In the summer of 1991 I was delivering pizzas while working my way through college at the University Of Kentucky in Lexington. It was also during this time that I was DJ-ing college radio at WRFL. For the record, UK has one of the best college radio stations in the country. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life; a time when my appetite for music was insatiable. More so than it is today. It seemed like every week there was a new band, a new label, a new scene. While at work, I would often listen to our college radio station while slinging pizzas. One afternoon, I was in transit back to the store from a delivery when a song came on the radio. It was heavy, with an ear piercing guitar-lead, a foil to the softly spoken lyrics to the song.
I drove my car into my ususal parking space at the store, the song unfinished. I sat behind the steering wheel, dumbfounded. It was the most amazing thing I had ever heard. I continued to sit there until the conclusion (and what a conclusion it is!) of the song. As common in free-form radio, being afforded a DJ who will speak the title and artist of a song is a rare occasion. I ran inside the store and picked up the phone receiver, quickly dialing the on-air phone number stamped on my brain from the countless times reciting it into a microphone myself. With access to all these wonderful albums at the radio station, the title of song was really not of any importance to me. I only needed to know the band. In retrospect, I must've sounded insane, all out of breath and hurried.
"Who was that!?!?? The song that just finished?" I asked when the DJ answered the phone.
His answer was a name that would come to be equated with reverence, mystique, legend, and portent in my vocabulary. "It's Slint," he said.
I've never uncovered the meaning to the name in the 14 years since I've heard it. The fact that the interior of the word contains my name is not lost on me, but the word itself means nothing. It's close to slant which is what someone does to make something more palatable to a wider audience that it otherwise would. I've always thought maybe Slint was intended to be the alter-slant, the act of presenting something completely devoid of spin or regard for the way an audience will receive it. It stands naked and raw, waiting to be accepted and judged for what it is and nothing more.
The radio shift I did was a late-night one, 2-6am. I always preferred this. While my audience was smaller, there was more freedom. I had a longer slot than the day-shift folks (4 hours as opposed to 3) and I had the benefit of "safe harbor". In radio, this refers to the time of day when one can play things that you can't play during the day. Things with certain words in them, to a point. Of course, commerical radio can get away with playing songs like Pink Floyd's "Money" whenever they feel like it, but non-commercial radio could not. But I digress. During my next late-night excursion into Lexington's radio airwaves I located the record, called Spiderland.
It was a plain black sleeve with a black and white photo of the band on the front and a black and white photo of a spider on the back with the names of six songs: "Breadcrumb Trail", "Nosferatu Man", "Don, A Man", "Washer", "For Dinner...", and "Good Morning, Captain". After settling into my show, I cued up the record and began to play needle-roulette with the song-spacing grooves, listening to the phonographic content of the vinyl in my headphones while some other song was playing over the air waves. It didn't take long... "Nosferatu Man" was the culprit, the second song on the album. I cued the song and played it with the studio monitors turned as loud as they would go while it transmitted from atop Patterson Office tower to whoever may be up listening at that time on a Wednesday night. I immediately bought the record that week as well.
Turns out, Slint was from Louisville, KY of all places. And a year later, they broke up. In time, Spiderland would become my favorite album by anyone, anywhere, ever. Some people are perplexed by the "desert island" question of favorite album. What's that one record, if you had to pick only one to listen to for the rest of your life? Since 1991, that question has been easy for me. "It's Spiderland", I'll say without hesitation or a second-thought. I make reference in the bio on my Livejournal user page to a song that can make me cry. That song is "Washer", which came to be my favorite song of all time.
Please. Listen to me. Don't let go.
Don't let this desperate moonlight leave me with your empty pillow.
Promise me the sun will rise again.
A few years later Touch and Go records would release a two song EP by Slint and the song "Good Morning, Captain" would be included on the Kids soundtrack. But Slint never reunited. Their members went on to form many other bands, which I followed with much enthusiasm, but none ever came close to matching Spiderland in my heart and soul. Now, 14 years later, it is happening. Slint has reunited for a month long tour of the U.S and a few dates in Britain. When I found out about this I was ecstatic. I never had the opportunity to see them live all those years ago. But my excitment is somewhat bittersweet. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to see them after all these years... to put faces with names and see the organic nature of the band working on a stage, one which made music that is so deeply important to me...
I can't even BEGIN to explain what this means to me in those terms.
But on the other hand, there's a part of me that sort of wishes they hadn't. Part of the mystique of Slint was that they made their two records in reasonable obscurity and then called it quits. Their last album Spiderland would come to be regarded as one of the most influential albums of the past 15 years, yet they moved-on. I don't think this is in anyway some sort of means of "cashing in" for them, I honestly think they are doing it for their legions of fans and for themselves, and nothing more. But that part nags at me, that maybe it would've been best if they had just let it be and keep that legenday, mythical status intact.
Silently, he pulled down the shade against the shadow.
Lost in the doorstep of the empty house.
I'm trying to find my way home.
And I'm sorry.
And I miss you.
I miss you.
I've grown taller now.
And I want the police to be notified.
Oh I swear, I'll make it up
I'll make it up to you
I'll make it up to you
I'll make it up to you
I MISS YOU
I realized when I found out about this tour that my job provided me with a unique opportunity. And I am taking FULL advantage of it:
If all goes well, I will being seeing Slint five times in four cities over the next month. For each date, I have acquired two tickets, with the intention of finding someone to go with me. The last show I am attending on the 26th of March in Chicago. I have yet to get a commitment from a pal of mine there. Upon discovering in an IM conversation with mandy_moon that she was a Slint fan, I have invited her to attend that show with me at the Roxy in Boston on the 20th. It should be the BEST SLINT EVER. The two nights prior to that, on the 18th and 19th, I will see Slint at Irving Plaza in NYC with a good friend from college. Livejournal knows him as mybluenotepad but I know him as AJ. AJ attended UK with me, DJ'ed at WRFL, and at one time was its Music Director. If there is anyone else on the planet who understands my deep love for this band, it is AJ. So it is fitting that we will see them on back-to-back nights in New York.
But tomorrow night is when the journey begins. Fittingly, Slint is beginning this tour with a show at Brown Theatre in Louisville before going to Europe. I will be taking my best friend, Robin, with me to the show. She's not at all familiar with the band... she's basically going to be with me for something that is very important to me. She likes live shows, and maybe she'll become a fan... but it's not like she's going to see Slint because she cares anything about the band. But I'm glad she's going with me on this momentous occasion. I will probably be awe-struck, mouth agape... I'll probably buy every single stitch of merchandise they have available.
I may even cry.