Tag Archives: concerts

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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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.

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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part IV: Jim Morrison

John or Paul?

Jim.

Mick or Keith?

Jim.  With all due respect.

Page or Plant?

::Yawn::  

Jim.

 Hendrix or Clapton?

I want “Bold As Love” to be played at my wedding, and I don’t even want to hear “Sunshine of Your Love” at my funeral.  

Anyway, Jim.

 Cream or The Who? 

Go away.

Beatles or Stones?

Doors.  

Scuzzy Son-Of-A-Bitch #4:

 Jim Morrison

My Black Clad Leather Patronus

(2003)

Part One

“C’mon people, don’t ya look so down 
You know the rain man’s comin’ ta town
Change the weather, change your luck
And then he’ll teach ya how ta…find yourself “
 

My Jim Morrison idolization began on a hot afternoon in August, 2003.  It was the last day of summer vacation, I was sixteen, and I was about to make out with my new boyfriend for the second time.  It had only been 24 hours since our first kiss, and due to our youth and lack of experience (and, perhaps, to his Catholicism), we decided that one make out session equalled monogamy.  Despite our official relationship status, I was a bit nervous about that afternoon’s proposed itinerary, and my nervousness only increased when my boyfriend suggested we put on some music.  I sat down on his couch, and he began browsing through his record collection.  Of course I knew that the music selection ritual was a prelude to hormonal teenage madness, and while that delighted me, it terrified me just the same.  In my opinion, it was awkward enough that we both knew we were about to make out — why prolong that in-between phase of the process?  How was I supposed to act?  Seductive?  Casual?  What if he lost interest during his hunt for the perfect tunes?  What if he forgot what we were there to do?  What if he didn’t like the way I looked sitting on his couch?   Should I strike a pose?  I wondered.

After a few minutes he held up a record that had a dark reddish brown and yellowish gold cover.  “All right, herewego.  The Doors,” he said, pulling the record out of the sleeve.   He looked at me, and I feigned approval.  The truth was I hadn’t listened to The Doors since I was in 8th grade and wanted to listen to some “cool” music while I did my math homework.  For as much as I enjoyed “Break On Through,” I soon had to turn off the music and concentrate on pre-algebra.  Naturally, I didn’t bother telling him this — I didn’t want to say anything that might make him second guess his selection.  Plus, I had only been his girlfriend for 24 hours; it was too early to start losing my allure.

He admired the record for a second, and then, all of a sudden, he looked up at the ceiling and said, “Of course we bow down to you, Jim Morrison, in all your rock and roll glory.” He put the record on the player, set the needle down, and turned up the volume.  It was “L’america” — track one, side two of L.A. Woman.  Four minutes and thirty-eight seconds later, he skipped “Hyacinth House” and went straight to “Crawling Kingsnake.”  Whether this action was sickeningly smooth or just plain sickening is up for debate.  Either way, it worked; too well.  In the midst of all that was happening, I found myself wondering if my parents had any Doors vinyl at home.

When “Riders On The Storm” had long since ended and I arrived back at my house, I went straight for my dad’s record shelf.  Sandwiched between Donovan and The Dream Academy was the dark reddish brown and yellowish gold record.  I pulled it off the shelf and brought it upstairs to my room, where it remained for many, many years.


Something had shifted, and I knew it.  After that day, there was no going back.  I devoured the entire Doors catalogue with the kind of voracity that only a 16-year-old girl is capable of.  Soon, the aviator sunglasses showed up; then the boots.  I’d leave my hair wavy not because I was lazy, but because I realized I actually liked the way it looked unkempt.

For me, Jim Morrison’s music (and I say “Jim Morrison’s music” because it was Jim Morrison who made the music matter) was the perfect soundtrack for adolescence — dark, flawed, and endlessly libidinous.  When I felt fantastic I’d put on “Roadhouse Blues,” and when I felt like killing someone I’d put on “The End.”  This is not to say that Jim was the first musical artist to speak to my tortured teenage soul; for example, my first two years of high school would have been Hell without Lou Reed.  Still, there was something about listening to “Not to Touch The Earth” on a bad day that resonated with me in ways that made the second side of Berlin seem irrelevant.  For as much as I loved Lou’s weirdness, I needed Jim’s ferocity.  After all, I was a straight edged 16-year-old living in suburbia; a savage hero was a necessity.  

Part 2

“When the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end” 
 

While Jim’s premature death automatically made him a rock and roll legend, that does not appropriately explain his allure.  What it comes down to is the fact that even while he was alive, he was something of a supernatural being.  What other popular musician — and I mean Tiger Beat popular — sang about patricide?  And “dead President’s corpses”?  And horses being blinded with whips?  And dared to ask, “What have we done to the earth?” It takes guts to willingly scare the Hell out of your fans, and to do it without the use of fake blood or creepy masks or lighting effects, well, that’s just genius.  So much of Jim’s music is dark, and when it isn’t dark it’s twisted.

There are, of course, some safer Doors compositions.  Even when they’re safe, though, they’re not that safe.  “Light My Fire,” which was originally brought to the table by Robby Krieger, is one of the most well-known Doors songs.  Just because it is popular, however, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have teeth.  Jim added a verse to the song that rhymes  “wallow in the mire” with “funeral pyre” (From Wikipedia: A pyre (Greek: πυρά, pyrá, from πυρ, pýr, fire), also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite. As a form of cremation, a body is placed upon the pyre, which is then set on fire), and his delivery is nothing short of primal.  When Jim wails, “TRY TO SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE,” there’s nothing safe about it.  He’s not just asking you to light his fire, he’s demanding it; who knows what he’ll do if he doesn’t get his way?

His seduction power, his theatricality, his animalistic passion — THIS is what gives The Doors staying power.  THIS is what sets Jim apart from other notable front men.  THIS…  ::sigh::

 

 Although it may feel like it was only yesterday, my junior year of high school was a long time ago.  I may not be 16 anymore, but I still wear big black boots, I still hate hair products, and I still love Jim Morrison.   I still look forward to the day I can listen to “The Unknown Solider” without feeling angry, I still recite “The Movie” to myself when I’m sitting in dark theaters, and I still listen to “When The Music’s Over” while I’m driving around at night.   Sometimes, I wonder what my world would be like if Jim were still alive.  Maybe he would have graced the cover of Rolling Stone one more time.  Maybe he would have had a minor role in Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  Maybe he would have written a book.  And Lord knows, his take on George W. Bush’s presidency would have been priceless.  Would The Doors be worth seeing live?  Would Jim be giving Mick a run for his money?

For as phenomenal as it would be to hear Jim mutter, “Fuck George Bush” on national television, I have no illusions about the situation.  Jim was an alcoholic and a drug user, and everything I’ve read about him suggests that he had some kind of chemical imbalance (phrases such as “Manic Depressive Disorder” and “Bipolar Disorder” weren’t spoken as trippingly on the tongue during the 1960’s). Yet, somehow, by some miracle, Jim’s legacy is nothing but rockin’.  The image of him in tight leather pants will always overshadow the image of him in his puffy latter-days, and he will always be a vibrant young superstar and never a washed up burnout.  The fact that I will never see him live is overshadowed by the fact that I will also never have to watch him perform a painful rendition of “Touch Me” on American Idol.  As my younger brother said to me when we watched Bob Dylan mumble his way through his set list at the Santa Monica Civic in 2008, “It’s moments like this when I realize it’s better that Morrison’s dead.”  Yes, he’s dead, but he’s not dead dead.  He was so full of life he never really died.

Epilogue

“It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me…”
 

One Sunday night in November of 2004, I sat down at my desk to fill out my University of California application.  At that point, I wasn’t completely sure where I wanted to go to college.  To be frank, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go at all.  Why move away?  Why leave all the people I loved?  More importantly, why move away and leave all the people I loved just to go to school?  I didn’t understand it.  To me, all college represented was “Goodbye,” and that was torture.

I got through the “Name, Age, Social Security Number” crap in record time, and then, suddenly, I was face-to-face with an essay assignment.  TWO essay assignments.  The first essay was only supposed to be around 200 words, and the prompt was so simple I don’t even remember what I wrote.  After I finished the first assignment, the doorbell rang.  When I opened the door, no one was there.  I looked down at the ground, and sitting on my doormat was a chocolate bar, a white envelope, and a Doors pin.  Inside the envelope was a note that said:

 “This fine European chocolate reminded me of your fine European figure.  
I hope Mr. Morrison keeps you warm on this cold evening.”
 

I smiled.  I knew my boyfriend had left me the present, but not because of the flattering note.  The Doors was still our band.  When I got back inside I read the note again, and, quite suddenly, the idea of going away to college seemed ten times as miserable.

Reluctantly, I went back to my room and sat at my desk.  The second essay prompt was glowing on my computer screen:

Open-ended

Rationale: This question seeks to give students the opportunity to share important aspects of their schooling or their lives — such as their personal circumstances, family experiences and opportunities that were or were not available at their school or college — that may not have been sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the application.

• Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record that you have not had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application?

I was flabbergasted.  “Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record“?  This pissed me off.  Me OR my academic record?  In my opinion, those were two very different things.  What had I not “had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application”?  The application asked for my email address, my nationality, and my GPA — none of those things were a reflection of the real ME.  Just who the Hell did these UC people think they were?

I was so angry I could scream.  I was about to spend a decent amount of my precious time trying to convince people I already hated that they should let me into one of their disgusting establishments.  I took a deep breath, unwrapped that bar of fine European chocolate, and took a bite.   When I was ready, I placed my hands back on the keyboard and let loose:

Before I sink
Into the big sleep
I want to hear
I want to hear
The scream of the butterfly  

The End?

      

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