Lydia Lunch Unapologetic, Unforgettable @ Strange Matter (09.24.18)

[Note: This is the third in a series of ‘Three Shows in Four Days.’ The second show is described here. The first show is described here.]

After attending shows out of town on Friday and Saturday, and resting on Sunday, I looked forward to Monday and a local show where I truly had no idea what to expect.

How did I end up going to see Lydia Lunch in concert? The answer to that question is easy: My friend Anne. I admit that my knowledge of Lydia Lunch’s discography was minimal at best. I had a friend who brought in her debut album (‘Queen of Siam’) when I was doing a Halloween show at a college radio station and asked me to play ‘Knives in the Drain’, which I did, but it didn’t really resonate at that time (which I will simply say was a long time ago).

Fast forward to Fall 2017. Lydia Lunch played RVA in October. I seriously considered buying a ticket, but did not. Even though that show saw Lydia open for another band (which, after seeing her perform, I can’t imagine her opening for anyone), I promised myself that if Lydia returned to RVA, opener or headliner, I was not going to miss it. I also discovered a lot of her back catalog on Spotify, beginning late last year, so whenever the next show happened, I wasn’t going in totally clueless.

In July, I saw where a show was scheduled at Strange Matter and Lydia Lunch was the headliner. I bought a ticket without even realizing it was going to be on a Monday, and without seeing that their were not one, not two, but three opening bands!

So, on a rainy Monday night, I made my way to Strange Matter. I walked in while the first band was still sound checking…and saw a room full of people who looked just like my friend Anne. So I found a seat at the bar and waited for ‘the real Anne Soffee’ to find me.

‘I’m in a room full of your doppelgängers! They all look just like you!’ I said as she asked me my thoughts on this.

‘Well, that’s because we’re all trying to look like Lydia.’ she laughed.

I sat at the bar drinking Guinness and making friends while the openers played. After the third (and in my opinion, the best) opener finished and began to move their gear offstage, I turned to my left to see none other than the evening’s headliner standing beside me, in all of her Goth Glory.

‘Hello! Thanks for coming back to Richmond!’ I said as she waited for the bartender to bring her a white wine.

She laughed, her voice sounding like a wonderful hybrid of Tom Waits and Kathleen Turner.

‘I fucking love this strange city. I’m thinking…I’m thinking of coming back soon!’

We chatted a bit about the opening acts, which, as I suspected, she had no hand in selecting. The bartender returned with her white wine and in one motion she took the large glass with her left hand and offered me her right hand to shake.

‘Show the openers how it’s done,’ I offered as she turned toward the stage.

‘Fuck yeah!’ she half yelled and half laughed.

Photo by Anne Soffee

At some point in the 70s, probably while she was in the band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks or soon after they disbanded, Lydia Lunch was christened ‘The Queen of No Wave’, and she has had projects that were ‘Noise Art’ and not what you would call melodic. The irony of the evening was that it seemed the three openers were tying to ‘out noise’ The Queen of No Wave, but when Lydia and her band RETROVIRUS took the stage, they had two immediate things that the openers were missing: Melodies and choruses. While it was not ‘pop’ or anything hook-laden, the songs were recognizable and unlike anything I had heard over the previous two hours.

And, in a word, it was wonderful.

Lydia and her band did in fact show everyone how it’s done, and for seventy minutes, everyone forgot it was past midnight on a weeknight and no one cared that the morning alarm clock was waiting to go off sooner than humanly acceptable.

I only have a partial setlist based on previous set lists I’ve read and the titles Lydia introduced from the stage. Here’s what I recall in no particular order:

Snakepit Breakdown

Love Split With Blood

3X3

Mechanical Flattery

Gospel Singer

Afraid of Your Company

Something Witchy In The Air Tonight

Call it No Wave, Post Punk, Goth Blues, Noise Rock…the one thing I did not expect was that it was fun!

Special thanks to Anne. Because of her numerous posts about Lydia over the last year, my interest was piqued to attend a show, when everything including the weather provided a legitimate excuse to stay home on my couch. Thank goodness I didn’t. Mondays spent with a legend are much more fun.

Post show autograph

Lydia Lunch is a rock star. If you were there, then you know. If you are one of the uninitiated, consider this your engraved invitation. Lydia will be back at some point in 2019. Believe me when I say you do not want to miss it. Whether she’s the opener doing a twenty-minute spoken word performance, or the headliner delivering a full set with a rock band, Lydia Lunch is a unique artist, writer and performer unlike anyone else, despite the dozen or so doppelgängers in attendance Monday night.

–Barry

Steven Page & Wesley Stace at Rams Head: A ‘Dream Show’ (09.22.18)

[Note: This is the second in a series of ‘Three Shows in Four Days.” The first show is described here.]

Prologue:

When Elton John tickets went on sale for two shows in Washington, DC in February, my friend Meg and I immediately agreed that the Friday, September 21st show was best, so we bought tickets for that night. At some point in June, it was announced that Steven Page was going to tour the US, and a show was announced for The Tin Pan in Richmond. I was very excited to read this, until I discovered the date for that Richmond show was (you guessed it) Friday September 21st. For a day, I was bummed that one of my favorite artists was going to play one of my favorite music venues, and I was going to miss it. After a day, I checked Page’s tour itinerary and found that he was playing Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland on the following day. And, the bonus was that, unlike the Richmond show, the Maryland show listed Wesley Stace (AKA John Wesley Harding) as the opening act. I immediately bought a ticket, even though at the time of purchase, I did not know a) How I was going to get to Maryland, b) Where I was going to stay or c) How I was going to get back to Richmond. None of that mattered at that moment. I figured things would work themselves out.

Meg was kind enough to drop me off at my friend Kurt’s apartment in Northern Virginia after the Elton John show, so thanks to the both of them (and Kurt’s wife Valeria), I had accommodations for the evening, plus Kurt had bought a ticket to the show, so we would travel to Annapolis together. Things worked themselves out, as I had hoped, and the stars were aligned for what would in fact be a ‘dream show’ for me.

Show Review:

‘Most people think matinees are weird, but The Beatles used to do them regularly. For me…it’s just weird.’ – Wesley Stace

With that opening line, said while tuning his guitar, Wesley Stace began the afternoon’s proceedings. This was a 1:00pm matinee show, and it seemed no one affiliated with the show had any idea why it was scheduled in the afternoon instead of the usual 8:00pm.

Now, I must provide a bit of history. I have been a fan of Wesley Stace, who at the start of his career worked under the moniker John Wesley Harding, ever since I heard a song of his on a mix tape that a mutual friend made for Kurt in 1993. I was in Kurt’s car the first time I heard ‘July 13, 1985’ and, from that moment twenty-five years ago, I was a fan. I went out the next week and bought the CD that had ‘July 13, 1985’ (‘It Happened One Night’), and from that point on tried to stay up to date on his releases.

I really really like Steven Page…but I attended this show primarily for the opener. I had been waiting 25+ years to see him in concert, and, as expected, he did not disappoint.

‘The last time Steven and I toured together was in 1992, when Barenaked Ladies were an unknown band…and they were my opening act. So, I figured I would play songs from 1992 today,’ – Wesley Stace

The first song of the afternoon was a cover (Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’), followed by other favorites of mine (‘The Person You Are’; ‘The Truth’). Next, the time-travel was put on hold to play a re-written, politically-tinged lyric to ‘My Favorite Things’ re-titled ‘My Least Favorite Things.’

Then the moment became truly surreal.

After checking his phone to see what time it was (he set a hard stop of 1:30 so he could then drive home to Philadelphia to see his son’s 4pm soccer game. ‘Totally doable,’ he quipped.), Stace began to talk about the next song.

“This song is me making fun of something that happened in 1985…’

I thought to myself, ‘No! He never plays this! He’s said repeatedly on Twitter he’s forgotten it. He’s not gonna play that song, is he?!’

Now, Kurt and I both had tickets to this show, but the venue was one that had reserved seats at tables, so while we both attended the same show, we did not see the show together, and it was obvious that almost everyone else around me had no idea who Wesley Stace was, or what was about to happen.

To be able to witness Stace performing ‘July 13, 1985,’ a song I would never have dreamed to hear live, that was a truly wonderful and surreal moment. Stace even tacked on a different ending from the recording that I have heard for the last 25 years. Hearing that song live will rank as one of my all-time ‘Glad I Was There’ moments.

“There’s a reason songs like that are stored away and forgotten for decades,’ said Stace while preparing to play his last song. ‘My twelve year-old daughter is here today. She has no idea what that song’s about, but it does confirm that her father has used drugs.’

Wesley Stace’s Set List:

Like A Prayer

The Person You Are

The Truth

My Least Favorite Things

July 13, 1985 (The Live Aid Song, as noted by the artist on Twitter)

The Devil In Me

There was all of that surreal nostalgia, and I still had a set from Steven Page to look forward to!

Kurt, Valeria and I had the pleasure of seeing Steven Page with The Art of Time Ensemble in February at The University of Richmond. That set however consisted primarily of songs that meant a lot to Steven, and were songs mostly by other artists. It was great to hear Page take a turn on a Leonard Cohen vocal and sing Radiohead. As great as that was, I was really looking forward to seeing Page sing some of his own songs.

The band is officially called ‘The Steven Page Trio’ and includes Chris Northey on guitar and Kevin Fox on cello. The set opened with ‘There’s A Melody II’, a track from Page’s 2016 solo effort “Heal  Thyself Pt. 1: Instinct” and then seamlessly the song segued into the BNL classic ‘Jane’, assuring me that we were going to hear some of the old songs even though Page just dropped a new album earlier this month (“Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt II”).

BNL made news in March when the current lineup reunited with Page, who’s been doing his own thing since early 2009, to mark their induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Even before the last note of “If I Had $1000000″ had stopped ringing, there was talk of a ‘BNL Reunion Tour.” That may or may not happen next year. As I watched a confident Page sing his songs, I thought to myself, ‘As great as a reunion would be, he doesn’t need it, and at least outwardly seems totally sure of himself as the sole focus of attention.’

Along with the ‘classic’ tunes, Page also performed the lead single from his new album, the politically-toned ‘White Noise,’ which contains lyrics like this:

Apparently, to fix your nation

You’ve got to run it like a corporation

The kind you don’t mind burning to the ground

I’ve had to learn to bite my tongue

Or they’ll send me back where I came from

I’ll tell you as an immigrant and a Jew

I’d be more than glad to replace you”

Here’s Steven Page’s set list, from setlist.fm:

There’s A Melody II

Jane

Manchild

A New Shore

White Noise

I Live With It Every Day

War On Drugs

The Feelgood Strum (improv)

Linda Ronstadt in the 70s

It’s All Been Done

Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel

Gravity

I Can See My House From Here

What a Good Boy

The Old Apartment

Brian Wilson

(encore)

The Chorus Girl

Call And Answer

The true icing on top of the cake was the fact that Page sang the chorus to ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ not once but twice! The first was during the improv piece ‘The Feelgood Strum,’ where the trio sang lyrics to many classic songs over the same chord progression. ‘My Girl’ was featured and the KISS ‘Klassik’ was played before segueing into ‘Linda Ronstadt in the 70s.” He played the chorus of ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ again as a slow piano ballad during the intro to ‘Call And Answer.’ Those moments, along with hearing ‘July 13, 1985’ served as proof that I was supposed to be at this specific show. I don’t know if Wesley will play ‘The Live Aid Song’ again soon, or if Steven will be moved to play a portion of ‘The Rock And Roll National Anthem’, but I was ecstatic to be able to witness both of those things on Saturday.

Thanks once again to Meg for getting me to my second destination, and special thanks to Valeria for ‘holding down the fort’ Saturday so that Kurt and I could go have fun. That I got to share this show and hear ‘July 13, 1985’ with Kurt, that was a very ‘full circle’ moment.

You don’t get those too often in life, so it’s important to take note when they happen.

Thank you very much for reading.

(PS: Wesley confirmed via Twitter that his son’s soccer team tied 1-1.)

–Barry

Elton Bids Farewell (Washington, DC 09.21.18)

It’s very tough for some artists to say ‘Goodbye’ and mean it. Speaking as a KISS fan who saw the band’s ‘Farewell Tour’ eighteen years ago, only to have an incarnation of the band continue onward toward their just announced ‘End of the Road’ tour, I am well aware that the ‘Farewell’ moniker can be nothing more than a money-grabbing gambit. With Elton, though, it was evident that he meant this worldwide tour to be the last one. He plans to be on the road for the next three years, so it will be a long goodbye, but I don’t think anyone will mind that. Friday night (09.21.18) he played the first of two sold out nights at Washington, DC’s Capital One Arena, and I was lucky enough to be there.

Regarding the set list, as a longtime fan, I would love for Elton to do a show that was predominetly deep cuts and album tracks that you don’t hear on the radio. As much as I would love for that ‘dream show’ to be a reality, when your catalog includes easily ten songs that are not only ‘hits’ but are part of the world’s collective consciousness, that makes for a long list of songs that ‘have to be played,’ leaving little room for surprises.

Even so, the hits and the songs we all know, they’re pretty amazing.

Case in point: Elton opened the show with ‘Bennie And The Jets’, a song I have worn out and grown tired of hearing when playing the ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ album. But, in a live setting, with a charged up crowd and an energized Elton, the opener crackled with a ferocity that was proof the evening was going to be something special.

Without question, the best part of the show, apart from Elton himself, was having the pleasure of watching percussionist Ray Cooper live on stage. As backing musicians go, he’s a star in his own right and, as Elton said from the stage, Cooper has played with ‘everybody who is anybody’ on record and on tour. Every moment Cooper was on stage, he was a joy to watch.

Elton said early on that the songs being played on this tour are songs that mean a lot to him. As productions go, almost every song has an accompanying video montage or film, Sometimes the film is a great additon (‘Border Song’; ‘Candle in the Wind’) and other times it’s downright distracting (‘Tiny Dancer’). Since the show is timed almost to the second, I think the set list is pretty much set in stone, at least until they have a break and some time to add some new production elements. Here is the set list:

SET ONE:

Bennie and the Jets

All the Girls Love Alice

I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

Border Song

(Elton solo)

Tiny Dancer

Philadelphia Freedom

Indian Sunset

(Elton and Ray Cooper only)

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)

Take Me to the Pilot

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Levon

(with ‘Day Tripper’ by The Beatles snippet)

Candle in the Wind

(Elton solo)

SET TWO:

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

Burn Down the Mission

Believe

Daniel

Sad Songs (Say So Much)

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

The Bitch Is Back

I’m Still Standing

Crocodile Rock

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Encore:

Your Song

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Quite simply, if you’re a longtime fan who has seen Elton before, or if you’ve thought about attending an Elton John show but haven’t yet, when this tour hits your area…GO!! Elton probably will play the occasional benefit show, and maybe another Vegas residency will be in the cards, but otherwise, this tour will serve as a chance for Elton to thank his fans, and in turn for the fans to think Elton. It makes for a very special evening that you won’t want to miss.

Thank you to my concert buddy, Meg for sharing this show with me. We don’t hang out as often as we should, but when we do, it’s for ‘bucket list’ shows (Dolly, Stevie, Springsteen, and now Elton).

And thank YOU, as always, for reading.

–Barry

Firehouse’s INVALID: Just What The Doctor Ordered

Every once in a while, it’s nice to be reminded that laughter at times can truly be ‘the best medicine.’ Firehouse Theatre’s latest production. ‘INVALID’, an adaptation of Moliere’s THE IMAGINARY INVALID, is perhaps just the prescription we need as we navigate these uncertain and occasionally divisive times.

Written by Josh Chenard (who also directs) and Jane Mattingly, ‘INVALID’ is an uproarious farce delivered in iambic pentameter with a Mel Brooks twist.

We first meet Argan (Andrew Firda), who is certain he’s dying as he pores over a tray of potions designed to make him well, or at least keep him complacent. Frida’s Argan appears all at once sure of himself, nervous, neurotic and put upon by those who also inhabit his daily life.

Playing Argan’s gold digging wife Beline is Kirk Morton, in a show stopping turn that is truly ‘Divine.’ Allison Paige Gilman plays love-struck daughter Angelica with a sultry sweetness that can’t help but have the audience rooting for her. Her father wishes for her to marry his doctor’s son. Thomas (Kenneth W. Putnam) so that his mounting medical costs will be reduced via a family discount, but Angelica wants to marry Cleante (Jamar Jones).

In the midst of this maelstrom is the maid, Toinette, portrayed with unwavering confidence by Donna Marie Miller. She gives as good as she gets when trading insults with a miffed Argan, and shuttles characters in and out of the room, always keeping her wits about her while everyone else goes a bit crazy.

Chernard and Mattingly’s script certainly pays homage to its influences (Brooks and his muse Madeline Khan, Oliver Hardy and the aforementioned Divine), but the stellar cast makes each character their own, so while it may seem nostalgic, it’s never tired or trite. A marvelous set designed by Chris Raintree and costumes by Nia Safari Banks add to the frivolity, helping to ensure everyone in attendance has an enjoyable and memorable evening.

Go get poked and prodded by men in white coats, but most importantly go laugh. While you’re there, remember that laughter is a lot like flatulence: it’s healthier when it is let out.

Check out the promotional video here. (Bonus points if you recognize the soundtrack.)

Production Information

INVALID

Adapted from Moliere’s THE IMAGINARY INVALID by Josh Chenard and Jane Mattingly

directed by Josh Chenard

Cast:

Argan – Andrew Firda*

Beline – Kirk Morton

Angelica – Allison Paige Gilman

Toinette – Donna Marie Miller

Cleante – Jamar Jones

Dr. Diaforus – Christopher Dunn

Thomas Diaforus – Kenneth W. Putnam

*appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

Production Team:

Josh Chenard – Director

Jane Mattingly – Dramaturg

Chris Raintree – Set Designer

Nia Safarr Banks – Costume Designer

Andrew Boniwell – Lighting Designer

Composer – Brandon J. Johns

Blair Rath – Chair Fabricator

Cailin Lindsay – Stage Manager

Performance Schedule:

Thu, Sep 6 @ 7:30pm

Fri, Sep 7 @ 7:30pm

Sun, Sep 9 @ 4pm

Thu, Sep 13 @ 7:30pm

Fri, Sep 14 @ 7:30pm

Sat, Sep 15 @ 7:30pm

Sun, Sep 16 @ 4pm

Fri, Sep 21 @ 7:30pm

Sat, Sep 22 @ 7:30pm

Sun, Sep 23  @ 4pm

Thu, Sep 27 @ 7:30pm

Fri, Sep 28 @ 7:30pm

Sat, Sep 29 @ 7:30pm

Tickets:

$15-$35

http://www.firehousetheatre.org / 804.355.2001

–Barry

Writing in Analog

I haven’t posted anything here in quite a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. In fact, this summer has been probably my most prolific as a writer, even though this page has been dormant. For starters, I am now part of a fantastic podcast, ‘Redemption Song’, with friends Patrick, Dan and Kerry. We listen to records that were maligned or ignored by fans and/or critics when they were released and we attempt to determine if the record’s reputation as ‘bad’ is deserved, or if there might be something worth listening to and appreciating. Without question, the podcast has been the highlight of my summer, and if you know me, you know that I am able to take music seriously while still having fun. Give it a listen at the link above. As of this writing, there are eight episodes available, covering albums by artists ranging from Dylan, U2, KISS and Liz Phair, among others.

My notes for a podcast episode

The podcast is tangentially one of the reasons this page has had nothing new since a totally mind blowing concert appearance by Lou Barlow in April. In order to listen to and take notes about each song on each album for the podcast, I bought a five pack of single subject notebooks, and immediately put one on my bedside table. Since about 2000, whenever I have written anything resembling a journal, it’s usually been typed on  a PC, an iPad or a phone and then (sometimes) edited for inclusion in this blog. But this summer, I have been writing almost nightly, and always in longhand. And, as a friend termed it recently, most of what I have written this summer is ‘not fit for public consumption.’

Truthfully though, even if there was something I could post here, I am too lazy to transcribe it from the written page to the website. Perhaps someday I will edit and transcribe it all when the topics covered are well in the past tense, but for now, I will keep writing in the notebook, because I had forgotten how much fun and rewarding it was to scribble words on a page in ink.

As for this blog, I will be posting more frequently. Look for a play review very soon and some concert reviews (namely Sucidal Tendencies at The 9:30 Club on 9/8).

This summer hasn’t been easy, and perhaps I have become a bit too familiar with vodka, but I know I have had many harder seasons and been in many worse situations before. I will get through this one as the calendar turns to autumn, with my sense of humor and my shot glass intact.

Thanks as always, for reading!

–Barry

Lou Barlow Plays Among The Vespas

How do you write down your thoughts on something that you didn’t realize you had been waiting to witness for almost twenty-five years? I’m still not sure, but I will attempt to do just that. First though, a bit of history.

At some point in the mid-90s, I was introduced to the music of Sebadoh by way of a mix tape from my friend Jenne. The song was ‘Rebound’, and while I was not really a fan of ‘lo-fi’ recordings, lead singer and songwriter Lou Barlow’s lyrics hit me like a bullet. I remember soon after hearing that first mix tape, a trip to Sam Goody at our local mall where I went with the express purpose of buying a CD EP that had acoustic versions of ‘Rebound’ and ‘Magnet’s Coil’, although I did not voice this out loud to my friends (at least I don’t think I did). Sam Goody had only one copy (in hindsight it’s remarkable they even had one copy) and one of my friends claimed it before I got there. That friend made sure that all of the acoustic tracks from that EP were included on the next mix I got from them.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, I saw Sebadoh three times in concert. Each time was very memorable (especially a 2004 show at The Khybr in Philadelphia). Each show, while memorable, never included ‘Magnet’s Coil’ in the set. I wasn’t disappointed, because those shows still rocked, but I kept hoping with each successive show that ‘maybe this time’ would be the night when I would hear a live take of ‘Magnet’s Coil.’

Fast-forward to March 2018 when Patrick posted on Facebook that he had just acquired tickets to see a solo acoustic show by Lou Barlow in Philadelphia. I had no idea Lou was touring so, after reading Patrick’s post, I saw that Lou had a Facebook page and there was a list of tour dates. Two nights after the April 9 Philly show, Lou was going to play in Richmond! I had never heard of the listed venue, but even without knowing anything else about the show, I immediately bought a ticket.

About the venue: This show was booked at ‘MOTO RICHMOND’ which is in fact a scooter store, so the backdrop for the performer was a line of Vespas along with many motorcycle/scooter accessories and lights. I can’t say enough about how great the staff were. They made sure I had a chair, although I was more than prepared to stand for the entire show. When I walked into the performance area, it wasn’t very crowded. Thankfully a few minutes before show time when I looked behind me, the room had filled to probably seventy people.

Mic? Check. Guitars? Check. Vespas???

As pre-show music blared from the PA system, Lou nonchalantly walked out dragging a suitcase of merchandise. He stowed that behind a counter at the front of the venue, then he began to set up his three guitars. By ‘set up’ I mean he took them out of their cases and leaned them against a hardback chair in a way that if someone had sneezed, they would have fallen.

‘Doesn’t he have ‘people’ to handle the merch? Doesn’t he have stands for his guitars?’ I asked myself in humorous amazement.

Just past 8:00pm Lou sat down on a stool and asked everyone else to sit down. ‘I would stand up, but you’re still not going to be able to see me unless everyone sits down.’ Since this place was a store and not built for live music, the performance area was all on one level so having everyone seated was the only way for anyone not up in the front to see the show.

After tuning his guitar, Lou surprised us by opening with ‘Cold As Ice’ by Foreigner. He followed that with a verse and a chorus of Bryan Adams’ ‘Run To You’ before he messed up, stopped abruptly and announced, ‘Okay, now I’ll play some of my songs.’

Then he started playing the intro to ‘Magnet’s Coil,’ an intro to a song I have listened to thousands of times over the last twenty-plus years.

From that point forward, the rest of the evening is a wonderful, nostalgic blur. I remember snippets of moments, and I remember telling myself ‘Don’t lose it, keep it together!’ As each song washed over me, I was filled with memories of friends that I haven’t seen in too long, hours spent talking and playing cards while these songs played in the background. Memories came fast and sharp: The night I quoted a verse from ‘Rebound’ at a Waffle House during a discussion about dating; the morning where a friend left the lyrics to ‘Magnet’s Coil’ written in ink on four sheets of folded paper in my mailbox, and the time a friend gifted me three mix CDs of Sebadoh music. As I remembered all of this and tried to take in the actual show, it all became the aforementioned wonderful, nostalgic blur as the forty-something year old me melted away to reveal the twenty-something year old me. And I was okay with that.

Here is a partial setlist from the website setlist.fm with a few additions based on my blurry memory:

April 11; MOTO Richmond

Cold As Ice

Run To You

Magnet’s Coil

Imagination Blind

Rebound

Not a Friend

Repeat

Love Intervene

Skull

Too Pure

Wave

Natural One

Ballad of Daykitty

Back to your Heart

Vampire

Brand New Love

This show had everything I could’ve asked for: An attentive audience (minus the intoxicated guy who kept asking Lou to play songs he didn’t write), Lou telling many stories about songs (especially a detailed explanation on how ‘Ballad of Daykitty’ was written) and, as the partial setlist shows, the songs that I wanted to hear, that I didn’t realize I had been waiting to hear, the songs that I needed to hear. The only thing that could’ve improved the evening was to have seen it with those friends who made me a Sebadoh fan in the first place. While that didn’t happen, I did see this show with a friend, Christi, who attended even though she had not heard a note of Sebadoh music until the ride to the show (she did know Dinosaur Jr. though and I had completely forgotten to mention that Lou was the bassist in that band when talking to her about the show). By the time the evening was over and we were walking back to the car, Christi announced that she ‘would definitely see Lou again if he returned.’ So, like my friends made me a fan in the 90s, I’ll take credit for making Christi a fan.

In closing, a quick sincere thank you to Jenne, Jesi, Patrick, Tony and Kurt for exposing me to the music of Lou Barlow and Sebadoh, and for being among those who ‘get’ why this guy is so great. You were thought of fondly on this night. Thanks to Kati for taking a friend’s advice and coming to the show literally minutes before Lou started. And special thanks to Christi for being there to share a show that I think I can safely say neither one of us will ever forget.

Thank you for reading (indulging) my attempt to describe an evening that left some sobbing, and left me truly speechless. But again, perhaps Lou sums it up best:

‘If there’s a right thing to say

I’m sure I missed it by a mile.’

–‘Too Pure

–Barry

For The Most Part

For the most part, I can say that I am happy with my life. But, there’s that qualifier, ‘For the most part…’ I know I have many friends who, if I needed to call on at 3am to help with any sort of situation, those friends would be there to help and/or rescue me. I know that is no small thing, and I am lucky in that respect. Thinking back, I don’t really know if my dad had friends like that whom he could call on in a pinch. He had dozens of coworkers he shared time with, but it wasn’t until he met his second wife that he found a friend, a true confidant and someone he knew he could trust implicitly. As tumultuous as my relationship was with my dad during those last five years of his life, I was happy he found someone.

Last month, my dear friend Steve Schneider posted this on his Facebook page:

‘Some of the finest, most attractive people I know are not only single, but quite despondent and disillusioned over it. And they have a right to be. I just don’t get this world sometimes.’

After reading it, I wrote the following reply in less than a minute:

I’m not despondent, but I am now resigned and accepting of the fact that coupledom probably won’t happen for me. Do I wish it were in the cards? Yes, but I also would rather be single than be in a relationship that was toxic or unrewarding. Disillusioned? Yeah, that fits most days.

And don’t tell me ‘There’s someone for everyone.’ That’s not true, as much as I would like to believe it.

I thought that was the end of it, but soon after I hit ‘Post’ I kept thinking of other things to say on the topic. I have never been one to wish that my life were different. Times may get tough and there may be some hard days, but more often than not, I am very happy with my life. I work from home, which I like, and I do my best to go out to shows and movies, if for no other reason than to avoid becoming a hermit. So, I really hope this doesn’t read like I am whining or complaining about the current state of things, because I am not. It’s more or less a recent observation that I have come to see very clearly.

I used to be so optimistic when it came to relationships and dating. All through my twenties if a relationship crashed and burned, I would take stock, but I always thought, eventually I would find ‘the person I’m supposed to be with.’ I know now that whole mentality is a myth.

At one point, a long time ago, I thought I had hit the jackpot. She was smart, gorgeous, kind, and upon seeing her for the first time she literally stopped me in my tracks, to the point where my internal dialogue while I made small talk was ‘Don’t be an idiot. Don’t fuck this up….don’t be an idiot.’ We lived in different cities, but my confidence in the belief that she was ‘The One’ had me ready to move to where she was, give up television and red meat. If that’s what it took, I was willing to do that.

That chapter never happened. She decided, when I finally asked her directly, that we were best as ‘never lovers, ever friends’ (although she didn’t quote that lyric directly, that’s how I processed it, because music lyrics are my filter for dealing with real life). The end of that fantasy, and that’s all it ever really was, a fantasy, was when my optimism disappeared. I no longer sought out relationships, telling myself, ‘If it happens, it happens,’ but truthfully having no enthusiasm for opening myself up like that again for fear of getting hurt. The real pain of that relationship not working out shaped every future decision I made.

I crafted that reply to Steve’s post on Facebook almost as a defense. No I am not nor have I ever been despondent about the current state of my social life, but yes, disillusioned fits, and that emotion is tied primarily to not having someone in my life that I can tell anything and everything to, from the big hopes and dreams to the little daily minutia that we deal with every day. I’ve never had that relationship where I see someone every day and know I can trust them to ‘have my back’ when necessary. That’s what I feel like I am missing, and while I like my life, I do get incredibly lonely.

I had a medical scare last fall, and it was while I was processing the myriad of possible outcomes, all the while keeping up a brave public face, that I found myself ready to scream. I was brutally honest about things with my core group of friends that I have known for almost 30 years, but that was all done on the phone or text. It was necessary and appreciated, and I do love my friends, but when I would try to sleep at night, it was during those hours where I literally ached for someone.

I know that if things on this front are going to change, I have to be the one to change them. I say that also knowing that my time is pretty much accounted for between a 40-hour work week and being a caretaker for my mom. That’s the priority now. I understand and accept that. I am used to the routine and, more often that not I don’t mind it.

The likelihood of me being single for the remainder of my life is probably very high, and, as I have said before in other posts on this blog, most of the time, that’s a proposition that I am perfectly content with. But on those rare nights when I feel alone, the emptiness of singledom hits hard, and it hurts.

Why am I writing this? I’m not sure. I just know that my visceral reaction and immediate response to what I read on Steve’s page broke a dam that led to me writing out nine pages in hurried longhand as I tried to process why exactly I feel the way I do.

One Christmas, when that core group of high school friends would gather every year to exchange gifts, drink and play board games until dawn, the then new girlfriend of one of my best friends opened the gift I bought her. She opened it and was astonished that I had gotten ‘the right gift’ after only having her as the newest member of our ‘group’ for a few months.

‘You are going to be someone’s perfect boyfriend one day,’ she said as she hugged me.

‘I know,’ I said matter of factly.

One day.

–Barry