focus your audio: name

In M|H’s weekend feature, focus your audio, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Goo Goo Dolls – Name

I learned about the Goo Goo Dolls from a sticker on my new classmate Luke’s binder at the beginning of sixth grade. Our last names were close in the alphabet, so we were seated next to each other in nearly every class. Aside from the number 69 doodled all over it, the binder’s most defining feature was a blue oval sticker that just said GOO. I asked him about it, and he told me it was a cool band he heard over the summer called the Goo Goo Dolls. A few weeks later “Name” was released on the radio and everyone knew who they were.

The song is totally 90s (and the video painfully more so), but I still love it. If I’m scanning through the radio and I hear it, I’ll stop. I think it’s the solo and its weirdo tuning – there’s really nothing else that sounds like it. Despite being all over the radio in the late 90s with their material from Dizzy Up the Girl, “Name” is the only song I hear still getting played now – I couldn’t tell you the last time I heard “Iris“, their biggest hit and arguably one of the most popular songs of the 90s.

I saw the Goo Goo Dolls live in the early 2000s, opening for Bon Jovi. Despite being a fan of theirs during the Dizzy Up the Girl era, I expected their set to be eye-rollingly awful but remember being pleasantly surprised and actually having a good time. It didn’t inspire me to get back into their music, but I will vouch that they’re solid performers. Even when you outgrow a band, there’s usually a song or two that sticks. For me it’s “Name”.

focus your audio: for nancy (‘cos it already is)

In M|H’s weekend feature, focus your audio, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Pete Yorn – For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)

Pete Yorn hit the scene at the end of my junior year of high school with his debut musicforthemorningafter and lead single “Life on a Chain“. I loved it upon hearing it with its bluesy base, but my favorite song from the album has always been “For Nancy”. I listened to this album throughout the rest of high school and got to see Pete Yorn play at  the 2002 Y100 FEZtival on the main stage. He played in the afternoon so I was able to get close and he was an amazing performer.

As the years went on, musicforthemorningafter fell out of my regular rotation, but when I was living in San Francisco in 2009 I rediscovered it while using the mp3 player I had bought and loaded up during my sophomore year of college. I’d had it on shuffle and “For Nancy” came on while I was on the bus in the Marina headed to work at the Exploratorium. After listening through the song I took my player off shuffle and listened to the entire album, remembering why I’d loved it in the first place.

focus your audio: understanding in a car crash

In M|H’s weekend feature, focus your audio*, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Thursday – Understanding in a Car Crash

The second concert I ever drove myself to was Saves the Day at the Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The show was on November 20th, 2001, the day after my 18th birthday. This was significant because it would be the first show I didn’t have to worry about leaving early to be off the road by 11 PM – Pennsylvania had what was colloquially referred to as the ‘Cinderella license’ and anyone between 16 and 18 couldn’t drive after that not-so-magic hour.

After falling down the punk and emo rabbit hole by reading lyrics by Dashboard Confessional and Saves the Day in a friend’s AIM profile, Saves the Day had quickly become one of my favorite bands. I looked forward to the show for months and had such a singular focus in seeing them that I didn’t bother to check out the opener ahead of time, some band called Thursday. While waiting in line for the show, freezing in my hoodie in the November air, word made it through the line that Thursday had cancelled. Several dudes in black t-shirts got out of line and went home upon hearing the news, and the club responded by pushing back the door time and leaving us to freeze outside. Someone started a fire in a dumpster for warmth/in protest, and I recall the bouncers flipping out because if the fire marshall came they’d be shut down – in those days CrocRock was notorious for over-selling shows and breaking the fire code by stuffing itself to the gills with tiny, teen-aged bodies. The fire was extinguished and the show went on and I was happy because I got to see Saves the Day.

Not too long after the show I came home from school one day to turn on the TV to MTV2. The video that was on looked like it’d been filmed on someone’s camcorder and featured quite a bit of screaming. I watched, rapt, getting my first taste of screamo that didn’t drive me up the wall. I anxiously awaited the song info to appear at the end of the video, and when Thursday appeared on the top line my heart sank. This was the band that cancelled? I missed seeing this? I then understood why so many people had dropped out of line. Thursday sounded nothing like Saves the Day. But they were damn good. They showed me that screaming didn’t have to equal noisy racket and opened me up to a lot of bands I probably would have ignored after the lackluster bands I’d encountered prior to hearing Thursday’s shouts.

A couple years later my roommate Cara and I would have a deep obsession with the band’s third release, War All the Time, but that’s another story for another day.

*This feature was formerly called songbook, but we’ve always felt terrible about ripping off Nick Hornby and finally stumbled across a phrase that better encapsulated our idea.

songbook: baba o’riley

In M|H’s weekend feature, songbook, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

The Who – Baba O’Riley


(studio version here)

“Baba O’Riley” came on the radio the other day and I was immediately nostalgic for the summer of 2004, aka The Best Summer Ever. In (and for) a short time I became very close with a new group of people, playing in the sun, having arts & crafts and movie nights, and, more often than not, turning every outing into a dance party. Sometimes our friends played host, and sometimes we would end up at semi-random places and literally take over the sound system and the living room. One friend, Jamie, always had a messenger bag and in that messenger bag was a mix CD. I’m fairly certain I’ve danced through that CD a hundred times. The disc was filled with great jams and turned me on to bands like The Rapture, !!!, and Ratatat. There was one song that was different from all the rest, though – The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.

It stood out because it worked. It wasn’t a dance song but was totally danceable. Somehow everyone knew the words. Classic rock was the new white belt. For most of the song there was lots of lunging and fist shaking and people doing their own thing, but when the breakdown kicked in at 3:35, everyone knew what to do. A circle formed, clapping began, and people started bouncing up and down. At 4:25 the stomping started. Stomping that shook the floor, rattled the pictures on the wall. As the tempo picked up, so did the pounding. From 4:55 on there was jumping and whooping and spinning until a final crash at the end of the song ten seconds later. It went like this without fail every time.

Whenever I hear “Baba O’Riley” at a bar or some other public venue, I always expect to see people gathering in circles, ready to stomp – but it never happens. I’m glad that, for a short while at least, I knew the people who knew what needed to be done. “The happy ones are here / let’s get together / before we get much older.”

songbook: copper and stars

In M|H’s weekend feature, songbook, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Planes Mistaken for Stars – Copper and Stars

I first heard this song on the comp Emo is Awesome/Emo is Evil. It was the first song on the disc and I loved the controlled chaos of the intro. I definitely had one of those “ho. ly. shit.” reactions where your brain can’t quite catch up to what it’s hearing but you know you love it. Around this time I was still heavily into pop-punk and was just dipping my toe into the harder aspects of the genre. While not really a hard song, it was a lot more aggressive than, say, The Get Up Kids.

Listening to this song now it’s still exhilarating and a perfect snapshot of the scene. From the iconography of the band’s name to the trampled-heart lyrics like “wasting wishes on copper and stars”, it just brings back the angst-y goodness of my late teens and early twenties.

As a bonus, you can listen to the comp below. Thank you, internet!

songbook: you got yr. cherry bomb

In M|H’s weekend feature, songbook, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Spoon – You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb

Goddamn this song is perfect. The bells. The handclaps. When the instrumentals kick back in at 2:09. I don’t even want to talk about it. Just listen to it on repeat and dance, dance, dance.

songbook: leaving

In M|H’s weekend feature, songbook, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

The Starting Line – Leaving

“2-12-99 – at the stroke of midnight.” Any pop-punk fans worth their salt will know exactly when to yell that phrase, fist in the air. The Starting Line seems to be one of those bands that everyone who had even a passing interest in the genre listened to at some point. TSL was an immediate favorite of mine, and I can still listen to Say It Like You Mean It without cringing. When I started college in the fall of 2002, the album was still fairly new and in heavy rotation.

One of the first things I did after starting college was join the Wisconsin Union Directorate Music Committee. While walking around campus the week before classes started, I saw posters for a free Hey Mercedes show everywhere. I had seen an ad for the music committee in an activities packet I received during freshman orientation (“talk to Brendan – the one with the hair” read the ad, a nod to the student director’s pompadour), but it was really the realization that they booked bands I liked that truly sold me.

As part of my training, I had to cover a show with an experienced member of the committee. The show I picked was The Starting Line with Motion City Soundtrack and Truth in Fiction on October 5th, 2002. That day I learned how to load in, run the lights, pay the band, and other production fundamentals, but of course the best part for nerdy little 18-year-old music-fan self was meeting the bands. I had met bands before while buying merch or after shows to take a picture, but it was nice to get to actually have a conversation with them and not have to worry about coming off as a groupie.

The singer of The Starting Line, Kenny Vasoli, and I hit it off, bonding over being from Pennsylvania, being 18, and being away from home. We were pals for the night, the first of my many (often one night only) rock-and-roll friendships. We didn’t exchange any info, but we did meet again. The following May I went to the Y100 FEZtival in Camden, New Jersey, just across the river from Philadelphia. After The Starting Line’s set I ran into Kenny, and we chatted for a bit about tour and how nice it was to be home.

Fast forward almost nine years to last night. Kenny’s new band, Vacationer, was opening for The Naked and Famous. It was wonderful seeing him so happy, and after the band’s set I stopped by the merch table to say hello. While Kenny no longer remembered me, he did remember the show where we met (“With Motion City?! I have a tape from that show!”) and is still as easy to talk to as ever. After saying hello I couldn’t stop smiling – Kenny will always be wrapped up in the rush of happy memories from my first steps into the music business.