Glen Phillips At The Levitt Pavilion

I went to hear “Walk On The Ocean.”

Funny how one song can immediately grab you and stay with you forever. Life is about the stolen glance, the once in a lifetime moment, when something indelible occurs and you never forget it, you keep reflecting upon it as time goes by, it’s like it just happened yesterday, it’s people.

And it’s songs.

We spotted the ocean at the head of the trail

That’s what it sounds like. A day away from the office, from school, in an era when none of us were connected, there were no mobile phones and the internet was unheard of. You’d leave your house and you’d feel free. The opposite of today when if you leave your smartphone at home you go back and get it. I love that everybody’s reachable, I almost can’t believe we weren’t able to connect instantly always. But somehow we got along. We went to AAA for a TripTik before we drove cross-country and we’d meet people at stop signs in locations we’ve never been to before and somehow it all worked out. And the great thing about the beach and the mountains is they represent a head change, a release, when you’re only human, no different from those who came before. With the snow under your boots and the sand between your toes you communicate with nature, our God.

And somebody told me that this is the place
Where everything’s better, everything’s safe

Even though it wasn’t, safe, that is. Our whole nation has turned into a no fault zone. I mean that there’s no personal responsibility, any loss is reimbursed. Whereas it used to be…you were in charge of your own destiny, and if things didn’t work out you’d be out of luck. Life is about recovering from loss, never forget that. I see people who’ve never experienced a breakup and I think to myself…just wait, one of you will leave this mortal coil and the other will be left alone and the pain will be so severe…you’ll know what the rest of us feel.

But places used to be special, just for us, before it was all about claiming you were there, first on Foursquare and then on Instagram. I don’t want to be the mayor of anywhere, I don’t want to put on my look to go someplace, I just want to throw on a t-shirt and shorts and venture off, I want to feel free.

And “Walk On The Ocean” makes me feel free.

That’s right, you can be sitting at home, in a classroom, in a boardroom, and a song can go through your brain and you can be taken away. And it’s your own private trip. Funny how that works, one song can open your mind more than any drug. The music is for everyone, but it’s personal to you.

And I played “Walk On The Ocean” again and again. It came out during the CD era. When if you liked something, you could put it on endless repeat. That’s what I do. Over and over again, dozens of times, it’s like being shot up with Demerol, a drug that makes you feel fuzzy and warm and taken care of. Funny how despite all the social networking nothing makes me feel closer to humanity than a song.

So that’s why I went to Pasadena.

I was kinda shocked. That Glen Phillips was doing a soft ticket show, actually, a free ticket show. I think of him as being so young.

But he’s 45. With two kids in college. And their school funds were filled up by…


That’s what a hit will do for you.

And “Walk On The Ocean” was not the only one. There was “All I Want” from the same album. Glen played that one too. Funny how you feel when you hear a hit live, you connect with that radio you once listened to, it’s like you’re jetted back to an era embedded in your bones but only recalled upon hearing the song.

As for “Walk On The Ocean”…

When they play your favorite song you don’t want it to end. You concentrate ever harder, trying to soak it all up, because eventually they’ll stop playing it, it’ll be gone like the wind. Funny how the best experiences are always impermanent. Anything we can hold in our hands, possess, just isn’t as meaningful.

And the solo acoustic encore of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” was joyful. Funny how we all know these songs, even though we never talk about them.

But the highlight of the evening was talking to Glen after the show.

Because he was so honest. We think these rock stars live perfect lives, are trouble-free, that success with everybody knowing your name solves all your problems.

But it does not.

Glen said he’d been depressed. He’d gotten divorced, the disease was in his genes and…he sank.

Honesty is the best policy, when you open up to someone you bond for life. That’s what we’re all looking for. The internet gives the impression image is king. As for those posting their foibles, looking for attention, that’s usually not connecting, but a bizarre form of showing off, trying to garner some love. But when someone testifies as to how they truly feel, asking nothing in return, you’re touched, the sparks fly, an electric current passes between the two of you, moments you’ll never forget are created.

So, Glen’s moving to Nashville with his new girlfriend, she’s in a program at Vanderbilt. He’ll be in Tennessee half the time and Santa Barbara the rest.

Is he gonna try to get his songs covered?

That’s not his goal, he knows some people there, he’s got some projects in mind, but when it comes to the music business Glen’s learned…

You can’t take it personally.

He’s become more hippy-dippy. That’s what Glen told me. You’d think a guy from Santa Barbara would have those values baked in. But through all the travails, the successes and the failures, Glen’s learned you can’t take life that seriously, you’ve just got to soldier on. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t. But if you’re expecting something back…

We’re all expecting something back. Especially in this new internet era. We believe if we play someone should care, that we’re entitled to attention, that every step is one on the way to riches.

But what if it’s not?

The greatest wisdom comes from those who’ve traveled the path before. Which is why you should listen to your elders, seek out the history of those who’ve been where you want to go. Everyone thinks they’re reinventing the wheel, but in most cases they’re not.

You never know when your peak will come, if it arrives at all.

And just when you get used to it, it all disappears. And even though you blame yourself for your choices, oftentimes they’ve got nothing to do with it. The world works in mysterious ways. Not everybody can be on top forever. And if you think you know what people want to hear, you’re delusional. The history of the world, never mind music, is one of accidents. That which is done on a whim, with no consciousness, is what resonates. Probably because it’s not premeditated, it’s pure and genuine, it’s life itself.

And I was thinking of all this as Glen strapped his guitar to his back and ran off to catch a ride from a friend, with the same bounce in his step as a twenty year old, but with a world of experience.

Don’t let the years get you down. Your body may fail you, but your mind can stay young. It’s about opportunity, believing, taking chances, being optimistic.

I have to tell myself this every day.

I’ve got to walk on the ocean.

Step on the stones.

I can’t see where they’re all placed. I’m gonna misstep and get dunked.

But the memories grow sweeter, even though we grow old.

And when we’re connected with what once was, when I heard “Walk On The Ocean” Saturday night…

I smiled.

And that’s about all you can ask for. Externalities won’t make you happy. But when something resonates with our core…we know we’ve experienced life, we know what we’re here for.

The song unlocks the door.

And then we move through it.

Comments are closed