36 awesome hours in Asbury Park

On a Thursday evening after work, Lori and I drove up to Asbury Park, New Jersey. We stopped for crab cakes at Chesapeake House, found a string of Christmas stations on the radio and got in late. There was no signage outside the hotel, and workout professionals were wrapping up their holiday party, spilling into the lobby with shouts and big hair.

We were glad to be in New Jersey, with this glowing down the street.

In the morning, we had the boardwalk and the ocean to ourselves.

We proceeded to explore the town, once a bustling shore destination, then a ruin, now a comeback, with music, antiques and art as draws. 

We were there primarily for the music — Gaslight Anthem in its native Jersey, on a Friday night, one last concert before recording anew, in Asbury Park Convention Hall, built in 1927 and somehow still standing. 

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Best Gaslight Anthem covers?

One of the best parts of Saturday morning was snagging early tickets for The Gaslight Anthem show in December. It’s going to be the band’s last show before they re-enter the studio… in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in the seaside town’s 80-year-old convention hall… on a Friday night.

As I wrote to fellow Gaslight-loving friends Casey and Meghan, as the show reaches its climax, and we sing the chorus of our favorite song one last time, the building itself will bellow and crumble to the ground, and a giant wave will rise from the ocean and sweep our bodies and the rubble into the deep, leaving only a stretch of pristine sand and a reverberating D chord. That’s exactly what will happen, I’m kinda sure.

Can’t wait. To celebrate the ticket score, I went a few rounds through TGA’s cover of Tom Petty’s Refugee, coming with other covers and cuts on their iTunes Sessions tomorrow. Then I lost a little more time clicking through the band’s wild collection of covers on YouTube. Part of what I love about Fallon and the rest is fearlessness in trying songs they love — no matter the source. Like, for instance, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.

Others that seemed worth rounding up:

A couple of these are on the new iTunes things. My favorite? Maybe the last. But Baba O’Riley this time of day always works somehow…

This kind of rain

This kind of rain, the variety that comes and goes, it makes you want to race. As gray as the sky stays, as awkward as crowds of umbrellas make the subway, as many puddles as you step into as dusk arrives steadily earlier each evening, you know this kind of rain doesn’t have consistency… and maybe you do. The storm comes and goes, rolls in and drifts out. A tornado warning or flood watch feel random, the spin of a wheel. Today, at this hour, this weather is yours. The cloudburst five minutes ago is a lottery win, no big payoff but a decent scratcher, a chance meeting, letter in the mail, leaf in your hair, bantam surprise. You expect the drops. When they fall, the validation puts you ahead.

What do you do, in front of the rain? You admire the sky and give it a nod, and you’re down the street and moving. Even when you are still, you are down the street and moving. You reach the station, the office, the bar, the apartment door, the shower, the bedroom, the dreaming, the morning before the sky can even return acknowledgment. You’re beneath the drops, but you’re faster than the fall from the gray to the ground. Or you’re simply dancing around them. Who knows how body A or body B might move through the rain and not get wet. This kind of weather spits and whines. But you stride and stand like you mean it.

You tell yourself as much as the rain comes down and the occasional lightning threatens to blast a transformer into darkness. You find your favorite hungry band covering summer pop, slow and with seasonal intent. You hope to be quicker and more firm in stride tomorrow. You sit down, drying, and get out what you can before the lights go out.

Good weekend for streams, great debut for Horrible Crowes

Along with the quickie (and now over) stream of the new Wilco, there’s also a Rolling Stone stream this weekend of The Horrible Crowes’ Elsie.

The band is the side project of Gaslight Anthem lead singer Brian Fallon and Gaslight guitar tech Ian Perkins. “Though the songs on Elsie, the band’s debut, are slower and more somber than most Gaslight Anthem tunes, Fallon’s gift for grand, cinematic music is still in evidence,” which is accurate but neglects to mention the results are surprisingly good. I mean, I love Gaslight Anthem more than I’ve loved any band in years, and Fallon works his ass off. But going off-brand is always dangerous.

Two tracks are cut off, but Black Betty and the Moon sounds best so far.

My love, my love, you’re the sting of the scorpion
Consider, now, the angels, a little lower than you
And they twist and they turn
And they hold their breath ’til it’s blue
And they can’t turn away like I can
When you’re lookin’ like you do

The interview to read is New York magazine’s, which talks to Fallon as he fishes and shows why quotes shortchange him. Transcription FTW.

The name Horrible Crowes comes from a poem, right?
Twa Corbies. It’s a Scottish poem. It’s about this knight who dies and these two crows are sitting there in this tree and they’re like, look he’s wearing a signet ring for his king, but where’s his king now? And he’s wearing a wedding ring, well, where’s his wife now? And then he looks like he was rich, because he has this scarlet sash or whatever and they’re like, well where’s his money now? So at the end they go, well, you eat his eyes, I’ll eat his liver. And it’s horrible, but it tells you all these stupid things that we chase around in life, it just doesn’t matter. So like, why don’t you go fishing instead?

Make sure you write that in there, that I was fishing. For bass. For sea bass. But it’s a small boat. Make sure you write it’s a small boat, because I don’t want people to think I’m on a yacht, ’cause I got cred to keep, you know? You can write that in there, too, that I said I got cred to keep.

I’m still these nervous feet

“Dear Mister Sun,” I thought as I left the house yesterday morning, “I’m counting on you.” The night held plans to see the Nats, and the day had started gray. The date, of course, was a Friday the 13th.

By the day’s end, the sun had never come out. But after night arrived and you couldn’t see the clouds, who remembered? Rain never came, and temps stayed warm. And Friday the 13th? No disasters occurred. The Racing Presidents wore hockey masks during their run last night. Wasn’t until I was home, hours later, on Twitter, that I realized why.

One of my favorite lyrics from recent years has been Gaslight Anthem’s “Baby, we could run all night and dance upon the architecture.” While yesterday was gray and Friday the 13th and thanks to the usual crazy sleep started around 5:30 in the morning, I felt like the line fit the day.

After waking up, I had played the song a couple times to get me going. As the song’s writer put it a couple years ago, “this is kinda about not so much being a Casanova but trying to prove it to a lady anyway.” A thing to remember is the title isn’t Casanova, Baby but Casanova, Baby! with exclamation. So, yeah, the narrator knows he’s not cool enough to stake a serious claim to the name. But when the girl has you losing track of the clouds and date, you just trust the architecture and sing.

When the ideas are coming out fast…

From a fun, long Brian Fallon interview on Gaslight Anthem songwriting, via Crumbler. Lord knows I love the typewriters. But I also love this:

Do you write your lyrics on a computer, or are you a pen and paper guy?

I try to be a pen and paper guy, but that doesn’t happen.  When the ideas are coming out fast, I need to be able to bang em out on the computer.  I highlight things, move them around.  I can’t be bothered with writing.  I see the old notebooks of all these artists I like, and think that’s so cool. Like, “Eddie Vedder carries around a notebook.  I wanna be like that!”  It’s not practical.  I got the iPhone, I got the computer, I’m just blastin’ away.  A typewriter?  Seriously?  When that thing breaks, I’ll smash it against the wall.

One I’ve been listening to a bunch recently:

“And we sing with our heroes thirty-three rounds per minute / We’re never going home until the sun says we’re finished / And I’ll love you forever if I ever love at all / Wild hearts, blue jeans & white T-shirts…”

Last night: Gaslight Anthem in Charlottesville

Gaslight Anthem has a fan club, and sometimes members snag tickets through the club but then sometimes have to leave town. So, in those sometimes situations, they sometimes offer their two tickets for free on Twitter, and that’s where Meghan saw them Friday. She picked up the tickets early Saturday and two hours later almost lost a finger in what reasonable people can assume was a knife-juggling stunt. Two hours after that, we were driving to Charlottesville for the rock show.

Kids from UVA packed the Jefferson Theater, and down front where we were they had love for the music — none of the standard txt addiction, probably because Gaslight Anthem never let up and because everyone who cared about the show was there. Felt like it. One kid with slicked-down hair moved from the back of the crowd, pushed around us, and a minute later did a front flip off the stage so quickly the band didn’t see him, security didn’t catch him and the crowd caught him on momentary instinct, from nowhere a cannonball, and he slipped down and into the masses again. No one else did the same or was even above the crowd at all the whole night, and no one had to be. The kid with the slicked-down hair and lightning just did what he had to do, and everyone else pressing close to the stage for the loud hours hoped to do the same.

Gaslight Anthem talks about “the cool” more than most musical stylists would suggest is proper, but I admire it. “Cool” on its own is a cultural decision. “The cool” is personal, with the article transubstantiating the otherwise adjective, ditching accidents for substance, a personal act of reclamation that at once defines, consumes, internalizes, and provides.

“The cool” is the front flip, the songs from the band, the possibility and, we hope, achievement of our lonely dreams. Lonesomeness is another idea the band explores constantly. It’s how we pay for finding the cool. We each take our attempts, prone to failure and volatility. I take mine. Night after night we sing searching, and we pray fuel and fire hold out.

Who is this guy?

I can’t listen to music on my commute these days. If I wore earbuds on the Metro or walking from the train to work, I’d miss my stop or step in front of a bus, respectively. Meghan is better about stuff like this. She rides her bike to her job, and she listens to podcasts along the way. I root for the buses to avoid her! She finds good stuff on the podcasts.

Example: David Carr does a review on the Times Book Review podcast and brings up Gaslight Anthem lead Brian Fallon’s June NPR interview.

The mp3 is here, and Carr starts talking at the 18:30 mark in true Carr style: “The prissy NPR person said, ‘You write about this guy he’s got tattoos on his knuckles, he’s a hard luck guy. He never gets what he wants.’ She says, ‘Who is this guy?’ And he answered, ‘Who isn’t this guy?’ That’s part of what I think people all secretly feel, that maybe they’ve got some little monster creeping around in ’em.”

Love it. And even if Carr thinks our interviewer was prissy, thank you for listening. Anyway. Meghan sending me that moment got me curious about the rest of the Fallon interview. Turns out you can hear it here and read it here. Fallon talks with All Things Considered‘s Melissa Block.

BLOCK: I wanted to ask you about the song “Boxer” and the character here, the character who has tattooed knuckles, and he’s taking it on the chin. Who is this guy?

Mr. FALLON: Oh, who isn’t that guy? I think that it’s just about a lot of people that I’ve seen who’ve kind of, you know, found some sort of thing that has kind of crippled them or knocked them down and that they’ve had to be picked up from and find you have to find something that kind of carries you through your days. And a lot of the time, people find that that’s just hearing something on the music and remembering what you started when you were, you know, kind of finding your place in the world.

Then Block plays a clip of the song. This live version will do here.

Then the interview continues.

BLOCK: Do you think there’s some redemption in this song?

Mr. FALLON: It has redemption in every song.

BLOCK: Really?

Mr. FALLON: Yeah.

BLOCK: What happens if there’s not?

Mr. FALLON: I don’t know. We’ll see. You know, that’s the endless search, I think, for musicians and for searchers in general, those people who are looking for something.