Gifts from my Father

Kylie and Tom - edit-1One of my earliest memories involves a Christmas gift from my father when I was six or seven years old. It was a stocking stuffer, not the main event, and at the time I didn’t think much about it, but it’s stuck with me for a long time. It was a CD entitled Best of the 60s, and I guess it’s memorable both for its incongruity (I don’t think I had any conception of what the 60s were at six years old) and because it was the first of many ways that my father has tried to share music with his children.

He’s been wildly successful in that regard. My brother and sister have been able to see some of his favorites — Bruce Springsteen and Levon Helm — with him. I was finally able to share a live show of my favorite band with him two years ago. On a whim he sent a copy of The Band Live at the Academy of Music to each of us when he bought his own, and I’ll occasionally send him a recording of a show I’ve gone to recently. When I come home to visit, Dad and I have gotten in the habit of trooping down into the basement after dinner to watch concert footage, like The Last Waltz, together.

Even when we’re not sharing the music with each other, my siblings’ and my own relationship with music bears his influence. My dad once remarked how cool it was that, one way or another, all of his children wound up loving the music of his generation. It didn’t happen because he forced it upon us — he never made that classic parental mistake of pushing too hard for us to be like him. Instead, he encouraged me to love music in the same way my mom encouraged me to read: by being completely open-minded and non-judgmental, by allowing me to express it any way I wished, by never forbidding or disapproving of my tastes, and by enthusiastically sharing these experiences with me whenever I was open to it.

One year, due to a very complicated set of circumstances, my dad and I ended up living alone together in New York, while the rest of our family stayed behind in California. I was in eighth grade, and my musical tastes could be described in one of two ways: American Idol or Show tunes (I was a theatre kid, and musical theatre is really the only outlet for that at age 13… I’ve since recovered). I can only imagine how obnoxious this was to my father, but instead of shutting himself off in another room whenever Idol came on, he’d eat dinner with me on the living room couch and thoughtfully discuss Clay Aiken’s prospects with me.

High school rolled around and I discovered punk music. I was wearing a lot of eyeliner and my IM (remember those days?) screen name was something to the effect of iamasexpistol66. This was around the time that my parents used to do a lot of whispering about me in the kitchen, and I remember coming down the stairs one night to hear the tail end of something my mom was saying, “mumble mumble mumble… and what on Earth is a sex pistol??”

“It’s a band,” my dad reassured softly.

One of my sweetest memories was when my dad accompanied The Boy and me to a Furthur show. Beyond the coolness of hanging out with my dad, who’s a pretty neat guy, doing something we both enjoy…. it was so wonderful because it was something I could only share with him. A mother-daughter relationship is a special thing, and there are so many things that I share with my mom that my dad just wouldn’t get, but when it comes to music, it’s just us. That show was the kind of thing that my mom would rather chew off her own arm than go to, which made it all the more special that my dad was so excited to share in something I love so much.

My father is having surgery today, and I’m going to be thinking about him all day long. It’s been a scary few weeks thinking about the fragility of my parents — two of the people I love most in the world, who not terribly long ago I thought of as infallible. I know he’s going to be ok, but it hurts to think of your parents hurting. So today, rather than all the scary messy what-ifs and could-bes, I’m choosing to think of the things my father has given me, like music.

Because really, it’s indicative of all the ways that my father has supported his kids. By listening thoughtfully when we speak, really engaging with our opinions and interests, and encouraging us to interact with the world on our own terms, and always being excited to share our experiences with us whenever we invited him in.

So, with that in mind, I’ve got two songs to play for my dad today. The first is a haunting live version of “The River” by Springsteen, one of my dad’s all-time favorites, and an artist I may never have come around to without him. The second is “Box of Rain” by the Grateful Dead, a song that Phil Lesh wrote when his own father was in the hospital, full of all the bitter sweetness of growing up and finding out that your parents are human, and loving them all the more for it.

Photo by Richard Shapiro.

The Lonely One

Many of you who read this are already acquainted with my beautiful and talented friend Dana Williams, but this video is a treat anyway. Dana paired up Leighton Meester to release this cover of Fleetwood Mac’s DREAMS. I like it for the same reason I always love listening to Dana: it’s sweet, moody, a little haunting, and goddamn if it’s not just nice to hear her sing.

If you love listening to Dana just as much as I do, you can check out her brand new EP, The Lonely One, which is now available on iTunes.

Fleetwood Mac’s DREAMS covered by Dana Williams and Leighton Meester, shot by Davida Williams and Colin Oh.

 

 

More Notes on Wedding Planning, OR Deadhead Problems

With the wedding less than eight weeks away most of the larger components are in place, and now I’m primarily focused on the smaller details. This past week has been all about picking music, and my amazing DJ is going to think I’m insane when he sees the Google doc I’ve compiled for him, with my lists of “danceable Dead tunes” and “non-danceable Dead tunes that are still good to play during dinner”. Next to every song I’ve included the date for the live show from which I’d like him to pull the recording. This is what happens when you DJ a deadhead wedding, I guess. Anyway, this is a really lovely Catfish John (one of my favorites), which is much too long to play, so I thought I’d share it with y’all. And, if you’re in that kind of mood, you can check out Jerry thoroughly enjoying himself in this guitar solo:

Furthur and Father

One night, while I was home for Christmas, my dad and I trooped down into the basement to watch a 2005 Bruce Springsteen show in Spain, which my dad had on DVD. It was kind of a cool moment, not just because the show was excellent (it was), but also because it was just neat to sit in the basement with my dad and share something that he thought was really cool. So we struck a deal: if I brought him to a Furthur show, he’d bring me to see Springsteen. Well, two weeks ago I upheld my half of the bargain. The Boy and I flew home to take dad to his very first Furthur show (by the way, this will mark the fourth time that I have actually gotten on a plane to see these bozos play, and the sixth time I have traveled more than a hundred miles).

Would this be my number one favorite Furthur show of all time? Musically speaking, no. As I’ve said before, that’s kind of the delightful and frustrating thing about this music: you never know when lightning will strike. But I will never forget how cool it was to have my dad with me at a show. Of all the people we have introduced to this music, and there have been several, no one was as openminded or sincerely invested as my father. He showed up genuinely excited to participate in this thing The Boy and I are always running off to do. I think this speaks to one of my favorite things about my dad: he has always taken my thoughts, my opinions, and my values seriously. This music is something I really care about, so he wanted to see what it was all about, and I love him for that.

During the set break, my dad turned to me and asked, “So which one of you was a deadhead first?” And I had to say, “Both of us.” The Boy and I fell in love listening to Furthur and the Grateful Dead; you could almost call it the third wheel of our relationship. The very first time we heard Furthur play, we were sitting in camp chairs at a music festival, both completely immobilized by awe and wonder. He told me he loved me for the first time that night. The band played at the same festival again the following year, and that was the night The Boy proposed. I’ve never gone to a show without him, and even though I love this music with all my heart on my own, I’m not sure that I could go to a show without him. So more than anything else, that was the coolest part about sharing this with my dad. With the wedding less than three months away, I got to invite him into my relationship a little, and show him this magical thing that The Boy and I care about together.

UPDATE:  My heart goes out to Bob Weir, that magnificent weirdo, in his recovery. Please stay with us, I’m not ready to let go of this music just yet.

The image at top is the sweet poster from Furthur’s Capitol Theatre show on April 20th, which is now rolled up in my closet. Photo courtesy of Furthur.

In the End There’s Just a Song

Today is an old friend’s birthday. I call him an old friend but, in point of fact, we’ve never met. He does not know I exist. Actually, he is dead. I’m speaking, of course, about Jerry Garcia, who would have been 70 years old today. And despite the fact that I never knew Jerry, was not even old enough to see him play before he died in 1995, he has contributed to my life in ways so meaningful they are difficult to speak about. Continue reading

I’m A Creep

Hey guys, posting is going to be pretty sporadic for awhile because I’m way too excited about exploring my new neighborhood and styling my new bedroom to spend a whole of time on the internet. But here’s a little something to tide you over. This cover of Creep by Radiohead is just gorgeous. Thanks to my new roommate for playing it really loud in the living room so I had no choice but to come out and see what was going on.

 

 

The bus came by and I got on, that’s when it all began

I had enjoyed the music of the Grateful Dead for a couple years before I truly “got on the bus,” as they say. The moment when it all came together was as stark and clear as a light turning on. I was sitting in a camping chair at a music festival, watching Furthur play Eyes of the World. They’d been playing for close to two hours at that point, and I’d enjoyed it all, but it was at that moment that the cosmos realigned and the picture came into focus. Two women were dancing in wide, spinning circles next to me. They had flower wreaths in their hair and cans of Bud Light in hand. In front of me, a man had his toddler-aged son up on his shoulders, they too spun around and around and the band was singing, “Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world/The heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own./ Wake now discover that you are the song that the morning brings/The heart has its seasons, its evenings and songs of its own.” There were fireworks over the Long Island Sound, a giant tree with wide, umbrella-like branches, and the stars were bright in a purpleish sky. In that moment I realized I’d never known anything so beautiful.

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I FINK U FREEKY & I LIKE YOU A LOT

Not exactly new, but I’m so obsessed with Die Antwoord’s new album TEN$ION, especially this song. Just saw the video for the first time today and it could not be more perfect. Can I just say that Yo-Landi is darn sexy? I love those wide little girl eyes and her elfish ears, and when she crazy dances toward the end my heart melts a little. She reminds me of the line from my favorite Shakespeare play, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Oh, and those rats. I die.

Video courtesy of Die Antwoord.