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Aloha from the highway, as Rachel Hodges and I, with a hamster in tow, are more
than halfway to our final destination of Phoenix, where Static And Feedback will
soon be headquartered, following two years based in Boston. It’s been an
interesting trip so far, and except for some frightening escapes from overzealous
truckers, it’s been a trip largely (and thankfully) without incident.

But apart from what feels like the same food over and over (pizza followed by pizza,
with one disgusting chicken-fried steak thrown in for good measure), what’s kept
the terrifying charge of thousands of 18-wheelers from completely crippling all of
us in the car has been, yes, some choice tunes to keep the ride rolling.

There have been themes and segments to the trip so far. Spending 10-12 hours
in the car per day, keeping things fresh is most important. Balancing light and
heavy, breezy and plodding and, simply, song and spoken word has been key.

The Kinks have been coming up in shifts, with
Arthur or The Decline And Fall Of
The British Empire
getting the spotlight treatment earlier and Lola Vs. Powerman
And The Money-go-round
due up soon. Otherwise, highlighting an artists’ catalog
via the “shuffle” function on the mp3 player has been successful. As memory
serves, Ben Harper, Ben Folds, Mudhoney, the Clash and the Beatles have gone
over well with two ornery folks and an indifferent hamster in the car. And I believe
the likes of Ryan Adams, the White Stripes and Spoon will earn similar treatment
before all is said and done.

Balancing all of this out, and alternating regularly, has been good old comic relief.
The audio version of John Hodgman’s book
The Areas Of My Expertise has been
side-splittingly absurd, while Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks and Patton Oswalt have all
had turns at the mic.

But one very cool moment came on my initial trip to Arizona last week, during the
drive through the Flagstaff/Sonoma area last. With my mp3 player plugged into the
car’s stereo, the low, rumbling sounds of Neil Young’s
Year of the Horse provided
the soundtrack.

The undisputed king of Mountain Funk provided the perfect soundscape to the
scenery – mostly, long, untouched stretches of red mountains and petrified wood,
set against snowcaps, gravelly terrain and a perfect blue sky. The grimy, churning
Crazy Horse matched the beautifully desolate area so well that I started to get
chills.

Now, obviously, I don’t need another incentive to love the Horse. But the way the
sound matched the environment was inspiring – the feeling as “Danger Bird”
rolled along the mountains forced me to pull out my sketch pad for a quick doodle
of Young, standing before an oversized Fender amp, playing us down the
highway. And the extended nature of the band worked to shorten the ride, bring the
background to life and raise the enthusiasm of a new start up a notch. Each note,
corny as it may sound, fit into each crevice of the rocks, smoothing out the trip and
guiding us into the valley to our new home.

Easily, he was the best tour guide I’ve ever had. And it’ll be a no-brainer what to
pop in the stereo once we cross the Arizona border.
Neil Young should be kept near all car sound
systems at all times.
Jan. 11, 2007
E-mail Nick Tavares at nick@staticandfeedback.com
Discuss this story in our forums.
UPDATE (10:16 p.m. MST, Jan. 12):
Well, we're here. As it turns out, the truckers were only insane through Tennessee
and Arkansas, but after Little Rock things calmed down nicely. And now, to the
best of my knowledge, here's every artist that made an appearance during our trip:

Music: Ryan Adams, The Beatles, Beck, The Black Crowes, The Clash, Dead
Kennedys, Bo Diddley, The Doors, The Flaming Lips, Ben Folds, Gov't Mule, Ben
Harper, Jimi Hendrix, The Hidden Cameras, The Hold Steady, Jawbox, Kings of
Leon, The Kinks, James McMurtry & The Heartless Bastards, The Meat Puppets,
Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, The Pixies, Public Enemy, Paul Revere & The
Raiders, Ride, The Rolling Stones, Son Volt, Sonny Rollins, Spoon, Them, Van
Halen, Tom Waits, The White Stripes, Wilco, The Who, Neil Young

Comedy: Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Patton Oswalt

Audio books: John Hodgman - The Areas of My Expertise;
Kurt Vonnegut - Breakfast of Champions (read by Stanley Tucci)