WARNING: LONG ASS ENTRY.
Note: If you've never heard of the Old 97s or Rhett Miller, this entry will bore the hell out of you. However, if you've ever loved a band so much and then had an experience when you knew that you had to break up with this band because it wasn't treating you right, then you might have some interest. Also, if you think Cheetos taste best with milk, you should read this.
One of my daily reads, Elle8 mentioned that she was going to the Rhett Miller show in her neck of the nation.
This has inspired me to tell you a little story about, well, me.
See. Here's the background: I was living with the first love of my life and was slowly realizing that I needed to sow some wild oats, kick up my heels, get my groove on, etc. It was tough. I truly loved and cared for the first love of my life, but I couldn't continue to be in the relationship anymore because it wasn't fair to me or to him. And since I loved both me and him so much, I knew that something had to change. But I didn't know what it was or how to do it.
One night, I'm watching TV with the first love of my life. Austin City Limits is on and my ears perk up..
I was only 19.
Finsihed up with high school.
Headed to a state school.
Wandered into you....
The song continued on to explain how this guy was in love with his girl, but realized that he was only 19 when he fell so hard for her and that they were doomed because how can you allow yourself to think about forever and eternity when you're only 19?
Okay, maybe that's not really what the song is about, but that's what it was saying to me.
I cried. I cried the first time I heard it and I squinted my eyes so I could make clear the face that was saying these soul-penetrating things to me.
It was this geeky guy. Kind of gangly. He has on big glasses that reminded me of Buddy Holly and his hair was cut in a Fantastic Sam's sort of way, but looked really great as it was stringy and sweaty and stuck to his face, lenses, nostrils.
This little geeky guy was singing his fucking heart out. He was stumbling around the stage, trying to keep his balance as he just reemed his guitar. I could barely make out what color his eyes were because his glasses were so steamed up.
But I made a note in my head. The Old 97s. The next day I went out and bought Fight Songs. When I went to the counter of the indy record store I frequent, the guy at the counter said, "You know. This is not their best album. You should really get Hitchhike To Rome or Wreck Your Life. This Fight Songs thing you got there is the most poppiest thing I've heard from them. Makes me kind of sick to my stomach, really."
Not wanting to induce vomitting on an already slender and most likely starving musician, I went and grabbed Too Far To Care and made my purchase.
Oh heavens to Betsy and Tiffany!
This band... was... just... fucking A! They were great! I didn't mind Fight Songs all that much... but Too Far To Care made every nerve in my body want to just jump and scream and yell at the top of my lungs "I got a time bomb! In my mind Mom! I got it badly for a stick legged girrrrrl!"
I went out the next day and bought every fucking album they had... I even found some people that I went to school with had actually heard of The Old 97s and one guy gave me a bootleg of Ranchero Brothers, the two writers of all of Old 97s stuff. I fell in love with the music. I wanted to have the Old 97s' discography's baby.
Now back to the relationship I was in. I was getting fucking depressed. I felt like the biggest piece of human excrement for feeling the way I did about wanting to end one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I went to counseling. I talked to a therapist every week because I wasn't eating, I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't doing anything except beating myself up inside my brain and getting bad cases of the "What ifs...?"
I had to do something. On Valentines Day the first love of my life said, "What's going on with you?" And I just broke down. Broke completely down. I told him everything I was feeling. I told him how I felt like the biggest piece of shit. I told him how I was scared and didn't know if this was the right thing.. us not being together anymore.. and was as honest and completely up front with him about what was going on in my head.
Valentine, the destroyer, Valentine, you belong
In the stars, where you are, always rollin' on.
Cried, I've cried till I couldn't carry on. It's a lonely, lonely feelin' when your Valentine is wrong. It's a lonely, lonely feelin' when your Valentine is wrong.
Of all the many things that you were countin' on, Well, there ain't none better than the girl who's movin' on.
No, there ain't none better than the girl who's movin' on.
The first love of my life, amazingly, understood. He said, "Since I do love you so much, I want you to be happy and if our being together isn't making you happy, then, yeah, you need to do what you need to do sweetie."
Is not the age of reason.
I didn't have a reason
For setting you free.
A lot of love go sour.
But that's not our love.
You see the problem was
I was only nineteen.
I was actually 21 at the time. But I was 19 when I first met him.
To this day he remains one of my best friends.
But you see, that was what the Old 97s were to me. They were a soundtrack to my life from the age of 20 up until 23.
At age 21, the Old 97s led me to a group of people that I cannot imagine not having in my life today. The Old 97s were not purely responsible, being in the right place at the right time made alot of it possible, but the Old 97s were the final coat of paint that bonded us together.
In fact, one of my first outings with them was to Antone's to see an Old 97s concert.
It was at that concert that I realized that I was completely willing to be a Rhett Miller groupie. Rhett Miller was the same guy that was singing on the television before when I first found the Old 97s. Except now, now he looked different.
There were no foggy glasses. The oversized plaid shirt that he wore had now been replaced with a vintage t-shirt. The jeans were tighter. The Chuck Taylors were still there, but the hair had been trimmed back to let the big blue eyes stare up into the lights.
I admit it... Rhett looked damn good. But it was a bit strange because I had come there to see Murray, Ken, Phil and Rhett.. but suddenly I was completely focused on Rhett. And I felt a tad guilty, as I didn't want to be one of those chicks that listens to a band because the singer is hot... but it was because this singer was so hot and he was singing shit like "we tripped the lights fantastic... we were both made of elastic.... my heart wasn't in it, not for one single minute...
I went through the motions with her. Her on top, and me on liquor."
It was just meant to be.
From that point on, every Old 97s conert I could go to, I was there. Ranchero Brother's popped into Stubb's BBQone evening. I got out of a rehearsal early, made my way downstairs, took a couple of shots of whiskey, found my friends and proceeded to have the best night of my life.
One moment Murray and Rhett are sitting on stools in front of the entire crowd. It's obvious to me that they're having just as much fun as we are..
Rhett starts to intro a song from a new album that they're working on. "I.. I just wanted to let you know that we're on the road alot in Texas. And, and.. well, We love coming to Austin.."
At the top of my lungs I screamed "BAR-B-Q!" The section I was standing in all kind of froze.. oneor two people turned and looked at me.
Why the fuck did I scream Bar-B-Q? I mean, yes, we were at Stubb's BBQ, but Jesus Christ, Leroy, put a fucking lid on it or something..
That's when Rhett stopped and said, "Hey... I.. I ... I love the girl who just screamed Bar-B-Q!!!!!"
And I don't know. At that moment I realized that, yeah. Yeah. I am that girl. I'm fucking Bar-B-Q girl.
After the show, I followed my pal the Cross out back to say "good show" and what not.
"Hey, thanks for playing," I said as undorky as a dork could say and as sincerely as I truly meant it.
Murray said, "No problem.. it was great."
Then Rhett looks up from his position on the sofa and said, "HEY! YOU'RE BAR-B-Q GIRL!" He jumped up, with this huge smile on his face, came over to me and gave me a hug.
I could feel his rib cage. It was that good of a hug. My entire whiskey bar tab was blown out of my body by the sheer moment of being hugged by one of my idols. It happened that quick. I'm sure Rhett was as drunk as I was, but I'm not going to think that alcohol had anything to do with it. Even though I'm sure it did, my little pitiful fantasy needs to just ignore that fact, so please let it.
Well, fuck. I was set for the next couple of weeks after that. Then I went to another Old 97s concert. And this one was not the magical moment it was supposed to be. Something was wrong. There was no love up on that stage. Rhett was obviously fucked up. He forgot words to some of the most popular songs. He didn't look at the crowd at all. Murray and Ken kept exchanging looks between each other. They didn't come out for an encore.
Time passed. I caught another couple of shows.. drove to Dallas to spend New Year's Eve with the Old 97s and Princess. Waited for their next album to come out.
And when it did, I was excited. Satellite Rides wasn't my favorite album, but there were good songs on it "Question", "Buick City Complex," "Up the Devils Pay." But it was then that I realized that the Old 97s were no longer who they once were. I admit, I was one of those that joined up when 'Fight Songs" came out, but you have to understand that I just never had heard them before. If I had, I would guarantee that I would have been there from the beginning. But now, now there was no chance of another Wreck Your Life.
I should have seen it coming. I should have known that this band would not stay together.
I should have known that other people would fall under the spell that is Rhett Miller, including Rhett himself, and that sooner of later he'd be wooed away by the possibility of being the Next Big Thing.
And the Old 97s... well, they were not part of the package that I guess people wanted Rhett to be with.
And that hurts. And it hurts to hear that he's on tour now, playing some of his own songs, but also playing some Old 97s songs.. just with another band behind him. No Murray. No Ken. No Phil. And there's probably alot of stuff that they've worked out with each other and maybe Murray, Ken, and Phil are cool with Rhett going out on his own... but... I dunno.
It's kind of like watching this couple that you adore seeing together. Then, one day, you find out that the couple broke up. And the guy starts seeing another girl who looks exactly like the girl he just dated, except that this new girl wears sunglasses inside all the time. And you say to yourself, "Well, I guess he just got tired of the old girlfriend." And you want to still like the guy because he's just doing what he needs to do, but at the sametime you can't understand what's so great about the new chick.
I'd like to write a little letter to Rhett:
Dear Rhett Miller,
Hi. Okay. You obviously needed to move on. There was something inside of you that said, hey, lets just grow out the hair, pimp out the Bambi eyes and get rid of the glasses.
And that's okay. But hey man, I just wanted to let you know that I miss what you used to be. I'm being hypocritical, I realize this, but I have to tell you that I'm not going to be seeing any of your shows. I can't. Because, well, I loved the Old 97s too much.
But I guess I understand. Since I do love your music, I want you to be happy and if being together with the Old 97s isn't making you happy, then, yeah, you need to do what you need to do.
It hurts to say that. Now we just gotta move on. Good luck with your solo career. I've got a date with the Flaming Lips album right now, so know that I'm okay.
Take care of that mole.
That's it. That's all I have to say. I'll miss what was a significant part of my life for the last 4 years.
But I was only 20.
There's plenty more bands to love out there.