Memories Uncategorized



After my third semester of college at a University, I decided to return home and finish up at a Community College. At this point, I needed another car since I was without one all that time away at school. It was a cold and snowy January and my dad and I drove to a Used Car Dealer in Elgin. My Grandpa had a connection and recommended this place. So we gave it a shot. I test drove 2 cars. One was a silver Nissan Stanza and the other was a Red Ford Tempo. I ended up with the Tempo.

After signing the paperwork and shaking the dealer’s hand. I drove away in it. My dad was behind me in his Dodge Pickup Truck. I think we got about 5 miles down the road and my car stalled and just decided to poop out. My dad pulled over, got out and helped me restart it. Seemed like a fluke. Nonetheless, it didn’t happen for awhile (maybe a few days). At the time, I was desperate and figured this would get me to and from school, as needed. Plus I was dating this girl, Kara, at the time. She and I rode in it a few times. I remember that it had no tape deck. So if I wanted to hear something on tape, i had a Walkman with little speakers hooked up to it and had to crank the volume.

I would try to play Pink Floyd songs and Syd Barret songs when she and I rode together in it. That was the kind of music that brought us together originally and this car actually tore us apart. I would stall at red lights and stop signs. She didn’t like that or my anger at those situations. We drove to Bakers Square and the movies in it but the smell of the car, the ripped vinyl seats, the crappy radio and the constant stalling, really started to get annoying. We eventually broke up because I drove a shitty car and had a “bad attitude” apparently.

This car literally TEMPO-rarily worked!!! I believe the radio finally died too and to exist in an automobile without music just wouldn’t cut it. I couldn’t keep changing the batteries on my walkman too. With it snowing in late February after an evening at a Denny’s with friends of mine, I started to drive away and my car died at a light. Then I got it started again. I was making a left turn at another light when it stalled in the middle of the intersection and a police officer helped me push it off the road. I wanted to push it off a cliff to be honest with you. I would not care at all.

Eventually my dad and I talked and we took it to another dealer and traded it in for another car. To be continued…….


Fond “Musical” Memories of My First Car

This is the first posting for this new mini-series…

In 1993, towards the end of my Junior year in High School, I bought my very first car. I was only 16 years old. I worked at an A&W Restaurant flipping burgers and mowed the lawns at the Fire Department. I saved my money and purchased this mighty used car you see here, down below. The car was a red Dodge Omni and had an old “toolbox”, kind of rusty and moldy smell to it. The windshield was cracked already (eventually my dad replaced it), the vinyl seats were hot in the summer and cold in the winter. My car had a tape deck in it. I was starting to collect more cd’s around that time so I had to buy some blank tapes and then record my cd’s onto them so I could listen to the music in the car.

I had to be entertained whenever I took a ride in this “Bloody Gremlin” looking vehicle! I never really drove far. I drove to school and back home. I went to the gas station or the local White Hen Pantry. It was all about looking cool. One time I drove it out of town to show my Grandma and Grandpa. My Grandma said we could go for a ride around the block. I had a tape of Stone Temple Pilots (Alternative Rock Band from the 90’s) playing somewhat loudly. I turned to grandma, as she was buckling her seatbelt. I said, “Oh let me turn that down.” She said, PLEASE!!!,” with somewhat of disgust. But it was still a nice experience with Grandma. Unlike how my own mother and father shrieked in blood curdling terror whenever I drove! AHHHHHH!!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!! JUST PULL THE CAR OVER!!!! White knuckles and all! LOL

I listened to bands like R.E.M., Lenny Kravitz and Smashing Pumpkins. One day, I had just about had enough of my tape deck because it was slowly starting to eat my tapes, they would get jammed in the machine or just simply start to distort their sound. Everything would sound all warped and in slow motion. As I was cruising through my hometown listening to the Pumpkins, the tape deck was trying to vomit out my tape and I had decided enough was enough. I ejected the tape and threw it out of the window, over the bridge I was driving across and into the Fox River. Never to be heard again! It was a quick relief! It was easier than trying to rip the tape deck out altogether.

That summer of 1993, I worked at the high school I went to as a painter and a janitor helper. There were about a dozen of us working in various buildings scrubbing floors, cleaning windows, etc. I was excited to listen to some Tool and Manowar in my car as I was leaving for the day to head home and embark on a mini vacation with my sister and parents the next day. But as I pulled out of my spot and began to “peel away!” I backed into a lady’s van and just kept on going! Perhaps the heavy metal blaring through my crappy speakers distracted me and I was oblivious!

After I got home, I was jumping on the trampoline with my sister and just hanging out in the backyard. The phone rings. My mom answers. She is not happy. “WHAT?”….she says “MY SON?”….she asks. I got into verbal trouble but nothing serious. Luckily it was a mere fender bender. Maybe I should mention here that I had obvious and memorable vanity plates that said “NOE 94” on them!!! LOL

These are the musical memories I think of when I talk about the Red Dodge Omni. Please share some of yours in the comments section below. Later!


Album Reviews

LIFE IS PRECIOUS: Essential and Challenging Music


I swear that what I am about to tell you is absolutely true.. This really happened.A guy named William Basinski created a musical concept known as The Disintegration Loops. This was created out of several tape loops Basinski made back in the early 1980s. These loops were really important to Basinski. Something about these pieces of music had some kind of importance to them. In the beginning, he just wanted to transfer the loops from analog reel-to-reel tape to some kind of compact disc format. However, once he started the transfer, he realized something very important: the tapes were old, dusty and they were disintegrating as they played while he recorded them. He once said, “The music was dying.” But he kept recording this sort of mini documentary on the death of these loops.

The recordings were done in late August and early September of 2001. This is where the story gets to feel a little unreal and terrorizing. William Basinski lives in Brooklyn which is only about a mile from the World Trade Centers. On September 11, 2001, as he was literally completing The Disintegration Loops, he watched these towers get destroyed by the planes. He had friends over and went onto the roof of his building and played the Loops over and over, all day long, watching this trauma unfold in New York. Just imagine listening to the death of this music while this act of terrorism is occurring. Sounds unreal doesn’t it?

The music is beautiful, minimal, sad, frightening, confusing, and ultimately uplifting. What he created here is a living document: a recording of orchestrated decay. It sounds like nothing else I’ve heard, yet, it’s the simplest and most familiar music I can imagine.

Basically the sounds you hear are a repeating loop that slowly deteriorates into oblivion. The loops are simple with lush strings, synth melodies with atmospheric melodies. The melodies are pastoral works intended as representations of nature and beauty. This is ambient music, setting a mood, creating a feeling of being among a a sort of movie soundtrack.

But the ravages of time has killed these loops and the pastoral and ambience they once represented. What we hear on The Disintegration Loops are not poetic images of nature or beauty. What is striking is it somehow gives a taste of nature and beauty as they truly exist in this world. Always lasting for a short time, then slowly dying. What makes these works so memorable is not the fact that the loops are slowly disintegrating but the fact that we get to hear their deaths. In a shocking way, we experience the ugly, brutal realities of life. However, this is incredibly beautiful. Maybe even more beautiful than the original loops ever could have been.

This is really not ambient music in the traditional sense; this is not one melody played over and over to fill the background of a restaurant or part atmosphere. This is natural music: music created from the elemental forces of life. This is the sound of disorder and life as it decays and dies before our ears. When I listened to this music yesterday, I was honestly fighting a crying fit. I was facing my inevitable fate and all others because this music is so powerful and shocking. And like all living things, these sounds struggle and claw for life with their last, dying breaths. Someone once said, “Their deaths are a memorial to Basinski’s past. That he dedicates these works to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is fitting. I can think of no better tribute, no better response to a tragedy of that magnitude than a work as beautiful and as fragile as this one.”

Album Reviews artists Concerts

Neko Case is Back in Chi-Town


I am happy to announce that Neko Case, alternative-country-nor-indie-rock star, is releasing a brand new record and will be playing in my neck of the woods. “Sweet Home Chicago”. I cannot wait! It’s been over four years since I last saw Neko. I thought I would dig something out from the vault to give you an idea of my enthusiasm. Here is the May 2009 article I wrote for a newspaper about my joyous experience:

Alternative Country Singer Shines at Chicago Theatre


Christopher Noe

Let me tell you about Neko Case. She is an alternative country singer-songwriter, best known for her solo career and guest vocalist with many popular artists. Neko is gifted with the guitar as well. She’s originally from Virginia and has travelled and recorded albums all over North America, including Chicago. Case primarily performs her own material and has recorded cover versions of songs by artists such as Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams. Her sound is very unique as it contains “country noir” elements that have truly defined her style. Neko Case has said that filmmaker David Lynch, composer Angelo Badalamenti, and Neil Young’s soundtrack to the film Dead Man have influenced her style. Her last two albums are her most commercially successful ones. Fox Confessor Brings The Flood was released on March 7, 2006. Critics praised this record for her use of desolate imagery and nonstandard song structures. It debuted at number 52 on the Billboard Top 200 list. Her latest album, Middle Cyclone, was released on March 3, 2009. Just before she began her U.S. tour to promote the record, Case appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Letterman. The album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard charts and it is her first album ever to reach the top ten in the United States.

On Friday April 24, 2009 Neko Case played a sold out 90 minute show at The Chicago Theatre. The stylish lobby with its magnificent staircase, stunning auditorium complete with murals above the stage and on the ceiling, all make up an amazing building called “The Wonder Theatre of The World” when it first opened in 1921. The Theatre was the first of its kind in America; a huge and extravagant movie palace. It remains today as an excellent symbol of State Street in Chicago. An assortment of the entertainment world’s brightest stars and most excellent productions have taken place on this stage, including Aretha Franklin, Kelly Clarkson, and now for the first time Neko Case. Her material is predominately introspective and passionate. You would not think that ridiculous humor would be so widely integrated into her live gig, but this was exactly the “case”(pun intended) at the show. With a charming and audience-engaging spirit, Neko and her entourage of band members made silly comments and jokes between songs for the duration of the performance. While the music remained perfect and even emotional, the banter in between involved lighthearted chatter about things like Diana Ross wearing too much makeup, Chicago being a sausage town and of course the idea of someone requesting the song “Free Bird.” The crowd was an interesting blend of intellectual college students, the heavily tattooed folks, and bearded-hippies. They watched the entire performance in church-like silence. The only comments from fans came between songs, during which they had no trouble expressing themselves (i.e. “You Rock!” “I Love you!”) in order to verbally contribute to the band’s onstage behavior.

Playing a mix of songs old and new, the inspirational redhead and her squad, gave a magnetic performance that had some 3,000 onlookers completely mesmerized. They had a large screen behind the stage set-up all night where they were projecting unique images of tornadoes, tigers, and a machine-crane among other things. A giant owl seemed to be holding the screen with eyes that glowed red. Before they even took the stage, the audience was treated to several minutes of ambient nature sounds, mostly tree frogs chirping. The room was dark except for a few flickering specs of light projected on the above mentioned screen. Earlier on, opening act Crooked Fingers, brought their own style of Indie experimental rock ranging from soothing, to edgy megaphone, and electronic sounds. Guitarist Eric Bachmann delivered commanding vocals. However, the most dazzling member of the trio was Tim Husmann, a percussionist, pianist and master noisemaker of all kinds. I was honored to be a part of these spectacular musical performances. Both Crooked Fingers and Neko Case are inspiring, powerful, and relevant in our troubled times. It’s good to know that exciting and original music is still alive.

Originally published in the May 14, 2009 issue of desplainesvalleynews Copyright 2009 Christopher Noe. All rights reserved.

P.S. I plan on blogging about my next encounter with her when I attend another show of Neko’s at the Hideout Block Party in Chicago this September! Stay Tuned!

Off Topic

Nostalgic Evening Under The Stars….THE DRIVE-IN MOVIES!!!!


I’m at the drive-in with my wife. We’re at the Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago. It’s a classic and has been around for several decades. This place is one of the few remaining in Illinois. We decided to take a trip down memory lane and relive our youth from the 1980’s. We pulled up to the booth earlier to get our tickets. The lady saw me hand her a credit card and was like, “We only take cash. Sorry” in a concerned tone for us. I did not realize that they do not take credit cards. Ooops! She suggested that we drive a few blocks away to an ATM in order to get cash so we can still enjoy the movies. So we did a U-Turn, pulled out of there as the dust and smoke spread from the gravel road as we peeled away! I was frantic! You would have thought I was on 10 cups of espresso! Although, I did have a couple of coffees earlier. But, nonetheless, I was panicked and freaking out! So off we went to the ATM.

Then we finally got back after the 15 minute delay. We made our way to our parking spot which took me a few extra minutes because I was trying to get the “right” spot! Got to be suited perfectly. I hurried out of the car to set up the lawn chairs. Everybody has their chairs either in front of their car or behind them if they backed in their space. Tailgating of course is an option too. The gravel is everywhere. The chairs are everywhere. There’s a little puppy on a leash off in the distance. They’ve go classic 50’s and 60’s music playing over the P.A. system. People are throwing footballs around. It’s kind of funny and nostalgic all in one.

You got to love the tall white screen projector up ahead, far in the front. No obstructed views, which is good. This truly is a thing of the past. Even some classic convertibles start pulling in. There’s the infamous snack bar that’s sort of recessed like a dugout off in the distance behind us. The sun is slowly setting to the west. The portable radios can be attached to your window. Just cranking the volume is good enough. All of the speakers scattered around the gravel parking lot echoes enough to hear what’s going on. Plus you can tune your radio station to 88.5 FM and listen to the films on your car stereo. I am just sitting here waiting for the movie trailers to begin.


It’s the middle of August. It’s fairly cool outside. Not freezing but it’s certainly not blazing hot either. Just cool enough yet just warm enough for I can sit here in my jeans, t-shirt and a light jacket and I’m just fine. We may have to eventually climb into the car once the temps drop and the bugs come out. But for now, it’s all-good. It’s all right because now Booker T and the MG’s are playing their famous song, “Green Onions.” It’s good to see all ages here. You got ten-year-old kids walking around. There are people our age in there 30’s reliving their own youth. Plenty of people our parent’s age doing the same thing. We kind of have all of the age groups represented here to recollect this fond memory of drive-in movies. A dying breed. These outdoor theaters may stick around for a while. But I don’t know for sure.

As my wife sits next to me in her chair, she has her sketchbook on her lap as she doodles and tangles away some splendid artwork. Denny loves to draw. She achieves Zen from doing this. But it’s so nice to sit here in front of the car and relax as the daylight fades and watch people walk around and go get snacks and just simply walk around to “walk around.” That’s what we like to do. Plus its good exercise. Good way to stretch the legs. Be active. Socialize. Chat. Catch up. No booze allowed, of course. But there are always a few who sneak it in. I haven’t seen any myself but it wouldn’t be that hard to slip it in your car and take a swig here and there. But that’s not why I’m here. I think other people are here to just escape. Perhaps some of the kids in high school are here to make out in the backseat of their car.

I will admit those speaker devices are very interesting and I have no idea how old they are. It would be interesting to research that fact. It’s sorta like going to the carhop where you roll your window down. The girl on roller skates brings out your food on a tray and kinda hangs it off your window. Clearly the device is intended to clip on your window as you listen to the film. It’s something they have definitely retained here at the Cascade and they certainly refused to part with them at all for they are here in abundant quantities. All of this instrumental, pop radio from the baby boom era like what you would hear at the diners is a nice treat for my ears. It’s a fitting touch.

Now they do play new movies here. Our double feature here tonight is KICK ASS 2 and ELYSIUM. Both of which seem quite favorable action and sci-fi flicks! I would imagine that some of these places have those #throwback nights. I don’t know for sure, but its certainly a #throwback environment. The mood is evoked, even with a digital projector. Sorry, no film reels or cigarette burns here. You get a better high definition for the outdoor viewings. The time now is seven minutes after eight. The anticipation is starting to get real. I recommend this kind of a movie experience for everyone.

Time to enjoy to movies!!!!


Off Topic

A blast from my tape recording past


The other day I was digging through my mom’s attic looking for treasures from my youth. I didn’t know what to expect, honestly. I found some books, action figures and other oddities. Then, all of a sudden, I came upon something really special. What I discovered was a vintage 1980 Fisher Price tape recorder. Boy that brings back some fond memories.

This thing was in great shape when I pulled it out of a box full of random items. I was sweating buckets up in that attic as I carefully made my way carefully out of there with this prized possession in my hands. I couldn’t wait to show it off to my mother and my wife who were waiting for me downstairs.

I was probably about four or five years old when I received this toy. It had to be for Christmas or my birthday. Anyways, It is tan in color with a stationary handle, just like a boom box. There’s your usual “play, record, fast forward and rewind buttons.” The tapes that I played at the time were things like “puff the magic dragon” or audio recordings of “Pinocchio.” This item was probably one of the earliest devices that I know of in my world that opened me up to music and creativity.

Eventually, my parents picked up some blank tapes for me and I started to record my voice on it. Make believe radio and little comedy sketches are the kinds of things I would partake in. Such a nostalgic toy for opening up a child’s mind to all sorts of experiments with voice, sounds, music and playfulness. I am so happy that I found this thing.

I cannot wait to buy some batteries and play some of my old cassette tapes on it. No I do not have Pinocchio or Cinderella tapes anymore. More like Metallica or Huey Lewis. Ha ha. Boy wouldn’t that be funny if I walked down the neighborhood streets of Chi Town with that Fisher Price tape recorder on my shoulder blasting away “Puff The Magic Dragon?” Good times!

Peace out


Katy is “Perry” Awesome!!!


Let me just get this statement out of the way with. I AM OBSESSED WITH KATY PERRY. There. I said it. Now you know my guilty pleasure. I’m not really ashamed of it. She’s beautiful. Her voice is stunning. I love her songs. I think her music videos are really cool and sometimes thought provoking. I don’t know what it is about her but I just love her. My wife knows this about me. There are no secrets between us.

It all started back in early 2007 when I was flipping through the television stations and came across some live show. Sort of like a Jerry Springer audience setting but it wasn’t a bizarre freak show or anything. It was some kind of variety program. This tall brunette girl was bouncing around the audience with a microphone singing, “I Kissed a Girl and Liked it!” She kept repeating that line over and over again. Why was this girl singing that? Why was she running around the audience and the stage like this. Who is she? I found myself intrigued.

I’m not gonna lie, pinup art is quite glamorous and sexy. One day I am going through a newspaper and come across the same girl posing in a Betty Page sort of way. I’m thinking, “So is she really a singer or a pinup model?” Come to find out she is both. Katy loves vintage model poses and she loves to have fun with her songs. It’s bubble gum pop with a true rock and roll edge. It’s like Madonna meets Joan Jett perhaps. But it’s honestly more than just that.

As the months went by I kept hearing more of her songs on the radio. I finally picked up her debut cd “Just One of The Boys,” and I really dug it a lot. I remember listening to it in the car or even when I would be mowing the lawn. I just was mostly obsessed with the lines “cherry chapstick” in that “Kissed a Girl” song I mentioned earlier. That certainly paints quite an image. However, I didn’t give it much thought once 2008 and 2009 rolled around. Suddenly her music was on the back burner.

Then all of a sudden; in 2010, she releases an astonishing sophomore album called Teenage Dream! It was daring, bold and provocative! Her first single, “California Gurls,” was a smash hit right from the start. I mean, there’s Snoop Dog on backing vocals and a music video that is a takeoff on the board game Candy Land! Need I say more? The hits just kept on coming. This girl knows how to write songs. She’s not some pop star that just dances around and fills in for the vocals. She is very much involved in the process of choreography, lyrics, music, videos and live shows (which always sell out).

She broke a record with this album releasing like 6 top singles, I believe. My favorite ended up being the song entitled, “Firework.” This one is like a pocket symphony. It is motivational and awe inspiring. I first heard it playing in a public venue at a skating rink when my wife and I took our middle niece (Samantha) there for her birthday and as I am skating around the track I suddenly hear the lines, “Just Open Wide and Let it Shine.” I was like, “I know this song!” It was just a perfect moments with the lights, the people gliding around on their roller blades grooving to her awesome pumping music.

Now here we are in August 2013. After 3 years of touring, marriage and divorce and plenty of drama; Katy Perry is doing it again! She’s releasing a new record in October, entitled PRISM. Her first single just came out today. It’s called ROAR. She seems to be unleashing a beast of a record, again! Miss Perry is raising the bars by promoting the album via Gold Semi Truck driving around the truck with her name and album title blazed on the side of it. She’s heavily using Twitter and Facebook to get the word out there.
She’s still into fashion, because she (like Madonna) is constantly changing wardrobes and coloring her hair but she definitely is doing her own thing, “and I like it.” I cannot wait until the new record is released. Sometimes it’s hard to explain why we get so addicted to people, sounds, colors, ideas and voices. We just do.

Playlists Uncategorized

Summer is Almost Over


Things are starting to wind down. We are slowly preparing for school. Parents say goodbye to their college students. Cool temperatures start to take over as the heat drifts away. Final hoorays and last minute barbeques get squeezed in. Between now and Labor Day is our last chance to party it up and call August summer still.

We reflect on a wonderful season that we’re halfway through; knowing that despite the summer lasting through most of September, we can’t help but face the reality of returning back to “regular time.” We can feel the harvest moon just around the corner.

When I was in Boy iScouts, I went to Camp Napowan in Wisconsin. It always felt like the “big event,” with campfires, canoeing and watching meteor showers up on a hill after a night hike. In many ways, I view it as the best month to camp in. Lots of fires and roasting marshmallows too! Plus baseball season starts to get exciting as we get close to the playoffs!

I put together a nice mix of music to listen to in August, to celebrate the memories of summer. The songs on this playlist are reflective and hopeful as well.

Anyway, it evokes a nice mood and helps us prepare for what is around the corner. Enjoy the soundtrack to our August this year:

1. Summer’s Almost Gone by The Doors
2. The Boys of Summer by Don Henley
3. Where Have All The Good Times Gone by The Kinks
4. Summer Nights by Olivia Newton-John
5. Night Moves by Bob Seger
6. Nightswimming by R.E.M.
7. White Sandy Beach of Hawaii by IZ
8. Summertime Blues (written by Eddie Cochran) but performed by The Who
9. Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House
10. Time Stand Still by Rush
11. Sleep Walk by Santo & Johnny
12. Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
13. Yesterdays by Guns N’ Roses




The first weekend of August was gorgeous. The blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures along the lakefront of Chicago, Illinois; made the annual Lollapalooza experience on Sunday a tremendous pleasure for my sister and me.

What is Lollapalooza? Dating back to the 19th century, it has to do with an extraordinary or unusual event. Over the years, the word also was used to describe a large lollipop. It now basically means both. It’s a large, extraordinary lollipop with many flavors for everybody to have a lick. Thanks to the vision of Jane’s Addiction front man, Perry Farrell, we’ve been enjoying this tradition for almost a decade now.

Grant Park, Chicago is where this weekend “block party and getaway” takes place. Over 70 bands on five stages scattered throughout the beautiful landscape with rolling hills, tall tress, the famous Buckingham fountain and of course the amazing Chicago skyscrapers cascading in the backdrop.

Lollapalooza is HUGE. Over 200,000 folks attend this over the 3 day weekend. It’s pretty organized with an interactive website, maps, live video feeds, FAQ’s and much much more. I particularly like that there are water filling stations located in various spots to keep everyone hydrated. You just walk up to a “water bar” with your empty bottle and they top it off for free. A regular drinking fountain does not even match this genius idea to help more people with fewer lines to wait in and with fresh and clean beverages.

Sure there are plenty of food vendors in the “Chow Town” area selling pizzas burgers, tacos, etc. and there are beer tents and a wine drinking area too. There’s quite a lot to do here. A Farmer’s market that literally sells fruits and vegetables. Smoothies are abundantly provided as well. Don’t forget all of the merchandize. T-Shirts, posters and hats are available at a reasonable price. Port-A-John’s are all over the place. You gotta do what you gotta do.


But the main reason I am there, of course, is to check out the music! I planned ahead of time who I was going to see and where. The website lists the days’ performers and the stage and times to catch them at. Many choices are there. What has remained pretty consistent over the years are the kinds of choices. The music is LOUD! The styles are plentiful. And the entertainment value is truly there. Alternative rock, punk rock, hip hop, dance, and there’s even a little stage for the kids with good fun provided.

A music festival like this one, is something that’s right up my alley! First I have to thank my dad for buying my sister and I each a ticket of choice for our birthdays. I looked at the lineup and picked the day that would entertain me the most. I chose Sunday. I narrowed it down to five acts of music to enjoy (taste, lick from that lollipop).

After I drove my car into the city; cruising along Lake Shore Drive at 9 in the morning, I parked near my sister’s apartment. We met up and went out to breakfast at a nice little restaurant. I had pancakes and coffee. She had eggs and sausage, I believe. We both must have our coffee. It’s essential for being alert all day. Then we hopped on an L Train to make our way over to #Lolla (the new slang for it)!
We started taking pictures of signs, fountains, balloons and we definitely took a lot of “selfies.” We all want pictures of ourselves in front of something COOL. I swear the word “cool” is never gonna die. We had to go through the baggage check area after we get our wristbands (the tickets) scanned.

You see, we can carry a backpack with us. No food, no drugs and no alcohol is what they’re looking for. You just have to be in the right line and the right inspector. You can bring water bottles, cameras and blankets basically. That’s what I had….except for the 2 Graham Snackers I had shoved inside of my blanket. They never found them. It doesn’t hurt to try and save a few bucks.

Once we were in, then it was a lot of walking around and people watching. The most often seen “look” was the following description. Teenage girls with long hair, headbands (serving no function) with flowers, super cut off jeans (think daisy dukes) with a little cheek showing, tank tops and sandals. Although I saw people dressed up like superheroes too. Large groups carried around glow sticks and banners to help others identify them in case they get lost. The funniest was when I saw this one couple with a picture of a cat with glued on whiskers that was at the end of a stick that they kept carrying around with them.


Now let’s get to the bands. We made our way to the Lakeshore stage with our blanket spread out on the grass and listen to a group called Guards. They are good, energetic pop/rock. They remind me of 90’s grunge mixed with a little 60’s psychedelic jams. It was nice to just chill out on the lawn and listen and look while drinking some cold water and soaking up those sun rays.

We packed up to hike our way through the main strip of shops and heavy pedestrian traffic to get cozy up at the north end. Now we’re chilling out by 2 stages. One is the Petrillo and Bud Light sponsors the other stage. At the Bud Light stage, there is a really loud and animal noise-making group blasting the speakers while we lie on the blanket and try to talk. I can’t remember their names right now but it wasn’t really making me want to buy anything from them.

Meanwhile, a British kid named Jake Bugg was about to take the stage at Petrillo. He’s only 19 years old. I really dig his material. I tried to take a picture but it was hard to see him but we certainly got to listen clearly. His stuff is like Bob Dylan meets Neil Young with a Beatles kind of vibe. He had the folk thing going on for sure. It was pleasant hearing his music while chomping on a snack bar and lying on my back staring at the sky. No I didn’t choke on my food. I drank plenty of water to wash down my peanut butter and jelly.

So once he finished, it was time to take a bathroom break and fill up my water bottle at the “Oasis” area. Jess, my sister, got herself a smoothie and it made her happy. This is when things started to get real. We found a really awesome hill to spread out the blanket and prepare ourselves for the spectacular twin sister duo—-TEGAN & SARA!!! I recently blogged about these girls but let me just tell you, it was quite energetic, fun and mood elevating. They were great! I got my sister into them and she was really grooving to their alternative new wave 80’s pop love tunes! Check out my posting that describes them, as artists, more fully here:

They left me breathless while chilling out on our well-situated grassy null.

It’s time for a slice of pizza. Sausage. Go to the bathroom. Fill up the water bottle. We’re going to see Vampire Weekend at the Bud Light stage. These New Yorkers are incredible. We met up with some friends and joined are blankets together for this exhilarating performance we were about to witness. Although we had to stand on them at this point because thousands of people congregated here. I am reminded of The Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and tribal drums whenever I hear these talented fellows. They just released their third album and lyrically and guitar playing abilities are stellar here.

They really got the crowd going with their dancing melodies. At one point this stoned/drunk girl decided to join us on our blanket, slapped my sister in the ass and tried to dance with her. It was kinda creepy and we shooed her away. You never know what kind of weirdoes you’ll “bump” into. But anyway, we all danced in place and sang along to tunes like “Cousins,” “Horchata,” and ‘Holiday.” I was really grooving. I think I got a contact buzz from the entire weed being toked in the crowd (obviously those people made it through the surveillance check earlier.) It was all good fun.

We split up at this point because my sister wanted to see a band called Phoenix, a couple of the guys went to see Major Lazer, 3 girlfriends went to see The Cure and I wanted to see Cat Power. My sister eventually joined up with me during the Cat Power setlist because we each were flying it solo. After she heard a few Phoenix songs, she got her fix and found me in The Grove.

The Grove, ahhh. That’s a nice place to see a show. Especially a Cat Power show. Who is Cat Power? Charlyn Marie Marshall or Chan Marshall is CAT POWER. She is an American singer-songwriter and musician. She has opened for Liz Phair and Sonic Youth back in the 90’s. She has recorded a lot of records. She’s done cover songs. Chan has played with David Grohl of The Foo Fighters and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Then, a year ago, she recorded a masterpiece of an album. It is self produced and opened at number 10 on the Billboard chart.

The record she was promoting last night is entitled, Sun. Her sound over the years has constantly been evolving. I hear the punk. I observe the blues. I am moved by the folk elements too. This material is full of soul. Last night she nailed it out of the park. I wish more people came to see her. My sister surprised me by tapping me on the shoulders, two songs into the performance. I was glad she joined me in this nice experience. The Grove is exactly that. Small field the size of a little league baseball diamond, surrounded by rich, full, tall trees. It’s cozy. Like a hobbit’s home. It’s dark too. I loved it in that place. I was basically standing right in front of the stage and captured a lot of film here. I truly saved the best for last.


I mention a lack of people because everyone was at the BIG shows. So I felt bad for her since it wasn’t really packed in there. Perhaps not everyone “gets” her stuff. But the true die hard fans showed up. She had maybe 4-500 dedicated fans that cheered her on. Cat Power is shy, quiet, reserved, cooky, and unusual. She’s fidgety and kind of ADD-ish. However, that does not take away from her guitar playing, her humor and remarkable voice. It’s stunning! What talent!

I love how she has transitioned into more of the electronica world too. It’s a nice change from her really slow guitar songs. They are less, “snoozy.” She was dressed in head-to-toe black and an interesting taped-up leather jacket. She played like she’s trying to change how we think of her. “Manhattan” is my favorite song. It’s blissful with stammering drums, making it real loose. Marshall howls like a wolf in a strange manner during that song, but its still wonderful.

She ended the show throwing roses into the crowd, one by one. She smelled each individual flower one at a time before she released them. Humble, is what she is but I can tell you that Chan is a really sweet person who must be doing something right to land her a top spot at Lollapalooza. She was imperfect and yet it was personal. She is human and her performance was not at all about living up to some hype, but rather to share with us something real….her heart.

I was drained emotionally and physically from the long day. It was exciting and well worth the one mile walk to the bus stop at the end of the night. It was worth being on the crowded bus on the way back to Jess’s apartment and my car. It was worth trying to stay awake on the drive home listening to Cat’s music and talking to my wife on the phone.

I made it home safe and sound.

Now I am sharing my fond experience with all of you.

Thank you for reading this.


p.s. here’s a nice sample from that song, “Manhattan”


Finding Meaning in College Through Music


What’s the most important band for me when I was in college?

Let’s first establish, in the form of a short poem, what college meant to me:

It was the celebration of my youth

colored by independence
on top of the world
making moments last forever
letting it loose
living just for one tonight
everyone’s my best friend
girls….what can I say? I knew many
eventually the merry-go-round stops
got to wait for the next one and hop on it
music was the anthem of my early life
I kept finding all the rides
live it up!

Finding Meaning in College Through Music

No bands mattered to me quite like the ones I heard in college. I’m currently looking back at my college years (with a damn sty in my left eye) and reminiscing, trying to figure out which band was the most important and influential. But I am also looking around me right now. I’ve listened to a lot of bands in college and since then, I keep getting exposed to more and more. “Back in the day,” was not so long ago in a dorm room far, far away…

My first roommate, Eric, was heavily into death metal. He scared the living shit out of my mom and dad when he brought in his huge tower of devil worshipping CD’s. Dressed all sloppy with dirty long red hair and reeking of cigarette smoke. Eric had a presence that was screaming “Shock Therapy!” However, we both liked bands like Primus, Slayer and the soundtrack to the film “The Crow.” It had groups like Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, Helmet, and Pantera on that soundtrack as well as many more.

I remember that I also brought with me the movie, “The Crow” on videotape. That first weekend as dorm room buddies; we ordered a pizza, watched “The Crow” and listened to its accompanying soundtrack. We found ourselves connecting musically because we found common ground. Eric didn’t care for ALL my musical tastes and I certainly did not bang my head to Cannibal Corpse or Obituary but we managed to work it out.

You could say that my compact discs I brought with me to college were like my friends that I wanted to introduce to people. Some of them I let go of at used record stores and some I lost or got stolen from me. Still others stayed with me even up to this very day. But I did cherish “The Crow” soundtrack and movie. Not sure why I did so much. I even bought a t-shirt with “The Crow” symbol on it. I was apparently obsessed. Those tunes just hit the right nerves at the right time as I became exposed to great glimpses of an independent lifestyle.

I worked at a movie theater in the middle 1990’s and “The Crow” was the first film I got to see on my fifteen-minute break. Free movies were a benefit to working there. I loved that movie. But it was the soundtrack and dark atmosphere that pulled me in. Eric and I had that type of interest in common. However, that’s where our similarities pretty much ended. I am just the type of person that likes to explore my horizons deeper. College was that fun playground of multiple choices. So I eventually put my “Crow” addiction off to the side and began to discover new material.

As I met others on campus, my curiosity grew stronger with unique compositions. I started to make a lot of friends as the months passed. Bands like Pink Floyd, Monster Magnet, Tool, Type O Negative, Rage Against The Machine and Green Day began to consume more of my time. Even more than actually going to class. In the end, there was one single band that defined my college years absolutely the most of any musical group I heard during those days. In fact, every time I hear them, I get goose bumps.


How did I find this fantastic band you ask? Let me lay it out for you. I can trace the exact moment where this curious group of artists blew me away during my first college spring break. My best friends at the time, Tony and Matt, picked me up in an old rusty minivan one night for a joyride with a fresh sound playing in the background that was pretty awesome. Actually, for me it was in the foreground. Tony also made sure that I was paying attention to it by bopping and waving his arms around behind the wheel. Not that I recommend this, but he even stuck his left leg out the window. So I finally asked these idiot friends of mine, “What is this amusing music we’re listening to?” When I found out, I thought, “what an interesting name.”

There honestly has not been an alternative rock band that mattered to me more than Five Year Jacket. I was introduced to something special that changed my life forever. This band I heard instantly said to me, “It’s the perfect background music to any situation.” Continuing my story, the van broke down at the end of our evening “misbehaving” and we needed a ride home. So Tony called one of his buddies to come pick us up.

After 20 minutes or so, these two dudes pulled up in a car and picked us up. I was introduced to a man named Kevin, who was one of the guys in the car. He had intense blue eyes and was clean-shaven. The dark hair slicked back, the bomber jacket he wore and the cigarette hanging from the right corner of his lips all spelled out cool. Amazingly, he just happened to be the lead singer and guitarist of that band, Five Year Jacket.

I had no idea they were a local band from the Aurora/Sugar Grove area. They sounded like a group with hits on the radio. It was a mind-blowing experience. That was an evening that was truly meant to be. It was like a series of happy accidents. I made sure that I got a hold of one of his cassette tapes immediately. All of this just sort of happened out of the clear blue. There was no casual period of listening to them ahead of time. Just boom! It was like a volcano erupting and I was there in the middle of the lava.

I “got” their music and I don’t know how to explain it. It wasn’t musically or lyrically per say. It was like they were speaking this language I didn’t realize that I even knew. They spoke it brilliantly and fluently. When you had college majors that kept changing and your head was all over the map with the wild times that were filled with wonderful highs and astonishing lows you really appreciate a band that can stick with you through all of the emotions I have been through.

Five Year Jacket has been the soundtrack to some of the best moments that I have had not only in college but my life period. They have been with me on nights drinking with friends. Walking the streets of Naperville and downtown Aurora. Smoking cigarettes and taking nice afternoon cruises in my friend Josh’s car after class on Friday afternoons. Actually, Josh was with me at one my favorite gigs of theirs at a bar in Bolingbrook, he got all the guys to sign his newly purchased copy of their CD, “Hell For An Empty Heart.” I had the lead singer, Kevin, dedicate a song to me called “Undone” that reminded me of my first summer listening to Five Year Jacket with three good friends of mine at the time. We called ourselves the fab four.

I was falling blissfully in love with my life in 1995, which was my peak year for ingesting their terrific melodies and hooks. I don’t think I have ever been quite as happy as I was seeing them at the Thirsty Whale. There the four of us were, Tony, Kara, Pallu and I chilling out at this club and literally dancing to the groovy rhythm of the “Jackets.” Afterwards, we met up with the band at a Denny’s restaurant, I think, where for some strange reason, Tony was impersonating a woman wearing lipstick borrowed from Kara. Those were some weird times. I have this unusual but wonderful connection to them and I am not sorry for being associated with “artistic” or “eccentric” folks, while listening to music.

Five Year Jacket have also been the soundtrack of serious bouts of depression and they’ve lifted me out of panic attacks, “bad trips” and break ups. They kept me afloat when I didn’t know what else to hold on to. No disrespect to Kevin, but they’ve become that old sweater that I have worn so many times that there’s holes in the sleeves and it smells like YOU even when you take it out of the washer. They’re kind of like that. Even an old “Jacket.” I’ve had my favorites that I never wanted to let go of because they’re so friggin comfortable.

Over the past 18 years they have turned me into the man I am today, the guy with the sty in his left eye and a limp. Just kidding. No band, not even Pink Floyd, has quite the numerous stories and personal memories like these local guys that only my circle of friends can really appreciate. Eric didn’t “get” them but several acquaintances on campus enjoyed Five Year Jacket. I had that cassette tape with me constantly just as Linus did with his blanket. I played their songs at bonfires and at keg parties.

My last semester on campus, people were asking me left and right for a copy before I went back home. I arrived my freshman year with a “crow” and came home with a degree and a comfortable “jacket.” I had finally found substance in my college years through music. Thanks Kevin for being my friend, even on a social network like Facebook.


(Originally Published on September 8, 2012)