I drink tea in the morning in Champaign with my friend Alyssa. We have been talking about how annoying it is when people begin advice directed at artists with "You know what you should do?" WORLD, I speak for creative people everywhere when I offer this to folks working outside of our non-commodity-driven, intangible economy: You know what you should do? Offer less advice and more support. We know what we should do. We're doing it.
After Alyssa gets the Amtrak back to Chicago I switch to coffee and start writing. The coffeeshop I am in, Aroma, has a playlist going of some of my favorite jazz of a certain era, classic Thelonious Monk quartet with Charlie Rouse on tenor, Eddie Harris, Cannonball Adderley etc.
The drive to St Louis is pretty easy, I listen to "[Condescending] Talk of the Nation" on NPR most of the way. Host and guests speak approvingly of the American war on Libya (for it is a war, not a humanitarian intervention). There's also talk of the French/UN involvment in the Ivory Coast. I listen as NPR struggles to maintain a script about who is a "good guy" and who is a "bad guy" in the spiraling violence that has killed "hundreds" over last year's presidential elections. It is curious for there to be a discussion over whether France acted fast enough here but Western intervention in Syria, or Bahrain, or Israel, where authoritarian regimes brutally put down peaceful self-determination actions, is never brought up.
I get to Cherokee Street in St Louis with a few hours to spare. This is a neighborhood that is self-consciously in revitalization mode. Gentrification story from a hundred other places. What I see are art galleries, print shops, a record store or two, several tacquerias, and a few coffeeshops. It is Monday, 6PM, and most everything is closed, including Cranky Yellow, the curiosity shop, art gallery, performance space and publishing house where I am to play, along with four other acts, this night.
I end up at the far end of Cherokee at a used bookstore. It's open. The other day, in Ypsilanti, Thom Elliot, who hosted the Pleasuredome show, strongly recommended Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, which I have never read. (It was during a great conversation at The Bomber Diner, where the perfect diner breakfast makes up for the war paraphernalia that decorates the place.) I think maybe I'll find Kant here. The shop is empty and a sign on the door says "18 and under with a parent only". I browse, fail to find the book I'm looking for. There's more esoteric stuff than, say, fiction, but it's neat that ecology, environmentalism, gardening and nature books are grouped under "Back to the Land". On my way out I mention this to the woman behind the counter, who is typing away at a computer, and we have a very odd conversation. When I mention I am a musician playing up the street, she says she's a wind whisperer herself, which (she says) is a demon slayer. I say (honestly) that I have never met someone who self-identifies that way. She asks what kind of music I play, and says that noise music sounds like hell, and she knows because she's been several layers deep. This is not a metaphor. A change is coming, she says, and volunteers information about her Polish-Ukranian lineage of musicians and occultists. Then her narrative wends its way to the work she does for the FBI, or CIA (I forget), and I politely excuse myself.
I get a laugh out of the fact that on the event calendar at Cranky Yellow my work is described as "brooding folk from NY". Fun show to play. Ground floor, Cranky Yellow is a store filled with new, used, and found art, fashion, toys, writing, and kitsch. Downstairs, a long cement basement performance space with some couches and lights and, at other times, art exhibitions. There is also a publishing and web design arm. I am first on the bill and although the crowd is decent, I get the feeling a bunch of people hang out upstairs. I'm not sure though; I've been closing my eyes more and more when I play, not to disregard the audience, but because it really helps me to focus on six different things I am doing at once when I perform this set. It goes well. I'm exhausted afterwards, which I regard as a good thing, but it is difficult for me to focus on the other bands, which all seem to engage the crowd: a punk band from Calgary called The Shrapnelles, a trio (with overlapping members on tour together) called Topless Mongos, and two local groups, Dem Scientists and The Vanilla Beans.
SET LIST 4/4
What We Have
The Love Story