AR60 - Hobos of the Future

This week, Aaron and John talk about:

The show title refers to the people hopping freight trains like John being called Hobos and nerds being the hobos of the future.

This show was released 10 days before John’s first appearance on Back to Work, meaning that John was not a podcaster yet. It is hosted by Aaron Roden.

In this weeks episode, Aaron discovers a cache of dangerous chocolate in the refrigerator. John Roderick of The Long Winters stops by Dining Room Studios to give Aaron a lesson in Tweeting, being naive in a sea of hobos, playing Indie-Rock during the Grunge era, and becoming an icon in Nerd Culture.

The Long Winters are going to be playing City Arts Festival on October 20th, 2011at the Show Box theater. It is going to be a spectacular experience and John doesn’t know yet who is in the band. John is going to play the JoCo Cruise again in February 2012.
Then there is this new record that John is trying to build and he has made promises on the radio about when it is going to come out, and all these promises have lost him credibility with his many fans. He had promised in 2008 that the record would be done in 4 months.
A bunch of Seattle musicians are covering the Nirvana record Nevermind all the way through at the EMP on September 20th, 2011. Krist Novoselic is going to be there and it is going to be a big event.

Like nerds, they never talked about girls once.

This show has been re-broadcast as episode 85.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Tweeting and thinking in 140 characters (AR60)

Aaron is new to the whole Twitter thing and he doesn’t really know what to do on there, which John finds to be a common problem because it is such a blank slate. You start following people and you are either playing games with them, like ”Hey, I’m over here! Follow me!”, but no grown-up wants to lower themselves to begging people to follow them. Being on there and just tweeting into a void is not fun to do. It takes a while to find your feat, but it is just a writing medium like any other and it can be very cliquey on there. You can get famous on there, but famous people are only going to follow other famous people, meaning you have these people with 50.000 followers each talking back and forth to each other. John was following Neko Case and Teo Leo for a while whom he likes both as artists and personally, but they were tweeting back and forth to each other 45 times a day, which wasn’t interesting to him. People use Twitter in different ways but John tries to not fall into that trap. He got friends on there who are sending each other stuff that they should send each other as an email or text. Aaron Facebook-messaged John to get him on the show.

What John liked about Twitter right away was this 140 character limit which he really embraced as a challenge, so all his tweets for the first year were all exactly 140 characters long. He would sit and work on them and if it was 138 characters and it was perfect, he would disassemble it and put it back together to make it 140. He wouldn’t use gratuitous punctuation and he tried to not even use contractions if he didn’t have to. John really enjoyed it, it was like a writing assignment to make 3 or 4 things that were funny and exactly this long, like doing a Haiku! After a while, John would think in 140 characters, but then he realized that he needed to use some of that creative energy toward writing songs and writing other things besides tweets.

Obtuse vs earnest lyrics (AR60)

Aaron thinks that John is really good at Twitter. He is funny in real life, because he runs into things and gets hit with ladders, but that does not automatically transfer well onto paper or computer screens. You would think John would be able to mine all those tweets for his song lyrics, but they are such different mind spaces and he didn’t get a lot of lyrics out of it. John can be funny on Twitter and in person, but he cannot write a funny song. Many of his friends are writing funny and hilarious songs and John admires them for that. For instance They Might Be Giants, who often get lumped in with Weird Al, but who are completely different, can write a song that on the surface is very humorous, but as soon as you dig into it, it is extremely poignant and brilliant. Also Jonathan Coulton is a tremendous songwriter who can write a funny song that on the surface just sounds like a song about Zombies until you realize that it is a perfectly written song and it just happens to be about Zombies.

For the record John is working on right now he is trying to be more earnest which isn’t to say that he has been sarcastic before, but he has aired on the side of being obtuse or being hard to parse. Now he is trying to be more direct and more earnest, but it isn’t coming naturally to him, because he winces at directly expressed emotions. John usually couches emotions in a metaphor but now he is just trying to lay stuff right on the table. Trying to speak forward and without any verbal trickery is a struggle. Plenty of songwriters do only that, but John finds most of them a little emo or boring. John is maybe not coming from the Bob Dylan school, but he certainly admires that style of ”What do those lyrics mean?”

They clearly mean something, even though Bob Dyland keeps telling people to leave him alone because they mean nothing. Kurt Cobain said that as well and both of them are liars of course! John read a thing the other day about Kurt Cobain where some mainstream journalist said that Kurt Cobain didn’t care about his lyrics and wrote them on the spot, which Kurt used to say in interviews 20 years ago, but John doesn't understand how somebody could still propagate that line of horse-shit. Kurt Cobain published his journals and it was clear that he was working on his songs. But even if it is a nonsensical string of words, like in a Beck song, it has going to mean something to the writer. John stood on the side of Beck’s stage and had some words with him in passing, but he wouldn’t say he has met him.

Becoming a parent (AR60)

John and Aaron recently became new parents. John got a 5 months old daughter and it is wonderful and it is going great! He always wanted to be a father and it is just exactly as he imagined it, but a lot of people want to make it into a lot of things that it isn’t. Half the people talk like it was the end of their life and the beginning of some new life where they were a slave to a little spitting and pooping bug, while the other half is talking about it like it was some kind of spiritual transformation where they were completely remade and are now always living in the light, floating on a cloud through the agency of this miracle baby who is the greatest thing that has ever happened. Neither of those experiences ever sounded like they had any grounding in reality and now John’s first-hand experience is that those people were bullshit before they had a kid and they are still bullshit now.

Whatever aspects of John’s old life he has sacrificed in the last 5 months, he doesn’t even remember what they were. What did he stop doing again? Spending that extra 4 hours hanging with Dingdongs at Best Café at 4am, eating an extra stack of pancakes with some shit-birds that he wouldn’t have under any other circumstances, except they were all standing outside of the Sunset Tavern and ”What are we going to do now? I don’t know!” Now at the end of the night, he is just ”Good night! See you later!” and he is more than paid in full by the experience he gets when he gets home and there is his little bug there.

Babies get more and more sentient all the time. They start being aware of their hands, they start punching themselves accidentally, and you watch them gain control over these things, having more agency and being more capable. It happens both gradually and suddenly. John is only 5 months in, so who knows? They probably need to revisit this topic when both their children are 14 and they will realize that they were both totally wrong and the guys who said that their lives were over were totally right, because they have daughters!

John is not worried about whatever aspect of having a girl is terrifying to them as dads. He looks forward to the first teenage boy who shows up at John’s door, trying to take his daughter to an event. John does own a shot gun, his house is a fucking armory! He has a broad sword and he is going to sharpen it on a wet stone, he going to dress head to toe in a Civil War reenactment costume with a medieval helmet and he is going to speak to him in Esperanto. Boys are going to run! John is going to smoke a 3 foot tall graphics bong with apple-scented tobacco in it.

John is not worried that his kid might not think he is cool because coolness has never been a factor for him and it is not an operating principle. He just hopes that his daughter and all of her friends are terrified of him, that all the other parents of his daughter’s friends are terrified of him and that her teachers are terrified of him. Basically he hopes that everybody he meets from here on out, including Aaron will be terrified of him. Being cool is far down the list of things John worries about! Talking about being a dad is already super-uncool and 3/4 of Aaron’s listeners are rolling their eyes right now. Aaron’s plan is that his daughter is going to be a really cool chick drummer. John finds that a great idea because if they start as a drummer, then they can go anywhere. She should then learn the bass and be one of those people who have the rhythm down.

Lenny Kravitz’s drummer Cindy Blackman (AR60)

Lenny Kravitz’s drummer is called Cindy Blackman. She is super-duper bad-ass and she just married Carlos Santana. She is an amazing musician and she is the only way John managed to get through the 1990s, because Lenny Kravitz was everywhere! At least he could watch his drummer and tune out the rest of the music. She is incredible and should be a national hero. The first Lenny Kravtiz was amazing. She came in a little bit later, but it was not her fault that the music is bad, because she didn’t write the songs, but she just plays the kick-ass drum parts.

Aaron was a life guard during High School. They had a big PA system set up and would play whatever the pop-station in Seattle was at the time, meaning that he would listen to the whole rotation on that station over and over and over again, which was just ridiculous. They didn’t even mix it up and put the songs in different spots, but it was just Matchbox 20 and then it was Lenny Kravitz. Santana was probably in there as well.

John’s early days between Seattle and Alaska (AR60)

John was born in Seattle and his parents lived in Kingston, Washington in Kidsap County. His father moved them to Alaska when he was 2 years old because he wanted to start a bank in Alaska, which he did. He had also started a bank in Seattle. Both banks were eventually wrested from him by unscrupulous men, at least that is his version of the story. They lived in Alaska until John was 4 when his parents got divorced. His mom moved back to Washington and John split his time between Seattle and Alaska. He permanently lived with his dad from when he was in 4th grade until he graduated from High School.

It sounds like a huge trip, but it was the 1970s and one parent would take him to the airport, there was no security, they would walk him up to the gate and hand him off to a stewardess who would take him on the plane, sit him in the chair and spend the whole flight bringing him crayons, cookies, crackers, or whatever else. When the plane landed, hopefully there would be another parent at the other side. Most of the time it worked. John was pretty resourceful and he could take the bus by himself from when he was in 3rd grade.

John had a typical American upbringing. He knows a lot of people who’s parents are still happily married after 40 years, but he also knows a lot of people who’s parents aren’t and he was in that category. It was not an amicable breakup, but this was the 1970s before people had the mental technology to get divorced without fighting. Today everybody has been to a psychologist. When you are a little kid in school, there is even a fucking psychologist at your school.

Very few people manage to make it to adulthood without some concept that psychology might be at play. In the 1960s and 1970s, college educated adults had all been to a psychiatrist, but it wasn’t so clear that you would practice those principles in your daily affairs. People were just much more ”Damn you to hell!” John hasn’t been divorced and the people he knows who are getting divorced are not getting along either. Not much has changed, people suck and love is no fun. John is not married and he and his daughter’s mother live together in a house with the baby.

John hopping freight trains (AR60)

John left Alaska when he was 17 years old, 10 days after he graduated from High School in 1986. It was in the era where you could buy a one-way ticket from Anchorage to Seattle for $99 and John bought a $99 ticket, flew to Seattle, and stuck out his thumb because he wanted to see America. He hitchhiked around for a long time before he figured out that you could jump on freight trains, because it was the very end of the era when box cars were still part of freight trains before they moved entirely to container shipping.

This was the mid 1980s and true Hobos were a dying breed. The ones that were left were old and there wasn’t really a new breed taking over. Jumping freight trains was not a chic thing for young dudes. They guys John met were all a bunch of old creeps. There was also a migrant farmworker community, but they were not hopping trains for romantic reason, but they were doing it like they did in the 1930s. Those people who were riding freights because that was all they knew anymore, the ones who didn’t have social security numbers and who were truly off the grid, were pretty road-worn by that point. John was the youngest person he saw. He had a little backpack that his dad had bought him at the Smithsonian Institution.

John was from Alaska, which is part of America but in a way also a foreign country, so he was a little bit tougher than a normal American kid. It is a little tougher up there, but he was also incredibly naive because Alaska is a closed system that propagates naiveté. You are feeling that nature is trying to kill you at all times, but if you follow a few simple rules, then everything is golden. In the rest of America the game changes a little and John definitely had this experience. When he was 21 or 22 he would still occasionally ride trains, but he had a moment where he suddenly realized what peril he had been in the whole time.

He would show up in these hobo camps as a 17-year old with a peach fuzz mustache and his skin was this pink unblemished color of perfectly done pork. He would roll into these camps where there was be a fire burning at 1am and these guys would crane their necks around wondering who that kid was. They would immediately paw at him and each guy would be ”Hey kid, sit here with me, I’ll tell you how it is going to be! You want some beans? I’ve got some beans!” These guys were not jumping trains and living out in the brush because they were super-nice dudes who fell on some hard times, but these guys were rapists and they were bad men who were pushed out of the world for some reason.

John’s good fortune was that at 17 years old he was 6’3” (190cm) and 220lb (100kg) and he had this naive confidence of a kid who thought that all he had to do was make sure he didn’t freeze to death and everything else was taken care of. He would roll into these camps and wasn’t conscious of it. Looking back he realized that these guys might have been thinking he was a cop or a psycho, a kid who was coming out here with a bunch of his buddies hiding in the trees and they were in trouble. That’s how you have to play it! If John would have been conscious of that and would have tried to play it off like that, they would have seen right through it and he would have gotten gang-raped and thrown in a bush. He made it through that whole period just by the grace of pure dumb luck and pure stupidity, riding trains all across the country.

John starting to play the guitar (AR60)

Every guy in John's school in the 1980s picked up a guitar and every guy in his High School was a better guitar player than he was, every single one! When John was a Senior, some of the freshmen were 1000 times better guitar players, but John was the one who wasn’t embarrassed to sing, which most High School boys were. It was the big era of Metal, everybody was a great Metal guitar player and John was the default singer in a couple of bands. It wasn’t until he was 24 until he had written enough songs that he could play for 20 minutes for a couple of friends.

One time John played in somebody’s apartment and somebody told him that he should probably be in a band, which was the first time it occurred to him that this was something he could do as an adult. At 24, John wasn’t much of an adult, but he was in Seattle, the Grunge thing was happening, and he was working in Rock Clubs. He worked at The Off Ramp during that era, started there in January of 1991 as the bus boy until he became the cook. The Off Ramp later became Graceland, which is now El Corazon. They filmed a couple of scenes for singles there and Pearl Jam started playing shows. By the summer of that year John ended up being the assistant manager. He was right in the heart of the Grunge thing, but he didn’t really identify with it and he had never identified with Punk Rock very much either. He liked Grunge when it sounded like Black Sabbath, but he didn’t like it when it sounded like Skinny Puppy.

Little by little John started writing songs on the side and it always came out of what you would now call Indie Rock, but in 1992 that wasn’t a fashionable vernacular. There were open mics and little shitty clubs. The Store Room or the Lake Union Club were places you could always get a show, places that smelled like bleach, piss and vomit, but that is what you had to do. The Grunge dinosaurs still roamed the city all the way until the mid to late 1990s and the Indie Rock thing was just kind of burbling underneath. Built to Spill was doing their thing and they were like Gods to them, because what they were doing wasn’t Grunge. The rest of the city was all just little pittly shows.

John’s first band was called Three Hour Shower and later morphed into the Bun Family Players. Even before that, he had a band called Chetoqua. At the time, most bands in Seattle were called like Grunt, Spew, Gerf or Gnar! Nobody knew what was coming next and it was considered cool that you didn’t try and be hip, which turned into its own kind of hip later. You don’t talk about it, you don’t look people in the eye, it was kind of a black time for that kind of stuff. There was a lot of really pretentious stuff that went along with that reaction to Grunge. A lot of it dissipated, partly because famous Indie Rock bands ended up doing Coca Cola commercials and had to ratchet their rhetoric back.

At the time that was all taken really seriously and it was kind of a Soviet mentality around Seattle. Sunny Day Real Estate refused to do any interviews, because ”What do you think about that? Fuck you, world!” There was a ton of that type of stuff and John still sees residue of it. Sometimes guys want to talk to John about their careers and they tell him that they want to get on some good tours and put out some records, like get on tour with Arcade Fire or Death Cab for Cutie. You and 50.000 other bands, smart guy! Get a better plan than opening for the Arcade Fire, because that is not going to happen!

The music business is a business (AR60)

There is a certain amount of cynicism that comes about when being in business and being in the music business is being in business, although it is what every single young musician wants to deny. They say that they don’t want to be in business, but they just want to make music and when their music is good, then don’t have to be in business, but that is never true! Especially if you are a band leader, you are a business man and you better be one. Pretending you aren't is cynical because you are dealing with other human beings and you are talking about money and rank. No-one in the music business wants to speak about that openly about the fact that it is all about rank, but every single person with an iTunes folder is busy ranking their bands with 1-5 stars and if you are on a show with 3 other bands, you each have an idea of what your ranking is between you, in your town and in the world. Over time this makes you very cynical, because you are looking at people, and people bring their sense of entitlement to the game.

All the new resources like Facebook, MySpace and BandCamp are just putting a face to a thing that has always been true. Whom do you like better, The Beatles or the Stones? It is our way to think about art: This art is better than this art. Now we have a medium for smaller bands to get good reviews and also to get really bad ones, which can be soul-crushing and didn’t used to happen the way it is now. Your soul has to be ready to be crushed, you have to have thick skin, or you do the really smart thing and don’t read the Internet! You can tweet without reading the reviews about your record, although John hasn’t been able to.

John tries very hard to be the right amount of jaded from all that and it is not at a level that would prohibit him from enjoying new things, or from seeing new things as good. There are a lot of guys at John’s age and from John’s generation of musician, like from the Fleet Foxes, The Head and the Heart, the Neofolk, or the Bon Iver movement of Folk music who just can’t handle it. They have seen enough Rock ’n’ Roll go by and they just don’t buy it. Unfortunately their cynicism is getting in the way of them enjoying good music.

The Decemberists (AR60)

When The Decemberists came out, every single person in the music business said they won’t last. The Long Winters went on tour with The Decemberists a couple of different times, they worked on each other’s records and they became music business bros and Northwest band bros. People would seek John out at parties to tell him that The Decemberists were a fad and nobody was going to keep buying this. But two, three, four, five records in, The Decemberists became part of American music culture.

John still gets asked why people buy this shtick and he gave the same answer from the very beginning: The song writing is great and the musicianship is great and if there is an element of theatricality or kitsch to it that is putting you off, it is getting in the way of you appreciating the melodies or the craftsmanship of the stuff. The reason that their new record debued at #1 is that the majority of music listeners aren’t dissecting what they listen to. If it has a hook and it survives multiple listenings, then there it is! You have to give it up for them!

John still writes for the Seattle Weekly, but he has taken a little hiatus because he had a kid and doesn't have the power of late-night column writing anymore, but he is excited to keep doing it and he actually has a column in the Bumbershoot issue. Aaron was reading a column John did at least 6 years ago about The Decemberists. John was kind of peeved that The Decemberists all of a sudden had this new following, while John’s band didn’t, a thing that has happened multiple times in John’s career. The first band he watched steak away was Death Cab for Cutie. When they were just starting out, they played many shows together with John’s band at the time the Western State Hurricanes. They went on their first tours together, playing in Sacramento for 20 people.

Even when those guys were just 21/22 year old, you could just look at them and you knew that if the world wasn’t going to embrace this band, then it is the world’s problem. They were great songwriters and great musicians from the very get-go. Watching them get successful wasn’t hard for John because it was very natural, but what happened with The Decemberists was that their first record and The Long Winters’ first record came out at the same time. They toured together and they would go to each other’s shows. They were very supportive of each other and they were also in a friendly rivalry because they were both writing what the popular press would call articulate and literary music.

When The Decemberists first broke big in 2004, they were on tour with the The Long Winters at that moment. At the beginning of the tour they played in Salt Lake City and nobody came, but at the end of the tour in Los Angeles, it was a sold-out show with a line around the block in a huge theater and The Decemberists were a massive American band. It is very hard on a band when that happens, particularly for a charismatic front person. During that tour, they were still sleeping two to a bed, 4 to a room at La Qunita Inns, but they were playing massive shows by the end of it. They just hadn’t caught up to the scale that they would end up being.

John did what you would naturally be doing, asking himself ”Why is the world not turning its attention to me the same way? My songs are as good and in some cases better. Here I am with a great show and a great band and what is the malfunction?” In the intervening years John has watched Band of Horses do the same thing. John was at their first show when they were still called Horses, two guys playing in the Green Room of the Show Box with a capacity of 15. John knew those guys and he has Ben Bridwell’s demo that he gave him when he had all these songs written, but no lyrics yet, so he was just humming. They became a massive band. He watched that happen even to The Fleet Foxes and to so many other bands he has been working with and whom he likes as people and whom he considers peers.

At a certain point it is very easy for somebody in John’s position to either say ”Fuck the world!” because they don’t understand his genius, or maybe he sucks, because all these guys he has worked with have become famous and John is still in the trenches. The actual perspective is that there are 8000 new albums every year and only 100 of them sell more than 5000 copies. Incredible bands are putting out records on a daily basis that nobody ever hears and they disappear, they break up, or they work for 10 years but nobody ever cares.

Travis Morisson of The Dismemberment Plan said to John one time over dinner when John was bitching about his fate, that right before his album Travistan came out he got a 0.0 on Pitchfork. He had learned the hard lesson that you don’t earn success in the music business, but you do everything and sometimes it doesn’t work, or sometimes the asshole gets famous who didn’t work at all. In the case of all these bands that John has been fortunate enough to play shows with, they all deserve it and John admires them all. What had to happen to John was the reality check of understanding that he has been tremendously successful. He has made a living off music and he is pretty well regarded as an artist.

John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival (AR60)

Aaron says that he views John’s music and the standing of The Long Winters, especially in the Seattle area as extremely well-respected. John is a pretty well-known person with a very well-known name. He is playing guest-appearances on albums. You have to measure that as success! There are many instructive stories in the music world and one that John always kind of turns to is John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival. They are one of the all-time great bands and they were more influential on the Seattle music scene than even Neil Young who became kind of the patron saint of Grunge. The Seattle music scene owes more to Creedence than to Neil Young, both back in the 1990s and now. Compare the song structure and the pure intent of Creedence to Nirvana! Creedence put out a string of incredible records and they were the biggest band in the world in 1968. Somewhere along the line John Fogerty felt like he was getting ripped off by the music company and he wasn’t getting along with his brother and the other two dudes in the band. He lost sight of the deal and he got into a protracted feud with his own band and the music business in general that lasts to this day.

He didn’t put out another record until 1985 because he refused to write music under the conditions of his existing music contract. All the members of Creedence Clearwater Revival are still alive to this day and the rest of the guys are now in a band called Creedence Clearwater Revisited, while John Fogerty is sitting somewhere on a couch with a TV-remote in his hand being super-pissed. He couldn’t have been a bigger superstar in his time and who knows what music he could have made if he had managed to get his head right about what it all boiled down to. You got one shot at this and if you are bitter, you are not doing yourself any favor. John has friends who show up for their concerts in a helicopter and step out on stage wrapped in the American Flag while 80.000 people scream at the top of their lungs, and then there is John, a locally well-known guy. It is a daily process of saying ”Thank you!” to the universe for what he has accomplished and to continue to aspire to make things that are good and hope that they find an audience.

Nerd Culture (AR60)

John’s experience of the last year has been very unusual, because he has become kind of mobbed up with this nerd underground, which is not an underground anymore, by things like w00tstock, the Jonathan Coulton cruise (JoCo Cruise), or the guy from Mythbusters (Adam Savage). Outside of the confines of this universe, nobody knows what that cruise is all about. It is a universe of people that we would have called for Nerds 15 years ago, because they play Dungeons & Dragons, they like fantasy novels and computer games, they tend to be crafty, they tend to work in tech jobs and maybe they would wear a Punisher T-Shirt to work. These people liberated themselves and grew up. Because of the tech explosion, a lot of the nerds from back in the engineering suite have become millionaires and they didn’t have to apologize for being a nerd anymore. Paul Allan is the biggest nerd who has ever walked the face of the Earth and he is the 4th richest man in the world. Nerds kind of came out of the closet and they weren’t really interested in regular culture, because they had their own culture that they liked.

There are a few musicians, comedians and culture people who are full-on nerds themselves, they catered to this culture and were embraced by it. The TV show Mythbusters is a classic example. Here are these nerds who figured out a way to get paid to blow stuff up and it became the biggest show on the Discovery Channel. They don’t dress like Liberace now, but they just do what they like. The JoCo cruise and w00tstock are cultural events where the shining lights of nerd culture get to perform for an audience that is entirely nerd-based. Wil Wheaton is a seminal figure at both events and a very important figure in nerd land. He was not only on Star Trek and Stand By Me, but he was also an early blogger, an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and he wears an Utilikilt. He is not playing! He is also a good writer and a very gentle man. For whatever reason, John was embraced by this group, partly for his friendship with John Hodgman and Jonathan Coulton, but part of it was also a natural affinity. John writes songs with complete sentences and multi-syllabic words and there is an audience for that.

The Commander Thinks Aloud (AR60)

One of the songs John wrote several years ago, The Commander thinks aloud from their Ultimatum EP, was about the space shuttle crash and it had always been one of the big songs in their set and one of their signature tunes. It is a long song without any guitars on it, but with synthesizers crashing into each other. John started playing at these nerd events and after the first time he played this particular song for a group of 1200 pure nerds it was dead silent in the auditorium for 8 seconds, which had never happened to him as a performer. Later he found out that most of the people in the room were crying, which had really never happened to him as a performer. People lined up afterwards to talk to John and multiple people said that they worked at NASA and one of their jobs was to pick up the wreckage after the space shuttle. That song really resonated with them and it was in some ways a perfect storm.

If you are a nerd like that and you have Elizabethan proclivities, you will have heard of The Decemberists and perhaps of the Long Winters as well, but people's exposure to that song in that situation was completely out of the blue and a singular moment of emotional connection with a group of people who typically don’t have an emotional connection with the art that they love. John doesn’t mean that to be disparaging. Nerds tend to like comedy songs about Star Wars. They were just as unprepared to have something reach them at their core. This is a song about a spaceship crash, but it is about a real one, and some of the audience knew the people. This solidified John’s standing with them and it also solidified their standing with John. John stopped talking about them as a bunch of D&D-playing 7th graders who are now 40. On this cruise John started to go down to the game room where people were playing Settlers of Catan and doing Jigsaw puzzles, and he hung out with them and asked how this game works. He came full circle!

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