Posts Tagged With: Brad Rice

Ryan Adams enters academia’s hallowed halls

SpanisDedRecently I happened across a picture someone posted on social media, of the thank-you page of a Master’s Thesis — in Spanish. Here it is on the right, and the relevant part roughly translates as:

Finally to all my friends for all the support they have given me, you know who you are. And why not…to Ryan Adams, Gary Moore and John Lennon for inspiration when I needed it most.

Figuring there was a story there, I got in touch with the author, a young man named Sebastián Chiwo from San Luís Potosí, México, to ask about his Ryan Adams fandom. As you can see below, he had a lot to say! It’s pretty cool that Ryan’s name is enshrined in an academic document on file at the library at Universidad Autonoma de San Luís Potosí, even though he himself didn’t go to college. Ryan’s fanbase is not just enthusiastic, but geographically widespread and diverse.

The first time I ever learned about Ryan Adams was in September 2001 when I was 13, after the tragedy of 9/11 — from the cool and lovely “New York, New York” video with many shots of New York City and a young guy with an acoustic guitar in his hands. I was very confused because my parents were fans of Bryan Adams, and I didn’t pay attention at first because I was busy learning classical guitar. But I became bored and began learning rock and blues, especially songs by John Lennon.

One afternoon I turned on the radio and heard a very beautiful guitar riff and voice, which the deejay said was “So Alive” by Ryan Adams. From that day, the music of this crazy guy has had an important effect on me, the guitar parts and lyrics both. Soon after was my father’s birthday and my mother gave me money to buy him a present. I went to Sears and saw a beautiful Zippo lighter that I thought could be perfect. But then I stopped in the music section and Ryan’s “Rock ‘N Roll” album was waiting for me. So I bought “Rock ‘N Roll” for me and the newly released “Let It Be…Naked” for my father. I think he enjoyed the CD more than he would have the lighter. After that, I was also listening to “Love Is Hell,” “Cold Roses,” “Easy Tiger” and so on.

Years later, I was in a severe depression. My only reason to live was playing guitar every night, for very little money — just for getting drunk and high. I can’t believe now that I was doing those stupid things. One of the few good memories of that time was playing all the “Love Is Hell” stuff every night; not the songs exactly, but the main guitar riffs. The feelings were the same, “poor guy” is what I was thinking about me. I knew Ryan’s life had been crazy and wild between “Heartbreaker” and “Easy Tiger,” but also sad like mine.

SebastianAfter a series of personal tragedies, I got clean and began working hard in my profession. Ryan’s music was always there, albums like “Ashes and Fire,” “III/IV,” “Orion,” “Ryan Adams,” “1984” and “1989.” They gave me a more optimistic (and weird) way of living. I bought a denim jacket and customized it with logos of OCP, Weyland-Yutany, Nuclear and Misfits Fan Club. Guitar is still an important part of my life and I’m always asking questions about equipment and guitar techniques of the guitar players in Ryan’s bands — Neal Casal, Brad Rice, Johnny McNabb, Ethan Johns, Mike Viola, etc.

ThesisNowadays I am an electronics engineer majoring in instrumentation and control systems, with a Master of Science in electrical engineering with a major in biophotonics and medical optics. I completed both studies in the physical sciences department at the Autonomous University of San Luís Potosí. My personal tribute to and acknowledgement of Ryan is a little paragraph in my Master’s Thesis, “Design and Construction of a Portable Raman System For Non-Invasive Medical Diagnosis.”

Definitely, Ryan’s music is the soundtrack of my life, and he is a very strong influence on me as a person. I commonly cite his statement, “Stay Weird,” in my own life.

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The Backsliders return!

2012-12-15 23.14.05When last heard from back in September, Whiskeytown’s old peers The Backsliders were moving tentatively toward regrouping on a fulltime basis. They played a show as the Howell/Robinson Quartet, and it went well enough that they decided to play again — this time under the Backsliders name, last night at Raleigh’s Pour House. The first “official” Backsliders show in more than nine years, and it was pretty much everything I’d hoped it could be. They flat-out blew the roof off the joint in front of a packed house.

The proceedings began on a thoughtful note with Chip Robinson calling for a moment of silent reflection about the previous day’s horrific events. To my surprise, the audience actually complied. Then the Backsliders fired up the first song of the set, “Yep!,” triggering a mass adrenaline rush that was amazing to witness — and feel. We were all feeling it, too. Ever been overcome with the realization that you’ve been missing something without even realizing it, until the thing in question was suddenly back in your life? That’s what last night felt like.

In this particular instance, it was the combination of Chip’s voice and Steve Howell’s guitar, which still fit together with such bar-band perfection that it felt as if no time at all had gone by. This edition of the Backsliders doesn’t have quite as much guitar firepower as the mid-’90s model with Brad Rice, but Howell more than compensated with a display of the sort of six-string virtuosity you usually see on much, much larger stages. When they hit the one-two punch of “Throwin’ Rocks at the Moon” and “My Baby’s Gone” at about the halfway point, it was an ecstatic moment. Based on the fistbumps and handshakes Howell and Robinson were exchanging, I think you’ll get a chance to see it again real soon.

Yes indeed, the Backsliders are back. Yep!

ADDENDUM: By the way, I’ve also been meaning to post this lovely essay, which expresses with note-perfect grace what the Backsliders meant to Raleigh back in the day.

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