This weekend I’ll sit down to write about one of my truly formative films, a cinematic effort that helped define my notions of adulthood and especially friendship that endures past the easy cohesion of school years and across the years. All I’ll elude to in the piece, when I first saw the film I was young enough that the portrait of a bond freighted with history was as foreign to me as, say, an archeology professor engaged in feats of borderline implausible derring-do. And yet it struck a chord with me, as if I knew I’d have touchstones that roughly correlated to the characters in the film, such as the moment when a Creedence Clearwater Revival song comes on the car stereo, immediately triggering a shared memory of seeing the band live back in college.
We were college radio kids, so we occasionally had access to free tickets in distant cities (the acts we played on the air certainly weren’t factoring stops in dinky Stevens Point, Wisconsin into their respective tour schedules), meaning we had plenty of accumulated live show memories. For me, one of the sharpest and most treasured was a late spring night at Milwaukee’s Shank Hall. I was there with a a wonderful friend and the mood was celebratory. We were coming up on the end of the school year and basking in the pleasure of warming weather in Wisconsin, welcome like fast-acting medicine after the brutality of winter (and, as I recall, it was am especially hard winter that year). The opening act, John Kruth, had already won us over with his offbeat, goofball charms, and then the headliner, the main reason we were there, took the stage with nothing but his guitar and wowed the entire crowd with his energy, smarts and charisma.
I remember being amazed by Luka Bloom’s capability to keep the whole house attentive and appreciative without any back-up whatsoever. In a way, it was as pure of a concert experience as one could get: one man, his instrument, his voice, his songs. We were expecting something good (my friend, the station’s Music Director at the time had put a review on Bloom’s debut album that suggested anyone who didn’t find it amazing should “find a different radio station,” and it was hard to argue with his emphatic declaration), but what we got was closer to transformational, making me hear the performer’s recorded music with a new appreciation of its intricacies and verve. I couldn’t hear any of the songs off that debut, Riverside, without thinking back to that night, in a great club with a greater-than-great friend. It’s been more years than I care to tally, and that trigger remains in full effect. And I couldn’t be more appreciative. I like going back to that night.
Listen or download –> Luka Bloom, “An Irishman in Chinatown”
(Disclaimer: It’s getting more difficult for me to decisively discern such things, but I believe Luka Bloom’s Riverside to be out of print. And I don’t believe this track has shown up on any other collection of his songs. It is with that understanding–that it can’t be purchased at your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a way that duly compensates both the proprietor of said store and Mr. Bloom himself–that I share it here. Basically, I believe no one is harmed by my digital largesse. Still, I do understand how copyright laws work, whether I agree with them or not. Therefore, I will gladly remove the track if asked to do so by anyone with due authority to make such a request making such a request. Actually, I’d do that even if the laws didn’t work that way. I owe Luka Bloom that much for the joys of the Shank Hall show.)