Sitrep: 05 September 2022 // Forestville Industrial Center, Forestville, CT (w/ No Compute)

Various things in Connecticut. (bottom two photos courtesy @3th3rw4v3)

Woke up:
4:00 a.m. in Park Slope, Brooklyn at a friend-family’s home, the kind of apartment that seems more like a living story than a building, the kind of apartment with books and records and instruments hidden in every corner, the kind of apartment that feels like a labyrinth of ideas and memories that no one who didn’t live there to co-write the living story will ever be able to access. Also, there was a noise in the backyard that phased in and out like two airplane motors, and I was not sure if it was two populations of crickets trying to sync up or two A/C fans.

Journey time:
3 hours: MTA to Amtrak to a local bus which I was delighted to see was actually a dedicated right-of-way rapid busway. Impressive, CT Transit.

Breakfast:
There was a very legit bagel place on the corner by the friend-family’s home. Everything bagel, toasted with tomato and peanut butter and onion. Don’t knock it ’til you try it, snob. Five stars.

Incidents of note on journey:

  • At Penn station, escalators go down to the track and people snake around in a long line before boarding this escalator. One of the Amtrak officers stood over the escalator, leaning over us, and berating us positively. “HEY, bring that ENERGY to start your day. If you don’t bring it, no one’s gonna bring it for you. STOP checking that phone, you can find out how many likes you got later. HEY, you pack that bag? Heavy, huh? Well, remember, YOU packed it.” No one was enjoying this but me, and I found that very puzzling. New York’s still got it.
  • I spent $25 on a Metrocard and it didn’t work, so they gave me an envelope to mail to someone to get my money back.
  • On arrival at the closest bus stop, I still had to walk about a mile down a pretty green formerly-industrial canal, pictured above. I also had to pass a very enthusiastic display of American flags and white-painted flower boxes intended to memorialize war dead.
  • The lone crosswalk in Forestville emits an alarming beep when it turns green. It sounds like something is very, very wrong. This is probably meant more for the cars than the pedestrians: “DO NOT KILL THE PEDESTRIAN.”

Lunch:
A 12-inch tuna sub from Subway in the middle of a grocery store parking lot. Calling it bleak would be an exaggeration for car people, but as a pedestrian it was fairly punishing. I worked on LUH papers again.

Soundperson’s name/shirt color:
Jordaan, also the promoter and a very stand-up kind of guy, also his birthday. Shirt was black. He also had a collection of radioactive clocks.

Dinner:
I ate pretzels the promoter put out to make people more thirsty and buy more beer.

Partial Setlist:
The Anthem of the Greater McMurdo Station Chamber of Commerce
Freeway in Heaven
Tanline Debris
The Crows of Emmerich
Spieltier
A Violent Translation of the Concordia Headscarp
…kind of blanked out in the middle…
Stars
Defiance

Incidents of note during performance:
There are many pianos and piano harps in various states of disrepair strewn about the factory. For the last few songs, I asked people to follow me down a hallway where I found one of the most playable pianos and finished the set in the semi-darkness there. The piano was out of tune, it was dark, and I had no contacts in, but I managed to Muppet-fist my way through most of the chords, and it felt really really good. But when I was done, I turned around and was cornered by a bunch of people I didn’t know at the end of a hallway in a decommissioned factory, and no matter how much my conscious brain told me the context, it felt really alarming.

Sleep:
00:30. Going into it I knew this was gonna be a fun one because I had no plans. Fortunately, Jake from CT neo-Swirlie-ites Pulsr was on hand. We listened to some music, he let me crash, and in the morning he gave me a lift to the New Haven train station through extremely heavy rains that slowly turned into minor flooding.

Days off (06 and 07 September):
These were mainly spent making progress on my LUH papers, so I won’t document them.

From a laundromat in Chicago (more about that tomorrow),

-030-
-CRM-

Sitrep: 03 September 2022 // Free the Gallery, London, UK (b2b DJ Beatrice)

Crystal Palace Concert Platform on 3 Sept. 2022

Woke up:
2:45 a.m. in Brieskow-Finkenheerd and getting out of bed took more will than any other rising in recent memory. But the sky on the walk to the train station was ore clear than I have ever seen it, and the silence was deafening, and I was happy.

Journey time:
16 hours, but 7 of it was spent just chilling in Amsterdam.

Breakfast:
two pretzels from Ditsch in Berlin-Gesundbrünnen.

Incidents of note on journey:

  • I was in line for passport control in Amsterdam. The train manager walks up to me and says that I can’t get on the train with my guitar. This is of course absurd; I had been on trains with the same guitar for the past two days. I told him so. He dug up a very obscure regulation that COULD be interpreted, if you tried really hard, to mean that musical instruments are expected to be in a “case,” that mine was not (because it’s small and doesn’t need one), and that I must therefore choose between missing the train and leaving my guitar with him in Amsterdam. Clearly just screwing with me, but was dead serious about it too. I told him there’s no way I could find a guitar case in the train station in 10 minutes. He pointed at a worker changing a trash bag, and said, I quote, “I don’t know, find one of those people and get them to give you a trash bag. I don’t know man. Not my problem.” He turned his back on me but guarded me from getting in line for passport control. I was really seeing red; it’s hard to get me mad, but whooweee, when you do, bad news for chill vibes. I kept a lid on it and went downstairs, begged a bunch of people for a trash bag, got a worker to give me one, said thanks profusely, ran back to the passport line. Guy looked satisfied — perversely so — and let me through.
  • Amsterdam is full of psilocybin shops with really really grumpy hippies playing psytrance. Disappointing. Smartshops I’d seen in smaller Dutch towns are great — clean, minimal, feels like being in a store that sells perfume and science equipment.
  • Amsterdam is absurdly cute. Even the tough parts are cute.
  • The host-promoter and her wife gave me a tour of the park in Crystal Palace where the eponymous trade hall used to stand. I was blown away. See pictures above. I don’t associate London with this kind of half-ruined grandeur (and an RC race course!) and I was very grateful to see it.
  • In CP a guy was playing bad pseudo-rave out of a battery-powered PA at the top of the stairs to a dog and three goths.

Lunch (previous day, in Amsterdam):
Green drink and spicy tofu burrito from Albert Heijn (excellent Dutch supermarket chain). Ate it in the transit hall at Centraal, whose ceiling is covered in an irregular grid of mirrors with beveled corners. Exquisite.

Soundperson’s name/shirt color:
Beatrice, dark blue with a small print icon I couldn’t quite identify

Partial Setlist:

  • (3-minute ambient improvisation)
  • Freewy in Heaven
  • False Metal
  • Wasted on the Senate Floor
  • The Crows of Emmerich
  • Allahu Akbar
  • Sfearion
  • …a few others I can’t remember…
  • Oversleepers International
  • God Save Coastal Dorset
  • Right to the Rails
  • At a Rave with Nikolas Sarkozy/Schopenhauer in Berlin

Incidents of note during performance:

  • This isn’t an incident, it’S a tendency I note that I’m realizing is a big part of my motivation for touring this way. I compared the properties of concerts in traditional mid-sized venues like the one I played in cologne a few nights previously and this one — a vintage clothing shop buried in an alleyway with a soundsystem mainly used by the proprietor to play her rad steel drum hip hop records. One difference tonight highlighted was an inability to escape the awkwardness of being in a room full of people with whom the only thing you can be sure you have in common is music. In a dark venue, lights focused in saturated reds and blues on the stage, saturated mood sounds from the PA providing cover to avoid the need for conversation between songs, it doesn’t feel intolerable to stand next to a stranger and say nothing. In a smaller environment, undarkened, unfilled with spectacular (in the Debord sense) sound, conversation with people you may not know becomes an awkward requirement. Lots of people who didn’t know each other talked this evening, and this can be challenging, especially for folks in Gen Z who tend to struggle with anxiety.
  • I MET SOME PEOPLE IN THE THE ZOOMER E.X CONTINGENT! For some unknown algo/viral reason, my following online has more than doubled since 2019, mostly from younger folks. This is a huge source of joy for me because it indicates that something in my music short-circuits generational gaps. This has long been an explicit goal of mine (“I make music for the future, not today,” etc.), but it’s even better than I’d planned and doubly nice because, since I’m still active, I get to enjoy it mid-career instead of not enjoying it posthumously. The people who show up at my concerts are a very particular kind of awake, and I’d like to get to know them better because I think I could learn a lot from them.

Dinner:
The promoter bought me a falafel. I’m spoiled for falafel in Berlin, but it held up. Respectable falafel.

Sleep:
00:00 in my pal’s flat in Stoke-Newington. Slept great.

Day off:
Woke up late, headed for airport, slept more on plane, watched three moves:

  • Moonfall
  • Yesterday
  • Everything Everywhere All At Once
    I took detailed notes and have thoughts on all of them. Will put that in the next show report if there’s room.

Info for tonight’s show is here.

From the Amtrak to Connecticut,

-030-
-CRM-

Sitrep: 31 August 2022 // Luxor, Köln, DE (opening for Lucy Dacus)

photo courtesy R. Lagomasino

Woke up:
5:00 a.m., in Berlin

Journey time:
9 hours.

Breakfast:
half of a börek my friend Sebastien gave me.

Incidents of note on journey:

  • It’s a long story and I’m not going into the whole thing here. Let it suffice to say that I was carrying my contact lens in a shot glass with duct tape on it for most of the day, and it kept leaking into the backpack. Finally got a real case in Köln.
  • On the walk back to Köln HBF after the show, I took a wrong turn and walked in a huge circle around central Köln. Lots of partying college kids were about, doing boring loud things.

Soundperson’s name/shirt color:
Boris/light brown

Setlist:
False Metal
Freeway in Heaven
Wasted on the Senate Floor
Sad React
Compressor Repair (request)
Erica Western Teleport
The Magnetic Media Storage Practices of Rural Pakistan
The Anthem of the Greater McMurdo Station Chamber of Commerce
…some others I’m forgetting

Incidents of note during performance:
In “…Rural Pakistan” I sometimes stomp on the floor on 1/4 notes at the end while I say “GONE. GONE. GONE.” to exhaustion. The stomping sounds like this: BLAM, BLAM, BLAM, BLAM. This works best on a wooden or metal stage with a hollow cavity beneath, which is usually true. I wanted to do that tonight, too. But some stages are solid, and when you stomp on them, it just sounds like this: pt, pt, pt, pt. I didn’t check what kind of stage I was dealing with before the show, and I really go for it to stomp, and I’m being all dramatic and wrapped up in the song, and when the beat hits…pt, pt, pt. I just screamed louder though, it was fine.

Dinner:
I missed an opportunity to steal an avocado from the Lucy Dacus dressing room so it was just bread and a piece of ginger while I walked.

Sleep:
3:30 a.m., on train. Slept great. 10/10.

A Dehydrated Rant from Amsterdam Centraal Explaining Some of the Reasons Why I Often Choose to Tour Solo on Public Transportation

31 August was the last day of Germany’s 9-Euro Ticket scheme that gave everyone in the country free nationwide public transport for three months. If I was patient, I could get to the Lucy Dacus show I was opening in Cologne for more or less free. So of course I did. 9 hours of intersecting local transportation networks later, I was there. I took a Covid test, found the backstage area, started setting up my music stuff and making a set list, and that was that — jumping off a cliff into my first public transportation tour since the pandemic — my first long-form solo trip.

I have been very lucky to have been asked to share the road with many friends over the years. I’m always grateful to ride in their vans, to stay in hotels with them, to open for them in front of guaranteed huge crowds every night. The bond that forms between musicians who share touring life together is among the strongest and fastest humans can form. I’m writing this from Amsterdam Centraal, and last time I was here it was after just such friends a group of friends brought me along tour with them and gave me one of the most fun times I’ve ever had as a musician. That would not have happened alone; you need friendship for moments like that. I need that too and I’ll travel with friends in bands for as long as I’m lucky enough to be able to do it.

But traveling in the world, solo, hyper-exposed to its horror and beauty, probably often dehydrated and underfed…this is how I started making art, and this is where I’m happiest. Throwing my bag on the luggage rack and getting out the laptop and beat machines to compose looking at the landscape while a baby screams and a kid plays Candy Crush too loudly, getting off the train in predator mode, tracking down the show in a squat or a de-consecrated church or some guy’s dad’s pool supply warehouse.

It’s easy to miss the wildness when you’re in a group. When I’m traveling with people I know and love, we’re in a bubble. This is a ton of fun. And it’s very different than sharing trains and buses with people in general, as a group. When traveling solo, I’m merged not with my cohorts but with the public, an abstract mass consciousness, grumpy and alert and intent on going somewhere. I’m deeply alone most of the time, alone in a crowd, alone just like everyone else, and therefore paradoxically never less alone. It’s also a reminder that the art form I chose is, to the vast majority of those people with whom I share a wordless journey, inscrutable. (This is probably true for all participants in subcultures, not just obscure indie pop acts.) I am alone, experiencing a kind of group alienation that subcultures are built precisely to paper over and which therefore I cannot access in a van with friends. “Let’s create an intentional society in which everyone values X” is empowering for members of the subculture that values X, and it’s not something we should stop of course. More subcultures, more vans, more and deeper intentional niche communities! But we should remember about the rest of the world too, not just in our jobs or political acts but when making and consuming our art. For we who make and consume owe it to the societies we serve to remind ourselves that they will likely never ever hear what we do, and if they did hear it they’d probably dislike it — and yet, the work we do must nevertheless hold sufficient value to be worth our exclusive focus, such that their children or their children’s children will hear the world of our time represented in our work, their forebears visible in it even if they could not participate actively in the work’s creation. We must remember that subcultures are veins of specific and rare ore, surrounded by common rocks. What we make must be of sufficient value to be worth mining.

And that’s true even for some of the larger bands in our various subcultures. The biggest band you’re a fan of is probably something 99% of people around you in an average train station have never even heard of, let alone like. And yet we as participants in subcultures owe these people too — we must document them, serve them, tell their stories as well. Subcultures cannot just sing about themselves, and that’s what we do when we never leave our milieu.

That’s why I’ll always tour this way too when I can, no matter how lucky I get with great friends bringing me along for the ride.

London tomorrow.

2022 Tourdates, NOW INCLUDING NORWICH

Alan Partridge statue erected in Norwich city centre | London Evening  Standard | Evening Standard

We.31.Aug. – Cologne, DE – Luxor (supporting Lucy Dacus)

Sa.03.Sep. – London, UK – Free the Gallery (RSVP)

Mo.05.Sep. – Forestville, CT – Forestville Ind. Ct. (RSVP)

Th.08.Sep. – Chicago, IL – Cafe Mustache

Fr.09.Sep. – Moline, IL – Blackhawk Room

Sa.10.Sep. – Minneapolis, MN – Herr Garage (RSVP)

Tu.13.Sep. – St. Louis, MO – Sinkhole (Tix) / (FB)

We.14.Sep. – Columbus, OH – Spacebar (RSVP)

Th.15.Sep. – Washington, DC – catgut.friends (Tix/RSVP)

Fr.16.Sep. – Portland, ME – Find Thrift

Sa.17.Sep. – Somerville, MA – The Center of the Universe

So.18.Sep. – Brooklyn, NY – Sovereign (Tix)

We.21-Sep. – Atlanta, GA – Railroad Earth (RSVP)

Fr.22.Sep. – Jacksonville, FL – The Moasis (RSVP)

Sa.24.Sep. – Greater Nashville, TN – Foxwood

We.28.Sep. – Edinburgh, UK – Thompson Balcony

Th.29.Sep. – Sheffield, UK – Delicious Clam

Fr.30.Sep – Norwich, UK – Lowell Records

Neolithic Pottery/Square Dancing/Murga/Drum Klub

2022.08.01.A: The blog format amplifies the urge to be coherent and humorous. The blog format diminishes the urge to be accurate. I’m doing my best to ignore the former and oppose the latter.

2022.08.01.B: The closest thing I can think of to the medieval equivalent of a blog post is the papal encyclical. It’s hard to think of human civilization without some form of each of the following:

  • person-to-person comms (the letter, the DM)
  • person-to-group comms (the blog post, the group chat)
  • group-to-group comms (international sporting events, war)
  • group-to-person comms (this one’s tough; probably something like “social norms”)

2022.08.01.C: There is at least one important difference between a blog post and a social media post. A social media post has as its imagined target a small group of people contemporaries. A blog post has an eye towards an indefinite, arbitrarily-sized public in either the present or the distant future. Not all people use either medium this way; there were a lot of LiveJournals that read like FB callouts and a lot of FB pages that read like ye bloggs of olde.

The Dancing Master (1670)

2022:08.01.D: The above applies mainly to text format comms; I claim no understanding of the new video stuff (IG, TikTok, etc.) I’m sure there are smart people who think writing with text is on the way out, like love letters and square dancing. I’m also sure they’re wrong. Conversely, I’m sure there are smart people who think the prevalence of video apps is killing human ability to compose in text format. I share their emotional fear, but in the cold morning air I think they’re wrong for the same reasons that we’re still using bowls after 20,000 years.

Xianrendong Cave pottery

2022:08.01.E: Square dancing exists today mostly as an ossified traditional practice.

(That many of our current musical forms are in the process of becoming ossified practices like this is something to be discussed another time.)

Contrast this with the murga:

The differences between square dance and murga are obvious:

  • the age of the performers and the probably-consequent vigor of the movements
  • the presence of a narrative in murga in contrast to mathematical permutation play in square dancing.
  • the comparatively recent origin of murga

2022.08.01.F: A brief list of current group-level cultural production which shows murga-like signs of life as opposed to ossified practices like square dancing (NOTE: no one should rule out a square dancing revival! Living cultures routinely mine and repurposes traditional forms, and sqaure dancing shows some signs of being ripe for this. Note similarity with some practices below.)

Other tradition-informed but living group cultural practices exist. Common thread: in these practices individualism is on the back burner. A group takes the forefront, either as the source of a narrative or a necessary co-creator of the work or both. This is not a threat to individual expression; on the contrary, it provides more material for people with neoromantic tendencies to work with.

2022.08.01.H: Neolithic poetry almost certainly existed. We are unlikely to ever hear it. This is an incalculable complication in the effort to understand the nature of consciousness.

2022.08.01.I: Contemporary people (like me above) use the word “consciousness” precisely where previous generations would have used the word “the soul.”

Free-Associative Aphorism

2022.07.29.H: I’m not sure if that’s the right name for what I’m writing but it’s a good working start. The biggest struggle when figuring out how to output frothing brain contents is finding an appropriate format. I’m mostly not writing essays on this blog. I’m mostly not making arguments or spouting polemic or weaving narrative. I think I’ll stick with this. I think I’ll call it free-associative aphorism, in deliberate spite of the fact that they are neither truly free-associative nor aphorisms. The format is defined as follows: a short numbered burst of text which contains a coherent thought and possibly hyperlink context, in chain with other similar text blocks whose relationship is free-associative, that is, not explicitly rational. A larger rational narrative may become visible only after writing the text-blocks, but no effort is to be made to connect them for the reader. The post below is an example. (Don’t worry, kind blog viewer. This is not the only way I’m going to communicate with the world.)

Рух Заради Здоров’я

2022.07.29.A: Darina (name changed for obvious reasons) is a Ukrainian guest in our home. She does calisthenics on the porch every morning — gentle, repetitive, cheerful, like a combination of Richard Simmons and tai chi. It struck me as quaint at first, but seeing her do it almost every single day changed that. It’s life-affirming.

2022.07.29.B: A few years ago, my wife described similar habit of my mother-in-law, who much like Darina has a youthfully-middle-aged vigor. This conversation led to a YouTube deep dive in which I stumbled on the gold below. These videos convey a sense of cloying conformism that I find disconcerting, but also the eternal benevolent calm of the capital-S State in which we all live capital-H Happily and all have a capital-P Purpose. The emotional connotations of these videos are as inscrutible as an archaeological find, despite their recent origin. They are from another world. These programs were seen across a realm of dozens of languages and almost 300 million people, from Tallinn to Vladivostok and Norilsk to Serhetabat. And the music’s great.

2022.07.29.C: Nostalgia deserves suspicion. Note that these videos were broadcast in Russian across the Union. Despite their obvious socialist utopian appeal, they are also examples of Russian imperialism when viewed through the contemporary lens of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Taking this into account, I added some Ukrainian search terms and kept coming across the phrase “Рух Заради Здоров’я”, “Movement for the Sake of Health.” The tradition of televised morning exercise routines thrives on Ukrainian YouTube.

Example:

Another one:

2022.07.29.D: A few more clicks and I found a video by a philologist and activist which showed historical account of how the Ukrainian word for exercise is a site of cultural imperialism and of course, conversely, of autonomous resistance. The video explains the process by which the word for exercise was changed in Soviet times (I think, although I can’t speak Ukrainian so take that with a grain of salt and ask your friends from Kyiv if I’m wrong.)

2022.07.29.E: A few more clicks, and this. One of the philologist’s most recent posts was an archived interview with his comrade, journalist and bright green municipal activist Roman Ratushnyi. Mr. Ratushnyi died a few weeks ago fighting the Russian Federation in Donbas. He was 24. (You can read the too-brief English Wikipedia page about him here.)

2022.07.29.F: Even in an aimless whimsical morning YouTube exercise video binge, I was only a few clicks away from exposure to the intimately violent reality of life in its struggle to thrive. This happens everywhere, all the time, and always will. Rest in power, Roman Ratushnyi. Good morning, everyone else.

2022.07.29.G: ОДИН! ДВА! ТРИ! ЧОТИРИ!