Sunday, April 9, 2017

My (De) Generation

Every so often I go eat lunch by myself at the Pho-Teriyaki joint next to Target in West Olympia. It’s one of those extremely bad looking places with less than no atmosphere but it is the only place I’ve found in this godforsaken town where the Asian food actually tastes Asian. They are always playing this easy listening station on Pandora, and I have to admit that sometimes I kind of enjoy hearing songs by the Carpenters and Roberta Flack. Truth be told, I have a deep seated (yet easily sated) taste for songs from 1973.

The other day, however, it was playing “Ventura Highway” and I was simply struck dumb by how terrible a song that was. It made me want to go invent punk rock all over again, all by myself. Instead, I settled for tweeting my ire. “Listening to America. Christ what a bad band.”

Immediately, my friend Kim Warnick responded. “I know their current drummer! He was in the Posies and Jesus and Mary Chain.”

Ok, well, that was unexpected. I mean, think about that for a second: the drummer for Jesus And Mary Chain now drums for America. That’s just so wrong. America’s songs barely even HAVE drums.

But of course the worst thing about the above sentence isn’t the juxtaposition of JAMC and America, it is really the word ‘current’.
It makes it sound like America is on tour, which they probably are. And let me tell you, if they come here, I will be there, with bells on, yelling “Just Like Honey” in the front row. Maybe Kim’s friend can get me on the guest list. LOL.

(Just so people know, I never actually yell the things I say I’m going to yell. I just think about yelling them.  I yell them to myself.)

Later that day, Kim called me from Maine. We hadn’t spoken in ages, so we had a lot of catching up to do. I told her I was eagerly awaiting America’s advent at the Emerald Queen Casino, and she told me she’d seen David Lee Roth there once, which, honestly, I can’t even. We laughed and laughed just thinking about it. Kim and I both now live in towns which don’t exactly host a lot of rock shows. But Kim went to Foxborough Stadium recently to see Guns N Roses, because their drummer, Duff, is/was her best friend in High School. “You wouldn’t believe the crowd,” she commented. “All these old men, who’d brought their kids along, going absolutely bananas.”

The other day, Kim added, Death Cab For Cutie came through, and she went to see them and they ended up dedicating a song to her. Sadly, she had already left the building. That sounds so bad, but it  happened to me once, kind of. It was at a Lollapalooza, and I hadn’t left, I was just spacing out somewhere else in the fairgrounds and I guess Rancid did a shout out to me. At least, someone told me they did it and I was so sad that I missed hearing it that I wanted to fall through the grass and die. In fact, maybe I DID die, and that explains the downhill slide of the rest of my existence: it has all been my punishment for my rudeness. Or maybe it never even happened.

I think about that time, lately, whenever I see Rancid’s tweets from all over South America, where they are currently on tour. And this means I think about it constantly, since my twitter feed is completely taken up solely with posts from (horrified) rogue white house correspondents, (rightly) enraged black people, and, as a welcome contrast, a very, very happy Rancid. I suppose I need to get a better grip on the twitter algorhythm or something. Or perhaps twitter, being essentially evil, has a line deep into my psyche, because it really knows how to pull my chain. Rationally I know that I get @Rancid’s and its associated accounts tweets from twitter because a) I followed them b) I liked them and c) they have a good social media manager who floods the gates with pictures of their every move, from airport to stadium, from load in to load out, from front of stage to audience to backstage to giant wide angle photos of giant fields of Sudamericanos going mad in the mud in between. But…the thing is…it takes me back to my youth. And what makes twitter seem so insidious is that because Rancid is now touring with Metallica, and since once upon I time I went on tour with both those bands together, it feels like  twitter knows my personal history and is kind of unspooling it in front of me, Pensieve-like, to remind me of my own personal temps perdu.
Here's a cool link to the Yo Yo A Go Go Rancid show.

Of course, the tour I went on was very different than this one. To begin, there was no twitter or iphone to document our every move, there was only me with my pen and my lurid and probably inaccurate and biased take on what was going on around me. I was also a victim of my own, not to mention Rancid’s own, 924 Gilman-born notions of anti-avaricious authenticity. I remember staring in horror at the giant number of anvil cases Metallica was loading out…it was so un-punk rock.  Metallica were flying between gigs and staying in special hotels and just generally being rock stars; I think they even had a humidor in their tour bus. A humidor! By contrast, little Rancid was going around the country with a van and bus which they shared with the Ramones. Besides their (minimal) equipment, they had two little BMX bikes and a blow up wading pool, because that was their idea of luxury.We used to get the bikes out and ride the perimeters of Lollapalooza's fairgrounds in Kentucky, or Texas, or Arizona, or wherever it was that day. Usually it was during Soundgarden's set, and to this day the song "Black Hole Sun" reminds me of a stupid hot Texas afternoon, the sky so full of it.

Judging by twitter, that is not the situation now: I saw a picture on Instagram of their anvil cases and it made me gasp. And yet, I don't know why I was so surprised. In a perfect world, everyone should all grow up to be big boys and girls and be able to buy all the guitars and all the anvil cases we could possibly want. That's what America's all about, right? Anyway, judging by twitter, Rancid have, through the means punk rock, achieved what Roland Barthes called "the sublimation of labor by its magical effacement," and fuck it, everybody: if they can, we can too. We can, too.

Thanks to social media's helpful photo essays on Rancid's recent rampage, I know that this is what's happened, and I am super happy for them. I hope they don’t have a humidor, but it's OK if they do now. I like watching them conquer Mexico and Columbia and Argentina and Brazil, but it is also kind of bittersweet, a glimpse over at the other life, the one I didn’t live. It is really weird to look at from afar, from my box-like house in the fucking rain forest; it's like looking down a long, long, magic tunnel, but not being able to climb inside it. Rancid once wrote a song about playing Yo Yo A Go Go in Olympia, which somehow makes the whole thing seem more ironic. I think of that song sometimes, when I am walking down Sixth Street (well, fourth; Sixth is now called Legion) and avoiding all the little street punks, many of whom have Rancid  stickers on their backs. It's weird. Why them?

Maybe all these big bands, GNR and Rancid and Metallica, and the actual human beings who populate them, were just born lucky. And since unlike (the band) America, they’re my (de) generation, I am happy that none of them are playing the Emerald Queen Casino. But though I don’t wish that on them, I do wonder what makes the difference. Is it just the twenty year time gap that separates America’s biggest hit with Metallica’s? Is Guns N Roses really worthy of that kind of adulation? Will Rancid be playing there in 2025?

Kim, who knows this kind of thing, tells me that the Emerald Queen Casino plays bands big bucks, like in the five figure range, so it isn’t the worst fate in the world. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


Corry342 said...

Music from 1973, etched on our brains:
Sometime in the early 90s, we saw America and The Beach Boys at Concord Pavilion. I recall that when America launched into "Ventura Highway," I immediately called out the song title to you so you could write it down (in your pre-iPhone notebook). You said to me "you got it in three notes!" and I said, truthfully, "I had it in one, but I wanted to be sure."

Those too young to know the oppressive hegemony of AM radio can not know how non-ironic our conversation actually was.

gina said...

That is a very sad story. FYI I have blocked that concert out.

KMTBERRY said...

There are so many things, like the oppressive hegemony of AM radio, that Kids Today will never know about.

Dina said...

Am I horrible to miss the oppressive hegemony of AM radio?