2012 in Review: Neil Young’s “Ramada Inn” + Metric’s “Artificial Nocturne”

Lollapalooza 2012 | All photos by Jason Gonulsen

“Sir, before you go to your room, I need to warn you about something,” the hotel manager at the O’Hare Ramada Inn said with a nervous grin. “There is a skunk on the loose.”

I looked at him, nodded, but kept walking. It was around 10 PM, and I had just traveled back from Grant Park in downtown Chicago, where Lollapalooza had just ended (for me, anyway). I was beat and horribly confused, not because of the skunk news, but because of an email I had received the day before.

My “suite” at the Ramada Inn was dark, damp, and smelled like that old Michael Jordan cologne  — you know, the stuff that smelled like sweat. The sheets on my bed screamed 1983, and the black leather sofa had dust on its arm rests. There were maroon-colored towels in my bathroom that had not been replaced. And the guy at the front desk thought a skunk was the problem.

The day before at Lollapalooza was one of the strangest of my life. We were evacuated from the park because of an impending storm, causing thousands of hipsters to rush Michigan Avenue in the mid-afternoon. I took shelter in a hotel bar with a couple of friends; the place had no windows, and we drank Red Bull and vodkas for a few hours in the dark, oblivious to to apocalyptic weather outside.

On our walk back to Grant Park, it was obvious things had changed. The mood was lighter; the need to rush from stage to stage had been replaced with booze-fueled carelessness. The storm and evacuation had Lollapalooza off-script, and it was amazing. People were no longer concerned with what they may be missing; they were happy to have a second chance.

That was when we stumbled on fun., a ridiculous band for sure, but one who was made for a festival, especially in this very moment. It was a crazy scene, one which I’ll always remember. Here’s some evidence.

A few hours later, I was snapped back into reality, far from the carefree nature that surrounded me. To this very second, I still wish I hadn’t checked my email. A few simple words left me stunned, numb, and I had no choice but to head back to the Ramada Inn, where I would lay in silence for a few hours before somehow falling asleep.

It was that night at the Ramada Inn where my new life began.

I am writing this, though, because of A) the power of music and B) another email I received a few weeks later on September 11th. It was a press release for Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s new album, Psychedelic Pill, which revealed, for the first time to my eyes, the track listing:

1 Driftin’ Back (27:36)
2 Psychedelic Pill (3:26)
3 Ramada Inn (16:49)
4 Born In Ontario (3:49)

Disc Two:
1 Twisted Road (3:28)
2 She’s Always Dancing (8:33)
3 For The Love Of Man (4:13)
4 Walk Like A Giant (16:27)

Now, I might be a little nutty at times, I will give you that. But, really: what are the odds that my musical hero, Neil Young, would write a song called “Ramada Inn,” a song about getting away and starting over, and release it a couple months after my life-changing adventure at the Ramada Inn?

Maybe it’s nothing, but, I can’t quite get it out of my mind. And I still get chills every time I hear “Ramada Inn.”

Every morning comes the sun
And they both rise into the day
Holding on to what they’ve done

She loves him so
She loves him so
She loves him so
She does what she has to

She loves him so
She loves him so
She loves him so
She does what she needs to


James Shaw and Emily Haines of Metric at The Pageant in St. Louis

And now, let’s talk about Metric’s wonderful album Synthetica, which, along with Psychedelic Pill, Brandi Carlile’s Bear Creek, and Lord Huron’s Lonesome Dreams,  is one of my favorites of the year. And while “Clone” is my favorite track on the album, it’s the first song, “Artificial Nocturne,” that immediately got my attention.

In an interview with Metro, lead singer Emily Haines explains the track.

“I was doing that thing where you hide behind the words instead of saying what you really mean,” Haines says. “James asked me ‘what are you trying to express?’ Well, I’m flawed. We’re all flawed. I don’t want to pretend that I’m not and I think other people feel the same way. I think I’m f­—ed up, just as f—ed up as they say. He’s like ‘bingo, that’s your line.’”

I want to thank Haines for writing “Artificial Nocturne,” because we all are indeed flawed, searching for an “outsider’s escape for a broken heart.” But it’s important that we don’t hide behind words as we move forward.

A few weeks ago, Metric played a run of arena shows in their home country of Canada. They opened them with “Artificial Nocturne,” and closed them with “Gimme Sympathy,” which I’ll leave you with below, where Haines sends this message:

I feel an equal measure of all the people that are here, and all the people that we’ve lost, that we wish were here. It’s this very delicate place to be…presence and absence flow both ways. I feel you here now, I feel that it’s fleeting, and my gratitude is immense.

Have a wonderful 2013.

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