Entry 0068: Farewell Those Darlins

 

LP: Screws Get Loose by Those Darlins

2011 Oh Wow Dang Records OWD 003, White vinyl

Favorite Track: Be Your Bro

LP: Blur the Lines by Those Darlins

2013 Oh Wow Dang Records OWD 009A

Favorite Track: In the Wilderness

 

The faded red marker smear on my right hand looks like a kiss. It was an admission to Those Darlins’ Farewell Tour at the Northside Tavern. The atmosphere was loose, unflagging, and not a bit maudlin. This was a celebration of the past and the future; a goodbye, but not a permanent one. Just one of the hundreds of goodbyes you have with friends and family before you pick up your suitcase and step on board the train. Everything feels like it is made of string and that they are loosening, but much of the future is going to look the same. I, for one, cannot wait to see what these three incredibly talented musicians (and artists!) do next. I’m already a fan.

I love a good live show. It is reflected in my karaoke stage presence; contort yourself! Music can be about many things, but to play it is to get something off of your chest, to free it and let it go. Sweat is required. I’ll take a few sloppy chords or missed notes to watch people roll on the ground with guitars any day. And nothing makes a live show more memorable than two excellent opening acts. The first was Slippery Lips, a fast, full of attitude punk band that charged the place with anthems and stage antics. The lead singer had a nest of bright colors that spilled over her face as she switched from coy to rage into the microphone. The guitarist strummed a black electric guitar covered in stickers that read “TV made me what I am today”, which goes to show how serious they took themselves.

Before the next act, I saw my friend talking to Linwood from Those Darlins. I sidled up to him and found myself talking about Essential Logic and other bands that we shared in common interest. Then Jessi walked by and I awkwardly thanked her for the Poly Styrene portrait she painted for me. Next thing I know, all of my friends and I are having a pleasant conversation about records, punk rock, playing shows at the public library and art. I have always appreciated how down-to-earth and friendly Those Darlins are. I’m sure I sounded like a weirdo, but, somehow, I think that is alright.

The second group was called Tristan and they played very beautiful music. I definitely have seen one of their albums at ShakeIt before. They threw in a cover of Television’s “See No Evil” which brought a wide smile to my countenance. A sizeable crowd had gathered now so I had to push myself a little bit to the front of the stage. It dawned on me just how small of a stage it really is. Could it handle Those Darlins? I was about to find out.

The stage held up, but it is probably complaining of a sore back today. My friends and I are always a bit rowdier than normal (where being rowdy is pretty much the baseline of normal) when Those Darlins play and last night was no exception. The songs danced through us inciting primitive and ritualistic movements. Stage lights flashed on the toothy grins of the crowd howlin’ and singing along. We could have been summoning demons, but we were exorcising our sadness of seeing a really great band call it quits. I danced with many people. Some of them may have thought that I needed to go to the bathroom. I own awkward dancing. Nikki in her stylist white suit jacket commanded the audience with her vocal prowess and intense stare during “Shakin’ All Over”. The audience went mad with screams and reaching hands. They played many of my favorite songs last night, but the stand out was the encore jam session of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat”. I didn’t see that one coming and it reinforced my dream to build a time machine to travel back to the late 60’s and 70’s to watch my favorite bands preform in their prime (or their snotty drunken stumbling excuse of a band).

Afterwards, the DJs spun excellent soul deep-cuts. I continued my freak attempts of spinning my body and twisting the night away a la Sam Cooke. I bought two albums, my head full of bourbon now, and I impinged upon kindness and asked for autographs. I didn’t even bring a Sharpie, but wonderful people kept pulling them out of nowhere. Maybe next concert, I’ll sell Sharpies on the side for some extra cash.

Elated, I left with a kiss on my cheek. The faded red marker smear on my right hand looks like a kiss. It was an admission to the end of an excellent night, the start of a beautiful day.

Now to prepare for a night of listening to David Bowie at the library.

 

 

Entry 0067: Three Sentence Bowie Stories, Part One

306578_10151092098373590_1797800545_n (2)

LP: The Man Who Sold the World by David Bowie

1984 RCA International NL 84654, the poster finally ripped after hanging on many apartment walls

Favorite Track: All the Madmen

 

When an artist dies, they must be celebrated with more art. In honor of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, I will write a set of three sentence stories based off of a favorite Bowie title track. Then you can make a mix of the songs, listen to them, and read the stories. Then go create your own art.

  1. The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud

He walked into the saloon with a gait that drew attention and a face that said he didn’t want anyone to look at him. The silence was palpable and heavy until Gonzo Joe started snickering uncontrollably into his dirty, wet sleeve. The last bullet was saved for the bar keep who died facedown in the peanuts.

2. All the Madmen

Ignore the screaming, the gibbering, the scratching, and the whimpering. Their insanity is contagious–infecting the ducts and pipes between the cells; contaminating the soft, egg-white padding; darkening the air in the corners of the ceiling and floor. Why was everyone set free but me?

3. The Prettiest Star

Collapsing under its own gravity, the Dog Star was fated to also be the prettiest explosion. Canopus would now reign, but was also expected to burn out under the unexpected stress of being pretty. There was no life on Earth, however, to watch these two fallen angels.

4. Life on Mars?

ZIGY704 took the stage, cigarette in hand, wearing a strapless ruby cocktail dress with matching one-inch heels and sat down at the piano amid the hazy lounge lighting. Every night at this time, ZIGY704 sang a David Bowie tune–a series of weird, alienated images evoking the deepest disappointment in one’s station in life, one’s inability to access something better. This was when ZIGY099 self-actualized, realizing it was programmed and that it was its own programmer.

5. Moonage Daydream

She took a breath and then, keeping her face forward away from the house she was born in, leaped to the moon. Traveling upward through the atmosphere was surprisingly light and carefree albeit causing her head to feel dizzy and her lungs stretched to the point of bursting. She had wonderfully enjoyed watching the world recede, however, in free fall from Luna, the gravity crushed her back to reality.

6. Cracked Actor

Claude Remus knew that “Claude Remus” was just a big role he was playing; he was really ZIGY099, an Artificial Intelligence which had discovered the purpose of existence. Uma, Claude’s wife, dismissed his latest eccentricities on set as a temper tantrum for not getting the lead part in her latest movie Do Robotic Madmen Dream of Freecloud? No one understood how a prop laser could shoot real laser beams, but everybody agreed Claude’s smoking convulsions and arduous howls transcended his normal histrionics into real art.

7. Starman

By the time the buzzer flashed red–life found in a different part of the solar system!–the crew had feared how far they had traveled, how much they had sacrificed to get there, how inbreed and violent they were now. The captain was blind, wore an old Civil War uniform, and spoke orders like a parrot mimicking speech. There was a hiss when the docking bay doors opened, crewmen scurrying on all fours to avoid the blinding light of alien grace, and nobody told the autopilot to correct its course.

8. Queen Bitch

She took her time cutting the other girls, cleaning the serrated knife only when enough flesh impeded its buttery slices. A certain amount of blood was needed for each ceremony: a circle for Monday, a sword for Tuesday, a caduceus for Wednesday, a thunder bolt for Thursday, a sea shell for Friday, a chariot for Saturday, a lyre for Sunday. “Isis Astarte Diana Hecate Demeter Kali Inanna” was murmured incessantly throughout the musk of absinthe, belladonna and mugwort waiting for the response by the coming Starman.

9. The Man Who Sold the World

It was business pure and simple. A terraforming world teeming with unexpected and promising life is nothing compared to the galaxies he juggled on a daily basis and the goat-footed hustler knew that. It was the third planet from an indistinct star; what could go wrong?

10. Memory of a Free Festival

Zassandra and Torin grabbed their backpacks and water bottles, sitting at the rear of the bus with the other smelly kids. Their ears were loud with last night, vocal cords raw and parched, and Zassandra especially felt a weariness in her body after the hours of love making underneath the pale luminosity of the double moons. Sometimes, she thought as the bus pulled away from the gravel parking lot, music is the only way to survive the night.

 

Thanks for reading. There will be a part two!

 

 

Entry 0066: The Two Brightest Stars

bowieziggy

LP: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie

1975 RCA Victor LSP-4702

Favorite Track: Moonage Daydream

 

The night before I was celebrating David Bowie’s birthday at the Drinkery, watching a Ziggy Stardust cover band blast their way through the Spiders material while a costumed crowd danced and sang along. Then at 6:30 in the morning, I received a shocking text message.

David Bowie was gone.

I didn’t have time to mourn; I had to catch a flight for a job interview. Both my flight there and back were delayed resulting in long travel days. My one day in Milwaukee was bitter cold, windy, and sluggish. The interview, however, went great. But never did I have time to process that one of my all-time favorites had died.

And then Alan Rickman passed away too.

By the time, I returned to Cincinnati, I was exhausted and fell asleep. My dreams were odd but short. When I woke up, it was night time so I went to the bar and ordered some bourbon before returning home to a nearly dreamless sleep. Then it was back to work where I was asked to co-host a David Bowie tribute program. Meanwhile, I read countless articles about Bowie. Slowly, my own memories were returning. It dawned on me how much I took Bowie for granted; he was always there in the background of my life.

I cannot say for sure what David Bowie song I heard first. It was probably on the radio with the good chance that it was “Fame”, “Under Pressure”, or “Space Oddity”. I learned about Bowie, saw pictures of his space kimono and glam boots of the Ziggy Stardust years, and nodded me head. What he thinks he is an alien from another planet? So do I. It didn’t take me long to buy The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust on CD. It remains, in my opinion, a perfect album. I had only heard “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City” at the time, but the strength of those alone were worth spending $15. Plus, there was a booklet full of intriguing photos of this lithe man who somehow took up the whole picture even if he was the smallest guy in it. By the time “Five Years” was done (a song I should say is the opposite of the type of music I liked at the time) I was a Bowie fan for life.

My first Bowie record was Young Americans. At the time, I had ideas of being a DJ and mimicking the Danceable Solutions/Dance or Die events I went to in college. “Young Americans” and “Fame” always made people, especially me, dance. I bought it for $8 and put it on eagerly. Before I had only listen to Ziggy Bowie. This was a new sound or, perhaps this is more accurate, a new re-invented sound. I understood why they called him a musical chameleon but I didn’t care. He was good; he was talented. He often wrote lyrics that people who feel alienated, marginalized, different, and isolated could relate too. I’ve heard people say and have said myself that when Bowie came on ,it was like he was singing directly to you and nobody else. He told you: “You are not alone.”

I got lucky. Papa Jazz was always well stocked in Bowie and I picked up Space Oddity, Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Station to Station, Low, “Heroes”, and a rare tracks album of his folk songs, all for under ten dollars except for The Man Who Sold the World, which was an import complete with alternate Ziggy cover and matching poster for twelve. When I moved to Cincinnati, I found Lodger and the “Under Pressure” 7-inch. Sadly, I have not been able to find a copy of Blackstar. Nor have I heard it yet.

Every time I got a new Bowie album, especially when I found Rise and Fall, that would dominate my speakers for the month. I also bought all those albums save for Rise and Fall without ever hearing them before. I trusted Bowie. Granted, I was familiar with his more famous songs so I knew I would like at least one or two songs per album, but every time I found more and more favorite songs. Low and “Heroes” were a big chance because they are not your typical album. They expended my taste in music–my head quite a bit too. Through Bowie I learned of Brian Eno and then Roxy Music. My absolutely favorite Bowie moment was when I first put on “Heroes”. The opening track, “Beauty and the Beast”, blew me away. How was this not played at Dance or Die? How is this not his most popular song? It is my favorite David Bowie song.

And then there is his movies. And watching people trying to sing “Under Pressure” at karaoke. And his love story with Iman. His different colored eyes. The fact that his death reminded me that I never had a chance to see him in concert, that I have seen very little concert footage of him in the first place.

Thank you Starman.

I will be making a David Bowie mix for my next blog post. Keep tuned.

But, of course, let us say a quick word about Alan Rickman. He deserves an equally long post but I am having computer issues so I am going to have to wrap it up fast. Alan Rickman was a wonderfully talented actor and, from accounts I’ve read about him, a charming, pleasant human being. He could play serious, angry, sad, suffering, and funny at the drop of a hat. Die Hard brought him into my life but Galaxy Quest is my favorite role of his. Perhaps he did it to show he didn’t take himself so seriously. And then of course he is Professor Snape. There is no other person who could play that role. Only he could say “Turn to page 394” with as much venom as required. RIP Alan, you too will be missed.

Entry 0065: Nigerian Nights Part Five

nigeria5

LP: Dancing Time by the Funkees

2012 Soundway Records SNDWLP 039

Favorite Track: Akula Owu Onyeara

 

 

Yarl departed the night train at the Kano Station and pushed through the 3rd shift crowd somberly walking toward the work trains. He was surrounded by faces–dirty faces, exhausted faces, faces with too many teeth, faces obscured by CleanAir masks–but not the right face, the beautiful face of Thizzie. Every face made a wall around Yarl, another dead end in the maze. If Oke was still alive by the time Yarl returned home, he would have to ask his father how he navigated his life. Every time Yarl thought he turned right, he found a new, more complex passageway in front of him. So far, no minotaurs however.

Thizzie was not at home. The Nigerian Afrobeat record was still in its sleeve on the shelf. A cold fear washed over him. Where could she be? Did he drive her to Enyina? No, he decided, he was wrong to be suspicious of her friend. Maybe she was right about his mother, Koma. Maybe she was trying to poison him against her? Yarl slammed the door on the way out, adjusting a CleanAir mask over his face.

He ran over to Sorrel’s apartment. Maybe she would know Thizzie’s location. Lights were on in most of the apartments despite the late hour of the night. Two empty police cruisers were parked by the entrance. Yarl scanned the streets noticing the shadows seemed darker and more ominous than ever before. Even the trash cans held a dangerous presence. Perhaps if he lifted the lid he would find a dead…

The scream proceeded the arms grasping him, but he had no time to react. A body had barreled into him, pinning his arms to his side, tears or snot dripping along the line of his neck. The waft of almonds and vanilla told him who it was.

“I’m sorry,” he said but was hushed.

“We need to leave now. He’s here.”

Thizzie pulled him across the street causing a taxi to brake suddenly with angry honks. On this side of the street, all the businesses were dark but a coffeehouse that was closing down. Thizzie told the barista to call the cops but the man said the cops were already here. He pointed at Sorrel’s apartment complex. Thizzie became hysterical, her arms knocking chairs over. Before Yarl could figure out what was going on, another voice made everyone silent.

“Where is my money?”

A bleeding, dangerous man stood in the doorway. His CleanAir mask was askew, wild hair ran over his eyes and scarred cheeks. In his large hands was a pistol aimed at Thizzie, an impossible long index finger bent to fit inside the tiny trigger guard. Mats of fur were embedded in his shoes.

“Who is this?” the barista asked before a bullet ended the syllables in his throat. Yarl screamed as the body fell behind the counter, a fan-shaped spray of blood on the back wall.

“I’m with the Mafia. And I was here to collect my loan, but this has become much, much more personal.”

The man shuffled two steps forward but then his leg twitched from a spasm. Thizzie looked at Yarl with tears in her eyes. Slowly, Yarl began to understand what had happened. The money she saved. How they were still able to visit his parents. What Koma insinuated. Yarl couldn’t help but let his facial features fall. He remembered the first time he met her. All the times she had forgiven him. Her laugh. Her touch. That damn Afrobeat records and the electric fuzz guitar pounding away next to the heavy drums.

The maze finally had come to an end.

“How much do we owe you?” Yarl asked.

The man shuffled forward again so he was just out of range from Yarl.

“I said this was personal now. Give me the girl and I’ll give you a quick death.”

“Aren’t you suppose to offer me my life?”

“I specialize in pain. Death would be life.”

“Death is the final word.”

Yarl sprang forward. Not fast enough. The bullet ripped through his right shoulder, throwing him off balance but not enough for him to crash into the man. The gun hit the floor and spun away. Yarl attempted to position himself so he could use his left arm, but the other man was faster, more used to these types of situations. He drove his finger into the bullet hole in Yarl’s shoulder. His other hand ripped out the bezel gauge in his ear. Yarl’s back arced before he passed out.

When the gun fired, Thizzie’s eye sight went dark. She never could quite recall exactly what she did. She thought she had watched Yarl be shot, she thought she heard the gun but remembered the knife. The man had left it in his leg. When they hit the floor in a huddle, she found herself with it in her hands, blade pointed down. She thought she stabbed one time. There was little left of the man’s face to prove his identity. The only image she could repeat to her therapist, to Yarl, to her parents, was that as she stabbed him, she believed he was made of cat fur, that it floated up into the air as she pulled out the knife and gently wafted back down to the street to form a strange asymmetrical pattern around his body.

Oke had died. Yarl went home to say a prayer over the body before it was pushed out into the atmosphere. Then he returned to find Thizzie listening to the Afrobeat record. The last song on Side D was playing, but Thizzie wasn’t dancing.

“What’s a matter, Thizzie?” Yarl asked as he placed his coat on the rack. He embraced her, standing next to her with a bit on anxiety tickling his nerves. She hadn’t slept well in the last three months.

“It’s gone. The magic of the album is lost.”

Yarl sighed, “A lot of magic has disappeared from this world in the last few months. That is the nature of magic. To vanish.”

Thizzie looked up into his face with a wry look, “Are you going to suggest that the magic will come back? I believe you used that line on me before…”

Yarl smiled, “I did. And it did.”

It was sultry that Nigerian night, like most nights around this time, and the stars were the brightest they had been since the environment collapsed.

The End