I go way back with Dead Rider. The lead guy was in a great band called U.S. Maple about twenty years ago and I’ve followed most of the music made by its former members. The gnarled tendrils of this family tree have crept in disparate directions by now. I’ve heard one or the other of them play everything from gentle country pop to the most discordant screetching noise collages. They’ve never stopped searching for the true sound. It’s why I’ll go see them whatever they’re doing. They don’t rest on laurels or just play the hits.
Two years of lockdown have made even the most hardened stoic reflective. When I hear Todd Rittman tell the Hideout audience that no one in his band is good at communicating their feelings aside from making this music but that he wants to thank us for being there, I know that a whole field of worms have turned. This thing has truly altered all our psyches, no matter what we may think.
As Dead Rider was winding down, I move from my spot up front to the back of the room. I run into Dan K and tell him how happy it makes me to see this band. He agrees. I try to pinpoint the thing that sets them apart. All I can come up with is that they’re remarkably restless. They never play the same show twice. They back themselves into corners, then have to fight their way out. It’s way beyond the technical mastery of their instruments. Aptitude and skill can be the dullest thing in the world to see and hear. These people push past facility into dangerous places where failure or bad taste is very real. They don’t want to bore themselves or us, so they keep jumping off the cliff.
A couple days later, I run into Tim at the bar. He was at the show and is still basking in its afterglow just like me. You know the show was special when longtime musician is that impressed. We always judge the thing we do ourselves so harshly when others do it.
Tim goes back to his table and I doodle a couple of the more annoying regulars. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum or Dumb and Dumber, I can’t decide which. They’re so loud and stupid and full of themselves. The bald one catches me looking over and comes to take a look. He shakes his head after switching to his readers so he can make out my sketch in the darkness. Takes issue with my making his cranium look like an alien. He shakes his head disapprovingly, then returns to his cackling mate.
I show the sketch to the bartenders and she laughs approvingly, but gets worried the two clowns will notice. I tell her what chrome dome said. If the shoe fits, right? I think I more or less caught his likeness, or at least something about him.
Like Dead Rider, I’m always trying to hit a note that rings true, never knowing how or why it will happen.