Song Of The Day 3/20/2017: Rufus Wainwright – “Oh What a World”
The Final 10
Fear Is a Man's Best FriendTwelve years on I don’t remember what was so terrifying about it. Personally, I felt where I was headed without having a baby was probably more terrifying. Where was I headed otherwise? What was I pursuing those days that having a child would have precluded? I wasn't pursuing anything.
That doesn’t mean that if you’re going through an aimless and rough time right now that my advice is to go out and get yourself in the family way. There is no situation for which “your mileage may vary” is a truer statement. Well, except for automobiles, of course.
But some of you should not have children. Okay? And with a couple of exceptions, you probably know best. (I only say “a couple of exceptions” because there’s someone I know who’s adamantly said they don’t want children because they wouldn’t be a good parent. Whereas I’m absolutely certain they would be a great parent. I’m not going to push ‘em though.)
I was still worried, though. Worried that I wouldn’t be a good father. At least on the surface, though. A friend of mine thought my worrying about that was bullshit. I always got along with children. Probably because my own development was delayed and I kind of got where they were coming from, and maybe had a few more words to express it.
It turns out that what I was actually terrified about then is something I’ve always been terrified about, and am still terrified about to this day: failing professionally. Except, as you’ll learn in a couple of days, I’m actually more angry than terrified about my professional failures. It varies, and on balance, I’m more terrified about it. I’m still terrified about it.
But unless somebody out there isn’t telling me something, there’s not much left I can do about it. I don’t know. We’ll pick this up later this week.
Worldwide BrotherhoodThekla closed in the spring of 2002. We went out with a huge karaoke blowout, in which I performed my calling card song, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” for the last time. Well, the last time in Olympia. It was wrenched out of me one more time in Seattle. Thekla was taken over by another guy in town and renamed The Limelight. A separate, smaller bar operated in the back called The Volcano Room. Most of the old happy hour crowd went there, but not quite in the same droves.
A favorite memory of mine from the Volcano Room was when I walked in one late afternoon as Vern Rumsey was tending bar. A couple of my buddies were there already. Upon seeing me enter, Vern turned around, picked up a huge, recently acquired bottle of Louisiana pickled sausages, and planted it right in front of me without a word. The rest of the bar turned to me and started chanting: “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” I don’t remember if I tried one of the sausages, but offhand I see no reason I would have turned it down.
They still tried karaoke at the Limelight, but it wasn’t quite the same. The Sunday night karaoke crowd had moved over to the 4th Avenue Tavern for a couple weeks that summer, but it didn’t last. So the karaoke crowd’s home base was pretty much Charlie’s for a couple of years, until the Clipper Café began to assert itself in that department. Because when it comes to karaoke, it helps to be assertive.
Pit, the guy who owned Thekla, later took over one of the oldest bars in Olympia, The Brotherhood. In the old days it was a drinking establishment connected with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 1148. For as long as I’d been in Olympia the Brotherhood was mostly avoided by the people I hung out with—it was divy-er than McCoy’s or King Solomon’s Reef, replete with creative sanitation solutions, and basically unsavory unless potential drinkers were desperate (which they often were).
I’d been to the Brotherhood twice that I remembered: once for a Fitz of Depression show, and the other for one of my favorite touring bands, Deadbolt. The closest I ever got to a fistfight happened partially because of the Deadbolt show. They played aggressively minor-key surf music with pulp fiction horror and crime story plots. They set fire to things in their shows. They’re one of the few bands I’d buy a T-shirt from, and I did. It had the Deadbolt logo on the front, and on the back in huge block letters it read “FUCK YOU HIPPIE.” My companion and I went to the Reef after the show, where an older gentlemen started drunkenly shouting at me: “That shirt is bullshit! It’s fucking bullshit!”
It was a hippie. What does it say that the only time I ever approached being in a violent confrontation in Olympia, it was with a hippie? And not just a hippie, but a hippie who was the aggressor? But nothing happened. We hugged it out.
ANYWAY, the point being, Pit remodeled and reopened the Brotherhood, and the happy hour Thekla crowd migrated over there. That’s where most of 2003 and 2004 took place, in the Broho. It was decorated with pictures of JFK, giant Bollywood posters, a gigantic acoustic guitar hanging from the ceiling, and a portrait on the outside patio. I still feel it’s the greatest bar in the world.
Say Goodnight, ShrugThe last nine months of Shrug Festival were probably the best in the show’s history. I don’t know if anybody was listening. I had moved to Tuesday nights at 11pm and decided to share the show with another guy named Paul. We hosted on alternate weeks.
I was doing more of the legwork for the show at home. I wasn’t necessarily waning in my appreciation for new music, but I felt there was more that I could be doing. My music references were going back further and broader, and just doing a playoff of whatever was in the new release bin wasn’t of particular interest in the show’s waning days.
So I started to do more contextualizing, trying to find music that even the deep catalog at KAOS didn’t have covered. On a couple of shows I experimented with sound effects and narrative. For example, one show started with sounds from the first minute and a half of the monorail ride from Disneyland Hotel to the adjacent amusement park. Nothing earth-shattering, that, but it was a nice change. I also started to get into music that was off all commercial grids, that could only really exist on the internet, like the Bran Flakes and Evolution Control Committee.
About eleven years afterward, I would take some of what I learned from the last few months of Shrug Festival and apply it to my series of mixtapes, which you can at least partially blame for Song Of The Day’s pending demise. But we’ll jump back to that.
By the end of Shrug Fest’s run I’d finally felt like I’d finished whatever it was I’d set out to do when I came back to KAOS five years earlier. I knew that I’d want to return to public radio when I had a chance, but if I did it wouldn’t be the same thing.
In fact I already knew what I wanted to do on public radio thanks to Shannon, aka DJ Action Slacks. She hosted an R&B legacy show called Soul Kitchen, and she asked me to sub three or four times during the second KAOS run. I loved subbing Shannon’s show, because I realized how truly difficult it is to do a bad show when you’re playing R&B oldies. It’s nearly impossible. Working on Soul Kitchen made me realize what I wanted to do in my autumnal public radio years. We’ll jump back to that as well.
As for Shrug Festival, it ended in May 2005. Today’s Song Of The Day was the last song I played on the show.