Loose Strife

An MP3 blog

Sunday, October 23, 2005

#24 - Art-house porn can be depressing. Music too, albeit less so.

A couple of nights ago I saw Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs---which in addition to offering a lot of graphic, intermittently hot sex, tries to capture the sensation of standing around in a rock club and giving yourself over to the volume and beats and notes through the eyes of a 30-something Antarctic geologist, who is falling deep into it a thing with a 21 yr old hottie he met in a club. Outside the Brixton Academy one night for a Super Furry Animals show when his girlfriend is elsewhere, the dude marvels “five thousand people in a room and you can still feel alone.”

Well, yeah.

It seems to me the essential condition of being in a rock audience is precisely this. Standing alongside dozens or hundreds or thousands of other people (or even just one), all locked away in their individual experience---drugged or sober---of what is supposed to be a collective rapture, a group orgasm. But they never are. The performances that have always moved me the most were those that attempted to break through or melt this wall of isolation, usually via dancing. The Dead once. At The Drive In show. An early Jurassic Five show in San Francisco. Basement Jaxx. But they all fall short. Even if you are there with a lover---and I saw 135 shows with Emily (I know; I have every ticket stub)---and even if you go home to have hot, spitty, rough sex afterwards, it is impossible to escape the feeling that while the band is playing, and you are riding pleasure waves created by audio waves rubbing, riding, slapping you the way a lover might, you are alone.

Jesus, dude---snap out of it. You’re really beginning to sound pathetic. This is going to be my last post until I can pull myself out of this funk. As for music, no funk tonight. I’m just not feeling it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

#23 - Transgenderism, vaporization, and the glory of Antony

“Mysteries of Love” – Antony and the Johnsons

Been awhile. Much to catch up on. I’ll do it in a few sequential posts so you don’t get bored with another long ramble.

Went to see Antony and the Johnsons last night at Carnegie Hall. Yes, Carnegie Hall.

For those not familiar with Antony, this is surprising. He is a downtown performance artist, a boy who straddles genders aesthetically and spiritually, who I last saw perform in a sort of kabuki whiteface at a small club called Tonic, where I recall him sitting at a piano and singing songs of such delicately weird and transcendent beauty, with his wildly quavering and bravely vulnerable high tenor (low alto?), I got all teary eyed.

He also did one about blow jobs that was very funny.

I managed to wrangle a ticket out of his booking agent, Gigi (formerly George), a very beautiful transvestite (or possibly transgender; I’ve never asked, though if he/she is doing anything in terms of breast implants, it’s a very understated effect). I was invited to dinner at a Greek restaurant with a bunch of his/her friends, and we talked about real estate and rocket science (one guy, very handsome, was a jet propulsion engineer) and music and recreational drugs over retsina and priorat and some lovely grilled octopus. Afterwards we huddled in a doorway to smoke some excellent Mendocino green bud in a gadget called a vaporizer, which you used with a Bic lighter just like a regular pipe. But instead of burning the weed, the flame instead bakes it inside of a metal chamber, which causes the plant matter to generate a very tiny amount of smoke that contains all the active ingredients you need.

I gotta say, it’s a little less sensuous than filling your lungs with a big fat cloud. But as its owner pointed out---a 40-something FTM tranny who worked as a very high paid corporate lawyer in San Francisco---it's much healthier. "Lung cancer," she pointed out, "is not sensuous."

True, that.

The show was wonderful, with a hilarious but also genuinely sorrowful version of Whitney Houston's "I Want to Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (which the singer remade as a love letter to Shania Twain) and an incredibly beautiful version of the Velvet Underground’s “Candy Says,” which Lou Reed---a friend of Antony’s who appears on his most recent LP, I Am A Bird Now---came out to play guitar on. It’s a song about Candy Darling, the transgender star in Andy Warhol’s circle whose deathbed photo appears on the cover of I Am A Bird Now.

When Antony hit the high notes at the end of each chorus, it was so sublime I nearly fainted, and would have were I not sitting down. On my left was Gigi, smelling like honeydew and sinsemilla, on my right a transgender journalist I did not know scribbling notes on his/her program, from whom I detected a scent of red wine and roses. The seats in the balcony were close together, and during the really emotional parts of the show, she moved her black-stockinged leg up and down not quite in rhythm to the music, rubbing it occasionally against mine.

I think heaven is something like this. Only with more comfortable seats, I hope.

Jimmy Scott, the veteran jazz singer with a voice and presentation that is also gender-blurring, sang a few songs. And I thought about how many great divas had sung on the stage of Carnegie Hall in years past. My father told me he saw Billie Holiday there on more than one occasion, back in the day.

Gender – so arbitrary.

Above, a cover from Antony’s I Fell In Love With A Dead Boy EP. “Mysteries of Love” is the wonderful song written by Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch for the film Blue Velvet, where I recall it appearing as a slow-dance number at a house party. Originally sung gorgeously by Julee Cruise (where is she now?), its slightly Cocteau Twins electronic ambience sounded somewhat out of place in the film’s neo-fifties setting---intentionally, no doubt. But this version might have even worked better. I will keep it in mind (along with that Whitney cover, if Antony ever records it) for a slow-dance mix tape. You never know when you might need one.