It Could Be Nothing…

It Could Be Nothing… has always been one of my favourite bands in Charlotte history. Only today did I find these YouTube videos from almost 20 years ago. Since they’re playing tonight as part of Tremont Music Hall’s 20th anniversary celebration, it seems fitting to share them.

Chances are good that I was at this show, because I seldom missed them and I was at Tremont so much in those days it was like a second home. I forgot that It Could Be Nothing… used to put lamps up on their amps sometimes when they played.

The photos in this video really take me back. You can see their practice room at the late, beloved Rehearsalot, a building on the edge of downtown Charlotte where several local bands practiced. Maybe someday I’ll write a post all about Rehearsalot, because it was one of the greatest things that ever happened in the much smaller Charlotte of the 1990s. One or two of the guys from various bands lived there when they were between apartments. Many of the guys would play in each others’ bands, whether on a record or for a gig. I spent a good bit of time at Rehearsalot myself, and it was where I interviewed some of the bands for my old magazine, Tangents. Along with a couple of my Tangents cohorts, I interviewed It Could Be Nothing… in their practice room. They were funny, laid-back guys and I always thought they were one of the bands that should have reached a wider audience. Songs like “To a Pulp” (sadly not on YouTube), “On Tongues,” and “Recovering Fumbles” are good evidence of just what the world was missing.

Remembering Chris Peigler

I wasn’t updating this blog at all when Chris Peigler died, and that’s a shame. He was one of the sweetest guys you could ever be lucky enough to know and among the truest punk rock souls the world has ever known. Chris passed away January 8, 2014, leaving a decades-long legacy in the Charlotte music scene and a lot of heartbroken friends. He was about ten years older than me, and at his funeral there were teenagers who were crushed to lose their mentor and dear friend. Chris made a big impact on several generations: old, middle-aged, and young.

There are probably some bands I’m forgetting, but he sang and played bass in Intensive Care, Proletariat Madonna, My So-Called Band, and the Rogue Nations. The little guy in the black cap you’ll see in the video below is Chris. In all the years I knew him, I never saw Chris without that cap until the viewing at the funeral home.

The last time I ever spoke to Chris was at the Whooville party that my friends JoJo and Greg throw every year in December. Only weeks later, Chris would be gone from this plane of existence. He asked me what I was up to those days. People ask that question a lot just because it’s a way to move a conversation along, but he really meant it. Chris genuinely wanted to know what was up with my writing in particular, and in those days… well, sadly, not a lot was going on. That night Chris was sickly (and had been for a while, as I later learned), and he was feeling down about his latest musical collaborators being less than reliable, but he was defiant in his quiet way. To learn just weeks later that he was gone was a huge shock, and made that last conversation take on so much meaning for me. By his own refusal to give up, Chris was one of the ones who inspired me to start writing poetry again everyday. My guess is that he inspired many of the people he knew, and continues to do so a year after he left us.

Songs That (Could Have) Saved Me: Love and Anger

Love_and_Anger

Last week was Kate Bush’s birthday, so in tribute to her, I’ve decided to write a little bit about what one of her songs means to me. It’s a little more personal than I’ve tended to get in this blog.

Sometimes there are moments of clarity that, even though they arrive like a lighting bolt, are put into action slowly because you are too frightened by what they mean. Music has brought me more epiphanies than just about anything else. Sometimes they’re unpleasant epiphanies, ones that could have saved me a lot of heartache if only they had arrived sooner or if I had been bold enough to take action in the moment they arrived.

I had been married to my first husband for only about a year when I noticed that “Love and Anger” by Kate Bush was trying to tell me something. He was driving us somewhere and a compilation that I’d made with this song on it was playing. I was singing along, as I love to do, and something clicked in my brain: he and I weren’t “building a house of the future together” in either a literal or figurative sense. We were holding it together, but not well. The mind and the heart are stubborn, though, especially when you’re afraid of big life changes and have just made one of the biggest. Almost immediately, I pushed that revelation aside. I decided that what was really speaking to me in the song was this:

It lay buried here. It lay deep inside me.
It’s so deep I don’t think that I can speak about it.
It could take me all of my life,
But it would only take a moment to
Tell you what I’m feeling,
But I don’t know if I’m ready yet.

Of course, the thing that I wasn’t ready to tell was not something about myself, but about what I knew to be the truth about him and me. “A little piece of rope won’t hold it together.” That rope was little more than a cheap wedding ring bought in a witchy jewelry boutique, a ring that was intended to be replaced eventually by a custom-made permanent ring but never was.

It’s a song that I had known since I was 16, but as is so often the case with songs that are written by adults about adult concerns, I just didn’t get it then. You can interpret the song as a message of hope, as long as the narrator is speaking of love that can weather those struggles in the story. In our case, there was not really love after all, but there was plenty of anger. Deep down I knew it, but I had just made a life-wrecking mistake and I didn’t know how I could repair the damage. Sometimes an epiphany in a song shakes you so much that you can’t deal with it. I wasn’t well for a long time, but when that rope finally snapped from years of fraying, suddenly I was better again.

There’s always something to be said for learning from one’s mistakes, and I still love this song. In fact, I’d say that I love it more than ever. It reminds me of what I don’t have to endure anymore.

Aesthetically, the song is lush and so is the video. It was the first time I had ever seen Sufis dancing and it made an impression. Twenty-five or so years later, this song and video have lost none of their beauty.

Last of the Ramones

Ramones by the RamonesTommy Ramone passed away yesterday. The last original punk has gone. Others may recreate a ghost of it in their own image, but the original punk will always live in the sizzlepop of the needle on the record, the soft creak of black leather and jeans busted at the knees, the scuff of Chuck Taylor soles on asphalt. It lives in two-minute slices of the most fun-loving fury you ever heard.

My first favourite band was the Ramones. I saw them once at an in-store signing at the old Record Exchange in Cotswold Mall — not that I could truly say I met them, having no time or nerve to say more than “thank you.” That night they played the Pterodactyl Club. It was a great day and even then, in the ’90s, they were a force of nature. I’m not going to pretend that I’m their biggest fan, but I will always respect and recognise the fact that they had a big hand in making me who I am.

Today it’s too hot to wear a leather jacket in tribute, but I’ll wear my Chucks and some blue jeans. Some kind soul has uploaded a 1977 Ramones show at CBGB. It’s the closest you can get to worshiping at the temple of punk.

Remember This Band: The Chameleons

This originally appeared on tangentsmag.com, but I’m re-posting an updated version of it here.

Chameleons Vox live at the Black Cat, November 2011

Chameleons Vox live at the Black Cat, November 2011

Back in the ’90s, my friend Jeff used to speak in glowing terms about a great old post-punk group called the Chameleons (with an extra UK added to the name in the US). He knew my musical taste well, having almost identical preferences, and a lot of it has to do with ’80s bands from Manchester, England — home to the Chameleons. He was right to recommend them to me, because they’ve become one of my most beloved bands.

In 1981, singer/bassist Mark Burgess, guitarist Reg Smithies, guitarist Dave Fielding, and drummer Brian Schofield (soon replaced by John Lever) formed the Chameleons from the remnants of other area bands. They attracted the notice of influential BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, who had them in to record Peel Sessions multiple times.

Their classic debut single “In Shreds” was released on CBS Records, its searing desperation married to an irresistible post-punk style. Despite respectable sales, CBS wanted to change the band’s sound, but the Chameleons disagreed and were dropped. They found a new home at a label called Statik and released their first album, Script of the Bridge, in 1983. Start to finish, it was one flawless, darkly atmospheric tune after another. Because Virgin Records distributed Statik, they couldn’t qualify for the independent charts that would get them more music press coverage. Angry about an edited version of their debut that was released on MCA in the US, the band tried to get out of their contract but were obligated to one more release with Statik. Two years later, What Does Anything Mean? Basically distinguished the band as far more than a one-album wonder. After signing with Geffen, the Chameleons released Strange Times in 1986, another haunting set of tunes that, sadly, would prove to be their last for a long time. Following the death of manager Tony Fletcher, the grieving band split up in 1987.

Still, the guys eventually realized they had left their story unfinished. Putting aside hard feelings, they decided to do a brief reunion tour in 2000 and released a limited edition acoustic EP titled Strip. The next year saw the Chameleons’ first studio album since 1987, Why Call It Anything? Yet another solid album, its tone was warmer and even reggae-tinged thanks to new percussionist and guest vocalist Kwasi Asante. After its release, the band again fell apart acrimoniously. Today they’re revered as a band that never put out a bad album.

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Still more U2: Happy 20th birthday, Zooropa!

I know I’m posting a lot about U2 these days, but in this case it’s because they just had a milestone — Zooropa is 20 years old as of a couple weeks ago and I couldn’t forget to post about it. Back then I was the entertainment editor at my college newspaper and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Zooropa with a press kit, which made me feel more important and cool than I actually was. I still have that CD and the press kit photo.

This album got a mixed response at the time, but I see essays praising its experimentation and musical foresight now. The only song on the album I can’t really say I love is “Babyface,” but otherwise I adore it. There’s an exhilarating moment in the opening title track where the band kicks into full force halfway through the song, emerging from buzzing layers and spoken fragments between verses. After all this time, I still think it’s one of the most exciting moments in their discography.

The band played “Zooropa,” the song, on its 360 Tour a few years ago. Here’s a multi-camera video from the Baltimore show that brings me right back to that moment in the show when I saw them in Atlanta. I get goosebumps while watching it.

You can listen to this playlist and hear the whole album for yourself.