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Dull Tableaux

If I were to time travel back to the year 2000 and tell 13-year-old me that she’d get to see The Violent Femmes in concert someday, she would erupt in celebratory expletives and jack up the volume on “Blister in the Sun” (which, naturally, would just happen to be playing on her boom box).  She’d dance like a fool — much like present-day me dances — before going into a sloppy, yet epic air guitar performance.   She’d have no idea that the news was about to get even better.

“Wait,” I would say, “They’re not the only ones playing.  They’re opening for your #1 favorite band.”

13-year-old Steff would stop playing air guitar and her eyes would widen in amazement beneath her perfectly blown-out bangs.

“NO WAY!!!”

13-year-old Steff’s #1 favorite band was Barenaked Ladies.  “One Week” blew her mind in 1998, and so her 44-year-old dad took her to Best Buy one Sunday afternoon and bought her a copy of Stunt.  She loved the entire album from start-to-finish, and thus began her very first mission to obtain every album previously released by a rock (?) group.

“No FUCKING way!” she’d scream before hitting “eject” on her CD player and replacing The Violent Femmes with Born on a Pirate Ship — the darkest, most brooding Barenaked Ladies album to date.

“BROKE INTO THE OLD APARTMENT!” she’d scream along, closing her eyes and collapsing onto her bed.  “THIS IS WHERE WE USED TO LIVE!”

“Bad news,” I would say, interrupting her barenaked reverie.  “Steven Page leaves the band in 2009.”

13-year-old Steff would sit up straight and stare into my eyes and demand an explanation.  I’d tell her about the cocaine arrest, and her face would fall.

“What year do I see them?” she’d ask.

“2015.”

“…How old are we then???”

“Listen,” I would say, “this is also gonna sound really, really weird, but by the time you see them live, you won’t be a super fan anymore.  You won’t even know any of the material that they released after Maroon.

13-year-old me would furrow her brow.

“What’s Maroon?”

“It comes out in a few months.  Mom’ll get it for you.  You won’t like it as much as their other albums, but you’ll appreciate it a lot during the first semester of 8th grade.”

“What the fuck?”

“We will always love and appreciate Barenaked Ladies,” I’d assure her.

A few seconds would go by, and then “Call Me Calmly” would come on.  13-year-old Steff would grab the boom box remote and skip to “Break Your Heart.”  She’d become somber.

“But why are we seeing them in concert if we don’t like their new stuff?”

“Because dad’s client is also playing that night, so tickets were easy to come by.  Also, in recent years we’ve become highly preoccupied with our mortality, and so we’re determined to cram in as many experiences as we can before we die. Seeing The Violent Femmes and Barenaked Ladies in the same night seems very poetic to us.”

13-year-old Steff would take a moment to process everything.  Then she would say, “I like your t-shirt.”

“Thanks,” I would say, admiring her pink Paul Frank kangaroo.  “I like yours too.”

“Spider in My Room” would come on.  13-year-old Steff would skip that song, too.  Then she’d remember that she doesn’t like the end of the album as much as she likes the beginning, and so she’d walk over to the boom box, hit “stop” on the CD player, and then hit “play” on the tape player.  Her hand-me-down copy of Gordon would start up halfway through “Enid.”  She’d do some clumsy fast-forwarding before finally arriving at the beginning of “Brian Wilson.”

“The concert is still gonna be hugely important to you, Steff,” I’d continue.  “That afternoon at work, you’re gonna realize that you’ve been single for exactly two years.  You’re gonna think about all the incredible things you’ve experienced since you were 13 and used to listen to Barenaked Ladies all the time.  You’re gonna actually miss sitting at your desk and doing homework and listening to “What A Good Boy” and thinking about your crushes and crying…”

“Wait,” 13-year-old Steff would say, “are you saying we’re gonna have a boyfriend?”

“Several.”

We would spend several minutes talking about this.  She’d be confused by my tepid attitude toward the whole thing (“REAL boyfriends?!?” “Yup”) and she’d have all kinds of questions about how I got them to like me (“It just happened”).  I’d try to explain to her that it’s important to always be yourself and to never change who you are in order to impress a boy.

“But are they HOT?!” she’d ask.

“Looks don’t mean shit,” I’d say.

“So…they’re ugly?”

“No.  But looks don’t mean shit.”

Finally, I’d tell her about the show.

“You’re going to miss Colin Hay because you’re gonna be sitting on a park bench outside the entrance of the Greek Theater eating a veggie sandwich from Italia Deli.  Mom’s gonna tell you about a dream she had the night before about Nick Cave.”

“Who the fuck is that?” she’d ask.

“Remember that song from Scream about the ‘red right hand’?  He sings that.  And he’s going to become hugely important to you when you’re 25.  Anyway, you’re gonna be kinda tired when you get inside, but then The Violent Femmes are gonna come on, and you’re gonna wake the fuck up.”

“Do we still like The Violent Femmes?”

“Yes,” I’d say.  “We do.  And that album becomes a very important tool we use to determine how much we like new people we meet.”

I’d tell her about the young guy sitting next to dad and how dad’s going to give him a bag of potato chips that mom originally brought for us.  I’d tell her that she’s going to feel compelled to turn toward the guy and ask him questions about what the band has been up to since Maroon and if the new album is any good.

“After you and the guy are done talking about the band, dad is gonna reach into his pocket and hand the guy a backstage pass.”

“We have backstage passes?!”

“Yes, but you’re not gonna use yours,” I’d tell her.  “You’re gonna leave after the show and get stuck in horrible traffic.  But yeah, dad’s client is gonna score dad some passes, and dad is gonna give his away to a kid named Rafa who still really, really loves Barenaked Ladies.  Steff, you’re gonna feel very proud of dad in that moment, and you’re gonna vow to yourself to try to remember that moment next time dad does anything that annoys you.  You’re going to try to remember that dad is a very kind man, and you’re gonna get a little bit teary eyed before the show starts, because you’re also going to be thinking about death.”

13-year-old Steff would sit in silence as she listened to me talk about love and death and backstage passes.  I would almost tell her about how dad is going to test her patience an hour later when the band goes into “One Week” and dad grabs her arm and physically pulls her to him and then shoves her into Rafa while loudly proclaiming, “YOU GOTTA BE NEXT TO RAFA FOR THIS ONE!” but I would ultimately decide to let her face that challenge on her own.

“Also,” I would add, “you’re not gonna like the first song that much.  You’re not gonna hate it, but you’re kinda gonna think, ‘Aw man, this is way too pleasant.  I can’t get into this right now.’  You’re also really, really gonna miss Steven.  You’re gonna think, ‘Fuck, Steven brought the edge.’  And then, after the applause dies down, Ed is gonna launch into ‘The Old Apartment,’ and you are going to lose your breath.  You’re gonna listen to that song, and it’ll be your 200th time hearing it, but you’ll finally understand what it’s about.”

“Death?”

I’d laugh.

“No, not quite.  You’ll get it, though.  And it’s gonna blow your mind.”

“Am I gonna like the rest of the show?”

“Yes,” I’d tell her.  “You’re gonna love it.  But it’s gonna hurt a little.  In a good way.”

13-year-old Steff would remain quiet.  She’d have a lot to think about.  I’d give her a hug, tell her she’s hilarious and beautiful and not to let middle school get her down, and then I’d hop back in my time machine to 2015.

***

Nick Cave once gave a lecture called “The Secret Life of the Love Song” at the Vienna Poetry Festival in 1999.  A certain theme of the lecture swirled through my mind last night during the Barenaked ladies set:

“We all experience within us what the Portugese call Suadade, which translates as an inexplicable sense of longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul.  And it is this feeling that lives in the realms of imagination and inspiration, and is the breeding ground for the sad song, for the Love song is the light of God, deep down, blasting through our wounds.”

This is “the edge.”  This is what I’ve always been drawn to in music, even by groups that also sing “nice” songs about Yoko Ono and what they’d do with $1,000,000.  “Inexplicable longing.”  It’s a powerful thing.

“I know we don’t live here anymore
We bought an old house on the Danforth
She loves me and her body keeps me warm
I’m happy there
But this is where we used to live

Broke into the old apartment
Tore the phone out of the wall
Only memories, fading memories
Blending into dull tableaux

I want them back”

— Barenaked Ladies “The Old Apartment”

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All Apologies

I’m worried about an intimate friend of mine who doesn’t know I exist.  We’ve met before, but there’s no reason for him to remember.  I remember, though.  It was brilliant.

It’s Nick Cave.  I’m worried about Nick Cave.

I was thinking about him this morning during my drive to work.  I was in a real crap mood.  Everything just seemed so bleak and blah and I was being a total brat.  I’ll put it this way: I’ve been listening to a lot of Nirvana lately.  A lot of Nirvana.   I need it.  I’m living off it.  In the morning, when I’m grumpy and groggy and stuck on a crowded, winding freeway, all I want to hear is the MTV Unplugged in New York album.  I’m usually turning onto Melrose Avenue by the time Kurt Cobain starts telling the story about Lead Belly’s guitar.  “I even asked David Geffen personally if he’d buy it for me.”  Kurt, you little punk.

Courtesy of papermag.com

I was feeling very thankful for Kurt this morning as I drove along in my solitary angst — he was making me feel less solitary.  This feeling of gratitude made me think of a different time in my life where I relied on an artist to get me through the day — it was 2012, and I was on my first Nick Cave Bender.  I was unemployed, I was living with my parents, and I had just gotten my hands on a copy of Let Love In.  Something shifted.  I lost and found myself again and again in images of the devil crawling along my floor.

Yes, I realize I sound like an emo kid straight out of 2003 when I say that kinda shit, but I suppose that’s appropriate — I was, after all, depressed and living with my parents.  Nick Cave gave me something to do.  It became imperative to go out and find all of the Bad Seeds albums.  I absolutely had to get my hands on all of the concert DVDs.  I needed to read all the old interviews and watch all the behind the scenes footage I could possibly scrounge from the depths of the information superhighway.  Nick Cave was my comfort and my company.  Creepy?  I dunno.  Maybe?  Not really.  I was just lonely and bored and sad and filling out job applications seemed a lot less meaningless whilst listening to “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry.”

When Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds announced in November 2013 that they would be coming to Los Angeles the following summer for a show at The Shrine, I immediately set my alarm for 5am so that I could get pre-sale tickets the following day.  Months later, they announced a second show.  It sold out within minutes, but I managed to find a pair of tickets on StubHub for a sum of money I’m not proud of paying.  (I am proud, though.  Secretly.)  A third show was added — a solo one with limited seating — and I busted out my debit card one final time.  In July of 2014, I saw Nick Cave three nights in-a-row, and it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever, ever done.

I did talk to him.  Twice, actually.  The first time was during the Q&A that followed the solo show, and the second time was in the parking lot of The Shrine after the second show.  He had changed out of his sleek black sport jacket and into a blue velour zip-up sweater.  He was busy taking a picture with someone, and when he finished, he turned to face me.  I didn’t do or say anything weird — I just asked if he’d sign my friend’s copy of King Ink.  He instinctively knew to spell her name with one “L.”

I shouldn’t have been looking at my phone this morning, but I was.  I was at a stoplight and I picked up my phone and looked at my Facebook and saw that my friend had sent me an article.  The headline sealed the fate of my day: “Nick Cave’s Teenage Son Arthur Dies After Cliff Fall.”

I threw my phone onto the floor of my car and unleashed a guttural, primal, “NOOOOOOO.”  The light turned green.

“Never look at your fucking phone while driving, Steff,” I thought.  “Never do that again.”

“I know, I know, I shouldn’t,” I answered.  “At least I was at a stoplight.”

“I know.  But don’t do it again.  Ever.”

“I won’t,” I said to myself.  “I promise.”

I meant it.  I do mean it.  Because life is fragile.  How we manage to forget that for such long stretches of time is truly amazing.

When I arrived at the office and parked my car and turned off the engine, I picked up my phone from the floor.  My cousin had also sent me the article.  I read it.  It pretty much repeated what the headline had already summarized.  A cliff.  A fucking cliff.  A 15-year-old boy had died after falling off a cliff.

A few months ago, my younger brother and I saw Nick Cave in Hollywood.  He was there to read excerpts of his new book.  He didn’t sing anything — just talked and read.  We were in the second row and I was ecstatic to just be in the same room as my hero, my caretaker, my girly obsession.  The first thing he read was an excerpt about a little boy walking across a treacherous bridge.  The little boy was him — this was a memory.

Nick Cave’s family was in the audience that night.

https://vimeo.com/122744455

With eerily appropriate timing, my younger brother sent me a message that just said, “Nick Cave’s son  😦 “  Before I could respond, he added, “It’s even sadder thinking back on what Nick was saying at that book reading, about being a kid in Australia walking on bridges and the wives tales about the boys that had fallen off.”

I exited the car.  When I got to my desk and opened up Facebook again, I saw that another one of my cousins had sent me an article about Arthur Cave.

A co-worker appeared in my doorway.  He said, “Hey.”  I turned to face him, and I guess my face said everything — the next words out of his mouth were, “I know.  I read the sad news.  Terrible.”

I sat with the sad news.  I thought about Nick Cave, the dad behind the fierce suit and the sexy, bloody love songs.  I thought about his wife, Susie, the stunning model who gave birth to twin boys 15 years ago.  I thought about Arthur’s twin brother, Earl, and wondered how he must be feeling right now.

Nick Cave, the dad.

I only know Nick Cave’s music.  I don’t know Nick Cave, the dad.  I’m a superfan, not a stalker.  However, being a superfan of another human being’s art is kind of a complicated thing.  How do you give back to an artist whose music has helped you through so much?  Is it even possible?  Perhaps the most efficient and affective way to show respect is by leaving the artist alone — remaining a superfan instead of a stalker.  I suppose a letter is always an option, but, unfortunately, a letter isn’t gonna solve shit.  Not in this case.

I’ll just continue being a superfan.  If he releases another album, I’ll get it.  If he goes on tour again, I’ll see him.  If he makes another movie, I’ll watch it.  If he decides to retire, I’ll support his decision.

I’ll also give my parents huge hugs when I see them tonight.  I suggest you all do the same.  And stop looking at your phones while you’re in the car.  If driving makes you feel anxious or bored or angry, you can always just put on some tunes.  I have a few recommendations.

I’m so, so sorry Nick.

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No One Important Reads My Blog, But You’re All Important to Me.

This is a Dorky Dorky Dorky thing.

This is a Mother Hen thing.

This is a Post That Doesn’t Necessarily Actually Need to Be Posted thing.

I’m not trying to go for a, “Back in high school I’d be hangin’ with Sam and Rado and Shaun” bullshit name-dropping “Behind the Music” thing.

I can’t say, “I can get you backstage.”

I can’t say, “I saw them all last week in my apartment for tempeh taco night.”

I can’t say, “All the guys pitched in to buy me a jukebox with all my favorite songs arranged in chronological order starting from when I fell in love with The Velvet Underground and ending with “Backstreets” by Bruce Springsteen because that’s the only song I wanted to hear last week LOLZ they’re so #sweet.”

None of that.  Much less than that.  Regardless, I’m proud.  I just wanna tell the world, “I’m proud.”

I’m proud they never stopped.  Impressed, really.  Impressed because it was so long ago that I first heard a silly song about a Passport.  Then a song about a Pumpkin Patch.  Then Dog Day Afternoon was parodied [kind of] and Jesus was Fun Fun.  I commented on every MySpace blog from afar because I was a fan and because I meant it and because I had nothing else to do between classes freshman year.  I also requested they make me their tambourine girl, which never happened…

There were live shows.  They were good and they were silly and sometimes they weren’t all that great because they were just boys.  They kept going, though.  They actually kept going, which is the best thing anyone with an idea can do.

Small places.  Bigger places.  Places of some notoriety and then smaller places.  And it was a joke.  And it was serious.  And the songs got better and the shows got better and things changed and changed again.

A year ago someone put on some music and I said, “This is Foxygen,” and he said, “Yeah,” and I said, “Where the hell did you get this?” and he said, “iTunes,” so I went to iTunes and did the same thing, and it was weird, because for the first time I wasn’t getting the music from my younger brother or directly from one of the guys — the guys who were not at my apartment for tempeh taco night but have always been on my radar because Agoura Hills is a small place and we all have to grow up somewhere.

How the fuck did this happen?  How the fuck did I sit down at my computer and find a way to watch them play at Coachella from hundreds of miles away?  Because things have changed.  Globally.  Personally.  Foxygenlly.  You guys are great.  You guys are among my favorites.  You guys make me wanna be a better artist.  You guys make it look easy.

Thank you.  I’m proud of you.  Stay hydrated.

 

 

 

 

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Stepha’nie: Public School Girl

I was sitting up in bed last night looking for bizarre videos on YouTube, and I suddenly wondered if I’d be able to find a specific clip from the second season of The Flavor of Love: the moment where New York yells at her mother, “I AM MRS. FLAVA FLAV.”  I didn’t find it, nor did I find the moment where Flav tells the camera that Buckeey “had the applesaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuce.”

You guys, season 2 of The Flavor of Love will always be my favorite competitive program.  Yes, yes, RuPaul’s Drag Race is the ultimate, but there will always be a place in my heart for Flavor Flav and his various women.  This place will forever remain untouched by any other reality show.

Why do I love the show so much?  Specifically the second season of the show?  I’m not going to give an in-depth explanation.  I will say, however, that I was obsessed with that show when I was a sophomore in college, and my sophomore year was one of my favorite years.

So last night, after searching for videos of Flav on YouTube and failing, I decided to re-visit my sophomore year in an even more intimate way: by busting out my diary.

You guys.  I read the thing cover to cover.  I laughed.  I cried.  I winced.  I smiled…

I reminded myself of Ja’mie, as in Ja’mie: Private School Girl.  After awhile, I started reading the entries out loud in Ja’mie’s voice.  Every “like, seriously” and “what the fuck” and “so I sent him a facebook message” made me hyperventilate.  Oh.  Oh my.

If you aren’t familiar with Ja’mie and her foul mouth and her attitude and her slang, go familiarize yourself right now.

And here we go.  I now present to you one of my favorite, most Ja’mie-like entries.   Names have been changed. Enjoy.

Click here….

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Radio ON.

I’m sitting on my bed listening to a recording of my old radio show.  My main one.  “Dancing Barefoot.”  It aired once a week on KZSC Santa Cruz from 8:30PM to 10:30PM.  It began in June 2008 and ended in June 2010.  Sometimes it was on a Tuesday night and sometimes it was on a Wednesday night.  For about 10 weeks, it was on Tuesdays from 6:00AM to 9:00AM.  It wasn’t a dance music show.  It wasn’t a Patti Smith show.  It was both.  And neither.  But there was still a formula.  There definitely was.

The recording I’m listening to right now is dated May 11, 2010.  The disc says “Part One.”

I just heard my 23-year-old self say the following:

“You’re listening to KZSC Santa Cruz!  Under the moonlight!  THE SERIOUS MOONLIGHT!  MY SHOES ARE OFF!  TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, DANGNABBIT, AND DANCE!

Then I played “Walkin’ on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.

That was actually pretty cool to hear.  To hear me.  Me, being loud and bold and silly.  Good for you, 23-year-old Steff.

Yoga is great.  Walking is great.  Running is great.  Meditation is great.  Fine wine is great.  Hot baths are great.  Chocolate-dipped Animal Fries are great.  (I assume.)  But there is no stress relief in this world quite as affective as hosting a fucking radio show.  It’s absolute catharsis.  It’s romantic exorcism.  It’s energizing.  It’s soothing.  It’s stressful.  It’s a fucked up Zen garden riddled with nerves and noise.

(“Planet Claire.”  Good for you, 23-year-old Steff.)

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would rather blow off steam by drinking and screwing, and those activities do have their place.  For me, though, there’s nothing like talking into a massive microphone, addressing an attentive-yet-invisible audience and challenging yourself to play a series of three (or four…) songs in a row that flow together perfectly…and end right at the exact moment you have to go on the air and give the Bat Time and the Bat Station…

You can’t ignore things when you’re hosting a music program.  You can’t force yourself to forget things when you’re hosting a music program.  You can’t move on to the next thing when you’re hosting a music program.  You can (and have to) put on your best “I’m chipper!  Let’s rock!” voice, but after you’ve hit “Play” on a certain song and there’s nothing for you to do but listen and wait, you are gonna sit and think about exactly what’s inspired you to put on that certain song.  And it will be loud.

The air room.  The motherfuckin’ KZSC air room.

This recording.  It’s killing me.  In a good way.

“Just Like Heaven.”  I played “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure after making a brief announcement.

I am now sitting on my bed, at age 26, singing “Just Like Heaven.”  When I was 13 (unless I was 12), I sat up in my bed rather late listening to this song on repeat (on a Discman, no less), deliberately memorizing the lyrics.  And on May 11th 2010, 23-year-old me felt it necessary to play this song on the air.

Wow.  I must have been in a serious 80’s mood the night of May 11th, 2010.  I followed “Just Like Heaven” with “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs.

“Love My Way” is on the first volume of The Wedding Singer soundtrack.  Adam Sandler was my first love.  By listening to the soundtrack to The Wedding Singer, I felt like I was somehow close to my beloved Adam.  I was 10.

And now I’m 26.  And I am singing my heart out to these songs alone in my room while listening to a recording of my 23-year-old self spin these synthesized love ballads for an attentive-yet-invisible audience.  I had a slew of problems back then.  I have a slew of problems now.  I guess I also had problems when I was 13 and 10.  What’s nice, though, is that sitting here in my bedroom listening to this recording is helping me remember that Stephanie Callas, regardless of age and life experience and whatever bullshit gets played on KROQ, has always been the same damn person.  Will always BE the same damn person.

“Age of Consent” by New Order.

I wonder what I was thinking about the night of May 11th, 2010.  Well, lemme take that back: I know exactly what I was thinking about that night.  For the sake of time and not turning this post into a total downer, I’m gonna keep the secret to myself.  Still, as I said a moment ago, Stephanie Callas is still Stephanie Callas.  Still sorting through the same stuff.  Still reflecting on stuff and healing from stuff and listening to New Order when necessary.

“I had a Patti Smith request.  Someone wants to hear something off ‘Easter.’  So, here’s the first track off of that album.  It’s The Patti Smith Group with ‘Till Victory.'”

You either like Patti Smith or you don’t.

I saw Patti Smith in San Francisco when I was 21.  I had been in L.A. that weekend.  I had to make it to S.F. by a certain time.  I was driving a minivan and I got a speeding ticket somewhere outside Montecito.  I made it to S.F. in time.  The show was incredible and I was standing right against the stage and at one point Patti Smith sat down and held my hand and looked straight into my eyes.  I mouthed “I love you.”  It was during the interlude of her song…called “Dancing Barefoot.”

Again.  You either like Patti Smith or you don’t.  Because Patti Smith is never going to be exactly what you want her to be.  And nothing upsets shitty people like disobedient women.

The disc is over.  Maybe “May 11th 2010 Part Two” is somewhere in this CD case.  The recording ended with “(Sittin) on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding followed by “Oh! Sweet Nuthin” by The Velvet Underground.  I think that transition encapsulates what I was always tryin’ to go for — unlikely harmony.

Unlikely harmony.

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We. Don’t. Need. This. Kind. Of. Shit.

Peggy coulda kicked Pete Campbell right in the balls. All up in his balls. But Pete, being a squirrelly little sack of shit, would have probably taken her to court. So Peggy didn’t kick him. She didn’t kick him square in his weird ballsack. Because she’s smart. She’s smarter than Pete Campbell. She didn’t need to kick his shriveled sack. The damage is already there.

And sure, she fell for Pete fucking Campbell, but she woke up. She did.

And that was the end of that.

And now Peggy is a rockstar.

And NO ONE likes Pete Campbell.

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