Friday, September 14, 2012

Mix discs and milking that Rhett Miller story a bit more

I've already written about my wife and I running into Old 97's front man Rhett Miller at a burger place before the band's recent L.A. date. The part I didn't mention in the post was a moment between Rhett and me as my wife fumbled to get her phone to Rhett's friend for a photo. Rhett asked if we lived in L.A., and I responded that we did, throwing in how I used to see him in his solo shows at Largo. In that moment I recalled that over a decade ago at one such show I gave him a copy of a mix CD I'd made, and I mentioned that.

Now, I'll interject a brief elaboration about that.

Back in the early part of last decade I got my first computer with CD-burning capabilities—yes, that was a big deal at the time, kids—and as I'd been one who'd made more than a few mix tapes in the pre-computer days I figured I'd get into the same thing with discs. Arguably it seemed it would be easier to assemble the songs on the computer than it had been with CD players and a tape deck (I would record straight through, doing crossfades with two CD players attached to a small mixer; if I screwed up, I had to completely start over that side). And after a somewhat messy breakup I was inspired to make my first mix disc, doing that same crossfading with some multi-track software I got (and actually paid for—yes, kids, there was a time we did that). The song selection was only somewhat about the breakup; I knew from years of mix tapes that sticking with a single heavy-handed theme makes for a less listenable collection.

Anyway, I completed the disc and made a cover for it (printed on a color inkjet—which was something of a big deal at the time), and burned copies (something that definitely was much faster than duping copies of cassettes was) to give to friends, co-workers, and of course, the people I'd met by attending Rhett's shows.

Yes, this was a time when I still operated under the delusion that anyone else gave a shit about anyone else's musical tastes.

Prior to the show in question I grabbed a handful of the discs in the slim cases I'd put them in, and at the venue I handed them out to my table mates. I ended up with a couple extras, which sat on the table next to me during the show. Afterward, as we sometimes did, we hung out waiting for Rhett to come out to the bar (as he typically did). A number of others had the same idea, so to get a moment to talk with him involved milling around the bar for a few minutes in an implicit queue. When our "turn" came the few of us stood next to him as he sipped a drink, chatting about the show or whatever. As the discs were too big to fit in a pocket of my jeans I simply held them in my hand at my side, not thinking about them. Then at some point during our conversation with Rhett, he pointed to the discs in my hand and asked if he could have one. It honestly had not occurred to me to even offer him one—not to be rude but it didn't seem appropriate to force it on him; with these people with whom I was better acquainted I had no such qualms, but apparently he was outside of that. I don't know why. However, I was willing to give it to anyone who wanted it, so of course I handed him one. He thanked me and looked at the song list on the cover, and recognized the Wedding Present track I'd selected (even singing the chorus). He saw a Del Amitri song and commented on how they'd played a show with that Scottish band. And shortly after that we made way for some others to have their moment with Rhett.

Anyway, back in that Friday evening moment of talking with him about the Largo shows I thought of that time as the only interaction I had with him that there might be the slightest noteworthy aspect. The thing was: When he asked me what was on the disc, I mostly remembered it had a blue cover; the only band that I recalled in that moment was the Wedding Present, and that undoubtedly was because somewhere I had stored that bit about Rhett knowing that one. The reality was even I hadn't listened to that mix disc in probably close to a decade; remembering anything about its selections wasn't as clear as the fact I'd given Rhett a copy.

Anyway, with me clearly fumbling to list anything more from it Rhett was nice enough to take the lead and mention how it probably was in his car, as he noted he'd put a bunch of mix discs he'd gotten on the road as his listening material. I don't imagine he still has it, but it's pleasant to imagine he still may stick it in his car's disc player.

That's more than I could do.

The next day at home I did some looking around and could not find a copy of the disc in question. I suspect there's one in a box of CDs I have in our storage unit. If I don't find it next time I'm there I may have to hope we run into Rhett during his next tour so I can ask him to burn me a copy of it.

Nice as he is, he probably would.

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