Thursday, April 30, 2009

I don't care if I'm alone here.
During Kurt Vile's set at Cornell a few weeks ago, I sat cross-legged, with my knees up and with my arms locked around them, my hands clasped together. I thought positioning myself like that would keep me awake, or if it didn't stop me from dozing off, the pressure on my arms from my legs starting to slack would wake me up, and I could at least catch myself before I fell over. I actually thought it out, and was like, "yes, this will work", and it did. It wasn't that Kurt Vile was boring. I mean he was a little boring, or I guess he wasn't exciting. But mainly I was just sleepy. He didn't go on until 1 am, and my usual bedtime is like 11:30. If I have to do laundry, which I can only do later on at night after Tyler's gone to work (because there are businesses below us and using the washing machine during the day interferes with their work, and because the washer and dryer are in Tyler's bedroom), I'll stay up a little later. But I have to put on a punk record (lately it's been Brilliant Colors or that live Vivian Girls LP; for a while it was Deep Wound or Total Abuse), something loud and fun, and...I don't want to say dance around my room, but kind of rock out? Bedroom mosh? It helps if I've had a couple beers. But I have to do that to keep myself awake. That's my laundry routine; quasi-raging, colors, whites. There was a little bit of punk before Kurt Vile went on, but not enough, so I had to figure out the right way to sit.

U.S. Girls played first, and they/she were/was decent. She had a tape recorder, a microphone, a ton of pedals, and an amp set up on a chair. She sang a bunch of words buried under hazy echoes and loud drones. It was a warped mess and it sounded good to me, and I recognized a couple songs so it was even a little familiar. It was also a little underwhelming. Weird bedroom droney stuff is great when you're by yourself in your actual bedroom, but playing it in front of people? As the opener? At the graduate/professional dining hall? I don't know. And she was dressed so normal--short hair, a couple layers of hoodies with pins, jeans, sneakers. That stuff doesn't matter, but I kept thinking, what if a girl came out in a dress and heels with her hair done up like she was in the Ronnettes and then blew your eardrums out? You'd never forget her.

Matthew Mondanile did his Ducktails thing after that. Originally I thought his other band, Predator Vision, was going to play. But he set up by himself and introduced himself as "Matt" and said he came up from New Jersey, and then he started playing some wah-wah guitar and I put it together. It was good. I've been all about him lately, and mostly he didn't disappoint. He did this kind of tribal-y jam in the middle of his set that sounded like Black Dice and went on way too long. And he sang a little bit, and his lyrics were like, "Are you the man/with the plan?" or something, and I was like, "uhhhh...". But he ended with guitar loops and gentle psych solos and it was all good. He also had this dirty brown jacket and glasses that reminded me of Egon from The Real Ghostbusters, and he smelled like weed everytime I walked by him.

I think Gary War played next. I don't know anything about Gary War, but I assumed it was just one guy. Maybe he is on record? He played guitar, and had a girl playing keyboard and a guy drumming. The girl had a notepad next to her the whole time they played, and I guess had all the keys on her board labeled with what note they were. At one point the pad fell on the floor and she stopped playing, picked it up, and then started playing again. I would probably do the same thing. The drummer played the same beat on every song, but people were loving it. I was mainly watching from the upper tier, while people I didn't know suddenly decided to dance to what was kind of Blank Dogs and kind of wasn't.

I guess the organizers saw people dancing and thought it was the right time to bring out the two-man DJ techno crew that was setting up when we first got to the show. I think they were called Teenage Fantasy. They were alright. They weren't offensive. I don't want to say it was "hipster dance shit", but it was hipster dance shit. A guy with kind of an afro in a Bad Brains shirt and a clean-cut guy. Loud beats, synths, mash-ups. When I saw their gear, I said, "Maybe it's just because I went to punk and hardcore shows for years and it's all I know, but I just want to see guitars and drums. I want to see dumb-ass kids playing shitty rock songs." I think what I was trying to say was, "I secretly hope Nazti Skinz have reunited and are playing every show I go to." We waited for the rave to stop, and it just kept going. People ate it up. There was a girl sitting at the top of the stairs leading to the upper area, staring straight ahead and slightly nodding to the beat. She looked like how Farah sounds--small, dark hair, bangs, quiet, scared but not. Every once in a while she would get up, grab people's discarded cups, throw them out, and then go back to her seat. If someone asked her what she did last night, she could say "I zoned out and picked up garbage."

Just before Teenage Fantasy ended their set, I bought a copy of The Hunchback from Kurt Vile right as he was rolling a cigarette. I felt bad interrupting him, but he didn't seem to mind. He smoked and then came back in and set up. He had tons of pedals like everyone else, but used two acoustic guitars--one 6-string and one 12-string. I don't know what all his pedals were doing but everything he played just sounded echo-y. He did a few songs from his new record on Mexican Summer and a few from Constant Hitmaker, including a clunky version of "Classic Rock In Spring". It's one of my favorite songs off that record and it should have bothered me that he was playing it weird, but it didn't. He switched a couple times from the 6 to 12-string and it seemed to take an eternity for him to plug and unplug, get the levels right, and start up again. But again, I wasn't that bothered. He brought up a guy named J. Turbo, who plays on The Hunchback (along with a couple other guys who make up Vile's backing band, The Violators) and did a bunch of wild but not loud solos over Vile's strumming and reverb-y singing. They finished with "Freeway In Mind" and Turbo played harmonica through this cool-looking mic going through a pedal. It was the best thing I heard all night.

I looked around and most of the people still watching were the same people who'd watched every band. The short-haired guys who all looked alike but at different heights; the Latin girls who stood by the same wall spot the whole night and danced when the PA played that "Born 2 B Fly" song between bands; the old dudes standing on the steps; the curly haired kid with the red pants who we saw when we finally found the venue. Who knows what they all thought they were getting into? They seemed like they could have stayed there all night, then got up and had breakfast together. I'm used to a kind of anxiety when I go to shows. The weight of expectation, the awkwardness of being around unfamiliar people. The need to feel comfortable and the desire to be broadened somehow. I'm used to that tension and I almost always debate going to a show right up until the last minute.

I went with Kaci and Ryan, who I don't know real well, but they were awesome. When we got to the show too early, we just went and got pizza, at this place that had a huge photo of George W. Bush, George Pataki, and Rudy Giuliani eating pizza by the entrance. We had to drive back downtown to get there, down these huge, steep hills, and then we had to get around these buses, and then find a spot in a parking garage. We walked in the shitty rain, got our food, talked about people we know in Rochester and high school mascots. At the show, everything seemed calm. You could get free fountain soda if you wanted. There were sort-of weirdos and bored college kids who wanted something to do and it was totally fine. The loud fuzz, beach jams, clangy synth punk, space beats, and slow folk were non-issues, explorations of a kind of patience.

Kurt Vile and the Violators - "Losing It"
Kurt Vile and the Violators - "Good Lookin' Out"

Meanwhile: I only bought one record on Record Store Day, but I made it count. At the House of Guitars (of all places! such a dump!) I found a sealed, original press of the Milk n' Cookies LP for $14. I think I was in shock for a few minutes. In his write-up for the 2xLP Radio Heartbeat re-issue (really a complete Milk n' Cookies discography), Max G. Morton says something about how you can pretty much throw away your Ramones records. I don't know if I'd go that far, but I will say "Not Enough Girls In The World" and "Tipically Teenage" never really leave my head. I feel like they're the official Matt-Tyler-Leah band, too. One of them anyway. So I just stood there like, "holy shit, is this really what I think it is?", and then I took a picture of it and sent it to Tyler, kind of to verify it. All I wanted out of life that day was to see Rational Animals play at Record Archive, and I did that and they were so good. They covered "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie" which was kind of obvious, and then they covered "122 Hours of Fear" and I might've decided they were the best band in Rochester. And then this Milk n' Cookies shit happens! Later that night, at the apartment, we watched the AVN Awards and it was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. My friend Becca was there and I'm not sure she was crazy about watching porn awards. Or I couldn't tell exactly how it went over. She seemed weirded out when she left. I sort of regretted exposing her to a show where an actress accepted an award by saying "I swallowed a lot of cum that day". But there was also a guy who won the Best Male award and he stood up there and said something like, "I feel like fuckin' crying right now!!" when he clearly wasn't going to cry. I don't know, I thought it was hilarious. Earlier in the day I saw a vinyl copy of Belle and Sebastian's Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant at Lakeshore, and what I mainly regretted was that I'd talked myself out of buying it.

Belle and Sebastian is someone else's thing, not really mine. My friend Susanna is probably an expert on them. I think maybe Ryan McGinley is a superfan, too. I want that Belle and Sebastian/Bad Brains shirt, but I wouldn't say I know much about them. The first time I heard Fold Your Hands was at Ultrasonic Sound, a record store that was around from 1999-2001 or so, on Monroe Ave in Rochester. It was run by a guy named Jon (I think?) who's in the picture of Void on page 123 of Banned In DC, and in hindsight it seems like the perfect store, for any number of reasons. I bought my first copies of Spiderland, Unfuckwithable, and the Cap'n Jazz anthology there. If you were like, "hey, I need the Swing Kids discography", you could just go there and he'd have it, and when you got there, he'd be playing something like Loaded or maybe the Brendan Canty/Lois Maffeo record on the in-house stereo, and then you'd talk to him for a little bit and look up at the collection of early hardcore 7 inches lining the wall. At some point it switched owners, moved to South Ave, and was re-christened Analog Shock. It was alright for a while--the kid who took over put on some cool shows in the store's back room. But then the store hours got weird and he wasn't getting in any new stuff, and I went up a couple times in the middle of winter and there was no heat, and then it was just gone.

When I heard Stuart Murdoch's voice, I thought maybe it was John Cale. It must've been "Women's Realm" because there was his voice, very English and airy, and then a cute girl's voice. I asked what it was and maybe even bought it right there. I was so excited about it, it was weird. I remember bringing it over to my friend Jason's house, where all of us used to hang out, and my friend Brady and I were geeking out over it, especially the girl voice parts (Isobel Campbell, I guess). Jason thought this was way more my thing than the bands I was doing at the time, which were mostly hardcore scream-fests where sometimes I'd throw my bass on the ground or fall over. I agreed with him to an extent. Partly what I liked about Fold Your Hands was that it seemed like a cool older kid record. It made me think of cool older girls especially. The kind of girls who were a thousand times smarter than me, who I'd only hang out with accidentally, through some other group of friends, at diners. They'd show up with a chunk of raw sugar cane, or they'd go on and on about taking bartender classes and some guy they dated who "looked just like David Bowie in the dark". I was a straight edge kid, and when they'd go outside for a smoke, I'd want to go with them.

But what I mostly liked about Fold Your Hands was a lot simpler. The music was pretty and catchy, and the lyrics weren't hardcore lyrics. There were boys and girls writing letters back and forth in the middle of a war, and observational stuff about trains and living in a town that's beautiful apart from the people. I've been listening to it a lot over the last month, just on my way to work. There's a part of County Road 4 that runs through Seneca Castle, where the road curves around and there's a sudden drop in the speed limit from 55 to 30. I listened to "Waiting For The Moon To Rise" for the first time in years, going super slow on that stretch, early in the morning, when it was warmer than usual and the sun was flickering through the trees. It was great. I kind of needed it. I deliver mail to people with dirty diapers on their front porch, people who have long, detailed notes taped to their front door about how you need to take off your shoes before you come into the house. My two best buds are moving to the city into this apartment palace and I'm still going to be living in this Nazi date rape shithole. I need to not freak out, and I'm at a point where I'm probably not going to. I think Fold Your Hands is helping. I definitely get "The Broken Vow" in my head a lot for whatever reason, but I need to occasionally hear the weird fuck-you of "If my family tree goes back to the Romans, then I will change my name to Jones/If my family tree goes back to Napoleon, then I will change my name to Smith". That might actually be my thing.

Belle & Sebastian - "Waiting For the Moon to Rise"
Belle & Sebastian - "Women's Realm"
Belle & Sebastian - "Family Tree"

Fuckin' A! Some other songs are "Disappearer", "Sway", "Pole Position". My new favorite Buzzcocks song is "Lipstick", but obviously they're all my favorite. What else? Pukekos posted up both Brilliant Colors 7 inches and both Real Estate EPs. The Brilliant Colors records sound kind of scratchy and slower than I'm used to, but I think my record player plays everything slightly too fast. The Real Estate stuff is a little corny but who cares. There's a new Cult Ritual song, too. Holy shit. PS--the date on this post is April 30th, but I started writing it April 17th and posted it May 14th. What the fuck is wrong with me??