Last night I saw Chain and the Gang and Calvin Johnson perform in Brooklyn. I've actually never seen Ian Svenonius perform live before. He was, of course, the fucking greatest. I had no idea the Gang was such a great band as well. I really liked it, it sort of made their record make sense to me. Mr. Svenonius is a punk icon and someone who's work means a lot to me. His books are fantastically inspiring. I've had a crush on him ever since I thought I might be queer (for quite a while now, obviously). He put on a great show! I feel smarter.
And Calvin Johnson performed. I had wondered what the crowd would be like. Would it be old record collector types? Straight couples in their 40s? Would it be punk rock chicks? Twee indie kids with fussy bangs and summertime sweaters? It was all of these and more. The crowd skewed a bit younger than I would have thought. I felt kind of old? It was so nuts, though, to see what I imagine to be college students, who knew the words to all these Hive Dwellers songs. Maybe it's not that weird. He played last, and I was exhausted, but it was amazing. He performed acoustic, singing his own songs both old and new, as well as some Hive Dwellers jams. He sang an a capella version of this song, and it basically broke my heart:
GET IN. It's about coloring outside the lines. This has always been Mr. Johnson's MO: to make a place for the freaks, the outsiders, the not-famous, the not-superlative, to congregate and celebrate our difference. Our freakiness. The only barrier to participation in the world of the International Pop Underground is that you have to want to participate. I tend to think of this kind of stuff, these days, as axiomatic of a kind of Buddhism which I assume everyone is familiar with. I think of this as a basic tenet of post-post-modernism, the moment in which we live. But I sometimes forget that I learned this idea from people like Calvin Johnson: that the idea of underground culture is not just some adenoidal stance against mainstream culture for the sake of being uppity; it's actually an embracing of actual lived experience. It's not a thing of "Fuck MTV" but "The records me and my friends are making are more applicable to my life than what's on TV-- plus, they're free."
I guess what I'm saying is that I really love a lot of things about my life in New York. I love almost all the people I run into. I get to see some rad art and I get to be exposed to lots of amazing and inspiring thinkers and people. But New York is also a cultural and capitalist hub. A lot of motherfuckers in this city clearly think that they are very special, and a tremendous amount of power and energy is directed (even by well-meaning, "radical" leftist and ostensibly freaky people) towards maintaining power structures based in exclusivity. A lot of energy is spent making special people feel special by showing them who they are not. A lot of us get comfort from setting up our clique and then deigning to decide who's invited to our table.
So, it means a lot to me to get to see engaging, intelligent, dangerous, funny and sweet art, practiced by an actual Authority on Counter Culture and Punk Rock, whose message is unabashedly inviting. Art which says, above all: GET IN. I feel really good about it. It made me sad that I don't feel that way all the time.
He also played "Love Will Come Back Again" from What Was Me. That song is a favorite of mine of all time, it sounded just as beautiful as when I first heard him perform it, over ten (!) years ago. I remember that tour he did with Little Wings and I think Bobby Birdman, the Come Along tour, where they'd perform in traditional punk rock venues (such as warehouse squats) but also in public parks. I saw them perform a couple times on that tour and it made a huge impression on me. That first solo record of his was very important to me and I was really happy to hear that song from it. It was also cool to see him perform acoustically, to a pretty packed space, with all the lights turned on. Everyone was quiet, except for those who were quietly singing along. A pretty magickal moment, I must say. Very, very different from the theaters, cabarets, nightclubs, and art galleries I imagine I want to be in. A different context which felt familiar. A thing that might not actually be here.
Making a big list of books to read. Do you have book recommendations? I'm looking for book recommendations. Pretty excited that Boy Genius Travis Jeppesen's new book The Suiciders, which you can pre-order HERE.
It's so sexy when you can be crazy and nihilistic and still manage to contain that certain joie de vivre. Just because everything is rotten doesn't mean it's not great. Travis' writing always strikes me as sort of subverting nastiness. Not mean-spirited exactly, but sassy, snarky. That makes it sound more benign than it is. Maybe it's like that Pop Group song, "She is Beyond Good and Evil". There's a kind of energy to his writing which I'm really drawn to and am also a little bit scared of. Can something be morally neutral? Isn't there a D&D term for this? Chaotic Neutral?
I'm excited to read it. Went window shopping last weekend to see the new Comme des Garçons collections, which came out for Golden Week (in Japan). The big new one is the collaboration with the Andy Warhol foundation.
Cute, right? The bags are rad, I don't know how I'd feel about wearing a t-shirt with that print of his face. I once worked with some proximity to the Warhol Foundation and it is absolutely as fabulous as you can imagine, and the licensing is one of the many things they do. I didn't get any of the Warhol x CdG stuff, but did drop by Uniqlo uptown to get some Warhol-printed pajama pants. I was more excited by the Original Denim collection CdG quietly launched at the same time.
The Original Denim cave at Dover St. Market London, designed by Ms Kawakubo.
As much as I'm obviously a die-hard fan, I'm most often interested in and impressed by the late-season shipments, the weird supplemental collections CdG puts out, such as for Golden Week or Christmas. The Original Denim stuff is really cute, OBVIOUSLY. It's basic CdG silhouettes in lightweight medium denim, including work shirts (peter pan collars for girls), backpacks, and the drop-crotch pants. If I hadn't just found some CdG SHIRT denim pants at the Barney's warehouse sale, I would be all-in for these. I'm into the idea of denim as being a genre, right? Like, singing a cabaret version of a heavy metal song makes you wonder about cabaret. CdG's "original denim" idea is cute: recasting the obliquely decorative CdG shapes (newness in design, novelty as luxury, freedom of energy as reward or conceptual payoff) in tough-wearing denim. Like what a Jackson Pollock would wear, right? I remember seeing in an interview between Calvin Johnson and Ian Svenonius, that Calvin was talking about why he's often seen wearing his now-iconic straight-leg denim pants. He traced this to a punk-rock thing of being working class. Denim has this association, still. For the high fashion world, however, the class messages are somewhat washed out in a vague mist of "authenticity". Nothing in CdG is ever so simple, of course. These are great because it's pretending to be simpler than it is. Maybe it is so simple.
Been thinking so, so much about Taylor Dayne recently.
I guess I should say I've been thinking of Teena Marie, and then reminded of how much I like Taylor Dayne. The plaintive, out of touch white diva soul singer. That's a thing, a kind of tragic figure, where the tragedy is entirely in my head. I feel, often, these days, that everything I see is tragic and that I am the only one who can see it. And maybe that is the truly tragic part?
The funkiness of Taylor's voice, though. The hair. The early hair of Taylor Dayne. I want you ungrateful little children to know about this. Fuck whatever some pseudo-celebrity of gender/drag revolution told you on your parents' cable, kids: they're aping miss Taylor Dayne and the moment she comes from. When drama was not a joke.
And for many of us, it still isn't.