I Have 1456 Words for TV Girl (And If You Stop at the First Two, Your Opinion Doesn’t Count)

Oh pretty boy
Don’t think
You pretty boys
Are only good for one thing

        -“Pretty Boys” (TV Girl)

Fuck you—

IMG_20180522_224439Pretty bro boy deadpanning such mockrock lyrics you’d make Father John Misty spit out his acid and coffee; you sing so flat Lou Reed would choose his words like a Long Island special; you flaunt your lowkey machismo like you’ve out-and-retired Mike McGrath after 15 minutes; you groove so well to bullshit that Bob Dylan should stop cryin’ about the dollar bills comin’ outta his mattress—it’s too easy. Are you just narrators of a tale of two sexes that can’t help but despise each other—that hate each other as tough and as intensely as the sounds of a shaking headboard during rough sex? Oh, who the fuck am I kidding, the college graduate no longer has a headboard anymore. Floors shake beneath the box mattress frame riding, stormy pillows and billowing blankets begetting the rumble n’ thunda of a thousand frustrated nights, rough school, high rent, low wages and smashed avocado on toast. And I fuckin’ hate avocado. This is a future that has dimmed from the edge of photograph to the center of la vie en rose. We have naught but the tiny hundred little clubs filled with the tiny hundred indiebands scanning a crowd of 100 and being content with the size of such a number as they play tunes that swing a satire of consumerism yet wholly engage in it; the electronic evolution of commercial jingles pirated at lo-fi, copy and pasted over the wonder of a pianobook called Macintosh like an electronic ransom note:

heY It”s mE,

I h4v£ uR gRanNy’s mUs!c
giF me uR munn3y:

-tV g!rL

And if she grabs for your hand
And drags you along
She might want a kiss
Before the end of the song
Because love can burn like a cigarette
And leave you with nothing

        -“Lovers Rock” (TV Girl)

Are we so jaded to music now? Did we actually learn something from the slow death of Motown in Detroit? Is that goody-two shoe shit with a curious penchant for fruit over? Are we so painfully sardonic of slutty little melody’s ability to ooze the mood like honey and taste like sap? So willing to let everything fall away and sail a calm Sargasso atop a damning undertow? Do we swing lo to de-fi the acid? Sparkle only to vape out that little miss Molly in your eye during the show? Do we rerecord our brains to tape player memories that aren’t even ours? Listen only because silence plays one song and we’ve all heard it before in the cold rage of our parent’s car?

Or do we dance because we wear iron maidens on our feet, in our heads, along our smiles like a Pam Beesley from the Sixties with her beehive and her car and her husband and her kitchenette and her world that ends at the supermarket and is circled like the pages on the Sears catalog at the top of every month? Do we shout because everything we feel isn’t some appreciation or sparkle-eyed bullshit we call love one day and toss in the emotional heap the next, but because we only feel the needles and many things that are a prick, a spike, a shiv, an infection that will see us to our death on the dancefloor or in missionary? Do we host earworms that nibble and wiggle their way beneath our skin, down our neck, drip in our spines and percolate in our ass, killing us beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-shimmer-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-shimmer-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-shimmer-by-beat-by-beat-by-beat-by-shimmer-by-jingle-by-jangle-by-beat-by-shimmer-by-jingle-by-jangle-by-beat-by-shimmer-by-jingle-by-jangle-by-beat-by-shimmer-by-jingle-by-jangle-by-snare?! 12 bars of xanax blues wrapped in the clanks and clatters of pots and pans flaking Teflon into the platter of our ex’s beating heart au jus?

And do you devour these like Jolly Ranchers, sucking on their form until they rot your teeth and clog your blood and take your feet, your legs, your hands, your arms, your eyes, your life as you crawl along the floor, down the hall, on to the balcony and cry-sing with a voice so flat, mewling for streetcats who sit on the fence in the backyard at the rundown-apartments where you don’t even try to rub out the stains or splatters? How could you be so real, TV Girl, yet so close to Venice Beach and Malibu and Palm Springs? Are you sure you’re not from San Diego or Bakersfield, and did that thought make you shudder? Can you answer all this inquisition, Brad Petering, or should I stick to something unoriginal?

Like: “Your songs are surprisingly mocking in their storytelling, is that a narrator mumbling along or just you?” Banal, but hey, I’m not the artist, I’m just sticking the mic to his face. Verbosity rings around the petals of the roses before finally you just stick a hand in the bush and pull one of those bleedin’ Leona Lewis’ out: “I guess I can be a cynical person—but mostly it’s just me,” is the only coherent answer I have written here. Goddamn, Lou Reed would smile at that rigmarole—the tone in your voice, deeper and more powerful live than on record, sticking in conversation and on stage at the Doug Fir, is easier to remember than your answers.

“Does the music industry have a jading effect, then?” I put forward to you. And y’know what, your answer was so fast and concise and silent that I follow-up with a “Especially when considering the album release standard,” (a two-year script that stays on mind but doesn’t clog the memory banks). “Yeah,” you say accordingly, I don’t know why, but agreement seems to be the only path forward in this banal answer-statement-follow-up-statement rapport. And then we both nod our heads: My Bloody Valentine’s success on only one record per decade defines a different industry to that of Creedence Clearwater Revival releasing six heavyweight records in the course of four paltry blinks for years. Different expectations, you suppose.

What does it matter anyways?
She didn’t like me anyways
I only thought because she climbed into my arms
But she wasn’t trying to turn anyone on
She was only trying to stay warm

        -“Louise” (TV Girl)

Well, fuck, let’s get back to something not as vague and vapid as a one-sided conversation where we blast the music industry behind its back—what would we say that isn’t rehashed from your lyrics? Well, there’s a start, let’s talk about your lyrics, thus far littering my polluted cityboy brain like newspaper clippings and hearsay passed by on the street corner and left to hustle the day away, Something, something, you talked on stage about the ironies of love, a something that rambles out of my nervous smart-mouth and before you answer I clarify: your lyrics frequently work with men and women that love each other but hate each other too much to do anything about it. You answer and add little more polish to this pathetic waxing, but here’s the kicker: “Irreconcilable tension” was all I wrote. God damnit. How can this interview go on? Not with any good quotes apparently.

So we talked about how integral that piece-o-shit Macintosh was to the set and how like any faithful piece-o-shit, it decided to act up (I expect my time’s soon to come—any day now). And yeah you have a backup—but it’s parked blocks down the street and in no real position to be useful. And as all of this is going on all I can think about this half-set was how many of these questions brewed in my mind as I danced and danced and danced like I was Tony Hawk on a half-pipe, working myself to the ever-turning floor, feet twisting to the board like it ain’t no shit. Tightwinding myself between bodies and bumping into them too, stewing on how kitschy and dry and cynical your music may sound on repeat, as if Dad fell asleep in front of TV again and you daren’t change the channel, but instead program yourself like Pavlovian mutt, writing a movement for each beatcount or shimmer like it ain’t no shit—because nobody’s really watching, and nobody really cares if you dance to the music. But as time was cut short, I couldn’t order them, feel them, know them and ask you them.

And so when I think about all the questions I never asked you; I think about how French Exit kinda was the album of your albums, the essential, and how Death of a Party Girl tries a little harder to give a shit than Who Really Cares. I think about how the tropical contempt—the Cannesian scoff—of your voice just makes the music thump deeper, groove lower and slap her ass harder. I think about how these albums are to millennials what I Love Lucy was to the Sixties Pam Beesly; a lo-fi escape. And I think about how the moment when the Aught-Ten’s New Girl presses play on French Exit, everything, everything, everything—EVERYTHING—melts away. How these characters and plots emerge from your music like narrators of an America in need of distraction from the impending divorce. And how this is a record worth saving for after. And then I think about how these questions came too late—the interview is over now.

Fuck me.

So don’t go around saying
There’s no such thing as love
You can’t go trading me places
Don’t forget that I
I am the cynical one

       -“Cynical One” (TV Girl)

IMG_20180522_230152

Santana Live at the House of Blues

Relatively speaking, it doesn’t matter what age he was, is or will be.

Santana plays the ever-loving Christ out of his guitar.

Every time I listen to him play, it’s like I’m in a Latin American mega-church with organs blasting, the crowd dancing and the holy father himself standing on the altar, playing a guitar that screeches into every riff with an intensity only faith can give.

His tongue lies on the fret board and his lips rest on his fingertips. The man himself is soft-spoken, but every note is a holler, every chord is a catcall.

But he’s not flirting with nobody, he’s faithful. To his guitar and his wife and drummer, Cindy Blackman.

And if there’s one thing a good Santana experience needs, it’s a rock behind the drum kit. Just listen to Live At The Fillmore (1968) if you need proof. But I digress, because when Blackman finished her solo, oh boy, Michael Shrieve:

Eat. Your. Heart. Out.

This lady is fierce in her virtuosity. A cross between jazz, punk and hard rock, she hit that drum kit as hard as John Bonham with a bad attitude. Moreover, she brought the best out of Santana just as Santana brought the best out of her—taking turns to fan each other off when either heated up past boiling point.

But it wasn’t just a tale of he said, she said; the whole band was white-hot, raring to go wherever Santana dared lead.

img_20160924_202027056And if anything, they had best seats in the house. I could’ve been right up to the stage (which I was) but being on stage with a man who plays “Soul Sacrifice” like he’s dying? Forget about it.

I don’t know if he ever saw my scrawny self, waving his first two albums as I danced, but I’m sure he felt the energy of every fan like I, cheering to the heavens, solo after solo.

There was no mailing it in, which is a rather apt fear when seeing an aged classic rock guitarist. Instead, he reciprocated with everything he had. Anything less would’ve been a betrayal to his audience and to his faith.

The venue was his church, the crowd was his mass and his guitar work was his sermon.

Setlist

The Dead Loves Company

The Dead still live.

And the crowd breathed.

Anxiety is a real bastard when it comes to seeing beloved artists on stage for the first time. Worrying about what song they’ll play, if they’ll play that favourite song (they didn’t in my case), if they’ll only complete half-a-set, if they’ll not show up at all.

At least, the last one was the minor concern of my dad. I was more concerned with how he would react to DeadHeads and the constant cloud of weed that was going to form under the Rose Garden canopy.

The fact that nothing bothered him as he listened confirmed only one thing: The Dead and Company may not be the Grateful Dead, but they still kick ass.

Between “Tennesse Jed” and “West L.A. Fadeaway,” I knew I could take a breath and feel the awesome relief, captain Bob Weir knows just what the fuck he’s doing. He’s letting John Mayer carry Dead and Company through these treacherous waters of expectation.

Every DeadHead wants to experience the alive and empowered Grateful Dead.

But not every DeadHead wants to see a half-baked tribute to their favourite band. Bob Weir never lets it come to that: he takes on most of the vocal duties to allow John Mayer to explore on guitar.

I prefer it that way. John Mayer is many things, one of the best guitarists of his age, but a vocal replacement for Jerry Garcia he is not. Nor Phil Lesh for that matter. His is voice is kind of goofy, probably has something to do with throat surgery.

Unfortunately, this means the first casualty of The Dead & Company was the harmony of Garcia-Lesh-Weir. Nonetheless, Weir’s voice totally provided the bedrock for those harmonies, so it’s good to have that continuity.

At the very least, “Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be,” still rang true among the crowd. And the audience was worked that night. I don’t think anybody left that damn hall without feeling that Mayer totally kicked ass and should keep on it.

It definitely makes the next Mayer album an interesting prospect *cough*possibledeadcollabs*cough*.

But it did take a bit to get used to; gone was the harmonics, lessened were the acoustics and stripped was the largely gentle touches of the Garcia and Lesh. The Dead’s new company was eclectic and electric.

But I was content to wait for the right moment. For a moment that may not come until the second set, where I could finally relax and say from experience that the Dead and Company was fantastic.

And there but five minutes in the second set I finally heard the only tab that could make the sun stay the least bit longer in the summer evening sky:

I like watching that main crowd shot, as the song really starts picking up and people celebrate the fact that the next 12-15 minutes of their lives is going to sound like pure musical sunshine.

Trying not watch that big freaking screen that shows Mayer’s hands up close was a bit hard, because I wanted to watch his more general body language. And as I began to rock so did he, revving himself for the first solo and then proceeding to unwind it.

My legs melted like jelly.

Like hot jelly at that.

Mayer did this three times. Then two more times during “I Know You Rider.”

I was melting from what sounded like musical intercourse and that crowd was eating out of Mayer’s hands. And only because they were skilled hands. Not just from Mayer but from Chimenti and Oteil Burbridge as well.

However, it’s a competition of who comps best with John Mayer’s skills. Oteil’s single time to shine was during the space of Mickey Hart, who, bless his heart, seemed to be on another world combining percussion, electronica and bicycle horns into the Company’s fold.

Otherwise, Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti relied on Mayer to be the engine just as much as Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann do.

But it sounded like the band played into that. There was no lackluster, no sense fatigue or egoism still. No pride. That’s what really makes a band work. At the very least, it’s what made the Grateful Dead work.

And more then anything, that’s what is going to take in order to keep any DeadHead content. Once the old men are dead and buried, DeadHeads are still going to need people who know how to play the music.

And in the case of John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti, it’s considered a blessing to learn from the masters.

I left that stadium with two opinions: one from a critic’s perspective and one from a fan’s perspective. Let’s call them Opinion 1 and Opinion A respectively.

Opinion 1: “Damn, they fucking played the shit outta ‘China Cat Sun>Rider’ and ‘West L.A. Fadeaway. I hope that’s going on YouTube.”

Opinion A: “Fuck. They didn’t play my favourite song, now I’ll need to see them play again. Clever bastards.”

Both of these statements confirm one thing: I need to see them play again. Whether by video or live. Actually, I’d prefer live. I know what it sounds like to be in that music hall again when John Mayer performs: it’s addictive.

And frankly it should be why DeadHeads travel across the country to see the remaining Dead play with John Mayer. They go well together and they should remain together.

At least for another couple years, please.