Saturday, January 26, 2013

Me, Austin, Cat Power, 2013

Just back from Cat Power's show at the Austin City Limits theater--with new T to show for it!

When I got up this morning, I kind of wondered how I would feel about going. I'd gotten goosebumps when I first saw her show advertised back in December, but part of the goosebumps, aside from excitement that Chan Marshall was making a rare appearance in Austin, was: "I'll get tickets for me AND SANDRA! She'll LOVE this!" Well, when Sandra expressed no interest at all in going (despite her being a Cat Power fan), it was, of course, a huge slight to myself. So I was kind of worried that that rejection would color how I felt about the show, despite my own looking forward for the past month to seeing Marshall for the first time.

Shades of the Wevill poetry reading in 2010; I'd excitedly told Sandra about it, thinking FOR SURE she'd want to come in to Austin so we could see our old professor together... Nah. She hemmed and hawed and bullshitted around, 'til I told her to fuck off. She ended up driving in anyway and going to see him...just not with me. I, on the other hand, was so upset about her rejection that I didn't go. To my regret, since my classes with him were an important part of my college youth, and important to my fledgling poetry, AND simply important because his forums provided the Me at the time -- an extremely lonely, depressed, scared kid -- a sense of magic and wonderment about the world; despite the desolate emotional circumstances I was in, I would always look forward to his classes and come out of each session energized and excited about the world, about poetry, about the possibilities that art offered. I'll always regret not going to see him 25 years later. And I'll always remember Sandra for turning a memory that should have been nothing but positive into something unbelievably shitty.

So yeah, I was worried ahead of time about missing the Cat Power show if the blues hit me hard. But they didn't! For one thing, I've been dealing with Sandra's mentally ill game-playing for a lot longer -- this little incident just kind of solidified my disgust with it, and with her. Since I didn't react to her not wanting to go with yelling or cursing, I felt no guilt whatsoever this time. It simply was what it was: A singer she liked; her daughters both going; a free ticket offered from me in a happy spirit... She just didn't want to go with me. Nothing to rave and rant about, just End of Story.

Sandra aside, I was also kind of worried about going to a concert by myself! Would I feel weird sitting alone? Would I, at 47, feel "too old" to be there? Would I be wearing the right thing? And I hadn't been to a concert, aside from a few small club shows, since a couple of George Jones shows at Stubb's in the late '90s/early '00s...

And, yes, would going downtown by myself trigger old, bad feelings about all the times I used to go to gay bars alone 3 or 4 times a week back from '96 to '00 (truly "lost" years)??

So, yeah, a lot of emotional baggage involved here! :) But... It all ended up feeling very OK! :)

For one thing, working downtown now, I feel like the whole area's my "hood" since I'm there all the time. And the Austin City Limits Theater is right on my bus stop: I hopped on the bus right across the street from my apartment and got off 15 minutes later on Congress & 2nd, only a couple of blocks away from the theater. 2nd Street was filled with "regular" 30/40-something people in cafes, chatting and mingling on sidewalks. No "trendy goths" or "packs of snooty gay guys" making fun of people! I felt safe! :)

I got to the theater about a half-hour before the opening act and had plenty of time to wander around, checking the place, and the crowd, out. As with the people I observed on my walk TO the theater, a completely relaxed atmosphere inside it, too. Plenty of lounge areas and bars, where mainly late-20s-to-40s people were casually hanging out and chatting pre-show. Got a couple of cigs in outside both before and after the opening act, bought my T-shirt (pictured here), and then settled in with my plastic cup o' "Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey" for the Cat Power show! :)

I NEVER drink whiskey, but the whole atmosphere just felt relaxed like that: Like having a tiny cup o' whiskey to sip from for an hour-and-a-half! My mezzanine seats were perfect for it. (Yeah, "seats" plural! I never sold the extra ticket. Waste of $45, but giving me lots of relaxing breathing space!)

OH YEAH: The show ITSELF! Marshall's been known for having onstage breakdowns, so I was kind of nervous about THAT, too! (Especially since she'd cancelled her whole fall US tour for physical/mental health reasons, only in December announcing 6 US dates, including this Austin one.) No fear: She seemed as relaxed as I was. The majority of the 90-minute show consisted of songs from her latest "Sun" album (Cherokee, Sun, Ruin, 3-6-9, Manhattan, Nothin' But Time, Peace & Love) -- lucky for me, since I just "discovered" her in the past 8 or so months; of the 3 albums I have -- Moon Pix, The Greatest, and Sun -- I, by far, know "Sun" the best, though I love "Moon Pix" the best.

Despite liking being able to sit back and relax with my whiskey up in the mezzanine, I still envied the people down in standing-room-only on the floor. How I USED TO attend concerts! :) From experience, I know that the energy is much more intense down there: the rapt attention of the close bodies, the occasional eye contact with the idol on stage... I had a great view of the stage, but I also felt a bit removed from the vibe of the performance. I was clapping and tapping and bobbing my head, as I saw most of the people on the floor doing, but the people around me "upstairs" seemed to be mainly cool characters who didn't have any qualms about going to the bar/taking restroom breaks DURING the show. (Sacrilege!) There was also a cluster of slower, quieter songs in the middle of the show where I was embarrassed to be able to hear the crowd CHATTING AMONGST THEMSELVES rather than listening... (A Cat Power show isn't for the mere purpose of socializing, folks. Shut up and turn your mobile devices off!)

Chan spoke only a couple of times, both to say something along the lines of, "Thanks for fucking coming!" in a cute way, which got the crowd below pumped up, as did her throwing out a couple of T-shirts...

Going to see Cat Power didn't change my life or anything. But then...I'm 47. I'm pretty sure that that kind of soul-inspiration is more endemic to teens and 20-somethings, those still infused with the sapling's feeling "capable of everything because one had not yet tried anything," magnified by the proximity of their peers' similar positive energy and their mutual blind faith in their onstage idol...

While the show turned out to be a good one, a professional one, I think Chan Marshall's music means more to me while listening to her alone at home, where I have the time and space to listen and think at my leisure, where I don't have to worry about "Why is that person talking? Why is that person checking his messages? Why isn't that section of the balcony clapping? Is she [Marshall] going to notice and get upset?" I just don't know that Marshall's music is best suited to public shows. A glad-hander like Judy Garland, she ain't.

I never used to even mildly WORRY when I went to concerts! I automatically ASSUMED that the performer, and me, were going to be OK! :) This time, I knew too much. About me, about her...

And we both got through it just fine. I'll remember this Cat Power concert always for THAT.

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