Blesok no. 95, March-April, 2014
Last Post, Tucson: Heart is a cactus garden
Waiting alone traced Tucson, AZ onto the map of my dreams as a place I would live a part of this humble life of mine. There is something in the water, it's not the Moon, though it looks like it could be. Water can not be tamed, it is a constant reminder of growing up on a curious land, between three rivers, near the tracks. Summers under the bridge, winters on the cloud of illusion.
Where there are dreams, there are borders. I'm coming to find you. I'm coming because a big record with its eleven songs reminded me of your existence. How is it even possible for me to forget… Why are border dreams always more vivid?
It's time for a new journey.
These days, the reigning European authority on all americana and surf music, recording company Glitterhouse, located in German town of Beverungen, released a new album by the DeSoto Cactus.
I am not going to beat around the bush, I had no idea who they are until I came across this album. And is there anything better than the thrill of a brand new thing, no history or bias, lending yourself to it fully, only to be swept away before the first song is over. That is exactly what happened to me when I heard DeSoto Cactus' self titled album, humber three in band's discography.
Surf guitars and a whole ocean replaced with endless sands - I heard them through a sleepy haze. There was no chance of falling asleep after that. They were too good for that even though sleep is one of the things I cherish. The detective in me could not let them be, could not relax and enjoy the hypnotic movement of landscapes and waves of those guitars and drums. Oh no!
He had to scratch deeper and discover that the guys come from Denmark, port city of Aarhous to be exact.
Good detective found out that the band is made up of:
Anders Pedersen (singing & playing)
Peter Dombernowsky (drumming, shaking, snapping & clapping)
Nikolaj Heyman (singing, playing guitars and bass, keyboards and some)
Thøger T. Lund (singing, playing upright bass, clarinet & piano)
Henrik Poulsen (playing bass)
And then I came across a detail that set everything in its place. They play with Howe Gelb! They are part of the Giant Giant Sand family, and they live between Denmark and Arizona. Currently they are touring Europe.
As a teenager, in the early seventies, Howe Gelb moved to Tucson after his Pennsylvania home got destroyed in a flood. In 1980 he and his best friend, Rainer Ptacek, founded what would later come to be know as a forerunner to Giant Sand, a post punk band they named Giant Sandworms. Name was inspired by the sand worms of a science fiction masterpiece Dune by Frank Herbert. In 1984 David Lynch made Dunes into a film, and a year later Giant Sand recorded its first album, Valley of Rain.
Even though they parted ways long ago, Ptacek, master of slide guitar and a legendary figure in the art and music scene of Tucson, to this day remains an inspiration for Gelb.
Gelb has his hand in over twenty albums and is currently working with musicians from Canada, to Scandinavia, to the warmest parts of Spain, where with the Band of Gypsies he recorded the great Alegrias. All of those musicians, in one way or another, are Giant Giant Sand. When he is not traveling Gelb calls Barrio Santa Rosa home, it is one of the most beautiful parts of Tucson with an equally beautiful name.
Giant Sad saw many people, some very famous musicians, some less so and attempting to list them all seems next to impossible. But the nineties duo which along with Gelb made Giant Sand will go on their own adventure to become known to the rest of the world as Calexico.
Second time I saw Calexico I was in Berlin. A few years had passed since I first saw them, I wandered the city looking for traces of old dreams I've dreamt of in Hamburg. Concert in an old factory, three small stages, three bands, Calexico headlining. Their last song as universal conspiracy on behalf of all I don't believe in, a cover of Cohen's anthem "Waiting for the Miracle." Anything is possible. Berlin has fallen. Let New York Shake, dreamers march on.
I saw them for the first time in Barcelona. They played at a quaint Apollo venue with perfect sound and intimate atmosphere. Apollo is known for concerts of those who will know fame, or those who already do but still prefer to play there. Calexico hovers between those two groups. It was the tour in support of their Garden Ruin album with the song All Systems Red strategically placed as the last number, one that knocks you out and leaves you immobile long after the record has spun out its story.
Hearts break for millions of different reasons, everyone should at least have the right to pick his own. But there is seldom a choice.
Perhaps the Garden Ruin is an emotionally charged political manifesto, the way Joey Burns and John Convertino chose to fight, to warn against the insanity of Bush's days and endless nights in dungeons of Guantanamo. I haven't perceived it as such, especially not the last song which marked a part of my life, cutting into me with distorted guitars of its last half.
Ultimately that is the magic of poetry, once we deliver it, once it parts our very own skin, when we scrape it away from our bones, it stops being ours. And it is no longer about what the poet wanted to say but about what it enables others to see, pointing to the horizons of which we were not aware of before, while the spell spreads into songs. That could be the greatest gift poetry can give us.
Go find The guys from Denmark, the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this story, find them in Giant Sand. You can start with Gelb's solo album "The Listener." Pay attention to it. I have to go, the river is calling me. It takes me back to growing up on everyone's land, in bubbles made up of dreams and John Waters' films, some already far away, where decades later they'll actually find themselves, at the very border of the Americas. And America is so much…
There is no stopping, not until you've reached the city of all cultures, and Luz de Luna mariachi, there, near Mexico, in Tucson, Arizona, where Rainer Patcek, after a long battle with illness, gave his last breath to the guitar. There, where Howe Gelb, John Convertino and Joey Burns played out their last days as bandmates, leaving us a shivering memory.
Translated from Bosnian by Korana Šegetalo Delić