a Cheap Holiday: 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003

Cheap Holiday

Welcome to a cheap holiday in my life. At least you get to go home at the end of the day!

Monday, June 16, 2003

A friend inquires as to my Sunday night plans.

"I'm going to see X play at the TLA!" I exclaim, fairly vibrating with anticipation.

Either you know X or you don't. Either X irrevocably altered your vision of rock music or it didn't. Either X changed your life or it didn't. X was never a band "that you used to listen to." X was a band that you lived, that you absorbed, that absorbed you.

In 1981, my older brother brought home X's second album for Slash Records, "Wild Gift." Unlike the Sex Pistol's "Never Mind the Bollocks" that he had previously exposed me to, "Wild Gift" resonated with me. More country inspired, less acidic, and far more
singable than British punk, X's brand of L.A. punk was less of a political statement and more about having a beer or three and getting in the pit. The L.A. punks were just as poor as their British predecessors, but felt less oppressed by the socio-economic climate. In Britain, punk was a reaction to a society that did not have opportunities to offer to its young. In New York and L.A., punk was a rejection of opportunities and a creation of different ones.

One of my greatest regrets in life was not having the chance to see X play in the 80's, in their prime. A paradox of the punk movement was its incredible work ethic--being "punk" didn't mean sitting around on your ass, it meant "DIY" (doing it yourself), recording and distributing and touring your music any way you could. A combination of regular recording and touring did not make the members of X rich financially, but it cemented their status as one of the most musically influential bands of the late 20th century. Until last night, the closest I would come to seeing X in the flesh would be as their alter-ego, The Knitters (with Tony Gilkyson, instead of Billy Zoom, on guitar). Less oriented towards moshing and more towards the Merle Haggard-ethos that singer/bassist/songwriter John Doe and singer/songwriter/former Mrs. Doe and former Mrs. Viggo Mortenson Exene Cervenka have always loved, The Knitters was always fun, but it wasn't X.

However, seeing X live for the first time as the band members are safely ensconced in mid-life posed a question: had the band and the music aged well? Or was this going to become some hideous, Styx-reunion-tour trainwreck that I would regret wasting both my money and youthful memories over?

As I arrive at the TLA in Philly, opening act The Fags have taken the stage and are serving up a youthful version of punk-pop. Less guitar-twang and drum-tom driven than X and its immediate offspring, The Fags are a tight, bright 3-piece who are obviously benefitting from an extremely competent soundman. The sound was some of the best I have ever heard in the TLA: crisp and loud without being painful. The citizens of Punk, Grunge, and Rockabilly Nations are in full attendance: a couple of contemporary mohawks mix through a crowd of Bettie Page and Carl Perkins lookalikes, sprinkled with the occasional faded Sub Pop t-shirt. I am elated to see a crowd that stretches the gamut of generations. There are people ranging in age from 18 to mid-50s. Not only have X's fans aged with the band, but they have dragged along the next generation. A woman of indeterminate age in full Brit-punk drag careens through the crowd with a smile on her face, trying to incite the spirit of a bygone era.

As X take the stage and launch into "Your Phone's Off the Hook," one can see that age and gravity have been no more nor no less kind to Exene, John, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake than the rest of us. Billy has forsaken the peroxide bottle, opting for more of his natural light brown hair color. DJ has chosen to camouflage his receding and graying hairline with a buzz cut. And Exene and John are, well, Exene and John, just more so. The sparkling sound that had blessed The Fags momentarily retreats--it takes a roadie several tries to get a working mic for Exene, who simply co-opts John's, and the right speaker stack in front of me is a bit buzzy. While John's voice has retained all of its velvety crooniness, it takes a few songs for Exene to get the crackles out of hers.

Once the band hits "We're Desparate" (the song that Exene lamented in the film "The Decline of Western Civilization" that they would not be able to play live much longer, because the band's success would tarnish its credibility), evidence of age is forgotten, and the floor center becomes a roiling mass of moshing bodies. Billy and John spend the entire set grinning like the happiest inmates in the asylum. The band gave the people what they wanted, playing virtually the entire song catalog from "Los Angeles" to "More Fun in the New World." As the band leaves the stage at the end of their main set, an encore is naturally demanded. The band returns and delivers a 3-song encore, that, most pointedly, does not include "Johny Hit and Run Paulene," their infamous paen to a 24-hour bout of perhaps-not-entirely-consensual-drug-fueled sex. That comes, after much screaming from the crowd, at the end of the second 3-song encore. By the end of the night, the rookies of Punk and Rockabilly Nation are painfully yet happily tugging at their X-damaged ears, while I, blessed with the wisdom of age and experience, simply pull out my ear plugs and cruise merrily into the night.

Friday, June 13, 2003

This week's obsessions:
-- Bailey's on ice
-- Finding herb plants for my windowboxes
-- Suckering my tomato plants
-- Brushing the mats outta my cat's fur
-- Mojitos
-- Trying to arrange a group beach trip
-- Any cute boy within striking distance (and a few that aren't)
-- Massive Attack's new CD "100th Window"
-- Kettlebells
-- The hand drums track on Filter's "Take a Picture"
-- NIN's "The Perfect Drug" (a perennial favorite)
-- Staying out the bloody-goddamn-frickin rain!
-- Stila makeup

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Gorgeous, crackling thunderstorms going on right now...yes, I suppose I shouldn't be on the computer during a thunderstorm, but fuggit...

Monday, June 09, 2003

You may have seen the Weight Watchers Cards Circa 1974 before, but it won't kill you to look again. It's the funniest...

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Looking for a cheap, legal endorphin rush? Try chasing 800 mg. of ibuprofen with a cup of coffee and then have a highly efficient Russian aesthetician give you a Brazilian wax. Whhoooooooaaaaaaa....

Friday, June 06, 2003

Here is an interesting conversational icebreaker: When and where did you see your first porno?
In the I wish I had known this when Miss Rachel was in town category, on my morning walk I noticed that the building doorway of 242 S. 21st St. in Philly is marked by a marble plaque of a flying pig. She would have enjoyed seeing that...

Sunday, June 01, 2003

I must be the romantic scapegoat--I am doomed to remain unloved so that others might be blessed with happiness. I have greater empathy for Kali's attachment to fine shoes now...
Last night I got myself out of the house briefly and had a cocktail at Loie (pronounce it "LOW-ee") over by Rittenhouse Square. Loie is owned by the same person who opened Lucy's Hat Shop, a very popular restaurant and bar spot on Market Street in Philly. Loie is smaller, more intimate, and from what I've heard on the street has very good French brasserie food. My personal attraction to Loie is both the proximity to my apartment, as well as its fine pool table in the back room.

However, with Loie's preponderance of gorgeous twenty-somethings, I have to be feeling pretty put-together to go over by myself of an evening. I have girlfriends who blanch at bit at my willingness to go out on the town all alone. Well, what am I going to do? Sit at home and wait for new friends to walk in my front door? It's kind of a necessity that I go out alone a good part of the time, but even so, I'm not doing it constantly. If I'm not feeling especially sociable or attractive, I will spare the world and stay at home.

Last night, I was mostly in the mood to work on my pool game. I haven't played in 6 months and, if nothing else, getting in on a pool game is one avenue to conversing with other people. Unfortunately, some older British guy who was into his cups and had a noticeable facial tick was trying to chat me up, making me less comfortable about hanging around and watching the following games once I lost the table.

Naturally, the rain had started again while I was in the bar and I had left my umbrella at home. Goddamn this weather lately.