Mark Grube's blog

Petty Wars

There’s a David Sedaris story called “Hejira.” As it begins, he tells us, "After six months spent waking at noon, getting high, and listening to the same Joni Mitchell record over and over again, I was called by my father into his den and told to get out." The record in question was, of course, “Hejira.” It also deals with leaving home, breaking off relations, migrating.  The title is an Arabic word referring to an earlier journey made by another soul who felt estranged - Mohammed's flight from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD.

'Til There Was You

It began with a whisper of rain. You could hear wind in the leaves, trees creaking, a distant roll of thunder. The band took the stage and just started making noises, reacting to each other, exploring the pleasures of sound.


Dead Shark

Remember that line from "Annie Hall," the one about a relationship being like a shark? "It has to constantly move forward or it dies," Alvy Singer observes. "And I think what we've got on our hands is a dead shark."

Swing Ticket

Any undecided voters have surely heard enough about Obama and McCain by now, so as a public service, here's a stump speech from a very promising write-in candidate


The Well-Tempered Clavier

"To me it means molecular harmony. To my father, it means a broken sewing machine. To Bach, it means an experiment in writing for every available key. To Bach's wife, it means money to pay his wig maker. Who's right? Individually, we all are. Generally, none of us are."



I got a crash course in organ donation a few days ago. There were some interesting medical and legal details but it was a simple bit of terminology that stayed with me. The removal of the kidneys or the heart or the lungs from a dead person for the purpose of transplantation is called "harvesting." I thought about digging up potatoes. I thought about the long hours of careful tending that lead up to a bountiful harvest...sowing the seeds, plowing the field. I thought about the Neil Young song Harvest, with that one line about "your mother in so much pain."


Siren Song

Chinese folk music wasn’t on my list of expectations going into the Austin City Limits Music Festival, but it definitely ended up on my list of highlights. We started Day 3 with Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet featuring Bela Fleck (AWATSQFBF for short). They're in the midst of a US tour, but nobody here knows the words to Taiyang Chulai. When the group toured Tibet, thousands of school kids sang along to the traditional melody.


Mud Booger Plague

This guy walks into a bar, sits down next to a girl and introduces himself as a professional serial lady-killer. “I’m already dead,” the girl responds.

That scene, from the Old 97’s tune “Barrier Reef,” helped kick off Day 2 of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. After wandering a bit through the morning, our strategy was to stake a claim at the AMD stage and stay there. The line-up: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Robert Earl Keen, John Fogerty and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.



Fans: 65,000. Bands: 130. Stages: 8. Days: 3.

A game plan about who to see: priceless.

If you really want to, you can get right up front for any band at the
Austin City Limits Music Festival. You just have to show up early enough, sometimes before the preceding act. Just try not to think about who you’re missing.


Cranes and Bats

The former clutter up the Austin skyline, circling as the condos rise. The latter roost with their pups under the Congress Avenue Bridge, coming out at twilight to feed. There's music in the air, too. It spills out of bars like The Continental Club. We happened to be walking past it last week. A sign in the window read, "James McMurtry." A guy in the doorway said, "Seven bucks." The Austin City Limits Festival was still more than a day away, but the town was already starting to earn its reputation as the live music capital of the world.

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