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Ten Years Gone — What Were You Watching, Reading, and Listening to 10 Years Ago?

July 2, 2011

It’s been my experience that songs, movies, books, and other cultural products can prompt some powerful feelings of nostalgia.

A few days ago, in rabid anticipation of seeing the recently reunited Archers of Loaf in Atlanta later this month, I was listening to Eric Bachmann’s first record under the Crooked Fingers moniker. As usual, the album’s last song, “A Little Bleeding,” stirred intense memories of seeing the band at The Crocodile in Seattle three days after September 11, 2001 (that would be September 14, I suppose). I’ll never forget it. They closed with that song, and the lyrics (“A little bleeding, a sinking feeling, the victim I would never know”) somehow brought home the enormity and emotional devastation of the terrorist attacks far more intensely than any of the endless media coverage had managed to do for me. Both live and on record, “A Little Bleeding” fades out with every voice in the band singing a wordless, mournful vocal line in unison. That night, I was overcome by this bit of the song, which felt like a funereal chant, meant to lift and carry home the spirits of the lost. For ten years now, I’ve thought of that moment every time I put on that Crooked Fingers record and listen to that song.

Several times this month, I’ve been reminded that it’s been ten years since I took a brief job-related excursion to Seattle and returned home to Kentucky four months later. I’ll spare the finer details, likely interesting to no one other than me, and just say that neither my job nor my social life went well when I got to Seattle in June 2001. I moved back to Kentucky in October because I was lonely, homesick, unemployed, and broke.

I do remember a few things fondly from my time in Seattle. I got to stare in awe at Mount Rainier on clear days as I commuted to work on the 5. I ate the best Thai food I’ve ever had in my life on a weekly basis. Early most mornings, I walked my dog to an always-empty park near my apartment and let her roam around while I shot basketball (I got to where I could drain 3s pretty damn well back then).

But most of my positive memories of that time center on the pop culture and media products I consumed. Because of my aforementioned lack of a social life, I spent a LOT of time listening to music, watching movies, and reading. That was the last time in my life when I made mix tapes. I managed a store where my employees and I controlled the in-house music, and I remember quiet mornings with Cousteau, Joe Henry, Maxwell, Super Furry Animals, Nick Cave, and the Pernice Brothers.

I remember Sonic Boom, a great record store in Fremont back then, not far away from that neighborhood’s prominent, truly odd statue of Vladimir Lenin. At the checkout counter of Sonic Boom was where I actually first heard about the 9/11 attacks, because I had spent that Tuesday morning with the TV off before going to buy the Mercury Rev record All is Dream, which came out that day. I remember Scarecrow Video, the most ridiculously deeply stocked video store I’ve ever seen, where I rented documentaries, Woody Allen, Akira Kurosawa, Jim Jarmusch, and Mr. Show episodes (on VHS tapes made for Scarecrow personally by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross). I remember having only 2-3 broadcast TV channels and, despite everything in my better judgment, getting hooked on watching Big Brother 2. The assface who ended up winning, Will, gave a toast early in the show that revealed that he must have belonged to the same college fraternity I was in—“For the establishment of friendship on a firmer and more lasting basis,” and so on.

Above all, Seattle’s amazing live music, most of which I couldn’t afford to go see, stands out in my mind. I did see Doves and the Webb Brothers at the Showbox (which had the most chest-rattling club PA I think I’ve ever heard), the Waxwings and Chamber Strings at some club in Capitol Hill, the Pernice Brothers and Crooked Fingers in separate shows at The Crocodile, and a whole mess of amazing bands at that year’s Bumbershoot Festival. There I saw Low play in a spacious, miraculously hushed theater, and I saw Damon & Naomi play with Michio Kurihara on a barely-there outdoor “stage,” with the mostly seated crowd huddled in a small semi-circle in front of the trio. Both sets were transcendent.

These warm pop-culture memories stand out in my mind like the lone trees that somehow grow on grasslands. They provide sparse, welcome disruptions of the flatness.

But enough with this solipsistic trip through my pop-culture memories of ten years ago. What are your memories? What were you watching, reading, and/or listening to ten years ago? What did those things mean to you then, and what do they mean to you now?

Please share your memories in the comments below.

  1. T. Stump permalink
    July 2, 2011 1:10 pm

    The time before your Seattle departure was the height of our unified cultural days. If any of us obtained an album, a show or a film, there was an unwritten rule that we had to invite the whole crew over to Wintergarden, Limestone or Arlington to appreciate the creation. It was as if we were a massive family on a lengthy vacation, save the obligatory 40-50 hours-per-week labor requirement. One of the few positive consequences of Election 2000 was how it forced me to completely turn off the political world, at least after the inauguration protest, and completely immerse myself in pop culture. It all culminated when we rolled into Seattle, walked into Sonic Boom and several other record stores, and I spent an entire paycheck on whatever either of us saw essential, including the Elliott Smith “Division Day” single about twenty feet from where it was recorded. I remember hitting a thrift store to buy the necessary second suitcase to carry it all back home.

    What stands out? Satellite Rides, Low to the Ground, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, Stereotype A, Amnesiac, The Virginian, Liquid Skin, Dave Chappelle’s Killing ‘Em Softly, Mr. Show of course, and our semi-weekly gatherings at various Lexington haunts to see (and the Quiet Storm’s appearances with) The Hub. Looking at all of the ticket stubs and CD stickers from late 2000 – early 2001, no one would have guessed how broke we truly were. Ah, the days before a mortgage.

  2. Bob Jones permalink
    July 2, 2011 8:40 pm

    For me, it’s not pop culture that stands out, it’s the fact that August 1, 2001 was the day I met and had my first date with my wife, Janay. Ten years ago contained a landmark time that totally shaped how my life is now.

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