music

I had so deeply wanted to do a special birthday post today, dedicated to Bob Dylan. A really long one.

Unfortunately, last week got eaten up by life and I only have a few minutes to discuss his Bob-ness before my ride comes and sweeps me off to my own birthday adventure.

(My birthday is Friday. I’ll be 29. Since I was a c-section, I’m still bitter that my parents didn’t work it out so that Bob and I could be birthday twins. Oh well. I guess I’ll get over it…)

Bob Dylan came into my life at a time during which I needed him most. I was 18 years old and I had just started college. I had never felt more…alone. Sure, I had friends and hobbies. More importantly, I had my friends’ hobbies. I didn’t feel like I had anything to call my own. Nothing was speaking to me and I hadn’t found my “place” in the world. I was just…there.

Then I found Bob.

I spent 4 or 5 years, traveling all over the country to see Dylan, with friends I had met on the internet. I think it scared my mother, at first. I mean, her kid was just traipsing all over the country, hunkering down in hotel rooms and hitching rides with people she had only ever met on some weird site called “The Dylan Pool“…but it was one of the best times of my life.

Outside one of the best Dylan shows I ever saw…Augusta, ME 8/4/02…look! I’m wearing chucks!

I even made some really great friends along the way. While we don’t keep in touch as much as we used to (life gets in the way…), we still love to occasionally connect and discuss all of the craziness that went on during our trips. Just recently, a friend of mine was recalling our love of soft serve and I dug up this picture:

Robert, Julie and I during the infamous California summer fair series. We got soft serve before every single concert. We were documenting the experience for posterity!

Now I have seen Bob nearly 40 times and in 7 different states. Those stats really aren’t that impressive when you compare them to other Dylan fans, but for me, I feel good about it. Bob has a special place in my life and I always go back to him.

Everyone wants to call Dylan the voice of a generation and make a huge hoopla about his music. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about his music. Thing is, what I love about Dylan is much more than music. It’s about an entire world that opened up to me through his work. It led me to authors I had never read and old scratchy blues musicians I had never heard of. It led me from Kerouac to Rimbaud, from Roy Orbison to Hank Williams, from the White Stripes to The Waifs and from one side of the country to the other. I didn’t stop just with Dylan’s vast discography….every single thing that Dylan puts out makes me want to read and delve further into history. It was something I never did prior to that and I am who I am today because I did. It helped me find my place, and I am forever grateful for that.

Thanks Bob. Happy 70th Birthday. Have some soft serve for me.

In high school,  all of us, no matter who we were had a group of friends. Maybe you were popular. Maybe you were a jock. Or maybe you hung with a bunch of artsy geeks.

I was part of that last one.

I went to San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA), which is a public visual and performing arts alternative high school.

To make it more clear, yes, we were like “Fame”.

Okay. Not really. But we did often break into spontaneous verse in the hallways.

Anyway, SOTA, though larger now, only had a student population of about 400 students when I went there. It was pretty evenly distributed at 100 kids per class and everyone knew just about everyone else by sight, if not by name and art discipline. Due to its student body’s creative nature, it was an exceptionally tolerant environment. There was little to no violence.  No bullying. No harassment. If you didn’t like someone, you just didn’t hang out with them. Students were capable of being who they were, without fear. As a matter of fact, we actually enjoyed being outlandish and eccentric.

My high school was a great place and I was lucky to have gone there.

If I had gone anywhere else, I’m sure I would’ve gotten the living crap kicked out of me on a daily basis.

My friends and I were (and still are) definitely too geeky to survive a regular high school. We were band geeks. We gushed about our favorite Shostakovich pieces and the awesomeness of John Williams’ compositions, particularly the theme to Star Wars. We liked Star Trek. Apple computers. Online text based role playing games (Oh how I miss my bronze dragonrider  on StarStones MOO!). Origami. Video Games. Anime (Yes, I did watch all seasons of Sailor Moon in Japanese, and I am NOT ashamed!).

And J-rock.

What?

Japanese rock music.

The person in my circle of friends (with whom you all should be familiar by now) who started my group off into the love of Japanese things was Maya. She introduced us to anime, beyond what was being dubbed into English and she was the one who shared with us the pop and rock music  that was coming out of Japan. The end of my high school career and the beginning of my time in college was spent trolling Japantown, buying CDs and watching PVs at the music store.

We listened to several artists, but when I think of the artist I listened to the most, it would have to be Hide.

I won’t lie. I still kinda want one of those chibi pink haired Hide keychains.

The other music group that we all listened to was a band called Luna Sea. Their music is completely amazing. I remember hanging out at Maya’s place and watching her videos (yes, videos! we had pagers too!) of a couple of Luna Sea lives. They were definitely an amazing band, their music evolving as their career progressed. I loved those videos…the live show looked amazing! I never in a million years dreamed that I would ever see them in concert.

But I did!

A few months back, it was announced that Luna Sea would be doing a 20th anniversary world tour, with a U.S. stop….in California, no less! Sure, it was L.A., which isn’t my favorite place…but I knew with them coming so close, I had to go. I got in contact with other high school friend and Japanese music enthusiast, Cindy, and we made plans to head down for the show.

When we arrived at The Palladium on Saturday night there were already two long lines of people waiting to get into the venue. We got into one line only to learn that it was the “VIP” line (which obviously meant you had to of paid extra money to be in) and were informed that the general admission line was around the other side of the building.

When we got to the other side I saw the marquee and I thought to myself, “Holy shit. I’m about to see Luna Sea!”

Really, it was surreal and I had to keep thinking that to myself, to prove that it was real.

We ended up standing in line in front of a die-hard fan who was originally from Korea. Apparently it was illegal to buy Japanese music there back then and she bought it on the black market and spent hours on the internet (as did my friends) downloading material at incredibly slow connection speeds (how did we ever live with dial-up?). She even bought tickets to their final concerts (Luna Sea broke up at the end of 2000) in Japan, but ended up having to sell them because her father refused to hand over her passport –she was still a minor at the time. Now a days she resides in Idaho, but she had to come to California when she found out they were coming. I have never heard someone so pumped up to see a show.

Honestly, it made me even more excited to get in there. Also the fact that it was freezing outside made me want to get in there. Despite our tickets saying 7pm on them, we didn’t get in there until well after 8pm. Waiting makes me totally anxious.

Once in the venue we checked out the room. I immediately felt privileged that I was going to get to see the band in such an intimate venue. I could tell this was going to be epic.

After the initial scope out we made a visit to the crazy crowded souvenir stand (you better believe I was going to get some swag!) and got a cocktail while we waited for the show to begin.

My badass t-shirt. This is the back, the front just says LUNA SEA in the same font across the chest.

I really like my tote bag. I’m sorry it didn’t want to hang nicely off my door hook.

After we had alcohol and material possessions we went back into the auditorium. We ended up standing in the pit, to the left and towards the back. I probably would’ve gone in a little deeper, but Cindy was a little concerned about how rough it would get on the concert floor. Having been to a rock concert in Japan (I saw Oblivion Dust when I was in Tokyo in Feb. 2008), I knew that it would be chill. Even with a partially (a LOT of the crowd had actually flown in from Japan) American audience, I knew it would be nothing like a typical U.S. show. No moshing, slam dancing, getting kicked in the head, battered and bruised. I knew it would be bouncing, fist pumping and synchronized hand movements all of the way. And I was right.

I totally love to bounce and fist pump.

I’m not going to go through the concert song by song, as that isn’t the way I relive concerts in my brain. I’m not a note taker or a person who writes down setlists. I tend to just remember my thoughts and emotions during the show.

My thoughts throughout the show:

“OMG! Ryuichi is speaking broken English right in front of me!”

“OMG! It’s J! He’s playing bass! I love J and his bass!”

“OMG! J is hella cute. I had forgotten how completely adorable and amazing he is! J! I love you!”

“OMG….etc”

Essentially I was a hysterical fan girl.

A hysterical fan girl who takes ugly iPhone pictures of the band while pogo-ing up and down and screaming.

I completely lost it when they started playing Rosier. I know, I know. Totally stereotypical. Freaking out when you hear one of a band’s greatest hits. I couldn’t help it though. I love that song so much…I still remember the words, all of these years later! The other songs that really stuck out for me from the show were “Genesis of Mind” and “Face to Face”. What can I say? I love their album, “Mother“, and it still goes down as one of my favorite albums of my teens.

I really want to share Rosier with you, but the YouTube videos that are up of the show I went to shake so much that watching them makes me nauseous. So instead, watch this performance from 2007:

Kick ass.

Anyway, I guess I don’t need to say this now, but in case you were wondering, the show was absolutely amazing and I cannot believe I even considered not going to it because it was in L.A. I’m sad to think that I may never have the opportunity to see them live again, but I feel happy about the fact that this tour was filmed and I will probably get the opportunity to buy the experience for my at home viewing pleasure.

If any of you buy it, look for me. I was the white girl jumping around like a maniac.

At the end of the show the band members threw out souvenirs into the crowd. Guitar picks, towels, opened water bottles (not really a souvenir, but still…) and of course, Shinya threw his drumsticks into the audience.

I didn’t see it coming.

I had fangirl towels in front of my face. Besides, we were way too far in the back to have anything flying at us…right? Wrong!

I got maimed by Shinya’s drumstick. I know it’s hard to see in this picture, but if you look at my arm, there is a welt. It lasted for 3 hours!

After getting hit, I turned around and saw Cindy on the ground, wrestling with a cute little girl. The girl kept saying, “Can’t you let me have it?” Cindy kept saying, “No.” In the end, however, Cindy handed it over.

Personally, I think I should have had dibs. I’m the one who was injured by it! Oh well.

After the show, we headed to Roscoe’s for their famous Chicken and Waffles. We both got the breast and 1 waffle plate, as well as Arnold Palmers (ice tea + lemonade), which were called something else. Can I say, to die for? I can. And just did.

Don’t worry. I did not eat that entire mound of butter.

What were you listening to in high school? Did you ever see them live?

I believe that every person has something in life that gives them perspective, gives them hope during difficult times, grounds them when they feel unsteady and celebrates with them when times are bright.

For me, this thing is music.

There are two musical items that literally changed my life. One is a musical artist. The other is an actual musical.

I’m going to talk about the latter a little bit today.

As I’ve mentioned before, I kind of hate things that are trendy. I shouldn’t, really. It’s completely snobby of me and I usually find out that there is a REASON something is popular. Like Harry Potter, for instance. I resisted that for years and when I finally gave in, I was in love. Or oatmeal toppings…delicious! Or green monsters…nutritious! Well, in early 1997 I was a freshmen in high school. A classmate, whom I namely knew through Maya came back from a trip to NYC and was talking about the most amazing musical ever. Before I knew it ALL of my friends were talking about it. I resisted, but eventually, I just HAD to know what the fuss was about. Maya had the CDs and I took them home for a listen. I was blown away. I ran out of my room and announced to my mother and stepfather: “I have to have these CDs!!” My mom told me I could have them for my birthday. I called Maya and told her she could have her CDs back in a month, when my 15th birthday was.

She was kind of pissed.

But I still kept them. I’m just that kind of a friend…. *cough*

And then on my 15th birthday my Mom handed me the money and I went to the music store.

The songs in this musical were magic to me. The libretto touches on so many powerful issues: AIDS, homelessness, love, family, friends, homosexuality, tolerance, class, race, gender, death, life, careers, hope, art, music, joy, struggle, hunger….it’s amazing. There isn’t even ONE song that I don’t love. I know the words to the entire musical by heart. It taught me so many valuable lessons while growing up and always gave me something to hold onto when times were tough. Something to remind me about how important the moment is. Even today, I am still inspired by it.

What is the musical, you ask?

(yeah….I used flash. I took it in 2006 though, so give me a break…)

I’ve still got those CDs from 13 years ago. They are scratched and worn. I don’t want to buy new ones though. I have sentimental attachment to my original copies. Throughout my teens, there was rarely a day that went by where I didn’t listen to at least one song from RENT. I’ve seen the show live six times. Every single time it’s come to San Francisco. The first time I saw it I got to see it with original cast Mimi, Daphne Rubin-Vega. The last time I saw it was with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, the original cast Mark and Roger. I also saw it once on Broadway. I wouldn’t be a true RENThead if I hadn’t seen it at the Nederlander, would I?


I even won $20 rush tickets. Two of my friends and I put our names in, but I knew I would be the one to win.

And I couldn’t deal without getting my picture taken with Mark Cohen and Angel Dumott Schunard:

February 11, 2006, also known as one of the coldest days of my life. Blizzards and California girls don’t mix!

So anyway, I’m pretty much in love with everything RENT. This is why I got incredibly excited when I found out about this:

I am so there!

I bought two of these immediately:

I drafted Curtis, my musical loving co-worker to go to the show with me. He went because it was at the Venetian Room, and The Fairmont Hotel is one of his favorite places. I went, for obvious reasons. Before the show we stopped off for food at Max’s, our typical stop before we head to shows together. We decided to split an entree, and I also decided to get a signature cocktail:


I got a “Kiwi Lemon Drop”, which was just about the best thing ever. Curtis and I shared this GIGANTIC sandwich…turkey, ham, tomatoes, bacon, avocado, lettuce, red onion and Muenster on sourdough. It also comes with red potato salad and a pickle…they brought us two portions of those, so we wouldn’t have to share. Can you believe that above is only HALF of the normal portion?! Even eating just half was enough to make me wish I could unbutton my top button!

After Max’s, it was on to the show, which was amazing.

Adam’s set was mostly classic show tunes, but done with his own modern twist. He was playing an electric upright bass, which I had never actually seen before. It was very cool and looked a lot like the red one in the middle:

(Source)

After much Sondheim and really hilarious banter, Adam retired and after a brief intermission, Anthony came out. Anthony structured his set a little differently. He sort of chronicled his life through his song choices. He began with songs by people who had inspired him (leading off with Jonathan Larson’s “Why” from Tick, Tick Boom). He sang his RENT audition number, “Losing My Religion” by REM. He talked a lot about his mother, her fight and eventual loss to cancer. He sang “Without You” from RENT, which he had sung at his mother’s funeral.

It was a really touching and revealing way to structure a set list, and it touched me, as I often relate songs to specific events in my life. For instance, when my stepfather died, I gave my mom a wooden box. It had a picture on the front of my stepfather, taken when they went on their last vacation together. Inside, I had written the lyrics to the song “I’ll Cover You” on a piece of paper. I always think of the losses my family suffered during my sophomore year of high school when I hear that song.

Anthony also sang a couple of his own songs, including a song about loving a boy. He touched on the current “It Gets Better” project, and I was really glad about that. Truth is, all kids need to know that it gets better.

After Anthony’s set, both he and Adam came back out and performed “What You Own” and “Seasons of Love”, both from RENT. Adam even tried to hit the high note in Seasons. So. Funny.

I know I’ve just written this glowing review of the show, but yesterday afternoon, I hadn’t even wanted to go. I’ve had a bad few days….nothing catastrophic. Just several days of things going wrong and bringing me down. Yesterday I was grouchy and I wished I hadn’t even bought the tickets. However, Jonathan Larson’s music did it again. I was reminded that nothing I was upset about matters in the grand scheme of things. On the whole, my life is good, I have a million things to be thankful for and I need to get over myself and remember my favorite message from the musical:




Seriously. I bought the dog tag, as I tend to forget that the most important thing in life is to live each day as it is your last.

“There is no future, there is no past….”

 

What do you go to when you need grounding? Books? Music? Art?