Mike Gordon

June 24, 2015

Straight from tour to a movie theater

Weird to be in the “middle” of tour, and, well, not just home for a few days, but sitting with Tessa to watch Pixar’s new movie “Inside Out” in a minute. I know it’s going to be nothing like starting a show in a new town (and nothing like my own movie, Outside Out!). It’s a culture shock, just so different. But wait – it ends up being pretty relevant after all – the various personality parts living in someone’s head. Like the part that is so excited for a new group of five people and some new songs to get out there and rock, and that guy arguing with the fear guy – will it work with the in-ear monitors, a technology some say can destroy music by putting the musicians in their own little worlds, and yet is so helpful for letting us hear each other…


And the first few shows unfold and they actually feel great out of the gates, and then the critical guy says we could make it better though – by listening even harder, and not trying to do so much – there is still room to let the muse play the music, and then we do awesome exercises that make the tour deeper and deeper, except for a couple troublesome sets when there is a strange disconnect with the audience. And one of those exercises is not exactly a listening exercise – it’s Scott’s idea that we find patterns on our instruments, one day at soundcheck, and when the patterns feel nicely melded, the exercise is to NOT vary anything for a long, long time. So incredible – similar to something Bob Weir had suggested earlier in the year… It was incredible because I felt myself restraining the “create or change something” guy and another whole lobe of the brain started taking over – the finding deep, meditational appreciation in subtle, tiny things lobe – suddenly I could see that the exact way Craig was hitting the higher conga was changing each repetition, and sounded so cool, though ten minutes had gone by. Like a mantra in transcendental meditation – whatever it seems like, and whatever happens during it, we, said my guru, Take It As It Comes. A gigantically amazing exercise, like the listening exercises, and the try playing the tempos slower exercise to get into the internal rhythms of each bar.


And it’s so nice that there ended up being an incredible fringe benefit of doing these exercise – sometimes cometh a song idea – a pattern that sounds new and fresh, borne of the very chemistry that this new quintet seems to be nourishing (I love how at our last show to date, Northampton, I told someone at the merch table that I thought we were gelling and he said, “Oh my God, that’s a huge understatement … why even say it like that?”). And during our first or second “happily repeating without varying” exercise, I had grabbed my new phone and started recording, worrying that stopping my pattern would make us lose the magic we had channeled, not to mention breaking the repeating rule long enough to hit record.


And then today, in my days off, I’m at the famed Maglianero coffee shop going through voice notes, and I hear such a cool pattern of music, and, while I’m loving this band, I would say it didn’t sound like us or like anything I’ve heard – the bass sounded round and puffy instead of picked with a plectrum, and the parts were so simple but so nicely angular. Just enough dissonance.


This, I thought at Maglianero, is definitely a new song. In fact, it’s an apex moment, too good to be true, like after a year of planning, this brand new quintet is on tour, and out of the wild blue yonder has conjured up a whole new song, a whole new kind of music, thanks to Scott’s musical exercise, and somehow I had the gall to stop playing and hit record, and somehow I had captured a perfect new song idea. The Shins meets Beck. Atoms for Peace meets tUnEyArDs. Here We Go Magic meets NIN. And good thing I learned that I must, I simply must wait to erase the voice memo until I see that the email to myself has come in so that I can then download the very useful, innovative little magical snippet, and so I do check, and yes it has come in, and … but wait – ahm, did that email have an attachment? Ahm…. no it doesn’t have its attachment, and wait, did I erase the memo from my phone, ah, yes, and oh crap.


And then ninety minutes of phone data recovery softwares, because nothing is backing up in that darn cloud, and there was no syncing, and these softwares are not working, despite the licenses I keep purchasing and alas the Apple blogs are saying no, once a voice memo is gone, it is gone. Though I know it’s in there. But it’s not retrievable. In there, until I record over it with new sounds or pictures, but not retrievable.


Did Rachel record that part of that soundcheck? Murphy’s Law would have that as a no. And I don’t even know what date it was, which show it was, though I have it isolated to a few. And Rachel thinks she might have but the hard drive is on a truck heading for Lowell, our next show. I love Lowell – such a cool mill town, where I’ve seen really fun music before, and it’s outdoors, and… but I can’t wait that long to check that hard drive. I need to start grieving that song fragment in advance. And the sadness guy in me is thinking about what the Buddhists had told me during twenty-five years of mindfulness meditation training – that all is impermanent. And it’s such a SINKING feeling… AUUUGGGHHH. I feel that it’s all out the window.


Every single thing in our life can be over just like that. Last night I read Harris Wittels’ sister’s blog about the loss of her brother. It is so incredibly heartbreaking, and an entirely different universe of grieving, not even remotely comparable to my petty inconvenience. It triggers awareness of the larger sadnesses that are possible in life. If I could lose a tiny thing, I could lose a gigantic thing too.


The nihilist guy is grabbing for the controls. But alas I am absorbed in the movie and it’s just Riley’s difficult move to SF that I’m concerned about, the character’s life falling apart. And Tessa and I both cry a fair bit when things don’t seem salvageable. But they do get salvaged. Maybe that song bit can too. And the tour got so deep, that there is, inevitably, more music to be had this coming weekend – not just at soundchecks, since the deep magic has now made it into the gigs…


(I’ll probably delete this entry without meaning to).


– Mike
June 23, 2015