Hobo Nikkan James Shinbun (November 23, 2009): Days of a Beautiful Human Being (a review of the 11/22 concert at the Marquis Theater)

The night began with a Law and Order marathon and a shot of whiskey. It ended with me singing Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” into an imaginary microphone attached to a beautiful yet, unfortunately, married woman from Wyoming.

Some backstory: since the age of seventeen, I’ve been friends with a man named Alan Baird. Of our entire graduating class in high school, he seems to be, sadly enough, the only one of us who seems to have made anything of his life. You see, to me, he’ll always be that kind of awkward kid who I would ditch class and play Halo with, usually completely stoned out of my mind. To you, the reader, you probably know him for being the frontman of his own band, The Alan Baird Project, which has seen some success lately. Thanks to me and my innate ability to lose touch with people almost immediately, I was blissfully unaware that these guys were getting their songs played on local radio stations or winning awards from newspapers that seem to hate them.

Out of nowhere; or at the very least, the Facebook ether, the two of us had gotten back in touch. We exchanged the usual messages you send to someone after not speaking to them in years: “How are you?” “How are things?” “Are you still with What’s-Her-Name?” These are merely formalities, of course. By now, in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nine, the Cliff’s Notes to these question have been written and repeated enough times to be considered common sense. The answers to these questions are always:

– Fine
– Fine
– No

Occasionally question number three may surprise both parties with its answer. Sometimes the answer is yes. Hell, your long-lost friend may even be married and have a family; the responsibility of loading a bong replaced with changing a diaper. You may be happy for them, but you secretly wish that they had just said no. Their adult-borne happiness only serves to remind you that time is passing you by, and with it, your hopes and dreams. Luckily for me, this was not the case: my downward spiral into insanity projected just a little bit further away.

I hadn’t expected to hear from Alan, or anyone of my old high school friends, ever again after that. I figured that that was that. Imagine my shock when I receive a new message a week later, inviting me to a show in which The Alan Baird Project would perform. Of course I would go. Not only would this be a reunion between old friends (I would later be surprised to see just how many old friends I would find), but this would give me the chance to go a show that didn’t have a shit band or shit bands playing. Since the one-two combo of Asobi Seksu and a My Bloody Valentine reunion show this past summer, we here in the Mile High City have been strapped for good live music. I also tried to recruit a posse of old work friends, to make our crowd seem all that much larger. I’ll spare you the suspense and just let you know now that none of them showed up. My level of disappointment directed at a few of them was, until this point, previously unprecedented.

When I arrived, the concert hall was eerily barren. What would normally be a line out the door full of dumb teenage girls with tri-colored hair and weak knees and Pitchfork-lite music snobs (henceforth labeled, “douchebags”) adorned with lavender vests with at least one pin displaying the cover to The Clash’s “London Calling” was instead a strong breeze of winter weather in the American mid-west. A harsh reminder of mortality. What would normally be a raucous full house where one could expect getting their feet stepped on and cheap, tasteless beer spilled on their clothes was now a dead quiet, dark room monitored by bored looking staff silently contemplating suicide. My worn-out Pumas filled the hallways with my intruding footsteps. On the plus side, the lack of attendance meant I could find The Alan Baird Project much easier than fighting my way through a garish parade of berets, bad piercings and ugly tattoos. I’m not always this misanthropic and cynical, by the way.

The reunion of the creative mega-powers, James Corbett and Alan Baird, couldn’t have gone better. After I was re-introduced to the bandmates, the two of us went where I had every intention of spending my night: the bar. We got right to business: a shot of whiskey to start us off. It felt like a baptism. Alan would use his shot to burn any germs in his throat in an effort to sing better. I would use mine to tell pretty girls that I’m a previously established author. We were both full of our own bullshit.

IMG00029-20091122-2157

I realize now that I have yet to actually mention any of the other bands that played that night. They are boring. They are generic. After several shots of alcohol, their bass-fueled floor rumblings did nothing but wear on my dulled nerves. PROTIP: Good bands do not do this. Good bands can capture your attention, regardless of any substances put into your body. But here’s the card anyway:

– The Outfit
– some band generic enough to not even have a name worth remembering
– The Alan Baird Project
– Dear and the Headlights (the headliners)

I am not a music critic. I’m not even really a critic of anything. Much like a child, everything to me is either the best ever or the worst ever, so if you were expecting objective, point by point reviewing of each band that played, I don’t even know why you’re here.

IMG00027-20091122-2157you’ll forgive the horrible photography

Anyways. As the night wore on, I would meet several off-beat characters. I mean this in a positive way, as these people are way awesome. Like a hokey video game designed by a crazed Japanese man, the group contained writers, musicians, tattoo artists, businesswomen who promoted a non-existent business, among others. Together we impatiently sat through the final act, which ran for a full hour, and had at least three encores. One hour and three encores too many. Once they wrapped up, the concert hall shut down almost immediately. I finished my last drink, and followed our newly formed mob to a bar right across the street. I should take this time out to describe each of these people:

– A promoter from Wyoming who wore a sequined shirt that showed off both copious amounts of cleavage and a strong air of confidence. She had made it quite clear that, had she not been married, she would have definitely slept with Alan. Even in my drunken haze, my eye for detail noticed that she did not have a wedding ring on the entire night.

– The previously mentioned fictional businesswoman. Almost in her thirties, she was probably the oldest member of out group. She had also had a tendency to disappear and reappear in different areas with alarming subtlety. It was almost like magic, watching her small frame jump out from behind the shadow of a much taller person to surprise everyone around her.

– Two very social black women who accompanied the previous two girls all the way from Wyoming. The last time I was in Wyoming, I wanted to leave the entire time. It is a terrible wasteland of a state. The fact that I would find four attractive women from this place shocked me very much. There’s a first time for everything.

– A young woman from East Germany. The combination of her thick accent, braces and the fact that she looked underage captured the attention and arousal of every man in the group. Myself shamefully (not really; I pulled the word from a file labeled “covering my ass on the morality scale”) included. Her culture shock was obvious and adorable.

– A local tattoo artist who carried business cards with him at all times. Thanks to my connections, I am now able to get a tattoo or piercing for only ten dollars from this man.

– My good friend, Jon Gonzalez.

– Another friend of mine, Max Winne.

– The rest of the Alan Baird Project.

In all, there were thirteen of us, most of us already stumbling drunk, hitting different bars in the neighborhood with anarchy in our minds. Along the way, we would also find ourselves followed by various homeless men, one of whom, a paranoid schizophrenic, told me his plan to combat global warming:

“People are still trying to find a way to go green. My way of helping the environment is to play Galaga!”

I spoke to every homeless person who accompanied us. My way with words (which mostly amounted to me just listening to them) got them to leave without one of us just simply telling them to fuck off. Each of them left penniless, yet pleased. Looking back, I was a fool to do this, as I could’ve just as well been stabbed by mentally unstable people with nothing to lose. Sometimes luck likes to work my way. In between dealing with the homeless, I would look up at the television in the bar. It was airing a soccer game between Chelsea, an English club, and another club. My recollection ends with the score at 3-0 for Chelsea. Soccer is an unusual game. It has all the intensity, excitement, drama and athleticism that popular American sports have, yet the game seems to have an unfair reputation as being, quote, “totally gay.” I stopped telling people I enjoyed the game, since I was tired of being expected to defend “my sport.” I never feel the need to defend shit. I either like something or I don’t, and that’s that.

The bar changed the mood a little bit, by playing the hit Lisa Loeb song, “Stay.” Something I may not have mentioned before: I am a huge Lisa Loeb fan. I even watched her terrible reality show and saw every episode of MTV’s animated series based on Spider-Man, as she played Mary Jane Watson. I know every word to “Stay,” to which I did a duet with our married, sequinned friend. Never ask me to sing this song, as I cannot actually sing. My memory gets hazy after this, so I’ll end my recollection here. When I finally passed out at three a.m, I had a dream where I watched a documentary on the life and times of professional wrestler Chris Benoit, which was immediately followed by a brand new spin-off of the anime series Paranoia Agent, where the characters were now spiritual detectives who hunted ghosts. In other words, nothing at all like Paranoia Agent.

To put an end to this beast, I will say that The Alan Baird Project is more than just a band. As I alluded to earlier, the Class of 2005 are failures. Alan managed to overcome that and become something; making something of himself among a sea of ennui and cynicism. The term “The American Dream” has been beaten to death, but it seems like I have to use it to describe these boys. Becoming famous or rich or powerful is something we all desire, but only few of us can get there. I may still only see Alan Baird as that kid I would talk about music with while I played Tekken with his now ex-girlfriend, but it’s obvious that time has indeed passed me by. He’s famous now. Whether or not the rest of us can catch up, well, I suppose that’s up to us, right?

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