why Soul Asylum rules

I went to the November 22nd show because Soul Asylum plays with more energy, humor, and passion than almost any other live act you could care to name. You'd think someone, somewhere would have released a double-fuckin-live LP by these guys by now. (If you know of any bootlegs, let me know...)

The crowd was a mix of ageing rockers (leather jackets, ripped jeans; I got the sense that some of the ladies had put some thought into their slightly-decadent yet oh-so-cool outfits) and well-dressed groups of people who I'm guessing came onto the bandwagon sometime around '92. Or maybe they've been there as long as me, but choose not to be slobs.

These two camps were celebrating the traditional pre-Thanksgiving Old Home Night and I was in a corner alone (with a rare accompanying feeling of loneliness, sigh) sipping my beer, recognizing no one except the occasional Golden Smogger out of the corner of my eye. No surprise, the show was almost all Grave Dancers Union and newer. I was hoping for that song from the Clerks soundtrack, but didn't get it. (Did you ever see the alternate ending to Clerks? It ends with Dante serving one more customer and said client shoots him and leaves him to die. Kevin Smith's chosen ending is better: The girl situation is left unclear, but Dante and Randall remain friends. The credits roll as Soul Asylum's triumphant " Can't Even Tell" plays.)

The newer stuff is actually good-to-great, but the older stuff deserves more recognition. I thought back to the late 80's/early 90's when Soul Asylum would regularly do shows in either the Main Room or the Cabooze or Coffman Union. The Main Room shows were my favorites, they'd usually play two nights - one an all-ages show, one a twenty-one plus (commonly referred to as a "drunk") show. If the home stand was during the workweek, I'd go to the first, all-ages show so I could get home early and not be dragging tail at work the next morning. I remember feeling old on the main floor, 23-or-so years old, having teenagers bounce around me, invariably falling in love with some 19-year old (I was hoping) flannel-shirt wearing, smoking, dirty-blond cutie dancing in front of me. Those were the days when Soul Asylum were too scared to play their quiet songs, especially to an all-ages crowd. At the drunk shows they might pull out a "P-9" or a "Twiddly Dee," but the all-ages shows were always fast and loud.

This year I stood on the balcony with my big-boy can of LaBatt's, wondering if any of those cute punk kids from those all-ages shows 10-plus years ago were at this show. They're all around thirty now, give or take a few years either way. Maybe some jumped ship as "Runaway Train" took over the charts, loading up on their "sellout" and "not real punk" chants - perfecting 'em for lobbing at the Offspring and Green Day a couple years down the road. Maybe some were the well-dressed preps around me that I resented this night. Okay, "resented" is too strong of a word - besides at one point before the opening Iffy set, some GQ-looking dude grabbed my elbow. I thought I was about to get my ass kicked for staring at his girlfriend. "Did you go to UND?" he asked. Yeah, I said. "Thought I recognized you," he said. We chatted briefly but it turns out we never knew each other at school. (Maybe I was a BMOC and didn't even know it!) "Enjoy the show," he said before walking away.

So hey - it's a night for old friends to get together and go out, I just happened to be one of those stuck with my rocker friends out of town. I had to remind myself not to be such a crab and to quit pining for the old days. Live for the moment, dude, 'kay?? And by the time I'd finally gotten into the groove, Soul Asylum came out for an encore. They went into "We Three," "Closer to the Stars," and "Ramblin' Rose" - leaving most of the crowd puzzled, while me and a few scattered others went fucking nuts.

Damn - it finally felt like Old Home Night.

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