Thursday, March 8, 2012

Where Is the Madness That You Promised Me?

Union Transfer is standing-only with a large lower center section with slightly raised and fenced off wings both left and right. We were in line early enough to claim the rail at the front of the left wing. Grace soon came and grabbed the remaining space at rail front and introduced herself and never shut the fuck up the rest of the night, including during songs. She got within inches of my face and shouted, I've been sick as a dog the past week, sore throat, fever, severe headache, sneezing (sneezing in my face to prove it), achy, could only get out of bed to make this show. Where are you from, what do you do, this is your wife and daughter, what does she do, where does she go to college, please shut the fuck up, Grace. Someone tapped my shoulder, said I'm Stephin Merritt's mother. I turned, it's - wait, that's not Stephin Merritt, it just looks like him. That's my other son, a voice said, and the guy who looked like Stephin Merritt (down to wearing the same hat Merritt wears) rolled his eyes then nodded look down, and there's a barely five foot tall old woman. I'm Stephin Merritt's mother, she said again. Grace was charmed, got within inches of Stephin Merritt's mother's face and said, I've been sick as a dog the past week, sore throat, fever, severe headache, sneezing (sneezing in her face to prove it), achy, could only get out of bed to make this show. It was a blessing, Stephin Merritt's mother's appearance, for while it was true that Grace never did shut the fuck up, once Stephin Merritt's mother showed up at least Grace wasn't not shutting the fuck up with me.

The show was fine. They played at least one song off each album, seven or eight songs off 69, and much of the new album which translated well from the synthesizer-driven sound of the record to the guitar and cello-based live set. Claudia and Stephin bantered, wittily per usual, this time especially about Claudia's bad reaction to echinacea pills the stage manager had given her for her cold prior to the show that were palpitating her heart. Throughout the show Stephin reminded us how loathsome and contemptible he considers us - "you try singing when people keep taking your picture even after you've asked them to stop," for example. At one point between songs one person yelled out one request, another another, and Merritt yelled "shut up," and Claudia said archly - as she has at most Magnetic Fields' shows I've seen - "if it's not in the book it's not in the show." At show's end, after the ridiculously perfunctory encore ritual, while Claudia, Shirley, John, and Sam acknowledge the audience, Merritt walked off without a nod. Grace still hadn't shut the fuck up.

Look, it was a wonderful day with my wife and daughter (and Planet has a cameraful of shots much better than anything I can take from both the art museum and Magnetic Fields show; I'll post some if she sends me some) and the music was excellent, including the opening act, a solo artist from New Zealand who unfortunately calls herself Bachelorette, who did astonishing things with one guitar, two microphones, three keyboards and four computers, so take my grousing as ridiculously perfunctory self-indulgence, but Merritt so clearly didn't want to be there (as compared to how clearly he's never wanted to be there in every show I've ever seen - and yes, I know about his ears and give him due there) that I enjoyed the show thoroughly and thoroughly sourly.


  1. Great post--thanks for sharing. I saw Magnetic Fields twice: once in 1994 (?) at Merge Fest Five (where I also saw what was supposedly Lambchop's first real show, which sort of changed my life), and once in '98 or '99. The first show was amazing, especially because, at the time, I thought Charm of the High Strip was the chintziest thing ever (love it now---but I was there to see Archers, Polvo, and Superchunk). Merritt stood on a chair and played this weird Vox guitar. The crowd sang along to "Take Ecstasy with Me." The second time I saw them was the most disappointing show ever: Archdick Merritt and His Ironic Fellows ridiculed the (enthusiastic, earnest crowd) and slagged through each number like they had something better to do in a cooler place. Anyway, cool you met his mama.

  2. I'm going out on that big limb over there to guess that this guy is noted for douchebag tendencies?

  3. I strongly suspect that Bachelorette is more ironic than unfortunate.

  4. B - I need to re-Lambchop

    R - Merritt's known to be difficult w/his peers and condescending towards his littles. I've never heard of him doing anything I would call douchebaggery as I think of the term.

    S - My thinking Bachelorette is an unfortunate name was an ugly-Americanism: she'll never top a google search here in the U.S. Why she choose it in New Zealand almost a decade ago I've no idea.

  5. Lambchop has a brand new!

    SM = crotchety, shy, too cool for school, touring is such a bother, but wonderful songs and creative instrumentation. MF shows: go for the music, leave for the snark