CEREMONY FEATURING PATRICK STICKLES (+@) - “JUST LIKE HEAVEN” LIVE AT SHEA STADIUM, 7/2/2015
This is what I am talking about :
Back in the “good old days” of the Local Scene, bands that had acrued a certain amount of what we’ll call Cultural Capital would often take the time and effort to revisit the “underground” which nurtured them in their infancy. It was a blessedly common occurance for a well-known Artist to perform one night at a large nightclub or “ballroom,” then to perform the following night at some “hole in the wall” somewhere in the same city / “market.”
The Market Hotel, Silent Barn, even New Jersey’s own Maxwell’s - these and so many more hosted “The Other Night,” as Adam Reich and I sometimes refer to it, providing an opportunity for these empowered Artists to reject the Minor League mentality which plagues for what remains of the “underground” today, declaring allegiance to the “counter culture” and lending strength to those that would follow. Performing at humble Shea Stadium, Ceremony gives voice once more to those oft- forgotten believers who maintain that Brooklyn need not strive so terribly hard to clone the better-left-dead Lower East Side circa August, 2001.
Is this yet more “bullshit?” Has there ever been an authentic “counter culture” which wasn’t just another consumer commodity, another “fully branded lifestyle,” underneath it all? Didn’t the New York Rock Scene die anyway when Lou Reed quit and went back to Long Island to live with his parents? Perhaps, perhaps, but allow me two small examples before I really must go to sleep.
Ceremony and +@ got to be quite good friends when traveling the United States on the National Business Tour of Autumn, 2012. We all remember fondly the good times, but the painful memories also linger, scars fading without ever completely - such was the night we played at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, CA.
You’d think it would have been awesome, considering the super #RARE shows Neil Young played there with The Ducks back in whenever it was (no research this time). It was awesome in some ways, but mostly it was a drag because, unbeknownst to us, the promoter of the show had somehow decided that the show should be opened by the winners of some recent hardcore Battle of the Bands.
The names of these bands are lost to time, but one face, one voice will never be - the singer of one of these hardcore bands I mention, some kind of scraggly, denim jacket type. Backstage, he was extremely, shall we say, “outgoing” - making himself the “life of the party” / “drinking plenty of "the beer” / filling the empty cans with the ashes of his remarkably dedicated chain smoking.
His major joke of the night, in our presence anyway, was his disdain for the band. “I fucking hate yr band,” he jovially opened, gladhanding with an open heart about how he “has to be honest,” something about how he “fucks shit up” or words to that effect. “I want to be like GG Allin,” he said, though I can’t say for sure if it was through word or deed - apparently, he liked to, like, barf on stage or something, though it was clean that night by the time I got to it.
While I try to remember why I brought that up (besides Ceremony also being there), here’s the other anecdote I wanted to relate - I remember almost all of this one too.
A year or maybe two later, I found myself working the door at Shea Stadium one night for one of these shows where they import the scene from some nearby university, usually SUNY Purchase or Sarah Lawrence or Bard or some such thing. These schools in the NYC fallout zone have all got their own little scenes, you know, jamming at the student union, throwing hella endownmnet dollars at obscure, otherwise fiscally hopeless bands (yup - it’s great!), and if it is all just the facsimilie of life these provincial college towns (not to mention basement-rich New Jersey suburbs) usually are, such scenes are generally operated in good heart, most of the time, with special effort often taken for greater inclusiveness - not much like the Big City scene, which is brutal and cruel.
Anyway, there I am at the top of the stairs, and there is a band of, uh, “young men” on stage playing what +@ drummer Eric Harm and I call “bothercore” - it is basically any punk/hardcore-derived music designed to agressively irritate the listener. When I lived at that disgusting squat I told you about (right?), my chambers were situated immediately above the practice space of a band called BBIG PIGG, and if their “rehearsals” at first seemed like a torture perfect enough to prove that God is not only real but furious with me, in time, monitoring their progress and listening to them distill weaponized sonic aggression from so much proverbial splattering of paint, I came to better differentiate music that is merely “bad” and Audio Art which hurts the listener on purpose with ultimately good (if willfully obscure) intentions.
Yeah, so, sitting there, watching these youths - their faces were covered in some kind of makeup, sort of a “Lord of the Flies” vibe, and as the band mangled their instruments, the “frontman” lumbered about the loosely populated dancefloor, yelling incoherently in the faces of his nervously-giggling contemporaries. It was like many “bothercore” performances I have seen - that is to say, a watered-down, over-xeroxed replica of what Double Dagger did to me at Uncle Paulie’s, in the shadow of what would become the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, opening for Green Milk From The Planet Orange in 2005. There is so much embedding to be done in that last sentence, but Ra is rising and there is rehearsal before much longer.
There I was, sitting and watching - there he was, pacing and shouting. In twenty minutes or so, it was over, and the “frontman” stepped off stage and approached the people into whose nervously-giggling faces he had just been shouted. Nervously, he giggled, rubbing the back of his neck and shit like that - they were probably talking about some test they had taken or something, or how drunk one or more of them was (really drunk - like, basically all the way). They’d go back to the safe hamlet in the woods that night or the next day, back to cracking whippits in the library (whippit good?). All would be as it was, as it should be.
“My point?” he wondered aloud, his voice creaking over the first songs of the birds outside his window, the tuning of the great orchestra of our ever-sustaining mother… wait, what? Right - my point - it is this :
The “confrontational vocalist” in Santa Cruz maybe made my night into a nightmare, and yes, he was awesome at being annoying, but he is but one troll under one particular bridge. Those who enter his Sphere Of Influence may always regret it, but it can extend only as far as his lazy, cowardly, ultimately-self-loathing feet will carry him. He may be big on the block, but the block is not the world - thusly, his acts of “cultural terrorism” are true masturbation, an attempt to hammer a veneer of strength onto the Observed Self, so that it may be believed by a fragile, frightened heart - it happens all the time.
As for our student friend, he was perhaps quite annoying also, but was he “hurting anybody” with his performance? The nervously giggling schoolchums liked it, didn’t they?
Sure, they liked it, and that is why I am so tight. You see, dear reader, when a facsimilie of rebellion is presented as though it were the real thing, a perverted alchemy is performed in the mind of the suggestible observer who takes the display as authentic while knowing that it is ultimately harmless / “just fun.”
Our “confrontational frontman” had been very scary on stage, yelling and saying “fuck it” to everything the way he did, but it was only a movie. He didn’t really want to “fuck it” - “Fucking it? Fuck that!”
Is it not his right to say “fuck it” whether he means it or not? Well, sure it is - this is America and, what’s more, the rotting carcass of the NYC DIY Scene, so he can say whatever he wants. I’ll just go ahed and give myself the same freedom now (as though I hadn’t before) :
When the observer has been shown the fake “fuck it” so many times, they cannot help but be conditioned to hear “fuck it” and internalize it as “I’m just kidding.” Having been spoon fed the fake “fuck it” for so many years, the taste of the sincere “fuck it” is bizarre, hanging obscenely on the tongue like milk fresh from the cow for the first time in a 2% life, like the burning hot light of the sun on the prisoner’s eyes when stumbling from Plato’s cave. If the hidden irony inherent in the “rebellious act” is impercptible, even absent, it can / will be projected by a defensive, threatened audience until the abominable sentiment is invalidated into oblivion, the rabble-rouser banished to the ass end of our thoughts.
This is why The System loves it when a prominent Rebel is willing to ally with them, so that their once-potent message can become neutered in the process of its commodification. This is how time can turn a genuine villain (anti-hero?) like GG Allin into a smug college kid, just like that. Copy it and copy it, buy it and sell it - soon enough, it’s just more paper, just more one’s and zero’s, more decimal places, more brushstrokes along the Bottom Line.
The Artist is out there somewhere right now, whispering a secret truth into the Listener’s ear, some sacred sentiment which was always influential if never fully articulated. The Listener is validated, a tiny bit less alone in the big, dark, horrible world. Sighing, the listener’s eyes close, as the Artist whispers, “…you know… like that shoe I told you about.”
Meanwhile, across town, two youths are talking - one ambles through life enthralled with society’s many opiates, while the other has grown disillusioned with said opiate life, seeking now to overturn the influence of The System - perhaps not around the globe, but at least within that one’s own life.
“‘Rebellion?’ 'Revolution?’” the first of them cackles, “You mean that shit from my shirt?”
THIS IS NOT THE FUTURE +@ THIS IS NOW +@ THESE ARE SHADOWS OF THINGS THAT ARE, NOT THINGS THAT MAY BE +@ REPENT NOW +@ STOP SELLING OUT AND KEEP IT REAL +@
Bedtime now - if we don’t get to talk again for a while, please know I am thinking of you and I will find some way to communicate with you, when the time is right - until then, listen for my name on the wind xoxox