Even if he wanted to, Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb couldn’t repeat himself. Just watch him sing sometime; the guy’s got two vocal mics, one distorted, one clean, and he doesn’t make up his mind which one he’ll be singing into until he’s halfway through his line. Tucson (Fire), Gelb’s latest release (credited to Giant Giant Sand), is named after his Arizona hometown. He will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.
Gelb: I like it. But we are not that. At best, Tucson is “Vortexas.” Why do people need to categorize music, and does it help or hurt?
One time I woke up on tour in Holland, peered out the bus window and saw what appeared to be an empty canal. I made a note to jump down in there later to explore, since I had never seen one empty before.
As the day peeled away, it became obvious it was too bitter cold for any outdoor activity. It was an indoor festival that became puzzling when all the bands were representing music from Texas. This began to feel uncomfortable, us being from Arizona. The promoter also kept treating us like we were trouble anyway, like he’d heard something bad about us and was just waiting for some trouble to happen.
By the time we took the stage, I was angry. We tore into our set of all new material, and I put the band through its paces by segueing from one new song into the next very cleverly. No one outside the band had a clue; it sounded like one giant strand of song mash. We were great that day. No one knew it though.
Afterward, I leaned on the bar and decided to slam my anger with a beer buzz. Kept ‘em coming while I waited for bus call. A Dutch woman who tried to dress like she was from Texas came up to me to chat endlessly. On and on she went about how much she loved Texas. My anger stuck around. When the bar closed, she suggested another her friends were at. I was too angry to refuse. Outside was colder then bitter now, and it made me more mad.
We walked for a while in the freezing night and could not find the bar, so I opted to go back to the bus and wait with my anger. On the way back, she spied the empty canal in the moonlight and suggested we jump down in there to check it out. Oh yeah! I forgot about that. She grabbed my arm and leaped in but not me. I did not feel like it anymore, too angry.
She disappeared in the empty canal with a peculiar bloop of a muddy splash. The canal was not empty after all and then it was finally quiet, very quiet. The girl was gone and my anger wondered if she was ever here at all. Time seemed to stop. But then, with a startling return, she surfaced in shock. Good thing one of us were there to pull the other out. Those canal walls are sheer and impossible to get yourself out of otherwise. I took her to the festival promoter, she covered with canal muck and he gave me that dirty look that knew I was trouble.
About a year or so later I went downtown to get some food and a whiskey. It was another angry night, but at least I was here at home in Tucson. The place was near empty and I sat as far away from the only other table with people at it and ordered up. One of the women at the table across the room stood up and walked over to me, I didn’t recognize her. She said she was the girl from the canal. She said she was on her way to Texas, stopped into eat along the way here in Tucson. She had just mentioned the story to her friends about the canal when I walked in.
This story still does not explain why we were at that Texas music festival.