Friday, June 23, 2017

The Bells

On my way down Highway Five to see Nick Cave the other night, I stopped at the Castle Rock exit, “the Gateway to Mt. St. Helens,” to use the restroom. It was summer solstice, and the whole drive down was one long vista of a lush green grassy carpet --  rolling hills, giant redwoods, craggy peaks, and a river running through it all —but beauty be damned: the Burger King at Castle Rock was as full of pock marked heroin addicts as every other place in America today.

In Portland though, the light was perfect. In the middle distance, it outlined Mt. Hood and glanced off the water below the crossy bridges: it turned the brick buildings a deep warm umber, dappled the grass beneath the park trees so they looked all glittery in the twilight; it brightened up all the murals so that it was like walking through someone’s well filtered Instagram feed, in 3 D. I parked three blocks from my destination and thought about how sad it is that, for the rest of my life, wherever I live, as long as it is not San Francisco, I will constantly be chanting “Wow, it sure is easy to park here” to anyone who will listen. Then, as I walked toward the venue on Broadway and Main, a man ran into me on his bike. It was on the sidewalk, and he was going super slow so I was fine, but it was so exactly like an episode of Portlandia it was startling.

I was meeting my friends at the bar next door to the theater, and although it was still an hour and a half til showtime, a long long line of aging hipsters in party clothes already snaked around the block.

“What are they waiting for?” I asked Jason.

“To get in.”

“But it’s seated!”

He shrugged. “I guess they just want to sit there and heighten their anticipation of Nick,” he said. Plus, merch lines, drinks lines, taking selfies with the stage in the background, putting on more lipstick in the restroom…there’s much to do before an important show like this one begins, and it occurred to me how nice it is that old people like myself can still act like we’re at a Taylor Swift concert. Because…Nick Cave! I read something recently where called him ‘hokey.’ But Nick Cave transcends hokum. If his act – like an Evil Elvis gone gothic and mad, ranting and preening, grawling and screaming  - doesn’t at least amuse you, then you, my friend, may as well just go play dead.

Is Nick Cave’s thing schtick, or is it in earnest? If you want to really think about this question hard, go watch some videos of his first band The Birthday Party, and even now your jaw will drop at the cheerful and crazy audacity of it all. I swear to god, you will swoon: the sight of young Nick will make you love punk rock all over again.

Jump ahead a decade or so, and revisit the question. Now, as a Bad Seed, his musical mood is decidedly more sinister. The tempo is as slow as mud. The timbre is dolorous. And the key is always as minor as it gets, like, as if a minor key could have its own, more minor key. The most frequently used word in every song is ‘blood’, if not guts; and they are written as if in the first person by the psychopathic murderer in a Jo Nesbo novel. Suffice to say that in Nick Cave’s musical world, pretty much everyone winds up dead.
A wizard from every fantasy

But then, that is true of life as well, and therein may lie the pleasure going to see Nick Cave.  It’s a long walk to the grave, so…you have to keep on pushing. Now, more than ever before. Hence, here we all are at the Arlene Schnitzer theater, at a hundred bucks a pop, and I hope he’s taking home every god damn cent of it. Because Nick Cave doesn’t just stand on a stage, he looms over it …surrounded by his band, which looks like it stepped out of a daguerreotype of the 19th century’s worst criminals, or, as that one famous meme put it, “like a wizard from each different fantasy sub genre.” To step into their world is to step away from ours for a few hours…and that is a blessing devoutly to be wished. At the start of his show in Portland, I kid you not, a whole bunch of supposed grown ups rushed the stage like little babies, just to get a little closer to the flame. They had to be pushed back by the burly guards. Later, on the encore, Nick told the bouncers to back off. He invited the stage rush once again, and then he did more, he took it up on to the stage with him. Stagger Lee, he killed a man, no he killed three…and he did it all in front of me. Stagger Lee!!

Hokey? To fucking hell with you, and back. One thing I can I guarantee you is that Nick Cave’s audience are readers. It is entirely made up of people who can make that leap from reality to imagination in one second flat…and then wander about in someone else’s crazy landscape, one peopled with murderers, whores and demons. Like a good book, Nick opens his mouth and swallows us whole:

“I read her diary on her sheets
Scrutinizing every little bit of dirt
Tore out a page and stuffed it inside my shirt
Fled out of the window and shinnied down the vine
Out of her nightmare and back into mine…”

And of course it’s all wrapped up and nailed down by a maelstrom that builds and moans and stutters to the top of its bent, rising and rising til a white light bursts upon us and we STOMP the ground like we’ve been whipped or tortured, or as if we were pagan infidels, beating out the rhythm of our special rites. Singing:

…You’ll see him in your nightmares
You’ll see him in your dreams
He’ll appear out of nowhere
But he ain’t what he seems
You’ll see him on the internet
Read his angry little tweets
You’re one microscopic cog
In his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by his red right hand
look at all them red right hands

And we roared, and roared again, as the band crashed down in an avalanche of noise. It was two pure  minutes – maybe the two purest minutes I’ve ever experienced -- of unadulterated sonic bliss.

Recently, Dwight Garner wrote a book review in the New York Times about some typical rich lady’s travails, and in critiquing it, he said, “It is impossible to read anything in 2017, or to write anything, without thinking of America’s political and moral landscape. It is tendentious to mention it in every review, but I am thinking of it while writing every review.” And although I had to look up the exact meaning of the word tendentious, I must say I concur. There are ways in which Nick Cave is the least moral and the least political of artists. His work addresses, and exists, on some plain above that lowly and mortal coil, and that is what is so enjoyable about it.

At the same time, that is why, when for that single five word moment, his mallet of judgment descended into the real world, it came down all the harder. When it was over, I thought, “Well then. Can we just do that one all over again?”

But of course, they can’t. To do so would violate the unspoken code of the Rock Concert, the one that says that all songs performed live are unique and unrepeatable – but it’s what I wanted and what I still want, even now, because to be honest, that hammer he brought down so hard on the man in question was so very, very satisfying.


And to be honest it was a little surprising. Watching Nick Cave perform in Portland was awesome, but I had been a bit hestitant to go to begin with. The reason was, that there’s this frisson that comes from knowledge of the truly unspeakable thing that happened to him last year, the worst thing that can ever befall an actual human being, the death of his child. Nick Cave sings only of bad things but that’s why bad things shouldn’t happen to him, his wicked songs should keep them at bay, and the fact that it hasn’t haunted me so badly that every time he spake the world child I literally jumped out of my skin. “This is a weeping song…a song in which to weep. Why are they crying? They are merely crying son/true weeping is yet to come.”

 Every word, it killed me, dead, and – despite the subject matter - that is not really the way you should approach a Nick Cave concert; you can’t go into it grieving. Nick Cave is a man who laughs at death. He takes the hoodoo off. He doesn’t put it on again. He himself said, in a recent interview on the subject, “I don’t want people to come along (to the shows) and have to involve themselves in someone else’s drama…I want the shows to be inspiring and uplifting, and to walk away feeling better than they came, not some empathetic contagion that goes through the crowd and people walk away feeling like shit."

And so it was. There was healing in there, I knew it when I felt it, and that was the contagion that I caught, god bless. Maybe it was in the sonorous way that he intoned ior the hands that have to keep on pushing the sky. Maybe it was the Mercy Seat, or the Jubilee Song, or the interventionist God he doesn’t believe in. Maybe it was just the sight of him up there, actually healing himself. Maybe it was because, even after all these years, Nick Cave still plunges into the crowd and lets it lay its hands on him. He can part it like Moses. He can make it stand and he can make it sit, he pats it on the head and commands it to clap, and of course, he sails atop it, aloft, held up by love and hands, and there’s a part of me that really needs that now, that pseudo religious thing, and you all know why the hell that is.
Nick Cave tea towel. Nick has some good advice for you. 



It’s because hell is here now, and it’s for real. It is in the red-handwritten words of new health care bill and in the shootings in Portland. It’s in the way that the guilty go scot free and the innocent keep getting  shot. It’s in the terrorist acts happening all over the world, and it’s in the Burger King in Castle Rock. But then there is Nick Cave, who in the same interview linked above, said, “The events in our lives are like a series of bells being struck and the vibrations spread outwards., affecting everything…our present and our future, of course, but our pasts as well.” And this is so true to me: life is like a series of bells, and if you don't find ways to hear them toll, you will find yourself spiritually deaf.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Revolution Girl Trouble Style Now



Yesterday was the last day of my one year appointment teaching at Evergreen State College and of course everything went wrong, because it’s been that kind of quarter. Evergreen is the kind of place where what happens on campus should stay on campus, so I’m not even going to go into it, but the short version involved homophobic Jesus Freaks, mistaken identity and -- inevitably -- someone being dragged off to the slammer. And of course it was pouring with rain. I went home and thought, ‘Hmmm, what show that’s happening here tomorrow will cheer me up more, Mudhoney or Girl Trouble?’

Ha ha, talk about being between rock and a hard place! I'll definitely miss that kind of choice when I get back to Cali. Asked to help me decide, my FB page split pretty evenly, though they didn’t really know that the choice also included some variables: indoor/outdoor, rain/shine, close/far, drive/walk, all those things you have to factor into whether you want to go to a show or not. Honestly, much as I like Girl Trouble I might have chosen Mudhoney if I had been less constrained by those external factors, and not even because I like Mudhoney more than Girl Trouble, or because it was free; I just liked the opener better, and I thought the all-day carnival sounded like fun.  However, it was Prom night here in Oly and I had to take my popular daughter to have her hair done and all that jazz, which pretty much decided me. Girl Trouble it was.

Prom prep took quite some time, but come 9 o clock it was time for me to step out myself. There were four bands on the bill, and the sun hadn’t even set yet – it gets dark really late around here – but I thought I better go early just in case it sold out. I keep forgetting that this is Olympia, where you can park in front of the venue and nothing ever sells out, not even Pussy Riot. I went alone, my favorite way to go, with my notebook, and my phone to play on in the interim, but it turned out I didn’t need to crack open either of them: the second I sat down, the woman I sat next to turned to me and said, “HI! Are you here alone? I am too!”

The thing is, even in this tiresomely overpopulated and generic world where it’s almost impossible to find your tribe, there’s this thing about women – not men, only women – who go to shows alone. We’re all alike. I mean, in some ways, this woman Lee was nothing like me. She is the night time janitor at a nearby club and a gardener by day. But in other ways, we were two minds with but a single thought, and that thought was, 'Girl Trouble rocks!" She had been dropped off at the club by her husband (who hates going to shows); I was on a brief vacation from my daughter, and so for all intents and purposes, we immediately embarked on a brief, blind, heterosexual girl date-of-sorts. Within moments we had bought each other a drink, got some popcorn at the bar, and were discussing how empowering we always find the sight of a woman drummer, a la Girl Trouble's Bon Henderson. Then we talked early SubPop. Her favorite band is Unwound. Mine is the Fastbacks. And then, after we had expressed sufficient liking for the other person’s obsessions, the show started. That is, the first of two openers before Girl Trouble's set started.

You know, it’s really been a long time since I’ve been in the presence of bad bands. Too long, probably. And honestly, given the genus, these two bands barely qualified for the moniker. The first band wasn’t so much bad as seriously confused. They looked like hellbillies but then they sounded like…well, like they had no idea what they sounded like. Unlike, say, the actual band Hellbilly, they had a keyboard, and a long-haired lead guy playing it who was far too musical for his own good.  Lee and I listened carefully to their first few numbers. Then she turned to me. “I’m hearing…Crowded House?”

 Me: “Ben Folds? F.U.N.?” 

Her: “Rush? Styx?” 

Me: “Sort of the bad parts about Todd Rundgren?”

Her, after a long thoughtful pause, during which the band started to really wallow in mid-tempo madness. “Richard Marx?” 

Then Lee said, “The thing about me is, I’m one of those people who likes all genres of music. World music, metal, pop.” She paused. “Just not all in the same song.”

 I had to laugh. Honestly, in the past I might have really gone batshit negative on this band, but I think it shows how much I’ve changed that, as I said to Lee near the end of their very bizarre set, instead of hating on them I kind of admired them. Their inability to see or hear their own shortcomings was sort of charming. Bad bands are such a reminder of people’s endless ability to blind themselves to reality...to live in hope. Plus, bad bands sometimes get good. And even if you aren’t going to be there to experience that, you have to clap, just like you have to clap for kids who can’t hold a tune on the violin at the elementary school recital.  

The second band, the Shaken Growlers, were also sort of delusional, but in a more fun way. They were all men in their fifties and sixties, greying and paunchy, but they were wearing matching blue striped shirts with their band logo carefully stitched on the pocket. I said to Lee, “Do you think their wives organized those shirts for them?” 

Lee: “Yup. Or else their moms.”

The Shaken Growlers were a three piece, and one of them was wearing a lei, so I was like, ‘this better be surf music.” It wasn’t, but guess what, it shredded! Stone cold garage rock, alot like anything on Norton or Estrus, it would have fit right in at Cavestomp, or Burger Boogaloo. Pretty much all you need to know about this band is that, in addition to their originals, they covered the Sweet, Iggy Pop, and Cher’s “Gypsies Tramps and Thieves,” at a breakneck pace, as if Cher herself was chasing them down with a flame thrower.
Up to this point we’d been sitting, but we now stood up and moved forward. You know: girls to the front. And it really was girls to the front at this club…not only because Girl Trouble has this weird inexplicable girl thing going on, but also because it’s Olympia, where girls are always to the front. I had forgotten about that. Also forgotten: Olympia’s thing about dancing, and dance parties. It’s what they do best here. Within two songs the whole audience had broken into the Snoopy dance; every single person there was flopping around shaking their head and moving side-to-side like the characters in Peanuts during the school dance sequence in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” myself included of course. The whole place was bopping, channeling decades of dank Washingtonian sludgey three chord rock: the Sonics, the Kingsmen, the U Men, Paul Revere – not to mention all the non-Washingtonian versions of it, like the Cramps and the Mummies and the Lyres, you name it.

So we shook. And, oh, snap, I thought. Here I am already half way on my way out of Olympia, and this is the first K Records act I’m seeing live, i.e. this is the first really local gig I’ve been to, and that’s so sad. I mean, I’m fairly sure it’s the only one I could have seen in my time here – but it says something bad about Olympia that I only found out about this gig due to a timely FB message from my friend Lindsay Hutton,  who lives in far-off Scotland. Lindsay has a fanzine called Next Big Thing in which Girl Trouble comes close to Jesus in his personal pantheon, and he's been nagging me by tweet all week to be at this gig. I’d like to tell the story of how Lindsay and I met, which I am sure is very interesting and possibly involves the Posies, but I don’t remember much about it except waking up in his house one morning and being forced to eat haggis for breakfast. I bet you anything you like that's happened to Girl Trouble too.

Girl Trouble are from Tacoma, and although I haven’t thought about them since the late 1990s, according to Lee, they’ve been playing at clubs like this in Washington all this  time since. You could tell this was so because a) they can grind it out like nobody’s business, and b) everyone in the audience was so familiar with their music – and because also, the audience was peppered with their family members. There was one, a niece of singer Kurt Kendall’s, who’d apparently never seen them before, and I was a little worried for her, since the last time I saw Girl Trouble, I am pretty sure that he was only wearing a teeny tiny bathing suit. A speedo.

Today. The t shirt says: Gay Witches for Abortion

Could that be true? “Yes,” said Lee, decisively. Oh yeah! As soon as I saw him I remembered: he’s one of those known nudists. Happily he kept his pants on at this show, but not his shirt, despite a very large and newly-formed stomach which he referred to as a baby he was going to give birth to soon. (“She’ll be 19 and fully formed when she arrives, so I’m just going to drop her off at Evergreen and say, “Make daddy proud!”) 

Suffice to say that Kendall looks really different now than he did back in the day when Girl Trouble would hold crazy house parties attended by Nirvana and the Melvins (and which, I know for a fact, that Nirvana were flattered to be asked to). The rest of the band, Bon and Bill Henderson and bassist Dale Phillips, look different too. But happily, theirs is an oeuvre that doesn’t age, since it started life so heavily in the looking-backward mode already, and here’s the thing that both Lee and I agreed on, if they don’t have to age, then we don’t have to either.

No wonder we were all in ecstasy in there! Briefly, time stood still. Truthfully, this sort of thing just gets better and better, as we get older and older, and by the end of Girl Trouble’s too-short set, someone had accidentally spilled a beer on me, and Kurt was crawling through the crowd, shaking his maracas and rubbing his naked chest on people in the grossest manner possible, and everyone grabbed one another’s buttocks and pretended to make out. At the end, as is his custom, he hurled plastic toys at the crowd. I got a figurine of Bobby, from “Recess” (he looks exactly like Kurt Kendall does now, only minus the beard and plus a shirt) and Lee got a little airplane. It was like our personal prom, I thought, and these were our favors: a prom for us real grown-ups, where popularity and looks don’t matter, where clothes and partners and the car you drove there are pointless, where your hair and nails can be a mess…a prom where the only thing left, shorn off of all the capitalist bullshit, is the dance ‘til you drop part. A prom in paradise, if you will.

To stretch a metaphor: this prom isn’t for the strivers, it’s for the survivors. Girl Trouble may never have made it in the so-called Real World in the same way so many of their peers did, but look around. Who’s still standing?
what a gig.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Midnight Oil in the Garden of Good and Evil



"I'm on the way to Evergreen University now with a .44 Magnum. I am gonna execute as many people on that campus as I can get ahold of…You communist, scumbag town. I'm going to murder as many people on that campus as I can.” Thus read the transcript of the phone call that resulted in the indefinite shutdown of my workplace. A few hours later, I texted my sister a photo of the Canadian flag wavering at border control with the words, “Guess where I am?”

“Wuss,” she responded.

I wrote back LOL but I was mad. The thing is, I am not afraid of America. I am just disgusted by it. The attack on the Portland Metro, 45s stance on Paris, that most recent bombing in Afghanistan, you name it, it’s vile. Sometimes you get so sad about things you just have to give yourself permission to do anything to cheer yourself up. This was a four star emergency, meaning it was immune to kitten memes, pints of ice cream, expensive haircuts and even massages. I looked online at local events. Nothing. Then I widened my search. I didn’t really think there was a band out there that would be special enough to lighten my mood, but my longstanding rock critic luck held. If there is a single band in existence whom you should go see on the day that the US literally declares war on planet earth, it is Midnight Oil. And they were playing a mere four hours away from me, in Vancouver B.C.

Last time we met, Midnight Oil and me, I was sitting on a log in a field smack dab in the middle of Germany, bleeding. It was at a festival in some random field there and they were headlining. I was on a story for Spin with the Pixies, and I’d just lost everything I owned – wallet, visa, car keys, rental car, you name it. Plus, and this was the kicker, I’d just started my period.

In retrospect it makes me laugh to think how downhearted I was at the moment. Remember how Bruce once sang, “One day we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny”? He was right about that, and a good thing, since that was often my mantra in those days. Eventually I pulled myself together, but the main thing I recall about sitting on that log was that, while I was freaking out inside, the song “Beds Are Burning” by Midnight Oil was being belted into the brightly lit sky, filling it up with that booming opening chord sequence – Bom Bom Bom -- and I thought the world was coming to an end. 

Of course it didn’t. It continued, as did I, and pretty soon I was happily on the bus with the Pixies and a tampon, making our way through Austria…but that’s a story for another day. Meanwhile, I told myself, whenever I hear Midnight Oil, for the rest of my life, I will think of this night in Germany, the worst night of my life. 

Flash forward some twenty odd years. Now we really are on the edge of history and the memory of that night no longer holds any terrors for me whatsoever. Far worse things have happened to me since. And say what you will about the awfulness of now, the advent of the internet has really made doing a rock ‘n roll runner – ‘going walkabout,’ they’d say in Australia -- a lot easier. After I decided I needed to flee America, it was the work of a few minutes to buy a concert ticket online, book into an AirBNB, buy a tank of gas and set off. 

Six hours later I was walking through the gorgeous vistas of Stanley Park on the edge of Boundary Bay, looking for the Malkin Bowl, an enclosure next to the Stanley Park Pavilion.
I sat on the veranda of this place and relaxed for the first time in days. Then I texted Isabelle. “I am sitting here in Vancouver having fish and chips and a gin and tonic awaiting Midnight Oil.”
Isabelle: “I am standing at the counter of my kitchen eating a Cost-Co chopped salad.” Sad faced emoji. That’s American life for you, I thought, meanly. 
Stanley Park Pavilion. Venue is out back.

Presently I went into the enclosure, and they didn’t even check my backpack or pat me down. It was an oddly balmy night, and the venue was enclosed by giant redwoods that seemed to have their tops blown off by lightening, just the kind of image I associate with Midnight Oil. It was crowded, but not uncomfortable, and I found a place to sit on the grass near one of the numerous pairs of greying men, all of whom offered me space on their ground sheets. (An observation: Midnight Oil seems to appeal to the kind of 40 or 50 year old man who wants to go see them with his best college buddy rather than his wife.)  And then the show began, and I was plunged into their whole deal again, and just in time, for there is no doubt that Midnight Oil have a number of songs that suit the situation we find ourselves in today. 

Now, you could look at that fact pessimistically, like, 20 years and nothing’s changed, or you could, as I chose to do last Friday, look on hearing them as a moment of relief and solidarity, as a closing of our ranks. Instead of saddening me, it reminded me of that sense, in 1991, that our tribe was in the ascendant, and we were about to throw down. We did throw down, and in some ways we won. Midnight Oil’s singer, Peter Garrett, for example, wound up as Australia’s Minister for the Environment and if that’s not winning, what is?

the river runs red
Hours earlier, back at the border control, the dopey homeland security guy had asked me what kind of music Midnight Oil played, and I drew a blank. Punk? New Wave? Classic Rock?  Australian Eco-warrior music? “They sing songs about climate change,” I finally said, only that isn’t exactly true: when Midnight Oil ruled the planet (headlining OVER David Bowie at that festival in Germany for instance) climate change hadn’t been invented. Nevertheless, they wrote songs about saving the rain forest and giving land back to indigenous peoples, and considering the environment and stopping planetary destruction. 

“There is enough,” they sang. They were like hippies…only not: their sound was a mixture of punk and new wave and roots rock, but with that special Australian thing thrown in that made it sound hard and shiny and brittle, like diamonds: like the chords had literally been mined out of the earth. They tapped their rhythms out on oil drums. The strummed their guitars like they’d been weaponized by a campfire. Their songs had aboriginal words in them, and place names, and people – Truganini, Warakurna, Warburton, Kosciusco – that were even more evocative of where they came from then the video images of blue sky and bright red desert that MTV made sure to show us: hot sun, dry brush, aridity, sweat. And all their music, I remembered as they played it for me, had that beautifully clean, stripped down guitar sound that Australian bands have: super resonant, presumably like the air there.
The minute a single one of those cold clean chords rang out it in the Vancouver night, it sent a chill through me, because I remembered how we used to say that it seemed like there were no bad bands in Australia, that they would hone their chops in the roadhouses of the outback ‘til they came over to America and killed it for us. 
still tall. still bald. still righteous.

You remember that? I sure do: the HooDoo Gurus, and You Am I, and the Saints. The Saints! And then there was the first big story for a national magazine that I ever wrote, which required a week on the road with INXS (wow, that was weird!) and walking in Golden Gate Park with the Celibate Rifles and one of them saying how happy he was to be smelling eucalyptus, so that I have always known what the smell of eucalyptus is, and oh, the Church! And the Go Betweens! And the TRIFFIDS! The majesty of those bands, it’s barely even speakable. Gold Afternoon Fix. Bye Bye Pride. Born Sandy Devotional. Bless all of them. Bless the Aussies, for being honest and staying true, for playing blistering, dense guitar and rock steady drums and those simple chord changes and the wide open vowels and the bell-like melodies and chiming harmonies of perfect voices and the manic stage presence and for tightening up every set to breaking point and just caring so goddamn much. 

And finally, for making me care so much again, to care enough to go to Vancouver…which frankly, on that particular evening, felt like escaping a penal colony for paradise.  Plus: begone was the spectre of the log in the German field – the spectre haunting Europe! -- replaced at long last by this happy, balmy night. O Canada! What can I say except, don’t ever change. It makes me want to give a toast; So:

To the bartender who lent me a charger. 

To the venue who didn’t search me.

To the 2 bald eagles who sat in the trees listening to the concert like they were in some goddamned Qantas commercial.
To the sun that didn’t go down.

To the jangling guitars.

To the treetops and the dusty earth, and the cleanly restrooms and the beer garden. To the girl who giggled with me in the ‘wash’ room over the idiocy of English toilet euphemisms:

(Me: ‘WASH room.”
Her: “BATH room”
Me: “REST room.”
Both of us, in unison: “LOOOOO. EWWWW!”)

To the Oilers, all of them, for their precise and beautiful harmonies on their songs, and because the sight of grown men throwing their heads back and opening their throats to the sky with absolute abandon never ceases to charm and  uplift me.
To the many, many men and women, safely pogoing and partying and singing “The Forgotten Years” in the pit, the first I’ve joined in many years. The hardest years, the wildest years, the desperate and divided years…these will not be forgotten years. Indeed they won’t.  And you know what else? One day we will look back, and even this will seem funny.
And finally, to Peter Garrett, for  still standing tall; for still being bald, for dancing like he does, for chiding the crowd, for mocking “the Dumpster” and reminding us that he is ‘an absolute zero’ the world over. And that the world is not, in fact, about to end, even in the face of its imminent total encirclement by the  gateless and destructive neoliberal grip of capitalism, the force that will in end probably destroy our planet. In 2009, Mark Fisher wrote, “Capitalism is what is left when all beliefs have collapsed and all that is left is the consumer spectator, trudging through the ruins.” But Midnight Oil’s show reminded me that all beliefs have not collapsed and that the ruins, such as they are, may have some pointy little edges left to them.

Oh and I wouldn’t call what we are doing “trudging” either. Yes, disaster is looming. The wreckage of our past is now lying at the feet of the angel of history and I am staring at it aghast. But…and this is what my past has given me, it is what bands like Midnight Oil do best, and it is why I will still drive 200 miles to participate in it…because the music sometimes stops the bleeding.

thanks Vancouver. Stay gold.