Monday, July 30
well i don't feel better when i'm fuckin' around
There were a lot of uncommonly brilliant musicians at Rockygrass this past
weekend. Which almost goes without saying. In bluegrass, the baseline price of
entry - not even to popular awareness, but to participation much beyond the
first tier of circle-sitting - seems to be a formidable competence,1 and
scales up from there. At the higher levels of bluegrass, there's a good chance
the bass player is John Paul Jones.2 Manifestations of the Planet Bluegrass
empire like Rockygrass seem to pull in people who define the solid center and
major edges of the form. You wind up with a lot of scary individuals walking
Among the people you should check out, if you haven't, are
- The Greencards, who only get better.
- The Biscuit Burners
Then there's Nickel Creek.
They announced they were breaking up3 a while ago - and after a show I caught
in Denver last year, it wasn't that surprising. You could see the tension then
if you were looking. This time around it was something like watching a married
couple dance with knives held behind their backs. Except not really, given that
the divorce is just about finalized and it's a lousy, hackneyed metaphor to
begin with. Anyway, you get the sense that Chris Thile and Sean Watkins may not
exactly hate one another, but they are sure as shit annoyed.
I guess this is what happens. At any rate, I'm sure I don't know anything
beyond an impression conveyed by a set of smart people who have been on stage
since they were children, and I hate this kind of fannish speculation. The main
thing is that, despite the fact that there is no longer a sense of joy
emitting from the enterprise of Nickel Creek itself into the public sphere,
they are still so fucking amazingly good that it hurts.
1 As nearly as I can tell, this emerges from a culture of participation. How
many people make rock music, despite the theoretically lower technical
threshold, as vs. fans of acoustic music who pick or sing? Subjectively, it
almost feels like the fan:participation ratios of basketball/baseball/football
as compared to Ultimate.
It probably also emerges from working within a remarkably specific and
But what do I know? I can't pick a goddamned note.
2 Somewhat literally,
although I wrote this sentence in a figurative frame of mind. Of course, no one
is John Paul Jones, excepting possibly himself. But you know what I mean.
3 Hiatus. Inevitable reunion tours. The template is set, but when does it not
dictate a fundamental end-point?