Saturday, April 01, 2006

Co-Song of the Week 3/31

Young Fresh Fellows - "Hillbilly Drummer Girl"

Tina Turner - "Better Be Good to Me"

I've rarely had two such diverse songs dominate one week like this. The Tina story is easy--somehow my-coworker Doug brought up "Better Be Good to Me" in one of our stupid conversations that dominate our days. Of course, I immediately downloaded the track and cranked it up. And when Doug did his own Tina impression, I knew we had a winner. We listened to the song every day at work--and fruitlessly looked for the video where Tina just rips it up on stage somewhere. Damn, she was hot for a 60 (maybe older?) year old woman in 1984.

"Hillbilly Drummer Girl" is a bit of a longer tale. This week I saw two shows from The Minus 5, the group led by Young Fresh Fellows frontman Scott McCaughey. Scott started this band 13 years ago as a vehicle for his non-Fellows material and stocked it with a rotating cast of musicians. Within the past five years, he's solidified the lineup to an amazing four piece--Peter Buck on bass, John Ramberg on guitar and vocals and Bill Rieflin on drums. I've seen this lineup perform four times, and those shows are easily the best out of the nine Minus 5 gigs I've made it to.

Their two shows this week were two of the best concerts I imagine I'll attend this year. The second show at the Mercury Lounge was slightly better for one reason. (Well, two reasons if you count the smoking guest appearance by Lenny Kaye on guitar.) Scott walked up to the mic at one point and said, "This next song is a cover. It's by one of the best bands you'll ever see, and this song is probably one of the best you'll hear this year." Then McCaughey kicked off that killer riff that starts off "Hillbilly Drummer Girl." I started jumping up and down, screaming "yeah, YEAH!" All of the people around me at the front of the stage gave me some extra space for the rest of the show after that little display. And then two people came up and asked me, "Who does that song originally?" "Ugh," I thought, "How could these people not one of the best Fellows songs ever?" After the show was over I went up to Scott, gave him a hug and thanked him for breaking out that song, telling him he had no idea what it meant to me.

Now the Minus 5 have covered a Fellows song before--"I'm Not Bitter" from Down With Wilco was first on a rare Fellows LP--but I never expected this song to ever make a Minus 5 set. Hey, the Fellows have played New York three times in the past 12 years, so I'll take what I can get. And for it to be this song, well, it's almost too much.

I discovered the Fellows in college, really dug playing them throughout my time on 92 WICB and even played songs from them on my "alternative" show in Syracuse from 1992 to 1995. After moving to New York, I sort of forgot about them until I discovered my co-worker Jodie was a huge fan. One week we preceded to go on a Fellows spree, buying all the albums we didn't own, playing them at work, annoying our co-workers all the way. All these years later, whenever I hear "Hillbilly Drummer Girl," I think of her and the crazy, mixed-up and (once in a while) most perfect times in my life. (It also doesn't hurt that The Figgs recorded a cover of "Hillbilly Drummer Girl," making it even more appealing to my ears.)

The past few months I've been going through another emotional rollercoaster that makes me think back to those times almost a decade ago. So having the Minus 5 play this silly song about a female drummer going to Memphis on Tuesday night somehow how brought it all together. I'm not sure if it was relief, sadness over what could have been, sadness that what I hope for in the present day I know will never happen or just the extreme lack of sleep I've had all this year due to stress on all sorts of fronts, but during those three plus minutes Scott was singing and the band was rocking, it all melted away. I felt like that college kid again; I felt like that guy who had been in New York for a year and unexpectedly stumbled upon love; I felt like that guy from last summer who was cheerful to be around and truly enjoyed life for the first time in years. I felt good. I don't think I could adequately explain to Scott (who I feel lucky enough to be friendly with) how much his music has meant to me over the past decade, or how much that performance of "Hillbilly Drummer Girl" meant to the healthiness of my soul. But who knows, maybe that brief sweaty post-show hug said it all.

No comments: