Monday, June 06, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 6: A Song That Reminds You Of Somewhere

It's Day 6 in the 30 Day Song Challenge, which means that today you get a song that reminds me of somewhere. Today's song reminds me of State College, Pennsylvania, where I spent four years in graduate school at Penn State University. I'm not going to lie; I was never a lover of State College. It's a small, "college" town stuck right in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania's farmland. It's about three hours from Philadelphia, two hours from Pittsburgh, four or five hours from D.C. and Baltimore, which is just about close enough in every direction to make you feel like you could go somewhere else if you wanted, but it's too far to make the trip with ease. There's not much to do in State College that doesn't have to do with Penn State, and everything has to do with Penn State. All due respect to the residents of Happy Valley, I spent most of my time there waiting to get out.

The saving grace for me while I was in State College was a little band that I played in with a few of my grad school cohorts and one of our professors. We were called Philbilly Cadillac, and we were basically a rootsy, alt-country, rock-n-folk kind of band. I had a lot of great times with that band and those people. Over the years, I think we turned into a pretty decent sounding group, too. Anyway, one of the regular songs on our playlist was the following. It's Little Feat's "Willin'" from their 1971 album Little Feat:

Anytime I hear this song, it reminds me of being in our band's practice room, which was the basement of one of our member's houses. In my experience, that room was probably the happiest place in Happy Valley. I miss it a lot. That's a picture of the now-defunct Philbilly Cadillac to the left, in an early iteration of the band. Doug Anderson (to my left in the photo) and Mike Schleeter (to my right in the photo) and I were the three band members who stayed the same throughout a lot of other changes. I don't talk to those guys much anymore, but they will be lifelong friends. I'm not really sure how this ended up being the case, but our band did a lot of songs like "Willin'" during our time: trucker songs, train songs, heartbreak songs, songs involving whiskey, wine, or some other manner of illegal substance. It would be a stretch to say that living in State College was anything like "hard livin'", but as a group we consistently gravitated toward hard-livin' songs. Maybe State College was harder than any of us would admit to ourselves.

Anyway, I'm glad the song challenge gave me a moment to remember State College today. Not for State College's sake, but for the people I knew there who made it endurable.

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