Weird Al, Wendy Carlos, and a Prison Town

It’s Percussion Ensemble season here. Nearly every weekend in the months of February and March are spent traveling to different high schools so we can watch our 17-year old perform with the Warsaw Percussion Ensemble. This year their show is horror-themed and called “Eternal Nightmare”. They start out with an eerie rendition of Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer”, then go into a piece I’m not quite sure it’s name(still creepy, though.) They then segue into Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” and finish on “Cruel Summer”. It’s an impressive show.

This is honestly my favorite thing to travel to during the school year. My wife loves Marching Band season. She was in marching band in high school and has fond memories of those days, plus she appreciates the work that goes into their performances. I do enjoy watching their Marching Band shows, but they don’t quite hold my attention like the percussion ensemble does. The percussion competitions feel more “classical” to me, where as Marching Band is more entertainment. Big and bombastic. Impressive stuff, but after about three or four performances I’m ready to go home.

The other great thing about percussion ensemble season is that the wife and I have an excuse to hit the road and spend the afternoon/evening together. Instead of the occasional date night we have a whole month or two of date Saturdays. We find nearby breweries or restaurants to hit up and have a nice meal and maybe a locallly brewerd IPA. Maybe do a little window shopping and see what’s what in the town. Then we make our way to the high school and watch the performance. We are most definitely home bodies, so it’s kind of nice to have an excuse to get out of our comfort zones and explore a bit.

This past Saturday we headed out to Pendleton Heights High School(go Arabians!) Up to this point I was only familiar with the federal prison that resides in Pendleton, so it was nice to find out there was this small, quaint town to enjoy.

Before we headed out of town we decided to hit up a furniture store in town. I’ve been wanting to get a new chair for myself for awhile now. My La-Z-Boy will be nine years old in July. It’s done me well, but it’s seen better days. Between the dog jumping up and scratching for the perfect spot, countless sit sessions and maybe the occasional spill, this old rocker/recliner is losing its lustre. Plus, my wife and I think we may have gotten the wrong chair. We think this one was a bit smaller than the chair we picked out in the store back in 2013. I’m ready for a bigger, comfier chair to sit my ass in for the next decade or so. Besides, I’m sure one of our kids will gladly take this for their first apartment.

We headed into Reinholt’s for some chair shopping. We need something that’s a swivel/recliner as opposed to a rocker/recliner. The spot the chair is in currently would be ideal for a swivel chair, next to our shelf of plants. It’s my “namaste” spot in the house. Where I write/read/listen to music/watch TV. It’s my comfort zone. I need a chair to be comfortable in. We didn’t have high hopes of finding something since last week we looked in a larger town(pre-percussion ensemble performance) and couldn’t find anything for less than $2000. All the chairs were electronic. We couldn’t find anything that didn’t plug into the wall. I don’t need a chair that plugs into the wall, man.

To our surprise we found something right away. And not only that, but we discovered that you can turn any rocker/recliner into a swivel/recliner. Our minds were blown. We found a super comfortable La-Z-Boy that will arrive in a few weeks. My “namaste” spot just got a lot more “namaste”.

Namaste spot, sans new comfy chair

We made a pit stop at a favorite coffee shop before hitting the highway to Pendleton. Around 4pm we rolled in to The Bank Restaurant, which is a restaurant set up in a, yep, old downtown bank. It was decent food and we ate quick because we may have spent a little too much time in the store next door. It was a gallery of small local businesses. What caught my eye was Both Sides Now, a small record shop. It’d been a while since I’d perused a new record shop so I went in there while my wife checked out some of the other local businesses. Both Sides Now was a pretty small room with milk crates set up on tables. In the middle of the room was a table with two or three more milk crates, as well as some DVDs and some cassettes.

I didn’t have high hopes but thought I’d dig thru anyways. I was in there for about two minutes before I realized there was a woman sitting in a chair in the corner looking at her phone. I assumed she was the owner of the business. As I perused through the “B” section I came across a copy of Bruford’s One Of A Kind. My interest peaked immediately. I’m a big fan of Bill Bruford(drummer for Yes, King Crimson for those not in the know.) This was a project he had a for a few years with guitarist Allan Holdworth, keyboardist Dave Stewart, and bassist Jeff Berlin. I’ve never heard this band at all, but I said the hell with it and snagged it up. I felt that was a good omen that maybe this store might have a couple more buried treasures for me.

As I perused the ‘Classical’ section three college-age kids came in(probably in their very early 20s, so that’s a kid to me.) They were perusing the table with cassettes when one of the girls(it was two girls and a guy) spoke up excitedly.

“Oh man, they have Weird Al! I love Weird Al!” said young woman one.

“So do I! That’s so cool you like Weird Al!” said young woman two.

“Who’s Weird Al?” said the young man.

“You don’t know who Weird Al is???” said both young women. They both began recommending places where he should start his Weird Al deep dive.

“You should check out ‘Amish Parardise’, then go to ‘Fat'” they both recommended to the clueless young man.

The fella seemed intrigued and picked up the cassette contemplating the purchase when the older woman sitting in the chair spoke up.

“I don’t mean to pry, but did you know that they’re making a Weird Al movie? It stars Daniel Radcliffe as Weird Al!” said the store owner. All three were like “Really?? Wow!” The young man asked the woman if she took cards for payment and she said “Sure. But you know what? Just take the cassette. Don’t worry about it. In fact, just take all of the Weird Al tapes. I think there’s three of them” to which the young man thanked her several times.

After they left the room I turned to the woman and said “I think you made their night.” “If someone comes in looking for Weird Al then I’m just going to let them take it”, she replied. Folks, this was a solid human being.

I ended up finding a Windham Hill sampler LP and Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach in the classical section. And in the $5 bin I found James Gang Rides Again. Like I said before, I felt that first find was a good omen and I was right.

After we scarfed down our food we drove three minutes to the high school. It was a great performance from our son and his ensemble. The last two weeks they’ve come in 1st place and this weekend was no exception. We stuck around to watch all the other classes. It seemed the bigger the schools got the less we enjoyed the performances. Too much going on. It started feeling more like marching band than percussion ensembles.

WPE doing their thing(our son, front row and far right)

Once the final school performed we huffed it out of there, hitting the road for our 2 hour drive home. It felt like another successful weekend of band competition, couples day out, and even some vinyl purchases thrown in. My wife even found a very cool planter for one of her spider plants in that little shoppe area in downtown Pendleton.

Sunday morning I listened to that Windham Hill sampler. Not familiar with Windham Hill? It’s a mainly acoustic music that is somewhere in the classical/jazz/new age area of music. William Ackerman, Mark Isham, Michael Hedges, and George Winston are a few Windham Hill alumni. This is the kind of music you put on when you want to just decompress. Quiet, lilting, and kind of transcendant sounds. 10 years ago I would not have had any interest in this music, but now I can’t get enough of it. Thanks to labels like Azure Vista Records, SFI Recordings, and Moon Glyph Records, I’ve come to truly appreciate what Windham Hill has to offer.

And of course I listened to Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach about three times. Absolutely love this album. I found a copy of Switched-On Bach II six years ago and felt maybe I’d found a piece of my psyche I’d not located yet. I felt more complete listening to that album. With Switched-On Bach I think my psyche is even more complete now.

Another decent weekend in the books.

9 thoughts on “Weird Al, Wendy Carlos, and a Prison Town

  1. That’s a great story, thanks! I love the creepy theme for the band. Good on that lady in the shoppe. Look at Weird Al, bringing folks together!

    We’re coming up on travel ourselves, at least locally. After two years away, our son is registered for the travel soccer team. He’s beyond stoked for it, it’s his favourite thing to do. Furthest town we’ll hit is probably two hours away. Should be great fun, especially since he’ll be up to two years younger than the other kids – he always rises up to meet such challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah it’ll definitely be good to get out again, be reminded there’s a larger world than my small town. And man, watching our boy play is a real treat. He prefers to play keeper (and he’s excellent at it) but he can also play anywhere else and score goals, play defense, whatever is needed. He just has a head for the game.

        Liked by 1 person

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