Andy was almost falling on the floor he was laughing so hard as he relayed the story of how his latest song title, "The Greatest Show on Earth" had come to him. He was thinking about the ridiculous claim our employer, Sam the Record Man was making in their use of "The Greatest Store on Earth" as their motto. The. Greatest. Store. On. Earth. It is pretty funny. It's fucking ridiculously, screamingly, fall on the floor funny if you are in the right mood for and are the right kind of person for that kind of funny.
It reminded me of the night Tim and I wandered around Richard's neighbourhood, in the midst of an evening spent drinking Jack Daniel's in the shed behind Kevin and Richard's house - the shed the two of them had built and decorated with empty pop cans, empty cartons of Marlboro's, and an enormous confederate flag poised above a sign in support of the local Reform party candidate, both intended as a joking affront to their liberal-minded friends. By the time I caught up to Tim, he was keeled over on the curb trying to intake oxygen amidst his laughter as he pointed at - unable to speak - the street sign declaring "Gaylord Avenue." It's just fucking stupid how funny that was.
The first time I heard Alewives, I thought: I bet this is what Morning Glory would sound like now if they were still a band. The first time I saw Andy on stage, his guitar hanging loosely over his shoulder, leaning into the amplifier, his back - probably intentionally - to the audience, I was reminded of Tim. They both carry themselves in this casual way that I suppose the term "indie rock" has kind of become synonymous with. They both look so free-spirited and authentic and like they don't care about anything except the rock and roll they're playing. But before there is the practicing, then the nervousness, the serious consideration of song order, and afterwards, "Did everyone notice where I messed up?" "Do you think that new song went over well?" "Do they like me?"
It was super fun being an Alewives fan with my friend and roommate Sydney. We're both music nerds, but our tastes often differ. Not entirely unreasonably, Sydney once said to me, "Not all pop songs have to sound like Brian Wilson could have written them, you know." She's way into Blondie and Tori Amos, and I guess I don't really get those guys. And yeah, she thinks my tastes are a bit too precious and predictable, I think. But we both really, really love The Replacements. And I knew that she would love The Alewives. Not that they're all derivative or anything, but they come from the same place. They have the same sound. And nothing says high school like that sound.
It was, oh so appropriately, Tim who first introduced me to The Replacements, when he put "Bastards of Young" on a mix tape he made for me when we were in grade twelve. He gets credit, too, for Pixies, The Lemonheads, NOFX, and for a bunch of local bands reserved for a future blog entry.
My friends Tim and John were the core of Morning Glory. They wrote the songs, and played guitar and bass. They had a couple of drummers - first Steve and then Dave. They had a band room in Tim's basement, where the drum kit was permanently set up, and I sat against the wall and listened to them rehearse for hours. I knew all the words to "Sadfish" and "Where Am I?" and "Here I'm" and "Spaceship of Life." Once they played a show there. They named the practice room "Potatoland" for the evening and bought a flat of beer that we all guzzled down, across the street at the vacant "White House" (a house used as a real estate office, where we would often go to smoke cigarettes) during intermission, and presumably unnoticed by his parents. Man, Tim's parents must have been pretty cool.
Morning Glory got to play some shows down-town, in all-ages venues like The Silver Shack and Classic Studios. Abby, Jackie, Paul, Brandon, Sean and I were the most hardcore Morning Glory groupies, and we'd take the subway down-town to cheer them on, to be in the midst of this scene that felt incredibly cool. We'd sing along and hoot and jump up and down and then help carry their amps and instruments.
Classic Studios was the venue they played most often, it seems to me. It was a dim, open room with low ceilings, below Ossington Avenue, a stone's throw from the Queen street Mental Institution, and it shared its address (it was something-and-a-half Ossington Ave.) with the fish and chips restaurant upstairs. The place was owned or managed by a conscientious, well-intentioned man who seemed genuinely concerned about the kids - such as myself - who over did it. He knew he wasn't serving us alcohol, but he didn't seem to be aware of the convenience store down the street where under-aged kids could buy bootlegged liquor.
Going into the city, to these shows, taking the subway home in the wee hours of the morning, drunk and exhausted, I always felt so grown up. I felt like I was looking at my future. My cool, hip, rock and roll future.
For my 29th birthday Sydney made me an Alewives t-shirt, and a matching one for herself. We talked about making an Alewives zine, but we got too busy with other stuff, or we got too lazy, and then she moved away to BC. I loved going to those shows with her, like I loved waiting at the bus stop and standing right up at the front of the stage with Abby.
The kind of authentic, energetic rock and roll that Alewives play makes me feel nostalgic, and not in some bullshit I'm-too-old-to-rock way, just as a reminder of how and why music matters. It reminds me of discovery. It reminds me of the way something so simple can be so awesome, so intoxicating, so fun. It's about the moments when I'm not asking, "Do they like me?" "Why does that work?" "What happened?" We pick ourselves up off the floor or the curb and we go back to work or back to our friends, and that old, sinking, other kind of reality sets in again.
Thank God for three-minute rock songs and sloppy boys with electric guitars.