So I finally saw the Joel-Peter Witkin exhibit at the Guggenheim (this was Saturday, with Anita). It blew my mind. Very twisted, very dark. Brilliant. How these could be photos is baffling. There’s some collage work but the rest is just sick, fabulous imagination.
Also finally bought a Rosetta Stone CD, The Tyranny of Inaction. Great album.
Went online for the first time at Anita’s. The Industrial/Goth chat room was a bit dull at first, but got better. Was Instant Messaged by this cool guy in AZ, OrpheusBlack. There sure are a lot of people into Marilyn Manson and NIN. Not nearly enough Bauhaus fans, at least from when I was on. It was fun, but something I could definitely live without. I prefer letters.
I’m listening to Christian Death at the moment. They have grown on me a lot. I told Anita to tell me if I ever start to annoy her w/this whole Gothic thing, the way Claudia did with Punk. I depend on her to keep me grounded, like when I told Anita to make fun of me for wanting fangs (which I do).
Today I went to Didi’s. Played Monopoly with her, Leon and James. They said they’d go to The Bank with me the next time they come back from college (Leon in March, James in May). I must go back soon. Maybe I can beg Anita (doubt it). I’ll find a way. I always do.
Entered my portfolio in the Scholastic Writing contest (the same one I won last year for Short Story). This is the big one, $5,000. I’m hopeful.
Had a dream the other night about asking Nathan back on Sally Jessy (as if I would learn). In the dream he had a girlfriend. I’m basically over it, but not completely, not until that absolutely final time I go there.
So, to summarize my18-year-old self: getting fangs = good idea/The Internet = bad idea.
Man oh man oh man. So much to mock, I don’t even know where to begin. I remember how much I loved that Joel-Peter Witkin show, which to date is one of the best museum outings I ever had. I also remember there was a little girl there, which I found troubling. Five years old is too young to be looking at photos of cadavers, amputees and hermaphrodites (call me old fashioned, but six should be the minimum age for that sort of thing).
Rosetta Stone = Sisters of Mercy rip-off band with some catchy songs that you probably don’t know about unless you were a goth in the ‘90s-‘00s.
Going online! Oh my. It figures my sole purpose would be to find gloomy kids around the world to chat about Peter Murphy, Siouxsie Sioux and the other main players in my counter-culture obsession. But then again, there were no other goths at my high school, my best friend was going the Brit-Pop/Indie route, and I was dying (no goth pun intended) to share this interest with others. Because somewhere out there were people who also wanted to get fangs and could recommend more broody music to listen to.
I was a luddite for the longest time. I was one of the people who believed the Internet was a fad or just for uber-tech geeks and wouldn’t really take off. Just call me Little Miss Lack-of-Foresight. I was also adamant that I would not forgo letter-writing for emails and yet in the last decade, I have hand-written and mailed exactly one letter that was longer than a greeting card. Maybe two. And living without the Internet today? Yeah, I think I could go longer without food.
Now let me explain the fangs thing. It wasn’t about vampires so much. I appreciated their aesthetic but I didn’t actually want to be one, nor did I have any kind of bloodlust. Plainly put, I just thought fangs looked really neat. And I thought it would be cool to have some bonded to my teeth. Of course, it was above and beyond ridiculous (I mean, I can only imagine showing up to a job interview with FANGS. Oy.). Let’s just file that in the Thank-GOD-I-Didn’t-Indulge-THAT-Dumb-Teenage-Whim folder.
Also, I have no doubt that annoyed Anita with my goth fixation as much as Claudia annoyed me with her punk phase. Probably more. But it would be a long time before I outgrew that phase (and by “a long time” I mean “never completely”).
A crazy story that is the sum of its parts (two of them). Anita and I go to Record Rabbit frequently. There is this very nice guy who works there. His name is Nathan and he is obsessed with The Cure. He’s very nice and we sometimes chat. He recently came back from Belgium where he saw his 41st and 42nd Cure shows.
Then there is this article I read in Sassy years ago about a guy obsessed with (duh) The Cure. I remember this story so well because I kept thinking “wow, could I ever get like that?” and then when I went through my U2 phase I did get like that so I thought of the article more. Well tonight I dug out the magazine while on the phone with Anita and what do you know: Nathan Greenblatt is the name of the Cure fan. My mind was reeling. I was blown away.
It didn’t take much to blow my mind back then. A well-placed coincidence could do it. Before we get to the musical addiction side of things, let’s talk Sassy.
For those unfamiliar, Sassy was a magazine for young women helmed by Jane Pratt, an editor-in-chief who always gave off the vibe of being your smart older sister. She later went on to start Jane magazine and currently runs xoJane.com, both also great, but Sassy was where it all began.
Back in the 90s, I read a number of teen magazines, including YM and Seventeen, and there was always a cookie-cutter aspect to them, encouraging you to look and dress and be a certain way. Sassy did not have the homogeneity of these other publications, and not only showed more diversity in the types of models and content it featured, but dealt with teen issues in a no-nonsense way and promoted self-acceptance, instead of setting unattainable glossy standards. It’s the only magazine aimed at my demographic I read back then that didn’t make me feel bad about myself.
From time to time, I came across a story in the magazine that particularly resonated with me. The one about obsessed fans was such a piece.
There was always something about that kind of music fanaticism I found utterly fascinating. The idea of devoting your time and disposable income to dedicate yourself to a particular singer or band was insane, the stuff that restraining orders are made of. And yet, it’s the kind of madness I could buy into. There was something strangely admirable, like being a monk or disciple, except instead of Buddha or God, you had Bono or Trent Reznor or Robert Smith or another dubious object of worship. And I think that’s what it came down to, that level of infatuation, that passion that bordered on the mentally deranged stemmed from music being the closest thing many of us had to religion. Song lyrics were our scriptures and concert halls our churches.
Meeting someone like Nathan was like meeting a true disciple. As extreme as my own musical obsession(s) may have been, this guy was even more devoted and hardcore. So, coincidence or no, I felt an immediate connection to him and truly believed fate had crossed our paths for a reason.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was also pretty cute…
Wow, I almost felt like I was starting a letter (I must comment on how annoyed I am that I haven’t gotten any real letters in a while. I just know I’ll get about 8 in the same day). But now isn’t the time to be sarcastic because it was a beautiful day. Carnival was great even though all I did was sit there and talk and sign people’s yearbooks and sit there trying not to melt under the sun. It was great.
Then (w/Anita) on to Tower Records in the village to see a free concert by Catherine Wheel. Very good they were*, bought the album then & there (I love the single “Waydown” so much, I wouldn’t mind if it was that song over and over). Got yet another set list which was signed by all the band members this time (very nice people, a British band).
For anyone joining the game late, I was a big penpal nerd in the ’90s and continued to be so in my later high school years (I’ll spare you additional gushing about how superior paper letters were to electronic correspondence—this time!—and direct you to this earlier blog post for more background). Inevitably, no matter how I tried to space out my letter-writing, I’d usually get responses in bulk, despite the letters coming from all over the world.
Carnival was an annual event that I imagine most schools have a version of (booths with games, food, etc.) so I’ll spare you details, but mostly because that particular year I didn’t do much more than “sit there” and call it “great” (can’t you tell I was an aspiring writer from that vivid description alone?).
Before delving into the show itself, a note for the younger readers: once upon a time there were these places called “record stores” where they sold music in physical form, on vinyl, cassette and these small plastic discs called CDs. Some of these larger shops, like Tower Records, hosted musical artists from time to time to do in-store signings, and sometimes the bands would also perform a 20-minute mini-concert to promote their latest album.
Anita and I had a previous adventure in New Jersey seeing Sponge at a different Tower Records, but it was nice to be able to attend another in-store closer to home.
To this day, Catherine Wheel is one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen. For those unfamiliar, their sound is a shoegaze/rock mix with a dash of dirty guitars (I initially wrote “grunge” but couldn’t live myself for labeling them that way). They also sounded better in person than they did on any of their albums (one of the few bands I could say the same for is Pearl Jam).
Catherine Wheel had some brief MTV success with the single for “Waydown” but never made it really big like—Radiohead big. (Fun fact: lead singer Rob Dickinson is the cousin of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.)
It’s a shame they weren’t able to find a wider audience, because I think they put out of lot of solid music and put on great concerts. And while it was nice to see them perform at smaller venues, they deserved more wide-spread attention and success than they ever received. The album I bought referenced in this entry, Happy Days, is pretty good, but Chrome and Adam and Eve are even better and some of the most underrated music to come out of the 1990s.
* No idea why I decided to sound like Yoda there.
Radiohead. Ah Radiohead.
Wearing the t-shirt as I write this. We got to Tramps fairly early (20-30 minutes). There were already people lined up against the partition (that metal thing between the stage and us with a gap to catch crowd surfers and such) so I was at least going to be in the second row. Then a guy in front of me left and there I was, holding on to the metal bar with an unblocked view of the stage.
David Gray (the opener) wasn’t too bad; played a little too long, though.
They made announcements of upcoming shows at Tramps and when they said Afghan Whigs I positively freaked out.
Radiohead came out later, started out w/”The Bends.” I was between [facing] Thom and gorgeous guitarist Jonny Greenwood. They were great. I didn’t even notice the absence of “Stop Whispering” until Anita mentioned it on the way home. “Anyone Can Play Guitar” was wonderful.
I asked a roadie walking around onstage if they gave out drumsticks and he said only if they’re broken. Then he went looking for one w/a flashlight around the drum kit. He came back, trying to hold the drumstick by his side so as to hide it and said, “sh…” as he handed it over to me. This guy next to me (not the set list guy) asked if he could touch it and I let him.
Then Anita and I just walked around Tramps a little until I spotted an Afghan Whigs poster. I ran over and started spazzing about how much I had to go. This really stoned blond guy who was standing there jumped up and took the poster down, handing it to me. I thanked him profusely for it and then he started saying how he wanted it. No matter, it’s mine, I’m going to hang it up along with my set list which was autographed but I’m getting to that.
As we kept walking (still inside) I spotted a roadie who had hit his head earlier while setting up for Radiohead. I started talking to him and he was really nice (had a very cool accent), pretty cute too. He let it slip that the band would be coming back here in about 8 weeks. Then Anita saw Jonny on stage and I rushed over calling his name.
He came down to the gap between the gate and the stage and shook our hands. He’s quite beautiful, amazing bone structure. He signed my set list. Then I spotted the bassist, his brother Colin, all the way on the other side. He signed my set list too.
It was a glorious night, a most amazing concert experience. Hope I have this much luck at the Whigs show (please oh please let Greg be very social and hang out afterwards).
I’m going to put the drumstick (not broken at all but sort of gnawed-at looking) near Trent’s guitar pick. The set list will be hung up near the autographed Sponge flat. I’ll be able to open up my own museum w/all this stuff soon!
What can I possibly add to this thorough account?
I have to admit, I still hold it as a point of pride that I got to see Radiohead so early on in their career, at such a small venue. Total capacity for Tramps was around 1,000 people but it felt even smaller that that, like you were watching a show in somebody’s basement. But then to be in the first row of people, too, was just incredible. I don’t think I ever saw a band perform at a better venue in the ’90s, at least in terms of intimacy.
And it was definitely memorable show in terms of getting not only a great piece of memorabilia but having two members of the band sign it, too. And it’s awesome to be able to have an account of the songs they performed that night. The letters at the bottom stood for the four songs they performed as the encore: “You”, “Bulletproof..I Wish I Was”*, and “Street Spirit.”
I don’t think I ever could have predicted Radiohead would have become as big as they were. I would have guessed they’d go the way of Belly or Catherine Wheel, moderately successful for a time, a decent amount of MTV and radio play for a couple of years and then a fade into obscurity. I certainly wouldn’t have expected their music to take such an odd and esoteric turn after that concert and yet still continue to grow their fan base.
In any event, if I could have created a blueprint for the perfect concert when I was 17-years-old, seeing Radiohead at Tramps would be the closest thing to matching it.
* I only just noticed that the song title is missing an extra period in the ellipsis and I’m trying not to let that drive me crazy.
I got Marilyn Manson’s CD, which is great (listened to it twice in two days). The music isn’t half as scary as they are visually. In fact the song lyrics are very interesting. A sample:
“You want me to save the world
I’m just a little girl
pseudo-morals work real well
on the talk shows for the weak
but your selective judgements
and good guy badges
don’t mean a f$%# to me.”
That one is from “Get Your Gunn,” one of the best songs on Portrait of An American Family.
Right now I’m listening to the Cure (Head on the Door).
I have some random lines for poetry. Might as well put them down here… my thoughts collide with tomorrow, wait, I had more. It’s not as inspiring writing on ordinary paper. Plus I have the Cure blasting in my ear so that doesn’t help much.
Hey, today is Neil’s birthday. He turns the big 14. Haven’t been hanging out with Claudia that much lately. I don’t know if we’ve been actively ignoring each other or what. Oh well, I’m not all that upset, people drift away and sometimes it’s a good and natural thing (Geez, I sound like a shrink. What is my problem?).
I remember seeing Marilyn Manson open up for Nine Inch Nails to a hostile/indifferent crowd. Before the lead singer became the pseudo-subversive spokesman for disillusioned alterna-goth youth, he was still in Trent Reznor’s shadow, being booed at by teenagers waiting for the main event. In light of that, I felt like I was supporting an underdog when buying Portrait of an American Family. The shock value was obvious but some of the songs were catchy to me (and yes, I was a sucker for some of those lyrics; hey, I was the target audience to a degree). When I went to college and the second Marilyn Manson album was released, the band became huge, and I lost interest, casting them out of my musical canon. By that point, I was cultivating more obscure musical (let’s say, “organically goth”) interests and was quick to disdain a celebrity that was so obviously pandering to a certain type of demographic.
But since, at the time of this entry, I was still part of that demographic, let’s take a moment to cringe at the “random lines of poetry” bit. Just… oy. The “ordinary paper” refers to the fact that I used to draft a lot of poetry on top of photos in magazines; but yeah, let’s blame the “ordinary paper” and loud Cure music for not being able to craft a better line of poetry.
As for Claudia and Neil, I was pretty much over my inappropriate crush on the latter, and continuously uncomfortable with the former. Aside from my irritation at her becoming what I perceived as a phony punk, Claudia was getting more involved with drugs, which was a bigger problem for me. I realize a lot of teenagers experiment with drugs, but in high school, apart from alcohol, I was pretty much a goodie goodie. And it wasn’t just the fact that she was smoking weed more; I witnessed her becoming a different person as a result of it. She made foolish choices, her school work declined, and she behaved more like a spacey degenerate. The sharp, funny girl that I initially became friends with was evolving into someone I couldn’t relate to anymore and didn’t have an interest in knowing.
But who knows, maybe Claudia saw me as a square, evolving into a “spooky” girl who wrote cheesy poetry. Maybe she would view my buying that Marilyn Manson album as a foolish choice.
Right now I’m listening to Afghan Whigs’ Congregation, which I finally got (on CD). So far, better than Up In It but not as good as Gentlemen (which is expected. Gentlemen is great).
I’ve been looking at colleges for a while now and have decided that Emerson is the best school for me. If I can’t (well refuse to) go to school in New York, the next best thing is Boston. BU is okay, but Emerson seems just fabulous. It’s a school for communications and not at all a stick-up-the-butt school. Though it’s pretty small (just under 2,000 people) it seems like the place for me. Emerson offers writing scholarships and is full of misfits and freaks (in other words, people I would most likely want to hang out with).
Here’s a cool Whigs quote:
“hey, baby there’s a vampire moon
scaling the sky shine in your room
your eyes are open you got nothing to do
come outside and play with me tonight “
— Afghan Whigs “Tonight
I saw that [giant arrow drawn in journal pointing up] on an address label once. There’s a hidden track on Congregation it’s coming up now. Actually, it’s really good, better than most of the songs on this. Anita told me that a hidden track is the entire CD played backwards. I love hidden tracks and linear notes (well, the lyrics). This one has both.
Hidden tracks and album packaging have been a sad loss as music has undergone a digital revolution. I’m sure somewhere (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed) there’s list about “Things You Miss If You Came of Age in the ’90s” or “Stuff People Who Bought Cassettes & CDs Are Really Bummed About” that mentions these things. For those who can’t relate, it’s a shame you will never experience the triumphant rush of joy of purchasing physical music and finding the printed lyrics to the songs included in the liner notes, to say nothing of the obsessiveness required to decipher lyrics of when they weren’t included (the most insane one I ever tried to transcribe, from the cassette version, was R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”).
Then there was the special thrill of discovering a hidden track. In some cases (like Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP) I didn’t even know of the hidden tracks for months and stumbled upon them rather than look for them. This was much more satisfying than being told about the hidden track (music spoiler alert!). Nowadays, it’s rare for me to buy a full album or listen to one all the way through. I download most of my music and I barely glance at the packaging of the handful of CDs I do still acquire annually. It makes me sad; music used to occupy such a predominant role in my life and now it’s little more than a background soundtrack when I’m writing or working out.
As for college, if I wasn’t local, NYU would have probably been my dream school. It had a robust liberal arts program and was in the greatest city in the world. But I was determined to leave New York and have college be my reward for enduring six academically rigorous years at Hunter. While my classmates were fond of asking, “What Ivy’s did you apply to?” I wasn’t much interested in those “stick-up-the-butt” schools. Brown was vaguely enticing but Providence, Rhode Island was not, and neither was attending yet another school full of competitive braniacs. I wanted a big city with a good writing program.
It was actually Anita who mentioned Boston as the perfect place to attend college. It was far away from home but not too far, a big enough city, but not too big, and was filled with plenty of matriculation options. So I got a Princeton Review guide and started browsing colleges. As soon as I read that Emerson was known as a school “for freaks and misfits”, where many students had crazy hair, piercings, tattoos, etc., I knew I found my future four-year academic home. Before I even visited the campus or did more in-depth research, I just knew it had to be Emerson. And so it would be, but it would be a bumpy road getting there…
Well who the hell would think that Belly fans could be so goddamn vicious. I could understand moshing to Superchunk (who were excellent, I must say) but Belly?! We’re talking pretty, energetic little songs here, not exactly the stuff made for crowd surfing.
Anyway, I was right in the middle of it and was shoved (to the point where I could barely breathe) and kicked (in the jaw, spine, head…by all the floaters) and had my hair constantly pulled (hard).
It was a great concert, though (they were a lot better live than I expected). Tom dyed his hair blonde and I was surprised at how many songs I was able to sing along to (when I wasn’t being slaughtered by the goddamn Belly—okay and Superchunk—fans) Tanya Donnely said Radiohead were in the house and I thought she was just using slang to say they were cool, but no, Radiohead were actually at the concert! We (Anita and I) are waiting for that tour already.
For those too young and or unfamiliar with Belly, they were once quite the up-and-coming alternative band. They had an MTV hit with “Feed the Tree” and just a few weeks after seeing them in concert, they made the cover of Rolling Stone, proof that they were once on their way to being a pretty big deal. Except that they never quite got there. After two albums, lead singer Tanya Donelly went on to have a solo career, but I never found that music as interesting so I didn’t follow it.
There are two albums that will forever transport me back to junior year of high school and I look at them as two sides to the same coin: Radiohead’s Pablo Honey and Belly’s Star. Both had their place in the alternative music movement, with shades of angst and grunge balanced with catchy hooks. Get ready for a time warp, kids: I owned both of these albums on cassette and listened to them incessantly on my Walkman (RIP).
It was with Belly’s second album, King, that they started getting more attention, though their sophomore effort wasn’t anywhere near as good as their debut (same exact thing happened with Liz Phair and Tori Amos; go figure). King still had moments of the quirky darkness of Star but seemed like it was trying to hard to be polished and veered from accessible into bland. Even so, I liked it well enough and I was excited to see them play live.
Back in the ’90s, crowd-surfing was all the rage, but I didn’t realize how ridiculous the trend had become until this concert. I can (kind-of-but-not-really) understand moshing to indie opening band Superchunk, since they do have some fast-tempo-ed songs with a bit of screaming here and there. But for Belly fans to be thrashing around was incomprehensible. Moshing to aggressive music like Nine Inch Nails made perfect sense, but not so much for a band who sings, “take your hat off boy when you’re talking to me and be there when I feed the tree.”
I remember how frustrating it was to be in the midst of such an aggressive audience reaction to Belly’s music. I was knocked around so much, I came home bruised and sore, with my long hair tangled into one giant dreadlock, feeling an overall “what just happened?” sense of confusion.
But despite all that, Anita and I probably ended up raving about how much fun it was, and how cool that members of Radiohead were there. When Tanya Donelly announced their presence, I of course scoured the balconies of Roseland to see if I could spot them, but didn’t get a glimpse. Soon enough, I’d end up with a much better view of them, anyway.