Last night Jon and I went to a concert that celebrated Georgia music with the Indigo Girls and Patterson Hood. The music was amazing, and though we bought the tickets mostly to see the Indigo Girls, I can now count myself a belated fan of Patterson Hood and will likely spend today listening to him and his band, the Drive By Truckers. He especially won me over with “Daddy Needs a Drink,” and I really loved a song he played called “Ever South,” that he said he wrote just a few days ago about moving from the South to Oregon. The line “Everywhere we go, they hear the drawl that leaves our mouth, so no matter where we go, we’re ever South” reminded me of how many of my fellow native Southerners don’t think I have much of an accent, but when I visit my husband’s family in Colorado, they all seem to think I do! I also really loved the song “World of Hurt” about the crazy mix of beauty and pain that is life and love, and another song, where he sang “I can dance on my own grave, thank you,” which is exactly how I feel about my near-death experience.
At one point in the night, we were discussing Southern identity with a friend who’s from California. I said I think Colorado-born Jon has been naturalized as a Southerner at this point, after over a decade in the South and two Arkansas-born daughters. Jon said, “Well, I have a daughter named Etta Jane, what more do I need?” True. Poor guy didn’t want our kid to have a double name, because he thought it sounded too Southern, and then the little peach went and insisted on having one anyway. “NAME ETTA JANE,” she’s been insisting for at least a year now. Just Etta is apparently not enough to cover it.
It was interesting to think about, though, because I don’t think people from other regions obsess quite so much with the idea of regional identity. Are Midwesterners tortured or haunted the way so many Southerners are (or at least those of us who really love Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor)? Do people from other regions have the same experience of wrestling with their regional identity and deciding how much it influences them and what parts of it they will keep and what parts they will reject–not so much a coming out as a coming into a type of identity? I suspect not. We’re a weird sort, ever South.
Pacing the Panic Room is one of my favorite places in all of the internets. Ryan Marshall takes amazing photos and makes gorgeous videos set to lovely music tells incredibly honest stories about life with his wife Cole and kids, Tessa and LB. LB has a rare genetic disorder called Smith Magenis Syndrome, and Ryan has rounded up a bunch of awesome artists to help raise awareness about SMS and funds for case studies to help parents and families who are dealing with SMS. These artists have created Do Fun Stuff (Vol. 1) (If you click that you can preview the album and read more about it. I really wanted to put the widget at that link onto my site, but WordPress doesn’t allow iframes, boo hiss), which is a kid’s music CD guaranteed not to suck or make you want to stab your eardrums out with a rusty nail. I don’t have kids, and as such, I’m not forced to listen to crappy kid music on a regular basis. I don’t have to buy kid’s music if I don’t want to. But this album is good stuff, and I don’t hate it. In fact, I like it. A lot. I have a feeling you’ll kinda like it too. So, buy it on iTunes, jam out with your kids or your dogs or your own bad self. Help some kids and their families. Do Fun Stuff.
Last night I went to some of the best church I’ve ever experienced. Except it was in a Music Hall with 2500 other people and led by a handful of famous people. I was at a rally/rockshow in support of the West Memphis 3.
The West Memphis 3 are Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelly, and Jason Baldwin, a group of young men arrested and convicted as teenagers for the murder of three children in West Memphis, AR. Many people, including myself, believe the West Memphis 3 are innocent and wrongly imprisoned. One of them, Damien Echols, is on death row. I encourage you to read about their case and decide for yourself. It blows my mind that we can have people on death row on such shaky evidence. There is no DNA evidence tying any of the Three to the crime scene, although DNA evidence of one of the victims’ stepfather was found at the scene. Instead, the case relied on what was a most-likely coerced and later recanted confession from one of the Three, Jessie Misskelly, who is mentally handicapped and, though he was a teenager, was questioned without a lawyer or a parent present. In addition, the way the investigation was handled, the way the story was told to the public and the media, and notes recovered from the jurors all point to the fact that these three men are wrongly imprisoned and have been for 17 years.
In those 17 years, the Three have found support for their cause all over the state and all over the world. Thanks to a pair of HBO documentaries, they even gained the support of some major celebrities: Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and Johnny Depp. With Damien Echols’ oral arguments before the State Supreme Court coming up on September 30, their local and celebrity supporters decided it was time to hold a rally to both raise money for the WM3 legal defense fund and to get active in contacting state leaders in support of new trials for the WM3. That led to last night’s Voices for Justice rally.
Of course a rally featuring Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Patti Smith, Ben Harper, Dhanni Harrison, Joseph Arthur, and Bill Carter drew a large crowd– where else are you going to see Eddie Vedder letting Johnny Depp take lead guitar, or both of them playing backup for Patti Smith? Still, I was really disappointed to see that Bobby Ampezzan’s review in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette focused primarily on suggesting that people packed out Robinson for a rock show, not because they care about a cause. To that I ask, Bobby, did you SEE how amped people were when Rev. Thompson Murray from Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church gave a stirring min-sermon about the cause of justice as something Jesus would have supported? The way people cheered during the videos highlighting the miscarriage of justice in this case? The way people gave money as buckets were passed, offering style, around the music hall to collect money for the WM3 legal defense fund? But what does Bobby know? He describes Natalie Maines as having “a shaved head” (she was sporting a cute, short pixie) and rags on her for “[using] cue cards held aloft in the pit for one of her numbers” despite the fact that she barely talked the entire show because she said she was too emotional about a cause she has long-supported for words. It really disappointed me to see that write-up, and I felt like it had an agenda to downplay the real experience of the rally.
Like I said before, the entire experience, to me, was most akin to some really good church. We started with a sermon and a preacher telling the crowd that Jesus is always on the side of justice, quoting Amos 5:24: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” We had some congregational singing, along with Eddie Vedder as he performed Tom Waits’ “It Rains on Me” and with the entire assembled “band” as they performed “People Have the Power.” We heard the personal testimony of Eddie Vedder, as he described spending a recent evening around a campfire in his back yard with Fistful of Mercy (Ben Harper, Dhanni Harrison, Joseph Arthur), when they stood in a circle saying a kind of prayer that the WM3 could one day join them there, and realized that the answer to their prayer was to get down to Little Rock for the rally. Isn’t that how prayer so often works? Instead of using it to magically give us things, God uses it to remind us that we need to take action. That’s how it usually goes for me.
For me, some of the most powerful moments of the evening were while Natalie Maines was singing. While she has one of the most powerful voices I’ve ever heard, I think I was most stuck by her fiery spirit. I like a woman who refuses to be shut up. She sang a traditional gospel song called “Death’s Got a Warrant,” previously recorded by another favorite of mine, Patty Griffin. The song was obviously aimed at the true murderers, and said “you can’t hide, God’s got your number and he knows where you live. Death’s got a warrant for you.”
To me, the best song of the evening was Maines’ performance of Dan Wilson’s (best known as the lead singer of Semisonic) “Free Life.” The song was very stirring, as it seemed to be about Damien Echols reuniting as a free man with his wife Lorri Davis. Here’s a snippet of the lyrics:
Let’s take a little trip down where we used to go
It’s way beyond the strip, a place they call your soul
We’ll sit down for a while and let the evening roll
Don’t worry about the time; we’ll find a place to stay
The people round here seem familiar in some way
Look kind of like we did before we got so cold
And in the air the questions hang
Will we get to do something?
Who we gonna end up being?
How we gonna end up feeling?
What you gonna spend your free life on? Free life.
It was a good question for all of us. I hope the people in attendance won’t take for granted that we are blessed to have our freedom. I hope that they are moved to support the cause of justice, because when someone can sit on death row for a crime no one can be certain they committed, we are all a little less free.
And you know what? I have enough faith in people, enough faith in what I experienced with 2500 other people last night, to believe that it wasn’t just about Eddie Vedder and Johnny Depp. It was also about three innocent men in prison. It was about justice. And there are many ways to help between now and September 30th.
I don’t go to a lot of concerts. I dislike other bodies touching mine, I hate it when people mosh into me, I hate having to wait through an inevitably crappy opening act, I usually get hot and feel faint, and I find the standing rather exhausting. (Yes, I realize I sound like a real pale and wan pain in the ass right about now.) But, and I realize this will spoil some of my indie cred, one of my favorite bands in the whole wide world is Third Eye Blind and they played in my town last night and I just had to go. Even though it was in a venue (the Music Farm) I swore I’d never go back to because it was way oversold the time I saw Band of Horses (oh hey, there’s my cred back) and actually had to leave before the end because I thought I’d pass out from the heat and the stench of the sweat coming off the horde of shirtless goth dudes dryhumping all around me (no lie). I’ve liked 3eb since their first album came out way back in like 1996, discovering them just as I realized there was newer music beyond my dad’s classic rock (though I still have a soft spot for that stuff). I have all of their albums and even an EP, and it’s all still in rotation on my iPod. So yeah, I had to go.
So my husband and I took our old fogey asses to a rock show last night. And I loved it. Here are some brief scenes.
We arrived before the opening act to score some prime real estate on the floor in front of the stage. This meant 30 minutes of exposure to annoying undergrads (I can ID them because they didn’t have over-21 bracelets on) going on about how they’ve loved 3eb since their first album came out. Oh really? Back when you were like, eight?
We inevitably stand next to the one person at the show that you don’t want to be standing next to. With Band of Horses it was a group of shirtless goths who seemed to have gotten lost on the way to the gay club next door and took the opportunity of an indie rock show to dry hump each other for an hour. This show, it was the Hippie Girl. The type who says things like, “I just want to express myself with my body” and writhes around to some other beat in her mind, swaying and slithering. Jon said, “I think she thought this was Widespread Panic or something.” We spent the show trying not to let her dance ON us. I should have asked her if she wanted to model for art classes. I’m sure she’d have been down.
The opening act. Oh God. Someone did not love Joshua James enough as a child. His music is apparently the soundtrack to wrist slitting. He literally said, “This song is about a little boy from Lincoln, Nebraska, who was kidnapped from his home and later found raped and murdered.” As you can imagine, it was a really happy track. We couldn’t understand a word he said, but I imagined they were about puppies being kicked and women being eaten by bears. I will say that later, he came out to sing a 3eb song, and it sounded pretty good, if angsty. So the guy has a decent voice, but might need to find some different inspiration for his songwriting.
But then, after a seemingly interminable setup and sound check, the main event arrived on the stage, and the sold out house went nuts. The band rocked out, the crowd went crazy dancing and singing (parts of the show were basically a big sing-along), and by the end of the 4-song encore, my ears were ringing and my throat was sore.
Based on my observations of crowd behavior, I’ve now trademarked The Dick Move ™. It’s that “oh, I see my buddy over there, can I squeeze through here?” thing people do to get closer to the stage. Two guys and a girl pulled that on me and then stopped, right in front of me. “We good?” the guy said to his girl. I decided this situation called for me to be a bitch. “UM NO, WE’RE NOT. I could see, and now I can’t.” The girl moved sheepishly to the side, and I thought to myself, damn straight, you better move, that was NOT cool.
I’ve also gotta hand it to 3eb, they’re not one of those bands that now hates and refuses to play the song that made them famous. We got to hear both “Semi Charmed Kind of Life” and “Jumper,” and they played both with the same enthusiasm that they gave to songs off their newest album. They also seem to know they’re not as famous as they used to be, and seemed genuinely thankful that we were such an awesome crowd, which is probably why they gave us a 4-song encore.
So, I’m a happy fan today. Not sure when I’ll feel up to another show, but I’m glad I went to this one.
After much joking about Mark Sanford’s country song, “Crying in Argentina,” it occurred to me, I should make ol Mark a special playlist for this special time– I guess it’s a playlist to listen to while hiking the Appalachian Trail all the way to Argentina.
First up, Weezer’s “Island in the Sun“. Included for the line “We’ll run away together, we’ll spend some time forever, we’ll never feel bad anymore.” (It wouldn’t let me embed the video, but it’s directed by Spike Jonze and pretty cool)
Next, another one I can’t embed: Justin Timberlake’s Senorita. “Senorita, I feel for you, you deal with things that you don’t have to.” That one could practically BE one of Sanford’s emails.
And speaking of the emails, since Sanford says “there is something wonderful about listening to country music playing in the cab, air conditioner running, the hum of a huge diesel engine in the background”, I give you “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”:
Then Janet’s “Escapade.” Think by ditching the governor’s office for a week he was trying to save his troubles for another day?
Think the ladies in Argentina are like the ladies in Spain? “Can’t refuse it.”
And what’s acting like an idiot teenager in love rather than a governor with a wife and kids without a lil Tiffany?
And finally, Madonna, “Holiday.” “It would be so nice” if you could just get away with disappearing from your elected office for a week, wouldn’t it?
For a college advanced comp course, I once wrote a pretty scathing essay about people who are addicted to their ipods. I believe I created an extended metaphor about ipods as invaders from another planet, slipping their tentacles into people’s ears and slowly sucking out their brains, turning them into pod people. I may have even suggested that ipods are a health hazard, as more than once I nearly gave a roommate a heart attack by “sneaking” into our room before she saw or heard me, thanks to the music blaring in her ears, causing her to shriek upon suddenly seeing me. It was a pretty funny essay and it even got published in my college town’s paper. Ever since, I’ve tried to avoid becoming a pod person. Yes, I have and love a few-generations-old red ipod nano. But it mostly only saw use in my car and on long plane trips, as I dreaded becoming one of those people addicted to my own personal soundtrack, shutting out the world as I walk down the street or sit on the bus. I’d rather use my bus time to chat with people sitting around me, and walking down the street, I tend to get a little tree-hugger, listening to birds and stopping to inhale deeply any time I pass a jasmine vine.
Things changed today.
As I boarded my bus, I could already hear a man pontificating. I have no idea what compels the crazies to sit at the front of the bus and regale the poor drivers with their thoughts on life and politics and child rearing, but there’s always at least one, oblivious to the effect they are having on everyone else’s commute, conducting a running monologue all the way to wherever it is they’re going. This morning, it was a white-haired older man, who seemed to be speaking in fragments about how white men just don’t want to work hard (um, did he know what color HE was?), how dumb it is that people keep coming downtown and robbing college students because they don’t have any money (um, I WORK at the college, and let me tell you, plenty of these kids probably have plenty of money that they keep in the Range Rover mommy and daddy sent them off to college in), and how they should rob the tourists down on the battery instead. Seriously. He said, “Those white women have $12,000 diamond rings on their fingers, cut off a finger, you’ve got yourself a score!” He also went on about how he doesn’t drink or “use the cocaine” because “those are white women things. They love to drink those martinis with their pinkies in the air.” When (and I note that at this point we had made it about, oh, a mile from my house, so he really packed the info in) he launched into some sort of diatribe about sending his pennies to Obama so all the lazy black men could get jobs (at this point I decided he was just a misanthrope who hated everyone– white women, white men, black men, maybe the only ones he likes are black women like the bus driver he seemed to be trying to impress), I decided it was time to find the escape pod.
I fished around in my giant be-prepared-for-anything-that-could-happen-on-the-bus tote and found my trusty little ipod, Weasley. I slipped those little white “tentacles” into my ears, clicked on my “Summer Dance Party” playlist and slid my thumb around the dial, cranking up the volume. The lady sitting next to me, white tentacles also in her ears, nodded at me and smiled. A friend of mine across the aisle looked at me with jealousy, wishing she too could tune out the crazy sermonizer. When I couldn’t hear his insane rantings anymore, it was sort of funny to imagine his mouth moving to the lyrics of M.I.A. and MGMT. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I tapped my foot to the beat.
Now, in order to avoid true pod-dom, I should probably have removed the “tentacles” as I hopped off the bus for my short walk to the office, but I fear their little feelers had already worked themselves into my mind– one of my favorite songs had come on and I walked to its beat all the way to my building. I sort of hope there isn’t a camera in the elevator because I may or may not have had a little dance party somewhere between the first and fourth floors… Guess it’s time to welcome my shiny red Apple overlord.