While I was home in Sacramento, cleaning my old room and preparing to move, I found a shoe box labeled “jewelry + childhood.” It contained a handful of necklaces I’ve never worn, some drying up sparkly nail polish, and a stack of storybook cassette tapes. This one was the hidden gem.
My cousin Jojo and I recorded this probably around 1998, when I was 12 and he was 5, judging by our voices. My desire to document began at a young age!
The first part of the tape is a news show, in which we cover a recent flood and speak with a few survivors. If you listen to any of my “Phoning It In” episodes, you’ll notice that my interviewing skills have not improved. How twisted is it that we invented a character whose family died so he declines an interview?
I remember writing that song “Down in the Meadow” with Jojo — possibly the first songwriting experience for both of us. As I listened to it last month for the first time in probably 15 years, I could still remember the words.
In the final part, I’m pretty sure Jojo made up words to a song from Gradius III, our favorite SNES space fighter game. He sings another weird song by himself, and then I interview him and make some poop jokes. Golden.
Among Indonesian musical styles, kacapi suling is the West Javanese antidote to Balinese gong kebyar. Instead of a lightning-paced metallic frenzy, it’s slow and soft with only the suling flute and kacapi zithers. The multi-layered melodies are still there, but there are few enough that your brain can actually wrap around it.
I found this CD at Long in the Tooth in Philadelphia and was excited because 1) it was only $1, and 2) it inclues multiple songs from the UC Davis Gamelan repertoire. Here’s a couple of my favorites:
This song “Kalangkang” was written by Pak Nano S, a famous Sundanese gamelan composer who blended traditional and contemporary pop styles. We were lucky enough at Davis to host him for a week; he sang along with us and made me feel pretty nervous to be on bonang.
This is listed in the liner notes as “Jeruk Manis” (which is also an excellent song; check out this funky version by the Acadia Gamelan Ensemble), but I’m pretty sure it’s “Lutung Bingung.” The intro gives me butterflies.
When we recruit new DJs at KDVS, there’s a few things we tell them: DJ Shadow started out here. Blackalicious met here. Noam Chomsky was interviewed here. Pavement played their first show in studio here.
But it’s always been a bit of a thing of legend, because even if there was a reel-to-reel recording, it has long been missing. A couple of tracks from a listener recording surfaced last year on Youtube and then Pitchfork, but it seemed like the whole session was lost.
So imagine my surprise when the following occurred:
I was exchanging contact info with the web director of Smithsonian Folkways at the beginning of my internship, and he noted my 916 Sacramento number.
“That’s pretty close to Stockton, huh? I’m a huge fan of a band from there called Pavement,” he said.
“Oh yeah? This is debatable, but we like to say that at my college radio station…”
“KDVS?” [Surprise #1]
“Yeah! You know it?”
“Yeah, they played their first show there. I have it all on tape.” [Surprise #2] “I’ll make you a copy.” [Surprise #3]
Well, here it is: 46 minutes featuring Stephen Malkmus, Spiral Stairs and Gary Young on December 14, 1989, transferred from cassette to cassette, acquired in a tape trade in the ’90s. Download here.
And here’s a little preview of “Debris Slide” live followed by a pre-recorded “Box Elder” that they kind of played over:
Craig has been one of my best friends (whether or not he realized it) since we shared the misery of winter quarter 8 a.m. Friday discussion sections. We detoxed by flopping down on the couches at KDVS promptly at 9 a.m., listening to “Cool As Folk” and sleepily greeting Michael Leahy’s in-studio guests.
He’s a cassette collector like me, so when I last saw him he revealed a tape he found of himself practicing conversational Spanish with a classmate at age 15. In honor of Craig’s birthday today, here’s a little time/language warp:
Paul Gray is a man who tunes pianos, lives in Echo Park with a 666 home phone number, stands up two women on a date, and supports his local credit union over a major international bank. Not a bad aural portrait painted.
Sidenote: I had ended up at the thrift store on a mission to find some silly sounds. I considered recording the shopkeeper and a customer who were chatting away, especially after the latter mentioned doing a photo shoot in a hot tub. Turns out it was Anna Maria Horsford from Friday and Friday After Next.