Tag Archives: music

That Misfit from Mars

Like many of you, I woke up to the news of David Bowie’s death on Monday morning.

Also like many of you, I never met David Bowie. I never even saw him live. But when I heard the news, I felt a strong sense of loss and disbelief.

I read a story this week where the writer stated she wasn’t even aware that Bowie could die.

It is an absurd thing to say. And yet, as soon as I read it, I realized I felt that way too.

It wasn’t because he was a revered rock star. It wasn’t even because his music was so good that I could never live without it. Well maybe, it was a little bit of that.

Bowie was a man from another planet, made of moon rocks and magic.

His songs were strange and beautiful and struck every chord in your misfit soul. Or at least, in my misfit soul.

I first encountered David Bowie in the movie, Labyrinth. Sitting in my elementary art class, I watched Bowie dance across the screen as Jareth in his wickedly teased wig, artfully arched eyeshadow, and his hard-to-miss codpiece.

We watched Labyrinth for years in art class. It was a movie filled with music, magic, and mischief. A perfect pick to entertain a room full of kids.

There is at least a five-year span of students that attended my elementary school that know every word to “Magic Dance.” We have our art teacher, Mr. Castenson to thank for that. Him and the mesmerizing man himself, David Bowie.

Bowie was a musician, an artist, a storyteller, and a visionary. He was everything we wanted to be, whether we knew it or not. He was the words we couldn’t sing. He was the guitar licks we couldn’t master. He was the costumes we couldn’t wear. He was all the rules we were afraid to break.

Bowie took conventions and norms and crushed them under his stacked heel.

Without him, our world feels much duller, much quieter, and much less filled with magic.

This week’s video is “Magic Dance” by David Bowie. May he rest in peace.

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P.O.S Is (Not) Ruining My Life

I first saw P.O.S perform, when he opened for Cursive. It was May 2009, and I had moved to Minneapolis a few months before.

P.O.S had just put out the album Never Better. But I didn’t know this. I didn’t know who P.O.S was yet.

I had discovered The Current, a public radio station that plays an insane mix of independent music, classics, and local bands. So I was hearing his songs, though I didn’t know that yet either.

There is a line from “Savion Glover” where P.O.S raps, “Get your A.C. Slater on.” I remember hearing this line on the radio, and wondering who this rapper was. But as the next song played, this thought passed from my head.

Man Man was slated to open for Cursive. (I still have the tour poster hanging on my wall with Man Man’s name printed below Cursive’s.)

For some reason, the band couldn’t play. Before the show, The Current announced that an unnamed artist would replace Man Man. (Unnamed due to legal reasons with the label.)

So there I was, crushed into the crowd at First Avenue, the venue that would soon become my favorite place to see a show. And there he was, P.O.S up on stage.

I have a confession. As much as I like going to see shows, I don’t get into a band/musician if I am hearing their music live first. I like to be at least a bit familiar with the music, before I see a band perform. It makes it easier for me to access, I guess.

But then P.O.S started spitting rhymes. He was clever. He was funny. He was political. And he was punk as fuck.

I was hooked, and this show served as my introduction to the Minneapolis hip hop scene. For those of you that don’t know, Minneapolis has one of the best hip hop scenes in the country.

Soon, I would learn about the rest of Doomtree crew and fall hard for Dessa. And then Brother Ali. And Atmosphere. And most recently, GRRL PRTY and Lizzo.

Seeing P.O.S on stage that night was my gateway drug. And I am happiest when I get another fix. Luckily for me, he plays a lot of shows around here.

Tonight he is playing with the oh-so-fun GRRL PRTY and Mixed Blood Majority at First Avenue.

So if you’re at First Avenue, I’ll be the girl bobbing her head up and down, dancing until the sweat drips down my back, and mouthing all the words to my favorite P.O.S songs.

This week’s video is “Optimist” by P.O.S, which is off the Never Better record. It is a fun video, my friends. Enjoy.

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Suffering Doesn’t Equal Great Art

I fell in love with writing in the third grade. My teacher assigned us to finish a story- I think it was about camping- and I wrote page after page.

I was hooked.

When was in grade school, I liked to write longer stories. Around the time I was in junior high, my angst kicked in, and I was all about poetry. In high school, I started writing for the school newspaper. As an English and journalism major in college, I wrote poetry, memoir, essays, as well as articles for the university newspaper. After college, I was writing mostly poetry again.

Poetry gives you more freedom to play with language. It feels looser and more lyrical. Emotions are pulsing under the surface, barely concealed beneath the lines of prose.

Poetry also helped me deal with the things I couldn’t always articulate. It was a way for me get the angst out.

But if I wasn’t sad or upset by something, I didn’t write. I just didn’t feel as inspired.

It is a recurring theme amongst artists, writers, and musicians. To make art, one must suffer. There is the archetype of the penniless writer slaving behind a typewriter in a hovel. Or like Van Gogh, painters should be so mad with their talent that they cut off their left ear and present it to a lover.

To be great, artists must be miserable and bring themselves to the brink of insanity. And for years, I bought into this idea. And I’m not the only one.

Musician Amanda Palmer recently wrote an article “No, I Am Not Crowdfunding This Baby (an open letter to a worried fan).” The article was in response to a fan that worried Palmer was using crowdfunding to pay for the birth of her baby (don’t even get me started on this), as well as worrying having a baby was going to force Palmer to lose her artistic edge.

The idea of suffering for art is so prevalent a self-proclaimed fan of Palmer’s seems to begrudge her the ability to birth a child. It. Will. Make. Her. Too. Happy.

But Palmer no longer buys into this idea.

“I have come to believe we don’t have to suffer to make art. But- still, to this day- I’ve had a hard time shaking the belief that suffering and isolation are critically important ingredients to art-making.” –Amanda Palmer, full article available at: https://medium.com/@amandapalmer/no-i-am-not-crowdfunding-this-baby-an-open-letter-to-a-worried-fan-9ca75cb0f938

It is hard idea to shake. I have had a hell of a time shaking it.

But there is a difference between working hard and suffering. An artist needs to be willing to push themself. And to be successful, there is a certain level of sacrifice required. You must be willing to sacrifice time certainly, but I would argue sanity and happiness are not necessary sacrifices.

I don’t have to write only sad stories. Sadness and anger will always be sources of inspiration. A bad date is a goldmine of material for stories, believe me. But I can live a happy life and still find inspiration. I have learned to appreciate the beauty in this world, and I would much rather surround myself with that.

One of the joys of being a writer is letting your imagination unfurl and reaching into the recesses of your mind. It is possible to invent entire worlds and languages. Look at J.R.R. Tolkien. Not all stories come from directly from a writer’s experience.

It is why I sit down day after day and put my hand to keys, the thought that today is the day I’m going to get it right. Today is the day I’m going to crack open my skull and pull out the bloody meat of my best story. And if I don’t, there are always new things to be inspired by tomorrow, whether these things are beauty, sadness, injustice, or some combination of it all.

This week’s video is “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse. Winehouse was a wickedly talented musician, and she left us too soon. I wish she had suffered less for her art.

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