Hitting the wall

Mission Creek Festival report for Friday, April 5

My Feets Hurt

My doughty Mormon forbears–who from what I understand stayed for a while at Student Housing over by Coralville on their way to Utah–walked over a thousand miles without the benefit of modern medicine, scientifically engineered footware or Facebook. Maybe if I set off for Salt Lake with all mod cons on foot I’d get used to being on my feet for long stretches. But when I hit the wall during Mission Creek, I hit it feet first.

Janeane Garafalo (The Englert) 8:00 p.m.

God bless you, Janeane. You’re a tart-tongued Gen X slacker hobbit, whose misanthropy and gob-smackedness at the absurdities and bullshit of modern life makes for an entertaining diatribe.

But Janeane, we need to talk.

We thought you were the best part of Reality Bites, we tuned in to Air America just for you. We get you. You complete us. But you come to our little burg and gabbled aimlessly for an hour, and that’s your show?

Perhaps Pauly Shore’s only great joke was when he was talking about having a porn star girlfriend, and he asked her “Why isn’t it like your movies when we make love?” She replied “Oh Pauly, that’s acting.” Pauly replies, “why can’t you act with me?” I don’t bring this up because you couldn’t do ten minutes of feminist moral outrage on this joke. I know you could.

I mention it because your thing is to show up on-stage with a handful of scribbled notes, and be yourself. At one point you even knocked the notes onto the floor and had to scramble around gathering them up. That was the one point in the show I suspected you’d worked out in advance.

What you talked about most was the TV shows you watch and commercials for prescription drugs. Yeah we watch TV too, and certainly it’s as good a launch pad as any for social critique. But after dropping the 4th or 5th reference to a show, it kind of felt like you don’t get out of the house much. Take a vacation, Janeane. I bet you could do an hour on all the kee-razy stuff that happens to you on Maui. Or go to Paris, where they don’t give a crap who you are, and you can observe humanity without being observed back.

I like you. I respect you. If we had Coffee in Venice Beach and you did what you did at the Englert, I’d be in love with you–in a totally platonic, non-sexist, non-stalkerish respectful way. But when you get paid thousands of dollars to strut and fretfret your hour upon the stage, being yourself isn’t enough. Look at Louis C.K. or Mike Berbiglia for example. Think about Tig Notaro.

They come out and appear to do what you did: be themselves, having a bit of a chat with a roomful of strangers. The difference is, they work very hard to write and refine their bits, and they think hard about how to deliver it. So when people go to the show, it is a show. They use artifice, planning, and cunning to make you feel like they’re the funniest people on the dorm floor and you just happened to wander into the floor lounge while they’re on a roll.

There’s the rub, Janeane. We love you, and we want you to be true to yourself. But like Pauly asked his girlfriend, why can’t you act with us?


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Taser Island (The Yacht Club) 9:00 p.m.

Jeff Ray is a musician and film-maker, and since my homework on who’s playing this week is spotty, I had no idea what his deal was when I got to the Yacht Club. What he did was show a couple of films for which he provided live accompaniment on acoustic guitar. The main piece he presented concerns the curious amusement park Fairyland near where he lives; it comprises still photography, footage of the empty park, and interviews with reminiscing adults.

This was in all ways a quiet, subtle work, but powerfully evocative. The music was extremely simple, but successfully realized and perfect in the context of the piece. That stuff I wrote the other day about the obsession with darkness and evil in metal music? Taser Island is the exact opposite, without being any less emotionally charged.

Snowblink (Yacht Club) 10:00 p.m.

I went up to Gabe’s and spent about 10 minutes in the chaos at the door. Apparently Future Rock is a big thing in Iowa City. By the time I got upstairs, I realized it was between sets, so I went right back down the back stairs and back to the Yacht Club.

Snowblink was playing some really well-crafted melodic pop songs with perfectly lovely singing from two women vocalists. I wasn’t able to stay long–I went home to handle a couple of minor domestic crises–but listening today to the material on their website, I have to say they deserve your attention.

Zammuto (Yacht Club)

Joe Zammuto (ex-Books) now fronts his own band. His songs were intricately constructed, almost prog-rock-ish pieces topped with his falsetto singing. The part of his set I saw was very technically accomplished and well received by the fans there, but didn’t do a lot for me. That may be more on me than Zammuto; I’ve been out more this week than in the last six months, and I’m close to completely saturated.

After about twenty minutes, I headed back up the alley.

Future Rock (Gabe’s) 12:00 a.m.

I was at Future Rock’s first Iowa City show a few years back, and really dug what they were doing then. They covered Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin! Their originals had that groovy electronic feel made deeper by their skills at performing music live that’s usually machine-made.

Since then they’ve been signed by Warp, toured the world, and come back to Iowa City a couple of times. They’re now officially a ‘thing.’

I’m not sure it’s a thing I’m that into, though. The stuff I saw at Gabe’s was up-tempo, dance-y and loud but without a lot of variation in tempo. It was very effective, and the audience was going nuts, but I missed some the dynamics and subtlety that I had experienced earlier in their career. But hey, I’m old, and my feet hurt — obviously, if they can get 300 college kids bouncing the floor upstairs at Gabe’s, they’re doing something right.

Trudging up the hill (the hill) 1:00 a.m.

Actually I drove. A mark of Mission Fatigue (or Mission Creep) is I had to meditate a few minutes in the Gabe’s beer garden to remember where I parked my car. Today, I’m going to get a nap in, followed by some righteous Cafe Del Sol coffee in the Chemex to try and get back my positive attitude for this evening’s festivities.

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