But then last night I was at the Makeout Room in the Mission District of San Francisco watching an REM cover band (or tribute band, I guess - the taxonomy, I think, is that if you play only songs by one band, you're a tribute band, whereas if you play cover songs by a number of different bands, you're a cover band) called Chronic Town absolutely TEAR IT UP and suddenly I was 17 again and seeing REM at the Mosque in Richmond Virginia and never had been in an unsuccessful first marriage and 9/11 had never happened and the only thing I had to worry about was how much Milwaukee's Best cost and whether this girl I knew liked me.
|Typical crappy iPhone pic. Sorry.|
You see, back in the 80's, growing up far from any kind of "scene," music seemed kind of stale and lifeless. What you got on the radio was lots of classic rock (and country, I guess, if you wanted that). When we discovered REM, it seemed like a revelation - here was something different, something interesting. And it was like our secret! We were in a special club.
Of course, REM, and what was then called "alternative music," blew up after that. REM went on to become huge and maybe The Most Important American Band of All Time (there can be a debate, but seriously? Who else?). But you know what? REM will always remind me of a certain time when I was growing up and figuring out how to be an adult and the world was full of promise and things didn't seem as shitty all the time. And last night, Chronic Town kind of took me back to that age. It was pretty great.
And the kids! There were kids there dancing to this stuff who weren't even born when Murmur or Fables of the Reconstruction or, from the looks of them, even Green came out. I guess REM to them is what the Byrds were to me when I was their age - a Very Old, very influential band from before I was born. But hey, more power to you, kids.
So thanks, guys. You sounded great, and maybe made me less of an asshole for a few hours. (I would like to extend a special shout-out to the singer, also named Michael, who my friend Stephen described as the "Daniel Day-Lewis of REM cover bands" for his complete immersion in the role of Michael Stipe. Voice, moves, everything. Great job.)
ANYWAY, as luck would have it, I'll be back at the same venue tonight for the annual "Parker's Holiday Craptacular," a shambling, hours-long Christmas party that's also a benefit for the SF Food Bank at which a number of people I know will be playing music - some of them backing up John Doe, for Chrissakes! - getting drunk, and basically having a good time. I go pretty much every year and it's a blast. If you wanna come too, look for me - I'll be the old guy. HA! Kidding. Everyone there is old. Anyway, Kelley Stoltz! Paula Frazer! Mark Eitzel! Playing Christmas songs! What else could you ask for?