Thursday, August 16, 2007

Go Rimbaud!

In the sheets
there was a man
dancing around
to the simple
Rock & roll

Fosco saw Patti Smith in concert last night. That's right: the legendary Patti Smith. She's a prophetic poet. She's a rock goddess. She's a shaman. She's the godmother of punk. She's an ecstatic visionary. She's #47 of the 100 Rock and Roll Immortals as identified by Rolling Stone (below Bruce Springsteen, but above Elton John).

It was amazing.

She played the Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz, which is a much better club than it looks from the street. The club holds 800; I'd say there were 600 there (how does Patti Smith not sell out this show?) The crowd was totally Santa Cruz: aging hippies with hash pipes, packs of graying lesbians, the painfully sincere. Oh, and Fosco's academic advisor was dancing right in front of the stage. And further back in the scrum, Fosco sighted both the current and former directors of UCSC's Center for Cultural Studies. Nothing like the presence of some academic heavyweights to make a newish grad student feel self-conscious.

But it didn't matter once the show started. Fosco was about 20 feet from the stage. Patti Smith looks great. She's sixty this year, and has some lines and some gray; but even so, her eyes are compelling and her smile winning. She was wearing jeans, cowboy boots, a t-shirt with a peace sign and "LOVE" written on it, and a cool black blazer with flared cuffs (Fosco wasn't quite close enough to see the label when she took it off). Her hair is long--well past her shoulders--and a bit frizzy. She may be older, but she's still unmistakably the woman in the famous Robert Mapplethorpe album photograph from "Horses" (below).Damn, that's a good picture. Here's a not good picture, taken by me last night:When she's dancing, she does these wonderful hand gestures.

She seemed extremely friendly and down-to-earth. When she came on stage and between the first four or five songs, she walked to the corners of the stage and waved to the crowd with both hands. She reached down to shake hands with the people in front.

As the show went on, she seemed to lose a bit of her equanimity (and who can blame her--crowds are always so annoying). At one point, she confronted a bleached blonde lesbian in the front who was videotaping her with her camera: "Get that fucking camera out of my face." After the song, she elaborated: "If you're going to take a fucking picture, take a picture. But don't make a fucking documentary film. I fucking hate that." Hear hear!

And, in response to some women in the front who kept trying to have a loud shouting conversation with her between songs: "You must be from New Jersey like me, because people from New Jersey can't shut the fuck up."

Here's another bad picture:

Between songs, she told great stories in her charismatically laconic way:

  • about her day in Santa Cruz and how she and the band went to beach and how she saw an attractive girl in a bikini doing a seal call. It reminded her of something out of H.P. Lovecraft.
  • how the girl who sold her pizza earlier in the day warned her not to order the anchovies because they had been in the freezer way too long. (She dedicated "Redondo Beach" to her.)
  • how she used to watch Television at CBGB.
  • how she ended up making out with a seal near a muffler shop in Santa Cruz (actually, this may have been more of a vision than an actual story).
  • about one of her favorite shows when she was growing up which featured a Buddhist bunyip.
  • how she browsed a great Santa Cruz bookstore earlier in the day (almost certainly Logos) and bought another copy of William S. Burroughs's Interzone, even though she owns six copies at home. But she wants to read it while she's on the road...
  • how her father once turned off a television when Frank Sinatra missed a note and how that made her "break out in a cold sweat."
  • and about how much she misses Jerry Garcia.
And the music? She played for almost 2.5 hours. Fosco stood near the front for the first hour, but then got tired and hot (and tired of having pot smoke blown in his face) and moved farther back. For that reason, the first part of the setlist below isn't really in order (note-taking so close to the stage is difficult):

  • Dancing Barefoot
  • Redondo Beach (the order gets iffy after this one)
  • Are You Experienced? Jimi Hendrix, of course. (with a kickass clarinet solo!)
  • Summer Cannibals
  • We Three (was GORGEOUS tonight)
  • Within You Without You (George Harrison).
  • Ain't It Strange
  • Beneath the Southern Cross
  • some other song I can't recall...
The second half of the show...
  • a song performed by her lead guitarist Lenny Kaye.
  • White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane.
  • Because the Night
  • Soul Kitchen, The Doors.
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana. This is a great cover, check it out on her cover album Twelve.
  • Gloria. My favorite moment of the concert? When Patti sang: "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not miiiiiine."
And the encore:
  • Perfect Day, Lou Reed. She changed one of the lines to "Shakespeare and anchovies and Santa Cruz--What fun!" Then she traded singing "you just keep me hanging on" with the audience. It was pretty powerful.
  • Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly. Dedicated to Jerry Garcia.
  • Babelogue-Rock and Roll N*****. It was impressive, especially when Patti demanded that we form our own political party and that we refuse to buy the "shit" that corporate American keeps trying to sell us. I was a little disappointed she didn't speak my favorite line: "I spare the child and spoil the rod. I have not sold myself to God." But it still rocked.
Oh yeah, and then Patti Smith ripped the strings off her guitar.

She RAWKS! See her if you can, my friends. Oh, and check out her very cool website. What other rock legend would have a tribute to Victorian essayist Thomas de Quincey? Shweet.


todd said...

Sounds like a great time. I've got two awesome Patti bootlegs, hit me up if you want them.

Also someday make me tell you the story about seeing Lenny Kaye play at Dick Manitoba's bar in Alphabet City, standing so close I had to continually dodge his guitar.

Katrina said...

I love Patti. I had such a great time. Thanks for such a detailed Review, I don't think you missed anything, unlike me. I was looking for the author of the Interzone that she talked about and I found in your awesome review. Thank you.