Monday, July 9, 2007

Cat Power - Schizophrenia's Weighted Me Down

Last night I caught Cat Power in Boston. The show took me by surprise, being nothing at all like what I expected. Then again I didn't really know what to expect. I haven't read much about recent Cat Power gigs (since she sobered up) and last I heard about where those shows where she'd stop midway through song, restart multiple times, continuously apologize about her playing, or even just give up and drop the song all together. There's so many Chan Marshall concert stories that there could be a book, perhaps a multi volume encyclopedia. Last year a stereogum entry prompted its readers to post their Cat Power stories. Here's three aburd and maybe a little frightening snippets:

"There was a serious lack of finished songs. Lots of "get me a drink" and after an amazingly beautiful 3/4th of "Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground" she stops and yells
"Man, I want to fuck Jack White SOOO badly"She proceeded to talk about Jack White 6 or 7 more times, played six more half songs and stopped and started eating pizza on the side of the stage"

"Saw her play in London when "The Covers Record" came out. It was a quiet, all-seated venue, so when someone got up to go to the bathroom it was pretty obvious. About halfway through she stopped mid-song and said, in a hugely petulant manner, "Why does everyone keep leaving?" ('everyone' meaning the 5 or 6 people who had got up so far and then returned about 5 minutes.) After a bemused silence, someone said "Er...they're going to the bathroom." "WELL, WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME THAT?" she yelled, as if everyone should stop her mid-song and ask for permission before going for a leak."

"She said that, had she still been drinking, this show would probably prompt her to commit suicide. She wished for a “psychedelic sound button” on her piano and across the elementary classrooms of America. She talked of having her period, picking her crack, butt-crack, and “all her cracks”. She talked about getting sober and the vices picked up from becoming straight, all the while ashing her cigarette into her shirt pocket."

That you see, was the past. This show was incredibly professional and exquisitely performed. Even though the setlist was rather alienating to some, and light on material that was actually hers, it was no less engrossing. It consisted of about 5 songs from The Greatest (but sadly no "Lived in Bars"), "Naked I Wanted To" and "( I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," both in different arrangements than on The Covers Record, and the rest being new covers for her upcoming Covers Record II, tentatively titled Sun. As they feature her new Dirty Delta Blues backup band, and are surprisingly varied in degree of instrumentation. A problem I had with her first covers record was the sparseness of it all. While a slow acoustic guitar/piano and vocals song can be great in moderation, when they constitute multiple consecutive songs, it can get a little boring. While there's a few gems on that album, in my opinion the middle section is a little too repetitive. When the tempo finally speeds up with "Salty Dog," it's already the end of the record. I'm digressing though. So these new covers Chan is playing are fantastic, and I'm highly looking forward to Sun, apparently coming out late this year.

After the show I hung outside the venue for about 45 minutes to an hour, waiting for Chan to come out. There was a group of about six others there. Gregg Foreman, the piano player for this tour came outside and talked to us all for a good 20 minutes. Real nice guy. However I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with Chan's final emergence. It was all very strange initially, as she came out with two slices of pizza in her hand, walking over to us, asking if anyone wants a slice. She gave that crowd a quick word, literally less than 10 seconds. From the opposite direction I approached her, What Would the Community Think vinyl in hand with a silver sharpie uncapped in the opposite. She turned down my request for an autograph, saying "she's couldn't give them to everyone else." I stopped in my tracks for a moment, a bit baffled and she continued onwards. Why is she in such a hurry? The show the next day was in the same state, a mere 45 minutes away. Staying put for the moment I uttered, "a quick picture?" to which she responded in a dainty tone "One day!" At this moment I was maybe a little over 10 feet away from her. She was already at the tour bus door. At this exact moment something in me either engaged or popped, possibly both. I entered a strange state that couldn't be described as reality but it wasn't quite a dream. Come to think of it, you could call it fanboy desperation. "Come on, take a picture!" I was being sided with by my fellow fans. Why not go along with it? I outstretched my fingers, pressing my hands firmly together with a slight overlap and reached them out towards Chan as if she was the second coming. I pleaded "Pleeeaaseeee" emphasizing it with the obligatory sad-puppy look, my head slightly bobbed downwards but my eyes, especially big and gaping, looking to her. In desperation it seems we return to our most infantile impulses. She stopped dead in her tracks. Did I trigger her ironic dog-loving impulse? She did have a cute little dog with her. She gave a look then at could either be secession, realization, surprise or annoyance. I wish I could pinpoint which. In any case what happened in the next 10 seconds was a complete blur, but as I now recall intermittently I said something like "it'll be like...2 seconds," that rather than putting my arm around her which may have been awkward given the circumstances already I opted for a casual hand faintly touching her shoulder, I saw a flash, and I said "thanksireallyappreciateittheshowwasfanastic" on a dime like you could have just pulled a string. I forget if she said anything back. I think she may have smiled and said thanks. I was happy, though it wasn't as opportune as I had hoped/ played out in my head. I'm not going to turn this into a Chan was a bitch, post either, far from it, and to clarify none of this has been in that spirit, something that I don't think at all. She could have had a perfectly good reason for her rush. But if not, come on Chan. Give us a little time.

Well... I'd say it's about time for an mp3. Let's do "Schizophrenia's Weighted Me Down." It's a pretty rare song, originally the b-side for the "Nude as the News" single7". It's almost impossible to find this song commercially anymore. It's a bit of a mash-up cover, combining Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" and "Weighted Down" by Skip Spence. I'm not familiar with Skip Spence, but I just did a little research and the connection between the two would be that Skip suffered from Schizophrenia. He was the original drummer for Jefferson Airplace as well as Moby Grape guitarist. From wikipedia:

"During the 1968 recording of the group's second album, Wow, Spence allegedly attempted to break down a bandmate's hotel room door with a fire axe while on LSD, and was committed for six months to the criminal ward at New York's Bellevue Hospital. Upon his release, he recorded his only solo album, the now-classic psychedelic/folk album Oar. However, mental illness and alcoholism prevented him from sustaining a career in the music industry, and he lived much of his later life as a homeless person in Santa Cruz, California. When it finally seemed that he might have been overcoming those afflictions, lung cancer claimed him."

Jesus that's rough. I thought Daniel Johnston's story was bad...

Cat Power - Schizophrenia's Weighted Me Down

"Weighted down by possessions
Weighted down by the gun
Waited down by the river for you to come

And who socks were you darning, poor darling
While I was away, away too long
I went away to see an old friend of mine
Sister came over and knew she was out of her mind
She says "Jesus has a twin who don't know nothing about sin"
She was half crazy and out of her mind

Weighted down by possessions
Weighted down with a gun
Waiting down by the river for you to come

Her light eyes were dancing she is insane
Her brother says she's just a bitch on a golden chain
She keeps coming closer saying
"I can feel it in my bones, schizophrenia is taking me home"

Weighted down by possessions
I'm weighted down with my gun
I'm waiting down by the river for you to come".

More photos from the show

Cat Power @ Matador Records

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