Back in the days before interwebs and free music downloads, people went out to venues and saw bands play. Sometimes these bands were obscure, hinting at danger and the unknown.
There was a place in Portland on outer Forest Avenue called Raoul’s Roadside Attraction. Some of you remember it, I know you do. You may have seen some big time artist, playing in a small, intimate setting, and like me, you might have gotten to talk to your music idol like I did, when I met Jorma Kaukonen; that was probably after my journey with God in some place called Hammond, which seemed more like a post-industrial hell, than heaven.
When I came back to Maine in 1987, I was a changed man. Realizing that salvation wasn’t to be found in religious garments, at least not the bargain basement and thrift store suits of fundamentalist Xianity, I turned towards indie rock and college radio to get me through the rudiments of late 20th century capitalism.
Back to Raoul’s.
If you know the place, you know that the music was oriented towards people like Jorma, Taj Mahal, David Bromberg and others related to American roots music, like blues, and if it was rock, it was rock rooted in the vibe born in the 1960s.
Indie rock turned all that on its head. A movement that was first about loading up the van and booking your own tours, and sleeping on friend’s couches, it was DIY at its finest. Maybe that’s why I was attracted to it because something in my core wanted to break out of the well-worn rut I was traveling in. Indie music filled my life for a good decade or more. It still informs who I am in 2013.
An ambitious waitress talked the Raoal’s powers into letting her book some indie shows on Thursday nights. This became a hangout of sorts for me and allowed me to catch a steady string of “national” acts playing in something akin to my living room. This might have been 1994.
What I loved about this is that given my punctual ways, I was apt to be the first person on the scene and in-house before the night’s headliners arrived. What this meant is that I sometimes got to be part of the road crew loading in the gear, since even the national acts of indie fame were still lugging their own gear and traveled sans roadies.
Silkworm were based in Seattle (although the band mates hailed from Missoula, Montana). I don’t recall how I found their music. I do know that I had a copy of their first record, L’ajre. They were suitably impressed when I told them this. They pressed 1,000, so the fact that this crazy fan in Maine had one got me a mention from the stage, as in, “this goes out to our friend, Jim.”
I don’t think they thought I was their friend. They were cool, genuine human beings, however. We had a few beers at the bar and then, we got to sit through this incredibly loud, painful set by fellow Washington rockers, Engine Kid.
I’ve been to a host of shows over my life, but Engine Kid were the loudest thing I’ve ever heard coming out of an amplifier. I had to take an ear break several times, out on the steps.
Silkworm were incredible. As a fan of the angular type music that bands like Silkworm played, I loved every tortured riff that Andy Cohen managed to coax out of his strat that night. He’s one of those unique players with his own style and always attractive to my ears.
If my facts are right, Tim Midgett blew the head of his bass amp that night and had to borrow Engine Kid’s to finish their set.
Michael Dahlquist punished his ample drum kit and created the bottom, along with Midgett that allowed Cohen a groove to surf above.
My music collection is a bit of a hodge-podge. I collect all sorts of music, most of it far from the mainstream. I think I have as much Silkworm, as any artist/band that I own.
A few years ago, just prior to the pre-JBE magic that began in 2006 during the Hoffman era of my time at the LWIB, I learned that Dahlquist, had been killed in a car crash. Basically, some absolutely messed up human being, a former model, Jennifer Sliwinski, distraught that her boyfriend was leaving, crashed her Mustang at 90 mph into a Honda Civic carrying Dahlquist, and friends and musicians, Douglas Meis, and John Glick, who were out for lunch. Sliwinski was intending suicide. Instead, she killed three people and merely broke her own ankle. An added bonus for a POS like Sliwinsk—she ended up serving four years of her eight-year sentence for reckless homicide and was released from jail in 2008. That’s life, right?
I haven’t listened to Silkworm for months, if not more than a year. Last night, after biking to relieve some stress and some odd paranoia related to earning a few shekels, I threw two Silkworm discs into my CD player; Blueblood and Developer, and sat through both prior to dinner with Miss Mary.
It took me back to a time that was, in hindsight, troubled. It was also a time when I was so close to starting to figure out a few things. The spark present then has stayed with me and finally found an outlet. How does Silkworm factor into all of this?
Music back then and even now, helps me sort through life’s conundrums, with all the inconsistencies, injustice, and just plain oddness. Yes, there is beauty and magic, but there is also the tarnish and soot that comes from dysfunction, overly anxious types, and just plain suck-iness that people visit upon others. Silkworm captures all of this, blasting through their own musical rendering and personal, artistic interpretation. They remain one of my favorite indie power trios.
PS: There is documentary out on Silkworm. I knew it was in production and struggling with funding, but it’s done. I will be scoring a copy soon.