Sunday, June 10, 2007

Memories Pre-Ben Folds

Some talk yesterday about Ben Folds got me thinking of when I first saw him live. It was probably 1991 or 1992 and I went down to Nashville's 328 Performance Hall to hear a headliner whose name I can't recall right now. Maybe it was Fleming & John, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the opening act (who I had never heard of until that night) was a band called Jody's Power Bill. They were so good that I left the main room to call a friend of mine from a phone booth (you kids will probably have to GIS "phone booth"). I called "Boxset" John and pretty much told him that he had to get down to 328 immediately.

Jody's Power Bill was sounding awesome and I was trying to think of how to describe them to my friend. "...kind of a mix of Joe Jackson, Billy Joel, and maybe some punk band in there somewhere as well. Just get down here to hear your new favorite band!" These were before the days of making longterm plans to do things. Whatever I was doing, I probably didn't know I was going to be doing it more than a day in advance. My friends and I just lived in the moment back then. Sure enough, my friend John was at 328 in a flash. He only heard the last song or two from Jody's Power Bill, but he loved what he heard. To share moments like this with music loving friends like John is one of the greatest things about living in Nashville.

I never got around to seeing them live again, but I recall driving down I-65 a few years later and hearing a song called "Underground" on WRLT. With hands on steering wheel, I jotted down a few choice lyrics and called the radio station as soon as I got home to find out who the band was. Ben Folds Five was the answer. I remember telling the DJ that the song had a Jody's Power Bill sound to it. And she told me that there was good reason for that, since Ben Folds was a member of Jody's Power Bill just a few years before. 'Nuff said. I've loved everything by Ben Folds ever since.

While writing this, I listened to an interview with Ben Folds from Bonnaroo 2006. Near the end he makes a reference to his photography and his darkroom. The interviewer is interested to hear how involved Ben Folds is in his own photography and Ben responds beautifully by saying, "It's good to have something that you are passionate about that's not something you'll ever get paid for."

I can really appreciate that. While I'm still trying to figure out how to make a more decent living, it's nice to spend time on things I love (writing, photography) with no pressure of paying the bills associated with them. It's nice that these things I love don't necessarily have to be good enough for you, just good enough for me.

My step-father made his living playing guitar and banjo as an A-list studio musician. Right around the time he retired due to MS, he really seemed to be sick of music. A life in the business seemed to really do him in as a lover of music. (Mom, tell me if I am remembering that right.) In his final years, I think he was able to really enjoy listening to music again. I'd come over to visit and I'd hear old songs blasting from his reel-to-reel even before I got out of my car. But this was after years of being separated from the egos and whatever else the industry did to rob him of his love of picking and grinning. I'm glad he was able to listen to and love those sounds again.

Back to my Jody's Power Bill thoughts. What band won you over live who you had never heard of before seeing them?


Ginger said...

When I worked in the country music biz, I never listened to music at home because I heard the same thing over and over and over again at work day in and day out. That's how I ended up listening to talk radio. (yikes).

I would say that the first time I saw Alison Krauss & Union Station live, they blew my mind, and I went out immediately and bought their records. Before that night (I believe it was at the Ryman), I had only seen a few record reviews on them here & there, and perhaps saw a video they did on CMT...this was years ago before they became so successful.

Anonymous said...

you're absolutely right, michael.he
loved so much GOOD music and hated
the BAD music that he had to play to keep his name up there. you'll
remember the albums in the LR - how
many there were and the albums in our BR - those were the ones that he truly loved and listened to over
and over again. he also listened to
the reel-to-reels the same way, some were in the LR, some were in the BR.all this,of course,was when
he wasn't able to get up and listen
to anything in the LR and had to get all the stereo system moved into the BR. we certainly couldn't
have listened to it in a regular
house since he did play it so loud.
had to only listen to it in the
country.that's how i listen to all
his music now - very, very loud.
i hate to say this, but he ended up
retiring at just the right time -
he would have hated doing sessions
the way they turned out to be. mom

Roctavious McGhee said...

A friend"s wedding that proved I was on the outside of the circle looking in, games played by an ex-girlfriend, and a four hour drive to St. Louis from Arkansas (without the tickets to the concert) were all washed away by the discovery of Rocket From The Crypt.

I've been to hundreds of concerts and have never seen a better live band. Didn't matter if there were 10 people in the room or 1000, every thing was played to 11.