Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm An Alright Guy, Too

Back in the winter/spring of 1995, I was working for a builder...swinging a hammer, framing walls, sheeting walls, hefting walls...freely throwing around words like, "joist."

While this post is not about my brief career as a carpenter, I will forever remember the last house I framed, because it was where I was introduced to a pot-smoking, folk-singing storyteller.

Almost every day, Todd Snider's "Alright Guy" would come blaring through the speakers of the boom box. And after hearing it a handful of times, I looked forward to those four minutes every day when he'd come on and tell me how alright he was.

I purchased his debut album, "Songs For The Daily Planet," released on Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Records label (which I don't think exists today), and found that Snider was more than a one-hit wonder, although the radio stations only seemed to pick up on one other of his tunes, a quirky little ditty called, "Beer Run." (b--double e--double r--u--n...beer ruunnnn! all you need is a ten and a fiver, a car, a key and a sober driver.)

I kept up with his albums for a while, but lost touch with his newer releases. I nearly wore out the three I owned, though.

Several weeks ago, I saw in a entertainment newspaper an ad for the annual Acoustic Fest in Manitowoc, with a day-long lineup that's usually filled with local talent. I glanced down the list and saw Snider's name as the headliner. He'd been in Green Bay two nights before.

Not only would I get to see him live for the first time...I'd get to see him free!...and in my own town, within walking distance of my home. (Did I mention that ice-cold beers were only two bucks?? They were. I didn't count how many I had.)

We arrived an hour or so ahead of Snider's showtime and sat on the grass in the small park until Michael McDermott came on stage (he was a late addition to the lineup, and quite talented...check out some of his stuff), when we went and stood off to the side of the stage for a closer view. Shortly before McDermott's set was over, a long white car pulled up behind the band shell and Snider exited the vehicle, immediately attracting a crowd of about a dozen people who recognized him.

I bolted over for a chance to say hi, and when Jessica saw the direction I took, she and a buddy of ours followed.

After Snider posed for a couple of photos, he turned to walk into the door behind the band shell, and I stopped him with, "Hey, Todd, ya got time for one more? I've been a fan since your Alright Guy days."

"Oh, sure, I'll play that one tonight," was his reply.

I bet he plays that one at all of his shows, though. Duh. Whyyy didn't I reach for a more obscure title?!?

A couple of alright guys. (I'm the hatless, tieless, harmonicaless, beer-holding alright guy.)

Jessica was ready with her camera, and thus...I met the man whose stories I'd been listening to for 15 years...over and over and over.

He played for a little over an hour (can't expect much more from a free show) and was as entertaining in person as on his records. We sat on the ground in the front row, and heard "Alright Guy," and "I Spoke As A Child," and "Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican Straight White American Male." (I highly recommend looking up that last one. Aw, hell...here you go.)

I won't wait again to see him until he returns to my city. I'll go find him next time he's in Wisconsin.

Because he really is an alright guy.

"They say 3 percent of the people use 5 to 6 percent of their brain;
97 percent use 3 percent and the rest goes down the drain.
I'll never know which one I am but I'll bet you my last dime,
99 percent think we're 3 percent 100 percent of the time."
—Todd Snider, "Statistician's Blues"


  1. I'm a huge fan of his songwriting and storytelling - have never had the chance to see him live, something I really must remedy.

    Good to see a post here my friend,


  2. you're more than an alright guy in my book:) thanks for introducing me to yet another swell musician.

  3. @Scott: Now that I've seen him, I'm kicking myself for not jumping at a show earlier. They're always affordable in my neck of the woods ($20-ish) and often within an hour drive. Gotta go back again. And again. And...again.

    Glad to see you haven't given up hope and deleted me from your feed reader. :)

    @dharmagirl: Would you classify me as, perhaps...an OK guy?