Monday, May 7, 2018

SD1-989, or Why I Cried During the Slowdive Concert

Slowdive Concert, Granada Theater, Dallas, April 2018
I see several concerts every year, and I recently saw Slowdive for the second time live. Near the end of the concert they played a song, and I realized that I had started to spontaneously weep. The song reminded me of what I was listening to during the early 1990s when I was living in Austin. It might've been one of the actual songs I listened to back then.

Even living in Austin, a city that often boasts itself as being a refuge of progressive politics in an otherwise conservative state, friends were attacked, mugged, and beaten leaving gay bars. My boyfriend and I were refused housing because landlords wouldn't rent to two men sharing a one bedroom apartment. I was out to very few people because I didn't trust anyone. When your existence is under attack by very powerful people, you learn not to trust.

There was a time in the early 90s when it seemed like the whole world was holding its breath waiting for a death sentence. There was a time during those years when it seemed like everyone knew someone who was leaving this world in the most excruciating way. While politicians snickered about our deviant lifestyles. While preachers condemned us to hellfire and damnation on earth. It was exhausting to be so under attack. I'm not sure when it was that I learned how to breathe again.

I thought of all the people I knew (and knew of) who were diagnosed with HIV and who were dying of AIDS. Kitty's husband. Lum's best friend. Chuck. When David Wojnarowicz died, I clipped the announcement out of the newspaper and put it in one of his books that I owned. It was a private grief that I wouldn't share with anyone, including myself. It was basic survival instinct not to acknowledge how broken this heart was. The consequence is that sometimes I spontaneously cry. My pantheon of queer saints included Ron Athey, Robert Mapplethorpe, Derek Jarman, Brad Davis, Freddie Mercury, and Pedro Zamora. Of those, only Ron remains. This is the gospel according to dead saints. And Slowdive, the Credo of our liturgy miserabilis.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cold Specks, Part I

One of the most unique and talented singers I've been listening to for the past five years is Cold Specks. In 2013 she collaborated with Moby on two songs for his Innocents album: "A Case for Shame" and "Tell Me." Her voice was haunting; her lyrics, sublime. The vocals on those tracks took my breath away. I felt as if I was hearing a voice from my childhood that I long ago forgot existed as a possibility.


I devoured everything by her. I bought her first album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion as well as all the B-side and one-off tracks I could find. These songs were damn beautiful--a constellation of doom-soul and goth-folk. "Blank Maps," for me, is the highlight of her early work.


That October I flew to Los Angeles for Moby's concert at the Fonda Theatre, where I saw Cold Specks perform her two songs with him. I was enraptured.

The following year she released Neuroplasticity, an album gushing with angular jazz forms restrained within listenable pop structures. Her collaboration with jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire on that album proved fruitful, and she sang a track on his album that was also released in 2014. Here is "A Season of Doubt."


In just the first two years of following her career, Cold Specks excelled in bizarrely disparate genres. While cutting her teeth on folk-leaning doom-soul, she's also shown herself an impressive lyricist, singer, and interpreter of trip-hop, electronica, soul, and jazz. She even provided backing vocals on Massive Attack's "Dead Editors." All of this sets the stage for her third album, 2017's Fool's Paradise.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet is one of my favorite music groups. I first saw them perform live in 1989 or 1990, and as the cliche goes, they changed my life.

I had studied music since I was a child. I am a classically trained pianist, and in high school and college, I played both oboe and horn. I knew classical music and could pronounce "Wagner" and "Chopin" correctly. But Kronos Quartet revealed the world of new music to me. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

I have since seen them perform multiple times, and I have many of their recordings. Sometimes I seek out a specific track or movement for a particular mood; other times I put on an album or my entire playlist and let what comes come, especially while I'm writing.

Here are my Top Ten tracks performed by Kronos Quartet according iTunes:
  1. White Man Sleeps #4, composer Kevin Volans
  2. Adagio, composer Samuel Barber
  3. The Beatitudes, composer Vladimir Martynov
  4. String Quartet #5, Movement I, composer Philip Glass
  5. Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished), Movement I, composer Vladimir Martynov
  6. Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished), Movement II, composer Vladimir Martynov
  7. String Quartet #5, Movement IV, composer Philip Glass
  8. String Quartet #5, Movement II, composer Philip Glass
  9. String Quartet #5, Movement V, composer Philip Glass
  10. String Quartet #5, Movement III, composer Philip Glass
I don't know this from experience, but I suspect that the top four tracks will get you laid, if that's your thing. At the very least, they can help set the mood for some sweet lovemaking. But that mostly depends on your own fuckability.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Memories of Uncle Bob

Last week we buried Uncle Bob. Despite the fact that the bar was ridiculously low, he was nevertheless my favorite uncle.

Two of my earliest memories are of him. I peed on him when my diaper was being changed. And I held him at gunpoint shortly after he returned from Vietnam.

Neither memory is quite real. Both are more like rememories: I remember remembering as a child peeing on Uncle Bob. And the gun incident was a story told repeatedly throughout my childhood, so much so that's it's embedded in my mind as if it were a memory.

My father's pistol was stored in the front closet of our home in Wichita. I was two and playing unsupervised. Blah blah blah. I pulled the gun on him. How's that for a homecoming after a tour of duty?

Perhaps my happiest memories are of Uncle Bob, of the summers we'd spend together at my grandparents' home in northwest Arkansas. I learned to be jealous of his attention when his son was born. In many ways I was always jealous of my cousin. But my cousin hardly registers at all in my memories of Uncle Bob.

In 1977 he gave me and my sisters LPs for Christmas. One of them was Fleetwood Mac's Rumors. I wasn't much into it at the time. But just a few years later my interest in Fleetwood Mac would soar when I rediscovered the album in high school.

I've been listening to those songs for forty years now. I still have that album. And when I listen to digital versions from the cloud, my mind still anticipates the skips and scratches that have been a part of that album, a part of my memories of that album, for forty years.

"Go Your Own Way" is, according to iTunes, my most played track from the album.