Adventures on the Light Rail to and from The Lost Leaf…

Photo by Angela Garcia

So this is an odd tale to tell here, but these were literally sounds around town and there is some music involved. I decided that I wanted to take the light rail to Phoenix to see the Emby Alexander/B.O.T.S/Genre show at The Lost Leaf. I used to do this all the time and I loved it, of course my Jeep was also incapacitated at that time. I wanted to do this for two reasons: 1) The ticket would be cheaper than the gas it took to get there and I’m broke and 2) There was a fairly serious threat of rain and I have an open top Jeep and just didn’t want to deal with that. Plus, I live a mile from the light rail and can walk there and The Lost Leaf is close to the Roosevelt & Central stop, so this just seemed like good sense. What I had forgotten about, however, was how utterly bizarre the light rail is mainly in reference to the occupants that ride it at night. Not unlike how on the internet there are things that can’t be unseen, there are things on the light rail that can’t be unheard. I’m not an eavesdropper, but when the guy next to you is having a loud conversation on his cell phone and you don’t have headphones, your doomed to hear everything.

So it was from the moment I left the Sycamore station. I picked the car I would least likely be murdered in and sat “up top” across the aisle from what seemed like a regular dude in construction boots and tattoos, I figured he worked in construction or warehousing. His phone rang almost immediately, and with little interruption I would be assaulted by a conversation that went long past my stop at Roosevelt. Let’s call this guy Jim for ease of use. Jim got a call from his girlfriend almost as soon as I boarded. Jim’s girlfriend is homeless and is either still in the hospital or just released. She is possibly a junkie and from what I gathered a former prostitute. She is also a “tall, black, Islamic woman.” Jim is white and looks like he may be a part of the Aryan Nation. The first ten or fifteen minutes of conversation centered around the fact that Jamie, his homeless, junkie girlfriend had not been allowed around razors or knives for some time and due to that, her “downstairs” had turned into a jungle.” This seemed to excite Jim to no end and he pleaded her for most of this time in the early conversation not to shave as he wanted to enjoy that (I won’t use the terms he was practically shouting on the train). Luckily, this part of the conversation ended as they moved on to the idea that they would have to announce their “couplehood” and that before they told her parents, they would need to save money for a moving truck. This seemed sensible and everything in this particular passage seemed rational.

Jim kept asking if she was at the house after that, warning her not to go to the apartments and to not answer the door (yet at one point, there seemed to be a nurse present). He warned her that the apartments were where she would find more stuff to get her in trouble and she’d be back at the hospital. Then there seemed to be some paranoia about her safety and once more, answering the door. To which he said, “Well, you can’t be trusted with knives, so maybe we should buy you a gun.” Ummm, what? “We’ll get you a conceal carry permit.” Ummm, what happened to the money for the moving truck? Apparently she questioned where she would conceal the gun, to which he replied that he would buy her entirely new clothes that would conceal a gun in her pocket. He hated her revealing clothes anyway, and he wanted to buy her shorts that would at least cover the self inflicted scars on her thighs and sleeves to cover needle marks. He wanted to dress her in a burka and kept threatening to take her to the burka store. He also wanted to throw out all of her old clothes, now that “she was out of the halfway house”. This was all so he could buy her a gun. He said, “I want to dress you like a Reagan Republican, something Barry Goldwater would approve of.” At this point I didn’t know who to root for, really. Jim’s heart was in the right place, but he was a complete control freak and Jamie was clearly out of her mind. I felt bad for both of them in the end and I imagined one day in the near future the bullets from that gun would put an end to both of them.

It should be mentioned that all the while this was going on, a homeless Stephen Hawking was having me dial numbers on his cell phone so that he could get a ride from his stop. Which I was more than happy to do, actually, as it gave me a break from overhearing Jim’s conversation. When the Roosevelt stop came, I fled for my life and my sanity. I was so happy to run into Martin Shaffer from Bad Neighbors as I walked quickly away from the train, I told him and his girlfriend of the terror I had just experienced, and it was just damn nice to run into a human being I could relate to on the street. It was almost immediately that a rowdy crew started screaming my name from a car in the street, to which I waved and smiled and as they passed it turned out it was Japhy’s Descent, which made me feel more at home and less like an alien on the light rail. It seemed like we made it to The Lost Leaf in no time and I was happy to see the place filled with friends and familiar faces. It seemed like the Indie Rogue crowd had been transported there for the evening including a fair amount of local luminaries like Dan Tripp, Jess Pruitt, Donny Atkinson, Nick Danford, Trevvor Riley, Anthony Fama and of course Jade Noble. I was immediately at ease, but still deeply scarred by the ear raping I had received from Jim and Jamie’s phone conversation.


It was time for music and I was more than ready. Genre kicked things off and it was just what I needed, three dudes rocking out on a keyboard, guitar and drums. They had some technical difficulties with the microphones which weren’t their fault and some personality difficulties which were completely their fault. That’s not fair, Trevor Denton is a solid guy, but those two other kids are fucking weird–I love them, but they are truly twisted (I got a frontal humping from Corey Gomez later to prove that out). Anyway, despite all physical and psychological obstacles they put on a great show, which included a Weezer and a Britney Spears cover for Jade Noble, as well as their best tracks from this years EP Scrape Your Voices On The Stars, as well as some newer tracks (“Beatles Shirt”) and some way older shit, real old, they ended with the triumphant instrumental “No Means No” which I can’t remember the last time I heard them pull that out live. Of course “East Coast Sunshine Blues” was my favorite, but that’s possibly my favorite song of the year.  B.O.T.S was up next and I have to say that their set was all too short. It’s been a while since I’ve seen B.O.T.S. live or it’s been a while since they’ve played live or possibly a combination of both–either way, after that long since I’ve seen them, their set seemed super short. I can’t remember any of the song titles because when I see B.O.T.S. I immediately go into a trance when my ears are seduced by the beauty of Angel Martinez’ voice. I lose track of time and space and his voice becomes everything. Well, I didn’t exactly lose track of space, I’m extremely claustrophobic which is why I avoid The Lost Leaf on a regular basis and during this set there was a line of young woman at the front making sure no one could inhabit a good two to three feet between them and the stage guaranteeing that the crowd was uncomfortably cramped behind them. Either way, the music was blissfully brilliant and I can’t wait to catch them again in a venue where I can breathe.

Between the bands I had my only truly weird experience at the Lost Leaf. Two different women asked me if I was a drummer. I’m not sure what this was about, The first one simply asked if I was a drummer, I said I was a writer and that was the end of the that. The second asked me if I was a drummer, I said, once more, “No, I’m a writer, I write about the musicians” to which she responded, “Well, you look like a drummer.” She was not sober, I responded, “Sorry to disappoint, I’m a writer.” At this point she leaned in, too close for my comfort, to say with a thinning grin, “I like drummers.” At which point she was escorted away by her boyfriend or brother or friend or whoever the hell he was, much to my relief.

Emby Alexander was up next and the last time I saw them they were headed off for a two month tour, this was their welcome home show and it was pretty magnificent. One thing was clear, their time on the road has served them very well and they were tighter than ever. It played off like a greatest hits show for them, or maybe that was just me, it was something akin to my dream setlist, covering material from all of their releases and my favorites from each. There was a heavy emphasis on the new album which is just pure gold and one of my favorites, if not my favorite of the year so far. And despite my claustrophobia it was nice to see them in such an intimate setting, I was much more comforted when Troy Farah and Andy Warpigs started a mosh pit, which cleared out a lot of space for me to breathe easily. One of the highlights from their first EP was and always is “Drag The Long Way Home”, but there were other classics like “Dressed Undressing” as well. I do believe every EP was touched upon in one way or another. It was the songs from Frontispiece that had really matured, however. Especially both movements of “Tallwave” and “Don’t Go To Bed Tonight.” They even had an audience experiment we’ll call “The Emby Echo” which had audience members call the person next to them as they played a minimalist soundtrack to create a feedback loop between the phones and the mics. I really wished I had been stoned for that, though I kind of felt that way about the entire set. This experiment led directly, perfectly to my favorite track from the new album “Sexting My Friends.” The evening concluded with the first single of theirs I ever wrote about, a rousing version of “I Don’t Mind If You Call Us Friends.” The set was perfect and I had to make an immediate escape to head home on the light rail.

I got on the light rail and found a completely empty car. The only weird thing was that on the other side of the car, past the bike hanging area, there was an old drug addled prostitute staring at me from underneath her ultra blonde wig and a man in a wheelchair poised at the door. The prostitute stared at me the entire trip until getting off two stops before me. Nevertheless, in my section of the car, I was alone, it was nice, it lasted for one stop. At Van Buren two older drunk dudes got on that had just left the Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker show at Crescent–if they weren’t drunk they were on something else, either way they were inebriated. As soon as they boarded they became convinced that I was Ed Roland of Collective Soul. I mean really convinced. I had to spend a half an hour explaining that I was not Roland, but still they kept on and on about it.  They informed everyone that boarded the train, the one guy called his wife to tell her he was hanging out with the guy from Collective Soul. They sang portions of “Shine” and “The World I Know” trying to get me to sing along with them. At one point a guy who walked like a body builder whose body had been eroded by meth walked up and down the aisle, stopped in front of me and stared at me for a good ten seconds, I stared right back looking into the dark soulless eyes of this poor doomed bastard, then he continued on his way. The two drunk guys stared at me and simply said, “That shit’s scary,” to which I heartily agreed. Still they continued on about Collective Soul, this lasted for a good forty minutes until they got off a couple stops before me. Even the Light Rail security guy was having fun with this–it was bizarre. I’m glad I’m not a violent man. Incidentally when the elder prostitute got off, the man in the wheelchair handed here a bunch of cash, she smiled and wheeled him out the door. I have no idea what that transaction could have involved. Finally, it was the end of the line and I walked home hurriedly, excitedly, happily leaving the weird goings on in the light rail behind me.

Ed Roland...Eh, I'll take it, I guess.