Posts tagged: Music

Arcade Fire + Calexico at the Greek Theater

By , October 3, 2010

For awhile, I went to concerts all the time– at least weekly I saw some band somewhere. I don’t go nearly that often anymore, but I promised myself I’d see the Arcade Fire when they next came to town. Too often in the past a band I adored would come through town and I’d not bother to see them, telling myself, “I’ll see them next time they tour.” Unfortunately, too many of my favorite bands have either disbanded or stopped touring, and I now regret missing the chance to see them perform.

The Arcade Fire are pretty much my favorite active band, so yesterday I showed up at Berkeley’s Greek Theater without a ticket and planted myself on queue. Many times in the past I’ve had spare tickets to a show, and turned down large amounts of cash from scalpers to instead sell them at face value to regular folks. I once sold two tickets to see Hot Chip for $35 each, right in front of a scalper offering me $80 per ticket. It seemed the right thing to do, and yesterday that good will came back my way, for I had not been in line but ten minutes when a girl lined up a few spots behind me and indicated that she had a ticket to sell. She sold it to me for the face value of $46. Had I bought one online when they went on sale I’d have paid $60 due to the additional service fees, so I really made out well.

While waiting the 90 minutes for the gates to open, I befriended a few people in line near me. We played hearts to pass the time. Meanwhile, I tried to get in touch with my friend Mike, whom I knew was going to be at the show, but he was incommunicado; I think he was drunk in San Francisco at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and barely made it out to Berkeley in time for the show; but I had made new friends, so I watched with them.

I found a great spot, dead center, about 10 people back from the stage. Calexico came on and were great– I like them enough that I’d have paid to see them by themselves, so it was an unexpected bonus to find that they were the support act. It was like the time I showed up to see Belle & Sebastian and unbeknownst to me New Pornographers were the support act. Two great bands for the price of one!

Somethin’ filled up
My heart with nothin’,
Someone told me not to cry.

Arcade Fire put on an outstanding show. They enjoyed what they were doing and it showed. By this point into their career they have four albums to draw from for material, and they pulled the greatest bits from each of them. They pieced together a set that built to a crescendo, and at times I felt as if I were at an opera rather than a rock concert. When they played “Ocean of Noise” I could feel something welling up inside me, which only built when the Calexico trumpeters joined them on stage for the songs finale. When they followed it up with “Tunnels,” my personal favorite song of theirs, I will not lie– a tear or two rolled down my cheek. Something about hearing that song brought me back to 2005, and losing Mom, and losing Sue, and what pretty much amounted to the beginning of the end of my life as I knew it then.

And since there’s no one else around,
We let our hair grow long
And forget all we used to know.
Then our skin gets thicker
From living out in the snow.

Later, as the band blended seamlessly from “Power’s Out” into “Rebellion (Lies),” I think I was the first person in the pit to recognize what song was coming on. Leave it to a DJ to identify what song is showing up next in a mix. Soon enough everyone else caught on and the entire crowd lost it.

I left the Greek in a state of hyper-aware elation, feeling spiritually moved in a way I’d expected and hoped church experiences would affect me in my younger, god-fearing, days, though they invariably failed to do so. There’s a deep sense of the real in the message of the Arcade Fire’s lyrics, and coupled with their epic and catchy music, I don’t think anyone walked out of last night’s show unmoved.

To sum it all up in layman’s terms, I had about as much fun at a concert as I have had in recent memory; I almost want to go see their encore performance tonight at the Greek.

Lastly, for are curious, here to the best of my memory is the setlist for the show:

Ready to Start
Month of May
Keep the Car Running
Laika
No Cars Go
Haiti
Sprawl II
Modern Man
Rococo
The Suburbs
Ocean of Noise
Tunnels
We Used to Wait
Powers Out
Rebellion (Lies)
-encore-
Intervention
Wake Up

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Remembering Ian Curtis

By , May 18, 2010

I attended public school until the end of junior high, but once I hit the 9th grade, my parents enrolled me into the nearest Catholic high school. I found myself thrust into a brand new school, populated mainly by children from wealthy families, nearly all of whom had grown up together and gone through the same private school system since preschool. I was a 13-year old kid, already feeling the uncertainty and disorientation that comes with that age and the leap to high school, and I was completely out of my element. I was surrounded by kids from an utterly different background, all of whom were ensconced in long-formed cliques. I had little in common with anyone at the school, and as the school was an hour’s bus ride from my home, I didn’t even have any friends in the area to whom I could turn. I could not have been any more lost or alone.

Had my life been a Hollywood teen film, I would have accidentally befriended a popular and wealthy student who would have been enamored of my lower-class upbringing. After some humorous early false-starts, our friendship would have cemented over some exciting incident, and by the final reel, he would have introduced me into high society and I would have spent my remaining high school years enjoying friendship and popularity. I’d like to think I would have dated a cheerleader. However, as I actually dwell in the real world, I made no such friend. Instead, I drifted from one awkward false start to the next, and didn’t form close bonds with anyone; I was too athletic and tough to be a geek, but too poor and punk rock to be popular. I ended up a loner.

I cut class one day early in the school year, and ended up at a nearby record shop. At the shop, I purchased Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division’s first album. I was mesmerized by its iconic Peter Saville pulsar cover; that somber image summed up my mood so precisely that I bought the record without even being fully aware of who the band were. I carted the record around town with me for the remainder of the day, not quite sure what I had, but hoping it would live up to its promise. How could it not? Those stark, white lines radiating from the all-black background promised something foreboding and otherworldly; that night at home, I was at last able to play the record. From the opening line, I was entranced.

I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand.

I played the record over and over that night; as soon as side B finished I would flip it back over and play it from the beginning. In the voice of Ian Curtis, I had found poetry that spoke directly to my sense of isolation, and thus began a long-lasting fascination with not only the band’s music, but the singer and his life. When I learned shortly thereafter that Ian Curtis had committed suicide, the bond only grew tighter. Perhaps paradoxically, even though his lyrics were so often grim, and spoke of fear, disillusionment, and helplessness, I found something life-affirming in them. This man, who had felt so deeply the sorrows about which had sung that he had killed himself, somehow came to represent hopefulness to me. My fascination with Curtis and his music lasted well past my awkward adolescent years; just look at the title I chose for my blog.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death. In the three decades since his departure, his influence and legend have only grown. Joy Division, a band virtually unknown when I was in high school, today enjoys huge popularity. Movies have been made about the band, and about Curtis’ life, and it would not be a stretch to say that the band today enjoys more popularity than ever before. Yet to me, Ian Curtis and Joy Division remain a very personal facet of my life. When I had nothing of substance, Ian Curtis gave me something of depth in which to immerse myself, and offered a beacon of hopeful light at the end of what had once been Stygian emptiness.

Oh, I’ve walked on water, run through fire
Can’t seem to feel it anymore
It was me, waiting for me
Hoping for something more
Me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else.

Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980)
Love Will Tear Us Apart

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Suede Reunion for Charity Gig Confirmed

By , January 17, 2010

The marble clock has stopped. The curtained sun
Burns on: the room grows hot. There, it appears,
A vase of flowers has spilt, and soaked away.
The only sound heard is the sound of tears.

So, I’m going to London in March. I don’t know precisely, when, and I won’t know until Suede announces the date of their one-off reunion concert. That’s right, my favorite band is reuniting for one show at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Suede

Sadly, Bernard Butler won’t be a part of this. The other three original members will be on stage, as well as Neil Codling and Richard Oakes, who joined the band after Butler’s departure.

I am excited beyond description, even more so than when I planned a trip to Paris around Jarvis Cocker’s first solo gig. That wasn’t Pulp, my other favorite band, it was just Cocker; this is the actual Suede, a band I have never had the chance to see live. Attending a Suede reunion show has long been my dream, and it seems about to become a reality.

I’d be remiss if I did not note that the proceeds from the show are being donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

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Goodbye John

By , August 12, 2009

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

I don’t know if I have ever blogged merely to link to another blog, but that’s sort of where today’s post is going. I’ve been trying for six days now to think of what to write about John Hughes’ death, but haven’t been able to craft anything worth sharing. Then today I read this blog and I realized why John Hughes mattered to me. It wasn’t merely that he created so many great films; he was a genuinely great guy.

I tend to ignore celebrity-related news and issues, and certainly don’t blog about them. I can’t bring myself to care. Michael Jackson’s recent death felt like such a non-issue to me, and the resultant hysteria was mystifying and disappointing to me. But last week John Hughes died, and, like I suppose most Americans my age, I took notice. Here’s an artist who actually contributed something lasting to our culture.

There is little I can offer that likely hasn’t been said before. The Breakfast Club certainly presaged the era of reality television, and the first film I’m aware of that dealt with teen issues in such a starkly real way. It is also a rarity in that it cast actual teens as teens. Weird Science is on some level a starkly realistic insight into the psyche of the teen male, as well as a too-real depiction of life for two uncool guys.

Hughes’ true masterpiece, however, as far as I’m concerned, is Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. I’ll spare you a long-winded exposition on why Generation X made the world a better place, despite the efforts of the Baby Boomers that came before them, and the OMG’ers that came after. Instead I’ll offer Ferris as the Gen-X everyman. From his day off you can glean most everything you need to know about the topic. Consider– he spent his day off attending a Cubs game, visiting the Chicago Institute of Art, watching a parade, and eating a nice lunch. Think about that for awhile, then get back to me.

As the trip to the museum is one of my favorite of all moments cinematic, I am including it in today’s post.

Finally, as a teen, and even still as an adult, I wondered– did the popular kids, portrayed in such unflattering light in his films, also like John Hughes? How could they? How dare they? Those movies were made for me… and Alison.

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What is This? MySpace?

By , January 6, 2006

Since MySpace is all the rage these days, here is the latest ridiculous “survey” that I’ve filled out there, saved here for posterity. And for future embarrassment.

9 lasts.
last cigarette: I don’t smoke, but I had my last pretend cigarette whilst getting air outside at the Chinese Hospital casino bash
last beverage: coffee at Fenton’s
last kiss: friendly? Chloe, unless I kissed Josh tonight. I think I only bundled him up. romantic? Tzuen.
last cd played: actual CD? Brian Jonestown Massacre. Last song, Joy Division is playing now.
last bubble bath: at the Madonna Inn in October of ’04 with She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named
last time you cried: this morning :/
last time you laughed: Moments ago whilst foos-balling with a super-stoned Josh

8 have you evers.
have you ever dated one of your best friends: no
have you ever skinny dipped: no. wait, yes. forevs ago
have you ever kissed somebody and regretted it: boy howdy have I ever
have you ever fallen in love: yes
have you ever lost someone you loved: yes
have you ever been depressed: consult previous blogs…
have you ever been drunk and threw up: *nod*
have you ever ran away: no. but ask me again in a couple weeks.

7 states you’ve been to.
1. Alaska
2. New York
3. Michigan
4. Arkansas
6. Hawaii
7. Texas

6 things you’ve done today.
1. got drunk
2. ate cheeseburgers, plural
3. listened to music
4. read comics
5. wilded in the streets with Teddie, Bronson, Kevin, Josh, and Nick
6. sent a fax

5 favorite things in no order.
1. my friends
2. being massaged
3. cooking
4. her, but not the her you think I mean
5. film noir

4 people you can tell [almost] anything to.
1. Teddie
2. Kathryn
3. Chloe
4. Diane

3 wishes.
1. to be happy again
2. to trust again
3. to love again

2 things you want to do before you die.
1. spend time in at least 50 countries
2. find out why

1 thing you regret.
1. trusting her, the bad her

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Awry

By , January 4, 2006

She walks in
beauty like
the night
Discarding
her clothes
in the
plastic
flowers
Pornographic
and tragic
in black
and white.
My Marilyn
come
to my slum
for an
hour
I’m aching
to see my
heroine.

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Trash

By , December 29, 2005

Maybe, maybe it’s the clothes we wear,
The tasteless bracelets and the dye in our hair,
Maybe it’s our kookiness,
Or maybe, maybe it’s our nowhere towns,
Our nothing places and our cellophane sounds
Maybe it’s our looseness

But we’re trash, you and me,
We’re the litter on the breeze,
We’re the lovers on the street,
Just trash, me and you,
It’s in everything we do

A friend recently chastised me for, as she put it, “associating with trash.” Apparently, many of my friends aren’t ambitious or “going places” and I’d be better suited to hang out with young lawyers and other motivated and soon-to-be-wealthy professionals. My initial reaction was shock at hearing one friend describe the rest our friends as trash. I happen to think they’re great people, or else I wouldn’t be friends with them. After a moment something else occurred to me: what the hell makes me any different? If they’re trash, aren’t I trash, too? My friend explained that yes, I am trash as well but I have a decent-paying job and have saved some money, so I’m above them. She described me as “trash with money.”

This did not sit well with me. I tried to see the side of the friend who said these things to me, but her attitude is diametrically opposed to everything I believe in. The more I’ve mulled it over, however, the more I see that she is right, to an extent. Just like Brett Anderson wrote in this post’s epigraph, we ARE trash. I’ve been trash all my life. Proudly so. I grew up poor, in one of the “bad parts” of Los Angeles. My father would routinely come home from work after having been robbed, once whilst tied up and at gunpoint. I remember my mother sometimes buying two fast food cheeseburgers and cutting them into pieces to feed three of us. For most of my childhood, my clothes were ordered from the Sears-Roebuck catalog. Going out to eat meant Taco Bell or McDonald’s– Sizzler if it was a special occasion.

My job often entails me interacting with moneyed folks, and by and large I find I have nothing whatsoever in common with them. I don’t dislike those in the stratospheric socials classes. I harbor no ill will for them, and congratulate them for the hard work or good fortune that got them where they are. It’s more that I have an entirely different value system and lifestyle than they do. And yes, the sense of privilege and entitlement that sometimes seems to run rampant through the upperclass can at times be sickening, but for the most part they are people like anyone else. They just aren’t the sort of people I feel comfortable being around. Sure, a few lucky breaks and wise choices on my part have landed me in a career that provides me with a decent level of income, but I don’t consider myself a part of their world. For that I am glad, as I think I’d be miserable if such people were my friends. I was born and raised trash, and trash I’ll always be.

And the road that I have walked upon
Well it filled my pockets
And emptied out my soul

Truth be told, money is almost meaningless to me. Earning it has never been my goal. I realize I need some to survive, and while I’m glad that I no longer have the money worries I used to have, I know that I was a much happier person when I was still poor. I once gave the girl I loved the last dollar I had so she could make good on her bills, and I gladly ate leftovers and scraps for a week until more money came in. I was happier eating those meals than I am now that I can eat (nearly) anywhere I choose. And now that I have a little money, I do my best to share it. I treat my trashy friends whenever they aren’t fixed for cash, I over-tip trashy waitresses working dead-end jobs in nowhere towns, and I give to charities that help trashy people in other cities and nations. I even gave a twenty to a trashy homeless man the other night. So yeah, trash with money is fine by me.

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Some Quality Reading

By , July 7, 2005

So Tawny says she prefers “quality reading” on Xanga, which is female code for “enough with the song lists already, buddy.” Never one to say no to a challenge, I will take a stab at writing something of quality. In case I fail, I have cooked up another song list for the less discriminating among my readership. Without further ado… some quality reading.

Whilst waiting for Batman Begins to, well, begin, I offered to procure some treats for my friend Emily and I. And me? Whatever. Anyway. What I mean to say is that I was going to head to the lobby for some snacks. A bag of the popped c, maybe some candy. I asked Emily to select a beverage– she said she wanted 7-Up.

I know of this beverage. Once, as a wee lad I took a sip of one, and did not like it. Since then I haven’t tried it again, on account of I reckon I won’t like it. But when Emily extolled the merits of said beverage, I began to wonder– do I still dislike it? I *hated* Cap’n Crunch forever. As recently as my freshman year of college I couldn’t stand the stuff, but then a couple years ago I randomly had some and liked it just fine. So maybe now I will like 7-Up. I mean, it’s possible, right? If I suddenly liked Cap’n Crunch, then maybe I will find 7-Up to be refreshing and delicious and crisp, and whatever other adjectives one uses to describe a bottle of pop; or a soft drink, whichever you prefer.

So, I intend to drink one. Soon.

The end. Just in case that was not interesting, here is another crummy song list:

Best Albums of Recent Life:

Arcade Fire – Funeral (This is so good. It is beyond good. My favorite thing I heard all of last year. It may be my favorite record ever.)

Camera Obscura – Underachievers Please Try Harder (I still listen to this all the time)

Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (I did not think this band could ever top Fever and Mirrors. They didn’t, but damn they came close.)

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Music Saves

By , June 28, 2005

I’ve been through many times when I thought I might lose it
The only thing to save me has always been music

– Mike D

At one point in time it would have been difficult to imagine a Beastie Boy lyric being used as the epigram for any bit of serious prose, but there you have it. Today I turn to Michael Diamond for inspiration. The above couplet resonated with me when I first heard it, and it has never rang true so clearly as of late. A while back, a groom’s request of Fifty Cent prompted me to write in semi-jest about the power of music, but in all seriousness– music has always been integral to my life (which I’m sure it is to many people’s lives), and a never-ending source of solace when circumstance deals an unexpected or difficult blow.

I think it was also Mike D. who rapped:

Life ain’t nothing but a good groove
A good mix tape can put you in the right mood

Of course, mix tapes gave way to the mix CD, which has in turn been replaced by the iTunes playlist. I’ve concocted a fair number of playlists since the advent of the mp3, and lately I’ve put together a new one. At the risk of appearing old-fashioned, I will confess that mp3 playlists always feel more than a little bit sterile to me. I’m not a hardcore vinyl purist, but I still prefer whenever possible to listen to an actual record. I often consider selling my vinyl collection– after all, most of it is languishing in storage– but I reconsider whenever I play one. A song feels so much more alive on vinyl, whether it be from the physical act of dropping the needle into the groove, or the faint crackle of dust in the background… Tangent aside, I’m here to talk playlists. The title of this one says it all– Melancholy. And before anyone chimes in with a comment advising me to avoid playing sad songs when I’m sad, let me offer this bit of, well, for a lack of a better word, wisdom.

There seems to be two general ways that one can deal with great sorrow– either hide from it, i.e. bottle it up, push it deep down inside of yourself, and try to forget about it, or embrace it and let it take you places within your psyche that you would otherwise never dare go. I am a big proponent of the latter method. It has always been the saddest times in my life that have taught me who I really am, and allowed me opportunities to improve myself. Often it seems that only by listening to my darkest emotions and visiting the farthest reaches of my soul can I get to the bottom of what ails me. Sure, my method is not a happy one. You’ll visit dark places, and you’ll suffer, but when you emerge from mourning, you are a better person for the experience. Conversely, I think the people who ignore or bury the sad feelings find those feelings cropping up to haunt them later in life, usually in altered, unrecognizable forms which take years of therapy to identify and conquer.

What does this all mean? It means that lately I’ve been listening to a lot of sad songs. This trend has not been the result of a conscious effort; I haven’t trawled my iTunes folders on a quest for unhappiness. It was more of an organic process, but the resultant playlist, which I’ll share below, definitely has a consistent vibe to it, hence the aforementioned name I assigned to it. For me, music and poetry have long been my main access points to my inner self. I frequently find myself aware of an attitude or emotion I didn’t realize I had, or at least had been unable to crystallize into coherent thought, after hearing a similar sentiment expressed in a song.

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Love Songs

By , June 13, 2005

You know how when you break up or fall in love, or you just miss someone, every song you hear suddenly makes so much more sense to you? As an example, on Saturday night I was DJ’ing a wedding and the groom requested a special song. I played it, and as I listened, the lyrics overwhelmed me:

I don’t know what ya’ heard about me
But a bitch can’t get a dollar outta’ me
No Cadillac, no perms, you can’t see
That I’m a motherfuckin’ P-I-M-P

It really sank in. To think I’ve been wasting my time in a relationship for all these years when I *could* have been honing my skills as a pimp.

And when the song continued:

I don’t know what you’ve heard about me
But a bitch can’t get a crumb up outta’ me
I drive a Cadillac, wear a perm ‘cuz I’m a G
And I’m a motherfuckin’ C-R-I-P

it made me harken back to my single days– you know, back in the last century. Yah, it’s been that long. But with my new Snoopy Dogg muse by my side, I’m sure I’m on the road to happiness all over again. Plus, I already own loads of blue clothes, so I’ll fit right in with my new Crip friends. Or do they wear red? I’d better find out before the first gangsta party! How terribly embarrassing it would be to show up wearing the wrong colors– I’d surely be soundly chastised for such a fashion faux pas.

Love songs…they suddenly become so coherent when you miss someone.

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