Friday, November 2, 2007

The Session: 1 Beer 3 Songs 3 Stories

Timmee Edwards, the NASCAR Legend, has brought to our attention today two of my greatest joys in life, music and beer. Wait, sorry, this is Tomme Arthur's idea and it turns out he is actually a brewer for some place in Southern California... Lost Abbey and Port Brewing. Yes, you're right, he is still a legend, just in a different sport. For those who don't know (and how could you not), Tomme writes over at the Lost Abbey blog and puts together the most amazing stories - he's a brewer who is great with words and is worth checking out on a regular basis. Anyway, onto The Session.

With so many thoughts and musings about their pairing, I honestly couldn't figure it out. I'd wanted to compare music and beer tastes, with an elementary assumption that those who like standard radio-play music (those who think Dave Matthews is the greatest singer and song-writer of all time) also like standard, Big Brother Beers, and those who sift through the dusty albums in funked out shops run by perpetually confused adults are more likely to also sift through beers in similar beer shops run by people of similar mental bent. I'd thought about it, but couldn't bring myself to really dig too deep into the subject.

Finally, I rested on a topic: One Beer, Three Songs, Three Experiences.

I begin with an answer to a question I've pondered on my own many times... what is it I really want in life?

"Since you enquired,
Let me take stock of what we roots rock -- ahem! -- 'weirdoes' desire....

Fishnets for every woman, and lipstick as red as flame
For every man a tatoo, a Chevy, and a dumb nickname
Cigarettes in every shirtsleeve, black leather on every back,
Fanzines in every bookstore, LPs in each record rack.

Three chords in every pop song! Four white guys in each band!
A ruthless media empire to saturate this land
Then, with our comrades, and our brothers in neo-swing,
We'll reclaim music from the kids for our fat dead cracker King!"

That's some of the lyrics to Robby Fulks' song, "Roots, Rock, Weirdos". This song was playing the background while friends were gathered around enjoying a double IPA. The mood was joyous, the conversations loud, and the beer seemed 'bright' in a way, the malt sweetness not heavy in any way and the hops seemingly taking part in the party.

If you're like me the best and most memorable times in life have four common ingredients: Friends; Food; Beer; Music. Now, it is no surprise to me that for each event the combination of the four changes. Often, however, the biggest change seems to be the music - it sets the mood after all.

Playing cards with friends recently, it seemed fitting that Mary Gauthier was singing, almost mournfully:

He'd get home at 5:30, fix his drink
And sit down in his chair
Pick a fight with mama
Complain about us kids getting in his hair
At night he'd sit alone and smoke
I'd see his frown behind his lighter's flame
Now that same frown's in my mirror
I got my daddy's blood inside my veins

Fish swim
Birds fly
Daddies yell
Mamas cry
Old men
Sit and think
I drink

With her, the same dumperial IPA I enjoyed with friends while listening to Robbie Fulks had a different impact. Yes, with Mary in the background the sweets are a bit deeper, the bitter barely an after-thought.

Now, I am not going to suggest, in the excitement of writing about beer and music, that music makes beer better worse or different. No, but I would suggest that the music playing in the background (maybe even in your head) has a lot to do with the mood you are in when you're enjoying your favorite beer.

Let's take a look at the last example of this.
uncle slaton's got his texan pride
back in the thickets with his asian bride
hes got an airstream trailer and a
holstein cow
still makes whiskey cuz he still knows how
plays that chocktaw bingo every friday night
you know he had to leave texas but he won't say why
he owns a quarter section up by lake ufalla
caught a great big ol bluecat on a driftin jugline
sells his hardwood timber to the chippin mill
cooks that crystal meth cuz his shine don't sell
he cooks that crystal meth cuz his shine don't sell
you know he likes that money, he don't mind the smell
At a concert in Reno last year, we had gone there to see James McMurtry playing with Dave Alvin (King of California) and were enjoying Pliny the Elder by the growler (yeah, we travel in style). The mood here was very different from our party in the garage or the party indoors, with the setting of the show in the mountains outside Reno and one of the greatest musicians of today setting up to entertain us for a few hours. We were drinking, we weren't tasting or sampling or critiquing. There we were, gathered around a cooler and pounding Pliny, enjoying the beer because we knew we enjoyed the beer.

In my iPod I have many playlists, but two of them are for drinking. My Low Volume Drinking list features Tom Waits, Mary Gauthier and a few quiet greats by McMurtry and Alvin and a bunch of other great artists. This playlist is for playing for friends and can stimulate conversation or just be there when the silence would otherwise take over. The second playlist is name (shockingly) High Volume Drinking and features Fulks, McMurtry, Hank Williams III and a few other high octane songs ideal for more active gatherings (and occasionally housework).

So, it ain't much. One great beer in three different settings with three great songs, resulting in three very different memories about the beer. It is just a story, my story, but I suspect this is an experience we can all associate with.

You can check out my Drunken Mess station on Pandora, free and online, to hear a few of my favorite artists and songs.

Also check out the other Session contributions:
Brookston Beer Bulletin (Jay Brooks)
Appelation Beer (Stan Hieronymus)
Lost Abbey (Tomme Arthur)
Best of American Beer & Food (Lucy Saunders)