11 October 2008

Beauty and Sadness at the Ryman Auditorium

Since moving to Nashville, I had already started thinking about my first visit to the Ryman Auditorium. I knew that I wanted it to be a spectacular experience. I wanted it to be a show that I personally felt was worthy of entering this historic and beautiful building. I wanted to have the "sublime experience." I thought Conor Oberst and his new band would be perfect, but due to scheduling conflicts I was unable. When I found out that The Hold Steady would be playing on Halloween night- I knew this was the perfect event. It would create the exact experience I wanted to have inside the auditorium.

But in the most unexpected way- I ended up the Ryman this last week for an impromptu show. After a couple of drinks one night, I discovered that the one and only Dancing Outlaw would be opening for The Black Keys. Upon this information, I purchased two tickets within a couple of minutes. Finding out that for the first time and perhaps the only time in my life, I'd have the opportunity to see Jesco White perform, I knew I had better be there.

If you don't know about the cult legend that is Jesco White- take some time in the privacy of your own home to do a search. There are plenty of videos from the 1991 documentary, Dancing Outlaw online, if you so desire. Perhaps I should preface this entry by saying that I first saw this documentary when I was about 19 years old. At the time, it was one of the most hilarious pieces of cinematic documentation I had ever viewed. Now in retrospect, I realize not only that I have different feelings about Jesco, but that also the most hilarious thing I've ever seen is the television show, Words of Deliverance.

Regardless, now when I go back to view the footage of Jesco White, I find myself ambivalent. I feel voyeuristic. I feel embarrassed. Regardless, I still wasn't going to miss a chance to see him perform. So, it wasn't my picture perfect idea of my first show at the Ryman, but it would have to do.

I was immediately in awe of the Ryman upon entering. I plan to see as many shows at this venue as possible during my time in Nashville. It was rather spectacular and quite comfortable- though I wish I could say the same about some of the others in attendance.

Jesco performed in the middle, right before The Black Keys started. Apparently, he had been enjoying a bit of the sauce before waltzing on stage. Upon his appearance, he stripped off his shirt and began making all types of gestures (such as milking himself, smoking pot, and masturbating), while half tap-dancing and half-talking to the people in the first few rows. It was funny at first. Even his sister, Mamie, was there. It was shortly into his first couple of songs(?) and it seemed that the moment of complete and utter drunkenness was upon him. I also noticed that there were equal parts of folks at the show that knew of his legendary status and equal parts of folks who felt this "performance" was the most ridiculous experience of their young, privileged lives. I only know this affirmatively after an altercation with a loud-talker that was right behind me. Had I paid better attention, I should have picked up on the name of the couple that he and his friends were so loudly talking trash about, so I could feel a sense of justice by outing them.

By the end of the performance, when Jesco was almost literally dragged off stage by Mamie...I started feeling uncomfortable. He fell down on stage. People laughed. People clapped. I found out shortly afterwards, he was kicked out of the Ryman (perhaps it was a rite of passage for him?) The more I think about it, I wonder about the thin line between a form of entertainment and a voyeuristic train wreck. I wondered what The Black Keys expected to happen when this booking? I wondered what it was that I really thought would happen when I bought the tickets? Was I expecting this display of humiliation? Did I think he would just come out tap-dance and spew some of his incredibly odd translations on the philosophy of life? I'm not sure. And perhaps that is what makes me truly uncomfortable.

I plan to rectify this Ryman experience in a few short weeks with The Hold Steady show. I pray that Craig Finn doesn't do anything that makes me feel odd.

05 October 2008

Five Songs for September

1. I Don't Want- Age Pryor and The Marvellous Medicine

This song comes from a fantastic movie by Taika Cohen that features Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords. An excellent film and an excellent soundtrack. In particular this song will always remind me of the first mix that I made for a new colleague within my first couple of weeks of school. This in addition to the fact that this soundtrack was one of the salvageable items from my Itunes after the hard drive crash of 2008 also means I've listened to it dozens of times in the last month.

2. Calling and Not Calling My Ex- Okkervil River

As it should be noted, I've been a fan of this band for quite some time. I had hoped to travel to Birmingham last week to see them, but due to the constraints of graduate school- I was unable. The entire album is brilliant, I do believe. The narratives of Okkervil River are stories that I find myself getting lost within. And then it just dawned on me, perhaps this is the nature of my musical taste now- I like the stories, the narratives.

3. Follow- Richie Havens

I don't know how Richie Havens missed my radar, but I'm almost even more embarrassed to mention how I found out about Havens. Discovering on netflix that Time Life produced a series of History of Rock n' Roll dvds, I was immediately intrigued. Despite the fact there were times I felt ultimately disappointed by their choices and revisionist history of rock music- I must say, I'm ultimately happy that it was Time Life that introduced me to the music of Richie Havens.

4. Pledging My Time- Bob Dylan

Perhaps I shouldn't follow up one folk song with another, but mid-September I was feeling awfully folk-y. Not to mention, I fucking love this picture of Dylan. I think just to spite Jason Bugg, I'm going to put one Bob Dylan song each month on my top five. Regardless, there is something about this song that reminds me of graduate school, the time here. Perhaps it is the first line about early morning and late at night. Now if only graduate school will also come through too.

"And if it don't work out, you'll be the first to know..."

5. Barcelona- Giulia Y Los Tellarini

I absolutely adore Woody Allen. In addition to that, I adore Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, and Penelope Cruz. So what could be better than all four of them involved in the same movie? I always find great humor in the way that Woody Allen movies are described..."his best movie in 20 years..." Did everyone forget about Match Point? What about the dozens of other films that he made? When I hear these sort of things, I always think about how even the worst movie by Woody Allen is categorically better than most of the crap that comes out and fills up the box offices. Regardless of where this film falls on the continuum of Allen's genius, I loved this film. And listening to the soundtrack reminds me even more of how much I loved it.