Bumbershoot Part II: Sonic Youth

I arrived outside Seattle Center and found a parking space less than two blocks from the gate. Then I got in line to go into the gate and saw the line going the other way into the stadium. The line kept going and going. In fact, it stretched all the way across the Seattle Center grounds. I had been looking forward to catching another act before I went into the stadium, but I grit my teeth and hopped in line. Fortunately, it moved along pretty quickly and before long I was inside listening to Modest Mouse. I’m not really a fan, but I noted that their singer seemed to be trying to do a Jim Morrison with a little bit of his baritone yelp, that is when he was singing instead of yelling.

When all the Modest Mouse fans started leaving the stadium, I made my move–all the way up front to within about 15 feet of the security guards in front. Reached in my pocket for my earplugs–oops, still at home. Hoped that the sound system wasn’t as deafening as it was at the 9:30 Club, where I had last seen Sonic Youth in 1998–before all their gear got stolen, before Jim O’Rourke joined, before they released the mostly throwaway NYC Ghosts & Flowers and the brilliant Murray Street.

A commotion. Lee Ranaldo had hopped on stage to check some of the gear. We yelled, “Lee!” He turned around and grinned as he headed back offstage. A few minutes later, the band came out and plugged in. Thurston started with a few chords. “Kotton Krown.” Then “The Empty Page.” Then “Drunken Butterfly.” People started really getting into this one–crowd was moshing and some people started crowd surfing. But the energy was really good. Amazing, in fact. Then someone cut in front of me and just stood there. But the nice geek next to me (with whom I had discussed SourceForge prior to the show) and his girlfriend (who looked uncannily like Rory Gilmore) helped me get rid of him.

More incredible music. I don’t remember the order, but “Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style,” “Candle,” “Sympathy for the Strawberry” (Lee played keyboards and broke two guitar strings!), “Rain on Tin” (Jim O’Rourke got to do some amazing feedback), “Plastic Sun.” A few I’ve forgotten. Then Kim stepped up to the mic as Thurston hit “Kool Thing.” I thought the crowd had been going before, but I was wrong, wrong. The song didn’t miss Chuck D, and it had a nice moment where Kim said, “You gonna free us girls from male, white, corporate oppression? … We have this friend. She had to take most of her clothes off to sell records, her label said. Then the label said, ‘Mariah? You’re half naked, you need a makeover!’”

The band went offstage, then came back on and played “Disconnection Notice.” After the rest of the set, it felt somber and almost valedictory. This was the last set of their tour. Wind came up into Lee’s hair. They left the stage. I left the stadium and drove home.


Spent the first part of the morning waterproofing our fence, then trimming the fifteen foot hedge that separates us from our loud neighbors. Ouch. My muscles are still sore. We also removed some low hanging branches from the trees in the front yard. Those three activities were supposed to have taken us the morning; they took us all day–at least, until I left to go back to Bumbershoot. Lisa had had enough of the crowds and didn’t come with me, but I was on a mission. I had to see Sonic Youth.

Football humor

This is by way of apologies for infrequent updates over the last few days: some observations on how the northeast and the South look at football differently. After all, after the shellacking the Cavaliers took against Florida State this weekend, we all need a laugh:

Women’s Accessories
North: ChapStick in back pocket and a $20 bill in the front pocket.
South: Louis Vuitton duffel with two lipsticks, waterproof mascara, and
fifth of bourbon. Money is not necessary; that’s what dates are for.

Stadium Size
North: College football stadiums hold 20,000 people.
South: High school football stadiums hold 20,000 people.

North: Expect their daughters to understand Sylvia Plath.
South: Expect their daughters to understand pass interference.

Campus Decor
North: Statues of founding fathers.
South: Statues of Heisman trophy winners.

Homecoming Queen
North: Also a physics major.
South: Also Miss America.

North: Rudy Guliani
South: Archie & Peyton Manning

Getting Tickets
North: 5 days before the game you walk into the ticket office on campus
and purchase tickets.
South: 5 months before the game you walk into the ticket office on
and put name on waiting list for tickets.

Friday Classes After a Thursday Night Game
North: Students and teachers not sure they’re going to the game, because
they have classes on Friday.
South: Teachers cancel Friday classes because they don’t want to see the
few hung-over students that might actually make it to class.

North: An hour before game time, the University opens the campus for
South: RVs sporting their school flags begin arriving on Wednesday for
weekend festivities. The really faithful arrive on Tuesday.

Game Day
North: A few students party in the dorm and watch ESPN on TV.
South: Every student wakes up, has a beer for breakfast, and rushes over
to where ESPN is broadcasting “Game Day Live” to get on camera and wave
the idiots up North: who wonder why “Game Day Live” is never broadcast
their campus.

North: Raw meat on a grill, beer with lime in it, listening to local
station with truck tailgate down.
South: 30-foot custom pig-shaped smoker fires up at dawn. Cooking
accompanied by live performance by “Dave Matthews’ Band,” who come over
during breaks and ask for a hit off bottle of bourbon.

Getting to the Stadium
North: You ask “Where’s the stadium?” When you find it, you walk right
South: When you’re near it, you’ll hear it. On game day it becomes the
state’s third largest city.

North: Drinks served in a paper cup, filled to the top with soda.
South: Drinks served in a plastic cup, with the home team’s mascot on
filled less than half way with soda, to ensure enough room for bourbon.

When National Anthem is Played
North: Stands are less than half full, and less than half of them stand
South: 100,000 fans, all standing, sing along in perfect four-part

The Smell in the Air After the First Score
North: Nothing changes.
South: Fireworks, with a touch of bourbon.

Commentary (Male)
North: “Nice play.”
South: “Dammit, you slow sumbitch tackle him and break his legs.”

Commentary (Female)
North: “My, this certainly is a violent sport.”
South: “Dammit, you slow sumbitch tackle him and break his legs.”

North: Neutral and paid.
South: Announcer harmonizes with the crowd in the fight song, with a
in his eye because he is so proud of his team.

After the Game
North: The stadium is empty way before the game ends.
South: Another rack of ribs goes on the smoker. While somebody goes to
nearest package store for more bourbon, planning begins for next week’s

Bumbershoot Part I

Written Saturday 31 Aug: Just got back from our first day at Bumbershoot. Mental note: look at the map first next time. We parked on the wrong side of the Seattle Center for the Will Call desk, and that’s a long walk.

Despite which it was really pleasant. Walked around in the sun, watched a goofy circus, heard a lot of percussionists, laughed at kids trying out hula hoops for the first time, watched the last two songs of Johnny Lang and the first three of Ani DiFranco.

Watching Ani: the first two songs sounded pretty much alike: spoken lyrics, sung chorus, spiky guitar accompaniment. The third one got lyrical. She introduced it as a “long rambling folk song.” As she played I watched a blind woman being led down the sidelines of the stadium field by an usher; her cane steadily slid ahead of her, bobbing from side to side, as Ani played.

Tomorrow, Sonic Youth. Tonight, collapse.