Steely Danned for The Very First Time: A Conversation


During our drive to Coachella, Kara and I were trying to create some sort of game plan for the weekend. Who were we most excited to see? Who could we skip? Even though I’d seen them just a few months ago, I insisted that we go to Steely Dan because they are so excellent. And that’s when I found out Judge Kara Brown had never heard Steely Dan in her entire life. (Her life has not been that long, but still.) So, we remedied that at Coachella. Here are a newbie’s reactions to an American legend.

Jane Marie: So, what did you think of Steely Dan?

Kara Brown: I liked Steely Dan. I had heard one of their songs once, but not by name.

JM: Yeah, they literally played two songs you may have heard of.

KB: The thing is, I understand the appeal. They maybe didnt play their hits, but I get why they’re enjoyable.

JM: And why is that?

KB: They jam?

JM: But that’s the thing! The show you got makes Steely Dan seem primarily like a jam band and very bluesy, but my Aja album version of Steely Dan is much more sexy.

KB: Who would you compare them to?

JM: Oh god, I don’t know. Um, it’s more the section of my parents record collection where like Earth, Wind and Fire was.

KB: I see that! I actually hear that in seeing them. I did think of a band like Earth, Wind and Fire but, like, two white dudes. I can imagine these guys, and they’re clearly musicians.

JM: They’re musicians’ musicians, musicians love them. Kanye samples them. Nobody is saying Steely Dan sucks. But I’m going to say today, the version of Steely Dan you saw, they definitely were not playing for you. They definitely weren’t trying to win any new hearts.

KB: They were being very mellow.

JM: They were like, “You guys saw us at The Forum six months ago, right? So we can just do all of this newer shit?” I think if they didn’t have shows recently in LA where they did their entire hit albums, they would’ve done that here.

KB: But is Coachella the place for that? To me, those audiences don’t really overlap enough.

JM: I think you’re overlooking all the Steely Dads that were there.

KB: There were a lot of Steely Dads!

JM: Remember when the Victoria’s Secret model ashed her joint in my purse?

KB: Was that what happened?

JM: Yeah! That’s why I had to jump away from them!

KB: The Victoria’s Secret models were not enjoying Steely Dan. But the shirtless, shoeless, blonde dad seemed very much into Steely Dan. I did like watching the dads jam out.

JM: They were cute. Do you think they’re gonna come back tomorrow?

KB: Who?

JM: The dads.

KB: I wonder! I mean, I feel like you don’t buy a pass to Coachella for one day for Steely Dan for an hour set.

JM: I think they buy the pass and they get them for their kids and then tomorrow and Sunday they golf.

KB: Yeah, because tonight is also AC/DC.

JM: Knocking it all out in one night. And then they go home and their kid gets to go back the next day and they’re the chauffeur.

KB: That’s a nice setup for everyone involved.

JM: I hope my kid likes me enough to let me do that stuff.

KB: I got a lot of shit [at the show] for being an infant, an Arianna Grande baby, because I wasn’t very informed about Steely Dan but I don’t fault myself for that because I don’t have any control over my age or my reference points. My dad is a music fan, but my mother primarily listens to Luther Vandross, singularly. That’s the only person she listens to.

JM: I’m gonna play “Peg” for you. Can you look it up?

KB: P-E-K?

JM: P-E-G!

KB: Oh, okay. Listen, this is not what my dad played for me. Have I heard this? What was the name of the one song I had heard of?

JM: “Reelin’ in the Years.”

[Jane singing along to “Peg.”]

KB: So have they always been… were they like… young?

JM: [laughs] When they started! [laughs]

KB: They haven’t always been old men? Just checking. Because there’s some artists who you feel like have always been old. To me, Bootsy Collins, someone like that, has he ever not been a creepy old man?

JM: I don’t think that about Bootsy! Really?

KB: There’s a lot of people like that to me.

JM: So you think people have always been old because when you were born they were old.

KB: Yeah. To me they’ve always performed as old people.

JM: Someday the Jonas Brothers are gonna be old, Kara. Drake is gonna be an old man, hopefully.

KB: An old man Drake talking about “runing through the six with his woes” when he has real woes. “All my friends died because I’m old!” Those are real woes. Not “working on excellence” or whatever bullshit he has now.

JM: I’m looking forward to old Drake, to be honest. So what’s your takeaway? You’re gonna buy Aja tomorrow?

KB: I’m gonna listen to Steely Dan for real. Like a deep cut Steely Dan, I would listen to that. I’m glad because I’m always trying to expand my cultural literacy and they’re definitely a band I’ve heard of. There’s a lot of bands like them. To me, a lot of older bands I just think of as different types of older white people, but I didn’t have that about Steely Dan. I didn’t know who their crowd was and I’m glad to have a better grasp on it.

JM: I really wish they’d done the set that would win you over in the moment, but I’m glad you’re going to give them another chance.

KB: They won me over enough that they get a second listen. So, congratulations Steely Dan, on capturing Kara’s attention at least for about an hour.

And now, some Steely Dads:

Top image via Getty.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin