Monday, September 28, 2015

A Personal History of Live Music in Southern California (and Beyond)

Here's a comprehensive list of all the concerts I've seen in my life, most of them in Southern California. This constitutes nearly 40 years of shows, starting when I was one month shy of three-years-old. (This doesn't include countless small venue/bar shows, of which there are too many to remember.) I made this list as a starting point for a lengthier writing project. I envision short personal essays, including photos and ticket stubs. Perhaps it will be a coffee table book, as one friend suggested. Or maybe something bigger: another full-length essay collection. I'm not sure yet. It's a mystery. That's the beauty of writing and part of the reason I don't outline. I don't know what I know until I type it. I'm looking forward to mining my memory to uncover what I remember about one of the most fundamental aspects of my life: live music. 

Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo) danced barefoot on Halloween every year and rocked for three hours every time. Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode) called out, "Good evening, Pasadena" and proceeded to put on an iconic show at The Rose Bowl. I danced with my best friend on the dugout at Dodger Stadium during The Cure and got in trouble. I wore black and white striped tights at PIL and was called "Pippi"; at that same show, someone threw a bottle at Johnny Lydon's head, and he screamed, "That's not fucking funny." The first time I saw Gwen Stefani when she was 19, I thought, "That girl's going to be famous." Bouncers dragged Courtney Love offstage kicking and screaming. Jack Black made me laugh so hard I tripped up a flight of stairs. I had mosh pit grit in my teeth during Bad Religion, and Beck played spoons on glassware at a dinner table. Vaden Todd Lewis (Toadies) said, "We didn't even want to come to Los Angeles, and you guys turned out to be the best crowd." John McCrea (Cake) made audience members do push-ups to win an orange tree and asked the winner to promise to post photos when the fruit was ripe. Fiona Apple pulled her long sleeves off and tied them around her chest; then she laughed at me when I couldn't back out of my parking spot. Backstage, Peter Murphy put his arm around me and said, "I like her," and one trip to the Chairman's Room at the Staples Center during NIN ruined me for all non-VIP experiences from now on. Finally, when I sat in the Descendents trailer and "babysat" Milo's kids while my friend interviewed the band, I thought, "It doesn't get any better than this."

For me, experiencing live music is akin to eating food, having shelter, or breathing oxygen. I won't stop going to shows until I physically can't. For now, I'll endure the middle-aged back pain, tweaked neck, sleep deprivation, and temporary tinnitus. Music keeps me young(ish) and makes me happy, and not a lot of things make me happy these days. 

Note about the list: If I haven't listed a seat number, it means the show was general admission, or I can't remember where I was sitting. In this case, I was either front row center, in the back of the bus, or somewhere in between.

Also, if the show was a festival, I only listed the bands I'm fairly certain I saw (or heard), not the entire side stage set list.

If you've been to a show with me, and you remember when and where it was, and I've gotten this wrong, let me know. Thank you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Writing Fiction: Lying, Logging the Hours, and the Controversial Prologue

An Evening with Novelists
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett invited novelists Bret Anthony Johnston, Lisa Glatt, and Aline Ohanesian to her Pen on Fire Speaker Series at the SCAPE gallery in Corona Del Mar on September 9th, where they had an intriguing conversation about the process of writing fiction.

Johnston is the author of the novel Remember Me Like This, soon to be made into a feature film. He has also written Corpus Christi: Stories and teaches at Harvard, where he is the director of creative writing. Glatt is the author of A Girl Becomes A Comma Like That and The Nakeds, and she teaches at the California State University, Long Beach. Ohanesian is the author of Orhan’s Inheritance.