Picture above: Me at 16! This was taken at Claire’s 16th birthday. More proof we’ve known each other forever.
We all have musical skeletons in our past, shit we wish we could forget about (I’m looking at you, my 13 year old love for Korn). But I realized while compiling this list that most of the stuff I listened to at 16 I still listen to. I didn’t have terrible taste at 16, just pretty bad. Well, ok; maybe I was super obsessed with Dave Matthews Band, which was….regrettable.
Embarrassing musical story from age 16, to set the tone: 16 was the year I was given my first acoustic guitar. I immediately tried to learn how to play “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band and failed because my fingers just didn’t stretch like that yet. So instead, the first song I learned to play on the guitar was “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters. And it gets more embarrassing than that. I had a super crush on this girl at the time who I’m pretty sure hated me. So in order to win her over, I left a note taped to her locker with a rose and the lyrics to “Everlong,” with a note at the end to pay attention to the morning announcement on that Friday (which was, of course, Valentine’s Day). Our morning announcements were televised over close circuit television. At the end of the announcements, I played “Everlong” very, very poorly with my clumsy bass fingers to the entire school. I was, of course, promptly rejected by this girl.
After that story, this list does not seem that embarrassing! Enjoy.
“Pakalolo” by The Bridge
Kenny Liner had a way about him. Maybe it was the off-color jokes and smoking just outside of children’s earshot. Maybe it was the fact that he walked around beat boxing to himself constantly. Either way, in typical 16 year old fashion, I simultaneously thought that the sun shone out his ass and that he was a complete tool. But that never stopped me from going to see his band, The Bridge, on what seemed like a weekly basis. And this song was what sold me on their first album. It’s tightly crafted instrumental, led by Kenny’s beat boxing and mandolin playing, with some wicked cool sax harmony effects (there was only one sax player in the band when we knew them).
(Side story: Since Baltimore is actually Smalltimore, Kenny Liner was in my aunt’s class in preschool. In fact, she potty trained him. Me and a friend once yelled this fact out at a show.)
(Sorry about the video quality. Couldn’t find the studio version.)
“Crush” by Dave Matthews Band
If I was being honest with myself and this blog, this 16 year old list would consist of four Dave Matthews Band songs and one acoustic Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds song. I like to use the excuse that I was white and grew up in the suburbs; I had no choice but to like Dave Matthews Band. They had just the right mix of musical talent and pop-catchiness to make anyone seem cool by liking them. I thought I was so cool! Especially with this song, a young bassist’s wet dream. It wasn’t a particularly hard riff, just over the funk line and half-badass. But to have bass, an instrument consistently relegated to the background shoved to the forefront was appealing to me. Plus, the lyrics are all about unrequited love, something I was totally all about at 16. But looking back now, they are really stupid and bordering on creepy, a running theme for Dave Matthews Band. Also, the video is full of smoking and drinking, which are 2 of the 3 coolest things you can do at age 16.
[Unfortunately, I cannot find a video of this song. Look it up on iTunes or something...It's really fucking good.]
“Bluesman” by Kelly Bell Band
Kelly Bell Band is so good that they have consistently garnered respect and audiences for at least 20 years and they do it by playing a wildly outdated genre of music: Blues. No one plays the blues anymore. It’s somehow become uncool, which I’ll never understand. To demonstrate this fact: I put this song on at work the other day and my boss, a total music snob, immediately recognized who it was and was singing along. The 18 year old cashier told me to turn off my “old-fogey music.”
I loved going to their shows, especially the triple bills with Laughing Colors and Almighty Senators. I bought every one of their albums they had out, including a live record recorded at a show I was at. They aren’t the best blues musicians, but they have such a fun sound and I still go out of my way to see them whenever they play in town.
“Roll Into The Light” by Laughing Colors
Laughing Colors were my first foray into local music when I was 13 or so, hearing them and playing them waaaaay too loud on my stereo. I then promptly forgot about them when I left middle school until I was 16 and randomly found a mix of their music I had burned to a CD, found behind a dresser. I had until then been listening pretty much exclusively Dave Matthews Band and this was a welcome refresher. This was the first track on that mix.
This song fills me with such wonder every time I hear it. It’s wide open and expansive, and Dave Tieff’s voice is just so perfect for the sound of the band, which has a little edge, but is really just perfect rock for the radio. I’m still shocked that they never got famous. I think they had the unfortunate timing to be playing pretty straight-ahead rock during the awful nu-metal movement.
Their break up devastated me. Theirs was my favorite local live show: ridiculously upbeat and energetic and infectious. When I realized I never would see them play again I’m pretty sure I cried. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.
“Me & My Bass Guitar” by Victor Wooten
Ah, Victor Wooten. You are just so good at the bass. This is painful to listen to as a bassist, realizing I’ll never, ever be able to do what he can do. When I was sixteen, however, I had just enough musical talent and ego to believe that I could not only do what he could do, but I would be better one day. I had this dream that I would be invited to his bass guitar camp and play a line that would just make him stop and proclaim me the next Jaco Pastorious.
He is that good. There are few bassists, if any, who can play this line, much less sing over it, and way less do that fill in the middle. But he has no funk! It’s just, “Hey, look how fast I can slap and pop! That’s cool, right?” It is, Mr. Wooten, but it’s just not enough for me anymore.