A few months ago the lovely Eric from the Nerdologues gang invited me to be a guest on his podcast, Blank Cassette. It may have taken way too long for the reciprocal invite to be actually sent out (especially since it had been in the pipes since before said pod went pretty public nearly 10 months ago!), but I finally got him to make you a playlist.
He didn’t exactly make it for you nor me, but Eric’s being kind enough to share the mix and inspiration behind it with us.
Read on for a High Fidelity-esque tale of break-up, travels and music. The basic trinity of pop culture!
*WARNING: do NOT look up “Door County” photos if you don’t have time to drop whatever you’re doing to plan a holiday.
Last summer my girlfriend and I had booked a weekend getaway to Wisconsin for the Fourth of July. For some reason, that’s a really common thing for people who live in Chicago to do – we live in one of the largest and most engaging cities in North America but, you know, the grass is always greener. So Wisconsin it was! Door County in particular – that’s an especially picturesque part of the state up north, near Green Bay (home of the Packers and cheese hats). It was going to be our first road trip together – always an exciting part of any relationship.
One of the things I did to prep for the trip was put together a playlist of artists that put me in the headspace of Wisconsin. The lady enjoyed listening to my playlists (one of my relationship Kryptonites) and it seemed like this was a great opportunity for one since we’d be in the car a whole lot. Usually I keep my playlists pretty tight – something that would fit on a blank CD if anybody still used those – but I made this bad boy open-ended to better accompany the long drive we were staring down.
By this point you’ve probably picked up on all the past tense here. That road trip never happened. A few days before we left, she broke up with me. We’d had a nonrefundable hotel room (booked via an insane deal on hotels.com**) though, so I was like “fuck it, I still want to go on this trip”. So I kept working on the playlist.
I didn’t end up going to Door County exactly – through the intervention of some very kind friends and the fact that I couldn’t bring my dog to the hotel we’d booked unless she was a service animal (you better believe I was bringing somebody to that hotel), I instead spent the weekend at my friend’s cabin in nearby Tomahawk, WI. The playlist was still in play. And you better believe I listened to it on the way up there and back.
The base of the playlist is a lot of power pop. There’re a couple reasons for that – the That ’70s Show aesthetic (check the first song) primarily, but it also just seems like Wisconsin needs a power pop soundtrack. All the heavy beer, cheese, and sausage of the state mixed with its beautiful airy scenery – the power meets the pop, right? That explains stuff like Big Star, Alice Cooper, and 1-800-Band.
Nestled alongside power pop what puts me in the mood of driving through an endless wash of Culvers are a bunch of artists I’ve seen perform in Wisconsin. Milwaukee and Madison are home to a number of beautiful theaters, and Milwaukee also hosts the annual Summerfest, giving me a bunch of tremendous musical memories – hence the appearance of acts like Rilo Kiley, Beatallica and Jakob Dylan.
Any time I visit some place, I make it a point to listen to local artists. Winsconsin includes a smattering of that as well; welcome the Violent Femmes, the Bodeans, the Chordettes and the like.
And finally, some songs appear because they’re tied to very specific Wisconsin memories – the time my friends and I were driving back from Milwaukee and spontaneously sang literally every word on Weird Al’s Bad Hair Day album, or the time we were heading to Minneapolis and, just past Madison, my friend Steve decided that if I really liked Van Halen, I should be able to listen to “Jump” nonstop for three hours without complaining (I made it maybe 20 minutes).
Memories of that particular weekend are, understandbly, still pretty bittersweet for me. But dang it, I really like this playlist. I think it’s a nice, varied collection from across my musical taste that puts you in the headspace of a pretty lovely state. I’m actually heading there this Friday for a work outing and you better believe this bad boy’s gonna be cued up on my Spotify.
writer, editor, comic book retailer, Nerdologues member, alright guy I think?
**this post was in no way endorsed by hotels.com (although we’re totally open for that, guys!)