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My Diary-11/11/07-In the Land of Adam

Dated Sunday November 11, 2007 7:02pm (depending where you are)
Somewhere (once again) in the air between here and there

So I keep having this problem with this one movie. It's this repeated case of …I don't know…Filmus Interruptus? I'm always watching it on an airplane and every time I try to finish it, they take it away. It also always makes me want to write something, which is, by the way, part of the problem.

I was on a flight back from California about a month ago and…you know how sometimes they give you those little DVD players? Well I was on this long flight and I watched this pretty cool movie called "Namesake" about an Indian family and their son's attempts to reconcile his American upbringing and life with his Indian heritage. It's a good movie. You should see it.

Anyway, I was bored after it was over and I went looking in their little case of movies for something else to watch and I stumbled upon this film called "In the Land of Women". I'd never heard of it and I didn't know anything about it but…well, you know, I'm me and they used the word "women" so…I mean if you haven't figured it out by now, that's really about all it takes.

So I started watching it and it turns out it stars Adam Brody and Meg Ryan and Olympia Dukakis, all of whom are pretty great, and this girl Kristen Stewart, who I've never seen in anything before (She's in Sean Penn's new film "Into the Wild. I looked it up). She looks like she's about 17 or 18 and she's really good too. It kind of reminded me of a less whimsical "Garden State". It's about a young writer who leaves LA and goes back to the Midwest to stay with his ailing grandmother for a while and help take care of her. He's kind of heartbroken and a little fucked up and sort of lost. It just has this slightly sad sweet tone to it. I was really digging it but then, about a half hour into the movie, the stewardess came by and said she had to collect the DVD players because we were getting ready to land.

Is there anything worse than someone taking your movie away right in the middle? I fucking hate that. Did you ever go to a theatre and have the projector go to shit mid-film. God, that sucks!

The weird thing was how much I was feeling though. I rushed home from JFK (slight exaggeration there-as if rushing anywhere from JFK was possible) and went straight for my piano. I just finished a record a few months ago. I didn't expect to write anything for ages, but there I am, truly inspired and moved, pouring out all this music. I got up the next morning and called my friend Stephen. We've been planning for a couple years to write a play together but I knew I couldn't focus on writing anything else until I'd finished writing this record. But that's been done for months now so, inspired, I told him I was ready to get started. It's a perfect time because although I'll be touring for the next few years, I won't really have any pressing writing demands.

Unfortunately, I forgot he was out in LA getting ready to direct his 1st movie. In fact, in an epic moment of bad timing, principal photography was scheduled to begin the next day. So that was that.

I still wanted to see the rest of the movie though so I went on Netflix and Amazon looking for it but it wasn't out yet. In other words, I was screwed. The airline must have some sort of deal with early DVD releases.

So I forgot about it, and then about 10 days ago I was flying home from our monitor guy Kory's wedding in LA and once again they gave me one of those little DVD players. I looked through the movies and, sure enough, there it was so I started watching it again. Unfortunately, the fast forward wheel on the DVD player was broken and there weren't any extras so I had to start over from the beginning. It was only an extra half hour though, and I'd sort of forgotten parts of it so the refresher wasn't all that bad a thing. I really dug it again. I guess that kind of mood just really appeals to me; I loved "Garden State" too.

It really moved me and, once again, I was really inspired to write, so much so that I had to stop watching the movie about 45 minutes into it and get out my computer, which led to the beginning of last week's Diary entry. If you read it, you know it was really long and so, of course, it took a long time to write. I don't notice that sort of thing when I'm writing though so I didn't realize how much time had passed until a lot later. When I DID finally realize, it occurred to me that if I didn't put the fucking computer away, I, once again, wasn't going to finish the movie. So I put the thing away and started watching the film again (it starts where you stopped it so I didn't have to go back to the beginning this time). Sure enough, however, about 15 minutes later, the flight attendant (notice the maturation process of the writer as he switches to the newer, shinier, and more politically correct terminology) came by and took the damn DVD player away again.

Now if there's anything worse than having your movie taken away from you 30 minutes into a 90-minute film, it's having your movie taken away from you 60 minutes into a 90-minute film.

I wanted top shoot myself (or whoever these inventors are who can't build a billion dollar airplane that can manage to make it to the fucking ground safely while someone is using a stupid DVD player. I mean, are we serious here or are they making this up? If I was a terrorist…well, I'd be thinking: screw smuggling explosives or guns or a toenail clipper or a tube of toothpaste or moisturizer or whatever passes for a truly lethal weapon of mass destruction these days; I'll just bring along my portable Panasonic DVD player and a copy of "Moulin Rouge", then leave it playing in my seatback pocket as "we begin our descent into Burbank". It's a horrifying thought but it WOULD help do something about the "Moulin Rouge" problem).

I got way off the subject there (I hope this doesn't get me on some sort of watch list) but my point is that I was by that point pretty frantic to see the ending of the freaking movie. I rushed home (slowly) from JFK and, because my room is a disaster and I couldn't find any NetFlix movies to return, I jumped on Amazon and ordered a copy of "In the Land of Women" (it was available by then) for next day delivery. It was a Friday so I had to pay extra for Saturday delivery but I didn't care. I needed to see the end of the movie.

Badly.

It was late and I was pretty tired by then, so, knowing the movie, and all its inherent emotional juice, was safely winging its way to me, I decided to finish writing the Diary entry after I finished the movie the next day and I went to sleep.

Unfortunately the movie didn't arrive the next day. Somehow it came during the one 5 minute period when my doorman was taking a whiz or something and, with no one to sign for it, it went to some holding facility in Jersey. Obviously it wasn't going to arrive on Sunday and the diary entry felt pretty important so I went back to writing it. I got it finished but didn't send it in until Sunday after seeing "Lions for Lambs".

I had to take a train down to DC Monday for my nephews' 5th b'day. I was hoping to watch the movie on the train but it didn't show up before I left so I resigned myself to seeing it when I got back to NYC on Wednesday. But it wasn't there Wednesday when I got back so that night I finally called Amazon. They were really cool about it. Apparently, when no one was there to receive the package on Saturday, it went to Jersey and then got sent back to whatever warehouse in Limbo or Uzbekistan or the North Pole Amazon ships all it's stuff from in the 1st place. They promised it would be sent out free of charge the next day and most assuredly arrive on Friday afternoon.

Cool, right?

Except I had a 6am flight Friday morning from (you guessed it) JFK to SFO for the Cal-u$c game this weekend and there was no way it was going to get there before I left home at 4am so…

Shit (and don't even get into this weekend with me).

But…

…I got on the plane home to NY this afternoon and the stewardess (back to being a chauvinist pig) brought by our old friend the airline DVD player, which I took one look at, smiled, settled comfortably into my seat, opened, sighed, and reached very happily for the copy of "In the Land of Women" so I could finally finish it…

…And they no longer had it.

No, just kidding. They had it and I watched and it was great. And once again it made me want to write. So here I am.

And none of that is actually what I wanted to write about. That is what we, in the PRO-fessional writing biz call a "Pro;ogue" (write that down kids, it's gold).

Actually, now that I look at it more carefully, don't write that down. It's actually called a "Prologue". I have no fucking idea what a "Pro:ogue" is, other than it's obviously someone competing outside the amateur levels of whatever ";ogue" is. In other words, it would constitute an NCAA violation if a school were found to have a professional ;ogue player on their ;ogue team. Sorry Trojans, but it's just the sort of thing your ;ogue team is probably guilty of and as soon as the NCAA catches on to the free houses and SUVs your ;ogue players are being given by all your rich boosters, they're going to probably slap you with some truly serious sanctions like a "good talking to" or perhaps even the loss of several table tennis scholarships and possibly (I shudder to think) a ban on your intra-mural wiffle ball team from NCAA Tournament competition for a year or two. Maybe then you'll finally learn your lesson that cheaters never prosper.

Anyway, write down "Prologue" if you want to, although by this point, who the hell cares?

Can I just get back to what I was thinking about when I finished the movie?

Adam Brody writes a letter to Meg Ryan in the movie in which he basically says that he's been trying to write something really worthwhile his whole life because he figured if he did, then people would love him. So that got me thinking: is that why I write songs?

Because it's a theme in there. Mr. Jones is definitely full of elements about the lure of fame and rock and roll and what it will do as far as changing the way people feel about me. And (admittedly contrary to the reports in the tabloids, which, by the way, you're an idiot if you read them as a source of what we in the PRO-fessional writing biz call, and let me write this in real BIG letters for you, "THINGS THAT ACTUALLY TAKE PLACE IN A REAL, AS OPPOSED TO AN IMAGINARY, UNIVERSE") I've always been sort of a solitary, even (insert plea-for–sympathy moment here) lonely guy.

OK, I'll stop screwing around here. I actually want to talk about some stuff but I got on a roll here and I've been smart-assing it for five pages already, which is fun but enough.

So I started thinking about how much of my life and my songs are geared towards that same goal or even whether they are at all. I mean, I didn't want to be a shy kid but I was. I don't like being alone but I am. I don't want to be single but I am. I definitely thought at one point that SOME of that shit might be solved if I could write a good enough song. But then I got to thinking that all that stuff about being unloved isn't really a problem in my life. Regardless of this bullshit cliché you hear all the time about the biggest problem with success or fame being that "you can't tell who your real friends are", I know who my friends are. I know exactly who my friends are, and I know my family, and I know the women I've been involved with in my life. I know how lucky I've been because most of them are truly extraordinary people. There are some horrific female exceptions that have coincided (coincidentally) with some horrific periods in my life but only a few. And our friendships and love affairs have, at their core, had nothing to do with the band or our success. I've just had great people in my life. I've had assholes too but I always felt you could spot those bottom feeders a mile away, unless flattery really is the thing that keeps your particular boat afloat, in which case you are screwed anyway and what you get is exactly what you deserve. My problem has never been a lack of people who cared for me; my problem has been mustering whatever it takes to give a flying fuck about anyone else.

Nah, that's not really true either. It sounded clever but it's not really true. I was trying to say I have trouble caring about other people and I just said it in an idiotic way, especially because "not caring" isn't really the thing either. I do care. I care a lot. I care about my family and I care about how my friends are doing and I care about whether they're happy or sad or whether there's anything they need or anything I can do to help. I care about a lot of stuff. I don't have a problem with that kind of caring.

I have a huge problem with this kind of caring that involves feeling connected to people because that's supposed to be a more consistent thing and it REALLY comes and goes for me. I guess I'm that way about the world in general. Sometimes it's there for me and sometimes it just doesn't seem real; it seems instead like something taking place that I'm watching from a distance or imagining. That's not such a big problem in a lot of my day-to-day life because it doesn't happen when I'm playing music. If it did, I'd be screwed, but it doesn't. And day-to-day life, if you've got a job you're good at, is something you can get away with living at a distance.

People, as you know, are a different story, and living among the ones who care for you as if, at times, they are just figments of your imagination is a very very very good recipe for spending your life alone in hotel rooms. It's also simply less than they deserve. The movie wasn't much help in this regard. I just liked it. I'm not sure what he learns in the end. What I myself learned is that you can find people who truly care for you without writing a great novel even when you accidentally in the heat of the moment (well, actually the heat of two separate moments) make out with both a really cute sweet cool underage girl AND her really cute sweet cool mom who has cancer as long as you're a really cute sweet arty guy, but, on the other hand, if one of the chicks from "Big Love" somehow turns up as a cute sweet cool waitress at the counter of some diner you're eating at, you're better off having your nearly completed novel with you because, apparently, the way to the heart of a "chick from "Big Love" who's inexplicably working at a Hollywood diner" is (I guess?) through your Mac's word processing program. Does that make any sense?

Oh, and whatever you do, don't date actresses. The film is very clear on that (but I pretty much learned my lesson on that one a long time ago, not that I won't almost certainly be unlearning it at some point in either the not too distant future or the first chance I get, whichever comes first).

I'm making fun of the movie but I really did love it. I loved it so much that I've probably just gone and ruined it for you. C'est la vie.

Anyway, to sum up my day: no progress on the "people may or may not be figments of my imagination" front but I finally got to see the movie.

Which…I just realized, is probably going to be waiting for me in the mailroom of my building when I get home tonight. Guess I won't "rushing home" from JFK tonight. Might as well take my fucking time this trip.

So I guess nothing really happened AND it took me 7 pages to tell you that. Great.

You know what? I thought of something. I think today is Veteran's Day, today or tomorrow anyway. I read in a newspaper last week that this is one of only two national holidays where we actually honor living people. So maybe take a second to think about that during your day off, if you get one.

This is obviously a time of great national divisiveness and veterans are at the center of that. People all across our country and around the world have deep and polarized feelings about whether or not we should be involved in these wars. I just don't think that means any of you should have necessarily divided feelings about our vets. Vietnam was a war so many Americans were against and in that conflict the people who fought it didn't, for the most part, even have a say in whether or not they even went to war, yet many vets were treated with disrespect and distrust when they finally got back home. That was a terrible mistake on the part of the American people and one many of those Vets are still paying for.

I guess my point is that there's a different between foreign policy and the young people who end up halfway around the world implementing it. Whether they belong to your political party or not and whether they agree or disagree with whatever basic social or moral beliefs you have, they're still people who volunteered for a terrifying job because they believed they were doing something good and important for their country. Now, and for the foreseeable future, many of them will be returning home from a very difficult situation straight into another very difficult situation, that of trying to re-integrate and re-assimilate themselves back into a now very unfamiliar and likely surprisingly alien-seeming life back at home. I doubt it's all that easy. Volunteers or not, I can't believe very many of them could possibly have expected what they lived through over there. I doubt anyone who fights in a war is ever really prepared for the reality of it and that's something all of them have to deal with for the rest of their lives. My dad was drafted during Vietnam. He retired a Major at the age of 32 and I thank my lucky stars every day that he spent those years WITH us, stationed in West Texas in El Paso instead of apart from us somewhere in Southeast Asia.

Anyway, I'm not trying to make any big point here other than to suggest you maybe take a minute to consider what Veterans Day really means and try to view it with a bit of dignity and sympathy and respect.


Check out my blog here on MySpace or just go to http://adam.countingcrows.com/ to read this new one and all the others. They run all the way back to 1996.
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Update 11/4/07-We are walking into Jerusalem looking for God

Dated Friday November 2, 2007 3:45pm
Hung in the sky between here and there

It is the summer of 1980 and we are walking into Jerusalem looking for God. There is something I am hoping to find. There is always something I'm hoping to find. I am always looking.

The generation before me, my father's generation, went off in search of America but that journey is long since over and done. They did not find it or found it and lost it before I was even old enough to know something was missing from our lives. This was in the days after our souls had gone missing, before we realized anything was gone. This was before I went looking for something that wasn't there and found a hole where I was supposed to be. They searched and returned home and then I was born into a generation of emptiness, of boys and girls with minds as sharp as clear winter skies and hearts like any other generation of boys and girls…and holes in the places where WE ourselves were supposed to be.

Just blank space. And silence.

Or maybe it was just me. Even with a clear mind, the world is an unclear place and sometimes it's hard to tell where you end and everyone else begins. All I know for sure is that you do end somewhere and somewhere they begin, and in between is a bridge you are supposed to cross to find a place for yourself in someone else. But the part of you that knows the way across, or even how to see the bridge at all, is just a hole. So you stay at home and look for something inside. But before too long, you fill the gap, and the daylight, with cartoons on Saturday and comic books, and later with longer shows from the nice people at the alphabet factories where they make the pictures of the world we live in, and you take those pictures with you to school and try to use them to find and cross the bridge because eventually…eventually and inevitably…you look up one day and find that your eyes are filled with the eyes of a girl who sees you.

And you wanted someone to see you.

But it's just holes staring into holes and so…and so you are blind and the bridge is nowhere to be found. Or maybe it is just that I am blind, because maybe it's just me. And even though I FEEL filled to bursting with everything, I AM empty of anything, or at least anything I can see.
Just more blank space. And silence.

Or maybe it is, as Carolyn Forche once wrote, that "the silence of God is God."

So, in any case, it is July of 1980, it is 102 degrees outside in the sun, and I am walking into Jerusalem looking for God.

I am, in truth, already in Jerusalem but there is a city within the city and I am walking through its gates into the House of David and the flight of Mohamed and the death of Jesus and the Temple of Solomon. I am walking through millennia into a 3000 year old marketplace, a cooler covered dark endless maze filled with a cacophony of color and language and silks and spices, and I imagine everything is very much how it has been since there were Romans.

It is a relief from the hammer of sunlight outside the gates and I am walking towards the places where millions of people have asked the same questions I will ask. I am walking towards the places some of them have found answers. I am going to look for something specific in a place where someone like me could really only find something vague. But I don't know that yet. Right now I am really just looking for a bong.

Well, not really a bong. It's actually called a hookah and I have the picture of it engraved in my imagination. It will be tall and carved out of wood. I will have a shiny brass metal base and a huge brass bowl blooming like a flower at the top. It will have four hoses coming out of its sides, four tightly woven cloth hoses, with four wooden mouthpieces at their ends. It will carry a sense of community with it. It will, in other words, get my friends and I so high when I get home that our brains will hopefully explode out of the tops of our heads and send us somewhere different from where we are, maybe even across a bridge I have given up on, a bridge I have forgotten I was ever looking for in the first place.

It is the summer of 1980, I am walking into Jerusalem, it is hot as fuck, and, these days, this is what passes as looking for God.

Days pass wandering through the marketplace and I don't find the hookah of my imagination. I do find that, in Jerusalem, no one cares how old I am and there is pretty much as much beer and hashish available as any one of us can consume. All we have to do is climb out the hotel window, tightrope the 10 feet across the wall to the tree and then down two stories through the branches to the ground without getting caught. After that, the city, and the night, are ours. We put them to good use.

Weeks pass and we leave Jerusalem behind to wander through Tel Aviv and Haifa and, because it is 1980 and the Sinai has not yet been returned to Egypt, we wander south past Eilat and down through the desert until it ends at Sharm el Sheikh where we go snorkeling among the sharks, even after we have been warned not to, because we are boys and we are stupid and we want to seem like men.

Two years later, as bombs are being lobbed from the hills of southern Lebanon into northern Israel, I will return to Israel and get drunk in Eilat and go joyriding offroads south towards the desert forgetting that it is now a separate country. I will meet some friendly, if extremely well armed, border guards who are nice enough not to throw me in jail for being a drunken 17 year old idiot trying to illegally cross a border in a borrowed jeep.

But back in 1980, I get sunstroke on the beach in Haifa and start hallucinating that evening during a bizarre showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" subtitled in Hebrew, Arabic, and French as people act out the movie onstage in three different languages while the sunstroke boils my mind.

I find myself later outside of Beersheba near the Gaza Strip working on a Kibbutz for a little while. I do well in the apple orchards so eventually I get to operate the cherry picker, driving the motorized ladder around and elevating myself to the tops of the trees to get the apples no one else can reach. This lasts until I get caught pelting my friends with rotten apples. That lands me in a grain silo alternating between filling a bucket 20 feet below ground in the choking dust and hauling said bucket up in the sun on a pulley with a rope and a hook. Neither the silo or the chicken farm or the peanut fields I eventually ended up in are exactly heaven so I get no closer to God but there is still a lot of beer and hash so my journey retains some continuity.

Eventually we return to Jerusalem and I return to the Old City and the marketplace. But things are different now. I've been trashed pretty much every day since I arrived in Israel and the idea of the hookah doesn't hold the same excitement it once did. Nevertheless, I return to the Old City every day anyway but now I wander further and deeper past the marketplace and down to the Western Wall.

I visited the Wall before but now I go there every day, spending more and more time there and less and less time in the market. There are always chairs by the wall and I always find one. I pull it close to the wall and I sit there, sometimes touching it, sometimes resting my head against it, and sometimes just sitting there staring at the bare and ancient stone.

I have no idea why.

I don't know what I am doing there, only that I am there. But there is something. There is the faint brush of something hanging somewhere in the distance just out of sight, something I keep thinking I can find, as if a person could look at a wall and squint their eyes and see a bridge. So I stare at the wall.

And then one day something is missing. Well, maybe not exactly missing but it just feels like I misplaced something. I don't remember what it is, only that I have lost it. And just like that, I am lost again as well and the wall, which, just for a moment, seemed like a bridge, is not. And it is now late summer in Jerusalem and there are no clear winter skies. There is only the haze of heat rising off the open streets or the muddy borders of the shadows that cover the corners of the marketplace through which I walk every day.

I am walking in Jerusalem. But I am not finding anything except the ugly daily awareness that I am an empty thing.

And now I wish there was a sense of God or something waiting for me as I rest my head each day against the wall, but the once present faint brush of promise and expectation is gone now. The air is hot and still and my legs sweat against the plastic chair. There is just me and a wall and a chair of metal and prefabricated molded plastic.

Metal and prefabricated plastic…surely a sign of God if ever there was one.

And then one day a man comes and pulls up a chair and sits down next to me. He's about 30 years old, from Chicago he says, and he teaches at one of the Yeshivas in the old city He's been watching me there every day and wondering why I come back over and over again. He asks me if I am a Jew and I tell him that I am. He asks me if I have come to Jerusalem to study the Torah. He asks me if I am a Yeshiva student. I tell him I have not and I am not. I tell him I am just a kid with a tourist group traveling around Israel on my summer vacation. He asks me if I have enjoyed it and I tell him I have. He asks me if it has been an enlightening enjoyable experience and I tell him I've had a lot of fun. He asks me what I've found to be the best part about being a young Jew in Israel.

I know he wants to hear all about what I've learned about my heritage and the history of my people and how being there has changed my relationship with God and all that crap, but the question just pisses me off for some reason and he suddenly seems so uncool, especially because he's such a young guy to be a rabbi. And anyway, I'm 15 years old and an arrogant little asshole so I tell him that what I've really discovered is that I like being in a country where the bartenders don't give a shit that I'm only 15 and where hash is really easy to find and, even though I haven't found it yet, where I know a giant ornate bong sits hidden in some obscure corner of the ancient marketplace waiting only for me to stumble upon it.

And that's it, he says? Pretty much, I tell him.

So then, he asks me, why do you come every day, day after day, to this holy place and sit on a plastic chair in 100-degree heat staring at a wall?

And, I must admit, I don't have much of an answer for that.

Silence.

So he gets up and says, are you here for much longer? No, I say, we're leaving Tuesday. Well, he says, someday you must come back and tell me the answer to that question. I'm going back to America, I say, it's kind of a long way to go to talk philosophy. That's ok, he says, I'm here almost every day.

And then he walks away,

Silence.

"The silence of God is God."

Two years later I will go to college. During the Fall term of my freshman year, I will hear the 1st REM ep Chronic Town, I will read Carolyn Forche's 2nd book of poetry, The Country Between Us, and I will lock myself in the lounge across from my dorm room, sit down at the piano, and write my 1st song. The very existence of a band like REM, and all the other bands from a tiny college town in Georgia, and what that meant, the rise of college radio, and the feeling of endless chaotic possibility inherent in indie rock will make me wanna play rock and roll. Ms. Forche will be the mother of my writing, by far the biggest influence on the words that will form my future and make my life. Several years later she will publish again, this time an epic book-length poem called The Angel of History. I will turn a page in it and read the words "The silence of God is God."

I will have no more idea then than I do now if there is any truth to it or even what it means. Unless it is simply that God is the thing we lack. And that his unending millennial silence is either the proof of that or simply its definition.

But back in the summer of 1980, I just get up and walk off across the plaza and up the slope towards the market. I will walk out of Jerusalem without a sense of god or anything else. I will walk out of Jerusalem without any sense at all. My mother will leave home to begin Medical School that Fall. My sister will go with her and I will head east to boarding school. Sometime that year I will wander into a bathroom in the middle of the night, look in the mirror and realize with horror that I don't recognize the person I see. I don't mean that in any metaphorical sense, by the way, I really just don't know who the guy is. It will be 4am and I will stand in a bathroom hallucinating. It will go away but it will be the beginning of deterioration in my mind. Five years later it will happen again and last a full year. A decade after that, I will find myself hospitalized "for my own good". It will go on and on throughout my life, this slipping further and further into silence. I will eventually write songs and sing them and leave them, like fossils, as proof that I was here and, even in the midst of the inescapable quiet, I was not myself silent.

In the summer of 1980, we were walking into Jerusalem looking for God. I left without finding him and, worse still, I unknowingly set myself up for a moment, two years later when I returned to Jerusalem, when I would find the answer to the rabbi's question and, in doing so, hold, for three days, the answer to every question. For three wonderful terrible days, I would believe in something. Then, overwhelmed by fear and guilt, I would lose it all, flee the country and never go back there for the rest of my life.

The silence of God is God? Well, what does it mean when no one else says anything either? I walk up the slope in the summer of 1980 without the answer to anything.

On the way up the hill, I run into my friend Helene and some of the other girls on our trip walking down out of the market. They've been lugging their cameras around all day and they want to ditch them before going hiking so they ask me if I'll take them back to the hotel with me. Being a gentleman, I, of course, agree.

A few minutes later, almost immediately after entering the shadows of the marketplace, I take a wrong turn into an unfamiliar alley with a small shop at the end. I walk through some tapestries to the back and there against the rear wall is the hookah I've been looking for all along. It's perfect in every way.

The shopkeeper and I haggle for awhile until we settle on a price where I can feel I got the deal of a lifetime and he, being far better at it than me, can comfortably bask in the knowledge that he has robbed me blind. The sale, like the hookah, is perfect in every way.

Wanting to show off my prize, I run back to try and catch the girls. Hopefully they're still hanging out on the plaza. I know I'm probably too late but I'm excited so I run through the alleys of the market and out into the sun, down the stone streets, and back and forth along the small walled cutback alleyways until I turn a corner and the path is blocked.

There, in the middle of the path is an old man and his donkey. They're just standing there and there's no way around them. I guess the donkey was considering whether or not to take a crap or something and the man, not having himself just purchased an exciting new hookah, was perfectly content to stand there and contemplate whatever he was contemplating while the donkey made up HIS mind.

I say "HIS" mind, by the way, because at that moment I noticed that the donkey had the biggest hard-on I have ever seen in my life. It looked like a leg. And all of the sudden I knew how to perfectly cap off this imperfect day. So I got out all the girls' cameras and took a few really good pictures.

This will seem silly to you but you have to remember that this was 1980, they were girls, and we were all on our first trip out if the country. They were almost all assuredly taking nothing but slides because the first thing their parents were all almost assuredly going to do when they got back to California was set up the slide projector, invite all the neighbors over, and spend an evening with family and friends re-living their daughter's summer in the promised land. Sure, most of them were probably going to look at the slides before the show so they could arrange them into some sort of presentation, but there was absolutely no way that at least one of them wasn't going to be lazy enough or bored enough or even simply tired enough from the jet-lag to just toss all the slides in the projector, dim the lights, and start the show. And the thought of that perfect moment when everyone was gathered together in the pristine living room of their beautiful home with their lovely daughter, newly returned to the bosom of her loving family, watching in the dark as her summer memories flashed by one by one on the small white retractable screen…Jericho, Tel Aviv, Masada, The Sinai, Jerusalem, Kibbutz Nir-Oz, The Western Wall, an enormous donkey penis…

…well, I mean, what more is there to life than that?

Don't bother answering that question. It's rhetorical. Of course there's more to life. But still, anytime you can trick a girl into accidentally showing her family a photograph of a giant donkey penis…well, that's good day even for a mopey fucker like me.

And speaking of good days…

Today in 1920, on Tuesday, November 2, 144 years after the establishment of our democratic republic, women in the United States of America first exercised en masse their long overdue right to vote. Yes, we still practice discrimination, and no, we're still not, and probably never will be, a utopia. But today in America, and on every day since that Tuesday 87 years ago, we make our mistakes and our triumphs together as one nation of free people in which every one of us has a voice. Your vote is your voice. Some people fought a war to win that right, other suffered through centuries of slavery AND war before getting it, and lastly, on this day in 1920, after nearly a century and a half of demanding what they had deserved all along, the half of our population that was still being denied their voice finally spoke out and made this nation whole.

However many different ways we are splintered as a people, we always have a chance on every Election Day to be whole, to be a truly United States. It will always seem like the most divisive of all days but it doesn't have to be and, if you think about it, it really isn't. It isn't divisive because even in disagreement, we, as Americans, have agreed. We are all here and we have agreed to come together in this compact of democracy. After all, the truest proof of a strong Union is a people who have sworn to live together peaceful and united not in agreement, but in disagreement. Agreement is easy. Our mutual and national disagreement is a vow and a compact we have sworn and re-affirmed over and over again for 233 years now, failing only once to live up to the ideals our founding fathers set down in the summer of 1776.

There were times in our history when our democracy was not truly a democracy, when some Americans had no voice, but that isn't true anymore. This is our country and it will become what we make of it. We are not victims. We have a choice. Go out and make that choice.

And do yourselves a favor: mark down November 2, 1920 in your calendars. Remember it whether you're a man or a woman and regardless of the color of your skin because, although we accomplished our democracy in fits and starts over a lot of years, we did accomplish it in the end on THIS date. So remember November 2, 1920, because, in a way, today was the 87th anniversary of the day America truly became the United States.

And that's even cooler than the thought of a Jewish princess projecting a photo of a giant donkey cock on her parents' living room wall.


POSTSCRIPT: It's now late Sunday night. For some reason, I procrastinated on sending this but I think now that was for the best. I went to the movies last night to see a film my friend Tracy Falco had produced. Last night, my friend Tracy, former resident of Hillside Manor, after years of struggle in a crappy thankless industry in which she rarely got the credit she deserved for the work she did, took me and a few other close friends to the premiere of HER film "Lions for Lambs". Robert Redford directs it and it stars Mr. Redford, Tom Cruise, and Meryl Streep, along with some great performances by Derek Luke, Michael Pena, and Andrew Garfield.

It's a perfect movie. Clocking in at just 88 minutes, it's manages to fully present three separate storylines with clear detailed characterizations and show the ways in these people's lives are all inextricably intertwined. And that's really important because although some people are going to say that the film is a critique of the media or a critique of the government or a justification of some political agenda, they're all just wrong. This film is about the fact that all of our lives are inextricably intertwined and the things we do inevitably have an effect on the people, and the world, around us. This is especially true as Americans because, in America, we are, by definition, an inescapably involved part of an intertwined greater whole. I say "inescapably" because, although you may think you can avoid your involvement by dropping out or not caring or not voting or just NOT…you ARE here and you ARE involved and what you do or don't do WILL touch our nation, your life and the lives of those around you whether you like it or not.

Please go see the film. Even though the Republican senator Mr. Cruise portrays may not be presented as the most likeable character, and even though Mr. Redford's character councils several of his students in the film AGAINST joining the armed services, I realized after hearing him speak and seeing the movie that his film is REALLY about the service we all OWE our country, whether it be service with a camera, a gun, a voice, a pen, or a vote. Because Mr. Redford's character respects his students choices even as he disagrees and Mr. Redford, as a director, respects the Senator's commitment to doing something even as he himself, as a liberal, may actually fear and disrespect the archetype the senator represents. The movie, at least to me, says we do not have to agree, but we are doomed if we do not care.

America is a compact of service. That right of democracy we're gifted with or born into comes with a compact of responsibility we're in debt and bound to and "Lions for Lambs' is a beautiful, brilliant, and heart wrenching story about what happens when people both do and don't respect that compact. And surprisingly for me as a liberal guy, the movie actually takes a harsher view of the people who don't take part whether they're left OR right, even when you know the filmmakers disagree with the viewpoints of some of the people who DO take part. Maybe it's not so surprising though. After all, the point of the movie is that we have a responsibility to take part, horrific consequences or not, because to surrender to apathy or acquiescence is to surrender the nation to those who would make it less than it could be. Actually, I got that wrong. To surrender to apathy or acquiescence is to BE one of those who make it less that it should be.

Look, the world's going to turn either way. Wake up and be a part of it.

check out my blog here on LiVEJOURNAL or just go to http://adam.countingcrows.com/ to read this new one and all the others. They run all the way back to 1996.
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Dated Tuesday September 27, 2007 10am
Greenwich Village, New York City

Wow, that was a cool show. It took me about a week to really digest it. I wanted to write about it last week but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I get a little lost onstage sometimes and I don’t always remember parts of shows until later, not clearly anyway. I remembered the 2nd encore perfectly well but that’s because that was the fun part. I could’ve done that all night. It was all the really emotional parts that got a little hazy about. I tried to sit down and write this several times but I just sort of drew a blank. Now I have some other stuff I need to tell you about so that got my mind off its ass and now…well, here I am.

One of the interesting things about the Town Hall show was that I never wanted to do it that way. People had been bugging me from the beginning to do that “August and Everything After top-to-bottom” thing forever. I didn’t want to do it but everyone just kept going on and on and on until it got to this “yada yada yada blah blah blah I can’t hear you I’m not listening lalalalala” kind of…you know…thing. First of all, I just didn’t think it would make for a very good show. When I listened to the record, it just didn’t seem like it would make a great concert. It didn’t have the highs and lows in the right places and I just thought it would drag. Concerts have to have certain arcs to them; they need dynamic shifts. They have to build and hit crescendos and then surprise you when they drop off cliffs and that’s how they work. When I listened to August… it just didn’t feel like it would work.

Besides, I REALLY wanted to do a “Last Waltz” sort of show. I was looking at the new record being finished and the 1st record being re-released and seeing the Town Hall as a way to celebrate our whole career. I wanted to invite a bunch of friends to come play with us and play our songs and their songs and just have a big fun wild night. I thought we’d do the kind of thing that we ended up doing in the 2nd encore but do it for two or three hours. THAT, to me, sounded like a freaking great way to spend an evening (I’d like you all to notice the use of the word “freaking” in the previous sentence. We’ve been informed by our sponsors that there is an overabundance of the words “fuck”, “fucking”, “motherfucker” and “like” in my speech patterns. In a goodwill effort to try and be a better (and more grammatically mature) person, I’m field-testing some other possible replacement words. So today, “freak” and “freaking” will be replacing “fuck” and “fucking”. “Assbag”, among others, including “shithead” and the exciting combo-word “you bad bad bad bad person” is being considered as a possible “Motherfucker” replacement. Nobody has any idea what to do about “like” except to suggest that I just fucking grow up.)

Anyway, that was the plan. We actually got as far as inviting a bunch of our friends and figuring out who could come and who couldn’t. We got to talking about songs and how to arrange the set. We discussed when to play their songs and when to play ours and when to play our songs ourselves and when to do them with our friends. For instance, we definitely wanted to play “Angels of the Silences” with Chris Carrabba because he already had this cool version he’d been working on himself, but I wanted to play “Hands Down” too because…well, because I wanted to play “Hands Down”. I like it.

So that’s pretty much where we were at.

Then one night in New Jersey, Immy and I were sitting on the bus trying to figure out what to play that night and I was having one of my “all of these setlists are boring me” moments. Sometimes no matter what we discuss, I can’t find anything that interests me. I mean, I do eventually but it annoys the hell out of Immy when I sit there and say “No” over and over again to every suggestion. SO we’re sitting there staring at each other and I’m looking at a list of all our songs and suddenly I just found myself staring at the list of August… songs and thinking about how differently we play some of them now than when they were recorded. When I thought about it that way, the album started to look really different.

With the epic quality of “Round Here” as we play it now, you COULD follow it with Omaha and the longer intro and the familiar drumbeat to “Anna Begins” makes for a much better live transition from “Perfect Blue Buildings”. By the same token the cool recognizability of the “Time and Time Again” intro and Charlie’s organ solo are a better transition as well. They key was the transitions. “Sullivan Street” is a longer journey now and the end is a much bigger climax. Couple that with the fact that Dan’s guitar intro to “Ghost Train” is a much darker aggressive one than on the record and that switch between two sort of down songs becomes a much more interesting set of dynamic shifts. The fact that I love playing “Raining in Baltimore” makes for much better transition at the end of the set and also avoids me having to cope with the fact that I have absolutely no memory of how to play the piano part on “Raining In Baltimore”. “Murder…”, of course, is a freaking (check it out) great way to end a set.

So I looked up at Immy and said, “Let’s just play August…. I think it was his idea to play all new songs in the encore. I’m not sure. Somewhere in there we decided to put “Holiday In Spain” in at the end. I just like ending shows with it.

So we sent the setlist off to the crew and the band and waited for the inevitable panicked uproar, which surprisingly never came. There were a few brief mentions of the fact that we hadn’t played “A Murder of One” in ages and that Millard had perhaps never played “Rain King” electric at all, but I’ve learned not to worry about Millard. Millard is not someone you need to worry about. Millard is Millard. If it’s a song, he can play it.

So we walked on to the stage that night in Lakewood and played our 1st album. Then we walked off, came back, and played a little more than a third of our new album.

And everybody loved it.

By everybody, I mean WE loved it. The crowd dug it too but, most importantly, we really dug it ourselves. It was a freaking (I’m sick of this word already) thrill.

So we got to talking and I said, “You know, we COULD do this for Town Hall. It would actually be really cool. And then we could do the whole encore as new songs too. That would be a great way to sum up the old and the new.”

Everybody loved the idea. Everybody thought it would be great. A couple guys suggested the best way to prep for it would be to just run the show a couple more times at gigs between then and Town Hall but then we thought about it and decided, “Nah, walk the tightrope. We needed a rehearsal, we got one tonight. We’ll do it again in New York at 8 o’clock on the 18th”. Everybody laughed and agreed and that was that, although someone did suggest, and we ALL agreed, that it might not be the worst idea in the world to play “Rain King” and “Murder…” once or twice more before we got to New York.

I read where someone suggested that Lakewood was a dry run for the film crew to prep for the Town Hall DVD shoot. That was not the case. Lakewood was just me and Immy being bored and trying to fuck (whew) with the rest of the band because Immy and me are dicks. Those guys are unfuckable though.

And I’ll bet I’m not the first person to say that about them either.

Ladies?

There is another reason I’m writing this today and this is actually the thing that got me off my ass in the first place. This will frustrate some of you I’m sure, and I apologize for that, but we’ve gone to Geffen and asked to push back the release date of Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings until sometime after the New Year.

It was just a crazy busy summer. Between all the touring and the traveling and the mixing and mastering of the new album and putting the together the package and writing all the essays for the August… reissue, we just let some little things fall through the cracks. The record itself is finished but we just did the photo shoot a few weeks ago, the art and packaging deadlines were last week, and, even putting in 20 hr days, it was just impossible to get it all done. There are videos and singles and so many things to decide on and finish and it’s just not the time in our career to be rushing important decisions. Actually, in my opinion, it’s never the right time to rush important decisions. We really try to make records that last forever. I don’t see the point in putting all the work in to do that and then not having the right cover or picking the wrong single or making the wrong video. They’re small things, I guess, but they matter to me and they’re just a few of many.

It’s a tough pill for our record company to swallow. Especially in this day and age, it’s not easy to ask them to postpone a Counting Crows album that would have been on sale for fall and through the Xmas season. Someone somewhere will not be happy with them. Luckily for us, the people we deal with at our label ARE music people and they know that our partnership with Geffen has been a marathon, not a sprint. We haven’t been around together all these years because we were worried about a few months.

Anyway, that’s THAT bit of news. I know it’s a bit of a disappointment but, like I said to all of you the other day, “Remind me never to put out two albums at the same time again.”

I just realized I never actually talked much about the concert itself. To be honest, other than the 2nd encore, it’s still kind of a blur to me. I remember it was REALLY an emotional experience. I got very affected in the spring when I first listened to the Paris show again and I know that’s been infusing itself into our shows and influencing a lot of what I’m doing. I always want to feel like each song is happening right there and then when I’m singing them and I know listening to that show helped a great deal in getting my head and heart back to a few songs I’d had trouble relating to in recent years. I particular, it helped me reconnect to “A Murder of One” and “Perfect Blue Buildings”.

With “Perfect Blue…”, I think it was the ending that made the difference. The Prince lyrics “Sometimes it snows in April/Sometimes the skies are grey” and the lyrics I wrote to follow them really brought me back to the sense of uncertainty and the fear that accompanies uncertainty which are both such a big part of where I was at back then. I couldn’t get an emotional grip on that song, which is about both wanting to escape from life so badly that you begin to fantasize about the seductive paradise of being in a coma and wanting so badly for someone to come along to pull you out of that, lately in any real substantive way. Understanding those feelings again through that old ending, including the final lines, which, as you all know, ended up as part of “Miller’s Angels”, really allowed me to find some cool new ways to approach the verses and choruses that make up the body of the song.

“A Murder of One” was different. It was originally a song about a friend who was stuck in an abusive relationship. I rarely write songs about other people. They seem like they’re about other people sometimes. They’re even often named after other people but they’re really all about the ways I feel about the situations I was in with those people and the way the memories of those people and situations affected me. “Murder…” was different though and as the memories of that girl and that situation faded, so did my ability to relate to the song and/or sing it as well as I would wish to. But Paris reminded me that there was a point early on where the song really morphed into a conversation with myself about my relationship with myself and with my music. It really became about the ways in which I was abusing myself and the ways in which I was pushing myself harder and harder towards a cliff I eventually fell off of. In my mind, it was the music and the demands the music made of me or that I made of myself in the name of our music that just ruined me back then. And, during the Paris show, probably right in the middle of “Round Here”, I realized it was the music that was going to save me too. Or I realized that, at least at that particular moment, it was probably the only thing that could. So the desperation of the lines from U2’s “Red Hill Mining Town” and the entirety of Sordid Humor’s brilliant “Doris Day” really summed up for me how much I had lost and how lost I was, how adrift I had become and how much that song was the rope I threw myself both to keep myself from slipping away and also to begin to pull myself back. It is an admission of guilt and a reproach and an apology and at least the beginnings of a rebirth all in one.

It is a cycle I would repeat more than once. I hope I’m done repeating it. It is essentially the story of Recovering the Satellites in one outro. In many ways, it is the story of Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings as well. The two albums have many parallels. You’ll see. You’ll see a little later than we promised you but you’ll see.

I know I still haven’t talked about the show itself but I just don’t remember anything about it except that I felt full of feeling and like I was on fire while it was going on. That and the fact that all my friends were in the front rows and they looked uncomfortably like crazy people during the entire show. I had to stop looking at them. We usually reserve the middle of a hall for our guests but, because we weren’t sure where all the cameras were going to end up being positioned for the filming, this time we kept the front and the rear few rows reserved in case we needed them. So that’s where a lot of our guests ended up. They were all wild eyed and crazy looking and, sorry you guys, in the end kind of creepy.

I’m going to catch so much shit for saying that the moment they read this.

I DO remember the last encore and that was just about the most fun I’ve ever had. Being up there with all those friends and singing those great songs in, I don’t know…what?...six, seven, eight part harmonies sometimes…that was completely fucking amazing. I wish we’d learned 10 songs instead of four. I could have gone on all night. I t made me realize how cool that “Last Waltz” show would have been. I’m glad we did the show we did but we’re definitely going to have to get around to the other one before too long.

Just in case you dug the songs and you want to know where to find them, they were (in order): “Meet On the Ledge” by Fairport Convention, our own “Angels of the Silences”, “The Ballad of El Goodo” by Big Star, and Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere”.

“Meet On the Ledge” is on Fairport’s 2nd (?) album What We Did On Our Holidays. It’s a great record. It was Matt’s favorite but we all always argued over which was the best. I was always torn between their 1st album Fairport Convention and Unhalfbricking, Matt loved …Holidays, and Immy is obsessed with Liege and Lief. The rest of the guys could care less. The truth is that all of their 1st 6 or 7 albums are classics and collection of live BBC performances is priceless.

“The Ballad of El Goodo” is on Big Star’s 1st album #1 Record. I have no idea what their best album but not owning all of them is a huge mistake. The great thing is that the 1st two, #1 Record and Radio City come as a two-fer on 1 CD. Their 3rd album, alternately titled either Third or Sister Lovers is a truly disturbing masterpiece. When it was finally reissued a few years back after twenty years of being out of print, Rhino Records also released Big Star-Live, a never before available concert recording and, most importantly, I am The Cosmos, the great lost album by Big Star co-founder Chris Bell, who had left the band after the 1st album and made this beautiful album in his garage, mostly by himself with a few assists on vocals by Alex Chilton, Big Star’s other singer/songwriter. The record wasn’t even known to exist for years and it is amazing. Sadly, Bell died in a car crash shortly after finishing it. Just get ‘em all.

“You Ain’t Goin Nowhere” is on a lot of different albums and a million bootlegs. I’m pretty sure it’s on The Basement Tapes with Dylan and The Band playing it but the version I really love, the one we base OUR version on, and the first place I heard it, is on the Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the classic Byrds album and the one album they made with Gram Parsons as a member. His influence is everywhere on the record as The Byrds morph from the inventors of jangly 12-string pop/rock and roll into basically the founding fathers of country rock. In other words, they go from inventing REM to inventing The Eagles. Along with Parson’s own Return of the Grievous Angel and GP, and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Parson’s earlier band with The Byrds’ Chris Hillman, albums The Gilded Palace of Sin and Burrito Deluxe, they form the building block of a massively influential musical genre. Keith Richards reputedly wrote The Rolling Stones “Wild Horses” influenced by, and as a tribute to, Gram Parsons. Like I said, “Just get ‘em all”.

That’s all I got today. I gotta go boys and girls.

Be patient. We will come around.
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Dated Wednesday September 12, 2007 3pm
Greenwich Village, NY

Fuck. Remind me never to put out two albums at the same time ever again. Aside from drowning in essays and photos and touring and artwork and covers and every other fucking thing under the sun, I just realized I made an outrageously bad mistake and, to make matters worse, it’s way too late to correct it.

I accidentally took credit for writing someone else’s song. I’m a religious nut about giving credit to my band members for writing contributions and then I went out and took credit myself for someone else’s song. I’m so freaking pissed.

When Dave and I were looking for demo tracks to include on the end of disc 1, he found all this crap that I hadn’t heard in years, some of which I didn’t even really remember recording. I vaguely remembered doing “This Land Is Your Land” but I didn’t remember “Mean Jumper Blues” at all when I first heard it. I just heard it and thought, “Whoa, this is really cool. It’s so simple. It doesn’t sound at all like one of my songs and it’s totally me copping a blues formula but it really captures me as a beginning songwriter trying on someone else’s clothes, so to speak. And unlike “Lightning”, which really apes Peter Gabriel to me, it’s some really old clothes so it’s not as dated sounding. Anyway, it just seemed cool so I put it on the record.

Then the other night I’m reading through the Main Room Forum and I come upon the “Deluxe Track Listing” thread and the second post reads:

“Mean Jumper Blues, for the record, is a Blind Lemon Jefferson song.”

Which, of course, it is.

Fuck.

And now, of course, I remember completely how I got the song. I had a book of old Americana song lyrics. It had stuff by people like Stephen Foster, Lightning Hopkins, and Woody Guthrie, among others, and it had a song by Blind Lemon Jefferson called “Mean Jumper Blues”. It was such a cool lyric that I decided to put some really simple music to it and then Dave and I started playing it at our open mike sets. I guess eventually we recorded it because, well, there it is.

Unfortunately, “there it is” on our damn record with “Words and Music by Adam F. (stands, by the way for “fucking idiot”) Duritz printed right next to it, or underneath it, or on top of it, or wherever the hell it’s written. And, of course, it’s way too late to do anything about it, at least until the second printing (like there’s going to be a second printing of a 2 disc “Deluxe Special Edition” re-issue of a 14 year old record). The only thing we can do is contact the estate and tell them and at least make sure the publishing money is paid correctly.

The funny (or not-so-funny) thing about it is that it’s the quintessential experience for a black musician of Jefferson’s time. It’s not like every one of them didn’t have his songwriting credit or his publishing money basically stolen from him either by half the white musicians recording his material or the white record company owners putting it out. Now here comes this Jewish moron with fake dreads doing it 70 years later.

Fuck.

I am so pissed.
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My Diary-9/2/07
Dated September 2, 2007 2 or 3pm
Somewhere in the air between here and there
(to be read as if one were reading Dr. Seuss)

These Days we're lit by lightning
Thin lines of light
These days we're lit by lines of
Sharp white
Shock white
Ice hard cold white light

I wrote those lines about 18 years. We recorded it when we first formed Counting Crows but never really played it again. I still actually like that song. I never used it because I was kind of ripping off Peter Gabriel when I was singing it. Now that I think about it, I was sort of ripping off Rickie Lee Jones too. There's a line in "Traces of the Western Slopes" on Pirates where she sings "There's a thin thread of light that keeps you stranded…" That one's a little further off, although that was, and is, one of my favorite records and I definitely owned it then and had listened to it a million times when I wrote the words to "Lightning". And it just occurred to me: isn't there a line at the end of The Glass Menagerie about lightning? Jesus, was I ripping off Tennessee Williams too? I gotta look that up when I get home tonight. Anyway, those are the natural perils of being a young writer. You tend to write what you know is good because you already heard someone else do it. You don't realize it when you're just stating out, but I certainly knew it by the time we went to record "August and Everything After" so I never even considered "Lightning" or many of the other songs you've heard bootlegged in demo form over the years as candidates for the album.

Wow. I got really off topic there. I'm sitting on a plane from Minneapolis to Newark and I was thinking of those lines because we did a photoshoot last week and all through it I kept thinking how much my life in retrospect feels like the moments captured on all the Polaroids I kept looking at. It's just this series of flashes, isn't it? You wander around in the dark and then there's this flash and something gets caught in the light like a trap. Flash. A memory. Flash. A birthday. Flash. A series of chords on the piano. Flash. She laughs. Flash. A girl in a yellow hat. Flash. A sly smile at the door and a green dress. Flash. Something you should have kept.

There was this Australian band called The Apartments. I don't know how I heard of them. I probably read about them in Mojo or something. I don't know. Anyway they made this album called A Life Full of Farewells. It's always stuck with me. The first song is called "Things You'll Keep". The chorus is "The things you keep/Some things you were never meant to lose".

How do we make the same mistake over and over again? How come we never learn? God, the things people throw away in their life…as if everything was so replaceable. Why do I keep saying "We"? Obviously I mean "Me". When I think of all the things I let slip through my fingers over the years, precious things I should have held onto…I don't know. It just all seems so stupid.

Maybe that's just growing up. When you're young, you tell yourself things like "Well, if it didn't work out, it wasn't meant to be" as if that actually meant something just because it sounds like it does. I think you can say something like that so blithely because you expect to stumble onto something else just as wonderful just around the next bend in the road. But people are rare perfect unique things and just because everyone really does live a life full of farewells doesn't mean you shouldn't at least realize what it really means to say goodbye to something that meant everything. Just because you WILL survive and get over it doesn't mean you should let it go.

Anyway, I let something go the other day. I actually didn't have much choice in the matter by the time it actually happened. By that time, someone else was making the decisions. Perhaps I should say "I was let go", as if I just lost my job at that damn video store again.

Still, there were so many things I could have done better. I know, I know. Hindsight, right? But it's funny how most of the time it all really turns on the smallest mistakes. So often it's just these little moments where if you had just done one small thing differently, the world would be a different place. The breeze would smell like her hair and the sky would be the color of the dress she was wearing because the whole world always seemed to turn the color of the dress she was wearing.

Except it doesn't anymore. The sky is just blue. I'm in a cab on the way to my house from Newark Airport now and the sky over Manhattan is a perfect bright blue. I guess that's not so bad. Even after all that, it's still a lovely day and the sky is still a bright shade of blue. September is newborn so I guess summer is over and autumn is here. I tend to like the fall, especially here at home in New York. My summer was a kid's dream. I fell in love, the sky changed colors every day, we played shows on baseball fields, and, for the first time in a long time, it all seemed to come together. All this "new" somehow made the "old" make sense again.

There are prices you pay for the kind of dreams that came true for me. If you're not careful, you can just let it become "a life full of farewells". To a certain extent, no matter what you want to do, you've always gotta leave town and move on, just by the nature of the job, so you need to be careful to do the things you have to do to keep the things you're supposed to keep. And even then…even then, you make mistakes. And if only you'd done one, two, maybe three things differently…

But maybe that's a good thing. Maybe just knowing there were places you could have changed it is enough, at least for today. Because loss doesn't kill you the way despair does. If you know you could have done something better or something different, maybe you WILL do something different next time.

Or the time after that.

Maybe that's enough, since you still come home to a blue sky and a fall full of possibilities.

I'm sorry I didn't write more this summer. Aside from all the other stuff, there was also the matter of finishing and putting together all the materials for these TWO albums we have coming out this year. I have good friends who are journalists who've been around Counting Crows since the beginning. They're better writers and much better qualified and normally one of them would have written the liner notes for the "August…" Deluxe Edition but they both had books of their own coming out this fall so I ended up having to write everything myself.

Ugh.

Actually, it was very cool to get a chance to re-visit all that craziness from the perspective of all this time that's passed since then. It really gave me a different view of it all. It was a lot of work though, on top of all the other shit.

Anyway. With my life being so full, I never even got around to writing an issue of Down The Rabbit Hole Magazine this summer and I didn't seem to have an urge to write many diary entries so I didn't. I hope the few voicemails I left got ya by.

What am I talking about? A lot of you came out to see us this summer. That was probably a lot better than a voicemail.

It felt good to play this summer. It felt like we were reborn. We dug up so many old songs and ripped the shit out of them, we played long sets, we played the new songs with passion and we decided early on to play things before we really knew how to play them. We'd run them once or twice in soundcheck and then play them that night at the show. When you don't know for sure what you're supposed to play you have to REALLY play music. You can't just stand around and play a part you've played a thousand times before. You have to go out their with your bandmates and play music. It's a tightrope and you have to walk it.

Spend a summer on a tightrope sometime. That is all the right jazz.

I missed the first Cal game of the season last night. I saw the first half on TV but I had to go onstage at halftime so I missed the second half. I was worried it would be a crap show because I thought I was going to be distracted (look, I love my Golden Bears but I don't want to suck on stage for ANY reason). It was a good show though.

I had a really nice interview with Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star Tribune the other day and, in his review of the show, he said he thought parts of it were a bit self-indulgent. He was probably right. He seemed like he got me in the interview and he seemed like he got the show in his review. It might have been a little indulgent. I definitely went off on some tangents in places. It didn't suck though (and, just so you don't misunderstand, he didn't say it did). It was real and emotional and I felt really good about it because I mostly just want it to be real and emotional and sometimes you have to wander around to find something real. It DOES, however, mean all of YOU are sometimes stuck trying to follow me around while I wander which, while maddening at times, is (hopefully) at least never boring. I actually liked the review. He appreciated the cool parts of the concerts and was certainly within his rights (as are all of you) to be a bit impatient with me looking around for whatever the hell I'm looking around for when I'm spending all that time during some endless version of one of our songs looking around for something. Still, that's a Counting Crows show. Whatever else you may say about it, it is definitely happening right there in front of you and not back in some rehearsal space where we practiced what we were going to play for you ahead of time so that we could get it right and do it the same way every time. No doubt, THAT theory of how to approach a concert comes with its pluses and minuses. You already know what they are.

Anyway, we have three days off before Toledo so a lot of us decided to go home today. I've got a lot of hotel rooms in my future for the next few years and, at least for now while I'm still getting used to being alone in them again, I've had enough of them for now. So I went home too and the cab is just about to pull up in front of my place. The sky is still blue, I got to spend the summer in love, this should be a pretty fucking exciting year, and, in the end, home is still home and home is still here.

Oh yeah, and Cal kicked the shit out of Tennessee last night (said with all due respect to the Vols and their fans, since they were all really nice and cool when we were in Knoxville last year and they were busy kicking the shit out of us) and that means, even if I couldn't be there, that all is still right with the world (for a little added bonus, fucla put their boot so far up stanfurd's ass yesterday that the rest of them probably went with it, likely resulting in the first of many personal colonoscopies for the oh-so-deserving cardinal and an up-close-and-personal view of where we're going to put our boot when we play them for the bruins).

I am, as ever, a sore winner.

See you soon, often, and for a very long time to come.

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ps. Speaking of Tennessee:

---for nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura---and so goodbye….

T.W. The Glass Menagerie, 1944
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Dated June 6, 2007 3am
Greenwich Village, NYC

Welcome to the official announcement for Issue #3 of Down The Rabbit Hole-Adam’s Picks (and other assorted crap) http://www.DownTheRabbitHoleMagazine.com.

This issue took a little longer to get out than usual because we’re smack dab in the middle of mixing the new album and my head about a million miles out in space right now. I’ve been wanting to write an update about everything that’s going on with the band (because it’s all pretty exciting) but between mixing what is essentially two totally different (if intertwined) albums at the same time and trying to get this magazine done, I just haven’t had the free head space for it. Once we put this out today, I’ll have a little more breathing room and I’ll sit down and write you a little bit about everything.

This is an abbreviated issue. It’s just music and movies. That said, it’s still pretty cool and (honestly), it’s not really abbreviated at all. The MUSIC section is entirely dedicated to my favorite songwriter Stew and his bands The Negro Problem and Stew. It’s basically an album-by-album overview of their entire career and recorded output. It was a real labor of love for me to write about them and, as a special bonus, we asked their permission and embedded about 15 songs from all the albums so you can actually just push play and hear full versions of some of the songs I’m talking about. Maybe you’ll understand why I love them so much. Let me just warn you that these can be a little hinky on Safari. They definitely work fine on Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox and they’re working fine right now on my Safari but they don’t always so if you have problems, just switch browsers.

Other than that, I write about one of my all-time favorite movies, Laura, and talk about Clint Eastwood some because there are some great ridiculously inexpensive deals on Eastwood Box Sets out there right now. I also tried to talk about a couple really cool Jesse James outlaw movies but I got so far off the subject that I wrote a two or three pages on sequels in general and James Cameron movies and 80’s horror movies before I remembered what the hell I was doing and got back to the James movies.

Anyway, I’ll keep this brief. I had a sort of crappy personal night life. I took a risk and ended up basically humiliating myself and looking like a total asshole in the process. Some days it’s just not worth getting out of bed. Oh well, tomorrow is another day. Come take a trip down the Rabbit Hole and check out all the stuff that makes my life worth living. I’m listening to Stew right now and you know, even as bad as tonight was, I still got friends who make beautiful music. How bad can the world really be when you got friends like that?

This one’s dedicated to Heidi and Stew for making the music that makes my life better every time I hear it and to Bill Allerton and Bill Forsyth for keeping the music of so many great bands alive all by themselves by running the two greatest record stores in the world out of one little closet of a shop in London. Nobody will ever know how much we owe it all to you.

So come on. Take a trip. Let’s go...Down The Rabbit Hole
http://www.DownTheRabbitHoleMagazine.com

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Dated Tuesday May 15, 2007 1am
Greenwich Village, NYC

Well, today is the day. It’s 1am and I’m in the studio mixing the 1st song from our new record (and that’s pretty fucking cool too) but today is a REALLY big day for me because today is the day Tyrannosaurus Records releases our first NEW album.

I’m so proud we were able to finally release The Himalayans-She Likes The Weather because it was a really big part of my life and I was really happy that it finally got to see the light of day.

But we’re a real record company and that means MAKING records and today we’re releasing a record WE made. The first real NEW RELEASE from T-Recs comes out today, May 15, 2007 and it is the debut album No Regret from Chicago’s own Blacktop Mourning. I know I printed out the review from AbsolutePunk.net the other day but we’ve gotten a few more in since then and I think the best way to celebrate this occasion is just to let you know what the critics are saying about the new album from our little indie label.


Muze says:

Emotion is key on the Chicago band Blacktop Mourning's debut, which was also the first album released on Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz's Tyrannosaurus Records label. Duritz, who also produced, guides the band through a vibrant, sophisticated set that highlights the vocal, instrumental, and songwriting talents of its youthful leader, the 18-year-old Max Steger. "Halfway to Midnight" is a punk-like explosion of teen angst kept in check by a subtly shaded arrangement, "Future's Gone" is a brooding meditation on both the end of a relationship and the end of innocence, and "Buried in My Eyes" is a hard-rocking look at an uncertain future.


AllMusic.com says:

Review by Rick Anderson

This is the inaugural release from a new label founded by Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz, and it features a band that he discovered on MySpace. Blacktop Mourning are led by guitarist and songwriter Max Steger, who is something of a guitar prodigy and started his career playing in Chicago blues clubs at age 12 and was 18 when this album was released. Interestingly, you'll hear precious little blues influence on No Regret; instead, Blacktop Mourning have managed to harness the noisiness of post-hardcore emo and wrestle it into a pure pop sound that features plenty of tight, razor-edged guitars and chugging metal riffs but always seems to have its heart in soaring melodies and multi-layered harmonies. Imagine if the Rocket Summer had been raised on Spitalfield and the Promise Ring, and you'll have some idea what to expect. The album's opening track, "6 AM," is also its most perfect, a three-minute anthem that could be used as liturgical music in the Church of Power Pop. "Don't Defend" features both a solid wall of buzzsaw guitars and handclaps on the chorus, and there may actually be a string section on "Your First Crime." And "Hardly Recognize" is a ballad that is simply drenched in sumptuous harmony. This is one of the most exciting debut albums by a rock band in years.


East Coast Romper (www.ecromper.com) says:

BLACKTOP MOURNING-NO REGRET
Tyrannosaurus Records
 Adam Duritz (COUNTING CROWS) has been busy as of late and his new record label, Tyrannosaurus Records will be using BLACKTOP MOURNING as their flag ship. Additionally, he contributed to the album by adding his vocals to a handful of tracks. They were destined for at the least, some minor fame because of all their appearances on MTV through the many annoying reality shows. Having Adam hold their collective hands for their debut certainly made their lives a shade easier. So with all the additional help that isn't usually afforded to aspiring rock bands, is their music worth your time and effort? Surprisingly, the band does possess a real flair for cutting well rounded tunes that run the gauntlet of emotions and style. They infused punkish jaunts, rock inspired melodies and witty orchestrations together into a memorable listening experience. The guitar work is purely dynamic yet edgy while the drumming and bass work maintain a proper sense of energy. Lyrically speaking, it may not command adoration but the music by itself was lush and relevant. Some of the riffs may not blow you away but the leads will certainly grab your attention and never let go. It is what it is; charged up rock and roll with some sneaky intelligence.


www.Bullzeye.com says:

Blacktop Mourning: No Regret
Label: Tyrannosaurus Records
3.3 stars out of 5

It’s painfully obvious that there are way too many of these pop/punk bands out there, clogging the airwaves, MTV beach parties, and any films that are geared toward the kids. But every once in a while, the talent in a band outweighs the fact that they are being lumped into a packed genre. Enter Chicago band Blacktop Mourning, and their album No Regrets, which is the first release on Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz’ new label, Tyrannosaurus Records. Lead guitarist and bandleader Max Steger is only 18, and has been labeled as a prodigy since he was 11. But take all that away, and the fact remains that this kid already knows his way around a song. Somehow, these songs fit into their intended genre, but the musicianship and sophistication of the song structures and arrangements are mature beyond their years. The fact that Duritz and Crows guitarist David Immergluck contributed as producers doesn’t hurt either, because those guys surely know how to churn out hits. Some of the up-tempo songs tend to run into each other, but they are still good tracks nonetheless, with the standouts being “Halfway to Midnight” and “These Times Call.” In addition, the band shows its versatility on “Hardly Recognize,” a made-for-TV teen anthem if ever there was one. Comparisons to Green Day are going to be made, and Blacktop Mourning has the potential for that same kind of longevity. ~Mike Farley


Amplifier Magazine says:

BLACKTOP MOURNING
TYRANNOSAURUS (05/15/07)

Blacktop Mourning is one of two inaugural signings on Counting Crow Adam Duritz’ new record label, Tyrannosaurus Records (T-Recs, get it?). Allegedly discovered on MySpace.com, the band has already scored spots on various MTV shows with its accessible brand of hooky pop-punk. Its debut full-length breaks no new ground, following closely in the steps of like-minded bands like New Found Glory, but what it does bring is some of the most insanely catchy songs this side of bubblegum pop. Vocals soar, accented by heavy harmonies, and the guitar work is more melodic than one would expect out of a genre that typically relies on repetitive chugging. The riff in “These Times Call” lodges itself in your frontal lobe and refuses to be shaken free, the harmonies on the super-ballad “Hardly Recognize” (with vocal support from Duritz) could easily bring a weaker man to tears, and the instrumental work on the near seven-minute album closer, “As Time Crawls By,” is positively metal. But the piece de resistance might be “Don’t Defend,” with its shake-and-shimmy electric guitar, chiming acoustic six-string, and plaintive piano intro culminating in an ultra-rocking pop-punk epic for the ages. If Blacktop Mourning can transcend the limitations of the genre to which it’s most closely aligned, the sky will be the limit.

--Frank Valish


The Oklahoman Newspaper says:

Rock
Counting Crows front man Adam Duritz chose newcomers Blacktop Mourning as the first group to release an album on his new label.

The rock-pop-punk band affirms his faith in them with its promising debut, "No Regret,” which will be released Tuesday.

Duritz discovered the Chicago-based group on MySpace.com, where its music also caught the attention of MTV. The band's songs have been played on several MTV shows.

Max Steger, 18, a guitar prodigy and songwriter, leads Blacktop Mourning. His nimble fingers are the band's greatest asset. He and rhythm guitarist Shawn Nystrand work together to craft the rich, diverse guitar sound that defines the album.

They set a brooding tone on "As Time Crawls By,” the disc's 6 1/2 -minute finale, but their fingers race through the head-banger "Halfway to Midnight.” Their licks are bouncy and somehow wistful on the pop tune "Don't Defend.”

The guitarists get plenty of help from able bassist Nate Wethy and drummer Greg Gerard.

Joe Levand provides powerful, often emotional vocals without whining, and Duritz's voice sounds better than ever as he backs Levand on four tracks.

— Brandy McDonnell


And of course, as I mentioned before...

AbsolutePunk.net says:

Blacktop Mourning - No Regret
Posted on 05-09-07 by FallonRules
Blacktop Mourning - No Regret
Label: Tyrannosaurus Records
Producers: Max Steger, Adam Duritz and David Immergluck
Release Date: May 15, 2007

Seems like lately, bands that were once huge adult-alternative radio fixtures are being hailed as "scene icons". From the resurgence of Third Eye Blind and the utmost praise for Goo Goo Dolls, those guys you see on late-night compilation commercials are now labeled as inspiration for today's big bands.

Most recently, Counting Crows' frontman Adam Duritz has been getting loads of praise from artists like Dashboard Confessional (who featured him on their last album), and now with his recent new-found success in the music world, he has just started up his own record label. Called Tyrannosaurus Records (T-Recs, get it?), Duritz's first signing was Chicago's Blacktop Mourning, which gained a lot of notoriety on MySpace and earned themselves a contract with MTV to feature music on their programs, all before they were even signed.

Now after only a couple months from being signed, the young pop-punk band is preparing to release their terrific debut, No Regret, which is a perfect title for such an album, full of edgy pop hooks and powerful emotion. The band - consisting of 18-year old guitar prodigy Max Steger (who also co-produces the disc), Shawn Nystrand on rhythm guitar, Nate Wethy taking bass duties, Greg Gerard on drums and vocalist Joe Levand - is destined to be one of this year's next big breakthrough acts. They have a sound that is familiar to fans of bands like Fall Out Boy (circa 2003), Yellowcard and The Academy Is..., and with Duritz's seal of approval, they are likely to take off about as quickly as they came in.

Beginning with the piano-led introductory track, "6AM," the album shifts into what it predominately exceeds at, pure energetic, hard-edged pop-punk. "Halfway To Midnight" is about finding redemption, and uses layered vocals by Levand to convey somebody arguing with themselves, while reeling in the listener with distorted guitars and fast-paced choruses. The anthemic "Future's Gone" blends acoustic rhythm with bombastic guitars, while "Don't Defend" goes for an old-school pop-punk feel in its choruses, while using lots of piano and acoustic guitars (matched by Steger's endless distortion guitar).

"My Only Heart" is a darker, moodier and all-around heavier number (and one of the album's finest tracks) where Steger and Nystrand battle back and forth with each other, with guitar hero Max breaking into a nifty blues-inspired rock solo. From there, we are led into the soaring and upbeat "These Times Call," where Levand goes from crooner to bitter middle-finger saluter. It's the album's most pop-punk inspired number as a whole, and like all their songs, doesn't use traditional verse-chorus-verse methods to reach a quick result; the band takes their time to get to the core of their songs (most songs are over the four-minute mark), which make them stand out from their peers.

"Your First Crime" is another anthemic blast, full of breezy musicianship and power chords to make your hair stand on end. "Hardly Recognize" is a slow-moving ballad (the lone one on the album) that displays a sincere pallet of feeling and accompanied by Duritz's vocals (he lends his distinctive chops to three other songs, as well), makes it one of the album's most moving cuts, despite the Richard Marx-like cheesy guitar solo sandwiched in the middle.

The sounds of deep, chest-thumping drums and indie-rock guitar make the skeleton for the energetic "Another Day," which is then followed by the first-class and moody "Buried My Eyes," which doesn't stand out particularly, but is still catchy enough. The album closes with the 6 minute 41 second epic "As Time Crawls By," which is mostly used to showcase the musical talents of this young band (especially the extraordinary skills of eclectic guitarist Steger), as Levand has taken the album to display his impressive vocal abilities.

With all the production done very well by Duritz and producing partner David Immergluck (along with the band's Max Steger), these newcomers sound like refined pros, and there is no doubt that they will be one of the year's most buzzed about bands. The musicianship is tight and clean, with pop-pun hooks backed by blues-inspired riffage, the lyrics stay away from typical pop-punk clichés and they bring atmosphere to each song, changing the personality of each tune presented. And standing at 45 minutes long, the 11 tracks that make up the disc are neither less or more - they fit the length just right.

Easily one of 2007's best releases, for fans of pop-punk with flair and edge attached, look no further than Blacktop Mourning - you'll have no regrets after hearing these young talents. And be sure to thank Adam Duritz for one more item of praise after you're done.


So there you have it. May 15th, 2007. Blacktop Mourning-No Regret is in stores today and, of course, also at Amazon.com and the iTunes Store as well. Save the fucking music. Go out and buy a god damn record today.
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Dated Thursday May 10, 2007 11pm
Greenwich Village, NYC

This has been a pretty good day for me. I went shopping and bought a bunch of clothes. Holy crap, I sound like a girl. It’ s just that I was embarrassed shopping for so long and it was nice to just feel stress-free and good about myself while I tried on a bunch of stuff that all fit me comfortably and easily. It was a nice feeling. It was a really nice feeling.

It’s good to have days where you feel nice.

I’m a little worried about some friends of mine. Some of them are having a hard time right now and there’s nothing I can do to help. There’s nothing anyone can really do to help their friends sometimes except just be there for them and be a friend. Sometimes you just have to accept that THAT is enough. It’s just weird because I’m usually the mess but I feel good these days. The record is all recorded, we start mixing on Sunday, I’m going to my high school reunion this weekend, I’m 50 lbs lighter than I was in January, and I just feel ok. A little distant and a little untethered and I haven’t been on a date in ages because I can’t really relate or connect to other human beings sooooooo...it’s not like I’m a poster child for mental stability or anything but...I still feel ok.

And maybe ok is enough for a nice Thursday like today.

In other news, we (meaning T-Recs) just got our order of Himalayans t-shirts in. They’re really cool. We’re going to put them up for sale soon in the Dino-Store and we’re trying to sort out some kind of t-shirt/cd combo bargain price too. We just need to get the numbers worked out.

But that’s not what I actually started writing this note to talk to you about. I wanted to remind everyone that the first real release on Tyrannosaurus Records, Blacktop Mourning’s debut album “No Regret” comes out on May 15th, which is, in case you can’t do the math thing, this Tuesday. It was produced by Max Steger, Blacktop’s lead guitarist and songwriter, and The Devil and The Bunny Show (which is what me and Immy decided to call our little production duo...and our radio show and our secret concert in New Orleans and our children when we eventually have them and pretty much everything else we’ll ever do in our lives...except neither of us uses either The Devil or The Bunny as a pet name for our penis...I think...you really have to ask Immy yourself to be certain. I’m damn sure not going to).

Anyway, reviews are starting to pour in and...dum da da dum!!!!...they’re all really fucking good!

Here’s one from fucking AbsolutePunk.net, which is a fucking awesome and ferociously cool website and not only do they love my fucking band (BTM, not CC) and their new record but they’re even nice to me. Seriously, they say some really fucking nice things about me and my band (CC, not BTM) too.

Anyway, here’s the review. Check it out. And THANK YOU VERY MUCH AbsolutePunk.net!!!!

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Blacktop Mourning - No Regret
Posted on 05-09-07 by FallonRules
Blacktop Mourning - No Regret
Label: Tyrannosaurus Records
Producers: Max Steger, Adam Duritz and David Immergluck
Release Date: May 15, 2007

Seems like lately, bands that were once huge adult-alternative radio fixtures are being hailed as "scene icons". From the resurgence of Third Eye Blind and the utmost praise for Goo Goo Dolls, those guys you see on late-night compilation commercials are now labeled as inspiration for today's big bands.

Most recently, Counting Crows' frontman Adam Duritz has been getting loads of praise from artists like Dashboard Confessional (who featured him on their last album), and now with his recent new-found success in the music world, he has just started up his own record label. Called Tyrannosaurus Records (T-Recs, get it?), Duritz's first signing was Chicago's Blacktop Mourning, which gained a lot of notoriety on MySpace and earned themselves a contract with MTV to feature music on their programs, all before they were even signed.

Now after only a couple months from being signed, the young pop-punk band is preparing to release their terrific debut, No Regret, which is a perfect title for such an album, full of edgy pop hooks and powerful emotion. The band - consisting of 18-year old guitar prodigy Max Steger (who also co-produces the disc), Shawn Nystrand on rhythm guitar, Nate Wethy taking bass duties, Greg Gerard on drums and vocalist Joe Levand - is destined to be one of this year's next big breakthrough acts. They have a sound that is familiar to fans of bands like Fall Out Boy (circa 2003), Yellowcard and The Academy Is..., and with Duritz's seal of approval, they are likely to take off about as quickly as they came in.

Beginning with the piano-led introductory track, "6AM," the album shifts into what it predominately exceeds at, pure energetic, hard-egded pop-punk. "Halfway To Midnight" is about finding redemption, and uses layered vocals by Levand to convey somebody arguing with themselves, while reeling in the listener with distorted guitars and fast-paced choruses. The anthemic "Future's Gone" blends acoustic rhythm with bombastic guitars, while "Don't Defend" goes for an old-school pop-punk feel in its choruses, while using lots of piano and acoustic guitars (matched by Steger's endless distortion guitar).

"My Only Heart" is a darker, moodier and all-around heavier number (and one of the album's finest tracks) where Steger and Nystrand battle back and forth with each other, with guitar hero Max breaking into a nifty blues-inspired rock solo. From there, we are led into the soaring and upbeat "These Times Call," where Levand goes from crooner to bitter middle-finger saluter. It's the album's most pop-punk inspired number as a whole, and like all their songs, doesn't use traditional verse-chorus-verse methods to reach a quick result; the band takes their time to get to the core of their songs (most songs are over the four-minute mark), which make them stand out from their peers.

"Your First Crime" is another anthemic blast, full of breezy musicianship and power chords to make your hair stand on end. "Hardly Recognize" is a slow-moving ballad (the lone one on the album) thats displays a sincere pallet of feeling and accompanied by Duritz's vocals (he lends his distinctive chops to three other songs, as well), makes it one of the album's most moving cuts, despite the Richard Marx-like cheesy guitar solo sandwiched in the middle.

The sounds of deep, chest-thumping drums and indie-rock guitar make the skeleton for the energetic "Another Day," which is then followed by the first-class and moody "Buried My Eyes," which doesn't stand out particularly, but is still catchy enough. The album closes with the 6 minute 41 second epic "As Time Crawls By," which is mostly used to showcase the musical talents of this young band (especially the extraordinary skills of eclectic guitarist Steger), as Levand has taken the album to display his impressive vocal abilities.

With all the production dones very well by Duritz and producing partner David Immergluck (along with the band's Max Steger), these newcomers sound like refined pros, and there is no doubt that they will be one of the year's most buzzed about bands. The musicianship is tight and clean, with pop-pun hooks backed by blues-inspired riffage, the lyrics stay away from typical pop-punk cliches and they bring atmosphere to each song, changing the personality of each tune presented. And standing at 45 minutes long, the 11 tracks that make up the disc are neither less or more - they fit the length just right.

Easily one of 2007's best releases, for fans of pop-punk with flair and edge attached, look no further than Blacktop Mourning - you'll have no regrets after hearing these young talents. And be sure to thank Adam Duritz for one more item of praise after you're done.
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Dated Sunday April 22, 2007 1:26am
Berkeley, CA Same fucking bedroom

Down the Rabbit Hole-Adam’s picks
(and other assorted crap)

Today is the BIG day for the release of Issue #2 of “Down the Rabbit Hole-Adam’s pick’s (and other assorted crap)”, my weekly (Okay, that turned out to be total bullshit and, as I’m two days late on the bi-weekly thing already and three weeks seems more likely, THAT’s not looking very impressive right now either) picks and recommendations webzine.

This is the Issue wherein Adam learns that putting out a magazine that he writes entirely by himself while simultaneously making an album and running an independent record company is not the sort of thing one promises to do every week or even every other week unless one is a proper fucking idiot. I got this one in just a little under a three week deadline but THAT IS IT for that schedule. From now on we’re going monthly.

Issue #2 feature’s MUSIC articles on Jackson Browne and The Beach Boys, DVD MOVIE articles about a Paul Newman Box Set, The Great Raid, and one of my favorite romances of the past decade, Two Family House, DVD TV articles about the American shows Carnivale (well, sort of...ok, not really) and Twin Peaks (that’s actually true) and my favorite British mystery show ever, Cracker. There’s also a BOOK recommendation of Bill Willingham’s epic Graphic Novels/series Fables, and, realizing the Jazz and Heritage Festival is fast approaching, an article about places to go eat in New Orleans.

Issue #1 featured, in case you’re interested, included MUSIC recommendations of Sufjan Stevens-Come on Feel The Illinoise, Marvin Gaye-At The Copa, Jackson 5-In Japan!, two Special Edition collectible releases of PANIC! AT THE DISCO-A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Dashboard Confessional-A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar and a discussion of Emo songwriting in general. It had DVD MOVIE recommendations of Ong Bak-The Thai Warrior, the 40-film package 20th Century Fox Studio Classics Collection Boxed Set, and the classic Jimmy Stewart movie The Shop Around the Corner, and DVD TV recommendations of the American series Threshold and the British series Jeeves and Wooster starring House M.D.’s Hugh Laurie. The BOOK article was on the novel The Sportswriter by Richard Ford.

So click right right here http://www.DownTheRabbitHoleMagazine.com and Welcome to Issue #2!

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Dated April 11, 2007 9:45am PST (I’m up early today)
(Still, as I mentioned before in my fucking (but dearly loved-she really is my best friend) little sister's old bedroom since (as I also mentioned before) my mom and dad gutted MY room and turned it into a fucking office pretty much at the same time the door was hitting me in the ass on my way out of the house)

I wrote about a month ago, on March 9th, that it was a really big day for me. We were, at the time, just about to put THE HIMALAYANS' unreleased album up for pre-sale. I thought it would be a good idea to put it up for pre-sale but I had no idea how many of you would actually come out and buy it, especially since, on those 1st few days, you were going to have wait a little over a month to even get the album in the mail. The funny thing is that people have continued to order the album steadily every day since then.

I want to thank you. My bandmates want to thank you. I think you're going to really love the record, even if you already had an older copy, because we never really had a chance to properly master it before and this new re-mastered version just sounds a thousand times better. It always sounded really thin and uneven before and now it sounds like a real record.

On top of that, it's just been a great month for all the guys in THE HIMALAYANS. We've all been talking and getting re-acquainted and sending photos and posters and laughing at how young we all look and how weird it is to see me without dreads and...yes, AND how ridiculous those pants I used to wear were. Marty Jones came by the studio the other day. I missed him but Immy said he looked great. Dave Janusko came by a few days ago and spent a whole evening in the studio with us. Chris lives in Austin but we've been emailing and I haven't seen Dan yet but I'm hoping he'll come over this week sometime. Anyway. It's just been a great month.

I'm bring in all this up because tomorrow, April 12, 2007 IS THE BIG DAY! Tomorrow, over fifteen years since it was first recorded, we will be releasing the only record we ever made, THE HIMALAYANS-SHE LIKES THE WEATHER. It's going to be released on my label Tyrannosaurus Records through our Dino-Store. It will only be available at the Dino-Store at http://www.tyrannosaurusrecords.net and we're not sure what the demand's going to be, so we're not sure how many we're going to order. In other words, if you want your copy, order it now or tomorrow or soon and you'll have it pretty soon after that (although if people REALLY seem to want it, we'll probably just keep ordering more so don't worry too much).

I was going to tell THE HIMALAYANS' story again but I just re-read my post of a month ago and I don't really think I can do it any better than that. SO, if you've already read this next part, ignore it, and if you haven't, this is the story of our band:

The best part of being a musician for me has always been the joys of being in a band. I've always loved the collaboration. I get off on the unexpected surprises of improvisation and the glorious shattering moments of inspiration that come from playing with other people. Most of all, I always loved the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. Maybe it comes from growing up and moving around a lot or maybe it just comes from being the kind of person who always spent too much of his life alone. Either way, I never wanted to be a solo artist. Not for one day. Not for one hour. Not ever.

I've been lucky too, in my life, because I got to be in some great bands over the course of my life and I finally settled in one that was good enough (and lucky enough) that we're still here some 18 years after Dave Bryson and Marty Jones (yes, THAT "Jones") and I first got together to record some demos in Dave's studio, Dancing Dog, in the late Spring of 1989. Those demos, recorded just before I left to go backpacking around Europe so I could quit playing music and get on with my life, turned out to be the reason I finally realized I couldn't ever quit playing music. So I came home from Europe and Marty and Dave and I formed the first incarnation of COUNTING CROWS.

That band recorded some good music but we never played a live show and eventually we all went our separate ways. I sat around for a while, not doing much, in the warehouse Immy and I lived in down by the train tracks on 4th Street in Berkeley until one day Immy came home and handed me a copy of the SF Weekly with an ad circled in the classified section. It was an advertisement for a band looking for a singer.

"Get off your ass and call these guys," Immy said to me, "The ad's silly. These guys sound fucking ridiculous. They're probably the perfect band for you. Anyway, you gotta get of your ass and play some music."

So I called and they said they'd pretty much already decided on a singer but they invited me to audition the next night anyway. I drove over to San Francisco figuring it was a waste of a trip but, what the hell?

I met the guys and they were all pretty cool. Dave Janusko played bass, Dan Jewett played guitar, and Chris Roldan played drums. They asked if I wanted to try some covers or something but I just said play one of your songs and let's see how it goes. So they started playing and I started singing...

...and it was magic. I'd never played music like this before. It was way different from anything I could ever have written. But it was perfect. Words just came out of me. Thankfully they were taping the audition because I think we wrote most of three or four of our first songs right there during the audition. It was like I'd been playing these songs forever. We played for about forty minutes and stopped. And then we all just stood standing there in a circle, sweating and staring at each other in that tiny basement rehearsal space. I don't exactly remember what happened next but I think someone just said, "...Uhhh...you're in the band."

And THE HIMALAYANS was born.

It was probably the greatest period of musical productivity of my entire life. I was still occasionally playing open mikes and acoustic shows with Dave Bryson as COUNTING CROWS, and a little while after that I also started doing all the harmonies for and playing with SORDID HUMOR too.

But the center of it all for me was THE HIMALAYANS. It was entirely liberating for me because I didn't have to write any of the music. They just created this insane funky, acidic, psychedelic swirl underneath me and I just sang over the top of it. I wasn't in charge and I didn't have any more responsibilities than anybody else did. They just played and I just sang and then we went and ate at Mi Mazatlan, the little Salvadoran restaurant on the corner by our tiny Mission District underground rehearsal space.

Somewhere in there, our rehearsal space got robbed and we lost everything. Instead of buying a new bass, Dave Janusko, who was really a guitarist, said he wanted to go back to playing guitar, so we just asked my old bass player Marty Jones to join the band and we became a five-piece.

I played a gig or rehearsed with one band or another (of the three I somehow managed to find time to belong to) almost ever night for over a year. And on the few nights I wasn't working myself, I'd go see Dan and Charlie play with Patrick Winningham or our friend Steve Bowman drum for A Mad Affair or watch Immy do a gig with Monks of Doom or The Ophelias or Camper Van Beethoven (or whoever the hell it was he was playing with that week). My life was music every night and it was incredible.

Like everything in life though, it didn't last forever. Dave Bryson and I had been trying out different versions of COUNTING CROWS ever since the first one broke up. It was no big deal. We'd just play some open mikes or acoustic shows and every once in awhile, we'd go into Dancing Dog and record a few demos. They all turned out pretty cool but it was all just a side project. Then one time we went in with his old bass player Matt and our friend Steve, (whose band rehearsed downstairs) and I asked Charlie Gillingham, who I'd known longer than anyone (we'd met at the first public gig I'd ever played), to come play keyboards. We recorded an new song I'd written with Dave called "Rain King", a song from Dave's old band Mr. Dog, and a cover of a HIMALAYANS song called "ROUND HERE".

It just worked. Something about it just worked. And it was the beginning of the end for everything else.

You know the rest of the story. What you don't know is how that felt, or feels (because it still hurts like a loss even now). I loved SORDID HUMOR. I thought Tom Barnes was the greatest songwriter I'd ever met. I was happy just to sing harmonies in his band. I loved being a part of that. I still listen to those songs with pride.

What really hurt, though, was leaving THE HIMALAYANS because I loved that band so much. I felt utterly free in that band. But I also realized that a part of that freedom was that I wasn't burdened with the responsibilities of being a bandleader or writing all the songs or just generally being in charge of anything.

And I now felt like I was ready to take all those things on again.

But it was really hard to leave because they were the heart and the soul and the core and the center of the greatest musical period of my life up until that point. I would eventually have other moments, and my life in music has been amazing and incredibly rewarding, but leaving that band was the hardest decision I ever had to make.

So what I'm trying to say is that a part of the life of every musician is the people he plays with, and, for me, they've always been the most important part. You've all heard COUNTING CROWS. You have all the records. But there's a big part of my life that I've never been able to share with most of you. It's a part of my life I'm intensely proud of and it's a part of my life that I shared with people who meant, and mean, the world to me. It's a part of my life without which I could never have become who I am.

It just matters.

So my partner Nicole and I talked it over and then I called Dan Jewett. Dan called Chris and Dave and I called Marty.

We want our legacy to matter and we want people to remember that we were here. That, once upon a time, four (and later five) guys had a basement rehearsal space, that we wrote a lot of great songs, that "ROUND HERE" was one of them, and that we had a band that people in San Francisco packed the clubs to see. Mostly, we just want people to remember that we were here.

Sooooo (and here's the big announcement part)...

Tyrannosaurus Records is proud to announce that, on Thursday, April 12, 2007, we will finally be releasing SHE LIKES THE WEATHER, the long lost album by legendary (at least to us) San Francisco band THE HIMALAYANS, featuring me (vocals), Dave Janusko (guitar and bass), Dan Jewett (lead guitar), Marty Jones (bass) and Chris Roldan (drums). The 17-track album comprises the complete recordings of THE HIMALAYANS including 3 songs produced by COUNTING CROWS' guitarist Dave Bryson, one of which is THE HIMALAYANS' original version of "ROUND HERE" (later covered by COUNTING CROWS).

The record has been available online before this but it was never really mastered and, as a result, it's never really sounded the way we all felt it should. It's now been properly mastered and given the sonic treatment it deserved while preserving the raw live quality that makes it what it is (which, by the way, we really have no choice about since most of it was recorded very raw and very live. Fuck off! It was indie rock).


It is, as of tomorrow, April 12, 2007 (or right now, depending on when you're reading this) available at the Dino-Store at Tyrannosaurus Records. It will, as I mentioned before, ONLY be available through the Dino-Store. We are not planning on selling it anywhere else. Order your copy now and it will be shipped to you right away!

So come hear SHE LIKES THE WEATHER. Come hear the sound of my life back then. Come hear the sound that came before the music you know. Come hear the sound that made the sound.

Come hear THE HIMALAYANS.

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ps. Our MySpace page is at: www.myspace.com/TheHimalayans (of course) and our own website is at http://www.TheHimalayans.com</a>

Also for the rest of my CountingCrows.com diary archives, you can read about them here in My Diary Archives and you can find my new online magazine Down The Rabbit Hole-Adam's Picks (and other assorted crap) at http://www.DownTheRabbitHoleMagazine.com.

Or you can just click right here:





Also, don't forget, Blacktop Mourning's debut release No Regrets will be in stores on May 15th. Visit
Blacktop Mourning at www.myspace.com/BlacktopMourning or at BlacktopMourning.com.

Also check out Tyrannosaurus Records' other great artist NOTAR at myspace.com/buckfooly.

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