What better time for music than summer? Outdoor festivals, beach tunes, jeep beats — they make the warm-weather months more fun and extra-memorable. Those individual and collective memories are all worth celebrating, which is exactly what Hive will be doing this week. We asked some friends and favorite music folks about their thoughts on past, future and timeless summer music, collected their answers, and tied ‘em up in a nice, breezy package.
We kick things off with the following question: What is your one timeless summer music memory?
Lizzi Bougatsos (Singer/Percussionist, Gang Gang Dance)
My favorite summer memory is seeing Bad Brains at Fujirock. There were evergreens everywhere in Japan and I was in complete darkness as I heard my favorite album blazing in the dark, Rock for Light. When I arrived, it was pure bliss. I’ll never forget H.R.’s face on the screen surrounded by earth. It was like a dream. (Gang Gang Dance’s new album Eye Contact is out now.)
Matt Pinfield (Host of 120 Minutes/120 Seconds)
In August of 1992, my good friend Miles Hunt of the Wonder Stuff (one of the biggest bands in the UK at the time) invited me and cartoonist/comic book artist Cliff Galbraith to come to their headlining weekend at the incredible Reading Festival. It was an amazing three-day bill, and the other two headliners were Nirvana and Public Enemy. Cliff and I stayed in London at the band’s warehouse area rehearsal space/mini-apartment, and then made the trip with the band to Reading. While we were there, I was asked to have lunch with legendary English DJ John Peel, and we sat in the Hotel Caversham as I listened, fascinated by his stories about everyone from Marc Bolan to Joy Division. A highlight of that weekend was hanging with Kurt Cobain and standing on the side of the stage when he came out to open Nirvana’s set in that infamous wheelchair! (Follow Matt Pinfield at @mattpinfield)
Bethany Cosentino (Singer/guitarist, Best Coast)
When I was a teenager, I went to Coachella every year. I feel like Coachella is the first hint of summer in California; it’s a big festival that says, “Okay, this is a big deal thing out in the desert and summer is quickly approaching.” I went the year when the Cure headlined, though they all started to blend together — people go to Coachella and drink a lot so you forget which year is which. But I remember going and watching the Cure with my friends when I was 17 or 18, and thinking it was the coolest thing I would ever do in my life. (Follow Bethany Cosentino at @bestycoastyy)
Andrew Nosnitsky (Founder/Blogger, Cocaineblunts)
I’ll never forget the one summer that I sat at my computer and downloaded songs in nicer weather than usual. Then I deleted some of them but continued to listen to others. (Follow Andrew at @noz)
James Montgomery (Senior Editor, MTV News)
Lollapalooza, Central Florida Fairgrounds, July 28, 1993: I got kicked in the head during Rage Against the Machine’s mid-afternoon (!) set, shook hands with the old dude from Arrested Development as he was riding by in a golf cart, shotgunned a beer in the parking lot and watched my friend John Powers throw up behind the Porta-Johns. In other words, it was the day I became a man. (Follow James at @positivnegativ)
Lizzy Goodman (New York)
Martha’s Vineyard, Summer 1996: me, my best friend, her slick black SUV, and Bob Dylan’s Halloween Mask concert bootleg. We’d eat Caramel Creams for breakfast, go to the beach for lunch, then drive everywhere with our feet out the window listening to this at top volume, subwoofers illuminating the booming basslines of “To Ramona” and “Hard Rain.” It was a good look. (Follow Lizzy at @lizzydgoodman)
Jessica Suarez (Editor, Stereogum)
I moved to New York for a summer in 2003, to be a publicity intern for Matador Records. I made photocopies, stuffed them into envelopes with CDs and walked them down to the post office with a mail cart. Those were most days. On the better days, we went to Matador shows and got to sit in VIP. On the best day, we followed the New Pornographers around after a show at the Bowery Ballroom, until we ended up at a basement karaoke bar and watched Neko Case sing country songs with A.C. Newman. It was worth sweating the whole summer in a photocopy closet. (Follow Jessica at @jessicasuarez)
Craig “Dodge” Lile (Blogger/Founder, My Old Kentucky Blog)
When I was 16, I didn’t see God, but I went to Lollapalooza … front row tickets and saw way too much of Courtney Love’s unkempt, uncovered, private parts. The image has never been burned out of my eyeball. The other suck of that show was when she threw her guitar in the crowd. I grabbed it. Security came and told me if I didn’t give it back, they’d kick me out of the park. (Follow Dodge at @DodgeMOKB)
Andrew Flanagan (Senior Editor, The Daily Swarm)
Solid, verifiable summer memories are simply harder to come by than Fall, Spring and Winter: It’s a beer-aligned, drug-friendly, retention-averse, Riley-living season indeed. Plumbing through the kaleidoscope though, I remember one night in particular. My friends were living in a really nice loft in downtown Minneapolis (a loft these particulars honestly had no business in). They had been thinking about throwing shows in this space for years. After all those years of horrible house shows, they absolutely knocked it out of the park: Pocahaunted, Peaking Lights, Leisure Birds, Chelsea Boys, a couple loopy openers, a girl I had a chance with, free crappy beer, out-of-the-blue unbelievably good sound and every friend I could ever care to have in the same place at once. They were evicted a few months later. (Follow Andrew at @philouza)
Luis Tovar (Blogger/Founder, Pretty Much Amazing)
While it does not technically happen in the summer, my favorite memory has to be watching Prince reign at Coachella (2008). I saw God twice during Prince’s set: once during his glorious live rendition of “Purple Rain,” and again when he covered Radiohead’s “Creep.” (Follow Luis at @pmablog)
Eric Spitznagel (Vanity Fair, Playboy, The Believer)
An Indian casino is something that sounds like a good idea in theory. When you’re faced with a summer weekend with nothing to do and it’s so humid outside it feels like you’re walking around inside a dog’s mouth, playing the slots in air-conditioned comfort might as well be wine tasting in the south of France. But then you get there, and within 15 minutes you’ve lost everything to a goddamn Wheel of Fortune machine, and you realize that you’re trapped in a desert prison of neon, unfiltered cigarettes and old people. That was the scene during the summer of 2003, when the Dame and I retreated to a casino two hours north of San Francisco, convinced that we’d found a genius way to beat the heat. After being nearly depleted of funds, we found the only bar that let us pay for a gin-and-tonic with nickels — which we shared like teenagers at a soda shop, sipping from our respective twisty straws — and discovered that the casino had another source of entertainment that wouldn’t cost us one red cent: Karaoke.
I don’t enjoy karaoke. I won’t do it, and I won’t pretend to be enthusiastic when other people do it. I just don’t see the up side of standing on a stage and sharing your lack of singing talent with a crowd of strangers. Anybody who cares about music knows that every time somebody sings a Wham! song over a bad recording of synthesizers, an angel loses its wings. But I am willing to make an exception. If the songbook contains even a single tune by Cap’n Jazz, I will take to the stage with gusto. Any Cap’n Jazz song. “Little League,” “We Are Scientists!” “Scary Kids Scaring Kids.” You name it, I’ll belt it out.
Not surprisingly, Cap’n Jazz wasn’t among the selections at the casino karaoke. Just the usual shit like “Dancing Queen” and “Suspicious Minds.” The singers, mostly 20-somethings drunk on free booze, delivered renditions that were bombastic in their mediocrity. And then came Jules, who burst onto the stage like an extra from a community theater production of Xanadu. She was dressed in a burgundy polyester jumpsuit with faux crushed velvet around the neck and openings on either side, running from her armpit to her ankles, loosely attached with corset strings. It would’ve been an unflattering outfit on anybody, but it was an especially unwise fashion choice for a five foot three woman whose weight was the title of a Frank Miller comic about Spartans.
As the familiar chords of “These Boots Were Made for Walking” blared over the sound system, Jules grasped the microphone like the boney neck of an ex-lover and launched into a performance that was nothing less than a revelation. Her brilliance wasn’t in her stage antics, which so many karaoke hacks use to make up for their lack of talent. There was no pointing or punching or David Lee Roth high kicks. Jules barely moved at all. She kept her feet planted firmly on the stage and stared into the middle distance, somewhere just over the audience’s head. But the emotion came through in her voice — as sweet and heart-heavy as the unbaked cookie dough she likely had for dinner.
Because the bar was mostly empty and the karaoke pickings were slim, Jules was allowed to do several songs back-to-back. Her choices were telling. “You’re So Vain,” “I Done Got Over It,” “I Will Survive,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “You’re No Good.” All songs of female redemption and dumping loser boyfriends. We wondered, could this recurring theme be intentional? Did we really live in a world where a woman like Jules, who wasn’t afraid to let a little pudge squeeze out from the sides of her jumpsuit, could be so unlucky in love?
Her last song for the evening was “Love Is a Battlefield,” and even the drunks who’d just stumbled into the bar knew that something special was happening. There was electricity in the air. Every lyric resonated with meaning. When she sang, “Heartache to heartache we stand/ No promises, no demands,” she might as well have been screaming, “To hell with you, Tyler! I ain’t got time to heat you up another goddamn hot-pocket! I’m goin’ down to the casino and sing me some karaoke. And when I get back, you best be out my trailer for good!”
When the song reached its dramatic crescendo, the Dame and I stood up and danced like the hookers in Pat Benatar’s video, with defiant shimmying and finger-snapping. “Thank you, Jules,” we wanted to scream at her. “Thank you for giving us the strength to blow off our metaphorical pimps!” She began giving us worrisome looks, and even before the final note had faded, she fled the stage and disappeared into the casino.
We thought about chasing after her and apologizing for the way we acted. But we weren’t really sorry at all. She helped us reconnect with that raw, primal part of ourselves; the part that wants to let down the ironic facade and cry along with a Peter Cetera song, the part that thinks Garth Brooks’ “The River” would make a great wedding song, the part that believes every rose DOES have its thorn and your body might really BE a wonderland.
I still won’t do karaoke. And when I think anybody is watching, I’m still the smirking cynic who quotes Cap’n Jazz lyrics. But deep in my soul, there’s a disobedient hooker who isn’t afraid to burst into song if given half the chance. You think I’m wrong? No one can tell me I’m wrong! (Follow Eric at @ericspitznagel)
Tomorrow, we ask: What’s your all-time favorite summer song?