Hello Stranger from Issue #26
I remember nights like these when we were out in L.A., back before Grant moved to Nashville — waiting until the wee hours to write the “Hello Stranger” column, downing a coupla beers to hopefully help unloose a few words, grazing through the page-proofs looking for some kind of unifying theme.
It’s been awhile since those transitional days, after we’d started the magazine in Seattle but before Grant had moved on to Nashville, apparently settled in for the long haul. The thought of moving has been looming in my mind as of late; as such, it seemed appropriate that when I interviewed Neko Case, she spoke of how she was planning to leave Seattle soon.
Seattle, to steal Chico Escuela’s bit, has been bera bera good to Peter. When I moved there in 1991, things fell into place about as ideally as I could possibly have hoped. As a result, a relocation that I expected to last for about three years is now in the midst of its ninth.
I could stay there a lot longer, and be quite content. But my mind wanders back to 1991, when I got this wild idea that I’d leave Austin, my heart and my home for nearly all of my 25 years, and seek out a new life in a faraway place. It was, in the end, all about the adventure — and maybe taking a clue from Dylan’s timeless observation that “he who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.”
It’s funny, then, that in paging through this issue, clearly one of the themes that reveals itself is my old stomping grounds of Austin. It wasn’t anything designed or intentional; the Jimmie Dale Gilmore cover was something we’d pretty much expected to do for quite awhile now, whenever Gilmore got around to releasing a new record (assuming it was worthy of such attention, and it is).
As for the other coincidences, well, they just gradually fell into place. On Christmas night I found myself at the Broken Spoke listening to Don Walser, which inevitably led to the review of the Texas Plainsmen disc. The “Screen Door” piece on Blaze Foley was tied into that trip as well: Barbara K. graciously acknowledged my request for her personal reminiscences about Blaze, passing along her handwritten thoughts to me on December 29 at the Continental Club after she’d played her opening set for Jon Dee Graham.
The real wild cards were still to come. Grant had mentioned awhile back that he’d like to review a reissue by the Jitters, an old Seattle band that really didn’t fit our magazine but were nevertheless near and dear to him. It’s funny, I responded, there’s this new Doctors’ Mob reissue that makes me feel the same way about my Austin days. Grant (as usual) turned in his review first; I lunged at the opportunity to mimic his every word — shamelessly, perhaps, but in the end I believe we were both feeling the same thing.
The conclusion of the live-review section was perhaps one too many variations on a theme, but it was equally accidental. We just happened to be a little short, and I just happened to remember I’d written this thing awhile back, and it just happened to work as a nice bookend to Anders Smith-Lindall’s fine lead piece about the closing of Lounge Ax. Which is how we ended up with a review of a show that took place about fifteen years ago.
All these Austin-related elements were a nice reminder of what the city has meant to me, especially as we all prepare to gather there again for South by Southwest in mid-March. It’s actually the first time in five years that we won’t be hosting a Saturday-afternoon party; after two years at Yard Dog followed by two at the Broken Spoke, we’re sitting this one out, partly so we can go to all the other parties that inevitably end up scheduled at the same time.
Still, the Austin I visit nowadays is certainly not the Austin where I grew up. Much as it will always have to offer in the way of family, friends and music, there’s also another Dylan decree echoing in my ear: “Don’t look back.” These days my sights are set on a new destination.