I’ve been incredibly lucky in the past few years to see the bulk of bands who obsessed my musical sensibilities during my high school years through my mid-20s. These are the bands that shaped my ability to make my own musical calls. Sure, the music I loved and listened to as a child and an early adolescent has stuck with me, and I retreat into jazz, blues, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on a regular basis.
But those bands and artists – Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, U2, Yes, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, The Police, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane and the endless list formed by both parents and by my own reaching explorations at a point of developmental immaturity – are part of the actual fabric of who I am. I don’t even remember choosing them. They were just there, wrapped up in what I understood of music, and in many ways, what I understood of my parents and what they needed to shout to the world about their lives.
They needed to shout about the vast unfairness of life vs. rock n’ roll, about responsibility and justice, about how fucking hard it was to be an adult.
For me, seeking out my own voice in music, I didn’t know what I wanted to yell. I knew that Bob Dylan smacked me upside the head, that Peter Gabriel’s Us seemed deeply resonant, that I could happily bop along to Paul Simon’s Graceland. That the Pixies made the whole sonic universe feel open to me, like my skin had more nerve endings all of a sudden. The first time I heard “Surfer Rosa”, I hated it. It…felt like too much, like it was grafting something onto me I didn’t want – an extra hand, an extra head. But really, it was just an extra sense.
My friend Lori Ann gave me old 10,000 Maniacs when Natalie Merchant sounds raw and driving and sweetly ill-behaved. And Stephanie gave me James. Well, Steph gave me access to the whole wide world by taking me to Cheapo records on Snelling Avenue and giving me free reign of a whole affordable musical collective. For once, I had access, I had (a very little bit of) cash, and I had choice and someone to bounce those choices off of.
Steph is the one who introduced me to the Magnetic Fields, to Belle and Sebastian, to Pavement and Sonic Youth, to Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic, to Liz Phair and Wilco and The Pogues and the glory of live shows where you go and stand on sticky concrete with a soda in your hand unless you could convince the bouncer at First Avenue that you were of age and watch a band you’d never heard of rock themselves, and you, into oblivion.
My taste, it formed itself in the face of all that. In the face of opening up my ears and heart to what the rest of the people I loved and liked and sometimes wanted and hated needed to shout out to their universe. In college, there was a lot of shouting about not bending to the man. Or being good to each other. I dug that. There was some nostalgia for the bawdy and romantic Celticism of our Scots college and our whitewashed heritage. There was a little bit of punk rock “fuck you”, “fuck me”, “fuck it”, and there was a lot more irony and idolizing than I’d later find in what people needed to say out loud.
My show attendance the past two years has been an amazing mixture of catching on and catching up. I’ve seen new bands that delighted me, and I’ve seen most of my wishlist of bands I missed when I was discovering them: The Magnetic Fields, The Pixies, James, Belle & Sebastian, Bob Dylan, & Nick Cave, among others. The only band left on the college wishlist who’s still touring is The Pogues, and I deeply hope that I get to see them before Shane McGowan keels over in blissful alcoholic rage.
Of these shows, it’s been James and Nick Cave that really set the bar. The Magnetic Fields show was musically the most perfect show I could imagine. But Stephen Merritt doesn’t want you to love him. The Pixies were terrific, but clearly there for the cash. Dylan is wonderful, and this is the second time I’ve seen him, but his shows are a…testament to musicality, to reinvention and exploration. They’re amazing, but for me, not transcendent. Belle & Sebastian put on a magical show in the Hollywood Forever cemetery, but I think the of lack enclosed space made the experience feel fluid and transitory.
But Nick Cave came onto the Hollywood Bowl stage and owned the house with his porn star ‘stache and his creepy, exhilarating presence. And James. Oh James. Tim Booth walked his way through the crowd from the back of the Music Box with a spotlight and a microphone and the touch of the 30-50something crowd, bold and bald and unafraid, singing Sit Down. He danced his muppety, brilliant little heart out while singing to us, with us, for us. His heart was there. The whole band wore their fucking hearts on their sleeves, rocked down the venue like it was 1995 and made us feel like it was their honor to be there. Frank Black, I still fucking love you, but you could learn some manners and learn some grace from these Manchester boys.
I’ve had a shitty year, although a year better than many people I know, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I’m pretty fucking defeated these days. I’m okay, and I’m going to be okay, and hopefully I can help the people around me be more okay. But I hit that point at the beginning of this week where I couldn’t look forward to anything. And while this show was coming up, I hadn’t purchased tickets, didn’t know if I was going to and Liz volunteered to take a bullet and come with me. Standing there, the first strains of Sit Down stirring around me, I found the foresight, that vision mixed with nostalgia that reminded me of why, when it’s still bleak as fuck, we keep going. Why we reach. And why we shout.
I don’t often like to give men cookies for being honest about sexism, but I would give Aaron Sorkin one here if I could.
Ditto. I haven’t actually read a feminist critique of The Social Network so much as I’ve been told by others that one exists. To me, the jump-cutting between Zuckerberg’s completely disgusting blog posts and the completely disgusting Harvard party was enough for me to recognize that the movie was self-aware of the sexism it was portraying, and not interested in glamorizing it. Also, Aaron Sorkin created C.J. Cregg, people. I mean, come on.
I’ve been following this response of Sorkin’s and the various responses it has garnered, and I feel… wary of defending Sorkin’s choices as anti-sexist or as being honest about sexism. And I’m not entirely convinced that Sorkin’s creation of C.J. Cregg is in fact a good way to defend him as a champion of feminist portrayals of strong women in his worlds.
These strong women are just as likely to be crazed, emotional messes as they are to be C.J. or Abigail Bartlett. In fact, they’re more likely to be slightly crazed, emotional messes who are very good at their jobs, but Sorkin is as sexist (in a different way) as the guys he’s portraying in “The Social Network,” and in his other work. Or perhaps sexist is the wrong modifier. Sorkin has types - male and female - that he writers towards. Zuckerberg the fictional creation is the epitome of a Sorkin anti-hero: brilliant, socially retarded in many ways, bad with women, and consumed with purpose to the detriment of those around him. He’s a work-aholic with a quick mouth, little regard for what his words do to other people, and a singularity of focus. That women come off badly or as non-existent in The Social Network is not much of a surprise to me. This movie is largely about one person, and there’s no one around Zuckerberg with the skills Sorkin sees as necessary to sway female companionship outside of the Winklevii: no easy charm, easy looks, ease of education and class navigation. Therefore, while the movie may be portraying the legitimate sexism of that era, it also spills over on the the themes and tropes that Sorkin will often hit upon.