GOG on RADIOHEAD

Dr Myxomatosis
or
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fake Plastic Trees

Radiohead.

For going on ten years now I have been resisting anyone who would have me believe I was born to be “into Radiohead.” Maybe the fact I followed the Grateful Dead around, love house and all forms of electronic music and am prone to seek out live recordings by the hundreds that has something to do with their belief….could be the raging, intense loyalty I show for a band once they have been proven worthy, not sure.

What I do know for sure is that since the first time I heard them, something about this Radiohead band really turned me off. Always open to new sounds and all, I did made honest efforts trying to make it through Kid A, The Bends and OK Computer.

To date none have ever played end to end in my home and probably never will.

Don’t get me wrong here, I never made claim the band was untalented (though the word ‘un-original’ was tossed out a few times) it’s just that I can’t stand Radiohead albums. I know this will piss a lot of people off, but to my ear the studio efforts come off sounding forced, almost uninspired.However, I am a firm believer in the old adage “Don’t judge a band until you’ve seen them live” and also knew my wife Jodi liked the band quite a bit, so when our wonderful friend Natassa offered me 2 extras for the 09-28-03 Hollywood Bowl show I said “Oh what the heck. Yeah, I’ll grab those.”

Way I figured it, Jodi would enjoy seeing them live and I could be certain, once and for all that I did not like Radiohead… Now you have to understand that nine times out of ten my jaded, skeptical side gets proven correct. It’s a rare occasion that I am surprised by a band I had little faith in prior to seeing them, much less finding out I was dead wrong about them.

Well spank my ass and call me Sally!

I gotta tell you, my first Radiohead experience did nothing short of blowing me away… utterly and completely.

To be fair, as I am one of those people who think themselves quite a critic deep down inside, it’s only fair to say at first I found the pace of the show a bit, um…surprising.

For example, the intense high of “Paranoid Android” coupled with “Sail to the Moon” felt a bit off to me. I thought why don’t they keep going with the harder, more rockin’ stuff?

Now hold on there, my story ain’t over yet. As the evening progressed, much to my shock and genuine delight, a wonderful new level of understanding began to emerge from within me. Wasn’t immediately sure what it was, but it kinda felt familiar. Kinda felt like that first time I really understood what Garcia was saying with his guitar during 20 minute solos.

And there it was: Out of nowhere, right around mid-show, wham! Radiohead made total sense!

Having heard “The Gloaming” and “Everything In Its Right Place” on a couple of bootlegs downloaded to simply ‘familiarize myself with the music’, I secretly hoped that the band would play them. They did of course, and my unbelievably well-timed epiphany not only allowed me a better understanding of Radiohead’s language, a veritable floodgate of previously overlooked facets of both songs was thrown open. These two songs are counted as highlights for me no doubt, yet there are two things which will forever stand prominently even over these jewels…

#1 Silence
Three seconds.

That’s all it took for a screaming, cheering, sold-out stadium to fall silent. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for years, so I hope you believe me when I say a crowd of over 17,000 people simply don’t do this.

They just don’t.

I have only similar experiences at Dead shows to compare it to, but even those golden moments had too often been shattered by drunken cries of ‘Freebird!’ but tonight no such idiocy would intrude upon a truly reverent reaction Thom commanded with “I Will”.

Three seconds from the first note being played a complete, utter silence enveloped the Hollywood Bowl; simply describing the scene as being eerie falls far short of the reality. Standing motionless and free now of sound, the anchor which had kept my mind from wandering, reality began to swim. Not knowing what it was at the time, I can still feel it rushing up towards me.

The intense, silent anticipation surrounding me must have both focused and added strength, because when the wave of memories broke, it was nearly overwhelmed. Having an entire lifetime, memories of friends and days long gone, loves, passions, emotion, joy and regret wash over you all at once truly defies description. Realization of its meaning came to me, taking the form of delicate melody and heartfelt vocals: Music is the key to keeping all this alive for ever; in silence it dies in a torrent of confusion, the soul along with it.

#2 Reincarnation?
The second thing I will never forget is “A Punch-up at a Wedding.” As I had heard only snippets of the most recent studio effort Hail to the Thief, this song caught me so completely off guard I doubted what I heard was really being played.

Pretty safe bet any Deadhead worth their salt will tell you how uncanny the similarities between “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Punch-up” are. Not just some echo only freaks like me can hear, the feel of the music, tone of the lyric, everything about it had me thinking “Thom must be a Deadhead”. Imagine my surprise upon later learning RH has never once cited the Dead as an influence! Whatever pool of energy this crew taps, what ever outlet they plug into, Jerry Garcia must have been in charge of the switch when “Punch-up” was born.

As the song played out I leaned towards my wife, who was thoroughly enjoying herself by the way, and said “Honey? You know this is it, right?” She smiled, not fully getting it yet.

“Just remember, you are one of the people who have been after me to give this band a chance.”

Obviously puzzled now, she asked what I meant but instead of explaining my cryptic comment I told her “A week…two, maybe even more. Not sure when that is gonna happen, but I do know I will be finding a ticket for the show tomorrow night. Probably go to San Diego on Sunday too.”

Resuming what Jodi long ago decreed my ‘Stupid Hippie Fish Dance’, she only then rolled her eyes. I believe I saw a slight pang of regret pass through her at the precise moment she realized what I really meant: Her husband had just discovered a excuse to bore people with tales adventure found chasing after the tour busses of some band, spewing complaints about venue sound, how big of assholes the staff had been and fretting over setlist accuracy, crowd noise on the stealths, how to get better tickets for the next run of shows, and on and on and on… but of course these are all things she holds in the highest regard and looks forward to endless discussion on the subject each and every day. (uh-huh, I got a bridge for you, real good price….)

Aside from all that, I think the thing that got under her sking the most was realizing that along with help from Natassa, she herself had not only presented me this new opportunity to obsess, but even wondered from time to time why I had so steadfastly refused to sucummb to this mania already!

Natassa, I can never thank you enough for keeping on about this amazing band – Jodi on the other hand might want a word with you.

To her (she who vowed till death do us part) I can only say: “Sorry babe, it’s just a teeny bit late to go and change anything now.”
. . . .

Well, made it this far so you probably figured out that I did in fact go to that second Hollywood Bowl show.

Yeah, I complained about the sound and am looking for a tape.

But if you think for one second I went all the way down to San Diego just so I could sleep on a sidewalk at 2:00 AM while local hoodlums destroyed someone’s car across the street, got a horrible sunburn sitting on a different sidewalk once the sun came up as I clutched a pit ticket in my sweaty hand only to get kicked right in the back of the head by some crusty sororrity bitch the instant the opening act came on stage forcing me to abandon my hard won spot on the rail directly in front of where Thom would soon be standing before the music even started and have anything negative to say about any of it? Dead wrong.

The show was killer. Ask Natassa, she was the one who gave me ride down there and baked in the hot desert sun by my side. But the San Diego show – that’s another story.

Guess what I am really trying to say is how happy I am this story has only just begun to unfold because it’s one I can hardly wait to tell you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Ain’t often been right, but I ain’t never been wrong
Though it seldom turns out, the way it does in the song
But once in a while, you can get shown the light
in the strangest of places, if you look at it right”

As performed by Jerry Garcia
to whom I owe my passion & love for music and a good groove…..

……..psssstt! Hey! Jerry, c’mere!!
If you see this, wanted to tell you I found someplace cool to hang till I get home again!
I think you would dig it too man…

Till then, fare thee well my friend – Love you more than words can tell.

October 2, 2003 ~ By 72hw

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