Recommended Listening To Keep Your Ears Guessing
Muse – Black Holes And Revelations
I used to think that there were no rock bands left alive in the 21st century who could make a great keyboard record. To be fair, first I had to get past the Radiohead-ness of the lead singer’s voice and melodic sense. I’m glad I did, though. This record is meticulously arranged and produced and miraculously does not stray beyond the boundaries of good taste. Somehow they knew when to stop and leave the finished product with just enough space to avoid clutter. There are a lot of parts, but you can trace each of them lovingly as they go by and simultaneously comprehend the complete, beautifully sad, whole. The combination of thick layers of synth, piano, real drums, fuzzy bass, distorted guitars, gloriously leaping poignant melodies, and angry often despairing writing is refreshing to say the least. I love albums that force me to listen to them again and again to wring out a little more understanding each time around. I also love it that Muse can play kick out the heaviest, thickest, head banging unison figures just as well as they can write a heartbreaking melody.
Well, at least the rain had stopped when we got up to drive to London. The sun was shining and the temperature was rising steadily. Unfortunately, we were just as damp as we were the night before when it was pouring rain. We were also covered in at least two layers of sweat and dirt, one from the show last night, and another layer that had built up while we were trying to sleep. Nothing had dried out overnight, and all of the clothes and bedding were damp and limp.
After our morning round of coffee and arguing at Timmy’s we sogged back to the van for a hot damp drive. We made it to London and found the venue. Then we were off to an Internet cafe, as it had been a few days since we had made contact with the outside world. I swear the van gets smaller every day, and I do get desperate to just be somewhere else where I don’t have to look at those guys for a few minutes.
As we were busily checking e-mail, my phone rang. It was Adrian from the Nerve magazine, calling from Vancouver to do a phone interview. He called last night before the Hamilton show, but there was some confusion on my part as I didn’t know what day it was, what time it was, the date, and I couldn’t remember if PST was 3 hours ahead or behind Ontario time. It’s a miracle I remembered how to answer my phone.
“So, why do you think you guys don’t get any respect in Vancouver?”, he started off with. “Well, we played a great show at The Lamplighter for our tour-kickoff”, I said cautiously. “There were lots of nice people there who told us they loved our set”. Maybe Adrian knows something I don’t know. I thought the problem was that nobody was aware of this band, not that we were being deliberately slighted and ignored.(And if that’s the case, what’s up with that, you jerks?) “Maybe it’s the name”, I suggested with a giggle. Damn. Adrian’s velvety good humored phone voice was triggering my breathless giggle reflex. Steady, Maira.
Lots of people, especially dudes, recoil at our band name, at least they do when they’re talking to me. Here’s my most common post-show conversation:
“Wow, that was great”.
“Thanks a lot, dude.”
“What’s the name of your band?”
“The Feminists”. Awkward pause. Nervous eye-shifting.
“Really, that’s your name?”
“Yes, really. Now fuck off or buy a cd”. Okay, I don’t usually add that last part out loud.
I guess it’s like calling your band The Vomit Chunks or The Republicans. People have to see you and hear you in order to transform their negative assumptions about vomit chunks or republicans or feminists into awestruck admiration.
“You guys really seem like a family”, Adrian continued, “More so than a lot of other bands I’ve talked to”. Huh. For the record, I am NOT RELATED to any of the guys. Apparently we are maintaining a convincing facade of bonhomie. “Well, the relationships within the band are pretty solid”, I replied. “Mike, Ferdy and I knew each other for about 10 years before this band started, and I’ve known Keith for 5. The four of us have been playing together for almost 3 years”.
When we’re on tour, we become best friends, or so I’d like to believe. However, we rarely socialize as a group when we’re not working together. We also have to work consciously at getting along with each other. Well, I do at least. In the end it’s less effort to walk away or bite your tongue than it is to argue with every stupid thing that comes out of somebody’s mouth. Constant picking at each other takes the focus away from trying to sound good together.
I’m getting that kind of comment more and more. Wow, you guys get along so well, you must really like each other. It’s all an illusion! If we really let ourselves go, there’d be fistfights and screaming matches every night. But the music is more important than that. Of course we each have our things that we absolutely hate about the others. Well, I do at least. Luckily, we all like the songs so much that we’re able to put the music first. A little secret – if you get into the habit of behaving well to your bandmates, even if it’s just an act and what you really want to do is take that cigarette and smash it up Grief’s nose…I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yes, if you can make yourself behave in a civil fashion on a consistent basis, often the feeling that is supposed to accompany these kind gestures materializes and you find yourself just being genuinely pleasant most of the time. Which is a lot less taxing than being angry and in constant conflict with three other people all the the time.
I do love these guys ardently, and have an awesome relationship with each of them, inside and outside of the band. These are remarkable dudes. Each one of them is an original, eccentric, larger than life, hilarious fellow who is beloved and respected by all of their many many friends. I wish all women could have a chance to hang out with them and see how cute and funny they are. Today would be good. I could really use some time to myself.
After the interview we were on our way to an in-store performance at a local record shop. It’s been a long time since we’ve had to play 2 shows in one day, and a good long while since we’ve played a subdued acoustic set. We pulled up to Groove’s Records and unloaded our gear.
We all looked like hell – damp, hot, dirty, sweaty and kinda stinky. Picture the van as a sardine can that someone left out in the sun and the Fems as warm sardines soaking in a rich brine of rock and roll. I fished around for a less damp t-shirt and tried to rub off some of the mascara streaks from last night. I’ll know I’ve made it when the van is no longer my dressing room.
We played for half an hour, and it was pretty good. Nice to have a chance to play all the softer songs, and it’s good to play quietly sometimes and listen to how all the parts interlock. There were a few people there, and we managed to sell some cd’s afterward. Everyone was nice to us and we heard many encouraging words. We loaded out and parked behind the club we would be playing at later. Grief cooked up some tacos, and after dinner Ferdy and I went back to the internet cafe to more fully satisfy our electronic longings.
Then it was time for load in and set up. It was raining again, still hot. We snagged a couple of couches as far away from the stage as possible- we loves us some couches – and settled in for another long evening of rock and roll. Mike passed out and snored, openmouthed and oblivious. I knitted many rows, Ferdy read, and Grief played gameboy. The first band was unremarkable, except to say that they weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. They took about half an hour to tear down. The drummer took apart his kit piece by piece, slowly and deliberately, in the middle of the stage. Or where the stage would be if there was one, in this case there was just a small area of floor. Mike finally started carrying the hardware over to the side, but Slowpoke McGee didn’t get the hint and remained firmly planted in the middle of everything. That kind of lazy drummer knows that someone else will move his gear from him if he waits long enough. Too bad the window was nailed shut.
We set up and rocked. Someone who had seen us at the instore earlier on came to the show, so that was great. He was a very nice guy from Pittsburgh, possibly our first American fan. Ferdy got notably plastered. He’s not a mean drunk, just a very loud enthusiastic one. Grief and I aren’t much for drunken enthusiasm, but it’s fun to watch Ferdy to make new friends in his state of hyper-sociability. Mike went out to the van to sleep until it was time to load out. Keith and I sold some merch, and then there was nothing to do except wait for the last band to be done. And follow the sound of Belland’s happy bellowing as he loped around the bar telling the other bands how amazing they were, how amazing everything was. Ah, happy Belland. We like him to get it all out of his system before we jam him back into the van to be quiet and meek so the rest of us can sleep.
The last band had two guitar players who played harmonized guitar solos standing back to back. More than once. I wonder if they do that in rehearsal too.”It’s tragic that Mike is missing this”, I whispered to Grief. Not every day does one get to travel back to 1987. They didn’t have the hair to toss around though, which kind of spoiled my suspension of disbelief.
Finally we loaded out. It was raining, windy, thundering and lightning. Still hot. We slept indoors, thanks to our kindhearted London friend Joey, who had also booked the show. On to Peterborough.