Schizophrenia Is Taking Me Home

In typical music snob fashion, I disdain SPIN’s views on music unless they affirm my own. And in naming my two favourite members of my favourite band (i.e. Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth) as joint number 1s of their “100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time” list, together with my favourite Sonic Youth album (which is not actually Daydream Nation) as the high water mark of their guitar work, and my favourite song on that album as their “Most Heroic Moment”…well, let’s just say the last time someone’s views coincided so much with my own, we were exchanging vows on our wedding day. (This is not to say that Alec’s views generally coincide with mine, because that would suggest he is more obsessed with Simon Cowell than is healthy. But I’d say we were pretty much in agreement on stuff like vows and shit on our wedding day.)

If you will bear with my fanwank a little longer, this is a nice opportunity to meander into a little story about seeing Thurston Moore (i.e. one half of the Greatest Guitarists Of All Time winners) live in London last year. I previously described the wonderful luck that allowed me to attend that gig at all. As always seems to happen to me in London, this was not the last serendipitous musical moment I was to enjoy there, and the extent to which this was all Sonic Youth related is kinda ridiculous.

Earlier in my trip I’d been to the fantastic Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Tate Modern. The only reason an art doofus like me even knew who Gerhard Richter was, of course, was that Sonic Youth had used one of his Candle paintings for the cover of Daydream Nation, and I’ve basically been longing for a print of that painting ever since the age of 14. So I went to the exhibition, loved it, and bought the print.

candle

So far, so freakin’ awesome. There was just one problem. Given that I was frequently changing accommodation to crash on different friends’ couches, a 100 cm by 100 cm poster stored in a large protective tube was rather unwieldy to schlep around London with the rest of my luggage. While standing in crowded trains with this monstrous protuberance wedged between my legs to save space I couldn’t help but feel like some train perv with a massive boner, and after various instances of dropping or nearly dropping it while digging out Oyster card and suchlike, I did begin to question the wisdom of going through all this just for the sake of a poster of a giant fucking candle.

So how did I resolve this problem? The same way I resolve most of my problems in London: I imposed on Russ. Which is how, just after dropping the huge poster off at his workplace (for him to hold on to until I was leaving London), I was wandering around Shoreditch with no particular agenda other than to indulge in one of my I-love-East-London reveries, and suddenly this materialized in my rose-tinted, Lomofied, heavily vignetted sights.

ATP Pop-Up Shop

(ATP, for anyone who isn’t a music nerd, is a music festival I love, firstly because its lineups are far more interesting to me than those for more famous festivals like Glasto or Coachella, and secondly because attending it doesn’t require you to sleep in a tent. Sonic Youth are pretty regular features at ATP festivals, as are many other favourite artists of mine. So basically a shop like this, to me, is like Famous Amos to the Cookie Monster.)

I must have looked like the dramatic lemur upon spotting the sign, and then the OMG cat while exploring the shop. While I was very restrained in my shopping – lugging around a poster of a giant fucking candle can have this effect – I also noticed a poster on the wall advertising the Thurston Moore gig I would be attending on 2 December. And because I am a huge sap, I really really wanted that gig poster as a souvenir of both the first instance of serendipity I linked to earlier, and this second instance of just chancing upon my dream music nerd shop in the course of an errand involving a Sonic Youth poster. (Still with me? When the going gets tough, just imagine how much more stupefyingly boring this would be if I were telling it to you face-to-face!)

Gig posters like that are usually for advertising purposes and not for sale, so I shyly asked, feeling really awkward about the weirdness of my request, whether it might be at all possible for me to buy a copy of the poster. Most commendably, instead of calling psychiatric social services to come pick up this stammering, bug-eyed Stan, the kind shop attendant shrugged her shoulders, smiled, and said, “Just take it off the wall, you can have it.”

Cue embarrassing gushing in the vein of “OMG, you don’t know what this means to me and you just totally made my day!”, me lovingly removing the poster from the wall, rolling it up and holding it with more care than I held my degree scroll, and then me bouncing happily down Rivington Street while calling Russ on the phone and explaining that, um, I needed to meet him again to pass him another burden poster.

The story ends, predictably yet happily, with me seeing Thurston at the Union Chapel. The gig was everything I had hoped it would be.

Thurston Moore (Union Chapel, 2 Dec 2011)

Months later, the story I’ve dragged you through here remains one of the most treasured memories of my 1.5 month holiday. I don’t know if my convoluted tale strikes a chord with anyone other than me, and the poster I snagged from the ATP Pop-Up Shop isn’t really much to look at. But as an instant, soul-elevating reminder of a moment when multiple things that take up a fair bit of my heartspace (Sonic Youth, ATP, London and the awesome things that happen to me there) magically converged to make me the happiest or at least most mawkishly sentimental girl in East London, nothing holds a giant fucking candle to it.

Thurston Moore - gig flyer

The Observatory – Catacombs Launch (Substation, 20 April 2012)

I wrote a fair bit back when The Observatory released their second album about why they are particularly special to me. Although the sound of their fifth album, Catacombs, is rather dark and intense, you could say that the experience of hearing this remarkable band live still filled my world with light the same way it did all those years ago.

The Observatory at the launch gig for their album Catacombs

New Loves In Old Haunts

Gower Street Scene (Framed)I didn’t quite go into detail here previously on the massive holiday I was planning, apart from the Thurston Moore squee, so I should state briefly for the record that I spent about 6 weeks from mid-October to early December trying to be young again across London, Montreal, New England, New York City and Berlin. A wise man would stake no money on the chances of me blogging about that in any comprehensive way, but I do usually manage the first few days! So here’s the first day I spent in London, and let’s hope I’ll get to a few more later on.

Ecstatic Peace!

Naturally, every time I plan a trip to London, before I even bother checking plane flights I check the gig calendar to see what I can plan my trip around. This year’s check revealed that Thurston Moore would be at ATP the weekend of 3/4 December, but I’m not extremely keen on attending this one because the rest of the lineup isn’t appealing enough to me to justify the expense. So I decided to bide my time and see if the acts I was most excited about from the lineup would announce separate gigs in London, as has often happened in the surrounding weeks of ATP.

After several weeks of waiting, nothing had happened, and I was getting antsy about getting the flights at a good price. So on Tuesday night I knuckled down and was just about to buy my flights, with my last day in London to be Friday, 2 December. Just before I confirmed payment, I realized that since I hope to impose myself on the hospitality of various London-based friends for accommodation, it would be a lot more convenient for any friend I’m staying with if I left on a Saturday rather than on a Friday, in terms of returning their keys and stuff like that. So I booked the flight for Saturday, 3 December instead, and opened Facebook for some idle “so, did anything interesting happen in the last 10 minutes?” surfing.

It turns out that in the last 10 minutes, Thurston Moore had announced a gig. On 2 December. At the Union Chapel, which is one of the few London music venues I’ve been trying to see gigs at for years with no success. In 2003, I chose to forgo seeing Low there so that Alec and I could get out of London on a Valentine’s Day weekend. While it was a wonderful weekend and totally worth it, I must admit the decision still haunts me. And every time I’ve returned to London since then, the timing just hasn’t been right to see someone I like perform there, let alone the linchpin of my favourite band.

So this long story is basically why, on Tuesday night at about 8 p.m., I ran around my home screaming, near tears from happiness, and wondering how I would survive until the tickets went on sale.

They went on sale at 5 p.m. (Singapore time) today. I got one.

And now, if you’ll excuse me from this excursion into INDIE SQUEE, I have to watch X-Factor USA. :D

Jamie Lidell (Esplanade, 18 March 2011)

The only thing worse than being late for a gig at the Esplanade the one time you’ve managed to get tickets in the front row is keeping three other people waiting for you, unable to go in, because you’re the one with the tickets. But soon after we finally got in there, Jamie launched into Multiply and I felt most of my frustration with Friday evening traffic and my own crapness rapidly ebb away. I’m a little burned out on writing about music since the 2010 album list so I won’t write a proper review, but he was immensely endearing, ebullient despite a turnout that I found disappointing, and his band were just as fun to watch as he was. Also, he wore the best jacket ever. 

Jamie Lidell (18 Mar 11, Singapore)

Jamie Lidell (18 Mar 11, Singapore)

Jamie Lidell (18 Mar 11, Singapore)

Alec’s Gig Commentaries

Aside from the music I attend gigs for, part of the fun of attending gigs is dragging Alec to them and either enjoying his whiny comments or marvelling at the ability he has developed to fall asleep, often standing up, in decidedly harsh sonic environments. I should have kept a record of these over the years, in hindsight, but tonight’s Blonde Redhead gig is as good a place as any to start, and I do remember some bits from the past. It helps if you’re familiar with the bands in question.

Alec Gig Commentary #1, shortly after the start of the Blonde Redhead gig. It is possible that Alec is not enjoying Kazu’s rather unique style of singing.

Alec, plaintively: Will anyone else sing apart from her?
Me: Yeah, the guy sings too, didn’t you hear him sing a bit in the first song?
Alec: You call that singing???

Alec Gig Commentary #2, during Beach House’s set at the Laneway Festival: After several years of shit like this, punk was born.

Alec Gig Commentary #3, after standing in mud and torrential rain for several hours at the Laneway Festival: Why didn’t I just marry a girl who was into spa weekends?

Alec Gig Commentary #4, standing on the Home Club dancefloor surrounded by people going wild for Tokimonsta’s set: Zzzzzz…

Alec Gig Commentary #5, standing in the front row during Einsturzende Neubauten’s set at All Tomorrow’s Parties 2007: I’m awake, I’m awake…zzzzzzz…

Alec Gig Commentary #6, after Battles: Best nap ever.

Kode9 & Spaceape (Esplanade, Singapore, 9 March 2008)

I had left London by the time dubstep nights started taking off, and since dubstep seemed one of the least suitable subgenres of dnb ever for the bedroom speaker experience, I never bothered seeking out much of it apart from the occasional podcast. (One of the differences between 2004 me and 2008 me. I don’t like this difference, but it’s also true that remaining so ignorant means I no longer chafe about Singapore’s lousy club scene.)

So I attended the Kode9 and Spaceape club night in almost total ignorance, which may be why I spent the first 20 minutes channelling Marvin the Martian and whining to Alec “Where’s the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!” Instead of the ribcage-vibrating, internal-organ-displacing bass beats I was expecting, they were just doing the sort of expansive soundscapes that tend to start and end dnb tracks, with little or no beats. I was dismayed. I had come to get my mellow totally harshed, and it wasn’t happening.

Actually, they had just taken the long view and I was being an impatient child. The music built, gradually but perceptibly, to the point where Spaceape announced “That was all just to warm you up. Now it’s time to dance!” As it turns out, I got my earth-shattering kaboom for the next two sweaty, breathless, epileptic hours. And, as always seems to happen with any club event that actually interests me in Singapore, attendance was low enough that there was plenty of space for completely uninhibited dancing.

I’m too ignorant to name any tracks, but I thought they did a great job of playing tracks that were consistently danceable but with differing intensities – we’d get sections where everyone was dancing with total gorilla abandon, and then a section of slightly less frenetic music as a respite. It is admittedly possible that I entered some zone of transcendental bliss that meant they could fart rhythmically and I’d just happily twitch and jerk along, but I do think they did a masterful job of creating and maintaining a great atmosphere for dancing. I left with ringing ears and the “exercise high” I don’t actually get from normal exercising, only from dancing. Thank you Kode9 & Spaceape, first for exorcising us of the BSS disaster demons, and second for reminding me why I love clubbing. It’s been difficult to hold on to that memory, living here.

Broken Social Scene (Esplanade, Singapore, 9 March 2008)

I’m sure I must have been to duller gigs in my life than Broken Social Scene, but perhaps unsurprisingly, I can’t remember any of them now. In hindsight, it’s ridiculous that I’d been hoping the Esplanade sound system or a large live ensemble would help me appreciate the band’s songs better – at least on my iPod I could always just concentrate on my book and relegate them to aural wallpaper but now, here I was, trapped in an expensive concert seat with no other alternative for entertainment or distinctive musical ideas except Alec’s gentle snores beside me. I later found out Jacob and Pearlyn had walked out halfway, and realized for the second time that sometimes I really have to stop being so damn Singaporean about Getting My Money’s Worth, and just cut my losses and leave.

Perhaps some BSS fan might read this and my previous post on the topic and conclude that there was never any possibility I would enjoy the gig, because I was prejudiced against it from the outset. In fact, I was hoping against hope that like for Tortoise and Jaga Jazzist, I would go in actively disliking their music and emerge wild-eyed, reeling and evangelical. It’s possible my error of judgement here was equating BSS with the other two bands, because I find BSS’s music so pedestrian that I can’t even summon up active dislike for it, just complete indifference.

I don’t mean to enlist other people’s opinions in support of my own, but I enjoyed emptysignifier’s text-messages of outrage too much not to share them. (Again, emptysignifier attended the gig with an open mind, as a self-proclaimed “gigslut” just checking the band out. Although he has been on the receiving end of my music snobbery many times, he pays me no mind whatsoever, which is great.) I’ve received 4 instalments so far, starting immediately after the gig and even extending until yesterday! (Just provide RSS feed already lah!) Some excerpts:

  • “…for a band with a name like Broken Social Scene, they played more like a United National Front!…Why play a 2-chord rock song on FOUR guitars?!?!”
  • “While u rubbished them from the outset, I thought they were at least an erudite, intellectual band making introspective, eclectic, atmospheric music. But they’re really a rent-a-rock-band!”
  • “I mean, what’s with the woman and the trumpet? She had it hooked up to an uber cool utility belt of FX pedals, which was totally set up for consciousness-expanding sounds, but no matter what she did it still sounded like a goddamn trumpet!”
  • “…the ending was a fucking NDP warm-up cheering session!”
  • “Kevin Drew is the poor man’s Wayne Coyne!”

Even on a personal level and totally disregarding music, this gig = FAIL for me. I actually started the gig in a positive frame of mind about the band, because I thought their introductory joke about the members who weren’t present – including “Mas Selamat Kastari, who didn’t turn up for rehearsal” – was quite funny. Unfortunately, they then frittered away my goodwill over the course of the evening with a number of patronising comments (Matt, who attended the gig with an open mind since he’d never heard of them, and whose said mind I am incapable of poisoning with my music snobbery anyway, dealt with these pretty well in his account) and too many self-led cheerleading “OK EVERYONE CHEER FOR 60 SECONDS!!” sessions. For what blessedly turned out to be the very last one, after sitting in pained silence for the entire gig I finally reached the end of my tether and participated enthusiastically in the noisemaking by bawling “YOU SUCK! SHUT UP! FUCK OFF!”

Bullshit Social Scene

I am going to the Broken Social Scene gig tomorrow and have no idea why any more.

I initially chose it out of desperation because I wanted to go to one Mosaic gig other than Kode9 & Spaceape, have already seen The Roots and Mum, and wasn’t drawn to any of the other acts. I hadn’t listened to any BSS stuff in a long time and foolishly thought that I had perhaps been too unkind to them in the past. Listening again, further removed from the hype of that Pitchfork review of You Forgot It In People which catapulted them to it-band status, I figured I might begin to see what all the indie kids make such a fuss about. Also, I thought that their typically large ensemble might make for a good live performance.

So earlier this week I listened again to You Forgot It In People and the self-titled album, and the optimism rapidly dissolved into utter boredom. Oh, shit.

I think I just wasted my money on fine clothes for a naked emperor.

Mosaic Festival Vs Grey’s Anatomy Soundtrack…FIGHT!

I guess it was too much to hope that 2008’s Mosaic festival would be as unbelievably awesome for me as 2007’s. The indie acts coming mostly make pretty indie music for pretty indie kids, which is not a bad thing in itself, but everything I’ve heard by them is also pretty uninspired. I loved and still like Múm’s Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK but the tweeness of Finally We Are No One and Summer Make Good means that those albums really haven’t stood the test of time for me. I also found them quite dull live, and in hindsight it’s quite amazing that when I saw them in 2004, Animal Collective (who far outshone them, and I wish it was them coming here instead) was merely their opening band.

I’ll probably end up going to a bunch of gigs anyway since I’m always so desperate for them here, but much will depend on ticket prices, which are usually quite high. At times like this I’m especially thankful for The Necessary Stage’s Singapore Fringe Festival, which has offered adventurous and unpatronising music events for the past few years at great prices. We just got our $15 tickets for the Colleen / Sylvain Chauveau / Hauschka triplebill at the Esplanade Recital Studio – I mean, seriously. Seriously!