Friday, March 03, 2006

Folk Alliance Conference (Part III)

photos by Paul Norton

Folk Alliance-Hilton Hotel-Austin, TX

It was kind of jarring to pull in from the calm of The Commune and the road, thinking for a minute that we were the only band alive, up to The Hilton with eighty vans newer than ours and having to line up to check in and wait for the elevators with 10,000 tie-dyed passive aggressive folkies wearing laminates. Bit of a shocker.

Found my roommate Jenn B. and some how the Po'Girls scored the room across the hall and we all went out for fish tacos and margaritas. I tried to go to a bar first but there was nowhere to drink and smoke together, some guy was belting out "Poncho and Lefty" through a nasty P.A., and when I went to the bathroom there was a giant shit in the toilet. Welcome to Austin where all clich├ęs are represented with equal opportunity!

Found wine. Allie got I.D.'d and was probably thinking it was because she was black so I went for her and then I got I.D.'d too. I showed my passport to the clerk and apparently there is a law that you need Texas identification to buy booze in the state of Texas. The man told me, "Eeze a stupid law" but then said "but since you are old eez o.k." Youch!

After dinner I went and put on extra make-up for the show and wandered around to all the hotel rooms, which were filled with music. Spent a lot of time "back-stage" smoking in the cement stairwells much to the delight of several healthful folkies. "Some of us don't want to die of cancer...." This woman sang while she descended past us. I waited until she was out of arms reach and sang back, "Well take the elevator with the other losers then..."

My show went well. Best Band Ever! Phil and Benny from the Shiftless Rounders and Allie and Awna and Diona. They turned on a dime and not a dud note. Felt so good. I was so happy. Wore the bathing suit, crinoline, high boots, shoulder crow, and beaver hat in honour of the Sweet Beaver Suite, and representing Canada and all that. Dozens of canucks rejoiced. There is no air in the whole building.

At the end of the night Jenn B. ordered room service and we watched the history channel and passed out across the Hilton pillows, which they lay out in a way that looks a whole lot like the Plaza of Nations. The Hilton Hotel is a rich man's paradise with us Po'folks allowed in Just This Once.

Met J.T. and The Clouds from Chicago. Best Band Ever. Everybody singing and not a black heart among them.

The theory of the night being a previous one revised into something less bleak. The earlier one being that True Love is ultimately unattainable and devised by advertisement agencies to make you want to buy more stuff to feel included, which you never will no matter how much stuff you buy. But tonight the theory became revised into well, you gotta give up any power you may have thought you had to become fully part of a group, which is scary. But if you don't freak out and let it ride for a while you can feel the power of a group with the bolstered confidence of being a group. You must give up everything with the realization that you have nothing to lose. But you must come to the point of having nothing to lose to feel that you are free to give up everything. (And maybe getting older equals giving up but getting granted the words to rationalize it into something that sits well so you can still sleep. I don't know. It's still kind of new.) Jesus I'm sounding like a Dr. Bronner's shampoo label- you know the kind you find at the health food store in Nelson (the line "Thou shalt remain virtuous while addressing crowds" always jumps out at me in the shower). I swear this trip has made a believer outta me. I feel like I'm finally invited to the party. Or that the party was inside me all along or some fucking-after-school-special crapola like that.

So my roommate was the lovely Jenn B., the newest heir to the Mint Records Dynasty. She was a joy to hang out with and seems practically unphasable which, if you're me, really makes you wanna go all out. She didn't even bat an eye when she took me to the convention centre to meet The Potential American Booking Agent. Within seconds of meeting, we started talking about September 11 and Hurricane Katrina and I laid my theory on her about how perhaps, for some people, a disaster is a godsend or a step up. Like if you'd just murdered your wife, were freaking out, thinking about how to get rid of the body, and what to do with the knife and a big wave came up and washed everything away. You'd be thinking, "All right, free one!" I'm sure this wasn't exactly the way Jenn or any of the Mint people had pictured the conversation going, but she just smiled and suggested we go for a drink in the lounge.

When we got there our friend Dan Kershaw, who works for SOCAN and also writes beautiful songs, came over and said, "Ladies, I'm just another asshole with a credit card and it's behind the bar so whatever you're having is on me!" We had to hear the story: earlier that day Dan went to rent some sound equipment at a music store and they basically told him that he'd have to buy the gear and then return it. Until the store owner found out that he was a musician, then they gave him a super deal no problem. The store owner apologized saying, "I'm sorry. I thought you were just another asshole with a credit card." Only in Austin would they take a musician's word over a credit card!

I played seven times in three days in various hotel rooms and converted boardrooms and formed a supergroup of Po'Girls (Allie and Awna and Diona) and Shiftless Rounders (Benny and Phil) and fuck we were good on Friday night! I know you're not supposed to say that about your own show but flames were shooting out of our wrists and it was electric and not one practice and not one wrong note! Best Show Ever and it's in a fucking hotel room. Who knew? There were even a couple of festival types in the audience I think, and a man offered to bring me a raccoon penis for my hat but I declined. The Fabulous Late Night Hootenanny Finale in the Brown Tie Room with many stars- tinfoil and real- was amazing too.

So now I'm home, exiled by my own happiness, which is fading fast, about to do battle with the mice and dust dobermen that have moved in in my absence. Fuckin' place looks like shit. I wonder if I would notice if I had never left. Nothing like the fresh eye of tourism to see what's there. What it is and what it looks like. It's good to keep moving for the perspective although it's hard to find kindred spirits to share your new perspective with because it kind of makes you sound like an alien or a liar. Like what's his name, the Satanist there, Anton Levee. He said the trick is not to lie but to live such a fantastic life that it sounds like you're lying. I'm superstitious about even mentioning how great this trip was lest the Evil Forces return from their apparent coffee break and turn the mean-o-meter back up to it's usual setting.

And then I went and got drunk with Tolan last night who seriously thinks that I have Lost the Plot. I think the phrase "commune in New Mexico" mortally offends him. I was pretty afraid before we got there too but we had a great time. He's probably just mad that he didn't get to come. You know how things seem way less dirty when you're the one doing them. You know the way that no one can relate to you if you are having an extremely bad time? It turns out it's the same if you are having an extremely good time. I came home all tanned going, "Oh my God! I just had the best time!" and everyone's all like, "Yeah so?"

It's sort of like the opposite of The Pain Theory because now there is the added bonus of jealousy. The suspicion that Joy is a finite resource and that someone else's good time is depleting the supply. Maybe this is why people are so drawn to hard luck stories. So they can feel relief instead of envy.

Just so you know though, that night in the mint pool, with the beautiful ring lighting up the sky, thinking for the first time in my life that perhaps you are allowed to have it all, I shook my pruny finger at the moon and said, "I still get to be funny right?"

Coda Realization: It's easier to document the details of discomfort than the feeling of happiness. And with the details, I'm sort of coasting on the assumption that, "Well, you know me!", or enough of a version of me by now, if you're in this far. I guess I believe that if measured by a graph or gauge, happiness would be at zero which is the desired setting. Stories about things running smoothly aren't as funny as those involving misery. But perhaps it's this assumption that makes old people seem crazy- the shorthand is too far removed when there are so many more experiences to repeat. And it's true what they say, "Sustained criticism comes more naturally than sustained praise."

But if you started thinking about Everybody you'd go crazy. The perspective has to be attenuated to 'functional'. I like the moments when it's just you and one other person and you're in the moment. Actually, ask anybody, I avoid those, surrounding myself with dozens, avoiding that moment because it's much too terrifying. The moment someone says, "If only we could be alone. Could we go somewhere?" is always so much better than actually going there.

1 Comments:

At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you avoid "moments" like shit on flies yo

 

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