Friday, February 24, 2012
YouGrail: craw live in 1996
I've been reading an essay by John Jeremiah Sullivan—you can find it in the excellent Pulphead—about caves in the South that contain wondrous Native American paintings and artifacts, so old and disconnected from recorded history that no one really has any idea what they mean. Not to get dramatic, but I find myself thinking about the video above, a 1996 performance by the now-defunct Cleveland band craw [sic], as a similarly momentous find.
For a long time, I've relied on oral history—or more accurately, my own rambling recollections and paeans—to transmit my feelings about this band, and how hard they smacked my teenage consciousness, crater-ing deeper than any other art that bombarded me during that extremely impressionable time. I've bored countless friends (not to mention my wife) with the minute details, the descriptions, even pantomime of the band members' stage movements. Folks have listened patiently, humored me, to a degree. "You don't understand," I would say, shaking my head, "how good they were." (Prior to this, there were craw videos on YouTube, but not of "classic" vintage.)
That's not to say that after watching the above video, the level of my devotion to this musical entity will seem any more clear. It's just YouTube; it's just some old clip; it's just five guys on a stage, seen and heard through the veil of 16 years, during which heavy underground rock music has changed immeasurably, though, I would argue, evolved maybe not that much at all. But at least I can say, "There they are. That is more or less what I witnessed, standing a foot away, as a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old. That is what consumed me and made me so impossibly happy," in the way that only a deep connection with a marvelous human creation can. That is what I spent hours puzzling over. That is what made me say, "This is the benchmark. Anything else that comes along will have to reckon with it."
I have no idea how it will appear or sound to you. Maybe you'll be intrigued. If so, I implore you to track down the record that features this song. It's called Lost Nation Road, and it is my favorite record, full stop. If not, I don't begrudge you. It's just a YouTube clip. It isn't, objectively, some momentous excavation, something awe-inspiring dredged up from the dirt, some link to a lost civilization. To me, though, it's a big deal.
My friend Dave (the guitarist you see on the left in the video) e-mailed me a link to this video and another one from the same show, and I clicked on them while I was at the office today. I watched for a few seconds, but I knew I had to turn them off, wait till I could really engage. I felt this weird rush of something, nostalgia, I guess. I felt hyperactive, like I wanted to tell everyone I knew, but worried, also, that my enthusiasm wouldn't be matched. In the end, that is the reason for this blog you're reading, so I can enthuse and enthuse and not bore my friends and loved ones.
So anyway, the video is above. If you're interested in hearing more about craw, I'll be happy to talk (or e-mail) your ear off any day of the week. If it doesn't grab you, I totally understand. But in my tiny corner of the internet, this is some holy-grail shit.