99 Miles From LA

some short takes on a bunch of things.

99 Miles From LA

I went to see Dionne Warwick last weekend here in Detroit. She played at the Music Hall, a beautiful old theater built in 1928 and miraculously not torn down and turned into a parking garage, like most of the beautiful old things in Detroit are. The audience was of an older demographic, mostly but not entirely. But what was the most refreshing wasn’t just that there weren’t rows and rows of iPhones filming everything, it was that there was no talking. People didn’t chat through the entire show. I could just watch and listen. The audience sang along because they were explicitly invited to. But these people went to the show because they wanted to watch the show, not because it was just a thing to do on Saturday night.

Dionne is 83 years old and so she spends most of the time perched on a stool, or leaning on the piano. She is still very present, effortlessly graceful, and in command of the confines of her current instrument. She’s not trying to sound like she’s in her 20s. She has rearranged, or has had smart assistance in rearranging, her material so she can perform it well, and perform it like Dionne Warwick. That’s not easy. She performs with a trio (that might have normally been a quartet - she noted her drummer got stuck in LA and her percussionist was on drums tonight) and they are the kind of professional, neutral grouping who know their job is to support the artist. They did well.

I’m always amazed when I am familiar with a large amount of an artist’s repertoire despite an artist not being someone I have actively followed. I know Dionne’s work because my mother listened to her, as I wrote about a while back. I don’t even remember the thought process of buying the ticket, I just remember getting an email that told me about the shows at the Music Hall and I thought, “Oh this will be good.” Obviously the universe decided that I needed to be working on this particular element of my life right now. There was, somehow, an empty seat next to me all night and I made a joke to myself that it was for my mom. And then at some point it kind of felt like she was there. Or at least the connection to her was very present. I did not expect the evening to be so emotional.

Walk On By

Caryn Rose • Dec 20, 2023

Dionne Warwick is in my head and I don’t know how she got there. It was just a normal day, and then I realized that I kept hearing those crystal clear, bell-Iike tones of her in the early 1960s singing Burt Bacharach’s “Walk On By.” The song rolled through my brain, and initially I thought nothing of it because so many songs run through my head on any …

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Ms. Warwick begins her performance with an extended medley of her most well-known material -- your “Walk On By,” your “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” etc. -- but then once her voice is warmed up, she shifted into fuller versions of songs. One of those was “99 Miles from LA,” which she noted was one of the few songs that Hal David didn’t write with Burt Bacharach (he wrote it with Albert Hammond).

She mentioned that she first heard it from “a young man” that she’d been on tour with, who I’m guessing was Albert Hammond. She mentioned that she liked the song and always wished she had done it. She didn’t record her own version until 2012 and there isn’t much I could find to indicate that she’d performed it before that happened.

Dionne is still very much herself, full of personality and attitude. She’s still got that dry sense of humor. What stood out to me about that intro is how she clearly had been carrying that thought with her all of these years. She wanted to perform the song so she recorded it. She wanted to perform the song and now she does. I’m not going to pretend I was familiar with “99 Miles from LA” before I heard it last weekend; I wasn’t. I initially thought the “young man” in question was maybe Glenn Campbell? The material could have suited him in that time period.

But mostly? She sold this goddamn song. It was poignant and emotional and felt new and fresh. It was heartbreaking; it was supposed to be. I was stunned when it was finished.

You mostly go to see the performers of your past because of the memories, or the reminders. You might expect a novelty cover of a newer artist. But thinking, I wanted to do this song in the 70s and now I can do it so I will is the hallmark of a consummate artist and performer. I’m still thinking about it. I’m grateful for the experience and the lesson learned.

Little Pink Houses in the USA

I skipped this initially but watched it the other night while I was watching the initial setlist roll in from the first 2024 show in Phoenix, and was glad a friend reminded me of it, so I share it with you.

  1. they couldn’t give him his own mic?
  2. Is everyone going to use Dylan’s lighting now
  3. How did Patti let him leave the house for a public appearance in those jeans
  4. He does NOT like not having a guitar. Does not know what to do with his hands, even all these years later.
  5. It’s heartwarming because it’s obviously been rehearsed and he wanted to get it right and they’re both visibly having a great time.

2024 Springsteen Tour Setlist Watch

I was going to write that I feel like the set is even more of a jumble sale than it was last year but given that other media is already calling this tour “The stuff of legends” after one show (especially when those are not the reports I am hearing) means that we continue to live in a world that is manifesting a narrative in spite of reality and there is literally no point in trying to offer a considered view.

I was going to wait until tomorrow’s show in Vegas to weigh in on the set, because it was the first show — but he’s had months to consider what he wanted this wave of shows to be. I’ve spent so many hours recently going back through every year of live Springsteen and the amount of thought and consideration and purpose in the sets over the decades is formidable. It’s the latter that’s missing for me right now. Sadly.

I do not yet hold a ticket for this year’s shows. Columbus is out because I have a conflict. Might try to hit Pittsburgh since there are still plenty of seats available. But that’s a long way off.

If anyone can turn this thing around, it’s Bruce Springsteen. I have hope!

Lou Reed: Hudson River Wind Meditations

When I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn in 2005, I found an apartment on a sleepy corner of Greenpoint, just on the edge of the industrial zone between Williamsburg and Greenpoint. It was so quiet once the factories closed for the day, but I had to be very careful about my insomnia and my sleep cycle because the trucks started coming through around 5am and depending where I was in my REM cycle I could either be just slightly surfacing and if I was too close to the surface I’d be woken up at 5am and that was not great. I was there for a little over 10 years and it changed a lot, and the noises and the noise cycles changed.

When I moved to Astoria in 2016, I was only a couple of blocks from the Triboro Bridge onramp and the Grand Central Parkway and my unit faced the back of the building and it was quieter than Brooklyn in a million ways while carrying its own particular flavor of city noise. And then I moved to Detroit, where my neighbors would apologize to me about how noisy the neighborhood was for various reasons, and I would have to work very hard to not laugh uproariously because there is no world in which where I live is loud, or noisy. At least not by my standards, but my standards are different than, say, someone who lives in a rural area or in the middle of a city’s downtown.

This brings us to this recent release from Light In The Attic, the folks handling the audio part of Lou Reed’s archive. I heard this when it showed up online somewhere years ago and remember enjoying it greatly. I was happy that it was officially reissued in a format affordable to all of us and figured it would be good for times where I need something in the background, usually when neighbors are doing yardwork, or the wind’s blowing in the right direction and I can hear the Grateful Dead cover band on the outdoor stage at the Cadieux Cafe down the street.

But clearly my sound processors have changed because this is no longer meditative to me in any way. I am going to die in this house so it doesn’t matter but I’m kind of sad I can’t count on using a Lou Reed composition as some kind of meditative background. But I did not live on the edge of the Hudson River, I did not compose Metal Machine Music, I did not try to create beauty out of the loud distorted drones of my electric guitar. I might feel differently about this record if I still lived in the five boroughs, and had to find a way to drown out a line of backed-up traffic trying to get onto the Grand Central Parkway on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, two blocks away from my apartment with the wind blowing eastward. Or that time they were jackhammering the sidewalk outside my office window for what seemed like three months straight. I am glad to have heard it and glad to own it but think it will serve a different purpose in my life as it currently stands.

Charles Peterson’s Nirvana

You know Charles Peterson’s photography even if you think you don’t; he’s responsible for the loose, vivid, kinetic black and white images that visually defined Sub Pop Records and the progenitors of what came to be known as “grunge” music. I have always loved Charles’ work because it had so much movement in a still photograph. They look out of focus but they aren’t. They look accidental but they aren’t. I was drawn to his work because he clearly had affection for the music and musicians and the audiences. He was in the audience. He never made us look dumb. He never took advantage of his proximity, his eye was always honest and fully present.

I’m not even a huge Nirvana fan but I knew I had to own this particular book because he was in the middle of that maelstrom before and as it exploded. It was professional but it was also personal. This is a book that needed to happen and I’m glad that all these years later, that he finally put together his version of the story.

London Review of Books: At the Tom Verlaine Book Sale

I enjoyed this, a lot. The LRB is always consistently high quality and I recently subscribed. Because if you don’t subscribe to the things you want to read, the people who write the things you want to read aren’t able to do that!

That’s not a hint, but it kind of is. There are many of you who are faithful readers who are not paid subscribers. If you read this every week and get value out of it, now is the time!

On that note: My friend and music writing compatriot the great Kim Kelly is launching her own metal newsletter! If this is your cup of tea, please check out Salvo.

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