i hate the sound of guitars

an expat dc punk in massachusetts

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Big Dipper/Great Plains, 26 April 2008

21 May 2008 · No Comments

Great Plains is the band that ruined my life. You might know their signature “Letter to a Fanzine” as the “Why do punk rock guys go out with new wave girls?” song. But I know it as the Song of the Big Lie:

You like everything that comes out on SST
You like everything that comes out on 4AD
You like almost everything that comes out on Homestead
I LIKE EVERYTHING THAT I GET IN THE MAIL FOR FREE!
(How ’bout that)

That stanza inspired me to become a reviewer so I could get music in the mail for free. What I didn’t know is that Sturgeon’s Law most definitely applies to what you get in the mail for free; even it’s own mother couldn’t possibly like all of it.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Great Plains’ set. They were a touch sloppy in that kinda good bar band-y way, or maybe that was just the muddiness of the mix. (Whiny aside: I really wish I liked The Middle East better, but all but a handful of shows I’ve seen there have sounded like crap, and downstairs is often uncomfortably like a sweatlodge.) Front man Ron House was in fine voice, and everyone on stage looked like they were having a good time.

It’s been bugging me that I can’t remember if I saw Big Dipper twice or just once back in the day. I know I saw them in Baltimore touring Slam (with a seismograph on stage, and Young’s “Rocking in the Free World” in the set), but I kinda think I also saw them in DC between Craps and Slam. At at least one Dipper show I know I was completely transported into the magical state of pure enjoyment. Maybe it happens to you and maybe it doesn’t, but when a band really connects with me, I stop being aware of things like what’s in (or out) of tune with what, whether the tempos are steady, how good or bad the mix is, and anything else from the analytical side of my brain. My consciousness shuts down and I just love what’s happening.

That’s a very high bar to reach, so it shouldn’t surprise me that the 2008 Dipper failed to reach it. It was great just to see Steve Michener, Jeff Oliphant, Gary Waleik, and Bill Goffrier on stage together again. They looked like they were having a blast revisiting the wondeful songs they crafted, and that’s important. Waleik seemed to be struggling a bit to hit some of the notes, but maybe he just couldn’t hear himself. I was certainly frustrated with the mix, my wonderful girlfriend and I weren’t feeling well, and we didn’t stay through the end of the night.

But if they pull a “Mission of Burma”-style return to active duty (and I hope they do), I would love to see/hear them again when they have another few shows under their belt, hopefully in a better-sounding room, and when I’ve had a chance to rein in my own unrealistic expectations a bit.

Tags: 2008 · b · g · indie rock · live · the middle east

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