All posts by Bailey F. Olmstead

This is It: Why You Should be Listening to The Greeting Committee

On May 22nd, 2018 I walked into Boston’s Royale. Passing the merch table for Jukebox the Ghost, my eyes caught a glimpse of a t-shirt in the far right corner plainly stating “The Greeting Committee.” I pushed myself into the crowd eager to see one of my favorite bands perform. But before the main event, I had to sit through another opening act.

Voices bubbled as the lights dimmed and three men walked out on stage. They hit their instruments hard. Guitars wailing, the bass shaking me. I could feel the drums behind my eyeballs. I rolled my eyes.

“Great, another punkish popish three piece boy band* here to sing the same sad songs I’ve heard a million time-”

I never got a chance to finish my snarky comment as a young woman bounded onto the stage in a red jumpsuit.

In my memory it was a single twenty foot bound that carried her to center stage. Descending like The Phantom from the rafters. A poor stagehand had to follow after with her mic cable to make sure she didn’t clothesline her bandmates.

All thoughts of snarky comments left my head.
There were four of them on stage that night, Lead Singer Addie Sartino, Pierce Turcotte on bass and saxophone, Brandon Yangmi on guitar, and Austin Fraser on Drums.

The crowd that night was tough, but they put performed as if a whole stadium was screaming their names.

Personally the emotional peak of the set was the first time I got to hear Dancing to Nothing at All. Halfway through the song their bassist Pierce hands off his bass to Addie and breaks out into a Springsteenian saxophone solo the song crescendos into this wonderful cacophony of sheer emotion. What starts out as a relatively slow and sparse song swells into an absolute wall of expression. I was floored. I was in tears.

Dancing to Nothing at All exemplifies so many of the reasons you, yes you, should be listening to The Greeting Committee. Throughout the song you get to hear each member of the band shine and bounce off each other. From Brandon and Pierce riff together on guitar and saxophone respectively. To the way Austin’s drums support, yet elevate the playing. And at the end when Pierce tempers his saxophone to Addie’s yearning refrain:

If you’re gonna love someone, let it be me.

It’s been a really long time since a band has captured such a specific feeling about love and life that resonates with me so deeply. They make grand declarations feel incredibly intimate. Dancing to Nothing at All is such a huge song about such a simple moment. Two people, young and in love dancing alone in a house. And through that song, they bring you there. It’s not some generic song about some generic person who the singer is generically in love with. It’s this vivid moment with real people, in a real world. Not some generic vacuum.


On the song Elise we’re once more brought into a love song full of intimacy and grandeur, yet incredibly grounded in reality. You can really feel these moments happen, the world building in these songs allows for such an easy empathetic connection to be made. Pulling the words out of you that you never knew you needed to say.

In a back car seat, reminding me
That even in a wreck,
I’ve got someone for holding.

And they’re able to bring this intimate grandeur to pain and heartache as well. On the track I Don’t Mind we play witness to a breakup:

Comfort can’t exist
I never felt it in your lips
You used your skin as weapon
When the right words wouldn’t fill in

Their ability to make tangible intangible moments through both lyricism and musicality. The playing so beautifully matches what the lyrics are portraying.

They weave in and out of difficult topics so beautifully and gracefully, such as in Birthday Song. There we are painted a portrait of a broken home. With dashes of negligent parents. Streaks of broken promises. And the contrasting shadows of the pain and suffering that comes from a home that falls apart. Live it’s just Brandon and Addie on stage. Sitting there. There’s no theatrics, there’s no jumping anymore. No shouting. Just the song speaking for itself. The song ends with the audience singing together, all kinda teary eyed. As intimate as if you’re gathered around the cake in the song.

The Greeting Committee isn’t trying to be too cool for their emotions. There’s no glib irony in their songs. It’s the pure empathetic transference of emotion. Even on their poppier tracks like Don’t Go still bursts with earnest expression of love and bickering. The song wonderfully addresses the difficult push and pull of a relationship without any snark or snide. The song is full of vulnerability without feeling weak of begging. The strength of the music behind it gives power to the vulnerable nature of the subject.

Don’t go
I know I pushed you to before
Don’t go
I’ll never make it on my own
Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go, don’t go

I can’t say that all the songs are autobiographical, nor do I want to. But to me the beauty of The Greeting Committee is that they feel autobiographical.

I remember being very very young and listening to Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen and my father having to explain to me that it’s not real, there isn’t actually a Rosalita Bruce is searching for.

Maybe that’s where so much of my fondness for The Greeting Committee comes from. Not to make everything about Bruce Springsteen, (even though I can make literally anything about Bruce Springsteen) but so much of what I love about Bruce Springsteen, especially early Bruce Springsteen, you can find in The Greeting Committee. The world building, the yearning, the intimacy, the grandeur, the feeling that somewhere at sometime this happened to somebody. The ability to turn abstract concepts into songs that express everything you’ve ever wanted to say.

The Greeting Committee are brave, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Opening for bands with rabid fan bases who might not know them. Rabid fan bases who resent the idea of an opening band purely on principle, just like I did. But every night they’re showing people why they should love them. The Greeting Committee is one of the most fun, energetic, and honest bands I’ve ever encountered. Once their given the full stage to headline their own tour they’re going to rule the world.

I was lucky enough to meet Pierce and Addie when they came to Boston last Monday. I was able to tell them how much I loved them and how much their music means to me.

I hope this essay convinces you to listen to them, and go see them on tour. I hope then you can feel the things I’ve felt and more and tell them how much their songs mean to you. Because I don’t know if I know of a band right now that deserves to be loved as much as The Greeting Committee.

You should be listening to The Greeting Committee because for my money no one is writing songs as consistently visceral or empathetic as they are. For my money no one is putting on as fun of a show as they are. Time after time I can go back and listen to the same songs by The Greeting Committee and I can feel just as much as I did that rainy night standing in the Royale.

Your Fool and More,

Bailey F. Olmstead

P.S. Here’s a lil playlist to show you some of my favorite songs by them, some not even mentioned in this essay!

 

*I’m aware of the irony of saying this at a Jukebox the Ghost Show, a band that is piano punkish popish.

I Don’t Give a Hoot About What You Think: A Love Letter to Weezer

Weezer, the ever uncool. Weezer the awkward nerds with guitars, synths and a strange affinity for KISS. Weezer has been producing music for 25 years. And according to a large percentage of their fans, they only have two good albums.

I think I was 14 when I was first told there were only two good Weezer albums. Before that I just enjoyed Weezer. In particular the Red Album. I thought The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived was a masterpiece. I would listen to the whole album all the time. Troublemaker would play as a 12 year old me cut behind the elementary school on my way to go hang out at the library for several hours as I waited for my parents to finish work. I listened to Hurley a lot and had a great time. My first introduction to Jackass was Memories. It’s also probably the most time I spent watching Jackass. I don’t have a stomach for these kinds of things.

But I was sitting in the living room of my best friend Erik’s house when he told me that there were only two good Weezer albums. And that Pinkerton, the one I never cared much for, was the best one. I was floored and upset. I walked back to the library to meet my dad while listening to If You’re Wondering if I Want you to (I Want you to). I felt conflicted.

I then did my best to get really into Pinkerton, stopped listening to the Red Album, and wrote a really long note to a girl confessing my love for her while citing songs from Pinkerton. It was a dark and greasy time.

I grew out of that, thankfully.

One fateful day Everything Will Be Alright in the End came out. I listened to it constantly. I loved it so much I made it my computer background. A friend, Brendan, saw it and asked what it was,

“It’s the cover of Weezer’s new album.”

“Weezer still exists?”

The White Album came out at a time when I was in love and I loved it even more. I mean, I couldn’t get my girlfriend at the time to listen to it. But the songs made me think of her and I was young and everything was alright. (in the end).

I actually found out about the White Album in my high school’s locker room. My father had texted me asking me what the hell my little band Weezer thought they were doing, when the real White album was already released by the Beatles.

Time passed and I became weirdly wary of Weezer again. Maybe it’s because I went to art school and had the volume of “Pinkerton is the only good Weezer album” cranked to 11.

When Pacific Daydream came out I listened to it once and wrote it off completely.

A few more years passed and I began to solidify my own opinions on Weezer. I still feel like the popularity of Weezer’s Africa overshadows the fact that the campaign to get them to cover the song in the first place was huge. And it was reaching a fever pitch as the rumored release date for Weezer’s long anticipated Black Album was supposed to originally drop. And you know what they did? They released a cover of Toto’s Rosanna instead.

Fucking hilarious.

And two days later they released Africa. And nothing Weezer-wise was ever the same.

Weezer blew up in a way they hadn’t in years. Bigger than they ever were before, singing someone else’s song, getting radio play and late night appearances, They were on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve Hosted By Ryan Seacrest. But now Weezer were the ones who weren’t happy. Rivers talked to EW about the struggle of being a songwriter for 25 years and having your biggest hit be off of someone else’s song you covered as a joke.

Weezer’s Africa amused me, but didn’t hold my attention.

Summer came. One morning on my way to my old job I decided to go back and revisit The Red Album. That cool 5am Boston morning reminded me why I loved it so much in the first place. Later I heard some songs on Pinkerton and remembered why I never cared for it that much. They’re such different albums. Much of Pinkerton is full of these weird and unsettling emotions that I don’t really enjoy listening to anymore. It seethes with a mix of emotions from high school I no longer wish to revisit. It quite literally feels like a sophomore album. On the other hand Red is just wall to wall with bangers and ballads. It also holds a reference to Bruce Springsteen, so it gets a 10/10 in my book. Also the video for Pork and Beans is one of the greatest pieces of internet culture ever released.

I revisited the Weezer of my youth. A band full of awkward angst and optimism. A band trying to have a good time, a band in love with the Mythical Land of California. A band that you had to defend as you were talking about liking, or even loving them.

SNL released a Weezer sketch that was sent to me so many times by so many people saying “look it’s you” when Matt Damon screamed that “Pork and Beans is better than Buddy Holly!” It happened so often that my dad sent it twice, forgetting he sent it the first time. I felt strangely validated.

Then SNL was like “It was a joke, we had no idea people had these opinions.”

That was a little invalidating. I choose to ignore that.

It was in Maddie’s DC apartment in bed around 2am when I heard about the Teal Album. At first I thought it was a joke. Rivers is infamous for letting other people write shitposts for his tweets. But it was real. After I stopped crying and laughing out of fear and amusement, I listened.

And listened.

And listened.

And actually really enjoyed it.

This time around Weezer’s Africa felt more impactful in the full context of the Teal Album. It lingered. The album had a lot of fun and heart put into it. And some really cool interpretations of songs, my favorite being Happy Together. Hearing Weezer have fun on the Teal Album made me realize how much I loved Weezer, and why I loved Weezer. They’re just some guys trying to have fun.

I enjoyed it so much that I went back and gave Pacific Daydream another try. And actually liked a lot about it. Not everything, but a lot. Mexican Fender is one of their best songs in recent history.

I went back and listened to Raditude again and enjoyed it. I fell back in love with Weezer.

As a writer and a Weezer fan I will be subjected to years and years of Weezer discourse. A lot of it negative and boring and bad.

A lot of headlines you see about Weezer’s exploits seem to be punching down. Sure, is it very weird that there’s a Weezer island in Fortnite? Yes. Absolutely. But somehow it feels perfectly Weezer. It’s so cool to hate on Weezer, yet Weezer’s Africa charted. People are listening to this stuff, a lot. And Despite the fact that it’s ‘cool’ to say that no one has cared about Weezer since 2001, they’re still drawing crowds. They’re still having article after article written about them. And they’re still putting out albums, each one different than the last. Some of them weird, some of them straightforward, but each one different than the last. Each one something new.

Why we can’t just let Weezer have fun? They’ve been trying so hard to have fun for nearly 30 years and every time they seem like they’re having a good time, all their fans are doing is complaining it’s not what they wanted. But the whole point of Weezer, their whole persona and mythology is that they’re oddballs and outcasts who no one wants. The fans reaction to Weezer’s output just reinforces the mythos of Weezer. They’re just gonna do the things that they wanna do.

Weezer never was cool and Weezer never will be cool. They’ve been proudly uncool ever since the beginning, with that wonderfully awkward first album cover. One headline by the Brooklyn Vegan says they’re “Confused and Out of Touch on the Black album.” But that’s always been Weezer. That’s what In the Garage was all about. They’re just some nerdy weirdos trying to have fun. They’re not going to fit in whatever molds the larger world tries to constrict them to.

And sure they don’t always hit the landing. I’d be relieved if I never had to hear the album version of “Feels like Summer” again. But at the same time I’d rather have Rivers, and Weezer as a whole try something new and weird and maybe even too poppy than release more songs like Pink Triangle. Rivers and Weezer are always working on albums. Even now they have two more albums in various stages of completion. Unlike other darling bands of the era, Weezer is producing new albums consistently. Meanwhile I’ve been waiting five years for a new OK Go album.

With the release of the Black Album Weezer fans have found more and more to complain about. As they will continue to do long after Rivers has run dry, so to speak. And maybe that’s the way it’ll continue to be. A strange push and pull, a back and forth. A yin and yang.

I suppose I’ll continue to unironically believe that the Red Album is the best Weezer album. Miss Sweeney is one of the greatest songs of all goddamn time.

Just, let Weezer have fun. They’re not hurting anyone.  They just want to have a good time with the people who have been their fans for nearly 30 years.

Having listened to the album while editing this essay, the Black Album is really good. I like it a lot! It’s poppy and upbeat and a little weird. It’s a logical evolution from the White Album, with a lot of feelings of the Green Album, and maybe a little Raditude thrown in there. If that doesn’t sound like your speed and you wanna wallow in some angst, I hear Gretta Van Fleet has a covers album or two.

Thank you for your time. All hate mail can be forwarded to my Beverly Hills address.

All my Love,

Bailey F. Olmstead

(Ride or Die, Baby)

 

Oh No Love, You’re Not Alone!

I remember the first time I heard Life on Mars by David Bowie. It changed my life. I had never heard a song like that before. Bowie is wailing. The piano is crashing. The guitar is crying. It’s so beautifully haunting. Very few songs hit me like this one. When I hear it sometimes it’s like being struck like a bell. I hear it and I can feel myself ringing. A little while later I would hear Rock n’ Roll Suicide. As Bowie screams “Oh no love, you’re not alone!” I would be flying down hills of my small hometown on my bike. The summer hot on my back. I was maybe 12. That song was everything I had dreamed of, yearned for. It was life changing. It was life affirming.

I’m from Newfield, New York. You’ve never heard of it. When people ask I say that I’m from Ithaca, New York. Which isn’t entirely a lie. I spent a lot of my life in Ithaca, but I grew up in the small town just outside of Ithaca. I had a class of maybe 54 other kids, give or take. I felt very alone. But Bowie would call me ‘love’ and tell me I wasn’t, so it’d make the days a little better.

I remember being in the car with my father when I first heard Space Oddity. I was young I was obsessed with the narrative. The fact the song could tell a story like that. He told me there was a follow up. I was very sad when I heard Ashes to Ashes.

Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom’s a junkie
Strung out in heaven’s high
Hitting an all-time low

I ran into his room. I cried out, “Dad! Why?” and he explained the context for the song. How a lot of astronauts turn to drugs after space because nothing on Earth could match that. I still get a little sad when I hear that song.

Because of my obsession with Space Oddity my father gave me a David Bowie cassette. It was Changes, a lot of great songs on that hunk of plastic. It was a prized possession. When I was much younger than I am now, but older than when I got the cassette I gave it to the girl I lost my virginity to. It had Heroes on it and that was ‘our song.’ I was in high school, and in love and I gave it away because I thought that’s what you did for love. Maybe I still do.

I got older and more into Bowie. I heard the lyrics to Young Americans and I realized how that first verse was more or less exactly the story of me losing my virginity.

They pulled in just behind the bridge
He lays her down, he frowns
Gee my life’s a funny thing, am I still too young?
He kissed her then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows, she’d have taken anything…

What a young little Casanova I was. What a  fool I was. Around the time I discovered Young Americans I was beginning to question my sexuality. I think I was 16. I didn’t know how to talk about it or who to talk about it with. I didn’t know any bisexual males that I was aware of. My sister had just come out, but I didn’t want to talk to her and seem like I was trying to steal her thunder. I was alone in my anxiety and my own sexual ambiguity. I was afraid to declare anything. I wrestled with it for nearly two years.

Three years ago when David Bowie turned 69 (nice). I had decided I was done hiding from myself. If David Bowie could be so wonderfully flamboyant and incredible and bisexual and beloved then why the hell couldn’t I?

Three years ago  I came out as bisexual. I came out as bisexual in a small lil podunk town who didn’t fully understand who or what I was. They still loved me all the same. But there wasn’t anyone there who could show me the way to claim this part of myself. But that’s what I had Bowie for. And when the younger boys who called me faggot weren’t calling me faggot because of my sexuality, they said it because they didn’t know what else to call me. But it didn’t matter when they did. I was myself.

So come on
Come on
We really got a good thing going
(Well) Come on
(Well) Come on
If you think we’re gonna make it
You better hang on to yourself

Coming out was one of the best things I ever did. I felt this weight come off of my shoulders and I felt more genuinely me than I think I ever had before.

Two days later David Bowie died.

In retrospect I find it a little funny. You finally find a bi icon, a Bicon if you will, and then as soon as they give you the courage to truly be yourself, they die. I was devastated. I still am devastated.

I got in contact with my ex and got my David Bowie cassette back. Reclaiming a little bit of what I gave away.

My relationship with David Bowie would continue. Just as one sided as before. The following Halloween I was Aladdin Sane. That was my first Halloween in college. That was also the time I learned a lot of important lessons.

1)Wearing a full suit and face makeup to a dance club is a mistake.
2) When boys and girls tell you they like your costume responding with “Thanks, I did the makeup myself,” is not usually a turn on.
3) When you do finally get over enough of your social anxiety to go onto the floor. And someone decides she’s okay with making out with a man in full face paint, some of that face paint will rub off. You’ll then be able to identify all the men she makes out with after you step away to go to the bathroom. That’ll kinda hurt. Even though you never learned her name.

Two years have passed since that night, and I look back on it with a lot of bemusement. I do a lot of things to try and be more like the people I idolize. I bought a pair of boots because I saw an old promotional picture of Bruce Springsteen where he wore similar ones. French 75’s officially cemented themselves as my favorite cocktail because a book said they were the most similar to the persona of David Bowie.

I didn’t know what I was going to write when I started writing this. I just knew I had to write. The anniversary of David Bowie’s death is today. He would have turned 72 on Tuesday. I’ll never meet Bowie, or tell him how much he meant to me. I’ll never be able to tell him he gave me the courage to be more myself. He gave me the strength to come out as bisexual. He gave me the courage to dress weirder. To be More. More flamboyant. More ostentatious. More grand. To be more myself.

Often times when I’m at work and I get to play music I’ll put on David Bowie and let shuffle handle the rest. Song after song I’ll be delighted.

Maybe this piece is more about me and my relationship with an icon than it is about the icon himself. Maybe that’s narcissistic.

As I’m sitting in my chair writing this, my Changes cassette sits next to me. I’ve set the Bowie discography to shuffle. Dancing out in Space is playing. I miss him.

No-one here can see you
Dancing face to face
No-one here can beat you
Dancing out in space

Some days before work I’ll be stressed. Worried about what the night will bring. And I’ll queue up Bowie’s performance of Heroes from Live Aid. I’ll listen to all the hope he has in his voice. I’ll hear the optimism he’s exuding on that stage. I’ll listen as he dedicates the song to his son. I’ll stand a little straighter. I’ll walk a little more confident into work.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

A few weeks ago I was a little drunk and strung out on anxiety. I stumbled down the front steps of my apartment, lighting my cigarette. Wandering in the cold. I was stressed, I was tired, I felt alone. I put my headphones on, and those first few chords of Rock n Roll Suicide flooded my ears. I exhaled the smoke. I felt a sensation as some of the tension left my shoulders. Bowie was screaming and the music was swelling and I found myself choked up, lightly crying in the dark of a cold Boston night.

Bowie told me that I wasn’t alone. And ever since then, I haven’t been. I’ll always have my headphones, I’ll always have Bowie to keep me company.

Oh no, love, you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself, but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up, but if I could only make you care
Oh no, love, you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

With Love, You’re Not Alone
Bailey F. Olmstead