JT sent this message earlier this week. As I thought about a reply, I realized that I wanted to write about these things already but wasn’t sure there was any interest beyond my own self. But when a question is voiced, often other people have the same question, and haven’t vocalized it yet. So JT’s letter raises some things, and my long comment is an initial reply.

“h&s” = howie&scott

From: JT Hills
To: mfr@mrfuriousrecords.com
Subject: A eureka moment?
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.

I was perusing my music library a few minutes ago and stumbled up some
Dave Matthews Band. Now, I know it seems unlikely one can just forget
music one has in a music library on a computer, where iTunes has it all
nicely organized for one, but when one has nearly 4500 songs in said
music library, one can forget about certain tunes listened to less often
than other tunes.

Anyway, I discovered I had a live version of “All Along the Watchtower”
by Dave and his guys, which was an interesting coincidence because I was
just thinking earlier today about how I’d like to hear Jimi Hendrix’s
version of that song. But it also got me to thinking about some
old-school h&s days. I recall when I first met you (and thus, h&s), you
hadn’t yet embarked upon the adventure of original music, and instead
relied on a set of regular covers and then a set of Dave covers for your
shows. It was a rockin’ good time, but unable to equal the days ahead
of new songs and electric guitars. I like listening to h&s not only
because it’s good music, but also because it reminds me of those times
when the songs were live and raw.

I remember when I first heard “Mable” escape your stage, and I was
jarringly introduced to Goldfinger. I remember watching you (with Becca
and Mel along) struggle for words of the cover songs you played the
night you premiered original h&s tunes in Lincoln (nervous, perhaps?).
I remember a long drive to Omaha as the official h&s roadie of the
evening (because I couldn’t find anyone else to take me), and longer
drives to Hastings for dual shows with Rob and his cronies. I remember
seeing another night show in a Lincoln coffeehouse when, two songs
before the end of the set, multiple strings broke on your acoustic
guitar, so you brought out the electric to finish with perhaps the most
powerful h&s moment I ever saw. I remember a few CD release parties,
and I remember hearing “Blues or Astroblue?” live for the first time
with the electric and the drum kit and the looping saxophone over
looping saxophone, and I (with David Morris) couldn’t contain the pure
excitement passed down and handed out throughout the crowd, feasted upon
by those of us groovin’ in the back of the room.

Of course, there are other memories too, but they don’t stick with me as
well as those do. These were the memories that all had a common factor:
the h&s live show. Then this idea came across my eyes almost as if it
were projected from another place: what if there was h&s live tunes to
take home with us? I realize that there are already many (a la Blades
of Vengeance), but that’s not all of h&s. I know you guys first as a
cover band, where everyone gets involved, then as a folk rock band with
songs to think to, and then as a rock band to groove to. Each live
instance of h&s has its own flavor, and I think you captured the
folk-rock h&s well with Blades of Vengeance. But where is the live rock
h&s? Where is the live cover h&s?

The live h&s shows weren’t just musical performances, they were
something to experience, and I miss that experience. I long to hear
your versions of “Mable,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Ants Marching,”
“Creep,” and the always fun “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” I yearn to lose
myself in the raw flavor of rock “Blues or Astroblue?,” “After the
Countdown,” “Houston,” “Thanks For Visiting Me on The Radio” or “Stop

Is it possible for this to happen? Is there any plausibility to it? Or
am I living in a dream world?

Just a few friendly thoughts down Colorado way…


P.S. In a somewhat related (but not really) note, what’s the deal with
the h&s web site? Re-launching?

8 thoughts on “A EUREKA MOMENT?”

  1. JT-
    We have some favorite memories in common, and reading about yours brings mine back afresh. Introducing one person to Goldfinger makes all the trouble of covering “Mable” with acoustic guitar and sax infinitely worth it. The first night of original music, at the now-defunct MK’s Coffee & Tea (March 2, 2001), was less nerve-wracking than I’d imagined it would be. Mostly, I had written a batch of long, verbose songs. That didn’t change much… but we cleared those musical hurdles eventually (sometimes by the skin of our teeth) and doing so created good times. You left out a vital detail of at least one roadie-trip with us to Omaha – you rode in the back of my parents’ Nissan, perched on top of Scottie’s congas! The show-of-broken-strings at the Solid Ground was a moment of amazing gravity for me; playing “Eclipse of Everything” was always an emotional marathon. I have a MiniDisc recording of it, but can’t listen to it; that experience is bound up in that time and place permanently.

    For those who have found h&s thru Mr. Furious Records, the Blades of Vengeance was a double-live mp3-only release we did with Arturo Got The Shaft in 2002 after our (r)ocktober tour. Our set was the full night’s show from 12/Oct. at the 13th St. Coffeehouse in Omaha; the Shaft’s side was pulled from various shows throughout the tour.

    I like your identification of three shades of h&s; covers, folk-rock, and (actual)-rock. And I’ve thought, or been thinking, about how to present those. That’s an important, fruitful time in my music and formative for the music of Mr. Furious Records. It’s also tied up in those times and places: Lincoln, Doane, Crete, Nebraska – for those without that personal reference, I think it’s hard to find the soul of the music, especially the live performances, that we’re talking about.

    So let me tell you what I’ve got. I’ve got lots of shows in the folk-rock mode, 90% of which is our original music, much like Blades of Vengeance. There is one barely-passable recording of h&s rocking, from the lincoln-music.com launch party (14/May 04). I don’t have anything from the covers/DMB period.

    I’ve toyed with creating a Mr. Furious release called Nebraska Verses. The goal would be to collect some of that stuff in a way that is presentable according to the standard we’ve created through MFR releases up to now – I say “goal,” because the quality of the performances/recordings feels really questionable to me. Again, it’s the time/place thing. But, I have a shortlist of non-Blades material I’d use if we do it. Hopefully, we’d also draw Shacker/Remnants material into that. The wild cards would be songs from Blame the Game and Arturo Got The Shaft, two other Nebraska bands that were significant in our music and the development of MFR. I produced a Blame the Game EP that was never released (but is great!) and also have a live acoustic show of theirs, which I’ve mastered for my own pleasure and listen to from time to time. I’ve lost touch with Tim Jensen (though he’s joined the superb Lincoln band The Golden Age – read it at StarCityScene.com) so I couldn’t say any more about Blame the Game. The Notorious ROB is notoriously hard to exchange email with, so the Shaft’s participation is also an unknown, but besides the Blades material, Rob’s own Nebraska releases, and some other shows, Rob and I also recorded a full record, plus b-sides, together in spring/summer 2003. It yielded some solid stuff, but A Life Without Fireflies was ultimately abandoned – Rob and the Shaft are very active in Rhode Island right now, using much of the Fireflies material. Nebraska Verses, as I’ve imagined it so far, would collect highlights and samples of all of this stuff, chronologically ordered and chosen to maximize historical/musical scope and accessibility to the MFR audience. In other words, not full shows or albums. We could probably burn those for the few people (think single digits) who might be interested. There’s also the Furious Instance as a possibility for a track or two. So that’s the status as of today.

    I wonder what people think of the Nebraska Verses idea, both friends from Nebraska and Mr. Furious-types who don’t know that music. I’m still not completely comfortable with it – it might be too much of a niche project for MFR.

    Almost forgot about covers. On the surface, it looks bleak; without old recordings, or any activity between Scott and I on that material, there’s not much to do about it. But never fear! echoes is working on an acoustic project after the next rock EP (Be A Ska Rat) called Tonight The Lone Wolf Rides Alone. It will feature a cover (“Talk Me Down,” Shacker) or two (“My Time,” Blacklight Sunshine, if I can get permission). I’ll do a few more covers also, not for the web (illegal to distribute?) but probably available by burn straight from Furious Sound for those who are interested (family/friends). A couple would be very familiar to you, and a couple would be my choices.

    http://www.howieandscott.com is indeed re-launching, with the purpose of being a better-looking but more static site. There isn’t enough howie&scott activity at the moment to justify more than an archive if info and pictures, really. The tear-down is also a technical thing, of moving the h&s account under the Mr. Furious umbrella from a web-production angle.

    TMI? That’s what blogs are for, right? Right???

    Thanks for giving the go-ahead to put this stuff out there, JT. More than that, thanks for caring about our music. -h

  2. I love the idea of Nebraska Verses!

    If I recall correctly, did Tim Jensen/Blame the Game open for you once and play some covers? I think I remember a Green Day song and a Phish song. That was my Phish introduction, and ever since then I’ve been meaning to grab an album or two but I’ve had the money at the times I remembered.

    Here’s what I’ve got on quality of performance issues: it seems to me that artists are much more critical of their own work than those who observe it. That makes sense to me, because the artist wants to give a perfect presentation, and if it isn’t perfect then it can’t convey the correct meaning. I see this in myself with my own writings (most specifically my poetry). Whatever someone else tells me about how good something is or not, in the end it comes down to how the artist feels about it.

    I had a writing class last year as I was wrapping up college, and I worked on a lot of poems in the class. Everyone (there were something like 14 of us) usually had suggestions or comments, but at the end of class there were really only two or three opinions that mattered to me because they were the people that knew me best and knew the perspective I was looking to/from. That, and they were pretty fair writers themselves.

    While I tend to trust your judgment on music quality, if I could suggest something it would be to let a few folks listen to it; these would be people who you trust to give honest opinions about your work, just to see if you’re searching for a perfection that might be unattainable and could instead settle for something only slightly less perfect.

    But I’ll tell you this: I could die to have a recording of the first time I heard the rocking Comets version of “Blues or Astroblue?” It could be a bootleg of a bootleg of a bootleg that was run through a car wash seven times before sitting on a shelf for twenty years. I’d still listen to it, and I’d still rock to it. That’s the power of seeing someone live, I guess.

    So maybe it’s just because I feel such a strong connection to much of the MFR community, but hearing the live songs and hidden b-sides would be such a joy for me.

    Also you say, “Mostly, I had written a batch of long, verbose songs. That didn’t change much… but we cleared those musical hurdles eventually” and I must comment. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I didn’t care that you had songs that extended past five or six minutes. I grant you that we’re talking about a guy whose favorite song of all time is a fancy eight minutes even (“Stairway to Heaven,” depending on the version…), and whose favorite h&s song was a scant 8:39 (“Cloud 9,” as if it wasn’t fairly self-evident) and loves band like Pink Floyd who clock in with songs over sixteen minutes long, not to mention albums that really only deserve to be considered as one long musical trek of 40+ minutes. Then again, I loved the nigh-punkness of the echoes nickel EP songs. So just make your music, and however it ends up, it will find the right ears and brains to embed itself into.

    And finally, thanks for letting me contribute to the MFR blog. Sometime I write things and I don’t realize how well a job I’ve done, and that email is a definite example. So it really is an honor to mix my words with yours.

  3. So do you love the idea of Nebraska Verses‘ selectivity? Does that work?

    h&s did play with Blame The Game / Tim Jensen several times, and Tim was really into Phish for awhile – I don’t remember the exact show you do, but it probably happened.

    “…in the end it comes down to how the artist feels about it.” That’s dangerous to say if you want any Nebraska Verses! Seriously, it depends on the day, but sometimes I could toss it all. To me it’s the sound of musicians on-the-way to something greater… but hopefully there’s enough value in that to pull something representative together.

    In the end, MFR is about the listening-joy, and when you say you’d find it in some of that old stuff, that’s reason enough. Music as an act of hope – that creating a connection with one person is the best definition of success. Can you sense me getting talked into it?

    I tease about the song-length… Be A Ska Rat‘s 4 songs will clock in at something like 8 or 8 1/2 minutes. Total. Which I like; I like the distillation of musical ideas, packing every second with SOMETHING. Yet, h&s at its best is laden with the same, though in different ways (solos, tonal stuff, smaller articulation-type playing). And I still write long songs – “Hawaiian Bells” from the acoustic thing I alluded to earlier would be a h&s song, if there was h&s at the moment. Who knows where it’s going? “…just make your music…”

    I’m jacked that you were cool with having this conversation on the MFR blog; that’s the whole idea!

  4. Ok, so if I had it my way, I’d want an album full of live recordings from the h&s vault, with perhaps any other recordings tossed in as well. Like a b-sides and rarieties disk.

    But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of adding in the other projects as well. I like the idea of telling a story with it. You could start with some early h&s and wind your way through the college years and hear the development of all the projects together.

    Wow. Telling one story with music without the music telling one story. That seems awesome to me. (Do you follow me on that thought?)

    “Seriously, it depends on the day, but sometimes I could toss it all.” I sometimes look back at things I wrote a long time ago and think of how…well, I guess terrible is the only word for it…it is. Even my first things published in Xanadu seem inadequate to me. At one point, though, I realized that other people get something else out of it that I don’t, and for me to try to erase that, well it almost seems wrong.

    You can’t go forward without knowing where you’ve been. It’s so exciting to me to think of seeing the story all laid out for us to absorb, so we’re ready to go forward with you after covering where you’ve been.

  5. Yes – telling a story. Exactly.

    And stories engage the imagination of one who hears the story; that is an essential element of a good story. That’s why I’m more interested in Nebraska Verses than complete shows. Besides the technical/performance breakdowns that are inevitable over the course of a show, a full concert is a static document – THIS IS HOW IT WAS – where Nebraska Verses is a story.

    Hopefully we can bring Tim and Rob back into it.

  6. Ok. I am gonna put my 2 cents in here.

    Anyway other than the fact I have tons of questions, I shall refrain from them during this comment.

    I really can’t say much about any new stuff. I haven’t had the change to pick up signs.coments and I haven’t heard much Shacker except from old shows. But I can whole heartedly say that I sincerely miss the old days. Those old road trips to Hastings, with me complaining that there was never a song with my name in it. Rob sure proved me wrong, which made it somehow more enjoyable. I remember dancing around like a crazy fruit with Becca, as the world disappeared and all that was left was us and the music.

    Since then I have also came upon a new fascination with the Dave Matthews Band. I have finally been able to see them live and in action. I plan on taking in many more DMB shows through my lifetime, at least as money allows. Sometimes I think if not for howie&scott I may have not been wholey prepared for such a thing. You helped me connect with songs on a completely different level than I had prior to listening to your covers. A live experience I believe is always a magical one.

    I know h&s did many more cover back then and I enjoyed ever single one. It broadened my musical tastes and introduced me to some amazing bands, such as the foo fighters and Goldfinger.

    So basically I guess I am saying that ‘Nebraska Verses’ sounds like a marvelous idea. I am still yearning for some live action but we can’t always get what we want.

    Love – Melanie

  7. Mel(ly) – thanks for more like a thousand dollars of sunshine into my day.

    I AM YEARNING FOR THE LIVE ACTION TOO! Circumstances in that regard are not helpful right now.

    Kibler and I have done some thinking, and I’m going to put together a maxi-version of Nebraska Verses for us to listen to Memorial Day weekend when he comes up here to lay down some guitar tracks for another thing. We’ll see how the sound compares to the story. That’s my real concern; these recordings are just not as good as anyone’s memories of them (including my own). But hopefully, some music would spark those memories.

    Questions? Ask away!

  8. At a Doane alumni event tonight, I ran into Scott’s mom, who apparently had the email that started this whole conversation forwarded to her by Howie’s mom. She thought it was a great read. It was totally unexpected to hear her weigh in on that, but it was also totally awesome.

    I was thinking more about live experiences, and how we relate to the recordings. I have some live CDs that I am quite fond of, sometime even more than the original music. Why? Because they’re different, and often they carry an emotion or experience not relayed in a studio album.

    Now, we all have our own memories attached to h&s (and others) live shows. We each take our own experience away from the shows, and it seems to me you’ve discovered that your recordings don’t do justice to your memories. I can understand that.

    Two things: first, sometimes all we need is a sliver of what was to relive it. For example, the best live moment in music I’ve ever seen, period, was the halftime show for the Super Bowl in 2002. I don’t remember how it started, and I don’t care. I was just stunned into silence by U2’s outstanding performance, and the compassion they displayed. Finally, last month, I downloaded a really terrible audio-only copy of it. But I didn’t care that it was awful. It was enough to take me back to that moment, to reflect on the love four Irishmen felt for our country after we had such a terrible tragedy.

    Second, we take our memories of live performances away from the shows because we were there. However, I remember some shows that had some sparse crowds. So the whole world wasn’t on to h&s then, but maybe they’re getting there now. Letting other people hear those live shows gives them a taste of what we’re talking about here, of how awesome it was. And a taste of something good only makes you want more…

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