Monday, March 15, 2004
I Wanted to Say Fall in Love

I was supposed to work today (Sunday-- yesterday if you want to get technical, but it's not really tomorrow until I've had some sleep) but I traded shifts with a coworker so I could go to Iota and catch The Mekons. This had the added advantage of getting a Sunday off and thereby avoiding having to deal with a certain person, dealing with whom I'm still not feeling entirely up.

{He hides his pain in quirky syntax. He feels stupid for still feeling it, so he makes himself sound just as stupid.}

Anyway, has anybody else noticed how screwed up the interhole has been lately? The other day my friend M. had to cancel her plans of working from home due to internet non-function. I've had to reset my router a half-dozen times in the last few days to get things working right again. And this afternoon (while I was trying to figure out "Einstein's Day" on the guitar, so the gain was cranked up to try to get the solo sounding right and I didn't hear the phone ringing) Snarkout left a message on my machine that their internet had gone down, his lovely bride had a stack of papers to grade, and there was a distinct possibility that they wouldn't make it to the show.

The doors were supposed to open at 8. I planned to get there at 7:30, on the theory that Iota is tiny little and the show would sell out quick. Due to Metro schnavooz I arrived at 7:45 and found that the doors had been pushed up to 8:20. The doors did not actually open until closer to 8:45, so I was standing around in the almost-semi-cold for about an hour. As the door continued not to open, I got more and more depressed. I considered abandoning my place in line to go home and not have to worry about catching the last train.

It is not a common occurence, at least not in recent years, that the crowd at a punk rock show makes me feel young. I was in line behind some folks talking about how many dozens of times they'd seem the Mekons before, one fellow how the last real argument he and his S.O. of thirteen years (now wife) had had was over whether to leave a very crowded show after three encores.

The show did not end up selling out. Iota is actually bigger than I'd remembered. Johnny Dowd was the opener, and my FUCKING GOD it was amazing. I was expecting mellow country tones, but instead there was Dowd himself, wringing feedback ("Man, I love this new guitar") and railing against war; a keyboardist making incredible organ sounds wedded to electronic noise; and a drummer who played bass on a big keyboard with his left foot. The whole thing had much more rock/blues/soul energy than I was expecting.

I was reminded of the story of the guy who saw Gang of Fout open for the Buzzcocks and had left after their set, knowing that nothing could top it and not wanting to spoil it. The Johnny Dowd Band was just that good. But, tempted though I was, I did not leave. And for this I am grateful to myself (a rare occurence).

{How long has it been since he's written such a long entry? He must be drunk}

John from the Mekons came onstage during Dowd's last song (a Hank Williams cover, one of several with an anti-war theme) to sing backup vocals on the chorus, and ended up being handed the guitar to play a solo.

The Mekons themselves came on at about 11. In case you were wondering how I remember all the times so well, it's because I was mindful of 11:42 PM, the departure time of the last Sunday train to DC.

John explained that their latest album was called "Punk Rock" because they were the best punk rock band in the world, because they were the only punk rock band left in the world. All the other punks were retired or dead. Billy Idol is off somewhere operating a forklift.

This is what I had been hoping for. I'd seen the Mekons twice before, both times in big clubs. Iota was the perfect venue, allowing John and Sally to riff off each other to sidesplitting results. During their second or third song the bass began feeding back, leading to sidelong glances from Sally while people rummaged around midsong trying to fix everything.

John: That song was attacked by a herd of elephants, but we managed to solve the problem. It kind of reminded me of the Lord of the Rings. I just want to make sure that everyone out on the battlefield is OK... because that bass frequency that got amplified can cause people to automatically void their bowels.
Sally: We wouldn't know, because we've been on tour. None of us has eaten for five days.
(incomprehensible shouting from audience)
John: What was that again?
Sally: If you're going to heckle us, it has to be in a language we can understand.
John: I understand Elvish is very popular these days.
Sally: I thought he was dead!
John: We practice this ahead of time you realize... Actually, I thought that's what "The Return of the King" was all about, and then there wasn't any of his music throughout the whole film...

As 11:40 rolled around I decided to stick it out. They were playing one of the best cuts from "Journey to the End of the Night" and absolutely killing it, and I just couldn't ditch. I'd take a cab home if needed. I was rewarded by more brilliant banter, an amazing version of "Last Dance," and two encores, rounded out with "Dan Dare," "The first song we ever wrote."

The thing about seeing the Mekons live-- after it's over you want to buy everything they've ever recorded. I managed to restrain myself to "Punk Rock."

I thought I'd seen my interhole buddy Chris earlier, so after the show I pushed through the exiting crowd in his direction. Not only was there one person I knew at the show, he offered me a ride home!

Instead of taking the ride all the way home, however (as would have been wise, at least in hindsight) I had him drop me off in front of Saint-Ex. I have Monday off, so I figured I'd check out the Sunday night RAWK scene. So I went downstairs. Shortly thereafter I saw precisely the person I'd been so ambiguously happy to avoid. And the same DJ as last week, playing the same songs.

Some day in the future, scientists will examine my genetic code in search of what exactly it is that caused me to be born to be ignored by bartenders. While I stood at one end of the bar waiting to be noticed, She came to the other end of the bar, got her drink, and left again. She pretended not to see me and I returned the favor. I have a deep hatred for my lizard brain for still pumping me full of enough adrenaline to essentially incapacitate me whenever I see a woman who has already shot me down. I may have tried to say hi to her, except I saw she was talking with the guy I suspect is her ex, and who I have good reason to think she's still hung up on. I try not to let the roiling resentment show when he comes in for coffee...

{How much has he had to drink by this point?}

I went back upstairs to finish my beer and talked to the bartender up there about good DC barbers (he'd been recommended to me as knowledgeable of such things) and got a good recommendation. Finished my beer, walked home.

Depression to joy and right back again. Vodka makes life more bearable, but I don't think there are enough potatoes on earth to help me now.
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