Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tangled up in Bob.

We had not been in the room long before the introduction rang out over the speaker system. A short biography was given; voice of a generation etc. It didn't mention the words troubadour, poet, artist or father, but this wasn't a show for the part time fan. When the introduction had ended, a soft light illuminated the stage and flashed the silhouette of a familiar figure, complete with hat. It was the first glimpse of Bob Dylan, the totem like dignitary who had been transferred into an American demigod over the last 50 years.

For fans who stopped listening to his music after the mid 70s, his voice was virtually unrecognisable. His famous strained, rusty vocals have aged, being worn down to a gravel like representation of a former incarnation. Of the older, more familiar songs, we learned what it was like to be stuck on a mobile singing the Memphis blues again.
By this stage, we saw Bob's 69 year old frame move from organ, to guitar to mic stand. He was never famous for his mobility, but at this stage of his career it was impressive. The banter with the audience never arose. There were no shouts of 'Judas' (watch this!), the majority of the audience was too old to yell loud enough. However, they were roused when he went into Tangled Up in Blue. It's the staple song from his finest album. A few songs after - though many minutes due to jamming - we were treated to 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall". Vocally, the phrasing was so far removed from the original version it was as if Bob was teasing anyone trying to sing-along. Either that, or he is playing catch-me-if-you-can with his audience, toying with their timing.

The screens behind him showed images of the old Penn Station, a live reflection of his band and a number of backgrounds worthy of mid 90s websites. They were odd choices for a man whose tactile gift with the guitar extends to the paint brushes, but by this stage it became apparent that Bob plays these shows for him. And fair enough, at this stage of his career it is commendable that he still has the passion to play. For a man who is still prolific in all of his artistic ventures he clearly plays these shows for his own enjoyment, anything the audience gets out of it is a bonus. That's not to say that people who don't place Bob on a pedestal couldn't appreciate the show; he closed with Like a Rolling Stone.

Now, it is easy to understand how this show could have left people disappointed, but the truth is the Bob Dylan of November 19, 2010 is worlds apart from the young 1960s songsmith whose songs still resonate through people today. His voice is tough to decipher and interaction is limited, but he is still Bob Dylan, the boy from Minnesota who learned to tell the world about itself. It could be overstating things, but I felt an honour in being in the same room as the man, not for his songs or his impact, but for the fact that he has never sought anything other than improvement and never given up on what he is passionate about. He could have retired to any beach in the world at 29, but 40 years later he'd still rather toil for his art, and that's a sacrifice we owe him for.


So anyway, it was a fairly typical Amherst night after that. We went to stackers, rugged up and ready to party. The group of us was large enough that one pitcher wasn't enough for a round, so two at a time were bought. However, this cycle caused great over-eagerness in purchasing the next round. For most of the night there were 3 pitchers - waiting to be poured - sat at our table.

They flowed, aided by the coin game, where whoever received a coin in the drink had to dutifully finish the remaining beverage. I was attacked on a few occasions, but I felt my strategic nous allowed me to get Sam in the best possible way: by dropping the coin in right after I had filled his cup. Boom.

It didn't take long for everything to hit us, and as a collective we became that drunk, loud mob who sings Oasis songs at the bar (this really happened). I'm sure the other occupants were happy to see the rest of us, because after a certain decibel level, the charm of a foreign accent subsides.
Next time I'll bring an oxygen tank to cope with the height of my ollies.

The clock quickly struck 1AM, and due to Amherst law we vacated the bars. The group went back to Sylvan, and I realised I was in trouble when I couldn't solve a Rubick's Cube in my usual manner. Oh well, I wasn't the worst there.

The next morning was the true evidence of how much fun was had. The tail-end of my shower coincided with the familiar up-chuck of a hangover. Gross. It was reassuring to know I wasn't the only person who was hurting, Max and I had each other to console as we met up the next night in the grad lounge.

It's remarkable how great you feel the day after a hangover, and with this euphoric life experience I headed out to Noho on my own. Bad move. What seemed like a fairly innocuous question to me about when the next bus was to arrive led to an encounter of all sorts of weirdness. 'Mike' spoke so quietly he was impossible to hear over the few cars that were in the area. On closer inspection I saw his clothes were filthy and that his shaved head and beard was extraordinarily patchy. Whatever, the giant guy seemed friendly enough. It wasn't long before it began to get weird, it started when he asked if we could talk together on the bus. "Sure", I replied. He decided he wanted to sit on the back seat, and for the first part of the trip I nodded along to his stories that I couldn't hear over the bus' engine and exhaust he decided to sit over. He let out a few words, about how he lived under a skate ramp in Austria, and that he was fixing up a track. Occasionally his quiet voice was interrupted by laughter at his own jokes. The bus went passed his stop, but he decided he would skip the next few to hang out. At the end of the encounter he asked if we could hang out later and if he could get my number. "Sure", again was my reply. His voice finally rose when he asked for a pen from a neighbour on the bus. I wrote down my number on the back of a business card, only it wasn't mine. I now know what it is like to be a hot girl giving out fake numbers on nights out. Crisis averted...hopefully.
what a long exposure looks like on a skateboard
On the eve of thanksgiving and a trip to New York City I had my first counselling experience. It was over an incident involving a 30 pack of beer from the first week of semester. Being new to this counselling scene, I wasn't prepared for the approach they were going to take on alcohol consumption. Being an older foreign student the program is not exactly designed for people like me, so I found it interesting when they used the same framework on me. I was beyond reluctant to talk about a lot of things, feeling their relevance had no bearing on why I was sat in a comfortable chair. Anyway, I passed the program (though there was no grading) and they took my money. Hopefully it's years until I next experience anything like this again, and that it's not for an overblown reaction to having some beers with friends. Prohibition did end before Bob Dylan was born.
Tony Hawl

Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
This is a recent (2000) version of a previously unreleased Springsteen gem. His lost 1978 album has finally been released, and how it was kept in the vault for so long is beyond me. It's absolutely magnificent, and a treat that us people of the year 2010 get to hear it. It's like music world just uncovered their own version of Atlantis.

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