Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bear with me; this may get ugly. Last night I found myself at what most other music journo-hipster-asses would describe as a retro cash-in: a concert featuring a reconstituted version of Jefferson Starship (a real cash-in), Country Joe McDonald and Tom Constanten--he played with the Grateful Dead for 5 mins in 1968 (actually from 67 to 68, their most vital early studio period) and studied under the influential avant composer, Luciano Berio.

Constanten's set was mostly solo piano--some instrumental compositions, some vocal numbers including a fine "Werewolves of London" and a freaked out Beatles/someone else medley centered around "Day in the Life." He even got avant-weird later before bringing out Paul Kantner and a buncha other people who looked sort of like Jefferson Airplane to play the Dead's "Deal." Fun.

Country Joe was solo on acoustic guitar with some flange here and there. He sounded really good in a set that combined driving folk blues with more casual sing-songy stoner fare. Then about halfway through he shouted those immortal words and pulled "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin-to-Die Rag" out of his bag and the gig took on entirely different cast. Sure I thought about Woodstock and nostalgia, but I didn't stop there. Joe didn't either, halfway through the song changing his immortal line to "next stop is Iran," as we all sung along, clapped and danced. All 33 of us, though there were closer to maybe 150 sprawled out in the chairs and tables of the Granada Theater. I thought about the 300,000 singing along with Joe at Woodstock and the 33 dancing and singing here, my mind overrun with the irony and the realization that punk rock is just another commodity today, and that Joe McDonald was, in that moment, more punk fuckin' rock than a dozen warped tour headliners, and still willing to tell it like it is, point fingers and make a weirdo in Texas feel something resembling sanity for the first time in at least three weeks.

As a native Texan, I often think that real happiness must lie outside these borders. As humans we like to think something similar about this world. I know better than to start looking for some invisible pot of gold, but it wont stop me. That's why I went to Terrastock. It's why I felt the need to see people and feel part of something bigger for at least a day or three. Despite the enormity of this world, I rarely feel part of it (even though I obviously am).

At Terrastock you can feel it and believe it. And you can come home and enjoy the lingering glow, at least until you come to discover (in horror) that Jack Rose opened for Mogwai three nights ago, only you had blown off going to this particular show because a) Mogwai, as cool as they are, are a bit predictable, b) you were broke, c) Jack's name was not even listed in the teaser, but low and behold d) Jack put you on the guestlist, e) only he sent his message to your out-of-date email addy, so you basically sat at home and twiddled your thumbs in the meantime. You also missed The Fall, George Clinton and Blue Oyster Cult in this time period. And you can think "it's the thought that counts" and take solace in your imagination, and you can also be genuinely pissed that you didn't get to hang out and drink a few beers with Jack Rose, because he's one cool motherfucker. Or Buck Dharma for that matter. What were you thinking? And you can sprawl out on your big red couch and get your cracker and whippits and headshop-purchased salvia, and you can blow your mind out to the stars and beyond, and smoke a bit of this stuff and think "did I just get high or not?" but not really care because at least you were doing something constructive in the meantime.

And I think about Current 93 and black ships floating on the ether. NOT a good idea if feeling the abyssmal infinite breathing down your neck, and I feel it every day. I look around, and I see chaos, even where I know there is order. I feel something greater and worse hovering within and without, but it's lost amid so much confusion and information. The information overload is what's drowning me, because so little of it actually matters. I can't buy myself out of this hell. Eat, drink, smoke, snort, collect--maybe, but all that just leads to new hells.

I envy those who are ignorant. I envy children. I envy lovers and anyone living his/her dreams and following the path to his/her bliss, because too much of what I see and feel is horror, discontent, confusion. I know so many addicts, so many fools, too many dying souls. It's like what Mick Jagger was singing about in "Satisfaction" multiplied tenfold. Who actually gets satisfaction today? Old bald men on the top floors of corporate headquarters, the faithful, the creative, the learned, the sacrificial, the sociopathic, the addicted... I guess I land somewhere between such extremes on any given day, but I'm not satisfied. I smile and I laugh, and I feel love when I can, and I'm thankful for every breath. And sometimes it's enough.

I'm thankful that I understand what is and has always been happening, and what will happen long after I am gone. Life is dying. Consciousness requires a kind of pain in the process of understanding. Love is the one addiction that no one will blame me for indulging in--medicates my soul.

I have been listening to "Black Ships Ate the Sky" rather obsessively in the last month or so. Current 93's latest opus is the album of 2006. Others will say something similar about Scott Walker's new one, but David Michael Tibet and his friends seem to be speaking directly to me on this record and exploring the confusion--the ecstatic highs, the barrel-scraping lows and all the in betweens of this fading luminous existence--with bone-piercing intensity. And Tibet points to us all. No one is innocent in this judgement. But I still dont think this means all is lost. It doesn't mean that the very technology that may be currently destroying us wont one day save us.

Much has happened in the last month. I feel like I've been to hell and back, passed through the underworld and returned to that of the living, and this album is some sort of map for negotiating this tangled path. It's gripping, it's maddening, it's beautiful. It's the kind of dream I can live over and over and dissect intimately because it is just so damn vivid. I'll write more about in a review in Foxy Digitalis soon, and my pretentiousness will know no bounds.

There's more to this, too, and many people are here searching with me. From friends and family to my tabby sister lovers, Charlie and Amber. From Country Joe to Jack Rose and David Michael. From the birth of man to the end the world. This protest thing holds resonance. This anger, this pain, this need to rise above. By all means, let the ascension begin.

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