Patti Smith

Gloria

Patti Smith – Gloria (live at the Beacon Theatre 11/10/15)

Last night. I really can’t write a concert review. I think you can probably find one out there if you want to read one, though, or troll around YouTube looking for clips like I did to find this one. I am still too wrapped up in it to say much.

Here’s what I can say. Patti Smith is a badass and her gray hair is the only thing that would lead you to believe she’s 68 years old. Her voice was strong, her performance was captivating, the band was tight, and joy filled the theater. In between songs she was funny and sweet. Both of her kids were there as well and it made me wonder what it must be like to have Patti Smith as your mom. The crowd was, older. True, as a 40th anniversary show that’s not a surprise but for example, the woman next to me looked way older than my mother who is 78. I am not used to being on the younger end of things but it did not have the effect of making me feel younger.

If you saw my Instagram shots then you also know that Michael Stipe opened up the show. I knew he had done that last year and I figured he would make an appearance at some point but not necessarily play a set. He came back out to sing back up on “People Have the Power” while Jesse and Jackson Smith joined the band. I looked on YouTube and someone has uploaded it so take a look. We were a few rows up from the gum-chewing security dude you can see facing the audience so you know my view of things.

With that, I’m going to bed. Back to normal life tomorrow.

My Generation

Patti Smith – My Generation (by The Who)

Tonight I’m going to see Patti Smith for the 40th anniversary of Horses show at the Beacon Theatre in New York. For years she’s been performing a run of concerts at the end of the year, including her birthday on December 30th and then New Year’s Eve, at the Bowery Ballroom or Webster Hall. Those shows always seemed to me to be for the insiders. Very intimate affairs that I’m sure were great shows, I’ve seen plenty of videos from those nights, but I felt like I should leave those to her hardcore fans. I didn’t feel like that was the right concert for a first-timer. So when I heard about this show at the Beacon, I felt the time was right. After all, it’s a bigger venue and while this is a special event, it feels more like an open invitation.

Patti Smith was a huge influence on so many of the musicians who influenced me. It’s well documented that Peter Buck and Michael Stipe met at the Wuxtry record store in Athens, GA, talking about Patti Smith. And if you listened to yesterday’s post and this one, you will hear that influence. That was enough of an endorsement for me. Yesterday marked an unbelievable 29 years since my first R.E.M. concert and I think it’s safe to say that I am who I am today because of that night and everything that followed. Even if it’s indirectly, I owe much to Patti Smith.

But it has taken this long for things to come together for me to finally see her live. I am excited and nervous. I am hopping the local trains and meeting up with my best friend, who was with me 29 years ago, and the symbolism is just about to do me in.

April Fool

Patti Smith – April Fool

This past week was pretty busy followed by a weekend full of activities. Now here it is April 1st. I am so ready for it to be April, for spring to finally get going full strength, but it’s been such a long winter that I almost feel unprepared. I need to schedule summer camp for the kids but I still don’t know what the last day of school will be because of all the missed days from hurricanes and blizzards. That kind of unprepared. I am always ready for winter to be over. Before it even starts.

I didn’t really care much one way or the other about spring until I learned what passes for spring in Maine. I’ll never forget our German teacher explaining to a classroom full of kids how, in Austria and Germany, it gradually gets warmer in March and little flowers start popping up and then more in April and everything gets green again. He was kind of a character, this old man from an Austrian skiing village, so I figured he was trying to be funny to get us to remember the words for the season. Then I looked around and saw a number of kids listening as if they hadn’t ever heard of spring before. That first winter in Maine was a pretty harsh one, not just by our weak and untested New York standards, and I remember it snowed into April that year.

My primary goal in applying to college was to get as far south as seemed reasonably possible. I applied to only two schools north of the Mason-Dixon line. I hadn’t given much thought to the type of schools (mostly the big state universities) or to my chances of getting in, I just didn’t want any more snow in April. In the end I wound up outside Philadelphia, which wasn’t south by any stretch, but the seasons did at least arrive when the calendar said they should and you could easily get by without real winter gear. Biking was possible pretty much year round.

But I really came to appreciate spring when I lived in Washington D.C. Unless you are an allergy sufferer, you should try to see DC in the spring. It really is beautiful. I was thrilled to discover daffodils in February, and once all those flowering trees get going, it’s a riot of color everywhere you look. The cherry blossoms really are lovely down around the Tidal Basin but there are lots of less crowded places I loved to walk around; Rock Creek Park, Dumbarton Oaks, the C&O Canal, and Mount Vernon over in VA.

I’ll always love summer the most but thanks to those years in DC, I’m a fool for April.

Dancing Barefoot

Patti Smith – Dancing Barefoot

I think I knew who Patti Smith was before going to college but only in the most cursory way, probably based on recognizing album covers and knowing maybe two songs. In short order though, I learned what a big influence she had been on so many bands I loved and even if I still didn’t know much of her music or much about her, I figured they knew what they were talking about.

I became addicted to this song* during college. Addicted, or some might say obsessed, pretty accurately describes a good 3/4 of my college years. Everything about this song just nails that mix of excitement, anger, longing, mystery, all the emotions the 20-year-old me would keep bottled up until I was alone in my dorm room or out on my bike. Then I’d blast the tunes and “spin so ceaselessly ‘til I lose my sense of gravity…”

About a year ago I went to an exhibit of Patti Smith’s photography. I’d read her book, Just Kids, and loved it and couldn’t wait to see her work for myself. The museum had an evening event where they had a dj playing music, food, drinks, and anyone wearing a concert t-shirt got in for free. I hauled my old shirts out of storage and proudly picked one to wear.  The shirt says EVERYTHING on the front and IS COOL on the back. I stood there looking at Patti Smith’s photograph of Keats’ grave, wearing my Pylon t-shirt, while the dj played Bigmouth Strikes Again and Radio Free Europe. Everything is cool.

* Actually, the one on constant repeat was The Feelies cover of this song – I think it was a flexi-disc that came with The Bob or something, I didn’t have the Patti Smith album yet – with a slightly faster tempo. A slower, totally haunting version by the Swedish sisters who are First Aid Kit, sung last year when Patti Smith won the Polar Music Prize, just proves how universal and timeless this song is.