Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Cure, Merriweather Post Pavilion, June 22, 2016

Not a professional piece of music writing, this is a "report" for my fellow poet Pattie McCarthy. It's also being pasted into my journal.

Last night’s Cure show choices (click here for set list) stayed in the 70’s and 80’s except for four songs out of 32. This was a good bet from the band since the crowd looked to be between 40-60 with a few young people. Pie chart of colors people wore: 60% black and grey; 35% a shade of blue. Lots of graying temples.  I saw one true Cure look on a young millennial with teased black hair, heavy black shoes and a black outfit. Three heads of pale lavender hair. My favorite thing was a family who turned out to be French. The teenage son kept hugging his mom. They took a selfie where they swapped faces. For some very nice photos, see here.

The Twilight Sad from Scotland opened for the band. Appropriately melancholy, murky, driving beat. They were not projected on the monitors and we could only hear the lead singer’s great singing, always in a Scottish accent, and his remark that it has blown that band away to be on tour with the Cure for six weeks. I imagine that they are a great band who doesn’t usually play to a completely crammed lawn. His voice made me think about grey Scottish hills and Margaret Thatcher being hated. The sun started to go down into complicated clouds behind a barn. People bought beers and milled around talking.

Sound was amazing, Robert sounded great, soaring and effortless, and it was kind of mind boggling that he can sound so “on” for three hours. Must take good care of his voice: They’re playing a six shows this week. First song was one I didn’t know. Second song was a popular one, maybe Pictures of You and everyone started dancing and never sat down again. A very long first set, perhaps 28 songs. Great visuals, light shows, patterns of bright gem colored lights. There was a funk opening to one song, perhaps In Between Days? White and purple shots of real trees during A Forest with traces of green mixed in. Very bright and trippy colors all the time as in the “In Between Days” video, never anything toned down. A real spider during "Lullaby".

(I feel like there should be a funk cover album by the Cure of the Cure. Hot! Hot! Hot! is pretty much already there. I would list to that allll daaaay).

At some point before the break, he mentioned being overwhelmed even after all these years by looking out and seeing such a sea of people. Aw. I later realized from the review in the NYTimes that he was singing a song that made him cry on a regular basis and which the fan pages say is about his mom who may have passed away in the last couple of years. This is pretty endearing and I think it is 100% worth it to check out the video at the end of this NYTimes review here because you can see him with tears on his face and crying. The review was also written by an insightful person, which is really appropriate and positive.

Al had us stand up and walk all along the edge/fence until we could see the whole stage and that was so great of him to encourage me. Robert looked kind of white haired and strange with the naked eye because of the lights blasting hot, and he looked maybe out of proportion, being bigger than he used to be. But on the monitor, this made me laugh: You could see Robert in the main monitor, very small, but the side monitors, always someone else. The bassist (the one who always has a sleeveless shirt and used to have a big fan of black hair) walked back and forth so much during the show. From that closer vantage, we could look back and see nearly what the band could see: just a jammed sea of faces, from the railing all the way back to the back fence. (capacity 19000).

Banter: He did not say much until encores. He did say one song was number one in Albania in 1984. Then at the start of the second encore, noticed that the flooring on the stage was the same as at his mom and dad’s and that he was going to drag a toy train across it and scream for the third encore. Mostly he greeted people with a very East London sounding “thank you” and went straight into the next song.

We speculated what happened during the first break. Peeing. Hummus. Water. At the start of maybe the third encore, he said, “I’ve entered a twilight zone in which I’m not sure I have the right thing round my neck.” Then he looked back at the drummer and went on with the song.

By that point I had seen several reunions of people who clearly had not seen each other since high school and a few people who were drunk, or as Al so nicely put it, “Looks like some people are really feeling the music.” Everyone felt the love and the old fans were hanging on for the very last song. Here's the last song with Robert Smith taking a charming two minute bow:

And now for some digestion and overall reflection. I forgot how interested in corpses and death and hallucination The Cure are, and this put in my mind the split that I’ve seen talked about by critics: the macabre show and strange hair versus the fact that they are so distasteful of pretense. I always remembered (aside from learning in SPIN about RS reading Patrick White novels and playing with his nieces and nephews) that Robert particularly made sure he made clear that anyone who considered him a hero, he considered a “personal disaster.” A valuable lesson, even if I did buy all their albums. How they look doesn't matter. I felt a funny solidarity with fans my age dressed utterly normally. I also kept thinking about how much he thought pop culture was terrible yet wanted his videos to look like horrible vampire movies. Whyyyy. I know I wore mostly black until I was about 23-25 and now the thought of doing it seems impossible. I even banned black from the collaborative quilt my class makes every term! This feels like growing up, yet I have been revisiting their songs all week.

The greatest thing I heard anyone say after Prince passed away was that when that person (I suspect it was Questlove but it was literally 20 minutes after the AP reported the death, so whoever it was, he was tearful), appeared on NPR. It was something like "I loved hearing his music when I was a kid. I wanted to fall in love and get my heart broken so I could live all the feelings in this music." Having grown up and now listening to the Cure for the first time in many many years, I am hearing so much emotion, joy, fun, pleasurable chords, but also disgust with the way things are. Hear hear. I felt and still feel decently grateful to have had at 14 an adult say openly: tv is bullshit, monarchy is bullshit, classism, racism, this is kinda all an illusion, so keep a grip on yourself and try to make something out of your life that you like. Don't care what other people think. Also nice to have an example of someone doing things exactly his way and actually not fucking up the success he found. This is pretty much exactly how I feel now about my own art and it's endearing to know that Robert said it:

Aside: I had no idea this existed and it's very catchy. I like that Robert doesn't have that gaga look I've seen people have when playing with Bowie. Or else his gaga look is hidden behind a determined look.

At the beginning of their concert, when the first song happened, I turned to A and said “He’s been doing this since he was 17! His whole life! Can you imagine?” Now I’m listening to the Making of Just Like Heaven from 1986 on YouTube and hearing him saying “I’m never playing Madison Square Garden again” “I’m never coming to America again” and “I want to get back to small shows, make the Cure small again.” Yeah, didn’t happen. None of these.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Just want to say a few words about New to the Lost Coast by Joshua Butts. Josh has a virtuosic ear, has known, engrained in his mind and bones, the music and lyrics of the great 20th century folk and rock singers, plus Anglophone poetry of all eras, plus has an ear for all the old ways of speaking, the rural Ohio ways too. So "he has a good ear" just doesn't cut it. I appreciate the candor, and the witty incredulousness and so much beauty. Josh's wife Lesley Jenike is also a great poet, but that's for another day. Here's one of the poems from the book as it appeared on Verse Daily.

Tranquility Pike
A flash across the windshield at late day
or in the morning can make a wreck.
So if you drive here try to be as patient
as a cat waiting for a door.
You know you are helpless.
Last winter I was covered up—snow
for three weeks can dazzle. The kettle
whirred for coffee until I ran out.
I lived on tomatoes cooked quick with salt.
(We are pure blood around here.)
I'm not lonely. Heat and rain breed many weeds.
I've been sober as a bell at midnight—
is that a phrase? My talk show host has been gone,
captured in fact. His band plays a familiar waltz
and then it's morning, the heat swallows
the valley, soaks the blacktop, rises
like a camphor from the road and so I wait
on this rain and then it pours and pours.
It hits in my head and I tell myself,
This isn't the kind of rain that answers questions.
Could I take my wrong moments,
set them to some tune? If you need flannels,
I'll send you a bagful.
Give them to people you meet under street lamps.

I also had no idea this youtube existed until this very moment. I am so happy right now. I wonder whose dog that is barking. A dream come true.

Thanks to rob mclennan for this thoughtful piece about Unlikely Conditions,  here.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Really enjoying a couple of books right now:

Lo Kwa Mei-En's The Bees Make Money in the Lion. Amazingly otherworldly and dense with breathtaking metaphor. Every time I mention her poems, people freak out and say I love them! Or they just say so without my asking.

A Bestiary by Lily Hoang. A great book of essays with a very poetic sense of circulating images and ideas.

Both extremely daring, intricate, full of heart and hard to put down. Glad to have them here and kick off summer with them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Unlikely Conditions

The collaborative book I wrote with Hillary Gravendyk is available for purchase at 1913 Press: click here. The press also has broadsides of poems from the book made by Michael McGarvey of Port Press: You can look through on their on-line gallery here. I got to see the lovely book for the first time at AWP where I met a lot of folks and ate some tacos in a car wash with friends. I've been setting up readings for sharing this book and hope to be in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Portland and possibly Seattle in August. If you're a fan of Hillary's, just check back here in a couple of weeks and I'll have a tour nailed down, I think.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Asian-American Issue of Dusie

I'm excited to be editing the spring issue of Dusie dedicated to AA poetry. This is a great opportunity to make another step in connecting several generations of AA poets in one place and showcasing the vitality of AA poetry. The editor Susana Gardner said "the sky is the limit" so please share this call widely. Here's the last issue dedicated to women poets, and edited by Carleen Tibbetts: here.

For this issue, help me bring together all kinds of poetry: experimental, avant-garde, lyric, narrative, Asian formal, non-Asian formal, epic, elegaic, conceptual, no-mind, librettos, prose pieces, poems about WWF, in-between states, whatever *you* think of as being what you would put in a mosaic of AA poetry. This includes Middle Eastern poets, South Asian/Southeast Asian poets, Asian-British poets, all the Asian poets.

 Please send 5+ poems to cindy underscore king at hotmail dot com and place the word "dusie" in the subject line. Put "dusie" and your last name in the file name. Deadline: January 15, 2016 or write me an e-mail if it's shortly after this date.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Insect Poetics

Grateful to Mathias Svalina for including me in the 89 poet Insect Poetics project at The Volta, available here. It says a lot about swarms and abundance in a good way. Probably something good for us to be reading right about now.