Last night, my friend and I went to see a movie called Holy Motors. We were intrigued by the preview, and thought it looked interesting and very stylish, but we had no way of knowing what a wild ride we were in for. Here’s the trailer.
This is not a review. This is a plea for you to watch the movie so that we can discuss it. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s dark, and shocking, and lovely, and melancholy, and mysterious, and joyous, and occasionally hysterical, and it’s a myriad of surprises from beginning to end. I don’t even want to say anything about the story, because I want you to have the same experience I (and everyone else in the theater) did. I feel like I’ve already said too much. Worth mentioning is the fact that I almost titled this entry, “Holy crap! Holy Motors!”
More shocking than the movie, however, was what happened after. It happened at the Living Room here in downtown Portland, at the early showing. The film had just finished, but instead of getting up to leave, everyone stayed in their seats, talking quietly. The guy sitting next to my friend and me said that he’d gotten up to take a five-minute bathroom break, and asked what he’d missed. Another guy chimed in that he’d missed a bit on a bathroom break as well. We did our best to remember, and we told him. Then other people started to chime in and ask about what the group thought a scene meant, or how various elements tied together (or didn’t). Before long, everyone was jumping into spontaneous conversation about the film, and comparing it to other films, and suddenly it became Movie Club. The staff had to tell us first politely, and then a bit more pointedly, that they did have a lobby, and we were welcome to go out there, but that they had to clean the theater, and we had to vacate. The group congregated in the hallway and continued the discussion for another fifteen minutes. Everyone who was in that little theater stayed and participated in the discussion. I’ve been going to movies for decades now, and that has never happened before. It was fantastic, and it made me wonder why it doesn’t happen more often.
I want so badly to post pictures and scenes from the movie on here, but I’m not going to. You can seek them out if you want, but I would encourage you not to, and to see it with no prior knowledge of the story. Also, I recommend that you see it on the biggest screen available to you. I imagine that it’s still playing in some arthouse theaters, but if it’s not, it’s out on DVD.
A thought occurred to me last night; while it’s true that I’ve been good about keeping up my blog lately, it would be nice if I had some help. That thought led to, What if I recruited some of my friends, all of whom are creative and intelligent in their own right, to contribute a story every once in a while? Brilliant. A bunch of new and (hopefully, ha ha) compelling content for BFS&T, and my friends get to have an occasional outlet that most of them don’t normally have. Not to mention the fact that I get to find out something new about each of my friends who contributes. Everybody wins. So don’t be too surprised (or do, if you want) if some guest bloggers appear from time to time.
On the home front, times are still really tough. I’ve applied for about a million jobs (okay, a few hundred), which have led to exactly one interview and not an ounce of success. The problem is that I have plenty of skills in music, but precious little going for me outside of that. The types of jobs that I’ve gone to in the past have evaporated in this slowly-improving-but-still-crappy economy, and by the colossal number of un- or underemployed people here in MyFairCity. To add insult to injury, quite a few gigs have cancelled in the last month or so (due to ‘lack of budget’), which has left me with essentially zero income. If not for my family’s intervention, I would be on the street, in my car, or in any number of other untenable situations. I was struck down the other night by feelings of utter hopelessness, which is a new and unpleasant trend lately. I could use some good thoughts, or advice, or prayers, or whatever parlance of your choice.
I’m trying desperately to maintain my famously indomitable spirit, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult in the face of the constant and crushing feeling that my life is careening out of control, and I’m going slowly crazy. Suffice it to say that anxiety and depression are off the charts. Creativity is practically nonexistent.
It seems to be a season for suffering. A week before Sandy Hook, Portland had its own gunman shoot up Macy’s in the nearby Clackamas Town Center mall, which traumatized the city. A couple of weeks later, one of my bandmates and her wheelchair-bound significant other were struck by a car that blew through a stop sign and blindsided them in a left turn as they walked across the crosswalk. They were only slightly injured, thankfully, but it’s now been quite a few weeks since the accident, and they’re still dealing with the physical ramifications, the emotional frustrations, and the insurance issues. A very well-known musician friend has been recently diagnosed with cancer. Particularly cruel is the fact that it manifested itself in his neck, and he’s a singer. The support shown by the community has been absolutely astounding, but he’s far from being out of the woods yet. Here’s a link to his story, and how to do what you can to help.
Be all that as it may, this was not intended to be a pity party, I just felt I should let you in on the magnitude and severity of the things I (and others, whose issues definitely put my own in perspective) have been dealing with lately. But it ain’t all gloom around here. More frequent breaks in the weather—as well as the longer hours of sunlight—are proving to be worth their weight in gold (Can time and light be worth their weight in gold? ANYWAY. Moving on.), and I’ve been going for long walks almost every day. I do have a couple or three music production projects scheduled for to begin in the near future, and that’s the best way I know of to improve my spirits and slough off the yoke of dark thoughts.
So that’s the news at this point. I appreciate your continued support and good ‘parlance’ in these stressful and difficult times. Here’s hoping they’re over soon, and dare I say it (albeit in a Tiny Tim falsetto voice), may God bless us, every one.
This ad was posted on ListByCraig today, in the ‘musicians’ section.
“Very experienced drummer without legs. What I can do with the rest of my limbs will surprise you! Looking to jam or maybe start band with good people who can accept me for who I am.. Below are links to my drumming videos. Thank you to my brother for allowing me to post a few videos of me playing on his synth youtube channel! Love you and God Bless!”
Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leppard, has shown the world that a person doesn’t need all of his or her limbs in order to rock huge arenas around the world. I was expecting this guy to be using a modified drum set of some sort, or maybe he was even a guy like Trilok Gurtu, the amazing Indian percussionist who used to play with John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra and all that. He has legs, and he uses them on occasion, but his main Thing is to sit on the floor, surrounded by a mountain of percussion instruments, creating a soundscape that is both big and small. He sounds like a drummer, but so much more. He’s amazing.
So I’m giving the guy who posted his ad the benefit of the doubt. He seems like a good guy, is really confident, and he isn’t going to let his disability come between him and his dream. This being Portland, there are a million hippie percussionists out there, and this guy could be one of them. Good on you, dude, and more power to you, I thought, as I clicked on the links to his videos. Do not read the rest of this entry until you’ve watched both of the videos. Don’t worry, they’re not very long. Here’s the first one. . .
. . .and the second one.
I can imagine him twirling his virtual drum sticks at the end of that second one, or holding his iPhone aloft with the lighter app flickering on the screen.
I almost fell out of my chair laughing.
I have to commend the guy for his positive attitude, and his gumption or moxie or whatever, but OH MY GOD. SO FUNNY. Here he is bragging about how what he can do with ‘the rest of his limbs’, and he can’t even keep a solid beat. And ‘very experienced drummer?’ What does that even mean? Very experienced playing the drum machine with his fingers in his bedroom?
Okay, so assuming that all the stars align, and that a band actually wants someone to do that for them, what would that look like on stage? A couple of guitarists and a bassist with their big amps, a singer strutting around on the front of the stage, and a guy sitting in the back tapping out beats with a drum machine on his lap. Hilarious.
I hope he gets in a band. I’ll absolutely go see them play.
This all reminds of a band I saw about eight years ago at the venue formerly known as the Rabbit Hole. It was a female singer-songwriter and her ‘band’, which consisted of two electric guitarists and a CD player on the back of the stage, which provided their backing tracks. She would say something like, “Here’s another new song,” and one of the guitarists would turn around and push the button on the CD player to make it play. It was the (unintentionally) funniest musical thing I’ve ever seen. I seem to recall that she even counted off one or two of the songs with, “One. . .two. . .three. . .four—” before one of the guitarists started the CD, but maybe I just wanted that to happen so badly that my memory is playing tricks on me. It’s been known to happen.
In the interest of full disclosure, my first band (back in 1987) used the same Yamaha drum machine as the one in the top video when we recorded our song demos, and I played it the exact same way, by tapping on the big buttons. We made a video for one of the songs at the local community-access TV station, and I’ve heard that they still play one of our other videos on their ‘Flashbacks’ series, which is simultaneously very flattering and slightly cringe-worthy. Suffice it to say that I have first-hand experience with playing that exact drum machine in that exact way, and I’ve played all kinds of instruments (including a keytar) on all kinds of stages, but I would never dream of doing that in front of people, for any other reason than a humorous one.
Some of my favorite things to watch on the youtubes are videos made by people playing in their homes. Guitarists who shred and dance around in their bedrooms are always a hoot, but amateur drummers seem to take the cake when it comes to megalomania. This guy is one of my favorites, for many reasons. Most of all, he’s just not very good (but he THINKS he is, and THAT’S funny), but it’s the ridiculous and ergonomically challenging setup of his drum kit and the way he keeps looking at himself in the mirror that tell me all I need to know about the kind of person he is.
The best news of all is that he has his own channel (of course he does!), with an entire series of videos that we can all watch and enjoy together. I recommend his version of “Limelight” by Rush.
The subject of auditioning and dealing with potential band members dredges up similar feelings, and I’ve written about that before, so if you’re so inclined, you can read more about it.
Okay, I admit it; I’m an elitist musical snob. Are you happy now?
A few months ago, I had a funny conversation with a friend of a friend, whose very unusual first name began with an M. When my friend introduced me to M, I said, “Oh, you must know [GhostBand singer]. I think she might have been in the same school program as both of you were. Were you at the Goodfoot?”
“Nope,” M replied. “Never been there before.”
“That’s weird,” I said, “maybe I’m wrong about the school program, but I met another friend of hers—maybe from college?—and there are two of you with the same name.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “If there was another one of us, I’d know about it.”
“Yeah. It’s an unusual enough name that I wouldn’t forget it. But she exists.”
“I doubt it,” she said. This is starting to get weird.
“Okay.” I said. Resistance was useless. Fast forward a few minutes into the conversation, and the little group of us was talking about food and restaurants; a favorite subject here in Portland. I mentioned one and gave it a good recommendation.
“Oh, I love that place,” M said. “Too bad it closed down.”
“Really, when? I was just there.”
“A few months ago, or a year, maybe.”
“No, it’s still open. I ate there a couple weeks ago.”
“No, it’s totally closed.”
I get no pleasure from arguing, and only resort to it if the subject is really something worth fighting about. Things like people I’ve met, or restaurants that aren’t closed, those aren’t even arguments, they’re wastes of time that could be better spent in a good conversation. I had a similarly funny and surreal one with my stepmom this past weekend. The subject of music came up, and she had a question.
“Who’s the guy from Hoquiam [tiny town on the coast of Washington state] who died? The musician?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“He was from Aberdeen, though.”
“No, he was from Hoquiam.”
“I don’t know if he was born in Aberdeen or not, but he grew up and went to school there. I’ve watched a bunch of documentaries and stuff about him.”
“Yeah, that’s Hoquiam. There’s a bridge there, and a memorial.”
“But that’s all in Aberdeen. I’ve been to that bridge.”
Well, here it is, the bridge over the Wishkah river. I didn’t make this video, but it’s a simple and touching tribute. And it’s in Aberdeen.
And since we happen to be on the subject of Nirvana and documentaries, I can’t recommend this one, “About a Son,” highly enough. It’s told exclusively through audio interviews, and filmed in a very compelling way, and it walks you through Kurt’s entire life story. You never see him speak, but his voice narrates the entire thing. It’s candid and haunting, and I think you’ll agree.