David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 262: The BoDeans (Still The Night)

June 24, 2023

No matter how great the internet is, there can still be some disappointing gaps for finding information, important stuff, like the Warren Commission Report, the whereabouts of D.B. Cooper, and when The BoDeans played The Bluebird in Bloomington, Indiana.

They must have played there, as I was there. The show had to be in Fall 1986, as I remember being new to Bloomington, knowing nobody, but deciding I had to go see them. (I wasn't, and still am not, comfortable going to things alone.) I did own Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, not simply because its title took one of the best lines from The Rolling Stones' "Shattered," but also because songs like "She's A Runaway," "Fadeaway," and "Still The Night" (the first three songs on the record) were good, basic rock songs. 

Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams could have been the four horsemen of my anticipated future in Bloomington. I had gone from big fish in small pond within WVU's Department of English to small fish in big pond at IU (if I remember correctly, over a 100 new graduate students entered the IU English Department that Fall). So, even though, Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams is the only BoDeans' record I have ever owned, the importance of that record is no less crucial given that period of time when my parents, my buddy, Mike (driven over from Cincinnati to help me get settled), and all ties to my life left me alone in my apartment on First Street.

Ultimately, though, the record appealed to me through the songs, the musicianship, and especially the vocals. Sonically, the slightly nasally vocals of Sam Llanas somehow produced feelings of great nostalgia to me, as if his accent was Appalachia, not Wisconsin. "Still The Night" was particularly my favorite because of the simplicity of the chorus: "if I can hold you tonight" (sung by Karl Neumann) / "I might never let go," (sung by Llanas). In addition, Guy Hoffman provides some spiffy drum fills between sections.

So, did I see them live? Yes. I figure it had to be Fall 1986 because by the end of my first semester, that Fall, I had found my first and best friend at IU. Joe and I shared very similar tastes in music, so I can't imagine in a million years that he, and maybe his wife, Jane, also, wouldn't have gone with me. I assumed I asked him later, probably after a vigorous round of racquetball games, if he had gone when they were in town.

I am not the kind of guy that saves old ticket stubs, never took many pictures, and generally has the kind of long-term memory that is more on the long and less on the terms. As with most artists, you can find concert setlists and tour information for The BoDeans, despite never being a huge act. Setlistfm catalogues The BoDeans all over the country for 1986, but nothing for Bloomington, let alone for The Bluebird. 

What record is there of a shy outsider standing in the corner (in my mind, I can still visualize my spot), sipping on bottles of beer, watching this Wisconsin act ? Of a 24-year old, singing along to "I like the way you dance/I like the way you paint your lips"? Of a guy fascinated by creativity, watching a perfect blending of voices nailing the "If I could hold you tonight" (Neumann) with "I might never let go" (Llanas)?

That first year at IU, Bloomington, was an interesting time for me. I had left a lot behind in Morgantown, West Virginia, some things I may not have wanted to put behind me. Outside of my friend, Joe, and our racquetball sessions, it would take me time to find other sets of friends, including my eventual Stratomatic Baseball buddies, or my future wife. In that year, I looked out the window of my apartment at the flat landscape (so foreign to a Mountaineer) and wrote poems like "Lonely Landscape," "Coming Across Dunn Meadow," and "Shantytown" in quiet reflection of my new home.

The BoDeans provided me a sense of nostalgia and longing, even though their Milwaukee origins were farther from Morgantown, literally and figuratively, than Bloomington was from Morgantown. Somehow I was finding great comfort in "Looking For Me Somewhere," "Fadeaway," and "She's A Runaway," let alone "Still The Night." Llanas' vocals reminded me of Breece DJ Pancake stories set in Appalachia. In fact, it would be Pancake who I used for one of my graduate class research assignments that first year. Somehow, all of this, racquetball, Pancake, solitary poetry writing, and The BoDeans, made the new Dave Fleming, a little less shy after that first year, someone emerging out of the shadows of the image he had back home.

I just wish I had proof that I was there in The Bluebird that night. If we start to doubt our memories, just think how fragile our beliefs of who we are would be. Maybe that's why we might never let go of our memories.

The BoDeans. "Still The Night." Love & Sex & Hope & Dreams. Warner Bros, 1986. Link here.

Day 261: Buffalo Springfield "For What It's Worth"

Day 263: Oysterband "Don't Slit Your Wrists For Me"

See complete list here.