Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jason Molina and His Terrible Hawaiian Shirt



I haven't been out to see a show in a while. Luckily, someone reminded me that Magnolia Electric Co. was scheduled to play Mojo's last night.

Also playing was Old Light, an alt.country band from STL, and COMO local alt.twangers Malone. Both bands were good. Maybe I'm over being over alt.country. Old Light gave away a demo for signing their email list. They showed promise as a new band and won over a few folks with the free tunes. I know a couple of the guys in Malone and had been meaning to make it out some time to see them. They did not disappoint with their three-headed songwriting attack.

This all brings me to Jason Molina and his Magnolia Electric Co.

Molina showed up donning an ugly Hawaiian shirt. On top of that, he's rather short and has a receding hairline. I don't point these faults out to make fun of Molina, rather I want to illustrate just how regular he is.

This is why I love indie rock. The brightest and best artists are just regular Joes trying to make ends meet like the rest of us. It makes their work all the more authentic, accessible.

I was once talking to a friend about his encounter with his Tori Amos. As he struggled to explain how in awe he was, he turned to me and said "Well, you know how it is when you meet one your bands." I didn't and I don't. I've talked with tons of musicians who've I've also idolized, but I was rarely speechless or humbled...Well, except that one time I met members of Sonic Youth. I knew they were just trying to get my like me. They weren't better than me. I wasn't better than them. We were equals in a lot of ways.

My point is that I prefer things that are great but accessible, like indie rock or beer or whatever. You can enjoy the best indie rock and see the bands live without paying an arm and a leg just to sit two miles away. Similarly, I can drink the best beers in the world without spending a small fortune. This is how I like to live. I like things that can be great, yet accessible.

So, this brings me back to Jason Molina and his Hawaiian shirt. His genius was even more captivating in that bad shirt. Here he was: a regular guy. His songs, as always, were true. The meaning behind them held more authenticity knowing that he was capable of feeling the real human emotions found within his songs. All of this in that damn Hawaiian shirt.

8 comments:

jmenter said...

"The brightest and best artists are just regular Joes trying to make ends meet like the rest of us. It makes their work all the more authentic, accessible."

I don't understand how struggling to make ends meet necessarily makes music more authentic or accessible.

I mean, I guess if done properly it can help me relate personally (they're paying the bills just like me) but I don't normally listen to music to relate to my own current financial situation.

comoprozac said...

Man, you are on a roll tonight. Maybe I shouldn't have encouraged you to comment...I kid. I kid.

I'm sorry, but I want a musician to be in touch with the real world and to make music that reflects that connection. I have a problem with music that is out of touch with reality.

I think this is why so many artists put out crap once they get really big. Money and fame tend to disconnect an artist and his music from the rest of our experiences.

jmenter said...

"I'm sorry, but I want a musician to be in touch with the real world and to make music that reflects that connection. I have a problem with music that is out of touch with reality."

I see. I think this is where our musical approaches differ.

When I listen to music I am almost always looking for a transcendent experience of some kind.

Whether it's listening to Pat Metheny pull off some crazy-ass chord/time change, Steve Vai masterfully placing a weird arpeggio against "normal" chords, or feeling the Indigo Girls' "Virginia Woolf" get under my soul for the 100th time, I'm always looking for hints of universal Truth.

The fact that Steve Vai was so successful (and financially astute) in the '80s means that he has the freedom to produce music of uncompromising originality in the '90s and today.

I'm not trying to say my approach to music is the best or only true one.

comoprozac said...

Fair enough. I've felt the same need for transcendent experience, but I think we differ on the source. Apples and oranges.

However, I don't think musicians such as Vai have to become so wealthy in order to acquire "the freedom to produce music of uncompromising originality". In fact, how uncompromising or original is the music if so many people like it?

Juliet said...

Don't know if you had a chance to talk to Jason Molina, but the great thing about him is that he's such a regular he's really fun to talk to.

I met him at a show in Brooklyn and was trying not to totally gush because he's one of my favorite artists, and he was just wonderfully down to earth. Talking to him was like talking to one of my friends.

Pizza Cottontail said...

sooo jealous. i saw mag. elec co a few years ago, but i want to see them again.

do you have their box set? i might have to arrange a special email to you...

i swear to god, my captcha says "hookr." unreleated, but lovin it.

Pizza Cottontail said...

See?

comoprozac said...

Sweet.