July 8th, 2005


Personal: London and such

It was good this afternoon to be able to call over to London and check in on Peter and Lia Booth, just in case. I'd looked at the map, and didn't think that it was likely that they'd been close to any of the attacks, but you still have to check. Peter, as it turns out, doesn't work that closely, but his offices are built right on top of a tube line, which didn't make anyone at work particularly happy. Lia, still working on her doctorate in Human Rights law, comes by the point of the bus attack on her way to the library at times, but thankfully not yesterday. Joining Pat Clemins and Manda Potter for dinner yesterday with Carrie Peffley, back from her first year at her doctorate in medieval philosophy at Cambridge University, gave a vision of a much more lovely life in England.

I was most reassured that the Brits are falling right into their Blitz attitude of "Business as usual," and that such an attack won't cow them into changing their society in the least. Day-to-day life in the U.S. doesn't seem to have changed at all since 9/11, and (as weaklingrecords wryly noted yesterday) we haven't even seen an increased Terror Alert since the election concluded. But we have passed questionable legislation in the Patriot Act; we have joined the terrorists in becoming an outlaw nation by ignoring any civilized rule of law in imprisoning people without recourse to any code of law, civil or military; we have gone to war under a nation that posed no threat to us after being told direct lies by no less than our head of state; and those in the know, whether politicians or press, refused to stand up for the truth because of the political liabilities of opposing a president who had wrapped himself in the flag and--no less odious--equated opposition to him with traitorous behaviour. Those are significant changes. I can only hope that the British can give us some lessons in true citizenship and nationhood.

Musical: George and the Freeks at Bridget's -- 7 Feb 1996

Well, it's taken me a bit of time to get back to this, after being gone visiting Mum for a week. I've chosen to post this show first even though I have one before it, chronologically, and an even older tape Erik gave me. This was at least my fourth show with the Freeks and I think I was beginning to get the hang of some of the sound system. It's a fairly evenly-balanced tape, I'll give it that, and although J.P. Hurt would always complain that his bass is not high enough in the mix, I think that the real loss on this night is that I'm not always giving enough sound to Andy's keyboards, or that I didn't know how to better mic Bryan Ball's drumset. What's more, it was our second one at Bridget McGuire's Pub since I'd started, and whereas the first show there (which I'll post later) had some 450 people through the night crowded into an impossibly-small space (the number couldn't have been that high if the freshmen hadn't kept rotating out the back), this was a Wednesday-night show, if I recall correctly, and the crowd was very intimate and responsive, instead of loud and preoccupied. It was a heady time for the band, with the CD newly-finished and reports coming in of people in various points around the country beginning to talk about the group as up-and-coming talent. The question of what was to happen after most of the members graduated from Notre Dame in May, and whether to stay together and make the move to regional touring, was only just beginning to weigh heavily on the guys.

A number of notable performances were part of this set, including what I have always considered the definitive recording of Doug McKenna's "Gotta Be Good" where Erik on lead guitar punctuated the piece with a set of pulses and runs that I was forever after Mark Lang, during the next year when he took over lead, to standardize in his playing of the piece. Parts of Erik's solo on Doug's "Beginnings," tightly woven with J.P.'s bass line, here lays down a similar band orthodoxy that we will see repeatedly. Andy Brenner's piano work on "Only Beauty" stands out as wonderfully melancholy. The band was still drawing heavily from its recently-released studio album Join Us On the Ride (still available at www.weaklingrecords.com), with strong appearances from Doug's edgy political-religious testament "Spinning," and Erik's self-confrontation in "Oddity of a Stranger." This night's "Field of Bliss," Erik's rock gloss on "Song of Songs" mystical ascent, is the best live version I'll offer of him trying to live up to his own guitar work on the studio version.

For a band that rightly prided itself on being a set of original songwriters, this night was one where the Freeks got a bit frisky and began playing a number of covers, some of them so spontaneous that the members had never played them before, but were just drawn up on the spot. Before long, the covers even infected the original songs, with questionable artistic results. bongofreek even makes a rare appearance at the microphone with "Man Smart, Women Smarter." The night is also well-remembered in Freek lore for being the night where perhaps the funniest spontaneous strange comment--or "Markism"--was made by Mark Lang as he introduced the song "Field of Bliss." This was no mean achievement, as this night had already seen Mark proclaim to the mystified audience at the end of "Dear Mr. Fantasy," that "We haven't played that one yet!", provoking a brief band discussion on Aristotelian metaphysics. The thing was, no one noticed the "Field of Bliss" introduction at the time, but at around 4:30 in the morning, when the self-proclaimed "Most Narcissistic Band on Campus" was listening to the recording and got to that moment, the screams of laughter were long, loud, and resulted in Mark's speech being played over and over again, no doubt to the irritation of the neighbours.

Lastly, I simply note that the introduction to the set, "Frank," is a separate track I edited into my tape copy of the gig because I thought it was funny--the chief excuse I offer for most of my questionable behaviour. If they recognize the voice, the various Freeks might see the track as a kind of "inside joke." Everyone else will just have to tolerate it. I have also failed to edit out the bit that prevented this from ever being sent to Doug's Grandma.

Again, please feel free to download and help yourself to a double-sized serving of musical pleasure.

George and the Freeks: Live at Bridget McGuire's -- 7 February 1996

01. [Frank]
02. Gotta Be Good
03. Helpless
04. Dear Mr. Fantasy
05. Only Beauty
06. Bertha
07. Fluff Head and Cantaloupe
08. Funky Bitch
09. Spinning
10. Oddity of a Stranger
11. The Search for Aeneas
12. Beginnings
13. Fell (The Meow Mix)
14. Tree
15. Man Smart, Women Smarter
16. Bouncing Around the Room
17. Happy Birthday
18. Field of Bliss
19. Ripple