Nonphenomenal Lineage

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Grandaddy Eulogy

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Grandaddy is over. Finit. Gone. Their last album, Just Like the Fambly Cat, comes out on next Tuesday, May 9. I have been waiting for it for a year. The band has no plans to tour.

Grandaddy these last few years has been my secret ally: indiscriminate and forever willing to offer a hand when I’ve fallen down. A little shelter waiting in the wings for me, a place to turn to when my life is in periods of dark transience and and tumultuous change.

I first started listening to Grandaddy when Danny introduced me to them in 2003. The album Sumday was just about to come out, and it was all he could talk about. But before that, he introduced me to Sophtware Slump. I listened to it once, probably as I was doing something else, and it didn’t really catch with me.

Then, one night, I heard one particular song and it was then when I realized that Grandaddy was indeed something very special. It was Oct 21, 2003, and dark outside. I was driving home from an evening out and it was getting cool but I had the windows down. The weather was in the last throes of an Indian Summer and I was clinging to the lingering musky scents and warm eddies of air that were rapidly spiraling out of reach into fall. “Miner at the Dial-A-View” came on the stereo…and I had never heard a song with quite such a longing, eerie hollowness. Something about it was ethereal and ghostly, with echoes of guitar from a long-lost country song from the 1950s. I listened to it about 20 times in the next few days, trying to figure out what it was about the music and the lyrics that seemed so mysterious. I still haven’t quite got it figured out, and now I know that particular brand of mystery is the key element of a good Grandaddy song—it’s a feeling you can relate to but never quite unravel.

Adrift again, 2000 man….

Fast forward about 6 months and I’m high-tailing out of Tulsa, bound for Boston, leaving everything and everyone I knew in the dust. Before leaving Oklahoma I picked up a copy of Under The Western Freeway, thinking that on the 1000 mile solitary drive across the eastern half of the country, that a still-then unfamiliar Grandaddy album might just be the companion I needed to get me through 28 hours of unending asphalt. I listened to it a couple of times, on highway 35 due east, thinking about the life I had left behind. By the time I made it to the long and lonely historic River Road that clefts the Mississippi river from the Elsah Bluffs, a little ways past a grain mill and 30 minutes east of Saint Louis, I was hopelessly, shamelessly in love with this album. I still remember finite and tiny moments on the highway that coincided with certain notes of Under the Western Freeway.

“Summer Here Kids” on the afternoon back roads of Illinois, “Go Progress Chrome” on the evening planes of western Indiana—I remember at each second how this music affected me and how with each mile that passed under my car, my thoughts, my heart and my mind were turning inward, inward, to a little quiet place inside myself. I must have listened to the album 20 times during the four day drive. Even now, almost two years later, hearing the opening notes of “Collective Dreamwish of Upper Class Elegance” still takes me back to driving through a leafy forest ablaze with chromatic greens and yellow of the early morning sun in eastern moutainous Pennsylvania. I was alone but full of optimism and hope. The connection of that morning drive, the feelings I had then, and this music is instantaneous, sudden, and wholly gripping.

One year and three months later, after a failed relationship left me in an empty apartment with hardly any furniture, no TV, a shattered sense of love, a growing sense of disenchantment and a solid sense of godlessness, I heard Grandaddy’s cover of “Fishing Boat Song”. My little relationship with Grandaddy that had relaxed into latency with the happy advent of my new boyfriend was instantaneoulsy rekindled upon the moment of the relationship’s demise.

And, so, I was with Grandaddy once again—the music my constant, constant and only companion for hours, days, weeks on end. With my head in my hands, I would take long slow walks through local parks listening to “Our Dying Brains” and “L.F.O.” and “What Can’t Be Erased”, drinking in the summer heat and drinking in bottles of beer. I was listening to the cicadas, kicking the dirt with my shoes and desperately trying not to think about anything but the music. One particular morning I found myself wondering how I had wandered on foot miles away from my apartment at 5:45 am with nothing but this music to piece together any sort of semblance of sanity I had left.

If my old life is gone, than what have I become?

I cannot express enough how much Grandaddy has been there for me when I was in need. Their music will mark a presence in my life that noone or nothing will ever be able to match. Grandaddy, and Jason Lytle in particular, possesses a special quality of self-expression that is haunting in its sadness and riveting in its openness. His modest, plaintive voice drives right to the truth of whatever he’s singing about, the likes of which nobody has ever equalled. His sensitivity to sound and intonation is unparalled, and the way little parts of the music reminds me of something I hear/feel in nature is just beyond any real description. Listening to Grandaddy is the most personal experience I have ever had with myself, if that makes any sense at all.

My next big move will be in September. I am utterly dependent on the band’s final album, Just Like the Fambly Cat to get me through it.

No band, no person, no single phenomenon outside of my family’s love has ever compared to my feelings for Grandaddy and I know now that nothing ever will again. I am hooked, inexorably, with a band who is now ending their career. I can hardly bear it.

And I never got to see them live. (but now I have a chance)

In two weeks, on May 17, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy will be playing to a small live audience in New York City at a music store called Other Music, a location which standing capacity has been described to me as “smaller than my bathroom”.

I would have to take a day off from work, spend about $80 in transportation to and from the venue, but the bright side is that the show would be free, although the duration of the show would probably be less than half an hour.

Do I go? Do I go? This may be the last opportunity I ever have to see the man play live. Even if he does play live again, it may never be Grandaddy maybe solo stuff…which I am sure would be just as good, seeing as he writes all the songs anyways.

Plus, his buddy, and also a buddy of mine, will be at that show. Our mutual friend said he would look for me in the crowd. I wonder if I would get a chance to meet Jason.

I once twice have flown to Los Angeles to take a similar risk…and I’ll say this for those two trips…I’ll never, ever forget them.

So the question is now; do I take the risk? Do I go? I guess I can’t see why I shouldn’t at least try.


Listening to Through a Frosty Plate Glass by Grandaddy


Written by pocheco

May 4, 2006 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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