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?