I love the juxtapositions that happen in this series. I love how the sound of one songwriter rubs up against the sound of another. I love age variances in styles, and aesthetics. I love how similarities glow and differences swell. Right in front of our eyes. The last Wednesday of every month.
The idea behind this month’s installment was to showcase more rooms in the house of rock. Mike Longo and Steve Messina are pretty different types of songwriters, but there’s a ruggedness in their respective personas that, in my eyes, led to a sensible pairing. One is a youngish indie rocker with a true appreciation of honest and inventive songwriting. The other is a troubadour of the scene for many years and head of the cinematic art rock collective Blow Up Hollywood.
I first met Mike Longo when his very cool band (in the best sense of the word – unpretentious, unassuming, unhipster,…so not loaded with irony) My Summer performed on the same bill as my improvisational noise and funk and jazz project Stratosphere. He played an inspired set of eclectic rock, stayed for our set, and even picked up my guitar and sat in on the fun. It impressed me. A young rocker not afraid to tread in the waters of extemporaneous weirdness. I knew there was something there, and I wanted to hear it stripped down and free from the noise (a very wonderful noise, mind you) that emits from a spirited rock band firing away. What we heard at this month’s installment was a set of well-crafted-and-mostly-finger-picked acoustic compositions a la King of Convenience. I heard a bit of Paul Westerberg in him, but that may have been Mike’s propensity to share little bits of heartbreaking wisdom through a gruffy poetic. I hope he reads this and Googles “Skyway.”
A lot of what I can say about Steve Messina might be found in an article I wrote about Blow Up Hollywood last summer. I hope some of you check it out or have checked it out. It was great to see and hear Steve in this context. The songs were even more haunting and the listening even deeper. With the exception of a few songs during which his friend Walter joined him with some tasteful guitar accompaniment, Steve played solo. Several times during his set, he shifted into a kind of storytelling mode in between the music, which made me reconsider the narrative aspects of what he creates. Experimental music, like experimental writing or painting or whatever, is only good if it wants to make connections with others and bring people together. And what brings people together better than an honest story?