I Testify: Neko Case at Webster Hall, Blessed Be

Just got back from seeing Neko Case at Webster Hall. Case is truly blessed and thus, for the duration of this evening, were we.

It’s amazing to witness this woman of my generation and ilk — that is, we who are now more busty than skinny, hurdling head-first into our late 30s; we with the hair dye once deployed only ironically now valiantly covering gray’s tracks; we, the forever latch-key kids with the afterschool TV forever pepper-and-salting our tongues; we 60s babies’ babies whose limbs and hips and hearts are frozen by a paralyzingly self-conscious irony — it’s amazing to witness one of us so generously and comfortably fill a stage. Her set was so grand, so heroic, so long that even though I arrived a full hour into it from my j-o-b job, I still caught 45 minutes of that voice, that voice, that voice soaring into the rafters where I stood uncharacteristically still so as to savor every minute and every inch.

She really does possess one of the greatest modern voices around, angelic and unchecked and big enough to channel great sadness and great hope. When coupled with her lyrics, it communes with the best parts of each of us and then those dark unseen, unsung corners too.

Take “That Teenage Feeling,” which she sang tonight and is arguably the best title from her newest album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood:

Now that we’ve met
We can only laugh at these regrets
Common as a winter cold
They’re telephone poles
They follow each other
One, after another, after another
But now my heart is green as weeds
Grown to outlive their season

And nothing comforts me the same
As my brave friend who says,
“I don’t care if forever never comes
‘Cause I’m holding out for that teenage feeling
I’m holding out for that teenage feeling

All the loves we had
All we ever knew
Did they fill me with so many secrets
That keep me from loving you
‘Cause it’s hard, hard

Ah, but she’s the brave one. Because at our age those lyrics really mean something. So many have settled or scorned or forgotten what it was like to experience anything with an unmediated intensity that at times I feel like we’ve become ghosts of our younger dreams. To watch my girl rock those lyrics, her fists clenched, her muscles taut with an adulterated sincerity, well — I like her so much, really. It reminded me of how Yoko seduced John all those years ago, how he patiently crawled through the whole of her many-tiered, slightly silly art installation until he reached that tiny tag to which all her labyrinths were leading. And it read: yes.

So, yes, when Miss Case wasn’t making music, it must be said, she didn’t quite know how to conduct herself. I wanted her clad in something red satin and less ironic. Something Ella, something Patsy. Certainly nothing Reality Bites. I wanted her nonsinging self to match up to the unapologetic and bold chanteuse with the baby-bird mouth. I wanted her, even when talking in between songs, to behave as a woman rather than a girl with grey roots. Someone who murmured or boomed, Nina style, rather than someone who rambled through pop culture’s navel. Someone who meted out her words carefully to ensure they measured up to the voice that solidiered an entire auditorium of New Yorkers’ regrets.

But what can you do? Each of us grows at the rate we can bear, shedding different vestiges of girlhood slowly until one day we truly do embody the women whom our little-girl selves assumed we’d easily become. The women whose instincts, strong and fine, run their lives as well as the show. The women whose eyes this culture can barely meet.

Yes, I forgive Miss Case for her terrible stage patter and her clever-with-a-K Dr. Pepper T shirt. Gladly, I do, yes, because tonight, for a full 45 minutes, she made me think that this whole mess was still OK. Hell, she made me know it. Yes.

And Another Clown College Graduate Bites the Dust

This — how do you say in English? — blogger, right, blogger breaks her self-imposed silence to point out a debacle that validates her long-held suspicions about Morgan “Supercilious Size Me” Spurlock’s not-so-secret hostilities fueling his last adventure in clowndom. Let the record show that his heretofore covert rancor toward the very Americans whose interests he claimed to represent is now out of the bag. Meow.

In other news: My alleged redesign is taking forever and I must disclose that I also have been moonlighting at a publication that supposedly requires qualifications of every sort for every item it dispatches. Reportedly. You may speculate that it is my job to insert said legal loopholes. A source close to the author says you’d be correct.

More soon. And of a less glib, more clear-spoken nature!

Not in My Backyard (The Tenants)

Just saw a really miserably half-baked movie, The Tenants. It stars that tall drink of water, Dylan McDermott Mulroney, as a clever friend calls him, and that too-tall drink of water, Snoop Dogg, as two writers eating each other for breakfast in an otherwise-vacated Brooklyn apartment house. Via a blank-faced traffic-in-woman paradigm named Irene. I think. For a minute I thought this film’s one asset was its rather beautiful set design, but even for a low-budget movie, its anachronisms were hard to overlook. (Um, who carried a doggy pooper scooper in early ’70s Red Hook? Who drove a Prius, for that matter?)

Why bother to rant? A critic’s job is to filter crap movies so that those with more honorable occupations don’t have to waste their leisure time. But I just got back from Sundance, where pretty much every American independent dramatic feature was crap. The few ones that didn’t completely shank, like Little Miss Sunshine, were bought and sold before you could utter the words NOT CRAP. Which is the only possible reason why a movie as weak-sister as The Tenants scored distribution besides its bankable stars.

Why have American indies hit such a complete wall? Why are the only good films shown right now coming from overseas? Why are the few American dramas that don’t suck and aren’t completely derivative, like Forty Shades of Blue or anything by Andrew Bujalksi, languishing in unheated art houses in overly rarified cities like NYC or LA while Starsky and His Boyfriend King Kong subsume two screens at every megaplex theater?

Given that so few movies that I see really rock, and given that the marriage of commerce and art is what distracts most of us who in a different era would be burning bras or the Capitol, I’m very curious about who’s buying what — and whom. Look for a series of interviews about distribution here at The Broad View in the months to come. As well as an imminent redesign. And if anyone wants to help me with said redesign, give me a holler. Not, I might add, a holla. Hollas are so 2004. So speaketh this broad.


"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy