I finally got to see Dana Lyons live a week ago Friday. Dana is most famous for his Cows With Guns song (in fact, his website is cowswithguns.com), but he’s written a lot more leaning toward folk-rock/country, sometimes poignant and often slyly satirical of our so called American way of life and in defense of the environment.
OK, I know others have said the Hootenanny for Haiti with Mike McCready, Duff McKagan and friends was like being in someone’s living room (I said campfire, I know, not very original); but Dana’s concert really was like being in someone’s living room; the community room of Jackson Place Co-Housing, to be exact. I felt like I was crashing someone’s party almost! Once I found it, as the entrance was in an inner courtyard of an apartment complex.
A lot of families, from grandmas to children, and a nice spread of food and drink to graze on. The little girl on the right side of the picture dragged her toy horse out to the center of the room to offer Dana right in the middle of RV (just when he’s getting to accounting for all the kids in the RV, appropriately enough).
No wolf whistles at this show, but we did get in a bit of howling. Dana opened with I Am An Animal, which includes the line, about mammals, “They sing the latest tunes, at night they howl at the moon.” Dana recounted singing that one at a dog park with, I think it was, about 40 people and 80 dogs; and the howling went on a long time!
All Dana’s music is on http://www.cowswithguns.com . One of my favorite verses of I Am An Animal:
The fish dig a whole nother scene
Their whole world is aqua marine
Some are thin and some are fat
Some of their faces are flat
They take trans-Atlantic trips
They do strange things with their lips
Dana’s next song was for the dogs too, from his new cd, Three Legged Coyote, How I Miss Your Dog, “I feel so blue and I miss you too, but I really miss your dog. . .”
Also from his new album, Grandma’s Up in Heaven, Giving Hell to God, dedicated to his late grandmother: “She was a red-headed beauty with big brown eyes/A straight-talking gal who didn’t know how to lie/And from the day she was born everyone knew who was in charge”.
Patagonia Dam Song tells the story of the people Dana met in Chile who are fighting a dam after former dictator Augusto Pinochet sold away their country’s water rights to foreign corporations on the way out.
No one can own a waterfall
No one can own the sky
And I’ve seen the desperate sickness
In the rich men who would try
International Rivers has a current campaign on stopping the dams in Patagonia:
Older songs included RV:
The tenters watch with wonder, the bikers are afraid,
The rangers take their aspirin, the animals run away,
The truckers see a road block, the wagons see a wall,
The compacts see a mountain, the horses see a stall,
Asked for by one of the kids, TV God:
And the TV God watches over me
Opens up my eyes, shows me how to see
All around the world, every night and day on my TV
Teaches how to love, teaches what is real
Tells what life is of, tells me how to feel
All I need to know I can find and see on my TV
Took me back aways. I was really addicted to TV as a kid. All that stuff stays with you forever. I heard a homeless guy last night near Key Arena berate his buddy “Pyle, you are the worst Marine in this outfit!” I don’t know if it’s disturbing or reassuring that the voices from your tv days past will accompany you on your journeys, no matter where.
Of course in addition to the unreality of our tv friends, there’s the consumerism (“I learned about toys and candy my Mommy should buy”) and then the wars we’re sold:
Everything I know about my country I learned on TV
The man on the screen tells me who is our enemy
They say that we are free and we must fight to be number one
So when the army calls I’ll grab my TV, my car, and my gun
Cows With Guns was just before the break (where we all made like consumers to buy cds and t-shirts).
He was a scrawny calf, who looked rather woozy
No one suspected he was packing an Uzi
Here’s the cartoon video:
Yes, even I know, the male cows with udders. . . OK, that’s a lot of bull!
After the break, Dana did Ride the Lawn (title track off his last cd), revealing that the verse about the dad getting mad at his college son’s ideas about a more environmentally conscious lawn came from his own experience with his dad. “Well, I’ll listen to your politics and your weirdo leftist songs, but when you’re under my roof, don’t you dare speak ill of lawns”.
I’m listening to it on Dana’s cowswithguns.com site and it’s hilarious. I don’t have that album yet! His dad, by the way, loves the song, and requested for the John Deere lawnmower on the album cover.
Turn of the Wrench has long been one of my favorites (since I discovered Dana’s music on the internet a few years back). It’s about a group of farmers in Minnesota taking matters into their own hands when the power company builds a line across their land against their will.
With bandannas on their faces
Careful not to make a sound
They loosened all the bolts
That held the towers to the ground
And several weeks later, with nobody around
The Minnesota wind blew tower after tower after tower down
I knew it was based on a true story, but didn’t know it was in a book written by the late Senator Paul Wellstone, Powerline:The First Battle of America’s Energy War.
Found it online at Powell’s Books:
Dana talked about his work with Jane Goodall with Roots & Shoots and the Giant Peace Dove Project before doing Circle the World, with the ambitious plan to circle the world with these giant, hand made, doves.
Further information at: http://www.rootsandshoots.org/campaigns/dove
We had not only a sing-along, but a full participatory routine to Dana tried to teach us for for Swimming in the Big, about a vacationing American “bathing in the waters of de Nile”. I’m afraid the differences in swimming strokes was lost on me, having never really learned to swim, but I had fun trying anyways.
I thought I heard a bomb, it must be a celebration
If anything was wrong, they’d tell me on TV
Sometimes I’m amazed at how perfect things are going
I think I’ll do a little shopping, and take some time for me
Touring in Ireland, Dana was in Belfast and really didn’t want to do this song because of the line about the bomb (in a place that had experienced plenty of real ones); but the local radio dj requested it near the end of his show. The audience totally cracked up at the line. Dana later learned (and everyone else knew) the audience was half Catholic, half Protestant. Music and humor as a bridge!
Closing it out was My Country, about fighting against the destruction of our wildlands as patriotism.
Dana’s currently touring at house parties, granges and children’s museums in places like Langley, Woodinville and Mt. Vernon. He’d like to make it worldwide and play in a living room near you! Booking information on his website, http://www.cowswithguns.com . . .
Behind in my blogging, more music to come. Hidden doors in record stores. . .