Back To School Music

It begins in about a week. Tens of thousands of college students return to the Boston area like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano. Traffic returns to its pre-Memorial Day levels of insanity, pizza joints quadruple their business, the MBTA becomes a dorm on rails, and the music scene shakes off its summer can’t miss, crowd pleaser syndrome. Rilo Kiley’s coming, They Might be Giants are returning, Spoon is due … what a relief, not a Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo in sight!

My favorite chart to follow in music magazines is the College Radio album top ten. The current edition of Rolling Stone is a good example why. Spoon and TMBG are there. So are The White Stripes, Ryan Adams, and Wilco … not a Nickelback or Maroon 5 in sight. Who says our higher education system isn’t working.

There’s a nice story to report down at Virginia Tech, as that school works to regroup from last spring’s shooting tragedy. Dave Matthews, John Mayer, and Nas will all perform at a welcome back concert for students and faculty on September 6th. Music can heal and I hope the message carries over long into the school year.

I have great respect for the guitar chops of Matthews and Mayer — I wish their songs took a few more unexpected turns, but their musicianship cannot be questioned. I especially think Mayer gets a bad rap sometimes. I mean it’s like the dude has to fight a battle between love-struck girls and guitar geeks every time out. Leave him alone and let him play, he’s about the best axman there is right now. “Gravity” and “Waiting On The World To Change” are two very solid tunes.

Here’s my challenge to all you post-college folks out there. Start listening to new music and hitting a few club-sized shows. You’re not being disloyal to Bruce and and U2 if you suddenly discover something of more recent vintage. So many of the people I know just stop listening to music or buying music after leaving school. Our lives all have a soundtrack and we need to keep updating. Put the iPod on shuffle to pick up the old stuff — but plug in some new tracks to keep it fresh.

That’s all. I’ve got to rip up some old bed sheets for a toga party.

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