Monday, August 07, 2017

Hope 6 Demolition Project

Lost story...August 2016

It was summer in New York city and I was in a panic of everything up and coming in my life. Hopeful that my job roles would be changing soon, hopeful that I would have a place to live in Chicago, hopeful that upcoming trips to Brazil, Colombia, London, and New Mexico would go smoothly.

Hoping that I'd figure out how to get myself moved cross country.


The city was blisteringly hot making it hard to justify leaving the apartment for any reason. However, I had managed to get tickets to see PJ Harvey live, and for that, even if it meant melting, I would get myself out of my apartment. My original date, and Nick Cave loving co-worker, bailed on me because she loves her children, so I was left trying to find someone to go with me. I called up my go-to concert date, the New Yorker, and once confirmed we met at Terminal 5 for the show.

I sat outside melting in the sun as we looked at the line winding around and around the outside of the building.

"That looks horrific."

"I'm not standing in that line. Let's drink."

So we sat outside in the heat and humidity and had overpriced drinks while we waited for the lines to eventually move so we could get into the mercifully cooled Terminal 5. I melted looking all the while like an Evil Wednesday Addams. A look which, at almost 40, I still manage to pull off brilliantly.

The Terminal is stacked and stacked on top of itself, an older warehouse converted into a show set. We found a spot to hang near the back, on the fourth tier above the sound engineers, who glowed below us like molten lava in the crowd. It was not close to the stage, nor as close as I generally like to be, but having been to summer shows on overly hot and humid days before and almost passing out from sudden onset asthma attacks, I decided to play it cool and comfortable for the show. Looking out over the arena area, it I felt like I was at the Thunderdome, waiting to be entertained by the darkest priestess of dark post-punk music there is.

My heart. PJ Harvey.

I've loved PJ for as many years as I have loved Tori Amos, which is to say a damned long time. Interestingly I think PJ, Tori, and Nick all hit my life at roughly the same time. Late '92, a summer of epic good music. Few artist from that time either continued to make good music or make it out alive. Like Nick, though, PJ continue to find ways to make music that is meaningful to the moment. That grows and evolves as the time and space that contains her grows and evolves. It is representative of the reality.

Take these lines from  2016's Hope 6 Demolition Project: Community of Hope

Here's the highway to death and destruction
South capitol is its name
And the school just looks like shit-hole
Does that look like a nice place?
Here's the old mental institution
Now the homeland security base
And here's god's deliverance center
A deli called M.L.K

And the community of hope
The community of hope

They're gonna put a Walmart here

With each iteration on herself, her music, and her writing, there are things exposed, visceral, damning. An unfiltered look at war, life, death, love, peace, people and all the machinations of our over-investment in personal gain before humanity.

There was no opening act, nor did there need to be. She walked onto the stage a dark purple peacock sporting a dark Mohawk and playing the saxophone. Divine, old and new music, a hint of nostalgia, but still completely true to her, to who she is as a performer and who she has continued to become. I swayed, and screamed and leaned dangerously over the rails, watching those around me, losing myself in the stories and expressions.

The show wound down into a hot and humid encore that eventually left me on the street at midnight, sweating buckets, fully exhausted and ready to go home. It was perfect, though, and all I could have ever hoped for from a twenty year wait to see her live.

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