Sunday, May 4, 2014

No. 32 – Evenflow

Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriters: Stone Gossard, Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Ten
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: The original Ten version.

Evenflow, of course, wasn’t the first Pearl Jam song I heard or even the first song I heard after buying a tape of Ten in 1992. It was, however, the song that got me into Pearl Jam, and it’s been my favorite Pearl Jam song ever since.

I write this having had the misfortune of reading one of the more asinine articles that I didn’t actually write in a long time. It was a list of overrated albums of the Nineties, which, of course, was one of my sweet spots for music.

Ten, of course, was in there, which didn’t bother me. I mean, there’s no keener way to show off your indie street cred than taking on that behemoth. It also didn’t bother me that OK Computer and Achtung Baby—you know, two of the best albums of the decade, according to pretty much everyone—were listed.

What bothered me was what was the depths of his pandering to attract attention and pageviews. The giveaway sentence: “U2 was never a great band.”

Read that sentence again. You know why no one else ever has written that sentence? Because it’s patently absurd. Who writes such a thing? Someone trying just a bit too hard to be noticed. I guess it was successful—I’m writing about it—but I wouldn’t take that as a compliment. I’ve been around long enough to recognize a hack at 50 paces, and this guy is the biggest one I’ve seen since Wilson.

OK, enough digression. Not long after I introduced Scott to Pearl Jam in 1992, I found myself at BW-3 in Columbus for the first time. This was Scott’s prime hangout, and he wanted to introduce me to it.

The original BW-3, now very unfortunately long gone, was in a hole in the wall on the corner of High and Woodruff, across the street from Ohio State’s main campus. It consisted of three rooms—the dining area in the back where you placed and picked up your order, the hallway area that had pinball games and bathrooms and the bar up front.

Scott and I headed straight for the bar, because you could take wings from the counter to the bar but you couldn’t take beer to the dining area. We grabbed a table, and Scott went to retrieve a trivia keyboard to play the on-screen trivia game that BW-3 piped in over closed-circuit TV.

I’ve written about this trivia game before, but I’d never played before this night and was hooked right away. I’m a trivia nut as is—and as this here blog has made plain—and I was fascinated to see that others were playing it all across the country, and I could see all the best scores. And it has music trivia? Come on! The wings were good, the beer was Labatt’s, and I was hunkered down for a long night.

What better to act as the backdrop of a good hunkering but a jukebox? Being the unofficial operator of the White Horse juke in Flint, I immediately wandered over to see what BW-3’s had to offer. Let’s see here … Pearl Jam, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, Alice in Chains, ELP, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Rush, Dire Straits … Who programmed this juke? Me?

I loaded up a fiver’s worth, or more than an hour of music. Of course, after my run, anything else would seem like a let-down. When I got back to the table, I told Scott, man, just wait till my music starts. You’re going to love my picks.

It took a while to get to them, and whenever a seeming new run of music began, Scott would ask: Is this it? No. You’ll definitely know when my music starts. Finally, at one point, Scott said he was ready for another beer and went up—between trivia games, of course—to the bar to reload.

While he stood at the bar, the volcanic opening notes of Evenflow roared over the loudspeakers. Scott whipped his head around immediately to where I was sitting … headbanging furiously with the Secret Devil Sign raised high. THIS is the start of my run. Like with Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, I like to announce my presence with authority. Thereafter, Evenflow ALWAYS was the first song I played when I went to BW-3.

We had a great time. Scott’s longtime friend E.J., a BW-3 regular along with Scott’s crew on their Tuesday Night wing nights, joined us.

We invented the concept of the kitty that night, which Scott carried on thereafter. What it was, basically, was any change from wings or beers or whatever got tossed into the middle of the table. Whenever someone wanted another six of wings or to put more tunes in the juke, he’d grab from the kitty. If, like in poker, the “pot wasn’t right,” someone would toss in a five or ten. We all just figured the money worked out in the end.

BW-3 became a regular hangout for me and Scott for more or less the rest of the decade but the next four years for sure. Unfortunately, like everything, things changed. The first thing to go was the jukebox, replaced by live music. Then you no longer could take food into the bar.

Well, sod that. Scott and I started getting our wings/trivia/music fixes elsewhere. We had some good times at other BW-3 venues, like the time we rose from eighth place to win music trivia on the final question. I was the only person in the room who correctly identified Penguin as the name of an old Fleetwood Mac album. But it wasn’t the same.

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