Spinal Tap and my favorite live shows from Portland... aka... another weird Monday list...

OK, so I have a couple topics to discuss this week: the best/my favorite Spinal Tap songs and my favorite shows from my time in Portland, OR (which is not as expansive as you might think. Turns out there’s lots of venues, but not a lot of great one, and not a lot of great music in the city of Portland. College towns are better for mid-level artists. You know, the ones who are famous enough that we’ve heard of them and they’ve played enough shows to be amazing but not too big to phone it in at some “enormodome” type venue). With more than one topic (since I forgot to post this last week, you know, because I was moving into a new apartment and exploring the music scene in Charlotte, NC; so, fuck you) to get to, and already 5 Elijah Craig bourbons in me, let’s “get on with it” Monty Python style.

So, here we go. Here are my favorite Spinal Tap songs:

1) GSM (aka “Gimme Some Money” for the uninitiated)

Why is this song #1? Well, you probably figured that I would fucking tell you, didn’t you? It’s #1 because it’s the #1 song I’ve played from this movie over the years. Just as Spinal Tap used it to soundcheck (in Milwaukee, WI, no less! Go Brewers! Despite the fact they have been eating a dick lately…) with it, so did my band. I’ve played or fucked around in rehearsal with this song so many times, it’s basically a Bradley Wik and the Charlatans song by now. In fact, the producer/engineer/mixer of my first album “Burn What You Can, Bury the Rest…,” Rob Stroup, used to also play this with his band. Kinda part of the reason I recorded with him. Kindred spirits/lovers of weird/funny shit.

2) Big Bottom

The fact that this song features not one, not two, but three basses plus the synth playing bass lines… Jesus fucking Christ. Maybe it’s only funny to musicians but I can’t imagine how terrible this sounded live. No frequency filling, just lots of bass harmonies, which shouldn’t be a fucking thing. So fucking funny and strange. Also, “My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo. I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo” might be the greatest couplet of all-time. Shakespeare ain’t got shit on Tap.

3) Sex Farm

Because.. Just because. The opening line is “Working on a Sex Farm…” What a ridiculous concept that even all the fucking jokes, which are awesome, seem to pale in comparison to this absolutely absurd premise. Also, the words “Sex Farm Woman.” Just, such geniuses who came up with this. The jokes about pitchforks, raising hard love, plowing wheat fields is all secondary to the immaculately genius idea of a “sex farm.”

4) Tonight, I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight

Umm, using the same word twice in the same title (and chorus) is amazing. I stand amazed by the fact that they say “not a dry seat in the house” in the first fucking line. The genius of these men cannot be overstated. Spinal Tap may be the greatest Rock N’ Roll band ever. Except for their “Shit Sandwich” album. I hear it’s not great…

Like the great Brett Favre, lists are better at 4, so we’ll stop there. But, honorable mention is definitely “Heavy Duty” for its’ use of the word “duty” which always makes me laugh. Especially the line “Heavy Duty brings out the dootie in my soul…”

OK, here are the greatest shows I saw while I lived in Portland, OR, which was more than a handful of years. Yes, that city sucks and I hate it more than anything in the world but I did see some amazing shows there, so below are the top 4. In any other city, I would have had to do a top 20, but in Portand, 4 will suffice. Even the performances of people I love like Ryan Adams, Wilco, the Hold Steady, etc. were less than spectacular due to the shitty crowds in Portland who are “too cool” to have fun at shows. Fuck that. Music is about communing in something that can’t be found anywhere else and can’t be experience outside that moment. I’ve watched Bruce Springsteen’s live at the Garden DVD probably 100 times and it didn’t even live in the same country from when I ACTUALLY saw the Boss at the Garden. Same for every other live DVD I own (and that’s lots). Anywhere, enough preamble, here you go":

1) Damien Rice - Keller Auditorium

Damien is the proud owner of 3 of my favorite all-time shows. For those keeping score at home, that includes all 3 times I’ve seen him live. The first time with a hundred or so people in Madison, WI on the inaugural stateside “O” tour. My buddy Jake kept making illicit comments about the girl dancing on the stage during the opening bands set, which turned out to be Lisa Hannigan. Turns out she’s pretty fucking gorgeous. We didn’t know back then…

The second time was in Chicago during the “9” tour. He was equally stunning. It’s hard as artists graduate to larger and less intimate stages to see if they can maintain their awesomeness. Damien did. He did in spades.

The third time in Portland, I took my girlfriend (at the time) who was skeptical at best to see this show. She was more interested in the opener Markéta Irglová (from the movie “Once,” and a real life band I hear…) before we arrived. She proceeded to be mesmerized by Damien (as we all were) and occasionally I still hear her talk about how “sexy” he was, especially on “Me, My Yoke and I.” I have to say, she isn’t wrong..

2) Joanna Newsom - Schnitzer Hall

This was on the “Divers” tour. Needless to say, my girlfriend (at the time) was equally not excited to Joanna. I assured her it would be amazing, but had to almost force her to attend. You can always tell a great concert when two people who are really into each other (sexually) don’t speak or even look at one another for almost two hours. I actually forgot I bought a drink and it sat there half-drank for two hours until we left and I realized I paid $12 for a shitty whiskey and promptly poured it down my throat. But, it was the second time in a year that I totally blew her mind with a live show recommendation. Though, the flipside of that is that she didn’t want to come out to many more shows since nothing would compare to Joanna and the kind himself, Damien. Fair…

3) Bonnie “Prince” Billy - McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom

It was the first time I ever got to see Will live. I had spent years living in areas he rarely toured, moving during a tour and missing the shows in both my new and old living places, and generally playing geographical “phone tag” with the man responsible for some of my favorite albums (“I see a darkness,” “Viva Last Blues,” and “Days in the Wake”). Finally, I got a hold of him. Yes, it was at one of my least favorite Portland venues. You know, the kind that sections off the front of stage area for minors and makes people drink in the back (Fuck you Berbati’s and re-opened Satyricon as well; both of which closed down shortly after I played them… The Jon Fickes curse continues…). But, the show was wonderful and to finally see my man Mr. Oldham was a treat. He’s a much better singer than he lets on and his band was amazing. Sure, they didn’t play many Palace era tunes, but this was like 10 years later so I’ll forgive him since he did indulge us in more than a couple “I see a darkness” tunes.

4) Shonen Knife - Dante’s

#4 was tough as there were a lot of great bands I saw in Portland, but were better at the shows I witnessed elsewhere (read: Ryan Adams, Wilco, the Hold Steady, Modest Mouse, etc.). Land of Talk or Helle’s Belles (the all-girl AC/DC tribute band) are my runners-up but it’s hard to top the random awesomeness of Shonen Knife. First, that night had started strange. My girlfriend, my buddy and his wife all went to this hipster fucking 90’s club because we wanted to get fucked up and sweaty dancing to ridiculous tunes (and hoping against hope that somehow, some way, they would play the Prodigy) but they kicked out my buddy because he was “drunk and couldn’t talk straight,” aka because he had one beer and he was born and raised in Scotland. Also, he had lived for over 10 years in America and his accent wasn’t that crazy, until about 8 more drinks. But since we got thrown out of the shitty hipster club, we wandered over towards Dante’s. Well, actually we were headed to Kell’s or that underground place that had cheap drinks and welcomed drunks when we decided to stop at Dante’s for some pizza by the slice. We hears some strange punk coming from inside. The show had already started so the bouncer let us in for free (after we explained what had happened at the other club). On stage were these three Japanese girls fucking rocking out and singing about how much they liked green tea. Needless to say, we were hooked. We got a Ramones cover shortly thereafter and we fell in love. I’m not sure how much of the show we missed but we still got to see an hour of their set and it was fucking magnificent. Fucking magnificent. I’ve been obsessed ever since.

It’s funny thinking back on the shows and how I’ve seen better shows in Seattle, Salem, Eugene and Spokane during my time in Portland, but the above were my favorite 4 in the city of Portland. An amazing group of performers trying their best to make a Portland crowd not be a bunch of fucking dicks and actually enjoy themselves for once…

(dictated but not read)

Two Words: Shit Sandwich

Two Words: Shit Sandwich

Insomnia and what cures it, for me, at least... aka music. Top 5 albums I fall asleep to...

Figured I'd give you the music right off the fucking bat in case you're one of those people that can listen to music AND do anything else, like read, at the same time. For me, music is a solitary focus only but I hear I'm a little weird with shit like that...

Well, it's Monday night (or whenever the hell it is when you are reading this), so it's time for your weekly dose of ol' Bradley Wik. I found out recently that, apparently, I was the last person on the planet still using two spaces after a sentence while typing, so I'm trying to get used to using only one. Forgive me if I add extra ones here and there. Fucking old habits die hard. I've had to delete three in this short-ass first paragraph already...

But, last week was a fucking weird one for me. I had an enormous fucking blister on my thumb which made it damn near impossible to pick a guitar/record (bourbon helps with the pain), I tried to start going through and mixing some of the recordings I made last week only to find they were, for all intents and purposes, unusable, which pissed me off to no fucking end, so I just wanted to relax and watch some TV but football is gone, baseball hasn't yet started, so I binged seasons 5 and 6 of "VEEP" and fell in love with Jonah and Richard Splett all over again. Which was nice, for a while. Then, I had an Asperger's attack/breakdown over getting a new tattoo because I really wanted to get it this weekend but I am going to Disney World in less than a week and was paranoid about it getting infected on the water rides. But, I had already made up my mind to go get it which means I spoiled almost two entire days pouting/freaking out that I didn't get to do what I had already planned on doing even though it was entirely my fault as I had completely forgotten I was going to Disney World so soon after. It likely would've been fine anyways, but I already don't heal particularly quickly (bourbon doesn't help in this case) and generally have shit luck with vacations in the first place. It literally only delayed the new tattoo by a couple weeks but Asperger's is a bitch sometimes and loves to fuck up my days with nonsense...

But, what I really wanted to talk about today was insomnia and my top five albums to fall asleep to. So, no reason to keep blathering on about nonsensical things when I could be blathering on about semi-nonsensical things...

Insomnia and me

I think it started shortly after I turned 18. I had spent the past 9 years sharing a room with my little brother who was (and still is!) 8 1/2 years younger than me. You'd think it would be a bummer for a high schooler to share a room with an 8 year old but it was actually the opposite. My brother and I got along swimmingly (and still do). Of course, it's much easier for me to get along with someone who has excellent (and very similar) taste in music, movies, television and video games. We hung out a lot of the time and I had control of the stereo and TV, so he didn't really have many other options, but, he definitely could've hated listening to Outkast's "Stankonia" on repeat while playing NFL 2K1 (Dreamcast for life muthafuckers!) for hours on end. But, he didn't. He even choreographed one of his first karate test routines to the fucking White Stripes. I think he was 7 at the time. What can I say, kid's a badass and he knows good shit when he hears it.

Leaving home was semi-traumatic as I crave structure and routine. Leaving was the opposite (though, ironically, leaving/moving would become my new routine so staying in one place became the difficult thing) as it forced me to sleep in some place new, eat new food (food I had to cook), go to new stores, a new job, and move into a shitty, college rental house. It turned out to be amazing and I could've lived there forever with Jake and Quinn, but life had other plans for us all.  But, just uprooting everything was jarring for a kid with Asperger's. It didn't sit right and sleeping became difficult. I moved from Horicon, WI, population 3000 to a busy street in Madison, WI, population a billion as far as I was concerned. The street noise, which would eventually become my friend, was such a shock that I couldn't tune it out enough to sleep. For the first month or so in Madison, I think I slept maybe 3 or 4 hours a night. 9 years was a long normal that suddenly disappeared for me. After the initial Asperger's shock wore off, I needed to normalize it. Jake and Quinn listened to music (quite loudly, I might add) as they dozed off. It dawned on me that I could use music, my one true love, to help me adjust to new surroundings. My routine could be the wonderful music that made me feel human, comforted me and gave my life meaning. You see, with Asperger's and its lack of empathy, "human-ness" was hard to come by. I always felt an outsider, a stranger to even myself and someone who didn't understand how other humans interacted and felt so comfortable amongst each other. I didn't  get it. They clearly understood or had something I did not. But music bridged that gap. Suddenly, I could surround myself with people who had the same obsession I did. It made me feel connected to the rest of the world in a way I didn't before. It helped me understand how humans made contact amongst one another in a friendly way. I needed it to survive. Now, it could help me achieve one of the most basic human needs for survival: sleep. For years, I couldn't sleep without music playing. I may not use it every night anymore (as most nights I pass out on the couch watching TV after a handful of bourbons), but when I do, it puts me out like a baby. I can hit the sack and within 20 minutes be sleeping like a baby with the right record. Which brings me to...

My top 5 albums to fall asleep to


Honorable mentions: Jeff Buckley - Grace, Portishead - Eponymous, The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

Jeff Buckley's music has helped me in innumerable ways throughout my life, including saving it on more than one occasion, so it can occasionally be difficult to listen to passively enough to fall asleep. I've used it to soothe my soul on so many nights, but it's also kept me awake with its beauty on more than one occasion (whether by its pure musical magic or the memories it stirs in me) so I have to relegate it to honorable mention in this case.

Portishead is wonderful late night music. Unfortunately, it's also wonderful late night music for certain, R-rated things as well. So, it can't be counted on 100% to send me to slumberland as it sometimes sends me to excited land, which is not conducive to falling asleep.

The Gaslight Anthem's '59 Sound is like comfort food. It's not the most original, complex, inventive or brilliant album but it knows what it is and it does it fucking well. It's punk, Springsteen, storytelling and about as on the nose as a fucking handjob, but sometimes that's all you need.

Now, to the good stuff:

5. Palace Brothers - Days in the Wake

A record recommended to me by the kind (and musically-genius) folks at B-Sides records in Madison, WI. I came in for the Bonnie Prince Billy "I See a Darkness" record and they brought up his past projects and said I'd probably love this. They were right as fuck. I spent 6 months writing songs that could fit on the sequel to this album because it inspired me so much. The rawness, the honesty, the sometimes ridiculousness of it all were so beautiful. When I drink, I always play "I am a Cinematographer" and "I Send My Love to You" without fail. Just gorgeously raw music.

4. Neil Young - After the Gold Rush


This album isn't my favorite Neil Young album, it's not even in my top 3 (well, can be #3 depending on my mood and the day), but it has an effect on me that I cannot fully describe. It's calming and numbing (in a good way) and gets me out of my head in a way that is wonderful. I'll also never forget the night I drank, well, more than my fair share of wine and watched Arrested Development reruns until 3:30 am. I finally went to bed but needed to wind down from all the laughter. I popped this record on but being drunk, wasn't aware of the apparent volume. Turns out, my downstairs neighbor didn't appreciate the late night/early morning Neil Young; except maybe she did as she wrote me a letter saying to keep it down late at night unless I give her a call and invite her up for my late night "parties." If I wasn't with someone at the time, I probably would have. Other than that, I never had any interaction with my neighbors at that Portland apartment, though it was one of the last apartments that allowed smoking since it "had let people do it for so long, they couldn't ask them to stop now. Besides, they had extensive renovations to do (read: the apartments were shitty) so they'll deal with it then."

3. Joanna Newsom - Y's

This is such a strange album for me. My Asperger's brain struggles to figure this out. I don't have any clue how to make music like this and I keep trying to figure out how this came into existence. To me, it's like a crazy math riddle that I don't know the formula to. But, I love it. I love it so much. This vinyl is one of my most well-worn/loved. The CD didn't leave my Sony boombox for months and months on end when it first entered. I listened to this album incessantly on my iPod on the train to work when I live in NYC. Joanna has played some of my favorite live shows that I've ever seen. She truly is an artist in every sense of the word, and if you don't own the vinyl version of this, by God, sell your fucking children (or $20 or $30 worth of something else) to get it. You won't regret it. But, make sure you also get the CD so you can listen as you doze off to "Monkey and Bear." I rarely make it past "Monkey and Bear" when I play this late at night.

2. Bjork - Vespertine

"Homogenic" is far too upbeat and wonderous to fall asleep to. No, this is the album you need to whisk you away into a magical night of slumber and dreams. The majestic tone of this album set against those jagged but hypnotic soundscapes are just too much to fathom. Unlike "Y's" where my brain is trying to figure out the math, this just breaks my brain and it shuts off, in the best possible way when you're trying to turn off the day. If I make it to "Undo," I can't help but let a tear slip despite my eyes being tightly closed. If I could ever make a song like that (or anything on this album) I would immediately retire knowing I'd never achieve such heights again. Luckily for us, Bjork wasn't done reaching heights.

1. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire

This album puts me to sleep in the sadness, most nostalgic way possible. Back in Madison, WI when I was just figuring out the nocturnal magic of music, this was one of the first albums that lulled me to sleep. The reminiscing of high school times, which I was fresh out of, was too much, set against the pop-electronic rock concept while handing off singing duties/doing duets with an equally talented female was something I always wanted to dabble in. This album has all the teenage emotions a young person can handle: fleeting love, anger, lust, sadness, the feeling that somehow this is the best it will ever get, ambition, hope, youthful regret, the false permanence, underage drunkenness, etc. This album is likely not as good as I think it is (one of the 10-15 greatest albums ever made) but it means that much to me. I don't know why. It's just one of those time and place albums that is now so embedded and such a sense memory for all the emotions and experiences that time represents that it is indelibly a part of me. There's a sadness and a joy and a comfort in that. I like that this album keeps all that for me. I don't have to forget. I don't have to carry it with me. This album takes care of all that for me. I just have to place it, close the lid and let the lasers do the rest. That little piece of plastic keeps all that shit at a distance but within reach. God bless it. Thank you Stars for the countless nights that I've enjoyed sleep when I otherwise couldn't. It's a blessing and I cannot repay you enough for what you've given me. I once collapsed at work from lack of sleep, but then I found this album and it literally changed my life. Only a small number of records have done that and these sad, reminiscing kids from Canada did it. Congratulations. I'll probably die with this record on. Or "Born to Run" or "Bold as Love" or "Blood on the Tracks" or "Tonight's the Night" or "Grace" but it's crazy "Set Yourself on Fire" is even in that conversation...

(dictated but not read)

stars set yourself on fire.jpg