The music of the band Bedhead appealed to me in an unquantifiable way during this period. I do not know how I discovered this music (although I have written about it before-somewhere, at the incomprehensible beginning of this blog, whose Byzantine trails you would have to follow to find it). But it was an incomprehensible time preceding the full on utility of the Internet, whose aspirations of becoming an electronic shopping mall were yet to be fully realized, and even its capability of efficiently transmitting information was subpar, at best (at least on the upgraded 486 machines my college was working with).
So it rationally concludes then, that there are psychic tides at work, compelling you to gravitate towards things and people with whom you are destined to meet and interact with, as per the dictates of some unknown deity who hides out behind clouds, drinking cherry-flavored wine coolers and positioning the moons. That’s the way I imagine it anyway. Because how else would you describe the things that end up in your life? And how else could you imagine, here and now, discovering any of these things in the absence of the Inter-Web?
The Bedhead album Transaction de Novo arrived that same year to the massive anticipation of me and some unfortunate record store clerk alone, whose pimply face would not be rendered any clearer by so many hours of preening in front of the washroom mirror. I preordered this CD from the website Insound.com, and it arrived in the mail three days prior to its scheduled release date, with a promotional poster, which was not too impressive of a poster, really, seeing as it was just some rendering of the bleak album cover art, which looked like a marker for a grave in a cemetery (as did the other Bedhead albums and eps, in an attempt at subversion of the garish album cover art of the times. See: Any Dinosaur Jr. album cover from the nineties for context).
The record begins with an uncharacteristic decibel-plunging bass line, which crawls into a lugubrious melody, before segueing into an entire album comprised of this sort of thing. It was not the “best” Bedhead album, with its high gloss Steve Albini production job, and “misses” factored in, but they had a lot to contend with from my critical perspective, as a music fan who had already channeled their entire catalogue into the soundtrack of my existence years before. It was a worthwhile addendum, none the less- something I could definitely make use of.
I was probably pondering the contents of the periodic table at the time, which contained elements I would never make sense of, illustrated in the weird semiotic code which I still find perplexing in some incalculable way, when I read on a related website that Bedhead was going to be on tour that spring. This was good news for me, because I knew that I would not kill myself for another few weeks, and that I would have a reason to “stick it out,” at least, until I could go to the concert. It would be a nice punctuation mark, I thought, the literal coda to a life lived but not particularly ‘dug’ very much. Who knows? I thought. Maybe I would even convince the band members to sign their initials on my arm and have those signatures tattooed, ‘for all time.’
I had consulted the necessary diagrams and maps in advance and planned out a route to the college where the show would be taking place. It seemed like a relatively simple route, since the destination was about forty-five minutes from my own college. But whether because the Internet was still in its infancy and prone to incalculable error or it was a practical joke played by some graduate students attempting to divert onlookers from checking out the setting of the latest Brett Easton Ellis novel will remain one of the great historical mysteries. Because a friend and I did inexplicably get lost that night, diverted to the outer bounds of some mountainous Vermont territory before arriving to said college as the band was packing their equipment into the van. I reeled in horror, like Marty McFly searching for the Delorean time machine which was nowhere in sight- or a skateboard, at least. But in the end all that I could locate was my own sad parody of a vehicle in the parking lot, and so we got back into the car and drove home.
The experience has resulted in a lifelong obsession with punctuality to rock shows, always arriving early enough to uncomfortably mill around and drink too much with the two other patrons of ye olde rock dive. Which then invariably results in getting too inebriated, and striking up a conversation with one individual or another, which nine times out of ten results in this person pointing his halitosis glazed breath in your direction and making you listen to the perfunctory proclivities of some rock douche for the duration of what seems like an hour.
Bedhead ended up disbanding the following summer; I never ended up killing myself, and that fall I transferred to a different college, which presented an entire onslaught of new problems to contend with. I moped about missing the Bedhead concert for a few more years until my pen pal who lived in Dallas, who had seen the band hundreds of times, told me to “get over it,” and so I did.
I had done so much “getting over it” until I may have forgotten about it entirely, when at ten o’clock this morning, the ye old hype machine revealed this particular performance to me, in full, recorded at said college twelve years earlier. Which seems unimaginable to me, (and which relates the de facto presence of deities hiding out behind clouds and tinkering with moons all day). It is all there: the set list comprised of the Transaction de Novo record which they were touring in support of that spring, followed by the catalogue favorites, performed with so much precision. The songs are acute renderings of the album versions, which is either a good or bad thing depending on one’s concert-going perspective. But either way, it is a time capsule, exhumed, and revealed for me to hear, so many years later. A moment lost, and now restored. (Which begs the question: Do I have to make good and suicide, now that I have heard the Bedhead performance? And what, exactly, are these deities trying to signal to me? That my neo-Luddite stances are just completely contradictory now that I have located the conceptual Delorean and actually not missed the Bedhead concert?)
It’s weird hearing this recording now, because it is the same time of year that the show actually happened, way back when. The songs seem to have an almost debilitating effect on me, and listening to them is like being instantaneously transported back to the late nineties, where I may just be in college again and forced to endure something horrible. But it also seems to point out the tenuous nature of nostalgia, because it relates that sometimes you end up missing the things you hated, just because they are gone. And it makes me wonder what I might miss ten years from now, just because it isn’t around anymore.
There is a song on the '98 live recording called “More Than Ever” which is the standard Bedhead track, all ennui in song form. The recording is quiet enough that you can hear the casual talk of concert-goers in the background, casually whooping it up during the show, possibly making plans for what to later that night. The guitar parts on this song are skeletal and descending above the inordinately clear vocal. "More than ever,” the singer sings, “it seems true to say that things won't always be this way.” Which, if songs could be equated to horror movies, would be the point in the rental where you stop to pause, because you know something really horrible or great is about to happen, depending on your propensity or tolerance for gore. The guitars keep scaling down, as the singer keeps singing lines which mine as well be being spoken from the precipice. “Are there any good things left to do/ are there any right ways left to be,” he asks. The answers to which are, of course, almost exclusively in the negative.
Momentarily, the guitars begin to intertwine, building to a crescendo, before the song comes to an end, which is a magnificent end, as endings can sometimes tend to be.