Wednesday, February 5, 2014

World War Zimmerman

One Damon Feldman has made headlines recently by organizing a celebrity boxing match with George Zimmerman.  Today, which happens to be Trayvon Martin's would-be 19th birthday, news arrives that DMX has stepped up to the plate.  The rapper has promised to "beat the fuck out of" Zimmerman and then, should the referees fail to intervene, subject the acquitted murderer to a variety of ritual defilements.

The match and its ringmaster have been charged with egregious bad taste, and understandably so, although considering the genre of media event, I doubt this assessment is dissonant with Feldman's intentions.  The appeal obtains - and rest assured that Feldman is banking on this - in the very real prospect of thunderous annihilation getting visited upon Zimmerman's fat, stupid face.  I wouldn't call this a lamentable prospect.  On the contrary, I'd very gladly bear witness, and even here in the intellect industry, where it behooves our high horse not to admit to such baseness, I doubt that I'm alone.

The problem of course is that there's no guarantee this is how it will go.  Zimmerman is still getting far more of a chance than Martin ever got.  DMX has stated in no uncertain terms that he intends on taking justice into his own hands, and thus the match is a double restaging: of Martin's fatal grapple with Zimmerman, but also of Zimmerman's with the criminal justice system that eventually let him off the hook.  It's the carnivalesque dark side of the "I Am Trayvon Martin" refrain, with the Prince of Darkness-as-street prophet presiding as judge, jury, and executioner.

His fighting words notwithstanding, though, make no mistake: DMX's involvement here is all about reminding everyone that DMX exists.  Anyone who vouches for his artistic relevance beyond the rite of blowing two month's allowance at Sam Goody for ...And Then There Was X is lying to you, the man himself not least of all.  Hence the last ditch attempt at the limelight, and all the better from behind the aegis of vulgarized racial solidarity.  Not that anyone doesn't expect this.  The master joke behind anything modified by "celebrity" is the persistently near-total lack thereof.

The same obviously goes for Zimmerman, who is famous for all the wrong reasons and should not, in a just world, be given any visibility at all.  But then, in a just world, we wouldn't have to imagine him killing a white kid in blackface to get him into the electric chair, as he does on the South Park episode "World War Zimmerman."  Or, we wouldn't need the electric chair at all, you might gainfully argue.  At the very least there'd be no opportunity to monetize the parody of a fairer trial, however cathartic.
But in a world that may very well reprise the racist juridical farce this boxing match is sold as redressing, at least there's a chance we'll see George Zimmerman to get the fuck beaten out of him.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


If the Disney empire's meteoric rise to corporate prominence is mass culture's Kampfzeit, then their ongoing vice grip on the global public's eyes, ears, and disposable income is the alternative future where we're all speaking German.  (Maybe the fact that my default totalitarian metaphor is Nazism and not, say, US-backed despots like Pinochet or Mubarak, means that in a way, we are.)  But Onkel Walt's aggressive distribution is, though toxic, just capitalism doing its thing.  It's the dynasty's legacy of claiming the public domain as their own, then renewing their lease on it under the sign of copyright protection, that should inspire your contempt.  They're no less litigious about anything else bearing the Disney name, which is no doubt meant as something of an extralegal gag order on well-deserved satire.  No problem: skewer a doe-eyed anthropomorph in your smarmy media text and it won't be a mystery who your target is.

That's not enough for Randy Moore, though, who dramatizes a Disney World visitor's 24-hour mental breakdown for Escape from Tomorrow with footage shot on-location, guerrilla-style.  That fact alone is what drew me and, I'd wager, the lion's share of audiences, to the film.  Credit where credit is due: it's an impressive feat.  The alternately cramped and lopsided framing is a striking index of Moore's choice of consumer-grade DLSRs to bypass park authorities under the pretense of garden-variety family vacation documentation.  Ditto the oblique angles and jittery handheld once the psychosis starts setting in.  Presumably when and where shooting would have brought too much notice (to understand the depth of the filmmaker's paranoia, consider that he outsourced editing entirely to South Korea to escape surveillance), the on-the-fly stuff is supplemented by green screen effects self-consciously crude enough for a Kids in the Hall sketch.

Not that anything is compromised by such formal levity.  Escape from Tomorrow is a comedy first and foremost, as its subtle-as-a-sledgehammer premise requires.  It's also a pretty consistently funny one, due in no small part to the lead performance by no-name Roy Abramsohn, a dowdy Dennis Quaid type who faces with lethargic incredulity the combined pressures of joblessness, fatherhood, demonic animatrons, nubile French teenagers, his nagging wife, a dowdy Linda Hamilton type, and his needy boy and girl, two shock blond children of the damned.  Said joblessness frames the story nicely by underwriting Disney's tyrannical good cheer with white-collar humiliation, and said animatrons are put to unsubtle work with After Effects horns and fangs, wisely subtly applied; even wiser is leaving It's a Small World entirely to its own already terrifying devices.  Said French girls lend the film rising action (in more ways than one, har har) lifted wholesale from American Beauty, except with girls who look cringe-inducingly like girls, and without the Oscar pandering, mercifully.

Indeed, Moore's violation of bourgeois good taste becomes more and more coterminous with his takedown of the House of Mouse as Escape from Tomorrow progresses.  The laughter surrounding me the night I saw Escape from Tomorrow at the Music Box lapsed evermore to groans as the pedophilia thread progressed, which in turn gave way to matters of the lower bodily stratum.  A series of half-baked gags involving ejaculation, sonorous vomiting, and a poorly-dressed toe laceration punctuate spotty B-movie vignettes that flail about like so many agitated tentacles.  The narrative, such as it is, culminates in a wide angle bird's-eye view of our hero in the throes of violent diarrhea, followed by the hacking of alarmingly hairy phlegm before he collapses half-cocked against the wall, paralyzed in a fiendish grin.  All of this is intercut with long shots of Epcot's iconic Spaceship Earth, exalting a commodified space-age future, the film's brilliantly saccharine score soaring effusively as fireworks explode in the sky.  Manufactured majesty, meet the abject body.  Take that, culture industry!

What may be a snotty confrontation in theory plays on screen as basically a reasonably well-staged gross-out.  What gives it any edge at all is the extratextual knowledge of how and under what conditions those intercut long shots were taken, a knowledge with which anyone coming to this necessarily undermarketed indie presumably comes equipped.  But those are some slim pickings; it's hard to imagine Bob Iger losing any sleep over R-rated toilet humor.  Escape from Tomorrow can be described accordingly as an exercise in warmed over anti-establishment ethos, a sort of National Lampoon's Vacation by way of the Cinema of Transgression.

Friday, October 4, 2013

On THE SIMPSONS: Deconstructed

The homegirl Nikki Loehr directed my attention recently to a video by one JK Keller, posted last month by blogger Jason Kottke.  The video is a formalist experiment that throws The Simpsons episode "Mom and Pop Art" (in which Jasper Johns and Isabella Rossellini make guest appearances, although most know it as the "Everything's coming up Milhouse!" episode) through digital filters until its representational coherence is all but entirely obscured.

You don't need me to point out that the result is rather extraordinary.  (While I'm reluctant to reduce the experience of psychedelic drugs to lazy shorthand, this video is one instance where I'd concur with the description "bad acid trip.")  Keller's claim that it "retains the full character of the show" is debatable, since that "full character" arguably consists mainly of the many features comprising its narration - screenwriting, voice acting, stories, gags - and the cheerfully ironic tone that coheres them.  "Realigning My Thoughts on Jasper Johns," on the contrary, is a disconcerting, even creepy, sustain of audiovisual noise, rhythmically invertebrate and a challenge to sit through.  What keeps it from being entirely an art-school chore are the unmistakable vestiges of the show's aesthetic that remain.  The tracking shots that open the theme song, for example, are instantly recognizable despite the reduction of Springfield to splashes of lines and colors.  Somehow, the integrity of space remains intact: although I haven't seen the original episode, and the audio sounds like a Nurse With Wound demo tape, it becomes clear very quickly that the first scene takes place in the Simpsons' backyard.

But the characters are the most striking feature.  You'll only follow the filtered opening if you know the original well enough, but you don't have to have watched a single full episode, really, to pick out Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, even Maggie, from the visual detritus: they're iconic down to their most basic geometry (Bart's spikes, Marge's hair, Homer's gut).  Then there's their garish yellow complexion, ostensibly the show's substitute for Caucasian - people of color, by contrast, are verisimilarly rendered - but cheekily identified on several occasions during the series as simply yellow.  Although I'd be interested to see a similar test applied to another show - South Park, perhaps? - I suspect that it would be far more vulnerable to visual indistinction.  Only a text as eternally current in the pop culture canon as The Simpsons could survive this kind of video art vandalism.   

Friday, September 27, 2013

Jay Lynch: "Hippies just didn't seem to grasp satire"

Jay Lynch, "Divorce Court," Midwest Magazine (~1970).
In '67, Skip Williamson and I started an underground humor mag called the Chicago Mirror. By the third issue of the Mirror, we were getting a little bit discouraged, though. It seemed that the hippies just didn't seem to grasp the concepts of satire. This was driven home to me one day when I was selling copies of the Mirror on the streets of Chicago's sixties hippie neighborhood known as Old Town. 
At this time, the press had been reporting that some hippies had been drying and curing banana skins to smoke for a legal high. In the Mirror we ran a piece satirically stating that smoking dog poop would provide an excellent psychedelic experience. We went on to say that the best variety of dog poop was something called "Lincoln Park Brown," and we gave tongue-in-cheek instructions for preparing the poop for smoking. We said that the new breed of dog-poop smokers were known as "shit heads." Get it? "Pot heads"? "Shit heads"? It's satire, right? But then when I was selling the mag on the street, this hippie came up to me and said, "Hey, man! Thanks for the tip on how to cure dog poop! We've been smoking it all week, and it's groovy!" I tried to explain to the kid that it was satire and that he shouldn't really be smoking dog poop, but he wouldn't listen. Apparently he was too blissed out of his mind on the nitrogen content of dog feces to grasp my explanation.
- Jay Lynch, "Introduction," eds. James Danky and Denis Kitchen, Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix (New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2009).

Saturday, September 14, 2013


The Simpsons enters its 25th season this month, putting it eight seasons ahead of Real World/Road Rules Challenge as the longest-running primetime television series in US history.  As that closest contender may suggest, genius is not necessarily coextensive with longevity, and yet when it comes to the endlessly lucrative brainchild of Matt Groening - to whom, along with Aaron Spelling and the NFL, the Fox Broadcasting Company owes its rise to the majors in the 90s - no critical approbation is spared.  Both Empire and Time ranked it the greatest TV show of all time, and it's so far roped in 27 Emmys, 13 in the last 13 years, during which consensus has observed an overall decline in quality.

It is, in other words, quite uncontroversially an essential component of any media nerd's viewing repertoire, and until now a glaring gap in mine.  Anyone with the misfortune of making small talk with me about over the past few months has probably heard at least twice that when I was a child, my parents, citing the wisdom of one or two cultural critics of note - Barbara Bush, perhaps? - no doubt, forbade me from watching The Simpsons, even as my peers watched and quoted it prodigiously.  It was primetime television, you see, and therefore under their jurisdiction as grand arbiters of our rayon tube Mitsubishi and the household more generally.  But they were early risers, and once they turned it at 9:30 sharp every Wednesday, I'd sneak out quietly a half hour later to taste the forbidden cable fruits of South Park, which was, all things considered, probably the more foul source of mental contamination in the pantheon of civilization-destroying animation.

What developed was a near religious devotion to the series.  I quoted it at length during lunchtime and my socializing favored other young men who found themselves doing the same.  As popular film and television criticism entered my reading diet and gave shape to emerging critical faculties, South Park became a favored object for defending a tenet I developed early and have held steadfastly ever since: the idea that absolutely anything can, and should, be funny.  I became a vocal champion of its particular mix of the sublime and the ridiculous, insisting that to dismiss the series for its bathroom humor and inevitable appeal to the Bugle Boy set would be to ignore searingly intelligent social satire.  According to this argument - one I'd happily advance today, with some qualifications - the farts weren't incidental to the parody, they were its strongest line of defense, warding the prudes away from the TV not unlike Tarkovsky claimed his slow beginnings scared the philistines out of the arthouse.

Part of this devotion was imagining my beloved show in competition with its closest kin, the way superhero universes are pitted against each other, and hence the undeservedly low regard in which I held The Simpsons.  Yes, it's funny and clever, I reasoned, but if it's tame enough for primetime, what's the point?  How fatally could it really mark its targets?  Mostly, it was a sort of contrarian move against my counterparts in The Simpsons camp, who charged South Park with riding the coattails of the former's innovations - a charge to which the latter pleas wholly guilty in sixth season classic "Simpsons Already Did It" (pictured below): as supervillain alter-ego Professor Chaos, Butters' would-be dastardly schemes are repeatedly revealed to have happened already on The Simpsons.  In all honesty, though, I was speaking in ignorance, as I had seen maybe a season's worth of The Simpsons in my entire life.  Now that I'm working to correct this egregious oversight, I can finally appreciate how ridiculous that dismissal really was.

More to come.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Half-assed Pitchfork Write-up, Part II

Continued from Part I.

One does not take the recommendations of a French punk in high heels lightly, and so I floated back to the red stage for Swans as soon as Savages had packed it in.  Until seeing them play the Melt! Festival outside Berlin a couple summers ago, I knew of them only vaguely as that late 80s goth band a bit artier and far less camp than Sisters of Mercy (an assumption I would later learn didn't even begin to do them justice).  After seeing the tectonic black magic they stirred up live, though, I was an immediate convert, making them one of the few groups I'd go out of my way to see more than once.  What I remember blindsiding me and my two Finnish companions, who (so I thought) were even less familiar with them than I, at Melt! was the uniquely visceral nature of their sound: it had the bludgeoning power of death metal but the deceptively sparse arrangements of a modernist string quartet.  Not that they were exactly minimalist - they enlisted the services of two drummers and three guitarists at any given moment and were fond of tubular bells - but their tightly wound, hypnotic attack had a way of sneaking up on you and forcing you to respond, rather than offering itself upfront for dismissal as a type of music you simply don't care for.

The approach was nearly identical in Chicago.  It's a solid strategy, not least of all for a band that, after a fifteen year hiatus, needed to capture the attention of greener ears, to supplement a fanbase that is both aging and probably pretty modest to begin with (they are no, say, Breeders, who were busy setting up at the main stage).  For said greener ears it's therefore hard to discern whether their current sound is the way they've always been, or whether they're simply leaner and meaner now that the stakes are higher on moving bodies (especially since moving units, in the age of Spotify, is next to impossible).  Lydia Lunch claims the latter, and manages to disparage my generation's tunnel vision when she does so.  So too did Swans frontman/mastermind Michael Gira (all silver mane and crow's feet these days, like Nick Cave and Jeff Bridges' love child), albeit a bit more benignly, via a mid-set comment about our "tight britches" paired with a rhyme that the day's first joint wiped from my short-term memory.  And let's be honest: the Pitchfork Music Festival is basically Easy Target Central, whether your pleasure is the plaid dude behind me extolling NPR's manifold virtues ("It keeps my mind sharp on long drives") or the suppler yields of "Urban Outfitters assistant managers" offering generous rump cuts to the Windy City's hungry eyes.

By the end of Swans I found myself once again alone, and so took the opportunity to buy beer, sweet potato fries, and an inexcusably bullshit hot dog.  As I took my meal under a grove of trees where many others were doing the same, I thought back to riding the CTA bus to get to the festival earlier that day.  Specifically, I thought of the kid overheard on the phone reporting his ETA and firmly instructing his friends to "not take the thizz yet."  He endeared himself to me in that moment on a few levels.  First, he couldn't have been any older than nineteen, and was very possibly younger, thus absolving him of any trespasses he might make against public dignity in my moral universe.  (To put things in perspective, I'm of the immovable position that no inquiry into whether George Zimmerman was technically acting in self-defense could advance past the simple fact of Trayvon Martin's age.)  Second, he made no attempt to euphemize his and his cohort's upcoming ingestion of controlled substances.  Did he think "thizz" was code enough?  Did he judge the double baker's dozen that boarded at North Ave. with him to be just old and out-of-touch enough not to know raver slang?  Or had he simply persuaded himself he wouldn't be judged?  Although the safest conjecture would've been none of the above, that he was a white North Shore suburbanite blissfully ignorant of the big city's don'ts and be carefuls, my more democratic impulses much preferred to think that he looked around himself and decided that he was among friends.  Looking around Union Park at the walking talking signifiers for the music snob taste community, I figured that if I were ever to feel that way, it would be here.

Kim Deal, I think.
In that way the Breeders, the day's second-to-headlining main stage act, was Pitchfork in quintessence.  Their meat-and-potatoes indie rock isn't Great Rock 101 the way, say, Pixies is, and rather than applying old tricks to new tunes the way, say, Swans did, they were playing a classic album in its entirety.  In short, I doubt the kids came to see Kim Deal: this set was for devotees of the 90s and all its treasures.  Not that this audience was in short supply, if the enormous crowd worshiping the hems of her mom jeans were any indication.  They just averaged more towards house-buying/baby-making age, their youthful follies behind them, settling into a midtempo groove - kind of like the Breeders, actually, who I like but don't love.

You'll have to excuse Andy Stott but Farmville is serious business.
In stark contrast was Andy Stott, a Manchester producer playing over at the low stakes blue stage (where Low had been overlapped with the Breeders in what can only be presumed to be contractual passive aggression).  This region of the festival was generally reserved for hip-hop and techno acts as part of the Pitchfork empire's backhanded attempts at diversification, but other than a description solicited from the couple behind me ("kind of really chill downtempo kind of thing"), I had no idea what to expect, although judging by the demonstrably teenaged crowd around me, it was meant to be danceable.  The decidedly undanceable tidal waves of bass and agonized screaming that greeted us were therefore a happy surprise, most of all because I could imagine it was hardly so happy for anyone else.  Eventually he settled into serviceable but rote deep house - throbbing 4/4, anonymous chanteuses - but for a brief, blissful, blitzed-out moment I was able to imagine that this super-hip club headliner was as antisocial as I was.

Great Scot, it's Stuart Murdoch!
My shortlived schadenfreude was but a palate-cleanser for the all-inclusive togetherness I would feel at the final act of the day, indie-pop elder statesmen Belle & Sebastian.  Having "discovered" them in college, I was a late convert to their deceptively straightlaced, distinctively Glaswegian style of AM pop, which had peaked critically sometime between the late 90s and my junior year of high school.  This theoretically made me doubly abstracted from what was designed as music for disaffected youth: not only was I already a few years past the age dramatized, but this Dylan-by-way-of-Lee-Hazlewood stuff was already a nostalgia trip to begin with.  But somehow that's pretty much the opposite of the almost overwhelming affect that overcame me when the familiar chords of "Boy with the Arab Strap" greeted the floodlit night sky.  Blame it on the booze, the weed, or the generous good vibes.  Or maybe blame it on Stuart Murdoch's way with a sheepishly sardonic lyric, which goes from Donald Fagen at inception to Nico at delivery (although his years of showmanship have rendered him more of a Jarvis Cocker these days, and that's no criticism).  For my money Belle & Sebastian's are among the relatively few rock lyrics I bother paying any attention, and "Judy and the Dream of Horses" is one of the best epitaphs of lost innocence I've yet to hear, which is to say nothing of that elegantly elementary strummed acoustic that ushers in Murdoch's lisped lament and the Burt Bacharach horns that pay it off.  Most remarkable of all, however, was the active involvement of an attendant constituency visibly too young to have been contemporary even with Dear Catastrophe Waitress.  Murdoch pulled a large group, wisely mostly female, onstage near the end, and though one did feel inspired to strip down to her bra, remarkably (mercifully) none felt inspired to twerk.  Like the enormous crowd at ground level before them, they looked nothing other than caught up in the unironic joy of it all, some of them even close to tears, maybe even yours truly included, but that's just between you and me, okay?

Occasionally my mind wandered to that kid on the Ashland bus.  Surely the ecstasy had taken its intended effect by now.  Whatever I was feeling, I could only imagine he and his cohort were feeling it times ten.  Assuming they were at Belle & Sebastian, that is, and not at the blue stage, where another Glaswegian, Rustie, was playing.  Come to think of it, that's probably exactly where they were.  Fucking kids these days don't know how good they have it.

*Photos once again courtesy Pitchfork Media.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Half-assed Pitchfork Write-up, Part I

Solo is what I prefer, or so I tell others as a defense mechanism for being a loner.  At the movies this is actually the case almost without exception due to stubbornly inconsistent attendance practices (read: preemptive buyer's remorse) but also the fear, occasionally validated, that I will find myself accompanied by a chronic phone-checker.  For live music I'm much more flexible (read: desperate for human contact), but the often prohibitive nature of ticket costs and the even more prohibitive nature of my taste in music make that sometimes an even harder sell.  So, I prefer solo, accompanied only by the internecine drives to drink and to be somehow productive when- and wherever I go as materialized by my trusty Moleskine.  This is how I expected to spend the Pitchfork Music Festival this year only to find my solitude interrupted by friends wandering into and out of my vicinity.  But committed I was to documenting the experience, and committed I remain, so here are, dear reader, my notes.  From one of three days.  After arriving late.  Attached to photos I found on the Internet.*  A week and a half after the fact.

Plans to arrive relatively early and catch well-recommended bands like KEN Mode and Parquet Courts were quickly jettisoned by attempts to graft a Platypus of Evan Williams onto the interior of my backpack.  The result was a mess of duct tape attached to a belabored alibi that my bag was a piece of shit requiring layers of adhesive to keep it from disintegrating upon contact.  Why bother with such a high maintenance accessory, you ask?  Well, officer, I won't be missing it if it gets stolen, will I?  Foolproof.  As the multipartite ruse no doubt suggests, I am a novice smuggler, held hostage by a lousy poker face and healthy fear of the law.  Many a college day I've spent admiring my more seasoned peers from afar, swigging proudly from expertly holstered hip flasks as I exchanged double market value for lukewarm beer like a sucker.  Now was my chance to avenge younger me against every grabby rent-a-cop ever to gain my deference.  Said rent-a-cop turned out to be a less-than grabby fat teenager with braces, who seemed hard-pressed to notice that I even had a bag to search.  But the booze got in, which is a success, you know, in consequentialist terms.  It was a moral victory.  Get over yourself, younger me.

...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead lead singer Conrad Keely demonstrates his creative process for 2006 LP So Divided.
My arrival coincided with ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead taking the stage.  I wandered into their modest crowd in the middle of "How Near, How Far."  Source Tags & Codes was the gateway drug for me, as it was for most indie rock guys of a certain vintage, so those syncopated snare fills and Conrad Keely's melismatic vocals brought me right back to about eight years ago, when a little free time and a lot of pot made this stuff mean a whole hell of a lot.  Indeed, Keely especially seemed to have never left 2002, unless Patton-Oswalt-fronting-Fallout-Boy was the look he was always cursed with.

Part of the band's torrid legacy - rife with major label disillusionment, intra-band squabbling, burnouts and rebirths - was a live show reportedly punctuated with the onstage destruction of expensive equipment.  Age (that or pesky liability clauses) seemed to have tempered their rich kid anarchism, but their show was still no less forceful and vivacious than a college kid looking for the midpoint between hardcore and post-rock could hope for.  ST&C was the most heavily represented album, as far as my ears could tell, but they did end with "Totally Natural," one of my personal favorites from their underloved sophomore LP Madonna.  They also played a tune from Worlds Apart, which gave band co-founder Jason Reese the opportunity to bite the hand that fed them by remarking that it was Pitchfork's favorite album (hint: it was not).  Sophomoric, yes, but pointed, especially in the context of curation carefully tuned to reflect the music mag's notoriously fickle taste.  When the festival was starting out back in 2006, Trail of Dead's music was getting regularly tepid responses from Pitchfork, after having earned a perfect 10 out of 10 from them with ST&C.  Hence, no invitation to Union Park was forthcoming, not until they could clean up their act and please the gatekeepers once again.  I'd be a little bitter, too.

Savages lead singer Jehnny Beth calls you out for your obscenely positive worldview.
After I had visited the beer tent two graduate school companions joined me and we headed to the adjacent stage to hear Savages, a recent beneficiary of the Pitchfork hype machine.  As much as I hate to admit it, though, they deserve it: in an overplayed field - post-millennial post-punk - their debut, Silence Yourself, could easily stand with Unknown Pleasures and The Scream, and they lived up to it live.  The sky was blue and the sun was out, hungrily seasoning grateful trees and the ample exposed flesh, but you'd hardly know it from Savages' seething, seedy gloom.  The old cliché about post-punk is that it's what happened when real musicians started playing punk, and that's what sets these five ladies apart from any number of likeminded nostalgists.  Even their drummer, whose performance on the kit was loose to the point of sloppy, fit the ensemble perfectly, lending their melodic discord an almost precarious brittleness.  The icing on the cake, though, was realizing that the lead singer's pitch-black jumpsuit was capped off with bright yellow stilettos, neither of which appeared to hinder her progress as she stalked the stage, daring the world to knock her off her pedestal.  Bitching.  By the time she had bowed and urged us to follow her over to Swans at the red stage, I was forced to acknowledge a few greater-thans by proxy:

1) all-chick bands > all-dude bands;
2) overpriced cold beer > dirt-cheap warm bourbon; and
3) standing in front of musicians with company > standing in front of musicians without company.

The final one hurt my pride the most but as they say, the first step to solving a problem is to admit that you have one.

To be continued...

* Photos courtesy Pitchfork Media.