Way Too Many Thoughts About Damien Rice

Damien Rice

ATTENTION: This is a music post that is not about Matt Nathanson! Shocking, I KNOW.

No, today I write about another singer/songwriter who takes up a giant chunk of my heart: Damien Rice. I (along with everyone else, it seems) have been a fan of Damien’s for going on 10 years now. I never dove into his music like I did with Howie Day or Matt Nathanson, but he was always there… in the back of my heart and my mind… singing ‘Delicate’ and ‘Amie’ and ‘Elephant’ and ‘Volcano’ and so on and so on and so on.

With so much time passed since his last album (9 was released in 2006), my love for him settled into that comfortable, bittersweet love you get for things you loved that are gone. Clearly Canadian, Vienetta, Shinylicious lip gloss, and Damien Rice.

Around the first week of September, Damien Rice suddenly released a new track. I’m sure this wasn’t sudden to some people, but it certainly was to me. I was immediately obsessed.

Obsession became jubilation when he announced tour dates. Obsession to jubilation to frustration when I saw that he had booked ONE tour stop not on a coast.

The Chicago show became my new obsession. I thought about it constantly and enlisted Kelly and a music-loving co-worker to help me get tickets.

I should probably back up a bit here and explain that I… well, I’m a spoiled brat. Hello, only child/oldest grandchild. I get what I want 99.95% of the time and that percentage is generously low. So when tickets went on sale, I was nervous but deep down I assumed I would get them because, duh, I get stuff. I was (overly) devastated when I did not get tickets. When tickets went on sale to the general public (2 days after my birthday, OF COURSE I would get them this time!) and I didn’t get those, either… well, let’s not go into how I behaved.

In addition to throwing that big fat crybaby hissy fit, I adopted a kitten that night. Mostly (the kitten) filled my heart and my days and my bed (she’s a total bed hog), but she couldn’t fill the void left by not getting Damien Rice tickets.

It was like suddenly Damien Rice was all I could think about, but listening to his music just HURT. I wasn’t used to NOT getting what I wanted, and it physically hurt. I have a wonderful life full of wonderful people and wonderful pets and a wonderful job with wonderful co-workers but all I could think was that I DID NOT have Damien Rice tickets. (What a brat, right?)

Fast forward to Monday when I listened to a radio show interview Damien had done with BBC Radio and Damien announced a 2015 tour. I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought (still wounded from my last ticket attempts, ugh) until Tuesday morning (4amish because I don’t sleep), when I got the email with my pre-sale code. My pre-sale code for the pre-sale. My pre-sale code for the pre-sale that started LITERALLY 33 hours after the email was sent. You know, the appropriate amount of notice to come up with $200 for concert tickets.

Thankfully, my mom is the f’ing coolest and she told me she hadn’t bought my Christmas present yet so if (if if if if if) I could get tickets, she’d get them for me as the best Christmas present EVER.

I’ll spare you the ridiculousness of the pre-sale and suffice it to say that I GOT THE FREAKING TICKETS! Indianapolis went on sale first so I’m seeing Damien Rice in Indy! (On a Monday, but that’s fine.)

It feels completely surreal and I’m more in love with his music now than ever. I’ve already looked up past concert reviews and set lists, in case you were wondering how crazed I am. I’m hoping the excitement plateaus at some point. If not, I’ll absolutely have a Damien Rice lyric tattoo and/or an ulcer by April.

I leave you with this, in case you are reading this and not familiar with Damien Rice. Please, please, please get familiar.

“I wanna let go and know that I’ll be alright…”

I’ve been writing this in my head for nearly 48 hours but it’s still not coming out easily. All I can think is how seeing Matt Nathanson perform live is bittersweet. Sweet when you’re seeing him and so, so bitter when it’s done. I’m half-seriously contemplating moving to San Francisco JUST so I can see him perform live more. I know that sounds a bit over the top but… well, maybe I can try to explain.

Matt Nathanson at Festa Italiana - 07/20/13

Matt Nathanson at Festa Italiana – 07/20/13

The first 6 rows of the bleachers were blocked off for radio VIP winners, so we got the 7th row, directly behind the barricades. When the show started, the tallest guy in the joint stood in front of me (of course), so I chose to stand on the bleachers with everyone else around me. I was basically eye level with Matt straight in front of him. Now that I think of it, I probably should have felt awkward but I was all wrapped up in the moment so it never occurred to me.

That’s the thing I love best about live music (particularly Matt Nathanson) – it pulls me out of my own head and into a moment, which is something that ONLY happens for me in the presence of live music. It’s the ONLY time I feel comfortable and free. I feel like very spiritual people must feel when they go to church. I feel inspired and weightless and like this moment is the only thing in the world. The fact that I’m standing with some of my best friends… in the same space as Matt Nathanson and his talent and lyrics and banter and passion and truth… it’s all that matters. So when it ends, for a couple of days, I feel almost empty. Awkward and clumsy and heavy and back up in my own head all the time.

Thankfully, after a few days the post-concert blues go away and I’m just me again, but I still crave those few, fleeting moments at a live show when I’m just a PART of something bigger and everything makes sense.

If you’re reading this (thank you!), I hope it makes sense. If it doesn’t and I sound completely over-dramatic or pretentious, then I hope you find the thing that makes you feel this way… whether it’s running or hunting or knitting or skiing or deep sea diving.  If this does make sense to you, I hope something in your stomach or mind tugs when you read this and you think “Yeah, I know that feeling…”. And if so, I’d love to hear what makes you feel that way – leave me a comment!

Thank YOU, Matt Nathanson.

For those of you that may not know, Matt Nathanson released his new album, Last of the Great Pretenders, on Tuesday. He took to his website yesterday to thank fans for their kind words… and it just got me thinking about how long Matt has been a part of my life through his music.

Going on 10 years ago now, Courtney, a gal I met through a message board Kelly and I ran for another musician, introduced me and Kelly to Matt Nathanson via quotes from live shows used as AIM away messages. He sounded funny, so I made a mental note to check him out after I checked out the John Mayer kid she was also always talking about. Kelly was quicker and got pretty into him by way of two songs… I can’t remember now what one of them was but the other was ‘Clean’.

That next summer she and Katie (also quicker to the party than I was!) took me to see him at Summerfest. He played the Piggly Wiggly stage (which no longer exists). Kelly was on crutches after fracturing her foot falling after a night of far-too-heavy drinking (the bar was called Sparky’s and Sparky was a 70’s something dirty old man who poured warm shots of Kessler’s whiskey [retch] for anyone with big boobs [read: me]). The show was incredible – a mind-blowing event that made me, a seasoned concert elitist at the ripe old age of 23, question every concert I’d ever called my “favorite”. Sure, No Doubt was awesome but I never felt a part of that show. I didn’t laugh out loud and enjoy the songs I’d never heard as much as the ones I knew well. But I did at that Matt Nathanson show. And afterwards, when he was completely surrounded by fans, he took the time to talk to each and every one of us. I didn’t feel rushed. He called Kelly “Crutchy”. He made me feel like I wasn’t just a face in a crowd; he made me feel like I was special, like I MEANT something. Even if I was just something to his experience and not him directly, I still felt important. Like maybe he got something out of me/us the same way we got something out of him.

That night we went back to Kelly and Katie’s apartment and listened to the album we’d each bought, Beneath These Fireworks. We listened to it on repeat all night while we played Scrabble and drank raspberry vodka and lemonade out of a Fiestaware pitcher. Every time we got to ‘Bare’ or ‘Bent’, I would say, “What track is this?”, and Kelly would patiently tell me. Over and over and over.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Beneath These Fireworks helped shape the music tastes that I have today. Before Matt Nathanson and BTF entered my life, it was all pop punk, all the time. I was the tubby girl in pigtails with a band t-shirt, a different color nail polish on each finger, and a teddy bear backpack who signed her emails with rock hands (“\m/ on, Kat”). That record made me finally give that John Mayer kid a chance. It made me give another listen to Howie Day. It even made me listen to Bruce Springsteen differently. I started noticing lyrics and melodies (I never noticed harmonies prior to BTF so re-listening to Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ album blew. my. mind.) and not just how danceable a beat was.

Since that first Summerfest show in 2004, Kelly and I have seen Matt together… I don’t know how many times. 15? 20? More? I went once without her – she was TERRIBLY ill but Matt was opening for P!nk so I couldn’t very well miss that, could I?? I’m pretty sure I called her at some point during the show (‘Little Victories’? ‘Sing Me Sweet’?), and Katie and I had an absolute BLAST… but there was still a part of me that felt weird being there without her.

We talked with him for ages at a show at New City YMCA in Chicago (he complimented my ‘I ❤ Johnny Knoxville’ shirt).

I got drunk at a Halloween show in Madison and accused him of stealing his striped scarf from me (he didn’t).

We sold merch for him once – at The Rave, when he opened for Lifehouse. It was approximately 438* in the merch booth (the GORGEOUS guy selling for Lifehouse used my lemongrass body spray to cover his BO – THAT’S how hot it was in there). When Matt played ‘Detroit Waves’ I screamed and sang along, down at the end of a hallway with only Kelly and Gorgeous McLifehouseMerch to hear me.

We drove 20 hours straight to see him open for David Cook in Virginia Beach. The best part of that show? I FINALLY met Rhonda and Eireann, 2 AMAZING ladies I met on a Howie Day LiveJournal community. We’d been talking for 5+ years but had never met in person, and we did that night after the concert.

We saw him open for Counting Crows (Kelly barely survived her fangirl attack) while my foot was broken (non-drinking related). I was offered VIP seats but they were too far from the stage so I declined and stood in my stupid surgical boot up against the barricades. The list goes on.

A few years ago, after being best friends for 20+ years, Kelly and I FINALLY got those matching tattoos we’d always talked about – a lyric from a Matt Nathanson song: “all we are, we are…”. If you ask both of us what the lyrics means, our answers are completely different, but that’s one of the great things about music – it speaks to us all differently, individually.

There have been a few new albums since that Beneath These Fireworks record – Some Mad Hope, Modern Love, and now Last of the Great Pretenders… and each time I think sadly, “Matt is great but this album can’t possibly beat the last one.”… and he always does. Why do I doubt this man’s ability anymore? Why do I assume change will be a bad thing (good question for my entire life, actually)?

With each album his fan base has grown more and more, and I am so, so happy for him. Okay, full disclosure: some days I want to scream at people for loving him in a way that I deem incorrect, or tell someone to move on, this bandwagon is FULL, tyvm. But 99.5% of the time I am so incredibly happy and hopeful that people still notice good, passionate, genuine music when they hear it.

Phew, this post has gotten away from me. I didn’t intend to ramble on this much. I guess what I am trying to say is that I would love to give Matt Nathanson a thank you like he just gave all of us. Thank you for getting me through simple things like shitty days at work (screaming ‘Detroit Waves’ or ‘Lucky Boy’ or ‘Amazing Again’ out your car window is incredibly therapeutic)… and not-so-simple things like self doubt (the bridge of ‘Pretty the World’ is EVERYTHING I need on those days). Thank you for helping me keep my faith in music when most songs on the radio make me want to weep or scream or rip my face off. Thank you for giving me and my best friend of 2/3 of my life something to fangirl over TO THIS DAY.

Thank YOU, Matt. Thank you for being you and for being brave and for pouring yourself into these records in a way that feels so fucking true, I am still moved by albums I’ve listened to HUNDREDS of times. I will see you at Festa Italiana on Saturday and maybe, just maybe, you’ll look down at me and Kelly and think, “Yep, seen them before.” But if you don’t, that’s okay, too.

We’ve Gotta Hold On… to What We’ve Got…

Let me start this off by saying that what I am about to type causes me physical pain.

What. Up. with Bon Jovi? Their performance on the Grammys last night was just short of awful! If my BJ love weren’t established at the age of 4, I would have turned them off half-way through ‘We Weren’t Born to Follow’.

Over the last few years Jon has started to sound more like a country singer and less of a rock singer. The optimist in me hoped it was because their last few albums have been decidedly country-based. But with the release of ‘The Circle’ which the band touted a “rock and roll album”, I was sadly disappointed to hear that Jon’s twang was still out and in full force. His enunciation has even taken on a weird quality – “take my-eend” replaces “take my hand” in ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’, etc.

Going back to the Grammy performance – why is Jennifer Nettles getting more air time than Richie Sambora?? I understand that a theme throughout the Grammy evening was mixed performances – GaGa and Sir Elton, Jamie Foxx and Slash (BTW – WTF??), etc. I do, I understand that! But does that mean we can’t even give Richie a little bit of solo time? The poor kid had to come over and stand in front of Nettles just to get some notice. Oh, AND?? Was there no camera in the entire auditorium that could get Tico’s face? We have to settle for half-assed back/side of face shots?

All in all, I was sorely disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still sell limbs to see them live each and every time they come here! It’s just hard seeing them perform and thinking that this could be one of the last times.


What does make a great song?

The other day, on his Facebook, Matt Nathanson asked people to comment on what they felt made a “GREAT SONG”. I read through a few of the comments and the consensus seemed to be that a GREAT SONG is one that speaks to your experience… something that feels like it could have been written about that specific moment in your life.

I mentally agreed, didn’t comment, and went about my merry way.

Today, I sit listening to ‘Edge of Desire’ off of John Mayer’s newest album and it’s making me realize that a GREAT SONG doesn’t have to speak to your experiences or what you believe or what you’ve felt. A GREAT SONG can make you WANT to have experienced that… or believe that… or feel that. ‘Edge of Desire’ makes me positively ACHE to feel this way about another person. I’ve never felt that I would toss aside my entire belief system just to have that person laying next to me. And don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with that! But listening to this song…

Anyway. Sort of a weird way to start this “blog” if you will. What say you?