That’s why I am attempting to write something. Just to get it out.

Quote bluntly, how the fuck did we get here?!

 

I don’t have the answer to that question, and the only comparisons I can draw between history and what happened Saturday [the Civil Rights Movement; The Summer of ‘68] seem to not quite fit.

Here is the internal dialogue that I kept having over and over late Friday night (when I first saw the ‘Tiki Torches’ photo online) into Saturday as events began to spiral toward an unfathomable Hell on Earth: If the Nazis/Alt Right held a protest in [your city here] and no one showed up to counter protest, to engage them in a fight, no one bothered to pay them any attention, wouldn’t our silence toward them and the fact that we paid them no heed speak volumes?

I am truly conflicted about this because, on the one hand, I understand the want, the necessity to make your voice heard in the face of hate, so I understand the urge to meet the enemy where they stand, and stand your ground.

There’s a part of me though that believes this ‘Alt-Right/Nazi’ minority isn’t worth my time or the energy to mount a protest. No one is going to have their mind changed by someone shouting in the street, no matter how many signs we carry or how many slogans we chant. If anyone is committed enough to wear Nazi swastikas in public, nothing I say or write is going to make them see the light of day, or the error in their ways.

That’s the internal dialogue merry-go-round I have been on since very early Saturday morning, and, as I write this on Monday night, I don’t know which stance is the correct one, or if they’re both right, or both wrong. That’s why I haven’t posted much about this on social media, apart from links to news stories.

I have read today that this same group is planning to have a rally in Richmond. That doesn’t surprise me, even though Richmond City Council has made no decision on what to do with the statues of Lee, Davis and Jackson. If they do decide to come to Richmond, I sincerely hope the horrors of Charlottesville are not repeated, but I know it would be wishful thinking on my part to hope the rally is completely ignored by the public and the press, so that the shouting of hate gets drowned out not by protests, but by its own echo chamber.

With a very heavy heart, tonight I am thinking of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, their families and friends.

 

If tomorrow has to be better, then hurry up tomorrow. We need you now.

 

Thank you for reading,

Barry

Your History Is Waiting To Smack You In The Face

In 2003, at a time when I was changing Primary Care Physicians, I sat down to type out a medical event history, basically a dot point listing of every surgery, major procedure and extended hospital stay from 1977 until 2003. I also sent a copy of the document to my internist, who had known me since 1992. I make updates to my copy, but haven’t sent it to any providers since I started seeing my latest PCP which was in 2014.

Thursday this week, as I lay prone on a hospital bed awaiting an IV nurse to prep the anesthesia for an outpatient procedure, the Admitting Nurse who asks all the relevant questions (When was the last time you ate? When did you last take your meds?) started to ask about my medical history and then before I could answer, she began to tick off a slew of events from the late-70’s. I was a little out of it since I had not eaten for the last 27 hours, so it didn’t immediately register that she was reading off of my old list, which meant that my typed medical history had successfully made the move to the Electronic Medical Records ‘vault.’

At the same moment I thought, ‘Cool, they still have my sheet so I don’t need to tell them about all of this ancient history,’ I listened as she continued to read off the list. I confirmed that yes, all of those things happened to me and added two more events that happened from 2015-2017.

After she left, I stared up at the celling, head on a very flat pillow, and thought ‘Goddamn, I’ve been through a lot of shit!’

I know I have faced a lot of challenges in my 40+ years, but to hear them all read off in succession, it took me aback. I really do live one day to the next, looking forward to upcoming events like concerts, and do my best not to dwell on things that hold me back. Those of you who know me well know that every single day I deal with chronic pain that’s not severe enough to debilitate, but not minor enough to ignore. Some days it’s just something to deal with, and some days it’s a feat to get out of bed and function. More often than not, though, I manage to get moving. My attitude though is that everyone is dealing with their own challenges, so what I deal with is nothing really unique or special.

I’m facing another medical adventure/challenge in the very near future, and I will write about it at length once I know more info, but I wanted to scribble this here because I knew it was far too long for a Facebook post. (That’s why I have a blog, right?)

In the meantime, thank you for reading and have a great weekend!

–Barry 

Alan Doyle Still Has A Smile On His Face (And Four Walls Around Him)

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Doyle play a very small local music venue. Who is Alan Doyle, you ask? He’s best known as one of the founding members of the band Great Big Sea, who tried their best to hit the big time in the US in the late 90s and early 2000’s after conquering their homeland of Canada a few years before. While they would play to stadium sized crowds in Canada, Great Big Sea (GBS) would play small theatres and clubs in America, where the crowds were smaller, but no less enthusiastic.

GBS is pure nostalgia for me. Their music marks a very specific time period in my life, and reminds me of very specific people. I honestly was not aware that GBS had officially split in 2013. When I heard that Alan Doyle was going to appear at Tin Pan, I knew I had to get a ticket to see what he’d been up to since I last saw him fifteen years ago.

Tin Pan is an interesting, intimate venue in the mold of Alexandria’s Birchmere. They offer dinner reservations with your ticket for preferred seating, and the music, not chatting is the most important thing.

 

After a funny, sardonic and brief opening set by Donavan Woods, Alan took the stage to sing a song a cappella, proving that his voice is still in top form,  then his band Beautiful Gypsies joined him and they started with ‘I Can’t Dance Without You’ from Alan’s latest solo effort, 2015’s ‘So Let’s Go.’ The mix was great, the house was packed and I was pleased to see Alan had not lost any of the gregariousness that made him my favorite member of GBS.

The sing-along started early when the band kicked into ‘When I’m Up’ and Alan demanded audience participation. It was around this time of the night when the crowd began buying Alan shots and doubles of Jameson Whiskey, which Alan never refused.

Here’s the set list, and then some thoughts:

Dream of Home (a cappella)

I Can’t Dance Without You

When I’m Up

Come Out With Me

My Day

Where the Nightingale Sings

Sea of No Cares

The Night Loves Us

Lukey

Forever Light Will Shine

I’ve Seen a Little

In The Morning (Guitarist Cory, solo)

Old Black Rum

Roll Me Bully Boys Row

Consequence Free

Testify

1,2,3,4 (featuring verses from ‘Tub Thumping’ and ‘You Can Call Me Al’)

[Encore]

Wave on Wave

Shine On

Ordinary Day

 

No matter the size of the stage, Alan is a showman, making sure that everyone in attendance has a good time. Even though we were seated at tables and the bar, dancers got up and waltzed, reeled and jigged. 

The biggest surprise for me was that, while with GBS, Alan would sing at least one ballad per album. His set Tuesday was more upbeat and, as such, none of the three pop ballads Alan sang (‘Fast As I Can’, ‘Boston and St. John’s’ and ‘Clearest Indication’) were highlighted. Not that I minded, I was just very surprised. 

Bonus: Murray Foster, formerly of Moxy Fruvous and mote recently the bassist for GBS is part of Alan’s band, as is former GBS drummer Kris MacFarlane. 

As the show ended, Alan implored fans to stick around for autographs and selfies. Instead of sitting behind his merchandise table, just outside the venue in an entrance hall, Alan took a seat at the bar and the fans queued up to get a pic, a signature and share stories. Props to Alan for taking time with everyone, including a ten year old girl who got a drumstick from Kris and the setlist. Alan autographed the setlist and got a picture. He also spoke for a bit with your dear author, whom he remembered from a meeting a very long time ago. 

If you’re like me and lost track of Great Big Sea and their members, Alan has two solo albums (“Boy on Bridge” from 2012 and the aforementioned “So Let’s Go” from 2015) and he’s also written a book. If Alan Doyle, the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of Newfoundland’ and his band of Beautiful Gypsies land in your town, go see him and say hello. It’s a good time, I promise. 


Thanks for reading. 

Barry

Garth, Trisha & All the Hits (11.12.16 @ Richmond Coliseum)

Garth Brooks is that rare artist that transcends genres, while still seeming to remain true to his roots. He’s a country singer of ‘Cowboy Songs’, he’s a troubadour in the tradition of James Taylor, and he’s a consummate showman onstage. Perhaps what gets lost in the spectacle of his current world tour is that Garth Brooks is one of the best American songwriters of the last thirty years. 

Photo by the author


Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood (a top-notch performer in her own right) stopped by Richmond this weekend to play an astounding four sold out shows in three days at the Coliseum. The stage was one that allowed every seat in the arena a view (even behind the stage) and Brooks, sporting his famous cowboy hat and headset mic, was so frenetic, running to all areas of the stage, that it was easy to lose sight of where he was actually standing. Yes, the stage, the presentation and Brooks’ persona were big, but it’s the songs that keep the fans coming back in droves some nineteen years since he last played the city.

Photo by Dana Kiser

In 1991 when his album ‘Ropin’ The Wind’ was released, I was a full blown Metal Head, more likely to be listening to Metallica, Overkill or Danzig. But, thanks to my friend Eddie, with whom I rode to school each morning of the 1991-92 school year, even I had to admit that Garth was one hell of a songwriter and performer. Literally every day for two months straight, our morning school commute music was side one of ‘Ropin’ The Wind’, so I got to know those songs very well, and I liked them.

 

Last night, as I was part of a raucous and loud sold out crowd who knew all the words to every song, I thought a lot about that senior year of high school and about my friend Eddie. Music is memory and the memories were very thick as I sang along to “Friends in Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls.” I felt very fortunate to see this show, and witness a performer who’s at that age now where he seems to fully appreciate all of the adulation and love his fans give him, and every night (sometimes twice in one day) for two and a half hours, he does all he can to reciprocate.

The setlist (mostly from memory, so apologies if it’s inaccurate):

Man Against Machine

Beaches of Cheyenne

Rodeo

Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House

The River

Two Piña Coladas

Papa Loved Mama

Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)

Unanswered Prayers

That Summer

The Thunder Rolls

In Another’s Eyes (w/Trisha Yearwood)

Trisha Yearwood Set:

XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)

How Do I Live

PrizeFighter

Georgia Rain

She’s in Love With the Boy

Garth Brooks Second Set

Shameless

Callin’ Baton Rouge

Friends in Low Places

Night Moves

Piano Man

The Dance

Encore

Wrapped Up in You

Mom

Standing Outside the Fire

 

In closing, it was a pleasure to see a performer who was genuinely having a blast on stage. Brooks and his band have been together for 20+ years and the sense of ‘family’ was palpable. This week was one of the most absurd, strangest weeks I have ever had (that did not involve a morphine drip). It was refreshing to simply be able to go out, have a good time, and realize that I had at least one thing in common with 11,000 other people in my city on a Saturday night. Music has a way of doing that, and I thank Garth for being the facilitator of that.

 

As always, thanks to Dana, and thanks to you for reading,

Barry

Garbage @ The National 07.25.16

Garbage is back! Shirley Manson is back!

Thank goodness!

 

Monday night saw Garbage’s ‘Strange Little Birds’ world tour make a stop at The National, and the evening proved to be a revelation. After taking a six year hiatus, the band returned to the recording studio in 2012 with ‘Not Your Kind of People.’ Now, four years later, the band has produced what many consider to be their strongest record since their debut album twenty years ago.

 

Lead vocalist Shirley Manson is a tour de force on stage, equal to any male lead singer in stage presence, talent and charisma. She showed the ability to be all at once sexy, sincere and, most importantly SUPER BADASS on stage! Yes there are three other members in the band (Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig, though he’s not touring due to illness, replaced by Eric Gardner), but there’s a reason that the spotlights follow Shirley and the other members are predominantly in silhouette; from the opening number, it’s impossible not to watch her.

 

She’s the epitome of confidence, self-assuredness and ‘Grrrrrrl Power’, which makes it that much harder to believe a decade ago, Manson considered herself ‘finished’ as a performer because, in her words, she ‘wasn’t young or pretty enough’ anymore. Her fans are so glad she was convinced otherwise.

 

Some notes:

• The set was a nice balanced representation of their career, beginning with two songs from their debut and one from ‘2.0’, but the last two records were strongly represented as well, proving that Garbage is not simply a 90’s nostalgia act.

• This show saw the tour premiere of ‘Beloved Freak’ and a dedication to the LGBT Community before launching into a ferocious version of ‘Sex Is Not The Enemy.’ Both songs are very appropriate for the times, given the current political climate.

• The debut single from ‘Strange Little Birds’, ‘Empty’, is a track that stands up well next to any other song in their catalog, and had a hyper energy to it in the live setting.

• I would have loved to see drummer Butch Vig play live, but Eric Gardner filled in admirably. I really hope Butch is able to tour with the band in the near future and his health issues are but a memory soon.

 

The setlist (from setlist.fm):

Supervixen

I Think I’m Paranoid

Stupid Girl

Automatic Systematic Habit

Blood for Poppies

The Trick Is to Keep Breathing

My Lover’s Box

Sex Is Not the Enemy

Special

Beloved Freak

Even Though Our Love Is Doomed

Why Do You Love Me

Control

Blackout

Bleed Like Me

Push It

Vow

Only Happy When It Rains

Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)

Encore:

Sometimes

Empty

#1 Crush

Anything else I write will not convey how great this show was. I’m not one to take pictures at a concert because I don’t like to see a show through a viewfinder or a phone screen. On this night however, I took several hundred pictures with my phone. So, as words now elude me, here are some pictures. 

Girls with guitars ROCK!!




If Garbage stop in your town, go see them. They are proof that rock is not dead. 

Thanks for reading,

Barry