Monday, June 18, 2007

Strawflower's Waltz, No. 1

It’s a well-known fact that Annie and I like to talk, but we thought it’s time we gave you the readers a chance to speak up and share your favorite Michigan music moments. We’re calling it Strawflower’s Waltz, appropriating the title of a Chris Bathgate song about a particularly memorable music-related moment. Here’s the first Strawflower’s featuring …


I saw your call for Michigan song stories.
So here's mine.
It's a classic Michigan song which, other than the "here, dog, come on,
dog, want you to go to Telegraph Road, right now, get a good deal," is
probably the best known by all people who grew up around here.

In seventh grade we had to sing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
And, being seventh graders, we couldn't help filling in with "neeer, neer neer, neer neer neer neer neeeeeer" between the verses, which made our teacher steaming pissed. She was a turquoise-knit-suit-wearing social studies teacher named Ms. Bozek, and I don't think she quite enjoyed having to teach classes full of snotty-ass Ann Arbor middle schoolers year after year.

On the day of the concert, when we sang the song for the sixth graders,
some of us got REALLY into the neer neer neer part, which we had been warned against doing at all. After the show she pulled us into her classroom, red-faced with indignation (I can still remember it against her amazingly bleached and voluminous hair), and shouting "you have no respect for this song! They were sailors, and now they're dead!"
And, because I was a total shit, I actually replied: "well that
wouldn't have been the case if she'd put fifteen more miles behind her."


Even though I’ve always loved music I had a hard time getting into the local music scene. I think part of it had to do with the fact that when I was 21, the age that most kids are going out and drinking their first legal beers and rocking out with their friends, I was living with my older brother. As massively extroverted as I was excruciatingly introverted, he had his own band and a record label that put out albums for bands that I considered to be the coolest in town. In my mind, the local music scene was the combination of coolness, musical knowledge and cute outfits that I was worried I couldn’t measure up to. Sure, I’d go see my favorite national bands when they came into town, and would occasionally go to a local show if someone expressly invited me, but for the most part the scene was outside my frame of reference and I had no idea how to change that.

Still, no matter how introverted I was there have always been things in my life that take me out of myself. Music, especially live music, is one, and Halloween is another. Something about dressing up as someone else is so freeing that it’s always been my favorite holiday, and I took the pressure off the social minefield of my high school by deciding that I would treat every day like Halloween. It’s the one night that I’ll brave a new club or a party full of strangers in the effort to make something happen, something to make that night feel different from all the others of the year. So, it seems fitting that when I first saw what would become my favorite local band they were all dressed up as zombies.

I had been to the Magic Stick on Halloween before and it offered everything I wanted. More than a dive bar but less than a hot club, it’s low-key and fun at the same time. I decided to go to the 2006 Zombie Dance Party without much thought about what bands were playing, so I was blown away when Great Lakes Myth Society took the stage. Right away I noticed Tim’s gravity-defying hair, Greg’s exposed frontal cortex and everyone’s blackened eyes (a look I had perfected in high school, by the way) but mostly I was struck by the music. In addition to the fact that everyone in the band was clearly a consummate musician, they sang songs about events and feelings that were completely familiar. By mining their own pasts and the legends of this state for material they tap into experiences that we can all relate to, to powerful effect.

That was my last show of 2006, but a few months later I made a New Years resolution about music. I decided that I would get serious about learning to play the guitar, try writing my own melodies and lyrics, and branch out in terms of what I listened to. I also decided that I would get over my fear of the local scene and start going to see more live music. Maybe I had finally hit the right age or state of mind because I’ve found it pretty easy to do, made easier by the practically endless number of talented musicians that play in the area. Great Lakes Myth Society has remained my favorite but I’ve added many more to the list, including several bands that they’ve shared the stage with.

I can’t thank Great Lakes Myth Society for this change in attitude but their music has been the perfect complement to it. They capture what it feels like to be invested in a place. When, even though the economy is ebbing ever downward and everyone I know is having trouble finding a job, it’s nice to live in the area that you’ve always been. It’s that continuity that makes changing your life especially rewarding, not that I’m planning on giving up zombies anytime soon.

Send your submissions for Strawflower’s Waltz to, and they just might end up on the Internet!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy crap, Leah. I'm glad we were able to bring you outta your musical shell some. I look forward to hearing what you come up with...


(P.S. My brain's totally like that all the time. I just have a leather flap with installed hair plugs to make it appear as if I have a normal non-trepanated noggin.)

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Leah said...

Well, if I'm half as prolific with music as I am at writing blog entries about writer's block, I'll be taking over the world in no time!

12:49 PM  
Anonymous creepy carey said...

I'm so happy you were able to truly experience what I dreamed ZDP could be. A fun group of people dressed as monsters out to have a good time and enjoy music.

I can't wait for the details to unfold for this year!

-Creepy Carey

9:40 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

the lyric is "here dog, c'mon dog - me and dog want you to go to..."
sorry. just had to set the record straight.

1:39 PM  

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