Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pushing beyond normal boundaries

Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM

Let me tell you a quick story...

Back in the '90s, I went to see Morphine play a show at Tremont Music Hall. I had been a fan of the band for some time and was pumped about seeing them play in my hometown. I’d never heard of the opening act that they were touring with, a band from Denver, Colo. — Sixteen Horsepower.

This opening act put on a show that I will never forget. The show was unforgettable — not only because they were talented musicians and performers but because it was one of those shows that you go to and leave a different person. I mean, I couldn’t exactly figure out what I was listening to and the group played with a terrifying kind of intensity that kept me riveted to the floor.


We’d probably classify them as “alt-country” now but that doesn’t capture their sound or their live show. Their lead singer, David Eugene Edwards, sang gospel inspired lyrics but, not uplifting positive “God is great” or “Jesus saves” lyrics.

He sang rather disturbing lyrics about fighting with his sinful tendencies and the rhythmic intensity of the music that pushed the lyrics along made it feel like I was in a country tent-revival that had gone horribly wrong. It was as if the preacher had gone mad and was trying to get the congregation to feel the intense emotions that he was feeling and to share in his struggles.

Now, I’m not trying to convert you to Sixteen Horsepower’s music or anything. That experience got me thinking about those moments when music — and art in general — pushes us beyond our normal boundaries and forces us to see things differently. That experience is weird, disconcerting, and fascinating all at the same time.

It’s like when Miles Davis writes in his autobiography about seeing Charlie Parker play for the first time. He says that it was “terrible.” Not “terrible” as in “bad”, but “terrible” as in “TERRIFYING”. Parker was so good and the energy of the band was so powerful and all Davis could do was stand there in awe as his little musical world came crashing down around him.

So, hopefully you’ve had this kind of experience and if you'd like, take a second or two to share it here. Now, we’ve all been to great shows but I’m looking for the kind of experience in which there’s an element of awe and terror … a musical experience that changes you as a person and makes you think differently about music (or, hell, life) differently from then on...

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