Things I did for the first time at 18:
- Take up smoking
- Actually get drunk on beer
- Stop listening to Dave Matthews Band
- Jump on a trampoline while tripping on mushrooms
- Get dumped
- Bought an iPod
Of all these things, which would you suspect had the biggest impact on who I am as a person now? If you answered “jump on a trampoline while tripping on mushrooms,” you’d be really close, but wrong. It is easily the fact that somewhere between 18 and 20 years of age that I dumped my obsession with Dave Matthews Band, allowing me to finally begin to listen to good music that wasn’t only jazz. But, 18 was an awkward period, where I started to realize how terrible they were but couldn’t rid myself of the attachment. Luckily, I had a painful breakup to worry about, as well as my start at St. Mary’s College and a summer before filled with weed and getting guns stuck in my face.
“These Are the Days” by Jamie Cullum
By the time I got to St. Mary’s, I was half an idiotic wreck over the breakup (which occurred many months beforehand) and half ludicrously excited to be in college. If you’ve never been there, the St. Mary’s campus is unbelievably gorgeous: It sits on the east bank of the St. Mary’s River, which allows the sun to set on the opposite side of the river, giving residents some of the most amazing sunsets one could possibly see. I remember one twilight in particular, where I was walking back to my dorm along the riverbed, listening to this song on my newly purchased iPod. I got to the line, “Maybe that didn’t work out / but we did the best we could” and…Well, I’d like to say I had some big emotional epiphany and cried all the way back to the dorm, but the reality is that it made me feel hollow. Luckily, it was a Friday, so I could fill that void with a party and booze and weed.
“Italian Leather Sofa” by Cake
Until I started putting together this list, I totally forgot this was when I rediscovered Cake as being hands-on-tits awesome. And I’m a bit ashamed to remember this happened because of a cartoon. It was called Mission Hill, and it used a sped up instrumental version of this song as its theme song. Despite being really high and it being really late (it was on Adult Swim), I rushed to my computer (it was 2004. I still had a desktop. Don’t judge me.) and looked up who it was, despite having a solid idea of who it was. I have since been unable to turn Cake off, ever. (Later this week, take a Master Class in Cake!)
“Lie In Our Graves” by Dave Matthews Band
This was the beginning of the end for Dave Matthews Band. I remember this being the last holdout of their songs that I was unable to either take off my iPod or forget on guitar. (Though, truthfully, I think I can still remember how to play it, I’ve just forgotten every lyric.) A semester or so at St. Mary’s proved to me there was a giant musical world outside of a whiny South African and jazz. I’m sure all those around me (and any who rode in my car) were glad that they didn’t have to suffer through any more 30 minute-long Dave Matthews Band live recordings. Ug, what was I thinking? Side note: Jam bands suck, from String Cheese Incident to Widespread Panic to Umphrey’s McGee (which I’ve nominated for lamest band name ever). Double Side Note: The drummer for Dave Matthews Band is just ridiculous.
“Hip Hop” by Dead Prez
Ah, a leftover from my “I can change the world” phase. Don’t get me wrong, I think righteous political anger can totally be cool (see “Telegram” by Saul Williams), but no one person or song can do it. I used to play this all the time to the super white crowd at St. Mary’s and laugh at them when they had no idea what it was actually saying. They all knew it from the Chappelle’s Show theme song, but none of them knew exactly how revolutionary it was. Of course, it isn’t. It’s just a couple dudes with a really awesome beat saying things we all know to be true.
“A Go Go” by John Scofield and Medeski, Martin, and Wood
Originally this list was going to be all jazz, and then I would whine for 1000 words on how I hate that since my accident I can’t play upright bass anymore. I decided, hopefully for the benefit of everyone, that would be boring, and I would save that post for a drunken night when whining is more appropriate. But I would be remiss if I didn’t put at least one jazz song on here, even if it’s the most easily accessible song I had on my short list (songs that got cut: “Lil’ Darlin’” by Count Basie, “Cheney Piñata” by The Bad Plus, and “Orbits” by Miles Davis). It features a jammy-ish band (Medeski, Martin, and Wood) teaming up with of my favorite jazz guitarists ever, John Scofield, for a really, really tight set of solos. Scofield’s solo in this song is easily my favorite solo of his ever, and if you listen to it for a minute, you’ll know why. He plays with both reckless abandon and reigned-in funk, with a style rarely seen outside of a blues hall in the Deep South somewhere. It’s hot. And I mean that it makes me think of heat, like sweat pouring down his forehead as he rips the solo.