If this is the future, why are you the same?
My cousin Megeen got married two weeks ago. Instead of the traditional night-before-the-wedding welcome party, she and her now-husband David Pope hosted POPESTOCK - a musical celebration featuring a variety of family-and-friends acts.
It was amazing.
The location for POPESTOCK was the mysterious Elk's Lodge in Red Bank, New Jersey. This rectangular shack of a building stands next to Riverside Gardens Park with perfect views of the Navesink River - the primo of primo locations in my hometown. For years, my cousins and I have wondered what lay beyond its unassuming doorway. We soon learned the answer: a really big bar and an even bigger empty room. In other words, exactly what we needed.
But there were three exceptions to that rule:
Although, one could argue (and I did) that my performance was really more of a medley than two distinct songs. Further, I think one could even argue that my set was less of a medley and more of a complete disaster.
Allow me to explain.
I've written a six-fingered handful of songs in my life, but the two that seem to echo in eternity are called MERLIN'S GRAVE and BULLET TRAIN. These two have been battle-tested and laughed at across many-a-campfire with my cousins over years.
You see, neither of them are very good. Nor am I a good singer. But you can't tell me that they aren't groovy.
My vision for the one-song set was this: I play the entire Merlin's Grave up to the jam section, which would turn into this epic Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells style as I introduce additional instruments, one at a time. First, banjo by my cousin Jack. Then, mandolin by my cousin Michael. Finally, electric guitar by my cousin Peter. To cap it off, I'd come in with some harmonica on top of it all. I put together a quick-and-dirty take of my vision on my laptop a few days before the wedding and emailed it to my cousins, which you can listen to here:
So far, so good. Simple. One-song. No Bullet Train. I was attempting to be a rules-follower.
But you can't stop the bullet train once it goes off the rails...
We are Hotdog Johnny and the Shady Oaks: