In high school, my friend Jill once asked me if I ever listened to music with feelings. I was confused. Apparently neither the Hi-Fives nor the Smugglers had the emotional range she was looking for. When I moved off to Berkeley to go to university, I sort of got what she meant. I was depressed and lonely, and my record collection had nothing that really connected me with those emotions. What did you expect from a garage/pop-punk kid? I didn’t turn to the Smiths or Elliot Smith, I rediscovered the Potatomen like never before.
I’d had their records because I liked Larry and I was a dutiful Lookout fan. I’d listened to them, but never really connected to them, other than All My Yesterdays, mostly for the Brent’s TV cover. One night in early September 2000, I came home from my crappy job at Papyrus on College Ave, feeling utterly alone and cut off from everybody and everything, and I put on Now and it just clicked. The song just made me feel all right and I just laid in my bed, sort of zoned out listening to it on my headphones feeling lost. So for the next semester, I would mope about town listening to Now and Iceland. To this day, when I hear some of those guitar riffs to songs like “Gabe” or “Sam’s Song”, I’m transported back to that fall, wandering up and down Telegraph in a melancholic daze.
This picture was taken at a Potatomen show outside of Gilman. I think it was November 18, 2000? It was the first really cold weekend of the season and I walked all the way from campus and back. I hung out at Picante before the show with them before the set, stood on the corner and sang along, hung out a bit more, and then walked back home. I was shivering by the time I reached Shattuck, but I didn’t really mind. It was the best night I’d had since I’d moved to Berkeley. (The cheesy stix from West Coast Pizza didn’t hurt.) It’s weird how little nights like that can really stick with you.
Ten and a half years later, I’m the fifth Potatomen bass player. I was surprised and flattered when Larry and Patrick asked me to join them for a show in August (and beyond). It was weird playing songs with them at first because even though I didn’t really know how to play them, I sort of did because I had listened to them so much. That’s actually still frustrating at parts because I feel like I can’t really escape the recordings in my head, but then I can’t fully articulate them either. It’s a problem I’ve never really dealt with before. The other reason it’s a little weird for me is that they keep taking me back to those feelings I had as a lost 18 year old. Glimpses to the past that it seems I can’t fully escape. No doubt these feelings will probably fade or change as I play more, but this past weekend when we were practicing as a full band, they were definitely there. I know a lot has happened since that fall, which makes this all quite logical and perhaps expected, but if you had told me then where’d I’d be today, I wouldn’t have really believed it.
Not that my 18 year old self was all that wise or knew what she wanted, but these sorts of little reality checks are interesting. Is making a younger version of yourself happy a good thing or is it a sign that you weren’t aiming high enough? I can’t really tell, but it’s worth considering from time to time.