New York City Ghosts and Flowers

Sometimes scenes change and sometimes they don't. So going to Union Pool (a bar that seems to be the first stop for all new waves of people and trends into a particular area, morphing along with whatever the people now want- currently with food truck!) in Williamsburg Brooklyn (a neighborhood whose transformation from ghetto to art haven to condo has happened at record speed) to see the amazing new-er super groups of dissolved/changed legendary indie rock bands (members of Sonic Youth, the Magik Markers and Pavement) whose sounds were the stuff of my teenage years and inspiration well beyond them, caused a really powerful, confusing, shifting feeling in me that made me wish the music had been even louder so as to drown out the unsettling time warps I felt tangled all up in.

I've gushed about Lee Ranaldo before after seeing his noosed guitar, live sound sculpting performance over at the Rotterdam Film Festival but seeing his rock band play his songs, the songs that a track or two of Sonic Youth albums were dedicated to (sometimes even the most listenable/memorable- Karen Revisited- still my favorite Murray Street track!) was something completely different, yet familiar in a way. A pop-y, noise- made-melodic with standard rock foundation, mixed with the dreamy nostalgic lyrics (often trite always sincere), and Ranaldo's vocals strong but lightly falling on the crowd from the stage, all made for a dense, full, rich sound that somehow lay softly in the room while still managing to be an all encompassing force within it at the same time. And I loved it. I love anything that sounds even remotely like Sonic Youth, and the sound really did feel like the thick, light, crush-y bed of the best Sonic Youth songs. I'm so glad this sound is going to live on in a new form! And I am so glad I got to see it live first hand!

The other band I saw at this show was Spectre Folk. Pete Nolan (the drummer from the Magik Markers, and a bunch of other rad things- like dad, schoolteacher and supposed children's book author) stood swaying around the mic like it was repelling him, straining out above a stage full of guitars, the throbbing forwardness of Steve Shelley on drums, and the bouncy/rocky bass of Pavement's Mark Ibold. At one point, as three (seemingly) lead guitarists bobbed in the stage light, soloing in ways that seriously did sound like Malkmus in his prime, I had a pang of high school memories that struck hard and fast and transported me back to a time when a guitar solo was the thing that meant anything. Hammering away at their long and winding un-standard tunings and feedback and bends, made me want to guitar solo, an urge I often have but am too timid to embrace.  But, while at this show, I decided I am going to guitar solo. And I am allowed to fucking love it. The confidence in seeing this group of people so dedicated to a sound, to music- Thurston Moore was even hanging about the small crowd, a new crop of teens in vintage dresses & big glasses at his feet, still, after all these years- made me remember my own love and ongoing love for this style of music, a thing I should be remembering and perfecting, not thinking I need to progress from. And that is what indie rock really is.

The primary ethos of indie rock is that everyone should be allowed to do their thing whatever it is, and seeing this bar, this neighborhood, this audience made me remember the reason I think we are all so drawn to counter cultures in general: do your thing, whatever it may be, and do it well, without judgement and with all the passion you can muster! And this purity is something I am going to try to stick with, remind myself of, force into my own practice again...even as things sell out, morph or change around us we should all do our thing and be open to everyone else who is also trying to do whatever it is that moves them. Even though the frat-boys seep into the bars, and the new hipsters have slowly eroded away a type of cool & grit in Williamsburg, it is the inherent passion of those working toward something, towards a life, that makes living worthwhile. I guess what I am trying to say is that dedication, and difference, is a thing to be respected  not shunned, and we should all embrace different modes of creativity and lives before things are too late (looks sideways at RNC)... But, one thing that I don't think Lee Ranaldo really finds moving or inspiring are the dedicated fans who keep asking him when Sonic Youth is going to reunite, when what they should be caring about is his new music! So, listen to his music! Buy the album (you heard me, BUY IT!)! Be inspired by it's existence! And be respectful and dedicated to whatever it is that moves you! End of indie rock rant. Cue guitar whammy bar. (Note/plea: Thurston Moore, can I borrow an electric guitar?)



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.