Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not so much Resolutions, but 2011 Suggestions


photo courtesy of *Sally M* on Flickr Creative Commons


  • Fold a thousand paper cranes. (Instructions)
  • Fiction. Fiction. Fiction. Fiction.
  • Refer back often to this: A Prayer for A New Year.
  • And this: damn right.
  • Create, don't just ingest.
  • Make beautiful lists; draw satisfying lines through tasks accomplished.
  • No skimming. Concentrate.
  • Sleight of hand tricks initiate conversations.
  • Stand on top of (sturdy) things to change your view.
  • Sit up straight, young lady (or man).
  • Limit "reality" TV consumption. You may still watch Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. And Top Chef. And if that exorcism reality show rumor is true, you can watch that.
  • Endeavor to do things in a logical order.
  • Repeat, "I am a sponge."
  • Repeat, "I am a lasso."
  • Allow your brain time to process while not looking at a screen of any type.
  • Don't take on too much.
  • Don't take on too little.
  • Be understanding: to yourself, to others, to your past, to animals, to celebrities, to antagonists, protagonists, narrators, to the very ground you walk on.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Living and Dying Digitally

Since the “It Gets Better videos have started coming out, I’ve been watching them a little obsessively, alternately crying and being proud/thankful for the bravery of each individual who has made one. All week, the issue of cyber-bullying has been on my mind, as reports of suicide after suicide appear, all because of rash actions that can’t be taken back. Here are teens choosing death instead of enduring the slurs of these cyber-bullies, which are really bullies on digital steroids. Robo-Bullies.

Today, my friend Heather posted this article and that’s when I finally kind of lost it. I tried to file at work: I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t alphabetize, I couldn’t wait to just get back to my desk and write. This girl, this thirteen-year-old girl, killed herself because of one silly mistake she made, trying to get a boy’s attention. A mistake that she made which was logged on a cell phone, the privacy of which was not respected, which made its rounds everywhere, until she couldn’t escape one stupid thirteen-year-old mistake.

If Facebook existed when I was in elementary school and high school, the likelihood that I would have offed myself is vast. I was artsy and nerdy and there wasn’t really a way for me to escape or process people talking about me. Children are merciless, we all know this…especially at this time when they’re all the most sensitive and they’ve figured out how to make fun of each other but haven’t yet mastered the wisdom of the apology or the maturity to admit when they’re wrong. Now, these children have Facebook. They have Twitter, they have email accounts, they have YouTube and what’s better—they can generally do all of this from their smart phones. They can do it anonymously. Not just in a passed note, but in a format which will stick around until someone deletes it. Even then, some other little snot has probably saved it to their hard drive.

The technology available to our young people today is staggering and they’re given almost no guidance on how to use it or the damage it can do. Now, I love the Internet. Really, I do. It’s done a world of good for me. It’s opened up our world in ways we never could have imagined. It’s also damaging our world in ways we didn’t foresee: the disconnects we have, the information overloads we see in skittish adults, and this increasing problem of our nation’s children who don’t have the resources to deal with this new type of harassment.

A girl who gets called a “slut” kills herself. A boy who gets called a “fag” decides it’s not worth it to go on. What does the world lose? Not only a unique spirit, but our whole future—kids who could have cured diseases or made lasting works of art, gone. Gone because of a group of idiots who have new ways to harass others. The bullies on the playground become the bullies making Facebook groups, the bullies staring into their phones and posting…and so begins a new permanence of childhood follies, kids who can’t escape the things said about them. Maybe ever.

Dan Savage is right. It does get better. It gets better for everyone: gay, lesbian, trans, straight, questioning, geeky, artsy, weird, socially awkward. It gets better when you make it through to grow up. I have a lovely life now, filled with an amazing fiancé, astoundingly supportive friends, a good job, a bright future, an artistically fulfilling present. Would I have had that if the Internet existed in the form it does now when I was in school?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t know how many friends I would have lost, either.

I am not a mother and I don’t intend to become one, but I’m scared. The wires and tubes around us have us living in a world where nothing is private anymore and our kids are growing up in that world. They’re coming of age in that world. They need you to talk to them, mentor them, shepherd them through all this bullshit. They’re living their lives on screens. The girl in the above article never told her parents about what was happening to her. Would kids laugh at classes about net safety or net bullying? Would it matter to them?

This is the germination of my thinking on this—but there has to be a new paradigm.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Poems and Punks: Literazzi's Night of Madness


I had a hell of a birthday party this year and it was called Literazzi. Originally conceived as a gathering for my 32nd birthday, I also wanted to use it as a benefit for a cause close to my heart, literacy. I tutor for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council and felt like I could do a little more. With my previous experience in rock bands and event planning, I figured it would be easy to put together a one-night only performance of poetry and perhaps a live band or two.

I figured wrong.

No, it wasn't easy. It came together only because so many people were willing to volunteer their time, talent, and products so unselfishly. First of all, the flyer that you see at the left was designed pro-bono by the amazing Ryan Cerbus. It was a difficult thing to boil all the goings-on into a clean and simple format, but he did it with ease. And quickly, because the clock was running down. Even though I planned for months, nothing was absolutely firm until about the week before. Such is my life. Hard copy flyers were printed, under the gun, by Alexander Dorantes. Al and I have worked together on numerous projects and he's unfailingly generous with his help and friendship.

The evening began with my short intro, after my fiance, the Reverend, introduced me like the Boss introducing Clarence. My piece was meant to give context to the evening and some statistics about literacy in Pittsburgh. It ended up very "Subterranean Homesick Blues"-y, but that's not really a bad thing. Even though it was the very beginning of the evening, guests were on their first drinks and groaned a bit that I was making them read. I didn't budge. (I could, however, hear my Aunt Kathy reading the cards aloud from the back of the room, to oblige the restless.)

Throughout the rest of the evening, I just ran around. I introduced all the poets and gave away raffle prizes from our supporters of literacy around the country. This list of people ended up
so illustrious that I was kind of stunned: Graywolf Press, The Rumpus, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, the Cotton Factory, Pure Romance (by Daisy Brewer), Pop Damage, local artists Ann Sanders and Vickie Maize, Joe Baumiller of the Carson Street Deli, and Howler's (our host venue) all donated their products. The only disappointing thing was that I couldn't bid on my own prizes, because there was such great stuff.














(From left to right, above: Jocelyn Hillen, Michael McGovern, Patti Emory, and Ashly Nagrant)


I can't thank my poets enough. Each one was so unique and on-point; the diversity really highlighted the cache of outstanding writers we have in Pittsburgh. My only real regret about the night is the lack of photos of Nikki Allen and Jenn D, the two performers who closed the poetry portion, because not only are they beautiful but their sets were overwhelmingly awesome. Click their links to check out their work in lieu of just looking at photos.

A note about the noise: it was perhaps not the most conducive thing, to have poetry in a bar. It worked, to an extent, but also (as the Rev said) "That's what happens when punks and poets meet." I know that the front half of the room was listening intently and I hope the performers could tell, too.

At right, Jocelyn made me cry.



At left, Lance Cheuvront and the Reverend.

In between poets, we rapidly gave away raffle prizes. The Rev surprised me with a huge cake (enough to feed the whole crowd and carried by one of my oldest friends, Joe Baumiller, his smiling face reflected in the candles) that read "Happy Birthday Mrs. Darcy," causing most of the women in the crowd to positively swoon, including myself. I was so bowled over that I couldn't even take in the fact that 60+ people were singing Happy Birthday to me. It was wonderful and embarrassing and touching. It was a moment that I'll go back to for the rest of my life; a few minutes where I can actually say I had stars in my eyes. We let them eat cake.

After the poets, it was time for Punk Rock Karaoke. Howler's does a regular event with these guys, who learn punk songs so that YOU can be the lead singer. I was so jazzed that they agreed to play; it completed Literazzi. The sign-up list was (shown at right) was so populated and the crowd was so into it that I think even the band was impressed. (I'm at #5: "Life During Wartime.")

Everyone was drunk enough by this time that there was no lack of singers and no lack of being entertained by those brave enough to get up onstage and share the love.

This highlight reel includes a lot of my best friends and it's basically the best birthday present ever:



All told, after my fretting and running around like crazy trying to keep everything under control, we made over $600 for the GPLC. My original estimate was $250. Talk about exceeding expectations.

Some final thank yous:


Victoria Maize, who made the door possible, both by getting there early and controlling the donations for most of the evening. Vickie, I feel like you stepped up to bat and effin' knocked it out of the park. She also donated some amazing art that drew a lot of raffle money and made me seriously jealous that someone else won.

My aunts...(pictured: me, Aunt Debbie and Aunt Ellen; not pictured: Aunt Kathy)...without these three ladies, the night would not have been possible. They got to the venue early to set up because my silly ass was still changing out of my Hippolyta costume from the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream I was in that same night. They are unfailingly supportive through every seemingly crazy idea I have. They. Are. The. Best. Ladies. Ever.

The Reverend, pictured here singing "The KKK took My Baby Away," who has never once told me that there was something I could not do. He has tried to gently suggest that I not lose my mind trying to suck the very marrow out of life, but he has never discouraged me in any endeavor. Without his help in keeping this event under control, it would have crashed around my ears. This previous statement is true about my entire life. Without his help in keeping it under control, it would crash around my ears.

Thank you to Howler's for hosting, to Mary Jo for helping to bring it all together (and enduring my rather embarrassing thank you and gift from the stage), Rima Campbell for guidance in planning and general encouragement, Mindi Harkless for taking pictures, Eric Carroll for unfailing support and more pictures, and EVERYONE that attended.

Thank YOU. And YOU. And YOU.

Also, congratulations to my brother for winning the coveted "Drunkest Ross" contest by a wide margin.

Now I'm going to sleep for seven years.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What are you up to, Kristin?


Photo by Eric Carroll


Well. July was exhausting. After A Midsummer Night's Dream with Poor Yorick's Players and Literazzi, I am well and truly spent.

There are exciting things on the horizon, even as I take a couple of weeks off and step back from the chaos. This week is planning, thinking, and HEAVENStobetsy, I have to clean my house.

Upcoming:
  • Literazzi wrap-up blog and MANY MANY thank yous to the amazing people that made it happen
  • I'm interviewing Murder By Death on Monday; exciting!
  • The advent of The Planning Committee podcast, featuring me, James Foreman, and Dave Stone
  • I'm reading and reviewing Mary Roach's new book Packing for Mars. I love this woman, I love her writing in general, and I already love this book.
  • My email interview with author Alyson Hagy is almost finished; we've been playing with a new back-and-forth email format that should prove interesting.
  • A treatise on Drake's Thank Me Later for soldout music. One of the strangest pieces of writing I've done.
  • I'm turning our living room into what the Reverend is calling "Little Britain." It's going to be totally fabulous.
Also, I am not saying that I know the women who did this, but I will say I love them. Meet JGWTF : a blog that the world truly needs.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Literazzi: A Benefit for Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council


I'm turning my regular birthday drinking extravaganza into a BENEFIT for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. It's a cause that's very close to my heart. Bonus, we can all still drink and PARTY.

From 10:00 until about 11:30, you'll be verbally and aurally assaulted by poets and performance artists. Between the sets, we'll be raffling off various fabulous prizes, including (but not limited to--there's A LOT of stuff) packages... from the Cotton Factory, Graywolf Press, Pop Damage, Joseph Beth Booksellers and the Rumpus!

POETS/PERFORMERS: Ashly Nagrant, Jenn Dallas, Nikki Allen, Jocelyn Hillen, Michael McGovern, Lance Cheuvront and Patti Emory will be rocking you with word seduction.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! After the poets, it's time for PUNK ROCK KARAOKE! You be the lead singer while a live band of insanely talented musicians backs you. Take a look at the killer
list of songs they do and mull over what you wanna do to rock the crowd: http://www.action-camp.com/prk/

Every single bit of the proceeds goes the GPLC. Every. Single. Bit.

$5 at the door; you get three raffle tickets to start with, but you'll want more. Each additional buck to our lovely raffle girls/guys will get you another ticket to spend however you wish.




Additionally, the first 50 people in the door get this classy edition of "Praise Song for The Day" by Elizabeth Alexander, donated by the amazing Graywolf Press, the best damn indie press in existence.





You want to be at this event.
You need to be at this event.
Don't look back with regret when the pictures of good times are posted.



Thursday, June 24, 2010

SXSW Round-Up


So, I wrote A LOT when I went to South by Southwest this year. Previews and then wrap-ups of every day are included in these links. This is the post you'll be directed to if you ask me in person how SXSW was. :-)

It was amazing. It was exhausting.

Pre-press for the event: http://pop-damage.com/?p=4792

Thursday, May 6, 2010

There Will Be No More Natural Light

There was a storm last night in Pittsburgh, heavy on the lightning with a good measure of thunder. It had just started when I dragged myself upstairs to bed. It was still going when I shot awake, an hour and a half later, still a bit stuck in a nightmare.

I had been dreaming that the Reverend, Mikey, and I were at an outdoor convention. From the view of the city, it seemed that we were on the Northside. There were tents everywhere and people milled around, mingling. The happy buzz of conversation that I associate with the Pittsburgh Comicon was the prevalent background.

Suddenly, as events often occur in dreams, it seemed that I had been somehow sexually harassed. The next thing I remember is an appalled Mikey, running after the offender. He was much faster than I imagine he would be in real life. He managed to knock the guy down and then there was the Reverend, out of nowhere. He had a look of righteous indignation on his face and he was about to grab my assailant by the shirt and haul him to his feet.

That was when the sky started going black.

First, giant columns of smoke started rising from the buildings on the horizon. I saw this, from my point of view, on an upward camera angle. In the center, Rev's corduroy jacket and Mikey's ever present black and white wingtips: the boys stood with their feet apart, braced while they stared upward. Smoke began to roll in from all corners of the sky, until it obliterated the last tiny bit of light in the center. It wasn't like the smoke on Lost, I should say. It was a dark gray, sinister and much more real-looking. There was white noise.

My eyes were drawn to a big screen set up in one of the booths. Since this was a nightmare, it was tuned to Fox News. The sanitary anchorman mouthed words that I couldn't hear, but I could read the headline, right above a gobbledygook stream of nonsense words.

It said, "There Will Be No More Natural Light."

That was when I woke up, terrified. Lightning was still intermittently illuminating the room, but the house was otherwise quiet. I think it was the quiet that made me panic. I nudged Rev, who was blissfully unaware of the fact that the sky had closed. Bless his heart, he stayed up to calm me down. I told him about it once I recovered from the hitching breath and shock. I rarely remember my dreams anymore, so the verisimilitude of the nightmare really got to me.

Today at lunch, I sat under what felt like the bluest sky I had ever seen. Light was everywhere. It was such a relief. I spent my whole lunch break outside, reading and convincing myself that it was all indeed still there.

I didn't really appreciate the simple fact of the sky until today.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Truefax of the Morning


Please think of the environment before you begin publishing.
(Via Al Dorantes, Via Very Demotivational.com
http://cheezburger.com/view.aspx?ciid=72629310)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sleigh Bells at SXSW


Derek Miller of Sleigh Bells plays Carniville at SXSW. Expect the rest of my reporting from SXSW to post soon.

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.



There was a lull in the television watching last night, so I took up a book as I am often wont to do. The Reverend peeked curiously.

"What's that?"

"Oh. Um. Well. It's called Mr. Darcy's Diary and it's...hmm. I guess it's Pride and Prejudice re-imagined from Darcy's point of view."

"So, it's Austen fan fic." Rev cuts to the point very easily.

"Well," I hedged. "Not really. I suppose not? It's..."

"...Austen fan fic."

He's right. I didn't want to admit it, though, and tried the very tenuous argument that it was published. It wasn't just on somebody's blog. Weak and untrue. Just because I was holding it in book form didn't excuse that it was a story based on characters previously created by a different author.

Fan fic.

I hadn't meant to read it. I often found myself in front of the shelves at Barnes & Noble, staring at a neat and offensive line of books using Darcy, his dear Elizabeth, and their cohorts. There's been something of a boom. I didn't cave until now. I read an excerpt, I wanted more.

I used to be very bothered by the idea of someone sullying beloved characters with their own twist; it's imposing on the original author's voice. But when I was MUCH younger, I realize that I didn't feel the same. Some of my first pieces were weak ass Stephen King ripoffs (including an epic sequel to IT...the person that I collaborated with this on knows who she is).

This is all leading to the question I pose to you now: is it okay for me to be enjoying this...fan fiction?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Poetry Month

So...it's National Poetry Month (and today is Edna St. Vincent Millay's birthday). I do like to celebrate the much maligned medium of poetry in small ways every year.

This time around, I was kindly referred by Marley Magaziner to an email poetry list run by Geraldine Doetzer. She does a poem a day in April and has featured some really great stuff this time around: Margaret Atwood being my favorite. If you want to get on the list, let me know and I'll pass your email along. There's not much of an April left, but Geraldine does this annually.

And then:

I haven't written a poem in quite some time. Some of the first words I wrote on paper were "poetry," as I sure was the case with a lot of writers. It's immediate, it's accessible, if you're not concerned about style you can simply play the "free-form" card. Since then, I have worked in every other medium I could find to avoid poetry. I was really really scared of it, but I did it anyway. It's called, in honor of that, "A Brave Act."

_____________________________________

I’ve become afraid of poetry,
afraid to even start,
sure that I will be too confessional,
passé.

Too afraid of putting more words
(real words, not a quip)
into the http://pool.of.information
dot universe.

And I’m afraid of time, too,
when scrawling on the bus,
afraid of wet, sideways eyes
though I used to be so brave about this.

It has become so much easier to consume.
Even now, I scan the input for something to process.

This constant consumption
leads to swelling,
which leads to bursting.

Then. The incoherent mess
of the exploded content.
The mutual gaze of the abyss is
this immediate access to each other.

(A note here:
it’s even easier to regurgitate
than consume!
Dangerously deceptive indeed!)

Contact without
all the messiness of contact.

“You get out much?”
the bus driver asks me.
“It depends,” I say
but I do not finish the sentence:
“It depends on what I want people to think
vs.
what actually happens.”

I think of eyes reading this
and I am anxious.

I have done everything to avoid poetry
in every medium available to me;
yet I still dream of Ernest Dowson,
hunted down by the letter ‘v.’

Monster Island Cover Preview


Here's the cover of the comic jam book we'll be premiering at this month's Pittsburgh Comicon (April 23-25). Three writers, three artists, one huge story.

Online ordering will be available after the convention, I'll update here with a link.

Writers: Rich Bernatovech, Al Dorantes, and Kristin Ross
Artists: Rey Arenzo, Jamie Fay, and Michael Wood



Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Magic everywhere in this bitch."

Last night, at a friend's gallery opening for her photography studio, I saw this video over the shoulders of her husband and my fiance. They were hunkered over an iPhone, one earbud each, immersed in what was on the screen.

"Um, is that ICP?" I asked. They're not the sort of fellows that you would expect to see sharing headphones to take some time out and watch Violent J.

Since I just watched a bit of it, with no sound, my initial reaction was that Insane Clown Posse has a bigger video budget now and the white outfits were a bold choice.

Today I find that it's making the rounds on the Internet, so I watched it with sound. I now understand why they were so transfixed at the gallery last night.

Do take a few moments and watch this. It's ICP, so I hope you'd intuit that it's NSFW. In my opinion, it goes on about a minute too long, so when the instrumental fade out begins in earnest it's fine to just stop. This is about the WORDS.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Just a buncha profanity."

Yesterday, on the incline (my public transporation and a Pittsburgh tourist draw), I was trapped in a car with four other people. Two of them were your standard frat boys. Maybe they fancied themselves skater boys, I can't tell anymore. The line is blurred.

But I digress.

I had my headphones on, but my iPod was paused. I often use this technique to eavesdrop on conversations, but this time I was the subject of the conversation.

"Her pin says she killed Amanda Palmer," Boy 1 observes, looking at my bag. He's referencing my 'I Killed Amanda Palmer' pin from her first solo album.

"Yeah, that girl from Twin Peaks?" Boy 2 asks. This is a fairly good guess, as things go. I'm kind of impressed.

"Nah, I think it's something else. Look it up on your iPhone."

Boy 2 complies. Type, type, type.

"So?" Boy 1 demands.

"I dunno," Boy 2 says, puzzled. "It's just a buncha profanity."

Priceless. The icing on the cake? Boy 1 shakes his head sadly and comments, "I don't get it. Why don't we know stuff like that?"

I don't know, Boy 1. Why don't you?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

SXSW Preview #1

I'll be covering SXSW for Pop Damage this year, March 17-22. Here's my first preview of the event, outlining a little scheduling problem.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day from me and the Watson Twins

I've got a new feature on soldout music that highlights the tunes you want to listen to on lazy Sunday mornings.

This week, the Watson Twins cover "Just Like Heaven."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The vote by a landslide for Jekyll and Hyde


At left, The Dresden Dolls' The Virginia Companion on my painting table this afternoon.







Different Dresden Dolls or Amanda Palmer songs hit me at different times in my life. Where a lot of bands I've loved haven't been able to grow with me or speak to me as I get older, there seems to always be something new I can find in their music. This afternoon, at precisely four o'clock, the song "The Mouse and the Model" from No, Virginia blindsided me with appropriate timing and sheer brilliance.




The Mouse and the Model
(lyrics straight from the above book)

Nothing is certain at this time of day; you could reverberate, you could decay.
The mouse and the model are laughing at us.
We'll risk it. We're desperate for someone to trust.
Let's start a new heart, the new charts are in.
We'll take them, we'll break them, we'll make them give in.
By counting your blessings, you wind up in debt.
It starts with your family and ends in your bed.
You Jekyll and Hyded when you could have let your guard down,
your dress up. You must be upset.
It's dark over here on the flip side of reason.
The teaser could be something easy like, "They did it in a book."
You're a crook, you're a fake, you're committed.
If you did it, say you did it.
If you didn't, suck it up and say you did.
Let's start a new heart, the new charts are in.
We'll tax them, relax them, and mate them for fun.
The vote by a landslide for Jekyll and Hyde,
Mackenzie Macavity, Bonnie and Clyde.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

formspring.me

Is art a necessity for life? Or a luxury? If art suffers does humanity suffer?

It's necessary for my life; I would be a hollow girl without it. So, for me, it's not a luxury. I'm certain it's different for other people. For some people, soccer is a necessity. That will vary from person to person.

I think that if art is stagnant, humanity suffers. A big aim of art is to get people to think; if people aren't thinking, they suffer. Stagnation kills. Especially in the midst of the collective tragedy of the past, we all need something to cling onto. You find that thing(s) and you clingthefuckontoit. Art is a part of the general mental health, as is economics and politics and debate and culture et al. All little cogs working together--if one is a little off, we're going to feel it.

Ask me anything

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Warhol and The Face of Fame

The best museum here in Pittsburgh, the Mattress Factory, recently hosted a gallery talk concerning the American evolution of celebrity to tie in with their portraiture exhibit, "Likeness."

Here's my review/synopsis on Pop Damage.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Halloween 2009


Here's a pic Nessa took of me on Halloween; I think it's fairly clear what my costume was. You should check out her photos at http://www.photosbynessa.com/ and hire her for everything. She also did the image at the top of my blog, she's multifaceted.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For Valentine's Day Week...

...the most anti-romantic book I've ever read.

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I've Become

“Anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment in evening entertainment…”


I should have known this was going to go bad, standing in the line for Arctic Monkeys on December 8th at Mr. Small’s Theatre. It was cold and I was surrounded by people I would never willfully surround myself with. The clothing was terrible, the chatter was worse. I briefly wondered how these people had gotten into the band…was there a single playing over the speakers at Abercrombie and Fitch or something? Had something happened under my radar?


A short preface: I love the Arctic Monkeys. I have loved them for a long time. My impression of the band has always been one of British hooligans; Alex Turner’s cheeky lyrics have gotten me through some bad times, especially when unhappy with the scene and state of music around me. I wasn’t very familiar with the newest record, having just gotten it a week before, but the first two are among my favorites of all time. Performance clips of the Monkeys always show these men being defiant, bold, meaning every single word. The only clue I could have had about what was about to happen to me was the first video from Humbug, featuring the band with their grown-out hair, which may or may not be a statement of how they feel now. Even then, I was willing to accept bad haircuts to hear the music that I loved so deeply played live. I should have known.


What happened, boys? What happened?


“And as the microphone squeaks, a young girl’s telephone beeps…”


We had gotten there quite early; I wanted to be right the fuck in front of the stage. Part of me was convinced I’d never get to see the band live, taking into account their generally tetchy personalities and notorious dislike of American clubs. There were only five shows in the US this tour and I narrowly got my tickets because my boyfriend possesses some sort of voodoo magic. We staked out our spot in the second row, right in front of the stage.


The opening band, Screaming Females, were amazing. They turned out to be the highlight of the evening. They had the kind of rock n roll integrity and musicality I expected from the rest of the night. Marissa Paternoster sounds like a hurricane and shreds on the guitar. She’s really a sight, her finger work is crazy. Their bass player was completely her equal and the interplay between the two made for a solid opening act. However, this is when the existential angst really started to kick in. Something was amiss.


The crowd totally ignored (and at one point, rudely booed) the band. They were antsy and they didn’t come for music; or, to be fair, perhaps they just aren’t serious about music. If they had come for music or passion, Screaming Females was the only game in the building.


“One look sends it coursing through the veins oh how the feeling races/Back up to their brains to form expressions on their stupid faces”


The kids readied their cell phones and recording devices, preparing to document rather than experience. I started to feel sad, thinking about how impossible it is to form actual memories when you’re squinting through a glowing screen instead of enjoying the live music in front of you. This was coupled with an incessant, self-centered need to be heard from a bunch of people behind us. One kid especially, was obviously not just conversing with his friends, but shouting so as to make everyone else a part of his conversation. The last time I was in the front at Small’s was at Amanda Palmer and the sense of camaraderie in that audience was amazing. Not so here. There were shuffling feet and a frantic feeling that spread. I’m no stranger to the front row, I’m willing to take my chances with bodily harm, but usually people are just looking to crowd surf at shows like this. This audience was looking to fight. If that’s your goal, why pay $30 to go to a concert? It’s much cheaper to just go to a bar at closing time.


The instruments were switched, and it was time.


“Calm down temper temper, you shouldn’t get so annoyed/You’re acting like a silly little boy”


I said I would not be moved by these assholes. I was mistaken. One, whom I will not describe, was not “moshing” in any sense of the word, he was just hitting people. The tiny girls and I began to cower, pushed against each other. Asshole keeps pushing. Asshole throws elbows. Asshole throws an elbow into my ribs.


My boyfriend’s a big guy. He’s kind of scary and not really a person you would want angry with you. The elbow dropped, he whipped around. In a moment of reason I was proud of, he yelled, “Dude! Tone it down a bit!” The asshole replied, “I will wreck you, bra!” Let me reiterate. He said “bra.” At an Arctic Monkeys concert. Well, that was the end of that. Steve’s logical reply to that: “WHY? THIS ISN’T EVEN A PUNK SHOW!” only got him more threats and grandstanding. There was shirt grabbing, the asshole threw a fist, I launched myself into the middle of it. I figured he wouldn’t hit a girl and if he did, he was definitely getting thrown out. We somehow got out of the crowd before it could get ugly. I encouraged my man to go outside to smoke and went back to the bar.


Boy, it was even sadder back there.


“Top marks for not trying…”


I was trying to calm down, trying to concentrate on the fact that I’ve been looking forward to this for years and wanted to hear the songs I adored live in person. I found myself standing in the midst of easily pleased and cowed masses, even the worse for the available drinks. I focused on what I could see of the stage, but that wasn’t much. Between the epileptic light show, the goddamned fog machine, and the Monkeys ridiculous haircuts, nothing was going on. The music was loud. It sounded false. It sounded pre-packaged and nothing like the ardent railing against the status quo contained on their records. The lights, oh the lights, I can’t stress it enough. It was like being forced to watch a Floyd laser show inside of a tin can. I cried during “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.” Ladies and Gentlemen, a dance song made me cry. It was the death of everything that I erroneously thought they stood for.


You couldn’t see shit from the back, yet people were taking pictures of the nothing. The band had no teeth, no heart, no sass. It felt like a betrayal. There are many clips of the band back when they used to adhere to their ideals; you can see the enthusiasm and fervor. It was like someone had cloned Arctic Monkeys and set them in an “on” position to play, phoned-in in the strictest sense. The stage banter was pap, pointless, drawn from any useless rock cliché you can imagine. “Like I said, this is our first time in Pittsburgh” (around three times), “Give yourselves a hand,” etc.


The shadows the band made on the white backboard of the stage looked like the shadows of previous performances. That was better to watch than the travesty of the actual show. The version of “Florescent Adolescent” they played was so neutered that it didn’t sound convincing. The chatter in the bar ran a low static under what could have been a watered-down recording of the songs.


“And if you could only see them, then you would agree/Agree that there isn’t no romance around there”


I don’t know if this is a new direction for the Arctic Monkeys or what. I just know that a part of my rock n roll heart was broken last night. This is all my opinion, of course, and largely just a statement of how I feel. I mean, there were obviously people in that audience that felt they got their money’s worth. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by acts that mean every fucking word they say (aforementioned Miss Palmer, Morrissey, Psychic TV) but I don’t think it’s just that. I’ve played with local bands that had more animation playing to a crowd of fifteen people. It’s a question of believing in what you do and feeling like your music means something, then conveying just that. I felt like that half-hearted performance was an infidelity of everything they meant to me. I couldn’t clap after any of the songs; my limbs were weak with disappointment. Sure, it sounded good technically. But is that really all that rock n roll is?


Oh, and the asshole from the pit? He got thrown out.