Sunday, May 06, 2018

Nick Cave at the Murmrr Theater

 At this point, I feel like I spend a lot of time writing about Nick Cave, though in the history of all my public writing, there is barely an nth of it dedicated to the fine workings of Mr. Cave and the Bad Seeds. Of the artist that I love it is true that I have seen Nick in concert more often than the rest. I saw him again last night. I'll almost surely see him again in the future, even if I have to brace myself to do so at a large stadium style venue. It is Nick Cave and it is worth it.

This trip was planned to align after another stint in dreaded Baltimore, but a lovely train took me to New York city and the lovely Hellion kept me housed at his cozy place to prepare for the lovely event that I would attend in the evening, thanks to a friend who knows me well enough to know that an extra ticket to Nick would not go unused. I had a ticket, I needed an outfit and I wanted to prepare. Having been on the road for the better part of a month with no ability to be myself, my true, authentic, real, wild, goth, alternative, dark, strange self, I packed a corset and dress specifically for Saturday. That corset went on at eleven in the morning and didn't come off until well after 1:00 a.m. I have not a single regret on that front. I felt I looked the part for a Nick Cave shindig, with a corset that harks to almost Big Tent Circus feel, being both goth and carnival amusing at the same time. Someday, I shall surely get myself a top hot fascinator to match.


This particular Nick event was a bit different from other events, following on from some of his early experiments with Q&A events. Essentially, it was rather like an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit, the overall concept was Nick having a chance to sit down with the audience and let them ask him anything they wanted to know, and he would do the best to answer.With all the preparation and thought put into what I wanted to wear I felt right for the event,  I felt right about my life at that moment, and I felt very good about a question I wanted to ask.



Perhaps because I was feeling all my weird, strange, unusual, mysterious goth girl...perhaps because I've spent far too much time this year reading science fiction, but the question I wanted to ask was one I was fairly sure Nick hand't heard before and the answer to which I was genuinely curious. My goal was to ask something different, unique, but also something that would engage a response that couldn't simply be boiled into a yes/no or rehash something that had been said in different ways before. Since have my work life is around composing open ended questions that require engagement the question construction process was easy enough, it would all be in the execution.

The event was down in Brooklyn at the lovely Synagogue/Theater called the Murmrr. I met my friends outside and after some shenanigans we call get in and all got seated. The stamp on my wrist almost looked like Hebrew script, which worked with the overall effect of the venue. Low, wooden, seats that folded out, cross cut, almost prairie style trellises across the ceiling, thick deep brown stained glass on all sides, a small stage in front, a piano on the stage, a lamp, a chair, microphones. It brought to the event a religious reverence that many in the audience almost certainly embodied as they sat to listen to a god, a man, a ghost, a guru.

There was a piano on stage and I already knew from all the internet groups there would be singing. I took my seat, buzzing with excitement, anticipation. The lights fall, there is nothing but darkness, the sounds over the speakers of a poem filling the space with words, lyrical, soft, interpretation, and as the poem finishes, the lights go up, Nick at a piano and he begins with a song.

From there it is on to the question and answer. The girl who gets the first question is not far away from me, her question, to summarize, is really "Why are we all here, Nick? What is this thing you are doing?" And the answer, without being flip, but in a direct, self effacing way is "I'm not really sure yet."


He thinks through what he wants to say though, this much is clear. It takes him time to work it out, to talk through it. This is so different from a concert gig, so much more intimate. The veil of power and light is stripped away and he is simply a tall, thin, older man who is still trying to figure it out, day by day, whatever the various circumstances might be. The good, the bad, the all to painful to live through.

By chance, by crook, by fortune, I had the second questions. I slipped easily into my public speaking self to quiet the butterflies in my stomach and make it easy to project into the microphone, engage with the audience, and as the question, perhaps silly and without a point (secretly, I hope brilliant and memorable) that I had come to ask:

"So I wish had something sort of meta to ask you but I've been thinking about this for a few days and the question that I wanted to ask is: given that we have a satellite that is probably going to spin out into infinity that has a gold record on it full of music, I was wondering if you had the opportunity to pick a song from your catalog, from your collaborations, something you yourself have written, anything, that might exist in the universe, into infinity, on a satellite that may eventually  be intercepted by other intelligent beings, what would that be?"


To which Nick responded, "I'll play it."

Then he sat at that beautiful piano and into the microphone "For the aliens."

She was a catch,
We were a match
I was the match that would fire up her snatch
There was a catch
I was no match
I was fired from her crutch
Now I sit around and watch
The mermaids sun themselves out on the rocks
They are beyond our touch
I watch and watch
Wave at me
They wave at me
They wave and slip
Back into the sea
All the ones who come
All the ones who go
Down to the water
All the ones who come
All the ones who go
Down to the sea
I believe in God
I believe in mermaids too
I believe in seventy two virgins on a chain (why not, why not)
I believe in the rapture
For I've seen your face
On the floor of the ocean
At the bottom of the ray
I do drive a relentless course
I do husband alertness course
I do mermaid alertness course
Watch them out on the rocks
Wave at me
Wave at me
They wave and slip
Back into the sea
All the ones who come
All the ones who go
Down to the water
All the ones who come
And all the ones who go
Down to the sea
For all the ones who come
And all the ones who go
Down to the water
All the ones who come
And all the ones who go
Down to the sea - Mermaids, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

I was pleased and amused, and even though it was probably an off the cuff answer, there is so much here that makes so much sense. As I unpacked it to Hellion later, "It's a brilliant choice. It contains everything you need to understand the strangeness that is life on earth. From our ridiculous obsession with sex and sexual pleasure, to the small finite amount of time a relationship lives, to God and religion and salvation (two religions in this song at least) and mermaids. All our beliefs in fictional narrative and the power that lies in then taken to the nth degree. And then, of course, the sea, the stones, the rocks, and the time we spend as creatures, idle, waiting, watching, coming and going. It was truly a perfect choice."

Clearly the question resonated as later he would come back to it just after explaining the relationship between Blixa and Anita Lane. Just before laying into the chords he says, "I'd put this one on the space capsule, too."

My questions, of course, were not the only questions he answered. The journey was somewhat circular and some of the questions being asked were questions that had been asked, but there was powerful meaning there for artists and creative types. It struck me and consoled me he talked about not keeping a journal or writing notes about everything. It struck me and consoled me when he said that creativity like his, was a job, like any job. It struck me and consoled me that he still wasn't exactly sure what he was doing.

There were other things.

But, one that stuck out was his thoughts around his art and grief. The question was along the lines of the role that grief plays in the creative process and his answer encapsulated something it is hard to admit but known to many of us that must create: be that through writing or music or other....

Grief has nothing to do with the creative process. It's not the grief. As an artist it is the constant questioning, the anxiety, the depression, the ever impending sense of worthlessness, the internal feedback loop that says you can't do anything of value that builds and builds until suddenly, epiphany. Creative breakthrough. The moment of something new in the time and place that was ready for it.

He said more, and it can be broken down in a hundred different ways, and we will all take with it our own moment of meeting. In the back I ran into SugarSkulls, my lawless partner who helped gate crash the Chicago stage with me a year ago. There were others from the online cults, of course, and those I came with. Our takeaways were each different, the concert our own, the meaning we make of it the meaning we want.

In the end, it was an unusual, intimate and vibrant experience. An artist working to transcend just the body of work, to be more, to be human. Not a god, really, or even a guru, just a father, a husband, a human walking the earth, looking for mermaids in the water and trying to master existence along with the rest of us.


No comments: