Monday, February 02, 2009

"The Dyke Who Will Give It To You"

Bienvenue à "Music Monday" here at Fosco Lives!

On Friday night, Fosco and Oz saw the Amy Ray show at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz. Amy is the butch-er half of the Indigo Girls, probably the most important band for Fosco in college. During those college years (think early to mid-nineties), the Indigo Girls were especially popular (particularly within Fosco's specific peer group at Harvard). And this popularity led inevitably to the one essential question that Fosco debated numerous times: who is your favorite Indigo Girl (and what does that say about you)?

At the time, Fosco was a solid Emily Saliers partisan. Fosco preferred her prettier songs, her smoother voice, her gentleness. Amy, in contrast, wrote raucous tracks (like "Chickenman"), had a rougher voice, and just seemed too... prickly (of course, in person and in concert, they were both equally gracious). If you think this commitment was trivial at the time, then you've forgotten what college was like. During freshman year, Fosco was actually told by the (female) object of his affection that their relationship couldn't last because she loved Amy and Fosco loved Emily. Of course, the object of Fosco's affection was right about the relationship, although it wasn't Indigo incompatibility that doomed it (rather, it had something to do with Fosco's interest in sex with men). Regardless, Fosco's preference for Emily was an important part of his musical identity for many years after.

But it turns out that one's favorite Indigo Girl is not as stable as one's sexual orientation, because at some point in his late twenties, Fosco came to appreciate and to prefer Amy Ray. Most of this has been due to her three solo albums:

Stag (2001): At first, Fosco didn't quite know what to make of this CD. It was a lot more raw and a lot darker than her Indigo Girls work; it was also much more like rock than folk. And he was turned off by songs like "Johnny Rottentail" and song titles like "Hey Castrator." But when he returned to it several years later, he was surprised to discover some totally excellent songs like "Measure Of Me" and, believe it or not, "Hey Castrator" (a really good song if you can overlook the title). From "Measure Of Me":

The boy he thinks I'm damaged goods.
I know he does and I guess he should.
I dress like him, I take him down.
He gets embarrassed when his friends come around.

I want to take him to the show,
I'm crossing over what you know.
Is it the boy you need in me,
or the girl that you could be?
Amy has something of an obsession with high school; however, this is the kind of truth about high school that very few singers tell. This is queer high school, baby!

Prom (2005): Fosco listened to this CD at the behest of Todd, and it immediately became one of Fosco's favorite CDs of that year. It's Amy's most extended meditation on high school. Fosco still listens to several tracks regularly (like the perfect teenage anthem "Put It Out For Good" and the surprisingly moving "Rural Faggot"). "Put It Out For Good" has an infectious rhythm, as well as this impossibly catchy stanza:
The stadium lights were breaking through the bleachers
I spent all day pushing tissue roses into chicken wire
Hey S.G.A., I’m an overachiever of the wrong persuasion
A pep rally kid, a new gender nation with a new desire
The compression of meaning in those lines is really amazing.

Didn't It Feel Kinder (2009): Amy's third solo album is more polished in some ways, and even more guitar heavy. Her songwriting remains relentlessly autobiographical and often political. There are some powerful tunes here, although the lyrics aren't always up to her earlier standards. For pure "rock out with your socks out" fun, you can't go wrong with "Bus Bus." And "Out On The Farm" is easily one of the most beautiful songs she's ever written.

The show at the Rio turned out to be a really good showcase for Amy's music. The Rio is a strange venue--it's a former movie theater, and it retains the rippled velvet curtains on the walls and the gently sloping theater rows. The seats are excellently comfy, though. The sound is good, but the lighting is terrible (all of Fosco's pictures turned out badly). The crowd was a good size (approx. 150) and the vibe was something like "lesbian speed dating." Fosco and Oz were the only gay male couple there; however, Fosco has always been secretly lesbian-identified, so he felt right at home.

Amy looked good. She was snazzy in black jeans with a black shirt and gray tie (with a shiny tie clip). She's touring with a rocking band, especially guitarist Kaia Wilson (who is also a member of the lesbian punk band The Butchies). Oz was particularly impressed with Kaia's guitar-work (he may have a little guitar-crush on her, actually). The drummer is also from The Butchies and she has a particularly theatrical style (Fosco notes this because he is now, thanks to Rock Band, and expert)--probably because she sits too low behind the kit.

Some highlights of the show:
  • Amy joined the opening act Arizona for a spot-on "Out On The Farm." The lead singer of Arizona nailed the harmony.
  • Amy jokingly played the intro bars of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" when she joined Arizona on stage.
  • A great mix of Amy's three CDs: at least three songs from each. She also played for ninety minutes!
  • Kaia's guitar strap broke during "Sober Girl" and she played most of the song trying to balance on one leg (while the other held up her guitar). She rocked, of course.
  • "Bus Bus" broke immediately into "Blender" for a seriously punk rock combination.
  • Amy broke a string on "SLC Radio" and while she was restringing, Kaia and the drummer did a great cover (by audience request) of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." Seriously.
  • A fan yelled out "Rodeo" and Amy picked up her acoustic guitar and said "Okay." It was one of the most powerful songs of the evening (Oz liked it particularly).
  • Fosco finally got to hear "Put It Out For Good" live!
  • "Who Sold The Gun" is a much better song live than on the new CD.
  • The performance of "Rural Faggot" was really powerful. Fosco actually got a little teary during the last verse:
    I know you want to know the truth
    And I’m the dyke who will give it to you.
    By this time next year
    you’ll know you’re queer
    It’ll all be okay
    It’ll all be clear
    And you’ll run away from home
    But not to be alone
    And you’ll go down to the city
    Where the boys are pretty
  • Encore: a long jam version of "Laramie." Absolutely searing.
On the whole, this was a really satisfying show. Even Oz enjoyed it (and he tends not to like the whole "women songwriters with guitars" thing). Fosco's transition to an Amy fan is now complete.

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