Me and Nick Cave at Stubb's, SXSW 2013

>> Tuesday, April 16, 2013



I confess, through the entirety of this video I was looking for my own damn head.  I like to pretend I'm not much of a narcissist, but here I am, practically like one of those schmucks that waves at the camera from the windows behind the hosts on a morning television show.  And the funny thing is I hate having my picture taken at all, so here I am looking for myself in a video clip and feeling both pleased and disappointed that I am behind other peoples' heads.

If I am onscreen at all, I am stage left--that is, left when you're standing on the stage, looking out at the crowd; I'm about five feet, maybe, from the cameraman who was stationed over there, maybe at a 45-degree angle from the balcony that's stage left at Stubb's, three or four rows back (except there aren't really actually rows).  I nevertheless had a clear view of the stage, right there in front of Warren Ellis (the bearded violinist and tenor guitar player, not the comic-book writer known for Planetary, et al.; the cult fame of two Warren Ellises throws me for some reason, always makes me want to think the Bad Seeds' Warren Ellis is somebody else, even though I'm far better acquainted with the works of the musical Ellis than the comic book Ellis, whose work I'm only passingly familiar with; perhaps when I'm writing something like this, I assume--without any evidence, actually--that readers, mostly friends, read comics more than they listen to The Bad Seeds; anyway).

There was a moment early on when I spotted a roundish face with beard and glasses, but after several pauses and scrollbacks and restarts, I decided it wasn't me at all, that the person I was looking at, although he was round as am I, had glasses as do I, is bearded as am I, bobs his head and shifts foot-to-foot as I tend to do standing at a concert, was too close to the stage to be I.  He must be another fat bearded blind white man who doesn't dance much or well at a live show.  "Two of us in the world, and at a Nick Cave show, who would have thought?  What are the chances?" he asked sarcastically and rhetorically; I am conspicuously generic in so many ways, which possibly has something to do with looking for myself in a filmed crowd--it would be nice not to be filmed, and somehow nicer to stand out in some inoffensive way if I am (we should be specific: being noticeable in a crowd because you're the only person in view scratching your genitals and then picking your nose is probably undesirable unless your bucket list includes becoming a vulgar animated GIF someday).

Some may wonder if the ScatterKat is in the video.  There was a drawing to allow people with passes in, because there were too many people to let everyone in, and I won a spot and the ScatterKat didn't; and being a ScatterKat of enormous generosity, she didn't begrudge me my one best chance to see Mr. Nick Cave strut the stage.  I am a lucky, lucky man for this and other reasons, and might as well take the moment to express my gratitude to whatever blinds the SK to the reality that she can probably do better.

I have not written about the music.  The music was exceptional and Cave was in fine fettle, though impatient and obviously irritated with the cameras (including NPR's--the moment in the above clip where he waves an arm at the camera I was standing near was less a gesticulation and more a pushing away if you saw it from the side and only a few away).

He works himself up into a character or maybe even a caricature, and it was obviously distracting to him (I thought) to be balling himself up into this intense decadent manic depressive priest of some dark faith only to look down at these fishy glass eyes rising from the crowd's depths.  He was similarly irritable earlier in the day, when the ScatterKat and I saw him interviewed in a room at the Convention Center, and for several minutes after he came onto the dais photojournalists with Serious Cameras and fans with cellphones came up and clicked at him until he tersely asked if they were done yet, handling the tide more effectively than old Canute.

But you can see the performance in the video I may not be in, and you can hear the entirety of the set here.  I could dance about architecture all day, but you either clicked on the video above and watched as much as you could stand before deciding you don't get the fuss or you watched the whole thing and were perhaps a little jealous you weren't there yourself.  I thought it was a pretty fine set and Cave a helluva showman; I might have thought his voice sometimes was a little strained (but I think you can hear that yourself, too, in "From Her To Eternity") and the Seeds were just brilliant and fine (though one has to reluctantly admit that the current Seeds, while phenomenal and one doesn't intend to criticize by being honest, aren't quite at the heights they reached in previous eras with alumni Bargeld, Harvey and Powers; what a crappy and demeaning thing to have to say, but then you don't want to lie, either, especially when you're slicing hairs between great and as great as).

I have to admit that while I enjoyed liveblogging  and reviewing SXSW in 2011, I couldn't quite come up with writing mojo in Austin this year.  The ScatterKat and I had a great time.  And it would have been nice if I had the spark to share some of the insights I gleaned from the Beatles panel featuring Robyn Hitchcock and Rodney Crowell; or the joy of seeing George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell on a dais together to discuss the ancient mysteries of P-Funk; or Richard Fucking Thompson making me almost cry twice on the same day with two separate performances of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (in the morning at a songwriters interview at the Convention Center, in the evening onstage at a showcase); or any of the music, music, music.  I would love to say that this was wholly because I was distracted by the ScatterKat's charms and sharing the pleasures of a really cool city and legendary music conference and festival with her; the truth is I am in the midst of an existential writing crisis in which I am not writing much on the rare occasions I'm writing at all.  It is at the point where I might be happy to consider myself a bad writer just because being a bad writer would necessarily imply I am a writer (bad writer naturally being a subcategory, etc.); I am, instead, currently, someone who sits around thinking I ought to be writing only to realize I have nothing but spare parts lying around my brain and no idea how any of them ought to attach to anything; I rationalize this by claiming I'm "thinking" about "stories", but the grim truth is something else at the moment.



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