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“A Deep, Detailed, Pertinacious Blurb on the Acute, Stupefying Stupidity of Humanity”

* Feem fime fome fum

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Ah, what was pitchfork LIKE 10 years ago? A mayonnaise soda. It gave me a bunch of new favorite bands, and hated all my present ones.

One of these new favorite bands became my new favorite BAND, and still is, Califone. Counterintuitively, Califone is not from California, but rather Chicago, 90 miles from where I grew up, and also, being a fan of Califone, contrary to popular belief, does not automatically imply fandom of ethnic folk-rock outfit Calexico. Believe it or not, people have asked me if I like Calexico, after I tell them I like Califone.
I saw Califone live one time. What was it like? It was like bacon and ice cream. [1]
Well, for one thing, it was in Pittsburgh, where the people are just weird as hell. [2] So when lead singer Tim Rutilli uttered the following missive looking directly at a particular audience member: “I’ll fight you. I might not win, but I bet I’d get some punches in,” it seemed appropriate in a way that just solidified the awkwardness of Pittsburgh, a place where after the Califone show I strolled down the block about 90 ft. to Belvedere’s and caught this awesome twisted punk/metal set, which seemed to be some completely organic strain unique to the local, though somewhat in the spirit of the Melvins.
Boy, did Pittsburgh need that. Oh, who am I kidding. Nobody remembers a little old Califone show, least of all Tim Rutilli. He was drunk off his gourd, making comments like “I’ve seen kangaroos fu**,” and the band took a set break halfway through, after which the female drummer came back with four drinks, onto the stage, a couple of which were PBR talls.
Ok, there were some people who enjoyed the concert, but the atmosphere of Pittsburgh just seems to breed confrontational attributes. People would yell random, bizarre things, and you could practically cut the tension with a knife. Tim Rutilli even got pi**ed off during one point early on, when “Fisherman’s Wife,” on Roomsound a delicate but fertile centerpiece, just didn’t go over, and went to picking cathartically and frustratedly like an old man on a Kalamazoo back porch for the mediocre “Michigan Girls,” before hunching over his twisted keyboard like a crazed Beethoven and belting out “Electric Fence,” finally breaking the tension, and prompting one woman in the audience to interrogatively exclaim regarding the title of “that last song.”
I sat way in back, and sometimes still felt like Rutilli was going to call me out. It was a true Festivus — full of airing of grievances and feats of strength. If you’re there to be entertained, please go away. [3]
All of the songs were short. There was no “Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey,” written, albeit, like all their other songs, when percussionist Ben Massarella was still in the band, and spanning seven minutes of white noise and noodling interspersed with some classic My Morning Jacket-harkening folk rock: “Shake your change cold and loose / There’s nothing safe in your stars.” I mean, another one of his songs, which he actually played this night, was “Don’t Let Me Die Nervous.” How could anyone possibly play “Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey” without being nervous? And that’s even WITH the two double whiskey sours, or whatever it was.
But in a way, all of this is moot, because 2006’s Roots and Crowns is a perfect record. By the time of the September 2013 live show, in support of concurrent album, the excellent, maybe fourth-best Califone effort Stitches, Tim Rutilli has lost both Massarella and sublime producer Brian Deck, responsible also for Modest Mouse’s towering masterpiece The Moon and Antarctica. It’s the lone alpha male godhead, without his thunderbolts, without his clouds. Tension adjourns, wanting for the prior sonic and temporal sensibility, the 116-bar outro at the end of the similarly lengthy “Sawtooth Sung a Cheater’s Song,” the VIBE. The vibe is gone. And so I bring you, after all these years, a person who FINALLY uploaded “Burned by the Christians” on youtube, and left out the “the,” so it just says “Burned by Christians.” There’s more over the hill. All the more reason to get drunk, which, it’s safe to say, Califone fans always are.
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[1] From Lou Reed’s “What’s Good,” along with the whole riveting “mayonnaise soda” thing.
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[2] For the record, I love Pittsburgh, and have attempted to move there approximately 17 times, the people there are just weird in a different way from how they are here where I grew up.
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[3] A line from the Sleater-Kinney song “Modern Girl.”

 

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