He's not in Kansas anymore

Friday July 8, 2005

I saw Kerry Livgren last night. Not in concert or anything, but just walking past me in a restaurant. Kerry Livgren is the guy that founded 70s prog rock band Kansas - if you ever saw the "Dust in the Wind" video, he's the guy with the platinum blond mullet with matching moustache. Now, he's just an old, bloated, balding guy like you'd see at 10:00 am at that seedy bar around the corner. Like that guy from the old neighborhood that grandpa goes deep-sea fishing with. At least, that was the impression he made on me as he walked briskly by. I would not have recognized him on my own; my friend Jeff, jaw agape, was staring at this guy in a column of guys just like him threading between the tables at the Bethlehem Brew Works in Bethlehem, PA (the town that actually inspired the song "Allentown" by Billy Joel.) Someone else in the caravan of old wizened men said, "Say hello to your fans!" or something to that effect, and Kerry Livegren waved and said, "Hello," on command. It was only after they had passed that Jeff was able to regain his composure and explain to me who we had just seen. I wish he had said something before the moment was over, so that I could have really studied this guy. I mean, "Dust in the Wind" is just about the perfect rock ballad, right?

I was in Bethlehem for the express purpose of seeing some old friends, Jeff and Hunter. Jeff was the guy who brought me on as a writer for Metal Maniacs back in 98 or so. Hunter plays drums in the excellent Canvas Solaris. I haven't seen Jeff in a couple years, and Hunter I've never really seen at all. I did, in fact, meet him at a metal festvial in 2002, but we weren't friends at the time. Since then, we've become pretty tight through the internet and the mail, trading jazz and technical death metal CDs. Jeff and Hunter were in town for NEARfest, the premier prog-rock festival in the United States. If you are hardcore into prog-rock, then NEARfest is like Christmas. I like some prog-rock, but I don't think I could endure two or three days of mellotron solos and 60 minute epics. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Plus, the festival sells out in about 30 minutes (no exageration), and about 4 weeks before I even know it's going on sale. So I've never been, even though Bethlehem is just a little over an hour from where I live.

The point is, Jeff and Hunter had travelled to steel country, USA, to rock out, 7/8-style. They had arrived a day early to settle in, and the time was right that we got together. We met at the aforementioned brew pub primarily because in the basement there's a bar called the Steelgaarden [sic] that specialized in Belgian beer - they have about 100 varieties, in fact. Jeff is rapidly becoming obsessed with the stuff, and my experience with Belgian beer has generally been good, so it seemed like a no-brainer. Plus, Jeff assured me, their food was pretty good. We met around 6:45 at the bar, had a few beers, and talked metal. Lots of metal. I wore a Sieges Even t-shirt to make them jealous, and it worked. Hunter said, "You know, I almost wore my Sieges Even shirt, and Jeff, laughing, added, "Oh yeah, me too!" I knew they were joking, but I rubbed it in by explaining that I actually had to choose between my two Sieges Even shirts. They were appropriately awed. Chances are, you have no idea who Sieges Even are. This is not unusual. They are an extremely obscure technical metal band from Germany, who have released five albums since 1986 or so. How I came in the ownership of two Sieges Even shirts shall remain a mystery to you all.

After about an hour we headed upstairs for dinner, where I had a fairly delicious platter of locally-made bratwurst, with red cabbage saurkraut and potato pancakes. My old granpappy (RIP), a native of Germany, would have been proud. He had a fondness for nasty teutonic sausages. We were finished eating, I think, when Mr. Livgren sauntered by. After that, it's all denoument. There's not much else to report about the dinner, except, possibly, for the fat man in a Jellyfish t-shirt. You might have to be a shameless music nerd to find that funny at all, I suppose.

We walked back to the bed and breakfast where Hunter and Jeff were staying for the weekend, because Hunter had left some CDRs he made for me in the room. They narrated some funny stories about trying to make it clear to the employees of the B&B that they were not a homosexual couple - Jeff said he went out of his way to mention his wife. But said employees probably just assumed he was talking about Hunter. Many homoerotic jokes were made. Good times were had by all. After a little while, we went back to the bar to meet Mike G, a founding editor of Metal Maniacs (who recently resigned the post). He'd been chopping my stories for years and years and I had never met him, so it was nice to finally make that connection, although he was not exactly what I expected. Nice guy, though.

I had two more beers, neither of which I had to buy. In fact, I didn't buy a single drink for anyone the whole night! I was the ultimate bar mooch! I don't know how it happened, really. Usually I'm pretty good about picking up my share of the rounds. We didn't do too much drinking, overall, which is probably how I got away scot-free. In any event, the first of the beers was a thick, sweet, unfiltered, high alcohol Belgian selected by Jeff. I have no idea what it was called, although I'm sure he could tell me, even now. It was not too good. The beer Mike bought me was much better - I asked for a white beer, but what I got was not white at all, but in fact pretty amber. It had a lightness of flavor though, and perhaps, despite the color, it was brewed in the manner of traditional whites. Who knows. One or both of the beers, or possibly the sausages, gave me a terrible headache. It was really pounding by the time the party ended and I got in my car, around 12:30. I slammed four advil and a caffeine pill to stay alert (and to fight the headache), but this, I recognize now, might have been a mistake. In fifteen minutes, I was sick to my stomach. I needed to throw up. I knew it wouldn't come naturally, but I knew that clearing out my gut was the only way to sort me out. It was another fifteen minutes before I finally mustered the courage to pull over onto some very dark side road off PA rt 100 in the middle of nowhere, stick my finger down my throat, and release the gnome or demon than was afflicting me from the inside. It was raining fairly hard, but I didn't care. In fact, it made me feel better about puking into a puddle in someone's driveway. I'm sure by the morning my bile had all washed away. I felt better immediately, but I also immediately felt the absence of the caffeine and advil, which had no doubt been lost in the purging. My headache got worse, and I was so sleepy I could barely think. Plus, I was still a little nauseous. I was clearly in no condition to drive, but I had to get home! There was no getting out of work the next day!

Suffice it to say, I made it home, safe and sound, and I obeyed all local traffic directives. I had not drunk so much that I could possibly have been over the legal limit, but getting pulled over was the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to be home, in bed. When I finally hit the sheets, I went out in 10 minutes, despite the sickness and the pain in my skull. It was a fairly terrible ending for a pretty fun night, but at least I got a good story out of it. And if you've made it this far, you can thank me for wasting a good fifteen minutes of your day, and that just when you thought there was nothing else to read on the Internet. Now, carry on, my wayward son!

Posted by Matt at July 8, 2005 10:09 AM


Awesome. And don't think I don't appreciate the time wasting, because I do, even when I'm terribly oppressed with work, I prefer not to do it, and reading your blog is ideal.

You know, you have a million of funny stories like this. I don't think you just have to do present or future ones. You're a wealth of content! In fact, you could do a whole drunk vomiting series, starting with the Airport in Frankfurt, which is hilariously funny.

Just my two cents.

The WaMO!

Posted by: The WaMO at July 8, 2005 10:47 AM

Sad, but true . . . I found the Jellyfish joke funny.

Posted by: Rachel at July 8, 2005 01:46 PM

Nice stories Emilio of the clan Breadbaskets. What is the esteemable Mr. Wagner up to these days?

Also, did you wring Greenblatt's neck?

Posted by: BenMech at July 8, 2005 03:32 PM

With a story involving two non-metal music references, how could I not comment? Well done on more time-wasting as-if-I-was-there journalism. Lucky for you Jeff could identify Kansas guy, as almost no one else in the world (except that freaky guy Jeff who worked in the deli across from the Swap...hey waitaminnit...) would be able to ID an aging progger like that.

Posted by: Damon at July 9, 2005 04:02 PM

This: "We were finished eating, I think, when Mr. Livgren sauntered by. After that, it's all denoument." is profound. I hope to be able to use it myself someday. Now I just need to find Mr. Livgren!

Posted by: Mr. X at July 11, 2005 09:05 AM

The WaMO : You are right. The sad story of my hours in the Gothenburg airport (not Frankfurt, although I did pass through there in a fairly unstable state) deserves to be told. I'll get on it!

Rachel : I knew you would.

Ben : I did not wring Mike G's neck. He bought me a beer, after all!

Damon : Ah yes! I do remember that guy! So many strange people walked around the fringes of the Swap. Those were the days.

Mr. X : Kerry Livgren is everywhere - you only need to believe!

Posted by: Matt at July 11, 2005 09:51 AM

mr. iron stomach got sick!!! dude, you're getting old and weak. welcome to the club. how's about a nice fleshy roast beef sandwich from phantasmagoria?


Posted by: roman at July 11, 2005 02:28 PM


I hope you know that Sieges Even released a new album this month:


You probably do since you linked to their website, but I wanted to be sure.

Btw the new Sieges Even album "The art of navigating by the stars" is great! :-)

Posted by: Hawk at October 24, 2005 05:40 AM

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