I like talking about where I’m from. Occasionally I talk about it so much that I end up inviting people to see it for themselves, and some of them actually come. My roommate Roberto was subjected to this treatment by his three Turkish friends, myself included. So instead of going to his hometown on the US-Mexico border, he ended up spending two weeks of his winter break on the other side of the world, visiting us in Istanbul.
After his 6th day in the city, he had run the gamut of all the must-see sights: all the churches and the palaces and the monuments and the churches-turned-into-mosques and the mosques-modeled-after-churches. There is a tendency to conceive of Istanbul exclusively as a historical city, so I wanted Roberto to visit something from this century. My mother suggested Arter, the newest addition to Istanbul’s contemporary arts scene.
As I look for a comfortable viewing space within the crowd here to see YACHT’s performance at Rough Trade, I am surprised how packed the venue is. Since I discovered YACHT (“Young Americans Challenging High Technology”) in my early teens, the band’s renown has exploded. YACHT has gone from a little-known alternative favorite to a fairly known Grammy-nominated kombucha-drinking-crowd-drawing phenomenon.
When I saw the band in January of 2018 in Manhattan on their “Strawberry Moon” tour, the small venue they performed in was maybe halfway full – I was never more than an arm’s length away from frontwoman Claire L. Evans, and she was able to leave the stage and dance through the crowd. Now, YACHT’s audience nearly fills Rough Trade, which has a capacity of 250. I can barely scope out a space by the bar.
The day after the hottest day ever recorded in Paris (42 degrees Celsius, 108 degrees Fahrenheit), two things happen. One: Batsheva’s Young Ensemble—the training appendage of the modern dance group Batsheva Dance Company—puts on its final show for the Festival Paris l’Été, performing the 2000 piece Decadance. Two: the heat breaks—just gives way—and is forgotten. The cold lands in its place. Leaves fall, as if in autumn.
These two things happen at the same time. They are unrelated. The cold did not come for Batsheva. It is there for them nonetheless. That explains the sweater I pull on—layering, the first time this summer—before walking the six blocks from my apartment to the theatre. Explains, too, the see-through rain-coats that volunteers hand out at the door. Your call. But it’s going to rain, one insists, after I decline.
I am living in D.C. for the summer and commuting to work via train. I’m in a residential neighborhood approximately one mile away from the Fort Totten Metro station. It’s a green, suburban walk to the station and I see a lot of deer. I also get a lot of catcalls. Google Maps says it takes 23 minutes, but the ETA algorithm does not take into account catcall-induced acceleration. I can do it in 15. In order to get to work on time, I must quell the instinct to run up to the offenders and shake my fist. Here are the pieces of my mind I never ended up giving them.
June 25, 2019 at 9:14 p.m. New Hampshire Ave. NE
Lingered a little too long at the park near the Fort Totten Metro station observing a family of deer, and now it's dark out. We all know that the Honda Civic, particularly one of the mid-2000s variety, is fundamentally a sexless family vehicle.
On a summertime Tuesday night, the Brooklyn queer bar 3 Dollar Bill readied itself to host an unlikely trinity. I wandered in among the ticketholders who were congregating, apparently undaunted by the impending weekday morning, for a performance of Oscar at the Crown. The website announcing this “immersive nightclub phenomenon” promised a show that would situate in one dystopian future the three pillars of society: sequins, Oscar Wilde, and the housewives of Orange County.
A lot to prepare for, perhaps, so the musical’s site also offered some advice: “Wear something cool!” The wardrobes of the audience had clearly obliged. The primary colors dutifully coalesced in a corner over a round of drinks: bright red jumpsuit on one attendee, on another, a bluish sleeveless two-piece number complete with buttons and lapels, and on a third, a canary tee proclaiming, “I’m a limited luxury edition of myself.
Electric Forest takes place in a woodland of thousands of years old. Bonnaroo features craftsmen and artisans vending their wares. Coachella is... Coachella. Aspiring to some bohemian or rustic ideal (whether achieved or not), each of these events has its idiosyncratic personality. But Boston Calling is the corporate-sponsored, licensed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life, capitalist cousin of these festivals. It’s as if it was designed in a boardroom at McKinsey—at the 2019 edition of Boston Calling, everything ran smoothly, but after the music ended, the revelers departed without a single distinctive memory of the festival organization itself.
Fortunately, Boston Calling gets its music right. This year’s cast was studded in gold—the lineup included indie sweethearts Mitski and Tame Impala; hip-hop superstars Travis Scott and Anderson .
I am a son of Tahrir
Born into hope, into heat, into thousands of voices
I am a son of Tahrir, out in the crowd on the street
Our pain, our pride, our choices
Tahrir is now
And, now is here
We’ll wait an hour, a day, a month, a year
We have cracked the wall of fear
We’ll see it crumble
“Tahrir Is Now,” a song from the musical “We Live in Cairo,” was playing in the background as I read the news about the controversy over the local elections in Turkey. The ruling party, which has been in power for 17 years now, lost the municipal elections to the opposition in Istanbul. However, the newspaper wrote, the ruling party was refusing to accept the election results, alleging that there had been fraud. “Do our choices really matter?” I asked myself.
“No,” the state replied, as it overturned the election results after a few weeks.
Like most famous people, Louise Glück is shorter than I expected. At Glück’s reading on April 10th in the Barker center, the room was so packed I had to sit on the floor. From this vantage, I had a better view of the audience than of the stage, such that when Glück arrived, what I saw first was not the poet herself, but the awed looks that followed her into the room, signaling that this, this mild and unassuming figure, was the Poet Laureate, the Louise Glück.
Glück’s reading was a study in contrasts. The poems were packed with the first-person, existential intensity that characterizes her work. Yet in performance, she read her work in a slow, husky monotone that felt oddly quiet and small. Glück herself presented no fewer contradictions. Though plainly-dressed, soft-spoken, and diminutive, Glück moved through the room with unseen force, parting the crowd with ease.
The dry heat makes the grass yellow outside the Harvard athletic complex, but the AstroTurf remains green for Boston Calling. As Boston’s festival goers descend upon the complex, the smell of fried food, sweat, and just a whiff of the ganja permeates the air. But why do people come to music festivals? For the star-studded line up or for those strange moments of community found in the ever-pushing crowd? For the Insta/snap story or for the time with friends? For the likes or for what they like? And perhaps more importantly, what makes music festivals special? Are they like a lunch buffet special that is only appealing in combining everything for one, reasonable package-price? Or is a music festival greater than the sum of its events? On Friday afternoon, Noname performed on the green stage.
2018’s Boston Calling music festival promises to daze, entrance and brew revelry under the proverbial roof of Harvard’s athletic complex. This year’s festival will include performances by festival mainstays The Killers, Eminem and Jack White, as well as performances by critically acclaimed indie acts including Julien Baker, Thundercat and St. Vincent. The full artist list can be found at http://bostoncalling.com. Boston Calling has brought out a truly stellar lineup this year, paying particular attention to increasing the range of artists and musical styles it represents. This year’s Boston Calling promises to satiate music and culture lovers of all tastes. The festival will feature prominent rappers including Eminem; Tyler, The Creator; Cousin Stizz; and Brockhampton, while also presenting indie artists such as Dirty Projectors and Big Thief and major rock artists such as Queens of the Stone Age and Paramore.
Seeing Angel Olsen play Madrid is a bit like watching your childhood best friend meet the roommates: it’s beautiful, but sometimes you need to duck out of the room. Olsen is here, here being Europe, to promote Phases, 2017’s collection of folk/rock anthems that didn’t make it into her four previous albums. It’s a tour for the fans, who’ve filled the thousand seat theatre. She promises the crowd she’ll play any song we like. I catch myself wondering if anyone else is having an out-of-body experience. Like the Orpheum in San Francisco or Boston’s own Opera House, Madrid’s Calderon is capped with a neck-achingly beautiful ceiling and impossibly low-backed seats. The fluttering vibrato of Olsen’s voice in “Iota,” and even the power-ballad of “Never Be Mine” are swallowed up. Standing is difficult: the chairs, which are covered in dark velvet, keep everyone firmly anchored in place and exactly one arm-rest away from the nearest neighbor.
When I got there, late last Thursday night, the Sinclair had an unusually low-key energy. It kind of felt like the Powers That Be had pushed back Twain's stage time (they were opening for Darlingside) to do a late-night sound check, or like the venue had been delaying things with a recorded set list but the speakers had conked out. Even with the low audience hum, it was that quiet, and there was that little energy. And having listened to Twain’s label debut with Keeled Scales (Rare Feeling (2017), more info here) a few times through now, the reality of their live performance was awkward; I had been expecting the coherent, and (occasionally) profoundly listenable sound that defines tracks like "Solar Pilgrim" and "Freed from Doubt," and instead found myself struggling to follow along. I'm sympathetic, though; all it takes is a coffee house experience or two to know that it's really, profoundly hard for acoustic groups to command attention, when that attention isn’t already there.