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Thursday, July 29, 2010

God's Been Good to Me

Mary, Martha & Lazarus of Bethany

I begin writing here from a very "good place". Anyone who knows me well is aware that last summer was, for lack of a better expression, a shit show, bookended by the diagnosis and subsequent death of my friend and bandmate Henry from Leukemia, and punctuated in the middle by eye surgery which left me unable to drive, lift weights or read for the better part of a month. Thanks to the generosity of some close friends I was able to get out here and there but for the most part it was an isolating, unhappy time.

Thus there was nowhere to go but up, and -- being a summer person by nature -- I vowed that this year I would make up for it. Unlike George Costanza, I have thus far not been disappointed. In fact, looking back at what's happened so far, I feel as if someone up there has been stacking my deck in my favor.

Case in point, I found out a few months ago that a band I have loved for years, Chamberlain, had signed on to tour with The Gaslight Anthem this summer. Since they live in Indiana, aren't on a major label and broke up in 1998, I had pretty much assumed I would never see them live. Yesterday, I did, and it couldn't have been better. We got great seats, the weather cooperated, and they started out with one of my two favorite songs of theirs, "Try for Thunder" that had helped keep my spirits up when all the aforementioned stuff was going down last year. Also, I found out while writing this that they released a single "Raise it High" which hopefully means they're planning on doing more work together.

None of this should eclipse the fact that they were opening for Gaslight, the main reason most of the audience was there. I have to say that the audience, which was pretty young, was extremely receptive to both Chamberlain and the opening-opener, Tim Barry. Hailing from Richmond, VA and also the once-and-future(?) frontman of a punk band Avail, Barry is unapologetically rough-hewn and commented that he rarely performs anywhere "as nice as this". At one point he got off the stage with his acoustic and climbed partway up the amphitheater where he performed a song unamplified. Just about everybody quieted down so he could be heard, interrupting him only by clapping along at the chorus. He sheepishly thanked everyone for indulging him, calling his stunt "selfish" when in fact the audience seemed to love it.

I won't go on about Gaslight Anthem, both because I'm sure there will be tons of reviews of their show and I don't know their music that well, but they were pretty energetic and connected well with the crowd, who knew every word of every song. If only their teachers could get them to study so hard! Now I want to go see them again at the Stone Pony next week, especially since (Gaslight lead singer) Brian Fallon is a huge
Springsteen fan. The Boss appeared at the Pony last Friday night to play a few songs with buddy Alejandro Escovedo, on whose album he appears, so you never know.

Anyway, I'm going to bed feeling very blessed.

"Try for Thunder"

By Chamberlain (written by David Moore & Alex Rubenstein) from the CDs The Moon, My Saddle and Five Year Diary

I haven't smiled in a long time but I've learned how to look impressed,

learned to lose the dreams I had when I was at my best.
When I was a boy on the back lawn, faith, like a gun,
I'd find and be it loaded or not I'd keep it at my side.

This voice inside keeps saying: "congratulations on what you've done,
on all you are and all that you won't become."
But even when it's hard I guess I'm never where I don't belong
and I'll get there by knowning I'd get there all along.

This life to me it's like a try for thunder.
This sky that I'm under it's the best sky for me.

I've learned less from daylight than from night threatening to leave.
All along my voice goes after what my hands cannot reach.
I ran through the fog without you, through the low hard language of rain,
afraid that if I caught what I came for I'd never want it again.

This life to me it's like a try for thunder.
This sky that I'm under it says God's been good to me.

One night in the rain you set me straight.
You said I have everything I need, and for every slow day in the sun there's two storms in between.
Where I am is where you'll find me at the edge of many things,
hands outstretched, doing circles in the rain, grinning like a thief.

This life to me it's like a try for thunder
this sky that I'm under it says God's been good to me.

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