I was lucky enough to see Sparklehorse during that fateful CMJ festival that got pasted together in the wake of September 11th. He performed in front of a gigantic American flag the owners of the Bowery Ballroom hung at the back of the stage. He seemed really uncomfortable with that. I’m sure at least some portion of the audience did, too. I know I did.
I’m sorry to say I don’t remember much of the set. It wasn’t particularly long. He opened with ‘Homecoming Queen,’ but forgot the words. The audience jogged his memory by chiming in. He played the hits passionately. I’m reminded that he covered GBV’s ‘Smothered in Hugs,’ which you can listen to over at Chromewaves. It was amazing.
I have to admit that I expected some of the guests from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to join him onstage. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had only been in NYC for a year and I truly believed that that sort of thing might happen. He didn’t tour much. He was in New York. What else was Nina Persson doing that night?
I didn’t think much of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ at the time. I had fallen in love with Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot and Good Morning, Spider over a few troubling summers, working jobs I hated while saving money for school in the fall. Those songs were anthems to my ears, the perfect soundtrack to anyone who’s shuffling along in the twilight of joblessness and underemployment.
I’m not sure why I never really got his next album, It’s a Wonderful Life. The guy made a living off of wildly uneven albums, but something about this one didn’t quite connect. I loved songs like ‘Piano Fire’ and ‘King of Nails,’ but some of the cameos just didn’t work for me. I shelved it.
I haven’t listened to Sparklehorse much since. I went back to those records after news broke of Linkous’ death and found them to have the same amazing qualities they did when I first listened to them almost a decade ago. I can still picture myself making a 120 mile roundtrip commute in my decrepit Dodge Shadow, blasting Good Morning, Spider at top volume and it still makes me shiver.