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Live Music Friday – Alex Dezen and Dave Chernis of The Damnwells, live on World Cafe Live

Welcome back to another Live Music Friday here at Burgo’s Blog. Thanks to all the regular readers who were patient while I took my week off from posting… it was much needed, and I think it did me a world of good.
For this week’s Live Music Friday, I decided to post a show from 2005, when Alex Dezen and Dave Chernis of The Damnwells played on World Cafe Live.

Live Music Friday - Alex Dezen and Dave Chernis of The Damnwells, live on World Cafe Live

There are a few reasons that I chose to post an Alex Dezen post today. The first is that I’ve noticed a lot of you are finding my blog searching for Alex Dezen, and in particular the song “Tonight and Forever”… I’m guessing this is as a result of The Damnwells getting a lot of exposure lately, thanks to no less than five of their songs – “Tonight and Forever” included – appearing on the new Ryan Reynolds flick, “Chaos Theory“. That’s really encouraging for a supporter to see, and, in a weird way, I’m really proud and happy for the band. So if you’re one of those people just getting turned onto the group, then I’d really suggest you check out some of my past posts on the band: particularly my post about The Damnwells documentary, Golden Days, which shows the movie’s trailer; my post The Damnwells – A new release and some old love; and a previous Live Music Friday, showcasing Alex Dezen and Angela Dezen performing live at the Hotel Cafe. And finally, there is of course this post, which features a live version of the song, “Tonight and Forever”.

The second reason is that, during my week off from posting, I returned to my roots somewhat
, in order to recharge my batteries. This included copious amounts of Ryan Adams listening, and… you guessed it… Alex Dezen and The Damnwells.

The third reason? It’s, quite frankly, a freakishly beautiful set, featuring both Alex and Dave Chernis, with Dave playing some of the most atmospheric lap steel that I’ve ever heard from him. There’s a bit of nostalgia for me there as well, as in recent times, there have been questions about who exactly The Damnwells are. Whereas it used to have all the band members listed on the group’s Myspace as permanent members, eagle-eyed fans noticed that earlier this year the band’s members section changed to “Alex Dezen – vocal/guitar… often with…“. And going by Alex’s myspace blog, it seems to be that their much rumoured new release might be more of a solo project. As he wrote:

“Back to the record. People have been asking, “Is this a Damnwells record or an Alex solo record?” The answer is: I’m not sure. The Damnwells has always been about my songs with extremely talented musicians and producers collaborating. The personnel have changed, but the essence—one of this week’s vocabulary words for the 7th graders I teach—remains the same. That was always the idea Ted and I had for this band, that it would be a kind of collective, a collaborative vehicle for artists and friends. Dave, Ted, and Steve were the in the shit with me for 7 years. Now they’ve got other things going on, more important things. Are we still friends? Some of us. Will we ever play together again? Does the pope wear a funny hat? Even if some of us aren’t in communication right now, I know we wish we were. So are the Damnwells finished? I think I just answered that question. If you’re still unsure, come down to the Double-Decker fest in Oxford, Mississippi on the 26th, or the Workplay Theater in Birmingham, Alabama on the 27th and see for yourself. Just remember to bring some earplugs and a broken heart. On the stage for this limited engagement will be Ole Dick Dick, Ratty, Jay, and myself. There are some plans in the works for more shows this summer, though who knows if that will happen.”

And really, a large part of my love for this set is that it features both Alex and Dave. Don’t get me wrong; I know that The Damnwells is more than just certain members. As Alex has always said, The Damnwells is more of a collective. But, to me… I’ll always look at the musical connection that Alex and Dave have with much fondness, regardless of whether they play together again or not.

Alex Dezen
Alex Dezen in 2000, before forming The Damnwells (image credit: Heather Conley)

Apart from questions about the band line-up, if we add onto that the fact that Alex has another dream – writing – and it becomes clear that he has a lot going on in his life right now. Back in the above post, he wrote:

“Trekking back in time now just to confuse you, while in Oxford I got a phone call from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.  I had driven myself crazy for the past six months applying to grad schools for fiction writing.  I took the GRE, filled out 15 applications, and worked day and night polishing my writing samples.  A couple nervous breakdowns later, it was all done, all applications were submitted, albeit a few with missing transcripts.

“We’re gonna be accepting you to the program,” Connie Brothers said, “and you left the box that indicates your preference for assistantship blank.  I need to fill it in so you’ll be considered for funding.”

After assuring me this was not a practical joke, I thanked her and called my wife, who subsequently cried with equal parts joy and fear at the prospect of living in Iowa City for the next two years.  It was one degree there a few weeks ago.  Just one.  So, if there are any Damnwells fans in Iowa City, drop me a line.  I’ll be teaching Rhetoric (whatever the hell that is) to freshmen and writing the great American novel.”

All in all… Alex Dezen is – to put it mildly – a multifaceted person; husband, writer, teacher, musician. But that’s the way I like ’em.

And perhaps, for all of those Damnwells fans who are worried that this much feted new album will never come out, or worry about the future of the band itself, I might quote one more passage from Alex’s blog (really, this is just an excuse for me to post more of his writings.. I just love his way with words):

“It’s been a long time, he said.
She didn’t answer but looked right back at him unflinching, even though she desperately wanted to turn away.
Sorry I haven’t been in touch, he said.
She was mad, but that was okay because it was better than being sad.
It’s okay now, she said. There was so much more to say. It was tied in a knot somewhere inside her, refusing to unfurl.
I’ve been making a record, he explained. There’s been some complications, as always, he said, laughing quietly. But it’s almost done.
She laughed with him, pretending to understand.
It sounds really great, he said. I think this is the best one I’ve ever made.
That’s great, she said. When will I get to hear it?
I’d love to play it for you.
He was always saying that. Another promise unfulfilled. She heard another language, though—a language of broken promises to her.
When can I hear it? she asked.
It’s that good, huh? she said, turning her head to the side and smiling with licked lips.

Yeah, he said, and kissed her.”

The fact is, that in the last few years, Alex Dezen has become one of my favourite artists
. Without a doubt. And this set on World Cafe Live perfectly showcases that. Alex’s achingly beautiful way with words, his tales of love and heartbreak… and hope; and his voice that completely sucks you in. Add in the perfect complements of Dave Chernis, and you’re in for one of my favourite sets of The Damnwells.

Anyway, I’ve jabbered on enough about the band. If you’ve stuck with me this long, then you really deserve this set. So let’s just get to the show, shall we?


Listen. Love. Support.

Alex Dezen and Dave Chernis of The Damnwells, live on World Cafe Live, 22 November, 2005

1.) Introduction
2.) Golden Days
3.) Tonight and Forever
4.) Electric Harmony
5.) Kiss Catastrophe
6.) Kung Fu Grip Kiss
7.) I Will Keep the Bad Things From You
8.) The Trade
9.) Louisville
10.) Assholes
11.) I’ll Be Around
12.) Sleepsinging