Odd Oasis

Odd Oasis is certainly odd. The lyrics are a mash up of images from a venue in Dallas, Texas, lines inspired by a friend, and the passing of an icon. 

Butch got the message… 

A phrase, said in passing, quietly. Meant for my ears only. It felt clandestine, and ominous. Without context the words hung in the air like a dirty secret, we were “up to something”. With context it was perfectly innocent, an efficient passing on of information, nothing more. We were setting up for a gig and had been discussing inviting a friend to sit in with us at an upcoming show. But in the moment, separated from the overarching conversation, I knew the phrase was a keeper. 

Like a fat Tom Selleck singing Judas Priest covers… 

Said to me by the same person. Different setting, different context, which I don’t remember now. To me it’s a great metaphor for something so absurd, so comically bizarre you wouldn’t believe your eyes if you saw it for yourself. Brilliant. Change “like” to “there’s” to transform metaphor into reality. Possibility into presence. I filed it away for later use. 

I instantly knew Opening Bell would make its way into a song. The eclectic acoustic music venue and coffee shop was teeming with items and imagery that could only make sense in their specific setting. I started writing things down so I wouldn’t forget: a bell diver’s helmet, a bird in a cage, Art Deco era radios, framed pictures of music legends, records tacked to the walls. The list went on. It was perfect. 

With these elements in hand the lyrics developed naturally in a stream of consciousness. I had no idea what it all meant, but it wasn’t forced. I liked the flow, I liked the imagery. I also didn’t know how to end it. I had three verses and a chorus, but it felt unfinished. The last chorus simply repeating wasn’t right. I was convinced of that but had no solution. 

Then John Prine passed away. 

I had been using Johnny Cash as a benchmark throughout the song thus far. Of the musicians whose framed likenesses adorned the walls of the odd oasis, he was the one to beat. 

But Bob Dylan was there, too. 

And now John Prine had died. 

John Prine had become the singer/songwriter I admired most, one I placed above Johnny Cash. The majority of my lyrical influences trace a line directly back to John Prine. Not just for his craft and lyrical wit, but for his attitude, his being, his essence. I finished the song that night. 

Now the lights are going down in a decrecendo 

The theme songs play from Art Deco radios 

I see your framed Dylan and raise you one John Prine 

It’s an odd oasis here at the end of the line 

It’s an odd oasis here at the end of the line 

An odd oasis. And now we’re out of time 

Reflecting on the song now, I think Odd Oasis is a cry against our society’s unbridled consumerism. We are all Butch. The target of the commercialization bombarding us from all quarters. If, like Butch, we resist or outright repel the system we are considered outliers and outcasts. An anomaly for daring to not buy into the hype. 

As a musician I have internalized this attitude because of how I interpret it playing out in the industry. Nothing is valued if it cannot be monetized. Entertainment is king and Art is court jester. It’s not a new story but it feels like it’s accelerating. Art for art’s sake occupies a fading universe in the modern Western psyche. 

Fading universe is also an apt description for places like Opening Bell. Truly unique and funky places not franchised and corporatized. Their decor and vibe isn’t decided in a board room as the result of focus studies or a purposefully “hip” marketing strategy. But it also doesn’t exist right out in the open. The space is tucked away from the hustle and bright lights of downtown, it isn’t particularly well marked, and it’s not lost on me that it is physically underground. And when places like it are lost to insatiable bottom lines, only people like Butch will notice or care. 

It’s an Odd Oasis in a universe that’s fading fast 

An Odd Oasis where the world ends at last

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