because the personal is cultural
Has God Seen My Shadow? is the soundtrack to a road movie that doesn’t exist, whose protagonist (alternately played by Richard Hawley, Tom Waits, and Mark Oliver Everett from Eels) is a man with a story but without a destination. We can tell from his blasé attitude that he’s been hurt by life, though we will never know by what exactly. It’s in his music more than in his lyrics that we can hear it. Despite being a compilation that spans more than two decades, HGSMS? remains anchored in a perpetual present.
Our protagonist is a solitary man (of course) whose freedom comes from having given up on his own life, which allows him to be more in tune with life itself. He can usually be found walking by the side of the road, in a land that is otherwise sand. Every once in a while, he gets to rest in the passenger’s seat of a car. These are his favourite moments, especially when the driver is quiet and he can just take in the scenery blurred by travelling, the window rolled down.
When he reaches a town, it is usually the kind whose only way to not fade into the blackness of the night sky is to draw its contours with neon signs. It’s in these briefly sedentary moments that a certain sexiness can be detected; not that of nudity, but of suggestion: of tight jeans, of cleavage, of a necklace dangling in the right place. Even when we can guess at the seediness bubbling beneath the town, its surface has been smoothed out and dressed up so beautifully that we can’t feel any guilt about finding ourselves there. When sex does occur, it’s never without whiskey and cigarettes, but also never without some care. Everyone is always covered in a thin layer of sweat, but the warmth is never stifling.
HGSMS? is about a man who’s learned the hard way that the only possible peace comes from not holding on to anything. It is not without hope. In any moment, life could prove redeeming. Something beautiful might happen, especially if it isn’t expected. A gentle religiosity permeates the album, which could be read as a reverence to life, as faith in its mystery.
1. Porn Persons @ RATS 9
When I walked into RATS 9, there were clay statues of the Virgin Mary everywhere, less than a foot high. By the drums was a large, glowing, plastic one. Next to it, a luminous sign: PORN PERSONS. Most of the four musicians in the band, all men, had their face covered and were wearing dresses and longhaired wigs. The singer, a woman, was sporting a similar look. She sang-screamed, rolled around on the floor, dragged a case of the clay statues behind her… At a certain point, a woman in the audience felt compelled to lift up her foot and crush one of the statues with her boot. The man next to her bent down, picked up the dust in the palm of his hand, and pretended to snort it. At that moment, I knew it was the best show of the year.
2. Sigur Rós @ Centre Bell
Wearing a hoodie at the Sigur Rós show was one of the best accidental choices I ever made; I ended up holding my own hand the entire night.
3. Velvet Glacier + Blight + Woe @ Deathouse
When I walked into Deathouse, Velvet Glacier was already on the floor doing his thing, shirtless, covered in tattoos, turning knobs. For just a moment, I thought God existed and that he’d answered all my prayers. When the second act, Blight, turned out to be a black metal band with a longhaired shirtless drummer, you can understand how that delusion went on for a bit longer.
4. Klikk + Pink Street Boys + Coke Bust @ Bar 11 (Reykjavík)
There were basically two moments when I felt at home (i.e. where I was supposed to be) during my summer in Reykjavík. One of them was when I saw Klikk at Bar 11. There I was, in a dark basement, listening to punk and watching my Icelandic crush, Klikk singer Úlfur, scream his guts out while climbing everywhere, leaving audience members to untangle the long chord of his microphone so he could keep going wherever the fuck he wanted, and leaving the mic dangling from the ceiling before exiting when he was done.
Also, the drummer from Pink Street Boys did not help my thing for drummers.
5. Hellenica @ Deathouse
Smoke was filling up Deathouse and candles were burning onstage. Throughout his set, I developed a crush on Hellenica and thought that, if I ever held a black mass, I would definitely get him to score it.
6. Thee Nodes + Wastoids @ Brasserie Beaubien
The infamous Mr. Node began his set by throwing white glue on the audience (I assume because they were opening for the band Glue), then ripped his shirt open, crowd surfed all the way onto a pool table, and ended up naked under streamers. All this to say that Thee Nodes gave a pretty toned down performance that night. Also, two members from Wastoids shared a kiss during one of their songs, which is always nice.
7. GAG @ Concrete Cage
The singer from GAG crowd surfed all the way onto a shady structure at the back of the room, leaving those right under it to hold it up with their hands and the rest of us to pray it wouldn’t collapse on us.
8. Klikk @ Dillon (Reykjavík)
9. Muck + AMFJ + Whorls @ Bar 11 (Reykjavík)
…but the other time I actually felt at home in Reykjavík was when I saw Muck.
10. Elín Ey @ Kiki (Reykjavík)
Elín Ey (who reminded me of Rae Spoon in their more folksy days) opened her intimate set, which quietly closed the Reykjavík Pride festivities, by stating, “It’s good to be gay.” It’s hard to argue with that, especially when you’re holding the hand of a beautiful man.
11. Dekoder @ Decadent Squalor
FULL DISCLOSURE: I consider some of the members of Dekoder to be my friends. But few things are as great as the feeling you get when you realize how fucking talented your friends are, knowing you won’t have to bullshit them after the show. And Dekoder just keeps getting better.
12. Taylor Hoodlum Stevenson + Ultrathin + Soupcans @ Katacombes
The rock show that had rung in the New Year at Jackie & Judy two years ago had been (like every other show there) so underwhelming that it is a cause for celebration that the one that brought in 2013 at Katacombes was as fun as a New Year’s party should be, with the right people, and just the right level of inebriation.
2013 in My Ears – A Mix:
SYLVAIN VERSTRICHT: For the first time, Piss in the Pool will be shown at Bain Mathieu rather than at Bain Saint-Michel. Has this change of venue also meant any changes for the show itself?
ANDREW TAY: The venue for Piss in the Pool is different this year, and that's exciting for us to see how choreographers use the new space. Sight lines will be different, there are more options for getting in and out of the pool and there is a bar directly in the venue (which we are hoping will add to the party atmosphere of the event). Other than that the show will have the same spirit, and we're still allowing choreographers to place the audience anywhere in the space to view their work. There will definitely be some changes but I guess we won't really see how the new venue affects the show until premiere night.
SYLVAIN: There’s often been a lot of humour in the pieces presented at the event. This year, there are many artists who are known to be a bit more on the dramatic side (like Dorian Nuskind-Oder and Virginie Brunelle). Was this a conscious decision to balance things out?
SASHA KLEINPLATZ: Not at all actually. With Piss in the Pool we generally invite artists that we think represent different aspects of the Montreal dance and performance community, but we weren't really thinking about the drama/humour balance.
SYLVAIN: [Both of] you have been really busy working on a lot of projects this year, so it’s the first time that neither of you will be presenting work at Piss in the Pool. How do you feel about it? Has it changed the way you view your role in the event?
ANDREW: Sasha and I won't be presenting work in the event this year. We're working on a big project in Quebec City at the same time as organizing Piss in the Pool so we decided to sit this one out. The event has been growing over the last 8 years, and we've been thinking a lot about our role as curators. Piss in the Pool has become a great window for emerging artists and Sasha and I want to keep giving more opportunities to these artists. It's not to say that we won't ever show work again at Piss in the Pool, but we want to open the event up so that we (and the public) can discover and meet new dance artists and creators.
Piss in the Pool
20, 22 & 24 June at 8:30pm
Bain Mathieu, 2915 Ontario East
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.