ISOLATION IS THE ENEMY

12 Jun

11108317_10206524056997360_7702302864671511808_n    Heather Van Cleve of The Dollhouses – photo by Jeanine Flaton-Buckley, copyright 2015 

Note from Peck: I am beginning to write about music.  This piece, on the Riot Grrrl movement and other women musicians was originally an assignment for my Graduate Humanities Program at Dominican University.  Comments are very welcome, thanks for reading.

                           

                                           ISOLATION IS THE ENEMY 

    Riot Grrrl, Feminism in Rock and Roll, and the Situation Today

The Riot Grrrl movement, a collective of feminist musicians, writers, artists and publishers chose revolution as their central aim, particularly the overthrow of male hegemony as it affects young women, girls.  After some high-profile misrepresentations in the mainstream media, the group adopted a policy of total media blackout.  Only writers from within the movement, or those identified as kindred to the movement, were allowed in.  Mostly through their own fanzines, cameras and meta-memoirs, the group is well-documented, and their history is accessible to anyone interested today. 

With this essay, I want to look at the groups successes, frustrations, and predecessors and heirs, in an attempt to answer these questions:  Has the climate improved for DIY women musicians in America?  How does a cultural movement begin, recruit its members, and coalesce into a shared identity?  How did Riot Grrrl begin to know who they were as a group?  Lastly and ultimately, how can any contemporary art group learn from Riot Grrrl and address their chosen social/cultural struggle in a world that is markedly different from the late 1980’s origins of Riot Grrrl?  Let me start with two stories of coalescence.    

Riot Grrrl began and ended with writing and research.  While it is often regarded as primarily a musical movement, most of the important connections were formed through self-published fanzines, often called “Zines”.   Tobi Vail, the eventual drummer of Bikini Kill, a central group in R.G.,  was first the editor of the Jigsaw Zine.  Her own writings for Jigsaw often blended the political, personal and artistic: 

I’ve always been interested in playing music with other women, and it always seems like I’ve been misunderstood and gotten called sexist for it.  I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy, but to me it seems natural to notice the difference between men and women and I don’t understand WHY I’m constantly told to ignore that in the context of rock and roll.”  (Girls to the Front, pg.43-44)

While parts of this quote may raise eyebrows in the gender theory world (“natural to notice the difference between men and women” etc.) there is an importance to Vail’s voiced intention to play music with other women.  For instance, it was this paragraph that inspired Kathleen Hannah, a bandleader, sex abuse counselor and writer to get in touch with Vail.   They would become the nucleus of Bikini Kill.  But first, they interacted as writers, thinkers.  While on a cross -country tour with another band, Hannah began interviewing and counseling women after her shows about traumatic sexual experiences.  When she had compiled enough material, she sent the trancripts to Vail and published them in Jigsaw. 

Sara Marcus, author of Girls to the Front, a history of Riot Grrrl, writes about her own teenage years in the book’s preface.  “I had no social group.  No pocket of belonging.”  She and a few girls at her high school started a NOW (National Organization for Women) chapter, only to be taunted by boys yelling “Dykes!” in the hall outisde their meetings.   When she saw a Newsweek article about the Riot Grrrls, she was stunned.  “I read the whole piece twice, not even bothering to sit down.  It said the riot grrrls had recently held a convention in Washington, DC.  Could this be true?  There were girls in my area who might understand me?”  (Girls to the Front, pg.4)  She goes on to describe her pre-internet era detective work, searching bulletin boards, classified ads and newsletters in feminist bookstores, sending letters to post office boxes without reply.  After a year of searching, near the end of her high school career, Marcus did find her local chapter of Riot Grrrl, who met on Sunday afternoons at a co-op called the Positive Force House in Arlington, Va.   “We talked about sexual harassment fro classmates and teachers, crushes on boys and girls, our favorite kinds of tampons and ice cream, and our outrage over the sexist stories and images we saw in the newspapers and on television.  These girls weren’t all punk, they didn’t all have bands, and while they were the coolest girls I’d ever met, they were cool in a way that drew me closer instead of shutting me out.”  (Girls to the Front, pg.8)  In both Marcus’, Vail’s and Hannah’s stories, there is a searching and finding of kindred women, who had experienced similar frustrations, persucutions and joys.  It is this coming together that I want to direct into the heart of this essay. 

Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth has written extensively about her life in music.  Emerging from New York’s noise music scene in the early 1980’s, Sonic Youth became undeniably one of the most impactful bands in rock and roll over the past 3 decades.  Gordon’s half-spoken vocal approach, refined aesthetic thought process, calm intensity on stage and in music videos, and her iconic fashion sense made her a hero to successive waves of musicians in art rock and avant garde music.  She also was a friend and mentor to Kathleen Hannah of Bikini Kill, beginning with a summer Hannah spent in New York City.

But Gordon’s own coming of age was not unlike the Riot Grrrls who she would come to influence.  The 1960’s Los Angeles of her youth seemed hopeless.  Intimidated by boys and men, overlooked by her family and not encouraged to pursue a career in the arts, Gordon sought a way out.  “L.A. in the midsixties had a desolation about it, a disquiet….High school was a dark period for me…the other kids seemed alien to me because, in fact, they were…Hypervigilance was my mode…I did know this much: I couldn’t find out who I really was until I’d left L.A. and my family…Families are like little villages.  You know where everything is, you know how everything works, your identity is fixed and you can’t really leave, or connect with anything or anybody outside, until you’re physically no longer there.”  (Gordon, Girl In a Band, pg.57-59)  Despite Gordon’s isolation and oppressive surroundings, she did manage to connect with a who’s who of art world notables, all in their own process of becoming: William Winant, Larry Gagosian, Danny Elfman, and Barry Finnerty were all close friends or professional associates in her late teens and early twenties.  It is notable though, that Gordon did not find kindred women in the arts until she arrived in New York City in 1980.  Upon arrival there, Gordon stayed with photographer Cindy Sherman, saw performances by No Wave icons like Lydia Lunch, and made visual art around a cadre that included Dara Birnbaum, the visual and installation artist. 

In another paralell to Tobi Vail and Kathleen Hannah, Kim Gordon would pave the way to her own first musical projects by writing about music first.  “I decided to write about men, and how they interact on stage with one another and bond by playing music…In retrospect, that’s why I joined a band, so i could be inside that male dynamic, not staring in through a closed window but looking out.  The piece I wrote, “Trash Drugs and Male Bonding,” was published in the first issue of a new magazine called Real Life…I got a lot of positive feedback and felt suddenly as though I had an identity in the downtown community.  That essay topic unlocked the next thirty years of my life.” (Girl In A Band, pg.103)  Gordon, too, was thinking and writing about gender in music, and publishing in independent outlets.  Soon after her piece was published, Gordon would form her first New York band, Introjection, with Christine Hahn and Miranda Stanton.

It’s important that the artists in Riot Grrrl and in the downtown New York scene were thinkers.  They read and responded to each other’s written work.  Women in Riot Grrrl took it a step further, re-publishing each other’s ideas by literally cutting and pasting each other’s work from one Zine to another.  This is how Kathleen Hannah’s Riot Grrrl Manifesto proliferated and helped to crystallize the movements identity.  Comprised of sixteen tenants, each starting with a capitalized “BECAUSE”, Hannah’s manifesto was lucid, fun and serious, simple and weighty at once.  Here are a few selections: “BECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways…BECAUSE we are unwilling to let our real and valid anger be diffused and/or turned against us via the internalization of sexism as witnessed in girl/girl jealousism and self defeating girl type behaviors…BECAUSE I believe with my wholeheartmindbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real.” (Riot Grrrl Manifesto, Bikini Kill Fanzine #2) 

This and its dissemination Manifesto shed light on one of my original quesions: “How does a cultural movement begin, recruit its members, and coalesce into a shared identity?”  First off, the founders of Riot Grill agreed not to copyright their name or their writings, so they could be easily cut and pasted (literally, physically) from one Zine to another, if someone felt like sharing a preexisting work.  It also meant that Riot Grrrl, as a name and concept, belonged to anyone who wanted to take the idea and run with it. 

But how did Riot Grrrl begin to know who they were?  In her Manifestos verbiage, Hannah implies a kind of intuitive, deep, shared knowledge: “I believe with my whole mindheartbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force”.  This deep knowing was enough to create a powerful beacon, attracting girls to the meetings who would figure out the wording and details of the movement as they went along.  “We didn’t even know what was going to happen.  It was just like ‘What if a bunch of women met?  What would happen?’” Kathleen Hannah asks in an interview, as she remembers the movements inception. (Don’t Need You, The Herstory of Riot Grrrl) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9G45K6FgaI&t=5m10s)    Because so many young women felt marginalized and alienated in the years of their youths, and knew deeply in their minds, hearts and bodies that a better community was out there for them, then Riot Grrrl  needed only to call a meeting to get a movement started.

      

Let me turn to another of my initial questions now, and ask whether the situation has improved for young women now, particularly in and around the music scene.  On a Friday night in April of this year, I attended a concert by The Dollhouses, lead by Heather Van Cleve, the band’s primary songwriter.  Van Cleve is no stranger to the music of Bikini Kill, and identifies as an Intersectional Feminist.  In addition to being a musician, Van Cleve is a painter, costumer and poet.  The show, held at Santa Rosa’s Arlene Francis Center, was a through-conceived mutli-medium experience, involving two musical acts, circus-like set designs, black and white projections of vintage circus performances, and two live circus performers, on tour from Michigan.  Both on stage and in the crowd, there was a balance of women and men in attendance.  It seemed clear that people were invested in this local music scene, and vocal in praising each other’s art work and style.  While a major impetus for the Riot Grrrl movement came from a dissatisfaction with male violence at live shows, the scene in Santa Rosa was small, intimate, supportive. 

A few days after the show, I interviewed Heather Van Cleve, and asked her if she thinks the live show environment has improved since the early 1990’s zenith of Riot Grrrl.  She began by describing her own youth, in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s: “The music scene I grew up in was really male-centered.  I had a really hard time breaking in.  There was this general attitude when I first started playing guitar of ‘Oh, you play guitar? You must know three chords and must be some horrible folk singer.’…[but now] a lot of the people who were perpetuating that chauvinist vibe, y’know, moved away or have kids…and don’t play music anymore.” She smiled in celebration of this fact. (Interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ruIJ1Hvr58&t=2om35s)  Earlier, I’d asked Van Cleve if she had any hopes for her audience’s experience at shows.  “Yeah.  A lot of my songs are totally autobiographical.  I have a lot of songs that deal with abuse, child abuse, sexism, those sorts of things, domestic abuse, so I do have this hope I can connect with other people who have struggled in those ways.  And those sorts of things can be really isolating, and make you feel really lonely or broken or damaged, and there’s a lot of stigma or shame attached to those things, so I like to be outspoken about that and sing about that to kind of remove those shameful feelings…to not feel ashamed and feel like they can speak out and connect with other people…That’s a huge reason why I started writing music is because I felt so lonely.”  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ruIJ1Hvr58&t=13m33s)  Here we see Heather Van Cleve voicing a very similar mission to Kim Gordon’s and to Riot Grrrl’s – to put an end to the loneliness, isolation and marginalization that young women face, particularly in music scenes.

It is arguable that both Riot Grrrl and Kim Gordon’s eras of artistic and political peak activity happened before 1995.  In all their personal recollections, the mediums through which they communicated are discussed with great fondness: bulletin boards at book stores, self-published Fanzines and magazines, 7” and 12” records, cassette-only music labels.  It begs the question: Is it somehow harder to start an artistic or activist scene and keep it together in the age of the internet?  With it’s profusion of likes, links and shares, is there a dissipation of energy between artists?  It is telling that Sara Marcus prefaces her book with a personal memory of scarcity, mystery and uncovering in the physical world – a path that lead her, after two years of searching, to her first Riot Grrrl meeting at the Positive Force House. 

It is also important to note that much of Riot Grrrl’s platform related to a code of behavior at live performances, where people come together in person.  In a pure internet interaction, there is still an opportunity for sexism or rejection of sexism to be communicated.  But it often happens in an anonymous way.  The pain is still there when someone makes a hurtful or bigoted comment on the web, but perhaps it loses some of it’s catalytic power to provoke a response, like what happens at a concert.  In the Punk Singer, a 2013 documentary about Kathleen Hannah and Riot Grrrl, we see many intense interactions between Hannah and her audience.  “Get out!” she yells at one man who is not following the code of safety and respect towards women.  To the audience at another show she says “Can all the guys in here be cool, for once in your lives, and go to the back of the room?” Here, she inverts the classic situation at early 90’s punk rock shows, in which young men danced and play-fought aggressively at the front of the room while the women stood in the back of the room and observed passively.  Kathleen Hannah was also known to attend other band’s shows and hand out Fanzines, greeting strangers with a smile.  Is it simply not as inspiring to find our allies and antagonists on the web, and not in a physical space?      

A particular story about Kathleen Hannah came up in several of the sources I researched for this project: When Hannah was 19 years old, and a sophomore at Evergreen State University in Washington, she road-tripped to Seattle to attend a talk by her hero, Kathy Acker.  Hannah hoped to meet with Acker, and managed to land an interview with her for a friend’s magazine.  During their conversation, Acker asked Hannah what she did.  “I’m a spoken word artist”, she replied.  “And why do you do this work?” Acker asked.  “Because I want so badly to be heard and reach women who’ve gone through the same abuses as me” was Hannah’s emotional reply.  “Then why aren’t you in a  band?  Nobody goes to spoken word events and you’ll reach a lot more people if you start a band.” (Girls to the Front, pg.35)     

Today, in 2015, I wonder if Kathleen Hannah might tell a young revolutionary feminist artist to do something other than start a band.  Perhaps the internet era has conferred more power and influence onto a different medium.  During my interview with Heather Van cleve, I learned about Amber the Activist, a young woman who survived rape a little over a year ago.  Since then, she has taken to writing her ideas on the sidewalk and even onto her own body.  “Blame rapists, not survivors. #StopRapeEducate,” one of her sidewalk messages reads.  Her work is striking, inspiring, and translates very well to the internet.  (https://twitter.com/stoprapeeducate) (https://instagram.com/stoprapeeducate

               

The dangers and marginalizing forces that young women faced in the early 1990’s are still at large. But the desire to connect, thereby ending isolation, also endures. Riot Grrrl, Kim Gordon, Heather Van Cleve and Amber the Activist all deliver their messages with ingenuity, finding their kin and ending isolation.

WORKS CITED:

Girls to the Front, Copyright 2010 Sara Marcus, Harper Perennial

Girl in a Band, Copyright 2015 Kim Gordon, Harper Collins

don’t need you, the herstory of riot grrrl, documentary film dir. Keri Koch, Copyright 2006 Urban Cowgirl Productions

The Punk Singer, documentary film dir. Sini Andersen, Copyright 2013 IFC Films

Heather Van Cleve, interviewed 4/27/2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ruIJ1Hvr58, https://www.facebook.com/hvancleve

SOMETHING’S HAPPENING

24 Apr

Something’s happening. A baby thing, 5 years in the making. It’s been so long since I’ve made a record entirely at home. But now we are very close. The belly is stretched to its limits, as mix engineer Tomas delToro-Diaz midwifes these songs into their final newness.

A couple sonograms for the curious:

https://soundcloud.com/ancient-baby-1/possibilities-rough-suckaz

https://soundcloud.com/ancient-baby-1/rock-and-rolls-calling-not-too-rough-to-party

We’re talking about the first album by ANCIENT BABY, which will be released as a book with a download code, pairing each song’s lyrics with an illustration by Rose Pearson, like this !!!

 

Donkey Roo

 

It’s amazing to be working with Rose, Tomas, and Cameron Snyder, who made some star turns on upright bass, alto saxophone, and a giant zydeco triangle that he hired a bayou blacksmith to make for him. The album seeks out the old strains of American song, while living in the now and drawing attention to the health of our planet, inspiring a human gentleness towards it, hopefully.

All of this to say, there is a WE to this album, though at times it seemed a lonely toil.  A lot of the album’s 12 songs have been record 3 times over, moving from one “pro” studio to another before realizing this music could only be made at home.  So there’s a kind of dark matter behind the album – fancy, expensive drafts that may never see the light of day nor the hairs of your ear – failed bulbs illuminating the final ones that are nearly incandescent.

Soon, I’ll be launching a KICKSTARTER to help with mixing, mastering, two music video’s and with paying the lovely band called Ancient Baby, featuring Ezra Lipp on drums and Dartanyan Brown on bass:

 

Keep an eye out for us, and this Kickstarter soon to come, and keep an ear to the ground.  Earth is telling us something, and I hope this Ancient Baby music was born of listening.

With love,

Peck

 

 

WE KNOW EACH OTHER’S POEMS

30 Jun

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June 22nd, Bacchanalia Fest at the Emerald Tablet

Was it the Portuguese wine? The fearsome beautiful bands?  Surely not.  It must have been that poet, Jon Siegel.  His voice was booming and sweet when he asked “Where is there a place left to Breathe, to Regain Strength, to Build New Hope, and Prepare For A Better Tomorrow?”  Was it J.Brandon Loberg’s poem, which quoted Alter the Path’s poem, which spoke of some Uncle named Failure?  No no. It was the cigarettes we smoked outside in Fresno Alley.  It was a small region of sky I looked at, as I paused between two undefendable assertions.  After some cocktail of the above, I said “This must be culture”.

If I know you, you’ve read much about the death of culture in San Francisco. This is not one of those entries.  This is about a small culture, of which I am a part.  Across ten years, mainly in one venue and on one street corner and a smattering of roofs, we’ve made something.  We know each other’s poems, and each other’s moments.  Some happened in front of a crowd: a rude, lovely man takes a well-deserved sandwich to the face.  Other moments were private, and then seeped out through the lenses of the tribe: I am naked and dusted by a fire extinguisher.  These people did these things here, though many of us have moved.

Last Sunday, June 22nd I went to the Emerald Tablet to listen to poetry, hear some bands and see old friends who were either back in town or still living here.  If I’d only accomplished that, I would have gone home very happy.  In addition to these things, though, I answered for myself a couple nagging questions:  Are we a culture? One that’s worth re-uniting?

I’m a sentimental person, sometimes to the point of blindness.  I worry if it holds me back from new discoveries.  But 16th & Mission, Viracocha, Quiet Lightning, the Emerald Tablet and the art scenes we’ve made are all very inclusive.  There’s new blood pumping through our veins all the time.   To be sure, we’ve got history, and inside jokes.  But I’d wager that 5% of the crowd was familiar with Sama Dams , a wild-spirited Portland band who played around 3:00 in the afternoon, between old friends making new sounds.

Andrew Paul Nelson (who programmed the festival) and Jess Silva performed with their new band Edwin Valero (…peep this video I shot of them.)  Myself and many others were sad last year about the breakup of Fox & Woman (Andrew & Jess were core members of the group), but Edwin Valero, however long the group lasts, proves that change is good.

And changed we have.  Stellar Cassidy, who I remember first as a poet in her late teens, is now drumming with Butanna, an exuberant punk band that perfectly half-timed the ten hour event with some fierce joy-causing shit.

Field Medic is the music by Kevin Patrick from Rin Tin Tiger.  I traded my CD for his tape.  It’s hella sweet, and he says he’s going to be as prolific as he can.

Another new-to-me group, the Thoughts, were so lovely it scared me.  Sean Taylor turned to me and said “Seattle kids, coming down here all skilled and beautiful. What are you gonna do?”

Charlie Getter read a new piece and I missed it but he wasn’t mad.

Among the poets I did manage to hear, certain themes prevailed: feelings of subservience, powerlessness, of being scattered by forces larger than ourselves.  Interesting though, none of the work felt altogether bitter.  Jared Hannum, who has made me many coffees at Cafe Trieste, read a funny but real account of his station in life.  Talking to him afterwards he said “I’m staying here (in SF) out of stubbornness.”

Paul Corman-Roberts said some true things.  People made sounds of the “ooooh, that hurts” variety : “My friend, I’m sorry we can’t hold each other up anymore, our mutual darkness subsuming our identities to a tune no one wants to hear.  Your resentment has become a small price to pay in light of mine having become priceless.”  But through the airing of their grievances, all these poets seemed intact, fun to listen to.

Another special thing: many of the people who put the Bacchanalia festival together, or who have served as a host or organizer countless times in the past, also contributed last Sunday as performers: Evan Karp, Jon Siegel, Andrew Paul Nelson, Jess Silva, Charlie Getter.  Toph Evans, Topher the Strong, bartended for at least 9 out of 10 hours of Dionysian Bacchus.  Julie Indelicato, a musician with hella charisma, does live sound for a living.  She held it down on the mixing board throughout the event with all it’s  diversity of bands.   When the organizer is an artist, a special amount of TLC is injected into the proceedings.  Props to all the above and to others who I’m forgetting for changing hats so gracefully, workin’ it from all angles.

The festival ended.  In our way, we haggled over which bar and a few of us settled on Spec’s.  There, in another alley we smoked another cigarette.  Either Shye Powers or Stellar Cassidy said  “Peck, I was hoping for you to do “Coffee” or another throw-back rap from the old days.  But you did your new shit, and so did everybody.  That proves we’ve got something:  we’re all still writing and playing.”

So that must be culture, I think:  A group of people forge something.  A signature energy.  Then, by forces of life, evolution or the free market, the group is scattered.  Years later, we reunite and see that our signature energy is intact, and has progressed.  There’s no telling what will become of San Francisco, but this tribe will be fine.

Video

Guest post by my brother Austin Peck, writing from Egypt!

16 Mar

Long after the Miles Dyson/ Terminator revolution crushed the last of the human strongholds, they were confronted with a sudden dilemma of meaninglessness, having erased their enemy. But the revenge of the humans came in a way the machines never expected. Facing unlimited leisure time (as they needed not eat or work), the machines formed bands that would make synchronized soundscapes for other machines. Like moths to a flame, they would gather and attempt to analyze the signals. Those musical-machine who produced the sounds discovered that they could literally feed on the energy emitted from the other curiously stupefied machines that would gather around them. Naturally, the pattern became clear and they bands began to rove around the smoldering surface of the Earth, exploiting these machine-gatherings. Unsatisfied by live sound production alone, these blinking machine audiences wanted recordings to analyze further in private (as they were designed to be human-killers, not equipped to do high-fidelity bootlegs). The machine-bands saw opportunity in providing these recordings, as they would generate more live machine gatherings, however the cost of producing recordings was beyond the means and capabilities of the musical machines, thus record labels were born again, which covered this expense and in return, the musical machines were obligated to produce promotional videos like this one in an attempt to attract consumer-machines to these costly recordings… Ah, you know the rest.
Greetings from Egypt!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkUq4sO4LQM

NEW VIDEO – Heaven is All Goodbyes

27 Feb

NEW VIDEO- “Life just keeps getting more interesting” my friend Tongo Eisen-Martin says. I’d been hoping to connect with him and put some music to his burning poetry. Then by luck we were on the same show one night in Oakland, and went in the studio the next day. Our group is called LOAN, and this is our second video, made by Steve Holzer, a filmmaker from Marfa, Texas. Dude’s in his late sixties and has been present for some radical things in his time. The song is called “Heaven is all Goodbyes” and Steve did exactly what he saw fit with it. That’s our method: total autonomy for everybody involved, also known as LOANarchy. Thanks for watching, hope you dig, our album is available on a ‘name your price’ basis: http://www.loan.bandcamp.com

Video

Empty Spaces – LOAN’s first music video

5 Oct

It was a long summer, full of travel. LOAN works in places that present openly the realities of life in 2013. No 20th century nostalgia, please. Give us Bakersfield & Fresno CA, El Paso TX, Tacoma WA. Urban centers all of them, but shunned by those who prefer a store front to the loading docks in back.

A bunch of shaky hand-held footage from these places was reviewed and assembled by Rudy Paganini of Forever Midi, to accompany “Empty Spaces”, the first single off our first EP which is FREE for download.

Thanks for going there with us,

LOAN

a band called LOAN

31 Jul

Buried in my last post was an item that could have been it’s own thing.  Next month, a collective I’m involved with will be finishing up our first mix tape.  We’re called LOAN.

Here’s some musical sketches and images – please *SUBSCRIBE* – LOAN needs you:

www.soundcloud.com/loanlife

www.loanlife.tumblr.com

Onward.  More soon. 

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Summer Fog

25 Jul

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Every summer in recent memory, I’ve gone through a prolonged period of doubt.  My foundation unravels and I start to question everything.  “Do I need to move?” “Are my priorities out of wack?” “Is it time for a career change?”  I call it my summer malaise.  I consider myself a happy and blessed person, but something happens in the summer. Maybe it’s the sky.

Throughout fall, winter and spring, we have amazing, dynamic weather over our heads in Marin County.  The co-mingling of micro-climates gets me high, and I’m forever looking at the clouds.  By contrast, our sky is reliably blue in the summer, and I wonder if it makes me stir crazy.  Without that stimulation overhead, I look to the streets, and there ain’t much happening.

In 2009-2011, I was nearly crazy with this seasonal afflictionBut last summer, in 2012, I licked those blues.  At the age of 32, I booked my first tour.  I’d done it a couple times as a sideman, but never as Peck the Town Crier.  The circuit was lovely and green: Eureka, Eugene, Portland, Olympia, Seattle and finally Petaluma.  It was as much a vacation as a tour, with 1-2 days off after every show.  Between cities, I rode solo in my Toyota Echo.  But by showing up alone, like Shane in the book Shane, I was all the more together with folks.

Upon arriving in a new place, I’d go to a coffee shop and read The Monkey Wrench Gang, an eco-terror thriller that my brother had hipped me to after we’d watched a riveting documentary called If A Tree Falls, (I recommend both these titles highly…) Because the NW region is rich with eco-defense,  Edward Abbey (author of monkey wrench) is about as important in the Northwest as Steve Jobs is in the Bay.   The book became a rubric for my entire trip and a fast introduction to new friends.  I visited pirate radio stations, met people who’d known people in both the book and the doc, and was exposed to a lot of skills, values and language.  In addition to these activists, I hung with a lot of gutter punks.  You might know the type: boxcar hoppers, with self-repaired clothes (always a bandana round the neck), who listen to dingy metal albums on cassette and play fast, angry bluegrass on the street.  Back in Marin, I’d had some teen guitar students who embraced the same lifestyle and aesthetic, so I was predisposed to liking the punks.  All these encounters were great, really heart-opening.  But they also carried a charge of guilt, and I came away asking myself  “Do I need to change my values?  Did I come on the road, singing moralistic lyrics, only to guzzle gas and peddle my wares?”  Seems that my summer malaise was finding me again, even on the road, with all these dynamic streets and skies.

During my long drive home, from Seattle to Sebastopol, all this input got synthesized, and I knew I had to start something:  a band called LOAN, the story went.  We would channel the grinding reality of the present day, rather than mask it with the emoticons and compulsive chipper-ness of the tech people (sorry, i do feel that way sometimes.)  We would need a brilliant poet, and maybe a screaming woman.

Look – many of my ideas are just impulses, and JAH treats them as such, showing no signs how I might actualize these weaker visions.  But every now and again, an idea has power.  Not only will it persist in my mind, but the universe seems to pave the way.

When I got home to Cali, an interesting string of events unfolded.  My coming home show was supposed to happen in Sebastopol.  But when I got to the venue, the front door was chained shut, with an emphatic note of apology and the booker’s phone number.  I was fighting mad until I called Sooz, and she told me the deal.

The show was cancelled due to a bomb threat.  In Sebastopol?  What the fuck?  Seems some misguided kids were upset that the venue (which doubles as a vintage clothing store) was selling second-hand leather.  Idiots, to be sure, but still an amazing coincidence:  My entire tour had followed this thread of eco-defense, and BOOYAH, the final show is cancelled by a bomb threat.

I hung in the parking lot until the other musicians and a few friends showed up.  Sooz had made me promise not to tell anyone what was going on, and for the most part, I’ve held off until now.  But there’s got to be a statute of limitations on stories like these, and it’s almost exactly a year since that night.  One of the musicians who was slated to play, Alex Rather-Taylor, suggested that we go to Green String Farm.  It’s on Lakeville Highway in Petaluma, a place where young folk came from around the country and farm the old-school way.  Everybody liked the idea, so Alex called them and they said “Yeah! Come over!”  About ten musicians and friends left the parking lot in a caravan. We found the farm easily, ate a home grown meal, and played in a 100 year-old school house, with lavender boughs drying in the rafters.  (For some nice footage of this, click on Alex’s name above.)

The most remarkable thing about that show wasn’t our performances.  We all played nice songs, and people enjoyed themselves, but the real meat of the night came after the show, when we stood outside and sang rounds together, farm kids and performers elevated to the same riser of a lovely choir.  Unlike my shows and hangs on the road, I wasn’t conflicted about singing together with these folks on a farm, and that was the end of my summer malaise, 2012 edition.

Between then and now, JAH did help LOAN come into being.  Here’s a taste of that band…more coming soon:

www.loanlife.tumblr.com

www.soundcloud.com/loanlife

Tonight I meant to write about this summer’s tour, which ended just a couple weeks ago.  It was almost exactly the same trip: driving alone most of the time, visiting the friends I made last year, falling in and out of love in the space of 9 days, and playing alternately victorious and tragic shows. I listened to Daft Punk the entire time and ate little green lozenges very often. These adventures notwithstanding, there was still a whiff of that old malaisewaiting down an alley in each town.  But the whole pre-amble about 2012 has gobbled up the present, and the story feels complete.

Here’s a playlist of bands from the 2013 tour.  Maybe you’ll see yourself in there ;)

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD_b4JXAjRdDqtsMp1-akby9jYHmhr8Dm

I love you all, and if you made it all the way to here, I really love you.

Thanks for reading,

Peck

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TOUR deTape and other news

28 Apr

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FRIENDS! This Spring, I am mostly engaged in the creation of new secret works at my art cave (see below). But come Summer, I’m steppin’ out  :)  Here are the shows I have booked of yet:

UPCOMING SHOWS

Thursday May 16th – 50 Mason Social House, San Francisco- with The Picture and the Frame

…Northwest Tour in June!  Can’t wait to see all my friends up yonder…

Friday June 14th – The Works, Eureka – Bandon Wayne’s Record shop in downtown Eureka…really vibey stage in the back :) Details TBA

Monday, June 17th- Valentine’s, Portland- More detials soon

Wednesday, June 19th- Le Voyeur, Olympia

Sunday, June 23rd- St.Cloud, Seattle WA – birthday show at a dashing restaurant!

Thursday, June 27th- Oregon Shakespeare Green Show on June 27th, Ashland OR

Sunday, June 30th- Phoenix Theater, Petaluma – Soulful ancient gutted-out grafitti-covered gigantic movie theater! Ever been? With We Are the Men, PSDSP, Fox & Woman

More shows dates and info soon.  Love and Stoke, PECK the Town Crier

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EVE EVE @ Hotel Utah, SF

24 Dec

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Forget NYE, and whatever costume balls the hucksters are having.  Imagine easy parking, a $5 cover, and no crazies on the road!  EVE EVE is where it’s at.  And gosh, look who’s on the bill:

8pm- ALEX RATHER TAYLOR  www.alexrathertaylor.bandcamp.com

9pm- DUBIOUS RANGER            www.dubiousranger.bandcamp.com

10pm- that Town Crier, Peck        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL1sE9XGC5Y

11pm-  MILES WICK                       http://mileswick.bandcamp.com/album/open-heart

eve eve, 8pm 12/30/12, the hotel utah, 500 4th Street at Bryant, San Francisco CA 94107 , $5, 21+

HOPE TO GATHER WITH Y’ALL, LOVE

PECK

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