“Where does she get the money to be broke?”
“It’s what you do with time”
After Henry Rollins’s “lecture” at Joe’s Pub about his life, travels, how we should promote peace and be nice to each other, how he’d mellowed with age and loved us all, why it’s important that the right guy got re-elected, how he boldly went around Haiti after the earthquake giving kids soccer balls, and how at 51 he was most likely the oldest person in the room, I asked him to sign a CD that included two of my friends. He signed it, adding meanly, “Good to know you still have friends.” I then asked him how I could get a review copy of his latest book. He sneered and said, “Go to the store and buy one. The days of reviewers are over.” I replied “Be nice, Henry. I’m older than you.” “Fuck off,” was his answer. Well, I am older, and just a notch above zero on the celebrity charts. My bones ache and I’m angry at everyone, I’m not brave, I don’t do TV shows or hand out soccer balls, and I rarely go above 14th Street, though I did catch two wonderful new Zorn string pieces at Miller Theater (which just won a 2013 Chamber Music America/American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Award for Adventurous Programming).
One of the most valuable things anyone can do is unearth and release music by great musicians that’s never been heard by the public. So most welcome is the three-CD set by Thomas Chapin, Never Let Me Go: Quartets, on Playscape. It consists of more than three hours of music recorded at Flushing Town Hall in ’95 and the Knitting Factory in ’96—Chapin’s last concert before being diagnosed with leukemia, which he succumbed to shortly after at age 40. Though best known for his trio work, Chapin was, as these rare quartet recordings indicate, both master musician and composer. He flies through originals such as “Sky Piece” and lands back on earth gently with classics like “You Don’t Know Me,” “Ugly Beauty,” and the title track, then ends the sessions with “Lovellevellilloqui,” a tune by Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He’s relaxed one moment, tense and exhilarating the next, showing us with every breath his inside/out mastery of alto and flute, and his wide-ranging palette of emotions and expressions. It’s a beautiful package filled with tender memories. Also on the horizon is a film about Thomas’s life, Night Bird Song.
Catch Arklight (Danny Kolm, Greg Kolm, and Tong Sing Wong), and experience hardcore underground alt-rock at its finest. The group has been around since 2003 and has released 23 cassettes and CDs on numerous labels. Their latest, The Beginners, on Teflon Beast, consists of tracks that make you feel stalked and eaten alive in “Frankie’s Pizza” or ground up while getting your “vivisection on.” Their sound collages owe much to early Pink Floyd, V.U., and Sonic Youth, and in their own words they create “crusty pop in the joyful sense.” Rev up your old Walkman and strap them in.
Best live musical moment: the mysterious Teloc farting in rhythm while the beautiful Lais sings Shubert’s “Ave Maria” in Fernando Arrabal’s play The Garden of Delights.
While sitting here wondering why, when we are threatened with the extinction of things like assault rifles, Twinkies, and Classic Coke, we always undergo the compulsion to stock up on them, I envision one of the largest black markets just three blocks from my apartment thriving in plain sight. Their clientele are mostly white, middle-class women who eat up knockoffs. No use calling the cops, for it would be like informing the jailer that his prisoner’s escaped again and is in front of the jailhouse doing nasties, or perhaps trying to make sense of the Republicans cutting medical and welfare benefits for the poor rather than raising taxes on the rich. Well, as the Haitian man proclaimed after the earthquake (according to Rollins): “The judge is always guilty.”
We lost a few legends at the close of the year: Dave Brubeck, one day shy of 92, who, though I was never a big fan, certainly made a difference; Eliot Carter, whose music I adored, at 103; 92-year-old Ravi Shankar, who was a big influence on my life since my first acid trip, at age 16; drummer Pete La Roca; and the musician’s poet Jayne Cortez.
I’ll end with this quote from K.B. Nemcosky’s wonderful new book of poems, dear friend, from Straw Gate Books: “In song it’s all about entrances and exits—it’s essential / Musicians know this[…]when to come in[…]when to stay[…]when to say goodbye. When to depart.”
I dedicate this piece to those who lost their lives in Newtown, all of whom departed much too early.
Poet/collagist STEVE DALACHINSKY was born in Brooklyn after the last big war and has managed to survive lots of little ones. His book The Final Nite (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006) won the PEN Oakland National Book Award. His most recent books are Fools Gold (Feral House, 2014), A Superintendent's Eyes (Unbearable/Autonomedia, 2013), and Flying Home (Paris Lit Up Press, 2015), a collaboration with German visual artist Sig Bang Schmidt. His latest CD is ec(H)osystem with the French art-rock group, The Snobs (Bam Balam Records, 2015). He is a 2014 recipient of a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His poem "Particle Fever" was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize.His most recent books are Black Magic (New Feral Press, 2017) and Frozen Heatwave, a collaboration with Yuko Otomo (Luna Bisonte Prods, 2017).