Those who came before
I actually had a really good time on Memorial Day Weekend this year, including helping a friend with her labors of love and seeing to my own family’s gravesites on the Upper Avenues of Salt Lake City during an absolutely beautiful day!
Like most citizens of the USA, I am from immigrant stock — My mother’s parents came from Norway in the early XX Century, and my grandfather’s mother was born in Scotland in the mid-XIX Century. His grandparents were from both Wales and Scotland. My paternal grandmother’s ancestors came to America from England in the XVII Century, and another line of Swiss and German progenitors arrived in the early 1700’s. (Lived in Pennsylvania, they did, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.) A book called The Rhodes Family In America says I’m related to George Washington by a circuitous genealogy that precedes the Revolution.
If you can believe your eyes …
… then you’re easily fooled. Neil DeGrasse Tyson likes to call optical illusions “brain failures.” The grim, hostile-to-life Bonneville Salt Flats possesses extreme lighting conditions that creates reflections, refractions, and baffling mirages. We are shooting some video out there when we’re able, and capturing some amazing phenomena.
The screen-capture above shows “Floating Mountain” to the right — a thermal layer of rippling air makes people think that there’s a lake surrounding an island in the distance. If they make the blistering hike to the foot of the thing, they’ll just have a big hill to climb. See those white salt mounds on the left? They don’t even exist! The illusion is caused by an upside down mirrored reflection of that distant mountain range “sitting” on a false horizon caused by the same atmospheric turmoil which causes the erroneous impression of distant water. The contrast of light over dark makes it appear as if there are three hummocks made of salt, or something colored white, arising above the ground.
Getting back to where things are green and growing
Utah (Gay) Pride, under the trees at Washington Square, was another wonderful party this year, open to all and sundry. Two of my favorite bands performed for the friendly throngs. Sugartown Alley rocked the Main Stage:
Sugartown Alley is nothing less than a Soul Band — The beautiful singing of Dimitra (Left) and Brenda (Right) goes directly to the human heart as their very first tones sound. Wachira is one of the best musicians I’ve ever heard in my long life, and Sarah solidifies the front line extremely well! You can trace the rootsy influences of Blues, Southwestern, Gospel, and Jazz if you wanna spend time thinking, but I strongly suggest putting that stuff aside when they are onstage and just FEEL.
You knew MiNX was coming next, didn’t you? But DAMN they were GOOD!
As the Coasters used to sing — Baby, that is Rock and Roll!
Now, about the night before
I continue to be an ardent supporter of Ladies That Rock at the venerable Grogan’s A Go Go, uh, Woodshed. June’s event started kind of oddly, with a Colorado band named Zolopht showing up and insisting they’d been previously booked. I missed all that drama, if there WAS any drama, and enjoyed their Reggae-influenced Dance Music. They reminded me of the days when now-famous Jerry Joseph used to gig on State Street with his own Reggae band Little Women. In fact, they used to play less than two blocks away, just below 9th South!
Instead of a musical opener, an athletic group of Pole Performers were originally scheduled in the starting slot. These graceful irrepressible women, and single tough gentleman did their routines during Zolopht’s performance, and uncorked some set pieces with a DJ after that.
After Seattle’s The Monday After went onstage, the swinging action continued above our heads!
The Monday After is a duo consisting of multi-instrumentalist Ced and his beautiful, equally-talented partner named Jazz, who sings like an angel and pulls deep emotion from her electric bass. Like MiNX, the images within their best songs reverberate with listeners who have never heard them before — like me!
It was an exceedingly fun evening — I made an extensive an Facebook Folder with specific images of the bands and polemasters because I couldn’t possibly pile them all into this blogpost gracefully, and I invite my readers to check them out!
Feel the Heat!
Although MiNX plays acoustic versions of Pink Floyd songs, I’ve never really heard them play this one:
There is no pain, you are receding — a distant ship’s smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves, your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying
When I was a child I had a fever, my hands felt just like two balloons
Now I’ve got that feeling once again, I can’t explain, you would not understand, this is not who I am
I have become — comfortably numb …
As the first weekend of June faded into Monday, I was knocked on my, uh — back by an Influenza from Hell. The high fever and extreme body aches made me incapable of eating or sleeping for four consecutive days. It was everything I could do after the crisis had passed to restock the cupboards and fridge, wash clothes, undertake minimal housework, or otherwise rejoin the living. I required a lot of rest between every halting task too. Thank goodness the weather was unseasonably cool, if fact, we even had snow in the mountains! It’s sobering to think what a summer like last year would have done to me.
I remember suffering an identical Flu in 1981 — you just don’t forget things like this. Luckily, I had the emotional support of friends and family, although nobody had to rescue me with a grocery run or anything like that. For those four days I joked that the only thing that kept me alive was the hope of dying. One of my friends told me that victims were going to the hospital, and I must say the fever was dangerously high, in retrospect. I am a lot better now, but that illness put a crater in my overall health that will take some time to fully restore.
During recovery, I missed seeing my “Porridge for Goldilocks” friends perform at the Rose Wagner theater as Daughters of Mudson — my karma would have been VERY bad if I passed that bug onto anyone else, plus the fevers and chills kept attacking me at random, but I still regretted missing that opportunity.
I had already purchased tickets for Stephen Brown Dance and the fully-fledged version of The Pushers that I had witnessed in development last January, and made it one of my goals to baby myself and see the piece on its final Sunday matinee.
Stephen’s moving monologue about the many friends he knew as a young dancer in New York City who died from the unchecked onslaught of AIDS literally choked me up last winter, because I could make a long list of my own friends who suffered the same fate. The same pain was in June’s concert, but those feelings were leavened with wider variety of images, and a lot of necessary humor.
Well, yeah — I’m glad to say that I was able to see the show, with the help of Mucinex DM, Asprin, Gatorade, and several liters of H2O. My body felt a few minor hot flashes and chills during the performance, but I sat by myself and acquired several quantum levels of positive energy as it unfolded before me. (BTW — my “Porridge” pals were there too and accepted my apologies for missing them. They were expressly pleased to see me on my feet again.)
Horses by the Patti Smith Group was part of the musical score, but I saw the primary common ground between Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which Stephen cited as his inspiration, and The Pushers as being concerned with the successes, failures, aspirations, and anxieties of making one’s way in the world as a young person — and coping with biological development too. The details are far beyond the scope of this little essay, but I’ll mention a well-used mattress, living statues with aggressive attitudes, and a long pole that was cleverly used in a variety of group pieces — said pole being what said Pushers pushed — and pulled, and paraded around with varied clothing and multiple dancers suspended from its length.
The dancing and dancers were superb. Their acting was pretty damn good as well — Annie was poignant and funny, Dani played a hard brittle character that broke late in the show, and Stephen maintained a comedic facade of bewilderment through the whole thing. (Thou shalt not be deceived by yon facade!)
The most pleasant surprise of all was Nathan singing several touching and pertinent songs. I had read his mini-bios on programs over the last couple of years, but his background as a trained musician hadn’t really sunk in to my consciousness because of the sensory glare of his dancing. Hearing him sing was unalloyed joy, and I told him so!
With love we sleep, with doubt, the vicious circle turns and burns
Without you I cannot live, forgive the yearning burning
I believe it’s time to feel be real — so touch me now, touch me now, touch me now
Because the night belongs to lovers, because the night belongs to us …
There’s not much psychic space in this post left over to share my own thoughts about Patti Smith’s memoir of her early life in New York City with Robert Mapplethorpe, but I’ll give it a try. Much of it was warm, intimate, and sharing, which was touching in the extreme.
As the time frame progressed into the early 70’s I was thrilled to again meet up with the Patti Smith I had “known” through the pages of Creem, Crawdaddy, and other examples of the Rock Press out of NYC. She described her brilliant friend Lenny Kaye, another of my favorite writers, and playwright Sam Shepard, whose work I first encountered as a member of the daffy Freak Rock group The Holy Modal Rounders. Oddly enough, she met Shepard in the same context, only personally of course.
I was also proud to see that her poetry was simply first-rate when it first appeared in the pages of Creem, since she was one of my favorite reviewers. Looking back over time, I also could see how we had personality traits in common, like a willingness to collaborate, and the desire to try things that hadn’t been quite done “that way” before, and valuing others who tried untrod paths. When she became famous for her musical work with Lenny Kaye, I stood up for her when it was far from cool in my circle(s) of friends to do so. They sure sang different tunes when Because the Night poured out of every radio in Amerika!
Like Stephen, myself, and many others, she lost some of her best friends in the initial AIDS epidemic, but after continued personal tragedies of her own, she finally published Just Kids, and gave the world a unique view of people and places that our society will never quite see the likes of again.
Online Versions of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom Novels:
REMINDER: Research this prolific author on ERBzine.
And thereby hangs a tale As good luck would have it As merry as the day is long At one fell swoop … (We’re stealing from Elizabethan/Jacobean Theatre, like Shakespeare did.)
Read my very personal review of 004’s CD State of Affairs: HERE
Buy one through RAUNCH Records’ Facebook page!