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Archive for the ‘Ben Rice’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BUCK MEEK-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #185 (March 25, 2021).

Buck Meek is the guitarist for Big Thief.  I loved the first Big Thief album, but have found the newer ones to be a little too soft for my liking.

Initially I would have thought that Buck Meek would be a harder guitarist.  But I don’t really know that much about his contributions to the band, so it should probably come as no surprise that he writes folky songs.  Although even Bob Boilen seems a bit surprised.

The back of a van on a sunny day holding an acoustic guitar is a far cry from the usual setting where I’d see Buck Meek. More likely, I’d be in a dark club; Buck’s intense electric guitar and backing vocals are a part of what makes up my favorite rock band these days, Big Thief. But here, home is Buck’s Toyota Land Cruiser in Topanga Canyon, Calif.

Buck plays a pretty acoustic guitar and his voice is soft and gentle.  He reminds me a lot of Nick Drake.  He plays three songs from his 2021 album, Two Saviors.

“Pareidolia” is, as Buck Meek explains, “this human instinct to put symbol to stimulus.” He says, “I’ve been spending this time of solitude in the canyon here spending a lot of time observing the clouds and things” — in other words, finding shapes and objects in clouds and objects where none intended to exist and perhaps turning them into stories or songs or just letting your mind wander.

He follows that with the title track “Two Saviors” and “Halo Light,” two more songs that continue the soft and gentle style.

The Texas native has a tender voice with a bit of a yodel and a resplendent way with words. After three songs from Two Saviors, Buck treats us to a new song written in quarantine titled “The Undae Dunes,” once again drawing pictures in the sky, this time of rockets and perhaps an astronaut and a love, all from the back of a Cruiser.

He says that “The Undae Dunes,” is dedicated to the woman he loves who may be an astronaut.  She’s applying to the space program.  That’s pretty fascinating in and of itself.

I enjoyed this chill Tiny Desk/Van set.

[READ: April 10, 2021] Pobby and Dingan

I had never heard of Ben Rice or this story until one of his other stories was in a New Yorker issue from 2001.  I enjoyed that story and when I looked him up, I saw that he had written this story. And nothing else!

Which is weird because this story

was joint winner of the 2001 Somerset Maugham Award and shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. It has been made into the 2006 film Opal Dream, a 2010 play for children by Catherine Wheels Theatre Company and a 2012 play The Mysterious Vanishment Of Pobby & Dingan for Bristol theatre company Travelling Light.

Perhaps he decided to leave on a high note.

The book is a novella (about 90 easy-to-read pages) set in the opal mining community of Lightning Ridge in New South Wales.  That’s over 400 miles from the nearest big city (Brisbane).  So while I don’t know if it’s in “the bush,” it’s certainly not suburban.

Lightning Ridge is apparently the opal capital of Australia.  Much like during the American gold rush, prospectors flocked to Lighting Ridge to try to get rich.  This story is about one such family.  The dad, Rex, is the prospector, the mom has followed him here from England.  She clearly misses her old life (they refer to her as Pom and her mother as Granny Pom).

The narrator is Ashmol Williamson, a ten or so year old boy.  But the story is about his sister Kellyanne.

He thinks that his sister is a fruit loop.  Because she is old enough to be going to school but she refuses to admit that her imaginary friends Pobby and Dingan are imaginary.  She talks to them constantly.  It drives Ashmol mental. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Beverley Tavern (October 28, 1983).

This is one of the first recordings of the Rheostatics live.  As the blurb says, the band was only a trio at the time (Martin Tielli had not joined yet).

It is amazing that a show this old sounds so good – not great but considering it is from 1983 not too bad. It is also weird as hell. I’m not sure if it was the 27, 28 or 29 of October 1983 but since the 27th is my birthday I’ll go with that date. [They later say it’s Friday night, which was the 28th].  I think this is a Triostatics show with just Tim, Dave B and Dave C.

Some of these songs don’t appear anywhere else.  Like the first one “Get Rich, Get Bored” which really shows off how new wave they were in the beginning.  It’s got a funky bass line with jagged new wave guitar from Dave and I assume Tim singing.

The band was really goofy back then too (not that they aren’t now, but a sort of wild goofiness pervades this evening.  Like Clark saying “I don’t know what the hell’s sitting behind the drum kit” and Tim letting everyone know that “anything’s possible on Halloween.”  Until someone helpfully yells “It’s not Halloween yet.”

“Chemical World” is one of those early new wave songs that they played a lot but which never made it onto Greatest Hits.

There’s some peculiar banter that is hard to hear but it sure sounds like they thought it was funny.

“we’re gonna change our name to R and then to H and then K?   What’s up next on the bill Mr Vesely?  It’s in the key of C.  You’re cheap, like your clothing.  Woman in audience: “but he’s not easy.”

Dave Clark says “Straight to Hell” is about Dave B’s father.  Tim sings in a weird style, over new wave guitar chords and a seemingly random bass.  The middle has a spoken word part with a drum and bass breakdown: “Now Richard, what seems to be the problem…   doesn’t know what to do–he’s going straight to hell.”

Dave B asks, “Satellite Dancing” Someone: “No!”  “Satellite dancing” “No!”

So instead they play “National Pride” another song that they played a lot but which didn’t make it onto the debut (which in fairness came out four years later.  Dave B says they released this song a long time ago and nobody bought it so they’re going to play it tonight and hope someone buys it.  Midway through Dave says “specials effects, Julia Child” and then sings in a crazy falsetto.  Then Dave says “What was Reagan doing on TV the other night?  Explaining why he had invaded a country the size of East Toronto.”  The song ends with a mangled opening of The Star Spangled Banner.

Dave says someone complained they weren’t going to come to the show, “aw you guys play funk. I don’ want to see you play funk.”  So they play a funky “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”  They thank Rick the amazing man with the echo machine.  Tim says, before you take anymore pictures let me put my hair on.  As the song ends, Dave says, “who said the 70s are dead?  Not us I tell ya.”  “It was you!  In a drunken haze you said the 70s are dead.”

Clark: lets do all 70s songs about the word Monday.

Up next is “No Religion,” the b side of our National Pride single that nobody bought.  It’s a bouncy song with la la las, although I can’t really make out words.
Clark: The b side of Tim’s underwear.
Tim: “The dirty side. Oh my gosh I don’t say things like that.

Someone shouts, “chicken rap.”  Then they say “Do ‘Walk the Line.’  It’s Friday night!  Tim plays a minute long bass riff “okay, that was our cover of “I Walk the Line.”
Clark: “we play both kinds, country and western.”

It’s crowd participation night we want the guy who was dressed like an albino up here. (dressed like an albino?).
He left.
They play “Louie Louie” and ask for volunteers.  Someone comes up” “Ladies and gentlemen the Prince of Toronto.”  The guy sings a made up verse.  It comes to a wild crashing rumbling ending.  You can almost imagine them smashing things.

Clark: “Okay that means we have to do an encore.”
It’s a song by Chic called “Good Times.”  Tim plays the bass line more or less the right way but the song sounds different the way they play it.  Then comes “the highlight of the evening” Dave Bidini singing “Fly Robin Fly” in falsetto!

Definitely an unusual show, but I love Darrin’s name “Triostatics.”  I’m glad they didn’t stay a new wave band.

[READ: March 10, 2021] “The Specks in the Sky” 

I had put off reading this story because it was so long (19 pages!).  But I regretted putting it off as soon as I started it because this story was weird and wonderful. Until the end.

Set on a farm in the middle of nowhere, “two-hundred and twenty-five days after my father left home” the young narrator Ryder, along wither her older sister, Aileen, and her mother are outside when they see specks in the sky.

They don’t know what they are until the get closer and it becomes clear that these are men parachuting to the ground.  The parachutes are pink, the men are all in red jumpsuits.

The first man lands mostly gracefully and clears his parachute away.  He introduces himself as Commander Kyle Cheshire.  Slowly, thirteen more men fall out of the sky.  One of them is immediately taken with Aileen “a real beauty with long hair and breasts and everything.”  But before anyone can say anything the commander takes roll call.

That’s when they realize that Chip Gainsborough didn’t make it.  His parachute must not have opened. The men are very upset, none more so than Bud who bemoans his oldest friend–they used to go crabbing in Maine together when they were little.

Finally the mom asks them who the hell they are–army navy, what?  The commander regrets that everything is classified, he can’t say anything,  The only thing he can relate is that their plane had trouble 20,000 feet in the air and they all had to jump out.  But they will be acting lawfully under the terms and conditions outlined in Section 15 of the Parachuting Handbook, Landing Upon Civilian Property Clause No 33B where it sates explicitly that we are to assist the said civilians in any way we can during our stay on the civilian premises. (more…)

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