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Music Is My Religion (or Cum On Feel The Noize)

Jonathan and Chuck started it, and it is a subject near and dear to me. I give you…the soundtrack to my life. Warning: I ramble on at length.

Age three or four. I dance around my grandparents’ house, on command, to early Elvis tunes.
My first live music show. Kenny Rogers at the State Fair at age five.
My Dad’s awesome reel to reel players. Alternately listening to Elton John’s Rocket Man, and The William Tell Overture. When the latter was playing my brother and I would gallop around the living room like horses.

Early 80s. I like the usual suspects…but I become completely obsessed with Duran Duran. I want to marry John Taylor…despite some confusion after learning he likes to wear women’s underpants.

5th grade. Finding a Quiet Riot tape on top of the trash can at the local gas station. The tape had been partially eaten, but I was able to get it working. Bringing it to school garners me about five minutes of fame with my classmates.

1984. Prince’s Purple Rain tour. We weren’t allowed to see the movie (too “racy”), but we’re taken to the show at the old Civic Center. The crowd seems to be comprised of scantily clad women wearing little but purple lingerie.

Junior high. My older step-brother is the guitarist for a local lycra-wearing hair band (their eventual claim-to-fame…peaking when they open for Warrant). I’m still loving the mainstream 80s music, but wanting something more. Somehow I discover KFAI 90.3 (how did I get the signal all the way in the burbs?) and tape their Sunday late night alternative show (sort of like a radio version of MTV’s 120 minutes). Discover and obsess over bands from the obscure to the better known. Screaming Trees, The Bolshoi, Ministry, Trip Shakespeare, Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Smiths, Throwing Muses, Siouxse and the Banshees, This Mortal Coil, The Cure, Violent Femmes, R.E.M. My bedroom walls are plastered with posters of Robert Smith. Discover local “club” that has a teen night. Spend Saturday nights dancing to Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round. Like a record, baby. Speaking of which…I discover Northern Lights Records (now long-defunct) and buy an Echo and the Bunnymen record. I’m taken to my first record convention and pick up some Elvis Costello. Listen to both on a crappy all-in-one stereo unit purchased from Best Buy with birthday money.

1987. The summer after 8th grade. Pivotal. I discover Suicidal Tendencies, The Circle Jerks, and Minor Threat. I go to my first show at First Avenue. Skatepunks Agent Orange headline. My life is changed. My goal now is to see as many live shows as possible. In the next couple of years punk shows become my favorite, though I don’t settle on a genre. I see The Mighty Lemon Drops with Love and Rockets at The Guthrie. Love and Rockets, again, this time at the Orpheum with The Pixies opening. Depeche Mode at Northrop. De la Soul on their 3 feet high and rising tour, at the St. Paul Armory, of all places. And there are several arena shows. The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me tour, R.E.M.’s Green tour, Billy Idol (because Gene Loves Jezebel opened) and some INXS tour, all at the old Met Center. The Replacements at Roy Wilkins. A spectacular lineup of New Order, PiL (thankfully I was too far away to be spat on by Johnny Rotten) and the Sugarcubes at the old Civic Center.

Tenth grade. 1989. My brother is diagnosed with leukemia. Our lives are in limbo, each of us holding our breath. My time is split between the hospital, home, and hardcore. Sunday night all ages shows in the 7th Street Entry are my salvation. Local bands Blind Approach, Downside, Libido Boyz. Touring bands Judge, Naked Raygun, Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today. All that finger pointing, screaming, singing along. The raw energy is my release.

Junior and senior year. Some random shows. Gwar in close quarters in the entry (thankfully I was wearing black, the splattering fake blood was unavoidable). Public Enemy, sans Flavor Flav, at GlamSlam. Fishbone, also at GlamSlam. Around this time conditions form for the first post-punk/emo bands to thrive. I love Samiam, listening to their records repeatedly. Fugazi comes to town, but their smaller brethren play the Speedboat Gallery. I start drinking coffee at the Motor Oil Cafe. 25 cents a cup, a nickel for refills (that didn’t stunt my growth, I’d already attained my current height years before). I’m blown away by Jawbox (replete with cool female bass player!). My friend Spitty roadies for Green Day. When they play the Speedboat I hear one of them utter the lamest pickup line ever…”Wanna see the inside of my van?” It’s not directed at me. I am not a pretty girl.

Before alt-rock explodes. I get to see big bands play First Ave’s main room. Jane’s Addiction. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Nine Inch Nails with Meat Beat Manifesto. Soundgarden. Living Colour. Soul Asylum. After it all goes grunge I see many of the same bands play the first couple of Lollapaloozas, before I lose interest in standing around in the mud all day, watching frat boys burn pizza boxes and otherwise make asses of themselves.

Early to mid-90s. Various phases. From Harry Connick Jr. to Avail. New all-time favorite band becomes Unbroken (and still is) despite never seeing them live. Radio K launches. I wear my headphones at work and constantly request songs. The DJs comply (dance for me monkey, dance). I become a fan of Cibo Matto, Natacha Atlas and Bettie Serveert.

Late 90s. I still go to basement shows, but, despite being just 24 or so, start to feel long in the tooth…likely the only divorcee at these all ages shows. But I still look and act like a kid. After a stifling six-year relationship I start my life afresh. I meet new people, and take road trips to Chicago…to see shows at the Fireside Bowl. I drive to punk fests in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. Friends introduce me to Sleater-Kinney, Heavens to Betsy, Heavenly, Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith, Mary Lou Lord, The Magnetic Fields. Bauhaus reunites and I catch shows in L.A. and Chicago. My newly won freedom is short-lived. I become a single mother, but motherhood mellows me out. While in the maternity ward Cocteau Twins and Low set the tone.

Post-motherhood. I don’t get out as often as I used to. Shows are few and far between. Sigur Ros at the Minneapolis Women’s Club amazes. But Nick Cave is the best. The man is a powerhouse. The first lady of alt-country, Neko Case, opens the show. Her voice gives me goosebumps. I still exchange mix tapes (and now mix CDs) with friends, but I find new music in other ways. The web is crucial to this new phase of my life. For a while I work in a Napster-loving office and exchange mp3s with co-workers. Pitchfork perusal becomes a guilty pleasure. But more than anything, blogs become my main source (group hug, guys) for any and everything…from general amusement to parenting tips and movie reviews, but especially for new music. I find many like-minded individuals who give shouts out to their new favorite artists…many of whom become mine as well. This is how I find Manitoba, The Decemberists, The Thermals, Camera Obscura, Dressy Bessy, The Epoxies, A Guy Called Gerald, Imperial Teen.

Oh no, I think I’ve said too much. But I’m sure I left something out.

One Comment

  1. I think we were smart to boycott Michael Jackson and Madonna in the 80s and only listen to punk rock (I think you left out the Ramones in there) and new wave. And the brave, but misguided attempt at our own band, The Pink Flamingos (perhaps inspired by John Waters). This was great to read. Thanks.

    Friday, July 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

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