Tag Archives: the limousines

Fan Mail for Evan Peterson: Dark Songs With Pretty Words

Evan J PetersenThis is my friend Evan Peterson. Isn’t he handsome? He runs this nifty press in Seattle, and he writes zombie poetry and other things horrific, queer and clever. He has a timid greyhound rescue dog named after a character in an Oscar Wilde story.

This is a mix tape for Evan. So the songs are a little dark or a little queer, or well-stated, just like Evan and the stuff he writes. I’ve also focused on songs that are new wave, electro, or dark wave as I know those are genres Mr. Petersen and I both favor. In honing the list, I’ve favored songs that embrace big topics like God while fearlessly examining our shadow selves, because I know Evan Petersen thinks about the heavy shit.

And this is the part where I explain the choices. Because what fun is a mix if you don’t overthink it? Continue reading Fan Mail for Evan Peterson: Dark Songs With Pretty Words

I Do Nothing To Stop the Blaze II

Very Busy People by The Limousines Listen on Posterous

I had a strange sensation the other evening. Riding on the Bay Bridge at night always makes me think of the time that tanker truck blew up and I saw a section of the freeway melt. The bridge is covered, so we couldn't see the tanker fire until we were right on top of it, flames suddenly shooting fifty feet into the black starless sky. That stretch of the bridge makes me metaphorical because it reminds me that there are situations where even if the fire you're facing is enormous, it is possible not to see it until it is too late. It is possible to be barreling down the metaphorical freeway, going 80, with few signs of the catastrophe ahead. I was reminded that the empire I was born into is riding the crest of a crashing wave, a tsunami taking down with it the salmon and the sturgeon and the grizzly bears and the polar bears, etc. 

I turned to the driver and in a dry voice I began to monologue about how lucky we are, not only to be born comfortably into the stack of nuclear weapons and Wal-marts that is the foundation of this nation, but also so lucky to have been born into this generation. To be born a hundred years ago in America would be to live before there were unions and women, men and children worked in unbearable conditions with no weekends for no end in site. But to be born a hundred years from now would be even worse: millions of environmental refugees, widespread ecological collapse, severe droughts and floods, starvation, famine—not to mention the largest extinction event in the history of the world. 

As he was agreeing we had won the time-and-place-of-birth lottery, I was thinking of an unfinished poem I wrote years ago. The poem, like the bulk of my work, is about the contrast between privilege and the knowledge that one's privilege comes at the expense of other creatures' suffering. It isn't surprising. I spent the first fifteen years of my life, for as long as I could remember, wanting to be a writer. Then I went to college, and, as my favorite professor Larry Isaacs put it, I "stopped living my own personal narrative and started living history." I felt a real imperative to change the world, even if it was at the expense of pursuing my dreams. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at changing the world. It seems my only real gifts are impractical things: writing, dancing, drawing. Despite that, I spent the next section of my life raising my fist at marches, running social justice campaigns, meeting influential activists, and generally being a hell-raiser. Now I've circled back to focusing on my writing. I live in a state where my vote is irrelevant, because everyone thinks the way I do. I'm happy and life is easy. But I still feel the pull. I still know the fire is coming. And this conflict is what I try to capture in my fiction and poetry. 

The poem that was running through my head ends: 

The indymedia headline reads: THE ELECTION WAS HACKED. I read it and cry and then corporate radio machine plays "Video Killed the Radio Star" and I dance in the sweet happy-face sunshine that I know is melting the polar ice caps.

And then an odd thing happened. I realized the song playing on the radio was my favorite song from 2010. Immediately I perked up, yanked on the volume nob and started to sing. The very thing that I had written about in the poem actually happened: I was distracted from contemplating the terrible situation we've gotten ourselves into; it was a mere abstraction compared to the immediacy of a simple luxury: a song I loved coming on the radio. What was even stranger was that the song itself epitomizes my life of luxury. The song, "Very Busy People" is about the endless stream of pleasure and distraction I was contemplating:  

We'll end up numb from playing video games and we'll get sick of having sex. And we'll get fat from eating candy as we drink ourselves to death. We'll stay up late making mix tapes, photoshoping pictures of ourselves while we masturbate to these pixelated videos of strangers fucking themselves.

The metaphor had become real. I was caught in a tangle of irony. I was caught in a loop, wherein no matter how hard the universe attempted to send me the message: Your luxury is an illusion, temporary at best, the message was always carried on the back of the illusion itself, ZOMG, I love this song, turn it up! Or perhaps it is the reverse: every moment I'm enjoying myself—knitting scarves, scrubbing my feet soft and masqueing my pores smooth, alphabetizing my CDs, laying in the orderly grass and drinking Saki—all of these things are clouded by the knowledge of my privilege. Even the passion for working in publishing is tarnished by the knowledge of the production cycle that produces millions of books every year. The experience was a reminder that no matter how hard we try, we cannot contemplate anything without seeing it through the frame of reference of our worldview. I felt like the cavemen of Socrates, realizing my reality was cast through the distorted lense of the shadows on the cave walls. And all this time, with the knowledge that I'd slipped back into the comfort of my lifestyle, I kept singing: my shoulders dancing, my mouth smiling, and the shimmering skyline of Oakland baring herself before me as we disembarked the bridge. I felt that I was wearing a mask. But which was the mask? The sulking me, that had so easily turned off when my song came on the radio? Or the smiling me, that dances in the sweet happy-face Oakland skyline?

Posted via email from Future is Fiction

Treasure Island Music Festival 2009: Sat morning

Perfect weather introduced the first and most promising act of the Treasure Island Music Festival: The Limousines. I’ve caught the end of their show once before and they were good enough that I got up early on a Saturday just to see them again. Unfortunately traffic around the Berkeley Bowl caused me to miss half their show again. Their songs are cute and funny and both the lyrics and the beat make me want to dance from even the first time hearing them. In my mind, The Limousines are the band of 2009 to get excited about.

The next act we caught was Murs. He had nice beats though his rapping voice wasn’t particularly special. We got up and danced for “To Protect and Entertain,” which is a Busy P track that he has a segment in. Surprisingly, he chose to use the Crookers beat live. Can’t be blamed, as that is one sick remix. That’s maybe the second time I’ve heard a live version of a remix (not counting Smash-up Derby). I wonder if, and how quickly, that will become commonplace—and if DJs will be given proper credit for their reworkings.

Passion Pit at the Treasure Island Music Festival 2009
Passion Pit at the Treasure Island Music Festival 2009
Taking pics with video screens is fun

After that came Passion Pit. I don’t know why these guys don’t stir me more live. Their songs are all lovely and quirky and danceable. Maybe it’s because none of them have an inner-diva that craves the audience to stay riveted on their every move. Though I’ve read that their breakout album was actually a love-letter from the lead singer to his girlfriend, no insight is given as to where the songs come from. Not that I am discouraging anyone from seeing Passion Pit. The audience was enthralled, singing along like true fans. Replaying the shit bootleg I recorded there stirs joy  in my heart. And they are still top of the heap among the bands putting out albums this year.

The Streets were the second biggest surprise of the festival. I’ve always felt that some of their songs were a bit slow or too repetitive but live the Brit-rapper’s charm and wit had me hooked. The Streets is a naughty but reasonable rake. The singer that accompanies him really adds to the show and the new guitarist did the kind of intensive shredding you don’t expect to see in a rap show. Blame all the photo editing I did prior to writing this, but Wayne Vibes made a cameo in my dreams last night. Anyone could plainly see that the penis of a man who can play guitar like that would have no trouble making new friends so it was no surprise when impish Streets informed Wayne that he’d be “getting laid tonight.”

Wayne Vibes: Sure to get laid.
Wayne Vibes: Sure to get laid.

A naughty boy
A naughty boy

At one point The Streets told a girl astride someone’s shoulders that she was blocking the view of all the people behind her. The penalty would be to remove her shirt. The chiding didn’t work on this girl but I can imagine that many titties are unleashed at Streets shows. As the show neared its end The Streets continually teased the audience that he had a favor to ask of us, just one favor, and that it was coming up. He finally had everyone in the audience “go low” so that you could look out and see the thousand behind you, crouching. Audience participation like this may ultimately be little more than silliness but it is a big part of *why I go to shows in the first place. I ate it up.

This man is not lacking in awesome either
This man is not lacking in awesome either

The Streets
The Streets

*Oh! Seed for future blog!