I had a great experience last Saturday night.
But let me start at the beginning of the story.
It's 1992 in Madison, WI. My friend Green River tells me about a band that's playing at the Chamber bar on a Friday night. We go to the show and I was blown away. The lead singer had a huge mop of dirty dreadlocks and he wailed on the guitar when he wasn't growling into the microphone. Sometimes both. The bass player had a huge fu-manchu, and the drummer was beating his drums like they owed him money. Oh, and the band had a flute/conga player. They sounded a little like Tad or The Melvins, with lyrics by Ween. The name of the band was Camel Toe, and I was a devoted fan from the first second I heard them.
Over the next year, Green River and I never missed a Toe show, and became friends with the whole band. I ran into TB, the bass player, at the legendary watering hole Genna's on University Ave, and then a couple weeks after that we happened to be on the same Greyhound heading home to Minneapolis. We got high behind the Hardee's in Tomah on a dinner stop, and became fast friends. Back in Madison, I met the lead singer, Anchovie D-lux, and found out that the dreadlocks were just a wig that he broke out for shows. I ended up getting a job at the bar where TB and Chovie worked thanks to them putting in a good word. The Pickney Street Hideaway was the coolest job ever. The guy from the jukebox company let TB put in whatever CD's he wanted, so it was the coolest jukebox in town. We got hammered every night we worked. My drink was jack and coke, so Chovie invented "The Ernie." You fill a pint glass to the rim with ice and jack, and then lean over and whisper "coke" across the top. It was an incredible time. The Hideaway will always be "my bar." The bar that I look back fondly on and compare all other bars to. None have ever measured up. It was that perfect combination of time, place, age, and people that can never be duplicated.
But back to the story.
The summer of '93 I would wake up hungover everyday. Chovie lived three houses away at Toe Headquarters. He'd come over at 11am and we would watch Grizzly Adams and smoke from my five foot bong called The Earthshaker. After Grizzly we'd head to the Plaza Bar and Tavern for Plaza burgers and pinball. The Plaza burger was a thin patty cooked on the flatop and served on a plain soft bun with special Plaza sauce (ranch dressing). They were fucking delicious, and mixed with bong hits, they were a perfect hangover cure. The pinball games we played were Twilight Zone, Cyclone, Earthshaker (a game that actually vibrated violently during multiball, and the namesake of my bong), and our favorite, Funhouse. In Funhouse, you tried to shoot the ball into the mouth of an obnoxious ventiliquist dummy as he hurled insults at you. After that I'd go home, shower, go to work, party after work, crash, and then repeat. Best summer ever.
That fall, Chovie moved to Albany for art grad school. A few years later, he and TB moved to NYC and formed the band Kung Pao. Denim nation forever! We visited them for some of the greatest road trips of my life, which I will tell you all about when you're older. I sort of lost track of Chovie after that (this was pre cell phone or internet).
Last fall I saw a familiar name pop up on my mutual friend The Manager's facebook page. Ben Jones. That's what the squares call Anchovy D-lux. After over a decade we had reconnected! Chovie was out in Seattle, still rocking. There were so many things I had wanted to tell or show him over the years. He was a great friend, and I felt like he understood me, and I understood him. All of facebook's bullshit was worth it just to find this one lost friend.
And now it is Saturday, present time. I was excited to see that Chovie's band Low Land High was playing live on KEXP radio that night. KEXP is a super cool radio station in Seattle that has a free stream, so Saturday night around 11pm EST, I smoked a couple one-hitters of Sweet Island, put my headphones on, and listened to the show. Low Land High kicked ass. Chovie can still wail, but now he is also playing pedal steel guitar, and very well too. It was so incredible to sit 3,000 miles away and hear my old friend tearin' it up live. Back in the day, I never could have imagined that something like this would be possible, but through the magic of the techno age we live in, it happened.
Low Land High is a great folksy rock band. I hate reviews that compare bands to other bands (not really- I already did it earlier in this piece) but if I had to choose, I would say they sound a little like Townes Van Zandt with a dash of Tod A thrown in, wrapped in a honkytonk vibe. I know I'm not doing them justice. Listen to their KEXP set yourself, and become a fan here. My favorite song that they played was Mess You Made, and their performance had a vibrant grit to it. Hopefully I will get to see them in person some day.
Until then I'll have the twang of Chovie's guitar running through my mind as I think about modern miracles, old friends, and great music.
It was a good Saturday night.