Hi. Look, I wrote some shit I actually would prefer if you skipped. I needed to say it, I said it, it's here because part of it for me is to like, be brave and just say stuff and get it out there and live with either the consequences or the total apathy, but here's a link if you'd prefer to go straight to the shows, which, again, I recommend. Otherwise, here, take my hand and join me for a slow, meandering walk down Figuring It Out Avenue.
About six years ago, in the gaunt, anemic afternoon light of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, I sat in a stranger’s living room talking to a person I barely knew. He was a graphic designer and an artist, and on his wall hung an image he had made of a washed out cityscape in hot pink with the words, “you can’t go home again” printed across it in block letters. A Thomas Wolfe novel I’ve never read, but the concept out of context is still sound: if you leave home, it will change on you. Every day you spend away, the more foreign your home becomes. It reminds me of a joke my friend always makes when we talk about our nieces and nephews. I’ll say something like, “Sherrod is in HIGH SCHOOL already, geez!” and she’ll say, “yep, he keeps growing even when you don’t see him, can you believe it?” Kids are like that. Home is like that. Eventually, if you stay away long enough, they grow up so much that you barely recognize them.
This past weekend, I went with an old friend - my brother in all but blood - to Bangor, his hometown. I had been to Bangor with him before, but this time would be different - his parents are selling their house and have moved out, and this would be his last time there before the home changes hands to the new owner. On Friday, his father took us on his sailboat and we ripped through Penobscot Bay like the fucking bitchin’ wave-shredder-sea-captain-eagle-pirates we are in our hearts. Being out there feels very humbling to me. Feeling the power of the water underneath me and the wind around me and the sun above is a comfort and a privilege and an honor, but I was also humbled on this day by the power of the father and son relationship, its unspoken strength and knowing. Family. My brother. His father. His father’s son. I’ve never really seen that so up close before. It certainly didn’t happen that way in my family, one in which the father and son relationship was adversarial and terrorizing.
The next day, while tooling around Bangor, he says, “let’s go see if the Haneys are home.” I panicked immediately. My pal was talking about the parents of an old band member who we lived with in North Carolina, who did not split amicably from the rest of us when everything went to shit. They had grown up together and had ostensibly made amends, but I didn’t know what he had told his family about me, and it made me nervous. Did they think I was a drug addict? A liar? A thief? Someone who lacked integrity, generally? Nobody wants to face people who think terrible things about them. My friend bounded right through the open garage up to the back door like a happy golden retriever, riding the wave of inherent confidence that a strong family gives you that you are Good™, and Worth It™, and You Belong Here™. I hovered behind him, a few feet back, like I always do, like an abused feral mutt, nervous that I am not welcome, that I do not belong, that I will be punished for bringing my dirty, worthless self through the threshold of this wholesome home. Every bone in my body screaming “RUN AWAY DO IT NOW.”
But I was wrong, as I so often am. When Mr. and Mrs. Haney saw me, they smiled, opened their arms to me, and gave me big hugs. I could have melted into a little happy tear puddle right there in that kitchen, with their warm voices and their gray hair and their sparkling eyes and their Red Sox welcome mat. The lively chat that followed got us caught up on everyone, all the Kids and The Grandkids, but it also acknowledged our shared past in a way that just felt normal, and I felt forgiven by these people who I had really only spent time with maybe 10 times in my life, but whose son was a huge part of my life for years. I felt like it was ok that I fucked up real bad and did some stupid shit. I felt forgiven, and they gave me their gift: you are good, and worth it, and you belong here. Family.
Later that day, Portland friends began to arrive for a show at Central Gallery. Musicians I know, other music people I don’t know, non-musician friends, they all began arriving and congregating as late afternoon choked us out with humidity and the stuffy, elderly inertia of Bangor’s city streets. As the players assembled their gear and soundchecked, my friend Clara and I stepped outside to chat for a minute. She hadn’t planned on coming up, she said, but “then I realized that these people here, they’re, like, a crew. And I said if that’s where my crew is going to be then I’m coming to hang with my people.”
I had to take a deep breath at this point and listen to what this fucked up trickster universe was trying to tell me. There’s a message, it keeps repeating like one of those cold war numbers stations. What did it want me to UNDERSTAND as I stood outside in the twilight, barefoot on the sidewalk, sweating, dork giggling, instagramming my friends like a 13 year old asshole, drinking rapidly-warming cider from a can? What was I supposed to KNOW, right now? It felt really good. I needed to figure it out.
The next morning I woke up and took to my laptop computing device to make some notes and try to make sense of what is happening to me. I’ve moved around a lot, and I’ve been away from home for a long, long time now. The thing about moving around a lot that I loved is that you can reinvent yourself to be anything you want to be in a new city. But is that true though? Fundamentally? I mean, if it is, then I must have wanted to keep reinventing the same flawed, insecure person over and over again. Because that’s what happens: you move, and you basically stay the same. The coffee shop you go to changes and you learn local customs and if you’re me you go down to the Ballard Locks and watch the salmon in the fish ladder… well, a lot (so calming), but you don’t get “fixed,” you don’t get “better.” I think it’s actually easier to be worse when there’s no one around who knows you from back in the day. The only person checking in on you is you.
And now I’m here, a new place, and I’m changing a lot every day, but I’m still fundamentally the same: deeply damaged. Smarter than you. Difficult. Loving. Messy. Creative. Lonely. Brave. Terrified. Empathic. Possessive. Clever. Aloof. Powerful. Tender. Strange. Vulnerable. It’s all still there, it’s all still me.
I guess the conclusion I’m coming to is that, I mean… maybe I don’t know if I have to be so scared all the time anymore, because I’m finally home again. GROSS, I KNOW. I FUCKING HATE FEELINGS BUT I KEEP HAVING THEM ALL THE TIME SOMEBODY GIVE ME A VALIUM. Home in Portland started with my brother from Bangor and my sister from Asheville, and it continued with my connection with you, the person reading this, just knowing you’re out there and hearing my voice, and it broadened with the circle of women at Hustle and Flow who showed me how to take care of myself and live joyfully in my body again, and it continued last weekend with an old city with a shitty little canal that thinks this is Venice or some shit and its weird little bustling microbiome of family and humans reminding me that I, too, am not beyond redemption and love. I don’t always have to be the one doing the forgiving so that nobody looks at me critically lest they hate what they see. You can be forgiven. You can have a crew. You CAN go home again.
Unless you’re Sandor The Hound” Clegane. Then I probably wouldn’t recommend going home because, like, Circe and The Mountain and shit.
FUCK OFF I HATE YOU GET OUT OF HERE DON’T LOOK AT ME I’M A MONSTER.
But, like, hugs tho?
Friday July 28
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary is at the PMA. The Coltrane family has allowed the film to use his full catalog with reckless abandon, and that’s kinda why we’re here to begin with. Good on them. There are showtimes Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Promoter-type Greg Martens’ nonprofit Go Big For Hunger is hosting the Maine Soul Revue night at PHOME with Hambone, Andrew Bailie and The Mothership, The Youngerbloods, Downeast Soul Coalition and Papa Tim Rodney Mashia. Also, there are like 300 different facebook invites for this thing. Like, calm down guys, it’ll be fucking packed. It’s $20 at the door.
Tegan and Sarah with support Japanese Breakfast (who was just telling me about that band? SHOW YOURSELF) are at The State Theatre.
‘Cuse Me, KGFREEZE, Buddusky and Five Star China Taste are at SPACE Gallery. SPACE kinda kills it all weekend long with this show (Five Star China Taste is a duo featuring my favorite weirdo teenager Sigrid Harmon AKA The Asthmatic, and I want to see ‘Cuse Me so fucking bad), which I think is a fantastic lineup, all quality, all indeed five star, and then on Saturday they have the Chandra Oppenheim thing, which we’ll get to in a minute. Anyway, this is a big value at $8 and it’s all ages.
El Malo is outside at The Porthole. That’s some dark slow grind shit for the drunk tourist set.
Interesting.Sygnal to Noise, a glam… metal? band? Sort of a cross - visually, I have no idea how they sound - between Poison circa 1987, ICP, Kiss and Smashmouth I guess is at Bayside Bowl with Watts and Tiger Bomb. They’re releasing their new album here tonight.
In news that shocks absolutely no one, Aura has a cover band tonight because the contempt they have for this town is so thick you can taste in the very air. This evening’s utter garbage is Eaglemania, a tribute to - WAIT FOR IT - the Eagles. I just went to Spotify’s Eagles page to see how many songs I know of theirs that show up in their “Popular” section before laying into them, and as it turns out I KNOW ALL OF THEM because the Eagles are like the polyvinyl chloride of music - they’re goddam everywhere and have polluted some communities so badly that they’re no longer liveable. I FUCKING HATE THE EAGLES. OK.
Kris Rodgers and the Dirty Gems are supported by Memphis Lightning, as they release their new album tonight at Empire. I’ve been sort of obsessed with Meatloaf (the singer/Bob, not the food) lately because I finally found out about Jim Steinman, who wrote Meatloaf’s entire Bat out of Hell album that we all know so well. It’s hard to imagine these days that someone who looks/sings like Meatloaf would be made into the face of an organization, but he came from Broadway so I guess he had the chops needed in the 70’s to bring a Steinman composition to life. And I guess we all know who Meatloaf is so WELL DONE, A&R EXEC RESPONSIBLE FOR MEATLOAF. ANYWAY my point is that Kris Rodgers cites Meatloaf as a big influence on his new album, which is very earnest and cool, but let’s be real - his big influence is actually probably Jim Steinman, at least on the back end. I think Kris Rodgers' new single is more Elton John-y than Meatloafy in a very good way, it’s high energy, bluesy and fun. Reminds me of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.” Anyway, here’s a fun thing to do: go look at this list of very famous songs that Jim Steinman wrote, you’ll know a bunch of them, and now that you’ve identified that Steinman-sian thread amongst them, you’ll be able to identify a Steinman every time. He’s… got a thing. Alright, yeah I know, enough. Let’s move on. Go get em Kris!
Hessian, Heavy Necker and Barishi are at Geno’s. I mean if I’m being honest, do I love the idea of going to Geno’s without Kaitlyn working there? No, no I do not. I do not understand how the world is so fucking upside down these days. But like, also obviously go see Hessian. You get it.
Saturday July 29
It’s kind of a bizarro world night for music tonight, some strange choices out there. But forget choice I think you should go to SPACE Gallery, at which Chandra Oppenheim and Dan Capaldi are performing their collaborative project World of my Dreams. Do you know Chandra? This is Chandra in 1980 how fucking awesome is this song, give it a second, let the lyrics kick in:
So, like, she was 12 when she made that song and kind of killed it on the NYC post punk scene. Pretty sweet right. Chandra lives here in Portland and worked with Dan and a group of school children - including her own daughter - to make an album of songs that the kids wrote and performed. To really bring those kids’ songs to life in an environment in which they could work with accomplished musicians. There are a bunch of local music heroes on it as well - Zach Jones (CARTOON HEARTS EVERY TIME CALL ME ZACH JONES LET’S DO THIS THING), Dave Gutter, Sasha Alcott and more. So tonight at SPACE they’ll perform the record with a group of the album’s special guests, led by Chandra and Dan. I’ve heard this album and it’s kind of inspirational. No, dick, not in like a Christian rock band or life coaching way. I mean more that kids’ minds are so magical and flexible, the songs on it are weird and awesome. Just go and see what I mean, you’ll get it, you’re a music lover not a piece of shit.
During the day you can swing by Deering Oaks park and peek in on the Festival of Nations - world music and world food, what’s not to like?
Fat Knuckle Freddy is at Amigo’s with Young Brett. If you go to this, say hi to Pizza Ghost for me!
Live at 212 has Holding on to Nothing, Years Go By, Devil’s Night Out, Reaver and Project 246. Who among you will volunteer as tribute and go with me to Live at 212? I still haven’t been there, I look at photos of it and it has like sweet ass fucking wood paneling on the walls and it looks like the kind of place at which drinks are still cheap enough to not require a second mortgage on your home, like, I wanna fucking go. I mean if I’m being honest they don’t usually have bands that I’d go see, this kind of doom metal and super heavy shit is not my bag. HOWEVER, it still looks like a fun place and everyone I’ve ever met who works there is so goddam awesome and nice. HEY BOYS I AM SINGLE PLEASE ASK ME ON A DATE TO LIVE AT 212. You’d do it if you cared about me.
The Apohadion Theatre has Ancient Ocean, Marc McGuire and Drab Pony. For hilarity and joy, please go read the descriptions of the bands on the fb invite linked to above. The first two bands have like, amazing, well-written, flowery bios, and then it just says “drab pony is jeremy robinson.” I’m pretty sure we all know what we need to know about Drab Pony from that description. This is his “and none for Gretchen Weiners” moment. Bye.
PHOME has The Awesome (80’s covers). The Punch Brothers, I’m With Her and Julian Lage are at The State Theatre, part of Chris Thile’s American Acoustic festival. Andrew Bailie is at El Rayo. Cattle Call are at Salvage. Blue has jazz. Dogfish has Kali and the Ancestors. Flask has their all day tea dance Flannel.
Sunday July 30
On Sunday, Wilco is at Thompson’s Point (their band photo makes it look like they have very bad David Bowie and Matthew Caws impersonators in it. I suspect that’s not what those guys do mostly), Kansas is at the State Theatre and Niraj Yoga is having a Trance Dance that starts at noon. You literally cannot go wrong with any of those things.
Alright. Jebus Christmas Christ already enough, we've been here so long already. I need like, a gallon of gatorade or some shit. RULES: TIP. NO DRINKING AND DRIVING. Kindness. Responsibility. All the shit that we always do. Don't you dare roll your eyes at me, I am a respectable lady! Oh, what, now you're concerned about me? Get out of here! Take that look of worry, mine's an ordinary life - working when it's daylight, and sleeping when it's night. I've got no far horizons, I don't wish upon a star! They don't think that I listen, but I know who they are! And I... I don't mind. No, I don't mind. So TAAAAKKKKKKEEEE TAKE ME HOME! Cuz I don't remember! TAKE TAKE ME HOME! Cuz I don't remember! TAKE TAKE ME HOME! Cuz I don't remember! Take, Take me home, oh lord! Well I've been a prisoner all my life, and I can say to you, but I don't remember! So take take me home!
Fuck off you guys I love you but I need some space close the door on your way out.