I don’t know music but I know what I like. Nothing like a hackneyed cliché to start things off.
I’ve become annoying to myself, let alone others, in my effusive support for Mishka Shubaly. Whilst much of that has been towards his latest written offering, I knew him as a musician before I knew him as anything.
Alcohol fueled poems masquerading as lyrics, with what I think is a simple guitar line (I have no idea on that one – he could be playing fifty chords a minute or three and I’d barely be able to keep my toe tapping to the proper rhythm), there’s a throwback feel to his style I’ve always enjoyed. I’m not music critic so you’ll just have to listen for yourself to decide if you like it. If you don’t, reconsider your tastes. Or don’t, what do I care?
I see that Mishka is on tour, said my eyes. I should see him, thought my brain. Good idea, wheezed my liver. As part of my recent decision to try and quit alcohol, I’ve found that I have a lot of nights where I’m bored as fuck. $10 worth of vodka used to make any night fun because it would make any night disappear. Now I sit, watch TV, and try to keep my mind occupied. This would be a good way to occupy myself!
Plus, he wasn’t playing any old town but rather Fort Wayne, IN! Most people probably wouldn’t hold Ft. Wayne close to their hearts but I do: when I was 20 years old, it’s where I first stepped inside a cage – and promptly got the shit kicked out of me, shattering a number of illusions about my bad-assed-ness. Returning to the scene of the crime 13 years later is always a mistake. I had to go.
And I did. I saw rock and roll. This wasn’t some big multi-band festival you pay $150 for the privilege of then paying $20 a drink, this was the middle of nowhere in a state that is in the middle of nowhere, at an empty bar on a Tuesday night. It was as good a performance as any I’ve seen.
Before the music started, Mishka and his tour-mate/road-wife, Lou Poster, took me along for dinner with a friend named David. OK, I don’t think that’s his name, but he looked like someone I know named David so that’s how he’s been catalogued in my head. Plus, some names are changed to protect the innocent.
It was just a hole in the wall restaurant serving El Salvadorian food, which I initially failed to pick up on (despite the name of the place being El Salvador), as I thought it was just Mexican food. What? I speak French, not Spanish. And I’m an American; I can’t be expected to know the geography of places that don’t have oil. Sheesh.
The food was good and authentic in that way you don’t get from a Chili’s, though poor Lou was accidentally served a dish he was allergic to and ended up needing to down a bunch of Benadryl before he played his set. Rock and roll, man.
After the guys loaded their gear from a purple (?) van, with license plates from a state I’m pretty sure neither lives in, tattooed in a kaleidoscope of bumper stickers and accoutrements right out of central casting for “as many beers as miles on the odometer” it was go time.
I should emphasize that I’m an idiot who doesn’t really think things through. In my mind, of course there would be a sizeable crowd there: it’s Mishka Shubaly! The man is popular on Amazon, Doug Stanhope features his music every week on his podcast, even Johnny Depp is quoted on his posters as loving the man! If Jack Sparrow likes you, you’ve gotta be a huge deal, right? I didn’t think there’d be thousands but surely a few hundred, right? Right?
Right, Mike. On a Tuesday night. In Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
So, a few hundred ended up being a few. I think half the people there were either in or supporting the other band, a dual keyboard set up wielded by two kids I would’ve legitimately thought were 13 were it not for the plethora of tattoos and I think a drink in someone’s hand. I’d guess the crowd was anywhere from 10-30 people at a given moment. And it didn’t matter a bit when Lou and Mishka played.
Lou went up first. I didn’t know him except from Mishka saying he’s great and him handling almost being poisoned to death just an hour earlier with class enough for Emily Post. He was outstanding. Good. Great. Entertaining. Why should I have to look at a thesaurus for you? Songs about people who did great things you never knew from a time faded away, pretty girls who haunt you, and so on. Lou and his band Drift Mouth are spectacular. I’ve been annoyingly trying to push him/them onto people now too.
After the keyboard kids did their thing, it was time for Mishka. And again: find your own words. I liked it and had a good time. He fulfilled my #1 requirement for live music: sound like your damn recordings, at least a little.
(Total aside, though actually related, but parenthetical enough for me to write it this way: I once saw Blink 182 live and what they played was so unrecognizable from what I’d heard on the CD that I seriously wondered if all musicians were terrible and just the product of good producing.)
If you know Mishka’s music and haven’t seen him live, go do it. If you don’t know it, then learn it and then go see him live. Or just go see him live anyways because it’s a Tuesday night and there’s no cover charge.
He finished with something new, a diddy about never drinking again, perhaps the most appropriate coda ever to a catalogue propped up by an elephant’s worth of empty beer bottles. Or maybe it’s a prelude.
I was struck by the little comments and gestures shared between Lou and Mishka. A remark about how the guitar sounded, or a comparison to a previous performance, and the way they paid attention to one another’s sets and clapped genuine approval.
More than anything, I saw two men in love with music. Lou is a “real adult” with a job and all that; Mishka is becoming one despite his worser nature, sometimes even teaching classes at Yale of all places. He probably wears shirts with sleeves for that one.
They aren’t 20 year old kids with a dream of the big time; they’re men who spent 20 years living a dream. Because there’s nothing more I can really learn from watching the two of them than: they love it all. They sang and played with passion. Eyes closed, lyrics still hitting home after being sung a thousand times, to a crowd of 15 or 15,000 and they probably wouldn’t have played it differently.
When you’re a young man, you play little gigs like this hoping it leads to something more. When you’ve done it for as long they have, they have to be doing it because it is the something more.
They’re two men who’ve been married to music for twenty years. And like any marriage that’s lasted that long, they’ve had ups and downs and probably fucked it and hated it and cursed it and puked on it and wondered if it was worth it – but they stayed together, because that’s real Love. That’s a love that’s been through it all and it doesn’t look and feel like what it did at first but it is all the more solid and real than ever. It’s a tattoo, faded and scarred, but still there.
I don’t know music but I know two men in Love.