Tag Archives: amanda palmer

Someone Else Noticed

Nick Cave wrote another book.  It’s called The Sick Bag Song, and tonight at The Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, he read selections from the book to a live audience.  I was there, of course.  I arrived at 5:45pm and stood in line with all the young goths.  My younger brother arrived at 6:30pm and bought us each a Schlitz.  A security guard came around and asked if we already had tickets.  I nodded that yes, we most certainly did.

“Then why are we in this line?” my brother asked, innocently.

“Because the seats are unassigned.”

“And this starts at…8:00pm?”

I smiled.  He smiled.  I was happy he had agreed to come to something few people would be interested in seeing with me.

I don’t yet own a copy of The Sick Bag Song, but based on what I witnessed tonight, I can confidently describe it as poetic exploration colliding with memoir.  Nick Cave wrote the book during his tour of the United States last year, and, as he said tonight, the narrator is, “A guy who also happens to be on a tour of the U.S. and looks a lot like me.”  Each chapter is titled after a different city visited on the tour, although the chapters aren’t telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  At least I don’t think they are.

The selections I heard were mostly depictions of actual events told with Nick Cave’s signature fantastical doom.  In a story about meeting Bob Dylan at Glastonbury, for instance, Nick Cave writes that the torrential rain had formed a lake that separated his trailer from Bob Dylan’s.  Naturally, Bob Dylan climbed into a boat powered by a bag of wind to cross the lake — or as Nick Cave said, “moat” —  and say “hello.”  The boat bit may not have happened, but I have read about Nick Cave meeting Bob Dylan in the rain at Glastonbury. The chapter titled “Los Angeles,” however, is more of a fever dream about a woman on a bed in a hotel in West Hollywood.  The narrator calls himself a “small God,” and then, after the woman raises her “gash” to the sky, the narrator becomes an “erect God.”  Those are the only details I can recall of the writing.  Jim Morrison would have loved it.

(To change things up a bit during the live reading tonight, we were shown a film of Nick Cave reading this chapter.  I admire and adore this man, but there are times where I find him downright hilarious, regardless of whether or not he’s trying to be.  This film was one of those times.)

Nick Cave himself was in a comparatively pleasant mood.  He smiled more than once, and didn’t even get too cross when his headset was having technical difficulties.  “It works for Madonna,” he cracked.  He also seemed very excited to read from his book.  An interviewer sat on the stage with him and asked him questions to keep things moving, and Nick Cave always went back to asking, “Shall I read some more?”

Finally, we reached the Q&A section of the show.  I was at a different Nick Cave Q&A last July, during which he seemed horrified to be the star of the evening.  That night, I managed to summon every bit of courage I had and ever will have, and asked him a question using complete sentences.  He answered it, but I only remember my question and not his answer.  I remember speaking clearly into the microphone and thinking, “Holy shit, I’m not fucking this up!”  When I was finished talking, I steadied myself on the seat in front of me.  My heart was racing and I was sweating underneath my new Free People dress.  “Nick Cave is addressing me,” I thought, as I concentrated on my breath.  According to my dad, who witnessed the entire thing, Nick Cave gave me a very thoughtful answer.

“I think he really appreciated your question,” my dad whispered.  “No one else has asked him anything good.”

I didn’t feel like putting myself through that kind of stress again.  Besides, I still haven’t read The Sick Bag Song.

No one in the audience asked a truly great question this evening either, but Nick Cave did a truly great job of remaining dry and funny as opposed to dry and dour.  Someone asked him about what he said earlier regarding the narrator that “looks a lot like” him, and whether Nick Cave the man is different from Nick Cave the rockstar.  He confirmed, “That just becomes who you are.”

Nick Cave wears fierce suits.  Nick Cave is married to a model.  Nick Cave idolizes Elvis and has not yet quit smoking cigarettes.  This is who he presents to the world, and this is who he is.  Amanda Palmer once wrote a great blog about meeting Nick Cave in a hotel after he had picked up his dry cleaning.  To me, her anecdote authenticates the whole thing.  Nick Cave isn’t being handed a rented suit by a stylist before each show — the suits that transform him from Skinny Australian Guy into Nick Cave are his own Goddamn suits that he drops off at the cleaners.

I wonder how he feels about wire hangers.

More questions went by.  “What’s a movie you saw recently that you loved?”  “I saw that movie ‘Foxcatcher.’  Fucking amazing.”  “How do you feel about music streaming and art no longer being tangible?”  “I have a manager that handles all that.”  “Are there any new bands that you follow?”  “No.”

A young man stood up to ask a question.  He was wearing a red sweatshirt.

“I drove here all the way from Alaska to see you,” he said.  Nick Cave was sweet.  He managed a, “thank you.”  The young man continued, “What I really want is to ask you about Gladiator Part II, but instead I’ll ask you about what you said about being the man versus the mask. Does that get difficult? I mean, Tom Waits does it and he does fine with it, but it killed Hemingway.”

Dorky, for sure.  Not only was he asking a question that had already been answered, he also referenced Nick Cave’s fabled failure of a Gladiator Part II screenplay.  I cringed.

Nick Cave didn’t care about any of that.  Instead, he immediately became serious and snapped, “I don’t wanna say anything about Tom Waits.”  The guy tried repeating the question with greater clarity, but Nick Cave cut him off: “I can’t say anything about Tom Waits.  I don’t wanna go there.”

This absolutely fucking alarmed me.  “I don’t wanna go there”?  Go where?  Is Tom Waits a “there” that you cannot go to, Nick Cave?  What’s the T?  Spill it, Nick Cave!

Earlier in the evening, someone had asked Nick Cave why artists “stop growing.”  He said that he didn’t know because things are “different for everyone.”  Could it have been that Nick Cave didn’t want to speak about Tom Waits because he felt he’d be speaking for Tom Waits?  Or did he want to avoid the subject of Tom Waits at all costs because he was afraid of letting loose and tearing Tom Waits apart?

Nick Cave got quiet again.  “Do you wanna ask a different question?” he said to the young man from Alaska, who replied, “What happened to Gladiator Part II?”  Nick Cave didn’t crack a smile as he said, “That’s between me, Russell Crow, and a trash bin.”

The Q&A ended.  The theater emptied.  My brother and I made our way to our cars.  We were in separate lots on opposite sides of the street, so we hugged on the sidewalk and parted ways.  As I walked toward my car, I spotted the guy from Alaska.  I recognized him instantly, thanks to his red sweatshirt.  He was fishing something out of the back seat of his car.  I decided to talk to a stranger.

“He got really strange at the mention of Tom Waits, didn’t he?”

He looked up at me, startled.  A wad of chewing tobacco peaked up from behind his lower lip.  His eyes widened as he realized what I was referring to.

“Oh my God!” he yelled, doing his best not to spit his chew in my face.  “I’m so glad someone else noticed that!”

“Yeah,” I said, becoming very pleased with myself for deciding to stop and chat, “I wonder if he didn’t wanna talk about Tom Waits out of respect, or because, ya know, he doesn’t like Tom Waits.”

“Exactly!” he shouted.  “That would be so weird!”

“Well, you can’t Google search one of them without finding a picture of the other, I said.”

He spat tobacco juice into a cup.

“It’s Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits,” he said.  “I mean, that’s it.  It’s them.”

“And Leonard Cohen,” I said.

“Right!”

He paused.

“Can I hug you?”

Because we live in a fucked up world, I immediately took note of whether or not the back door of his car was still open.  I figured that if it were open, he could easily shove me inside and drive me back to Alaska with him.  Screw it, I thought.  Hug the Nick Cave fan who drove here from motherfucking Alaska and said the words “Gladiator Part II” to Nick Cave’s face.  Hug him.  Hug a fellow crazy fan who bought a ticket to this random fucking show at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.  Hug the guy who is just as distraught as you are by the idea that Nick Cave doesn’t like Tom Waits.  Do it, Steff.  Just do it.  You’re safe.  Nick Cave fans don’t kill each other.  There’s no crying in baseball.  Goonies never say ‘die’.

I hugged him.  He hugged me back.  When we broke our embrace, he repeated, “I’m so glad someone else noticed that.”

We chatted for another minute about the show.  He spit more tobacco juice into his cup, but this time he apologized for his “disgusting habit.”

“I would love to ask Nick Cave if he ever hears from Shane MacGowan,” I said.

He chuckled briefly, and added, “I would love to ask him if he would give me Warren Ellis’s phone number.”

Our BFF moment was over.  He had changed the subject from Shane MacGowan to Warren Ellis.  I wasn’t disappointed, but there was nothing more to be said.

“Have a safe drive back,” I said.

“You have a good night,” he replied.

I turned and began to walk away.  Over my shoulder, I heard him yell, “I am so glad you said something!”

I turned my head and smiled at him, then continued to my car and smiled to myself.  I do hope he has a safe drive back, and I do hope Nick Cave at least respects Tom Waits, and I do hope that everyone gets to experience the occasional pleasant interaction with a stranger who is only as crazy as they are.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11.

Sometimes you feel like going for a run.

It doesn’t happen often, but it happened today, because today was an interesting day.

You put on the yoga pants and the sport bra you bought last year when you signed up for that gym membership that you canceled after four months and you put on the only pair of sneakers you own and you load some Amanda Palmer onto your iPhone and you walk out the door.

Run for one song, walk for one song.  You decide to let shuffle do the decision-making, because you’re out of breath and now is not the time to stare at your music library on a hand-held screen.

Run for “Supergeil.”  Walk for “Peaches en Regalia.”  Walk for “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.”  Run for “Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six.”

It’s dark.  You’re sweating.  Your lungs feel small.  It’s time to walk home.  Your iPhone decides you need to hear “Indian Summer.”  You get really happy.  You love “Indian Summer.”  You loved it the first time you heard it and you love it tonight.  You loved it that one night you listened to it on that mix tape you made and you imagine yourself dancing to it at your wedding with a faceless person you haven’t met and you wonder if that’s lame.

You look up at the moon.  Jim tells you he loves you the best, better than all the rest that he’ll meet in the summer.

Summer.

You think about why today was interesting and you get a little annoyed.  You wonder why you’re even annoyed at all because you should be above it all because you’ve been through it all and you’ve been through a lot.

You contemplate the Human Condition and wonder what it even specifically means.  Does it refer to the way we’re all gonna die and we know it?  Or is that Existentialism?  And are you allowed to pay attention to coincidences when you’re an Existentialist?  Or do Existentialists not believe in coincidences?  Or do they think coincidences are just coincidences and not anything to pay any attention to?

You wonder why you don’t tell more people to fuck off.  You wonder why your first instinct is to get to know why a total asshole is a total asshole so that maybe, one day, you and that total asshole can be friends.  But why would you wanna be friends with a total asshole?  But aren’t we supposed to make friends while we’re here?  And is there something innate in all of us that makes us want to hang out with each other and not kill each other?

Is that what God is?  Is God the voice in your head that stops you from punching someone in the face?  Is God the voice in your head that tells you to apologize?  Is God the voice in your head that stops you from telling more people to fuck off?

Yes.  You’re contemplating the existence of the divine.  Not Divine: the divine.  You’re wondering why more people don’t talk about how God may be a force of energy as opposed to a man who keeps tabs on everyone.  You wonder why paying attention to things — things like coincidences — is considered silly and spooky, and yet condemning groups of people for the way they live in the name of God is allowed in the year 2014.

“Indian Summer” ends.  You’re alone with the passing cars and the sound of your own footsteps.  You look at the sign for the LA River and think of an episode of Six Feet Under, immediately followed by a scene from Inside Llewyn Davis.

Suddenly, loudly and beautifully and perfectly, “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” fills your ears and your brain and — perhaps? — your soul.

You love this song.  You really, really love this song.  You think about the people you love, and how some of them also love this song, and you think about how maybe you really should start paying more attention to what music other people like, because if they don’t like music that you like, that’s kind of actually a big deal.  Or maybe they don’t need to like all the music you like, but they do need to like music, because if they don’t like music then what the hell are they doing?

You turn on to the crowded boulevard and you look at the neon signs and you feel almost like you live in a cool city, and there’s that bar you like and there’s that sushi place you like and you still have to go into that weird little shop and check out their Tibetan prayer flags.  For Tibet.

Looking at your neighborhood reminds you that it’s the 11th.  It’s March 11th.  You moved into your apartment exactly one year ago.

One year ago.

You remember what was happening one year ago.  You remember how afraid you were one year ago and how much more broke you were one year ago and dear God — thank God it’s no longer one year ago.

You pass the stupid lingerie store you’ve never been inside of and Mick and Keith take over and sing to you about “Wild Horses” and remind you you’ll ride them.  Someday.

You wonder if you should write when you get home.  You wonder who even reads your writing.  You wonder if people read your writing and never tell you they read your writing.  You wonder if people read your writing and tell you they love it but really they don’t.  You wonder if people purposely avoid reading your writing because they don’t actually care about you when you’re not around.  You wonder if you’ll ever write some more.  Some more meaningful stuff.  Stuff that more people see.

Here’s your street.  You hang a right.  Your feet hurt because your sneakers really weren’t designed to be used for running on concrete and your shirt is plastered to your back but yeah, man, going for a run was a good idea.

You think, Wasn’t it weird how your iTunes shuffle came up with such a perfect little set of songs?  It was great, wasn’t it?  You almost want to keep walking just to see what comes on next…

Warren Zevon comes on next.

Everybody’s restless and they’ve got no place to go
Someone’s always trying to tell them
Something they already know
So their anger and resentment flow

But don’t it make you want to rock and roll
All night long
Mohammed’s Radio
I heard somebody singing sweet and soulful
On the radio, Mohammed’s Radio

You stop.  You laugh.  You can hardly believe your iPhone chose to play you a song that implies a divine figure is spinning rock and roll for the restless.  On the 11th.

You open the gate, walk up the stairs, unlock the door to your apartment and step inside.  You hang up your key and walk straight to your bedroom, where you plop down on the floor, set your laptop on your bed, and open up your blog that some people sometimes read.

And now you’re finished.  And you’re hungry.  And you’re excited to take a shower and put on your pajamas and watch another episode of Twin Peaks.  You’re also a little freaked out and excited by how Twin Peaks is all about mysteries and synchronies and coincidences, and you think about Agent Dale Cooper and how he’s nice to everyone and never gets mad or annoyed or nasty

So.  What have you learned today?

And what do you think will happen tomorrow?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Neutral Milk Tradition.

On Thanksgiving, when I was 17, my big brother changed my life when he handed me a brand new copy of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel.  At the time, I only listened to bands who had reached the height of their popularity in the late 1960’s or early [to mid -] 1970’s.  My favorite movie was The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus.  I still felt buzzed from the David Bowie concert I had seen months earlier.  I had written my 11th grade research paper on the cultural influence of Punk Rock, for which I received — and didn’t care that I received! — a good ol’ mediocre 75%.  Why, dear God, did my brother hand me a copy of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea?  All he said was, “I think you’ll like it.”

I’m positive the only reason I listened to the album was because my big brother told me to.  We weren’t little kids anymore, but that didn’t matter; handing me that album incited the same sense of urgency and fear I felt when I was seven-years-old and he handed me a copy of Soundgarden’s Superunknown.  I was given a task, and if I followed through that would mean I was Cool.  I took my copy of Raw Power out of my CD player, and replaced it with the CD my brother had just given me.  What I heard was all at once everything I loved about my classic stuff, as well as unlike anything I’d ever heard before.  It was dark in a Jim Morrison way, but not at all Bohemian.  Could Bob Dylan have written this?  Leonard Cohen?  Patti Smith?  Maybe, yeah, in another world…but that’s not how things panned out, was it?

Somehow, the rest of my family got turned on to that album.  Perhaps it was because my big brother also gave a copy to my little brother — or was it me who did that? — and then it was eventually played for my parents.  Regardless of the real explanation, it eventually got to the point where all five of us were singing, “What a beautiful face I have found in this place…”.

(My family’s love for this song gives my love for this cover a bit of extra umph).

A few weeks later, when my big brother was home for Christmas, he handed me a copy of On Avery Island.  Similar to the Aeroplane phenomenon, the remaining family members fell in love.  I distinctly remember listening to “3 Peaches” as a family on our way back home from a car trip somewhere.  Was it Vegas?  How…appropriate?

As I became a bigger fan, I learned that the band was formed in the 1990’s and that the lead singer’s name was Jeff Mangum.  When I learned about the band’s indefinite hiatus, I really, truly felt sad.  Bowie Buzz be damned, I wanted to hear “Oh Comely” live!

My prayers were answered, in a way, a year later.  I was a freshman in college, and my mom came to Santa Cruz to drive me home for Thanksgiving.  To keep us entertained during the six-hour-long trip, she brought a copy of Live at Jittery Joe’s.  She was especially excited for me to hear, “I Love How You Love Me” because it was “nothing like the original version!”  She also loved how the crying baby in the background punctuated Mangum’s performance.  “Isn’t it just so good and weird?” she said.

As a result of all this, Thanksgiving makes me think of Neutral Milk Hotel.  When Halloween is over and it finally starts to get a little bit cold (here in Southern California, that is) and people start thinking about ordering turkeys and learning how the Hell to make cranberry sauce, all I can think about is trumpets and Anne Frank.  Every morning, afternoon and night, regardless of where I am, I am either listening to, or thinking about In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

***

On Thursday night, after all of our esteemed guests had left the building, the five of us sat down in the family room to decompress and digest.  I was on the couch between my dad and my big brother.  My Big Brother.  My Big Brother who wanted me to stop listening to my Ren & Stimpy CD and start listening to grunge.  My Big Brother who changed my life when he handed me a brand new copy of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

I turned to him and said, “Thanksgiving makes me think of Neutral Milk Hotel.”  “Oh yeah?” he said.  I then told him that he had given me that album on Thanksgiving years before, and what an impression that album had made on me.  He said, “I loved that band so much in college and I was so upset that I would never be able to see them live.  I once had a dream I did.  It was very…emotional.” As someone who knows all about emotional concerts and emotional dreams, I felt very close to My Big Brother in that moment.  “Brother see, we are one in the same…”.

My dad and I mentioned that Jeff Mangum played at Occupy Wall Street.  “No way!” My Big Brother said.  “He did a show?”  He wanted to know when, where, and how we knew.  We explained that we had seen a segment on Democracy Now! where Amy Goodman talked about Occupy, and that during the segment she showed a few seconds of Jeff Mangum singing “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” for a crowd of people.  This really blew My Big Brother’s mind.  He didn’t seem to believe what we were telling him.  “I’m sure it’s on YouTube,” I said.

My Big Brother found a forty minute and fifty-nine-second long video of Jeff Mangum’s Occupy Wall Street set, and, as a family, we listened to all of it.  We sang along to every song: “Holland 1945,” “Song Against Sex,” “Two Headed Boy Part 2,” “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” “King of Carrot Flowers Part 1,” and “Oh Comely.”  During “Two Headed Boy Part 2,” when all of us took a break from singing to just listen, my younger brother — who is awesome — couldn’t help but repeat after Jeff Mangum when he sang, “God is a place where some holy spectacle lies.”  “Wow,” my little brother said.  “God is a PLACE.”  At the risk of sounding like a sentimental nut, I have to agree; and maybe, just maybe, it’s a place I’ve been to.  All I know is that I spent the night of Thanksgiving sitting on my couch singing about “how strange it is to be anything at all” with the two people who brought me into this world and the two people who I will always be inextricably linked to.  Does it get much better?  You tell me.

It is now the evening of Sunday, November 27th.  Thanksgiving of 2011 has come and gone.  While I’ve had a great time eating mashed potatoes and pie and stuffing for the last three days (curse you, delicious leftovers!), I’m looking forward to tomorrow, when I plan on ingesting some green vegetables and going to the gym.  The food binge may have reached its end, but the feeling of thankfulness will continue.  For as long as I have my Neutral Milk Hotel CDs, what ISN’T there to be thankful for?

Thanks mom and dad, for the obvious.  Thanks, little brother, for the awesomeness.  Thanks, Big Brother for more than you know…

And thanks, YouTube, for the sweet covers.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UKULELE ANTHEM!

So.

I saw Jason Webley’s 11-11-11 show in Seattle last weekend.  Yes, Seattle is a good ways away from Agoura Fucking Hills, but I wasn’t going to miss the show for anything.  ANYthing.  When he played the opening of “Icarus,” a song Amanda Palmer has covered on more than one occasion, I got kind of…excited.  I thought, “Is she gonna come sing with him?  Is this gonna be the best performance of “Icarus” to ever occur on planet earth?”

This is what I managed to capture.  That’s me saying, “There she is…Wait…” and then screaming “WHAAAAAA!!” when she comes out.  Well, okay, I guess everyone is screaming, but my scream is the clearest, as I’m the person holding the camera.

After they sang “Icarus” together, they sang “Elephant Elephant,” which was damn jolly good.  I didn’t get any of it on film because I wanted to just enjoy the moment (someone else did, though…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQD_MbhwCbM), but THEN, oh then, THEN Neil Gaiman came onstage and read a poem about The Night Before His Wedding, which I did catch on film…and it did make me cry…just a little bit.

You can hear me release an intense “I’m absurdly single” exhale at 1:50.  And I apologize for the shitty video quality — I should probably save up for a new camera.  It could take me a few years, but I’ll do it.

The show went on for a good three hours.  All was right with the world.  Like…ALL was right with the ENTIRE freaking WORLD.

This was Friday night.  I got back to Agoura fucking Hills on Sunday night.  It is now Wednesday night.  I can do whatever I want with my time — go to the gym, go out to dinner, paint pictures of dinosaurs, etc. — but all I can really do is think about that damn 11-11-11 show.  I’m not going to go into the show’s effect on me — those details (a bunch of crap about FEELINGS and ENERGY and THE UNIVERSE and GROWTH and LIFE) are for my diary ONLY. All I will say is that it was a great time, and I will definitely tell my grandkids the story of the time when their crazy grandma was young and vibrant and ditched work to fly to Seattle to watch a skinny man in a hat play the accordion.

Interestingly enough, I haven’t really felt the urge to listen to any of Jason Webley’s music since arriving back home.  I’m definitely not over it, but I definitely do need some time to reflect…and listen to something else.

The feeling is similar to the one I get after I watch The Godfather — I can’t just turn on the TV and watch whatever comes on after sitting through the greatest damn movie ever made.  At the same time, I can’t just start the movie over…

So, what have I been listening to?

I’ve been listening to this.  And it rocks.  It rocks HARD.  It rocks HARD and it makes me want to spend a lot more time making SPANK paddles and writing poems and painting pictures of dinosaurs.  I suggest you give this a listen.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,