I got to work a little early yesterday. I knew that the two TV screens in my bar would have a steady crowd around them for the Italy-Spain Euro 2008 match. The Cardinals and Sox would be on national TV as well, though, on TBS, and I’d hoped to catch an inning or two before the soccer game. When I arrived, both screens were showing bowling, of all things, footie fans reluctant to change stations even before the upcoming match. “Let me just check the score”, I pleaded. Someone gave me a remote, and I flipped it over to TBS, and there was a “Game Delayed” logo displayed in the corner. Turns out there were a few thunderstorms around Boston at game time.
Bad day for that to happen.
Six years ago on that same date, I was driving to work wondering what sort of shenanigans were going on at the ballpark since the game hadn’t started yet and Trey Wingo on ESPN radio just said it was delayed. The Cardinals were in Chicago, which is always a fun time, and the game was scheduled for a 1:05 EDT start, broadcast nationally on FOX. We weren’t open for lunch on Saturdays back then, so that shift was kind of a cake shift; I’d answer phones, fix myself a sandwich, and hopefully watch the surging Redbirds take it to the Cubs somewhere inbetween all that.
I got to work and it took all of about 2 minutes for the phone to start ringing.
Art is a friend who I go way back with. He was the head waiter and later manager at the place I started off as a busboy and then a server when I first got into the restaurant biz back in college. Good guy, he and I actually ended up with the same company for a bit, even managing at the same restaurant in a Chicago suburb for a few years. We’d both moved on (and Art, I’ve lost your email, yo…) since then, so I was sort of surprised he’d tracked me down at work.
“Dude, my dad just called from St. Louis. Apparently they’re reporting on KMOX that the delay in the game today is because Daryl Kile is dead.”
My mind does stupid things when confronted by news as shocking and saddening as this. My first thought was how that was really going to screw up the rotation. I flipped on the TV to FOX and saw Joe Girardi–then still the Cubs backup catcher–announce to the restless fans at Wrigley why there’d be no baseball there that Saturday. The network went live with the news. Tony LaRussa barely made it through an interview with an obviously stunned and red-eyed Joe Buck. They switched to a backup game eventually, but the news of Kile’s death, suddenly, of a heart attack in his sleep, was all over that contest as well.
Just five days earlier, Kile had shut down a tough Anaheim Angels squad in interleague play. Kile had just come back from the DL after residual soreness from a minor offseason shoulder operation had convinced him to shut it down for a few weeks. He came back and looked like the Daryl Kile of old, going 8 innings and surrendering only a single run in a Cardinal victory. On baseball tonight that night, Peter Gammons had devoted a special segment to Kile, saying that if he was truly healthy again, the Cardinals were runaway favorites in the NL Central.
Driving home from work that Tuesday night, the crackly static that is KMOX here in DC (yes, you can pick it up on clear nights) announced that Jack Buck had died.
Kile’s death was something of a double-whammy then, but far more shocking. By the start of the 2002 season it was clear that Buck’s health was failing and he hadn’t much time left. Kile on the other hand…Kile was young–32. He was an athlete. Athletes don’t die in their sleep of heart failure.
In the days that followed soon after Kile’s passing, I realized that I’d taken #57 a little for granted. I knew him as a big, resilient pitcher with a nasty curve and a fastball that had tons of movement…that’s it. But his former teammates in Houston and Colorado were as devastated as the Cardinals were. Guys who’d only played a year or so with the guy had to take themselves out of Saturday lineups, so broken up were they. Kile was one of the good guys in the world. Despite some terrible years in Colorado, he never made excuses and always took the ball. When his career was reborn with the Birds On The Bat, he embraced the role of team leader and mentor, taking Matt Morris under his wing and turning the sometimes-erratic Redbird hurler into a staff ace (Morris was never really the same after Kile passed, either).
For Cardinal fans, June 22 will sort of always be our November 22nd. We’ll always remember where we were when we heard, how we reacted, what we did. I got home from work tonight, made it through about 90 seconds of SportsCenter, and had to turn it off. I turned down a movie with some friends and instead sat on my back porch with a beer and just stared at the street for a few hours. Six years have gone by since then, and Cardinal fans have had happier days. Only two players remain with the team from that horrible day in 2002. Still, though, it feels as if it happened so recently. Hard to believe that so much time has passed.
RIP, 57. Cardinal Nation still remembers.
I think it was my junior year of high school that I heard my first Rain Parade song; the radio station at SIU-Edwardsville played jazz during the day, but on Friday and Saturday nights at 11:00 pm they’d do a show called “Nightwave” overnight and turn things over to hipsters, and from them I heard “What’s She Done To Your Mind” in heavy rotation (seemed as if they played it nearly every show). More importantly, I heard the song “I Look Around”, decided that it had the most brilliant guitar riff I’d ever heard, and did my best to track down a copy of a Rain Parade album.
It wasn’t until I was at Mizzou that I finally found the Rain Parade debut lp, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (and it wasn’t until a subway ride about 5 years ago that I figured out where they got title from; think about it for a sec, you’ll get it), and through countless KCOU radio shifts I played “I Look Around” and “1 Hour 1/2 Ago” over and over and over, practically wearing out already well-worn grooves in the vinyl. That Rain Parade debut album was a landmark disc, the album that more than any other really put the Paisley in the Paisley Underground. With dark, atmospheric lyrics and arrangements, it seemed a record out of time–an album informed by postpunk, but entirely beholden to the most lysergically drenched music the Sixties ever produced. It is an album that still holds up today, a gorgeous psychedelic swirl that remains every bit as vital as it was when it first hit the record stores in 1983.
Thing is, try as they might, Rain Parade never really managed to release a worthy follow-up to Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. The band started to fall apart before the next record, Explosions In The Glass Palace hit (David Roback left to join his then-girlfriend Kendra Smith in Opal) and that disc was clearly missing….something. They never found what they were missing, and although Rain Parade begat Mazzy Star and Viva Saturn, neither of those latter bands really ever put out anything as artistically satisfying as that first Rain Parade album.
And so I’ll stop yapping about Rain Parade, and instead mention that in 1998, shortly after I moved to Chicago, I saw a terrific band at the Empty Bottle called The Asteroid #4. They were doing a set of amazing, arty psychedelic space rock wonderfulness, and after the set I tracked ‘em down and frontman (and Syd Barrett lookalike) Scott Vitt pressed a copy of their debut CD into my hands, insisting I take it for free to listen to. That debut was good, playing up the obvious debt to Barrett-era Floyd to the hilt. The followup album they put out the next year–King Richard’s Collectibles–was even more my cup o’ joe. Abandoning much of the space rock influence, they instead drew on the energy of producer and Lilys frontman Kurt Heasley to write a set of far more immediate, hook-laden song-oriented tunes. The results were stunning, and I remember telling a friend to watch out for the Asteroid #4, because if The Rain Parade were incapable of putting out a worthy successor to Emergency Third Rail, perhaps this Philadelphia band were the group up to the task.
Things got a little side-tracked for The Asteroid #4 after that. The followup to King Richard was a disc called Honeyspot and this time they came out sounding like an entirely different band, embracing the countrified psychedelia of Gram Parsons and The Byrds and sounding like East Coast cousins of The Tyde or Beechwood Sparks. It isn’t a bad album at all–I really rather like it–but I got the feeling that it wasn’t the band doing what they do best, either. They made folks wait a good long time before they signalled a return back to their psychedelic roots with 2006′s Amazing Dream, which was every bit as good as King Richard’s Collectibles.
Which brings us, finally, to 2008, and the first Asteroid Number Four album in ten years not released under the Rainbow Quartz imprint (it’ll be on Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe’s label, Committee To Keep Music Evil). The new disc will be called These Flowers of Ours, and I should first mention that the album isn’t due for proper release until later this summer, but for some reason the Committee’s partner site, Apollo Audio is already selling the MP3 version of it. I snagged my copy last week (along with a totally sweet t-shirt) and have been listening to it constantly since. Having given it fair hearing, I’ll say it now: the Asteroid #4 have finally released an album worthy of being called the spiritual successor to Emergency Third Rail Power Trip.
These Flowers Of Ours delivers on every promise, every bit of potential The Asteroid #4 ever tantalized with. Vitt and company pour layered, chiming, effects-laden guitars into a swirling mix of some of the best songs the band has ever come up with. If the brilliant swoon of “Let It Go” and “Flowers Of Ours” dont clue you in that they’ve decided to pick up the challenge gauntlet of Rain Parade’s debut, then the spot-on cover of “I Look Around” surely will.
And then there are tracks like the stunning “She’s All I Need” that starts with a majestic guitar riff, then eases off the accelerator for just a bit, before bringing back that riff with a vengeance halfway through the sprawl of the song on a searing bridge solo that takes the whole thing right over the falls. There’s the walk-up-the-scale guitar and bass riff that comes bounding into the chorus of the dark “Hold On” (which neatly nicks “Sympathy For The Devil” on the verses) and gives the whole song a killer hook that won’t leave your brain for weeks.
More than any other album in The Asteroid #4′s catalog, These Flowers Of Ours is an epic album that sounds as if it was made to organically flow all together at once. The sequencing and production create a glorious ebb and flow to the proceedings to the point that when the plaintive “Empty Like A Child” ends the album in 10 seconds of glorious fading feedback, you’ll want to punch it all back up again.
I’m not sure whether Apollo Audio jumped the gun on releasing digital versions of this, so I don’t want to post advance tracks the band hasn’t made available already on their Myspace Page.
…and a word of caution: Apollo Audio will seemingly let you listen to the album in its entirety, but in reality something is horribly wrong with the sound on the preview version. Nothing at all wrong with the mp3 version you can buy, but just avoid the preview, as it’s messed up.
EDIT and UPDATE:
Eric from Apollo Audio writes to mention that he was using some new “great” software that messed up not only the Asteroid #4 disc, but also a host of others. Remembering a few absolutely crapped-up mixes I’ve made when Nero does a massive update, I sympathize completely.
At any rate, it’s all fixed now. You can go listen to the Asteroid #4 disc in all of its magnificent glory just by clicking below!