(This is our second annual “Favorite Songs”series. It’s a chance for Range Life fans, friends and family to shout-out and share some of the songs that made 2009 better, dancier, more deeply felt, more memorable and enjoyable. Songs are presented in no particular order. Submissions are welcome! Send a song link and whatever you want to write to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Song: “Big Wave Rider” by Rainbow Bridge
Song Link: Pitchfork
Kinda crazy to have so many songs about surfing this year. Is there an Indie Rock “Collective Unconscious”? It makes sense, I guess, with so many of us landlocked and gridlocked, stuck in silly jobs with all our creative energies sloshing around like the beer in our belly’s. Who wouldn’t want to be at the beach? Who doesn’t dream of the rush, the romance, of riding the Ocean whip?
Then again, what’s more hilarious than the idea of hung-over Indie Rock kids out face-planting on 4 foot waves while their friends hide under towels on the beach, fending off the glare from their phone screens? No, “surfing” in 2009 was really just a metaphor for “escaping”, a treasure chest of imagery we all plundered in our daydreams. Songs that were about actually surfing were the posers. Rainbow Bridge reminds us it’s the fantasy that counts.
“Big Wave Rider” is so cinematic, there’s no way it wasn’t inspired by a surf documentary. The lyrics are basically camera angles. The slow motion pan of gliding across the water. The mesmerizing flinch of a wipe-out. The close-up on the surfer’s smile as he shoots-the-curl and ducks out of it stoked. It wouldn’t be hard to make a video for this song – you just reapply the shots they’ve appropriated.
But that doesn’t get at the magic of “Big Wave Rider”; how the vicarious experience of “big wave riding” inspires a band to capture those feelings in a song which, when we blast it out of our speakers, fills us with those same feelings. It’s transference, a spell cast on the 0’s and 1’s causing waves to crest and crash through our apartments. And then after the set, ears drenched, a beguiling stillness. Something has happened, regardless of whether it’s “real”.
A friend sometimes reminds me that the greatest Yogi song is “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” – you know: “Gently down the stream/Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily/Life is but a dream.” I need to share with him “Big Wave Rider” – the “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” of 2009 – where delusions of grandeur meet monumental challenges with a Buddha’s smile, otherworldly balance, and the full consciousness that this “World’s a drain/Wipe-outs insane”.