The Celestial Prophecy

Hey, 2004.

You fucking suck. Hard.

I’m not talking about genocide in Sudan, war in Iraq, elections in America, hurricanes in Florida, tsunamis in Asia, Martha Stewart in the hoosegow, Captain Kangaroo in a pine box or any of the innumerable other reasons that would normally provoke sensible citizens to hawk a fat loogie on the historical stain you’ve left behind.

No, you were the most fetid 365 days in recent memory for accomplishing something that none of your almanac ancestors like 1967 or 1971 could do. You totally bummed out the hippies.

So smirk away, ya sumbitch. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

After all, it isn’t just any old year that can harsh the mellow of the most hygienically indifferent and eternally optimistic race of people the world has ever known.

You killed Ronald Reagan, so I know you’re not all bad. But even with all your Nicholas Berg decapitations, Scott Peterson trials, Howard Dean yelps, Janet Jackson nipples and Ashlee Simpson lip-syncs, I figured you still wouldn’t be able to keep dreadlocked women named Moonbeam from dancing cosmically with themselves during 30-minute guitar solos.

Which is precisely why I was at the Grand Emporium for the holiday concert sponsored by the Central Plains Jamband Society. Little more than 48 hours stood between 2005 and me. I was in survival mode. I needed a safe haven to weather the last hours of your tempest, and planned on absorbing the positive energy of groovilicious bands like Shake, Tabla Rasa and Bockman’s Euphio.

I figured these musicians were all the canned goods, bottled water and emergency flares I would need to greet the new year. Granted, I had yet to meet Bockman’s acquaintance and I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to see him whip out his Euphio, but you had given me little choice.

Plus, I had every expectation that the members of the CPJS would just as soon chug squalid bong water than allow you, 2004, to get the best of their holiday party. It promised to be a communal affair, complete with a potluck and “white elephant” CD exchange of live, three-album sets.

Good vibes, man, good vibes.

But I was chagrined to discover no hacky sack games in progress. No bongo circles. And if Moonbeam was there, she was lingering in the shadows, coolly surveying the situation from above the frosted rim of a dirty martini.

Sure, things were amiable. The crowd was pleasant. Fans huddled on bar stools, bobbing their heads to the music, sipping cocktails and sucking cancer sticks. But it felt a tad subdued — more like open mike night at the Blue Room than acid freakout at Bonnaroo.

Perhaps the night was still too young. A theory advanced by Coop, Shake’s bearded percussionist in a Brett Favre jersey. After all, the show’s start time had been bumped ahead to accommodate the (cough) DJ set scheduled for later that night.

“It’s hard to be the opening band,” Coop told me by way of generous explanation. “I don’t think people were nearly drunk enough yet.”

I wasn’t buying it. Several people seemed plenty drunk enough for everybody. It was you — 12 months of bummer, brah — that was weighing the party down. Even the potluck was sad. Mostly just stale chips and fermenting salsa. And nobody had even brought any brownies.

Nice work, dick.

These partiers couldn’t even blame it on the Grand Emporium.

The place is trying. I’m sure it wants to live up to the status of its past. But I’m also sure that no other live music spot in town boasts environs that seem more consistently inconsistent with its acts than the GE, whose new motto should be “We bring good things to death.”

It isn’t a blues club. It isn’t a metal club. It isn’t a jam club. Even if it features all three on various nights. I’m all for diversity — bitches gotta eat, too — but it seems hard for anything other than ’80s Ladies Dance Night to feel natural in the sleek hipster den the Emporium has become.

“It was kind of weird,” Coop allowed. “They seem to be catering to different demographics altogether. I mean they’re having a dance party after our show.”

But you’re not getting off the hook that easy, 2004. It wasn’t the back-lit bar, the plush leather couches or Strange Brew playing on the flat-screen TVs that tempered the enthusiasm. It had to be you.

Even Bockman’s Euphio, the evening’s headliner, seemed more like indulgent indie rockers than a tribe of troubadours passing the Electric Kool-Aid test with flying colors.

Ah, but just before I lost all faith in the power of patchouli, Bockman slapped his Euphio, sparking some intriguing instrumental breakdowns and at least one stellar solo on an instrument — the melodica — apparently constructed with a keyboard, flute and beer bong.

A small pack of dreadlocked ladies and ponytailed gentlemen slowly filtered in front of the stage to try and smother your memory with fluid dance moves. Was it too little too late? Probably. Just as the show began hitting its stride, it was over, and DJs were onstage pummeling the karmic cosmos with throbbing electronic beats.

Even as the jam fans filed out into the biting wind outside the Grand Emporium, they — and I — had the solace of knowing that you would soon be spending your days as a miserable memory swilling vermouth with 1914 and 1933.

See you in hell.

Categories: Music