On seeing Peter Gabriel and Sting: Rock Paper Scissors 2016

 

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I don’t even know where to begin, but I guess I’ll start. I’ve mentioned on this blog before about my love for pre-1975 Genesis and about my obsession with Peter Gabriel back when I first heard Games Without Frontiers. I will never stop being a huge Gabriel fan.

The Eighties were huge in music for many of us born in the Seventies. While punk still lingered in the back of our brains, new wave, and a lot of fusion had taken over the pop scene. There were genres, of course, but it was such a great time for music that you’d hear Lionel Richie played next to The Cure and not bat an eyelash. One of the bands that really stuck with me were The Police. Their catchy reggae and punk inspired tunes hit feelings of nostalgia no matter when they were played and even if their songs were new. When Sting aka Gordon Sumner, branched out on his own, his music was an extension of that. Although you can separate The Police and Sting, you can’t separate the musical styles as a whole because Sting wrote a lot of the music and lyrics. Andy Summers eccentric guitar style is still iconic and Stewart Copeland is still a god of drums in my book. The Police catalogue lives in vinyl records and VHS tapes in my home.

I remember hearing Fortress Around Your Heart for the first time while waking up one morning. I’m sure many teenage girls were seduced by that song and ran out to get The Dream Of Blue Turtles. Or maybe that was just me. UNF, THAT video. *swoon* 

I caught  Sting every time was on television including his appearances on Saturday Night Live (elevator!) and one of the greatest music shows ever, Night MusicI’ve seen him perform solo live a couple of times and with The Police during their reunion. His shows are incredible and besides being great pleasing his fans, he’s such an underrated musician and poet.

In the Nineties I took my mom to go see Peter Gabriel with me because I’d never seen a concert with her that wasn’t salsa music. My little Colombian mom stood there cheering and putting her hands up in the air like she was a long time fan. Well, it turns out she listened to every mixed tape I made her and tried her best to understand me because she’s an awesome mom. That night we hugged and we had the best time ever as mother and daughter singing along to “Sledgehammer,” which was the only song she hadn’t made up words to, since although she’s fluent in English, it’s hard for her to gauge words when sung sometimes. It’s adorable.

When Sting and Peter Gabriel’s Rock Paper Scissors tour was announced, I called my sister. I took her to her first all-ages show (Weezer) and had also bombarded her with mixed tapes of Genesis, Peter Gabriel, and Sting. I needed to see this concert with her. The first time we saw Sting together was the night I had announced to her that I was pregnant with my first child. As I jumped along to the music that night, she kept trying to hold me down to keep me from hurting myself, worried because I was pregnant.

This year, we’ve both hit some hard times. Thus, when I called her about the Sting/Gabriel concert, she immediately said, “LET’S DO THIS.”

Last night was one of the most amazing concerts I have ever had the pleasure of being present at (and that’s saying a lot since I’ve seen some incredible shows). Peter Gabriel started the night off with a rock hard version of Rhythm Of The Heat (you know that BRRRRRONG from the film Inception and the looming drums in most film trailers? Inspired by this song).

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People light up their phone flashlights in lieu of lighters to “Love Can Heal.”

Sting followed after with If I Ever Lose My Faith In You. It’s definitely one of his more pop driven tracks, however, it started what was a great back and forth feeling for the night. Peter Gabriel would drive in, then Sting would answer, and the night felt more like a nice rollercoaster ride of greatest hits and some new tracks as well. As they came up to explain their formula for evening, up on stage the two looked like to best friends about to duel at karaoke. Gabriel would josh on Sting’s looks, while Sting would play up Gabriel’s versatility as a showman. I laughed. I cried. I turned to look at my sister and dance with her. Both of us overjoyed at reliving our teenage hood (we’re eight years apart) together for once.

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Gabriel and Sting comedy night.
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Sister best friends forever.

One of highlights of the night for me was Sting starting off with the first verse of pre-1975 Genesis’ Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (“selling England by the pound”), and then plow right into Message In A BottleIt was as a response to his and Gabriel’s reaction to Brexit this week. Oh and they played so many hits, so many wonderful renditions together of each other’s music. Peter Gabriel did Sting’s If You Love Somebody Set Them Free in his lounge inspired glam style. And that’s the thing, while both of them are prolific songwriters and accomplished musicians, while Sting is Sting by his presence, Peter Gabriel’s been glaming it up with the likes of David Bowie and Robert Fripp for ages. For me, Gabriel is one of the most influential artists out there, not just because of his music, but also by what he always brings to the stage. Whether it’s in costume changes or weird ass dance moves, but Gabriel’s voice transcends the persona he projects up there and brings shivers especially when performing this song:

 

Here’s a setlist for the night: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/sting-and-peter-gabriel/2016/air-canada-centre-toronto-on-canada-43ffa7ef.html

Needless to say I am on cloud nine for a while. By chance because it was Gabriel, I got to see Tony Levin play with two tight lineups in one year (with Peter Gabriel last night, and King Crimson earlier)! I am in prog-rock heaven.

I died. I came back to life. I am refreshed. The dark will back as always, but for now, I have music.

I adore my sister. We’ve both seen each other through thick and thin and best and worst. Last night was the best, not just because of the music, but because it’s a reminder that no matter what, reach out. Don’t give up.

“At the end of ‘Don’t Give Up,’ when the pounding bass takes over, I found myself skanking, dancing reggae style; I was in Jamaica in the spirit of Bob Marley; I saw the break of my marriage, my move from Los Angeles to Rome, my change of name, change of face, my own struggles and determination to make it again ’cause I have friends’ who would help me not to give up.” Armando Gallo, Peter Gabriel, (Omnibus Press, 1986).

 

“‘And Englishman in New York,’ was more of an open tribute to Quentin Crisp. The pair had met when Sting suggested him for a role in The Bride, and their friendship grew when Sting came to New York. ‘He’s one of my heroes and one of the most courageous men I’ve ever met. He was homosexual in England at a time when being so was physically dangerous, and he was himself, with no apologies, in such a flamboyant and brave way that should be an example to us all.'” – Sting, from Sting: the biography by Robert Sellers, (Omnibus Press, 1989)

 

AND BE YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY.

 

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Although they delved into some old stuff, I still wish they’d played these two songs (I was just in the mood for them…although my Gabriel and Sting choices change day by day):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protected: Day one of mourning David Bowie.

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The Jesus And Mary Chain 30th Anniversary Tour – Phoenix Concert Theatre May 1, 2015

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My ruminations on shows or albums here aren’t reviews. They’re often me waxing about nostalgia and the idolatry in it. It seems to be a theme with most shows these days. I’m trying to make up for lost time too of not going out to live performances as a kid. As a teenager I was content to sit with my albums, body flush with the floor, and headphones at a frequency blasting volume. Psychocandy was one of those albums that I had to add to your essentials collection because it was in heavy rotation on Citylimits (the midnight alternative Much Music video show in Canada).

It’s apparently been thirty years since Psychocandy came out, but my heart wouldn’t know it.

Once darlings of the British press and still idols to many, the band formed in the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland in 1983. Brothers William and Jim Reid aren’t just alternative rocker icons, they’re originals. William Reid’s thrashing guitar, a noise that the guitarist himself has been known to get lost in, attacks the body and screams out the listener’s ears. It’s a throbbing sort of fuzz that seeps into the bottom of the gut and settles somewhere between the stomach and the heart. Jim Reid’s vocals are soft, they kind of sneak up on you, as if he was calming the heart down from their guitars’ screeching crescendos.

“Moving up and so alive
In her honey dripping beehive
Beehive
It’s good, so good, it’s so good
So good”

Was it all branding? Was this their hook? Back then, and mostly as a teen I guess, I didn’t care. Their honeyed words and devil may care attitude made me care only about that voice and the pulsing noise candy in my ears.

I had the luck and the great pleasure of seeing The Jesus and Mary Chain last night for their sold out show at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. It was incredible.

Instead of headphones, I donned earplugs to prepare for the sonic onslaught. The crowd felt electric around me talking about shows past. William and Jim are notorious for their brotherly fallouts and combined tempers, onstage and offstage. Whether its money or the music that fuels their reunion, it didn’t matter to most of us though. There weren’t any big corporate logos last night except for the one on the beverage in my hand.

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photo by moi.

The show openers were L.A. based alt rock band Gateway Drugs. There are a few bands with that name and it was hard to find info on them beforehand so I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. They are neither a hip-hop band nor a retro analogue synth band. They’re a melancholic shoegaze outfit that not only delivered the rock, but the attitude as well. Comprised of Blues Williams and Gab, Noa, and Live Niles (children of The Knack’s Prescott Niles) the band played a tight set of garage rock with a bit of punk aesthetic to cleanse the audience’s palette. The bass was turned up way too high in the theatre, but there was enough in their musicianship and emo stances for me to decide that I needed to explore them further. The band sort of levitated around their drummer, Gabe, who was a hot chaotic mess. It was a wonderful sight. This is what a live show is: to present, engender, and elicit audiences. Gateway Drugs did just that.

Sugar, rock and roll doesn’t die. It waits.

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photo by moi.

The Jesus and Mary Chain are an efficient machine. First order of business was Jim Reid giving the audience the first order of business. They were to play a small set then return to play an even longer set. I think he wanted to assure us they’d be back after the break, lest we rush the stage (or riot – as in past live history) in disappointment. They didn’t disappoint at all. They sped through a lilting April Skies and crushed the audience with the title track, Psycho Candy. William Reid would veer his body towards the amps and lose himself for a bit, having his brother give him the occasional nod to come back to what they were doing. The second set (for lack of better words) drove me ‘crazy banana pants.’ Starting off with Just Like Honey (accompanied by Gateway Drugs’ vocalist, Liv Niles), Jim showed a bit more emotion, that is, if you count a desultory smirk as an emotion. You know what? You can, because overall Jim was very appreciative of the Toronto crowd. His vocals are still as sweet and as inviting and as he’d hit the upsurge in his notes, the crowd would meet him with an intensified frenzy. Jim would flash a slight smile behind the microphone and quickly revert back to seriousness. It was freaking adorable.

I died right at Taste The Floor. That song is in my top ten songs of all time. That list changes all the time, predictably expanding in size, but Taste The Floor remains and never leaves an empty spot.

“And the sun don’t shine
And all the stars don’t shine
And all the walls fall down
And all the fish get drowned

She’s singing to herself
As she’s singing in herself
And she walk right up to you
As she walk all over you”

Yes, she will Jim. Yes, she will. At my side, my best friend Jen jumped around like crazy, despite her back pain, as soon as they went into My Little Underground. By that time I think most of the audience had forgotten where they were and bounced around like teenagers. The band tripped its audience up and matched up their set with gorgeous visuals to create a subdued yet delighting spectacle. There was no pretension or allusions that they were better than their audience. Unique to The Jesus And Mary Chain is that after all this time, with this many fans who still anticipate new work from them, they still present an angry with the world demeanor. Sure, their pasty white pallor might have the hint of healthy times, but we’re all still down and managing it by staring at our shoes for respite. Nowadays their punkish attitude has mellowed out, but it doesn’t feel like age hammered the desolation out of them. Jim and William rocked out with their melodic wall of noise because in many ways, they’d invented it. But the Reid brothers have always exuded doom and gloom angst purely in their music. They just had a great audience last night to match their sweet revved up distortion and it was fantastic.

I’m still beaming.

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This photo of me going a bit nuts courtesy of my pal, Aaron.

UNDEFINED 2: the unclassifiable event is back!

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UNDEFINED 2 

May 21, 2015

at VIDEOFAG

(187 Augusta Avenue, Toronto)

7pm-10pm

UNDEFINED is a night with unfixed limits in art: language, music, and visual. Bringing the conceptual and experimental in poetry, film, performance, art, and music that fits nowhere and everywhere.

******SUPER SPECIAL SECRET LINE UP TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON SO KEEP IT ON YOUR CALENDARS TORONTO!*********

There will be creative and uncreative writing workshops tied into this event. More info soon.

**This was last year’s: https://www.facebook.com/events/669043146488107/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular
Photos: https://www.facebook.com/lttlredcorvette/media_set?set=a.10154081541220343&type=1 ***

Thoughts on the band Slowdive and Souvlaki Space Station

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In the early to mid nineties I worked at Radio Erindale, the University of Mississauga campus radio station. Those were interesting years because, not only was the campus a two hour transit ride from home, but it also was my first step to an independent life. Radio Erindale had its tiny cast of characters that feel larger than life looking back now. We had our resident goth, Leonard, who’d sleep on the dingy crew sofa before his show. He’d wake up in a flurry or black and angst to do it too. Our avant-garde, experimental chic guy was Tom Sekowski. His name might be familiar to many as a music writer for Exclaim and many other fledgling mags of the time. Then the philosopher Christopher Hendry who was really into Jack Kerouac and laid back indie and shoegaze fare. Steve McMaster was head of our station at the time and would regale us with tales of his adventures hobnobbing with musical guests. Also, Mike “Metal Mike” Filonienko and Sam Pisani who were a conservative metal duo who introduced me to Husker Du and Sugar. I was the girl in the crew at the radio station. I had my own show of mishmash stuff, but my main duty was to crash in the music library to work or do my readings for class (as if that ever got done there).

I was all starry eyed about everything at the time, but my head was always in the music library, sorting and organizing records and cds. It was my job which paid close to nothing, but eventually I became promotions manager and acting station manager when Steve left. Most of the time, I’d get first dibs at listening to the new releases that came into the station. I was exposed to a lot and one of the albums I first listened to there was Slowdive’s Souvlaki Space Station.

The listening room at the station was cramped and tiny, so I chose to listen to most stuff over the indoor speakers as I put away stuff. I remember almost falling over myself listening to that Slowdive album. The haunting sounds of the cover of Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra’s “Some Velvet Morning,” floored me completely. “40 Days,” was the musical equivalent of meeting a long lost friend, while “When The Sun Sits,”   It’s an album which is like a tempered wall of noise, you know it’s going to explode into a sonic boom of guitars, lilting vocals, and ethereal feedbacks, all birthed in a droning beatnik bass lines and rumbling percussion. The combination of Neil Halstead (vocals, guitar), Rachel Goswell (vocals, guitar – an angel, if you ask me), Christian Savill (guitar), Nick Chaplin (bass), Simon Scott (drums – a whirlwind of awesome), and Brian Eno on production work on “Sing” and “Here She Comes” was and is the perfect chimera of noise candy.

Souvlaki is/was a must have, as I listened to it constantly, and still do. It would be my lullaby, my day dream music, my soother, and most of all, my greatest companion when I’d lie on the floor of the studio or my bedroom and I thought the world was too much. I’d escape to it, like a great book, and fly over my little ordinary world into something beyond myself. My world was then shoegaze and my ears have been forever grateful for that.

I was too young and sheltered to see them back in 1994, but last night I got to see them at The Danforth Music Hall. They didn’t disappoint. They performed a surprisingly danceable version of “Allison” (usually I’d twirl to it in my room. I was pretty much pogo-ing most of the night). “When The Sun Sets” was overwhelming to experience in person, while “Crazy For You” had the guy next to me in hysterics.

I only took two pictures. This one: http://instagram.com/p/uuN9_4IV5a/?modal=true

and this one: http://instagram.com/p/uuOK-iIV5j/?modal=true

You can see some pretty great ones if you scroll down on the hashtag on twitter: https://twitter.com/search?f=realtime&q=%23slowdive&src=typd

Honestly, I felt like I was meeting that friend that sang me to sleep, sang me through the hard times, and the great times when the rain would fall slowly like a film noir, or the sun came blazing out of the trees in walks through the city. I’m incredibly ecstatic today and wearing my Slowdive shirt like a lingering comfort hug. Thank you so much to Slowdive for last night, all the nights beforehand, and the ones to come. Even in the reincarnations and side projects you’ve gifted us (Mojave 3 <3), your other albums (Pygmalion deserves an essay of its own), demos and b-sides, you continue to amaze and give me pause for thought. Slowdive, I adore you.

P.S. I still meet up with those Radio Erindale guys. They became lifelong buddies.

Second verse, same as the first: a long run on The Ramones

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http://www.spin.com/articles/read-ramones-snarky-1975-one-sheet/ The Ramones / Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns

“Now I wanna run away from home now I wanna be all alone now”

I was playing with my toys in my parents’ living room when I learned that John Lennon had been shot. In 1994, I was putting away records at Radio Erindale with friends when Metal Mike ran in and said, “Cobain’s gone, man.” I believe it was my husband who had texted me to say Lou Reed had passed.

It’s weird the way we find out these things these days. On my way home from a pal’s dinner, I checked my phone and news trickled in my little device that Tommy Ramone had died. It wasn’t shocking. Everyone dies. When Joey Ramone died I was in stresses of being a new mom. It was another rock and roll heartache. There are bigger things in this universe to mourn and to be angry about. Tommy Ramone’s passing is a reminder that all things go and all things remain in some way.

I bought Rocket To Russia after having a huge argument with my then girlfriend about the importance of The Ramones. We agreed on The Clash and Black Flag, but for some reason, she couldn’t stand The Ramones. I was ok with her dislike, but I couldn’t listen to them without her saying something about it. It was aggravating. She found them to be too “happy.” Anyways, I skipped class the day we argued and went record shopping with the full intent of acquiring and listening to enough Ramones to make my ears bleed.

Too happy? Bullshit.

“Lobotomy, lobotomy, lobotomy, lobotomy!
DDT did a job on me
Now I am a real sickie
Guess I’ll have to break the news
That I got no mind to lose
All the girls are in love with me
I’m a teenage lobotomy”

Everywhere The Ramones went turned to punk. Their first UK tour practically legitimized punk across the spectrum and it was soon after they played Toronto, that promoters went wild promoting local punk acts here.

I have no idea where I first heard them, most likely on the radio, but as far as my subconscious goes, it feels like I was born being into the band. The quick spitfire of each of their songs: furious drums that don’t quit even long after the song is done; the skilled angry staccato of the guitar; humming drone of the bass; and Joey…oh Joey. I’ve been secretly in love with Joey since Rock n Roll High School.

All those gangly limbs, bad lip synching, striped shirt, tall obscured face, and nerdy exterior…I have a thing for it. And that voice. Joey’s voice didn’t give a fuck and neither did he. The Ramones were the most unpretentious and geekiest anti-social image to arrive on any scene and because of that they connected with some of the most disenfranchised of the kids.

I have a Ramones song for almost every memorable angry occasion in my life. Today I was running though. I’ve taken to not using music to run lately, but today it felt necessary to bring The Ramones with me. The first few kilometres were I Wanna Be Sedated (I loop songs over and over when I get a good pace, or it’s my OCD, whatever). Road To Ruin is my brain dump album. I’m crazy and my anxiety of late has been on full tilt. Gimme anything to get rid of that uncontrolled feeling.

Then I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement. Hey daddy-o I don’t want to go to the hole. The dark place that I keep running from. Their debut album is so unapologetically raw, bass driven, and full of animalistic young energy. Plus Judy is a Punk has my name in it. “Perhaps they’ll die, oh yeah!”

(plus Havana Affair is a great song when you’re running through frou-frou Yorkville)

The Tom Waits cover I Don’t Wanna Grow Up is practically my anthem at 41. Although sung with an almost happier light by Waits (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!), in the hands of The Ramones it becomes a song of lifetime defiance and sticking it to the man.

I’m Affected has that classic eighties feel combined with a CBGBs punk that was more modernly relatable to my Talking Heads and Blondie loving peers. Don’t get me wrong, I love those two bands too (particularly The Talking Heads), but having fallen for The Ramones via their short hard driving bursts of songs, Phil Spector’s production of End of The Century brought out their excellent musicianship to the forefront. And Joey is so angry on here.

I could go on. I ended off my run with my go-to album which is, as you guessed it, Rocket to Russia.1, 2, 3, 4 You better know what you want… I can’t give you anything.”

I can’t give anyone anything. How I feel that. You know how little I got. It’s true.

With Tommy Ramone going to that great gig in the sky, it gives one a moment to pause, especially if you’re getting up there yourself. Who knew we’d be aging punk rockers, aging grungers, aging anything. I thought I’d never see 30, let alone, 40, but here I am. Yet The Ramones are still there playing on my long runs, or when I’m angry, or if I feel like the only one in a crowded room. While the world mills about dancing and dinner making, I’ll be bop-bopping hopefully until I take my last breath.

Anyways, I’m on a bit of an adrenaline rush, a sweaty mess that needs a shower, and a bit melancholy in turn. I just wanted to write some thoughts down as I reminisce and subject my kids to more Ramones for the rest of the day.

Can I bring my Ramones shirt to the big gig?

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RIP Tommy: Not Fade Away by Michael Robbins http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/246998

About that gig in the sky:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/07/12/tommy_ramone_died_they_might_be_giants_john_flansburgh_pays_tribute_to_longest.html

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Bauhaus into poetry

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On Wednesday May 14th 2014, a bunch of authors: Tony Burgess, Jade Wallace, Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, Liisa Ladouceur, Liz Worth, and myself gathered at the Nocturne in Toronto to remix Bauhaus lyrics into poetry.

Here are my remixed poems:

Ecstasy

Nerve ends

crucifixion ecstasy
One eye’s closed

checked in agony
Will it stay shut?

Stigmata bleed

What

if
if

if

Holes in head
Indelicate Nerves.

Delicate Nerves

Indelicate Nerves

Delicate Nerves

Stigmata oh

Stigmata oh

Stigmata oh
Tell tale tongues

weep for me
Brittle spittle
The fabric of dreams
Nerves.

As you feel the twist

pumping heart
Nerves nylon /nerves steel
Nerves nylon/nerves steel
Nerves nylon/nerves steel

Sense of serenity splintered glass.

Look into your crimson orifice
random cutlery cuts

In holy remembrance
Nerves. Nerves.

in your splintered plight
Nerves. Nerves.

Stigmata oh

Stigmata oh

Nerves.
Nerves nylon/nerves steel
Nerves nylon/nerves steel
Nerves nylon/nerves steel

In scarlet bliss

Father, son, and holy ghost

 

In nomine patri et filii et spiriti sanctum
In nomine patri et filii et spiriti sanctum

 

Aleb

Aleb

Aleb

Aleb

 

the man with the xray eyes is alone with everybody

(bauhaus meets bukowski)

 

the flesh covers the bone

shoes that no man would want to wear

and they put a mind
Wipe away the night’s last cold stare

in there and
Red fist curled ’round the house

sometimes a soul
Was away boy Shelly’s shoes
wash

and women break
Chocolate power is so crisp

vases against the walls
The atomic open house is really here

and the men drink too
And we have gone so desperate

too much
Your power knows no bounds

and nobody finds the one

And heavier with time

but keep looking
Are our shoes

crawling in and out
That no man would want to wear

of beds
New tread wipes a wet road so dry

flesh covers
it stings

the bone and the flesh
Into the borrowed course

searches for more than
Under the dreadful birds

flesh
Under the singing soil

there’s no chance at all
And all those guilty clouds

we are all trapped
I have seen too much

by a singular fate
Wipe away my eyes

nobody ever finds one
Too much

the graveyards fill

nothing else fills

 

who killed mr moonlight (bauhaus in haikus)

1. Consider green lakes

broken arrow face wound

smile shot innocence.

 

2. midnight proposals

shot nostalgia in the back

shadow of his smile

 

3. all our dreams melted

are hiding in the bushes

doing dead men stunts

 

4. our burnt stories

we can’t paint any pictures

as the moon had all our brushes

 

5. extracting wasps stings

you who killed mr moonlight

you his shadow smile

 

The Virgin Mary

Virgin mary was tired

So tired

Never would be invited

to the funeral rosegarden

that was hers
She’s tired of listening to gossip
Gossip and complaints

her disappointment runs with her guests
Her guests wreaking havoc

From all sorts of

All sorts of
Untidy whores without agency
Her men are chosen from the rest

They came from next door
And a bewildered stream of chatter

But their choice don’t seem to matter

 

She’s got swollen breasts and lips that putter
And her choice of matter and her screams of chatter
Is just a little parasitic scream of whores
Screaming whores

So tired of listening to gossip
Gossip and complaints is she

 

 

In the rosegarden funeral of sores
Virgin mary was tired

she came from next door
Came from next door

Opened up the gates

Intruder not, Owner

Rosegarden

Garden rose

Rose garden

Garden rose

Rose garden

Garden rose

The Virgin Mary laid down to rest

in her
Rosegarden funeral of sores

 

Kraftwerk @ Sony Centre March 29, 2014 – thoughts

 

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Mounting an overwhelming mixed media assault on the Sony Centre, Kraftwerk benefited from their eerily prophetic influence over the modern fascination with retro futurism. With spectators bedecked in 3D glasses, made to look like droids themselves, the quartet activated their entertainment machine with the seminal “Robots.” It was a dramatic intro for the night and it stood out as a true statement of intent for the rest of the show. The band, dressed in reflective hieratic costumes stood in perfect alignment on stage delivering just what one would expect of a concert put on by humanoid robots equipped with vocoders and 3D technology. Now that might not seem like an endorsement, in fact it’s quite the opposite, since Kraftwerk’s strength lies in their stark presentation of the minimalist audio-visual art form: they’re a fruitful merging of music and technology.

Consecutively playing song after song from their last eight albums, Kraftwerk travelled through their back catalogue highlighting popular themes. With “Numbers,” the screen spat out endless figures over the audience’s heads reminiscent of 1980s desktop images. In “Computer World,” an old school PC floated by as the crowd roared their nostalgic approval. There was a futuristic melancholy in their choice of images that made the band seem more prescient now in retrospect. “Spacelab” was definitely the highlight of the show. The accompanying projections transformed the venue into a giant spacecraft zooming through the stratosphere, soaring with the UFOs, and finally gently landing by the CN tower, much to the enthusiasm of the crowd. “Das Model” was beautifully executed with kitschy 1950s vintage footage, while “Radioactivity” provided a disturbing spin with a quick reference to the Fukushima disaster. They played an extended version of “Tour de France” from their Vitamin album at the median, which felt more like an ode to Ralf Hütter, who is an avid cyclist. Surprisingly, while “Autobahn” was the crowd favorite it may have been the only weakness in the set. Its long version in performance didn’t provide anything different to its music video version. Nonetheless the synthpop love was clearly felt as Kraftwerk looped through familiar beats and fully took advantage of the crystal clear sound system of the venue.

As “Music Non Stop” closed the concert, individual members took turns to show off their synthesizer prowess, leaving Hütter, sole survivor of the original outfit, alone on stage. By this point the audience could barely stay in their seats and a few got up to dance. A girl managed to jump the stage to hug the band before security whisked her away. Kraftwerk had “worked” the crowd without budging from their android-like exteriors

Having changed the history of pop four decades ago as pioneers of electronic music, Kraftwerk still puts on an electrifying show. It’s interesting to note that while the band barely interacted with the crowd, the images that encompassed the Centre that night made for intimate and indelible impressions. If Kraftwerk were a thesis of impending concert entertainment, the possibilities of what come might next are as exciting as they are palpable. The future is definitely now.