Tuesday, September 07, 2010

It's all so much clearer now

The past week featured a few '90s time warp trips for me.  And I'm still trying to digest how it all makes me feel.  So here's a few stabs at my reaction to both the end of a Kurt Cobain-inspired exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum and the Pavement reunion tour that traipsed through the Paramount Theatre.  

I'll start with the latter.  Pavement is a favorite touchstone of mine.  I fall in general agreement with the shorthand claim that their fuzzy sound and ironic slouch only masks bushels of worthy wit.  And hearing Stephen Malkmus talk earnestly about this tour as a one off deal was refreshing (don't expect to see them keep trying to cash that check in the future).  You have to go back more than 15 years to really find their hopeful peak.  So the easy money is on them being less than vigorous in concert.  I went on my own, watched on my own, and decided on my own that...it's time for even the most ardent fan to move on.  They still bring a good show.  Two hours, including a 4-song encore that a more cynical band wouldn't have done at all given the bland, obligatory ovation they got as encouragement from a crowd that I saw as seriously underpacked.  It was the sort of crowd you could see doing the same thing I did beforehand - fixing a nice dinner for the family AND doing the dishes before hitting the town.  I saw a few pregnant women.  The line-up at the merch table afterward was way deeper than that to the bar, at least while the opener was playing (Quasi, a Portland band everyone respects who packed a few decades worth of experience into a tight 40-minute set).  Everything Pavement did was fine.  That's the problem.  The extended moment when these songs mattered has passed.  When I got home, I saw the handful of CDs I'd put in our stereo's changer.  When I look at my iPod, I've only bothered to upload this year's newly released (and wonderful) "Quarantine the Past" compilation.  That's a wounded metaphor, but it works for me.  I love Pavement.  I won't say "loved".  But now I can move on. 

The Kurt Cobain exhibit at the SAM was pulled yesterday after a handful of months.  Far more local ink was spilled on it than I ever thought worthy.  It always just seemed like a tourist crowd draw, especially considering how close the SAM is to the Pike Place Market.  But it was First Thursday Gallery Walk night last week.  What better time to see what for.  And the verdict?  Of course it was forced nostalgia.  Creepy and almost entirely devoid of wit.  Yet the point that I saw was actually pretty brilliant, albeit unintended.  I'm speaking of the people watching, most of which seemed to be infinitely entertained by its own internal divisions.  The partiers jostled by the gallery types, the tourists mingled with those in effect demanding acknowledgment as true locals, the stripes mixed with the solids.  Where I fit in doesn't matter a hoot.  But like anyone that lived in Seattle when Kurt killed himself, I've got my own stories to tell and images to share.  Spending that Friday at Two Bells in Belltown with friends after hearing the news.  Seeing a pile of afternoon Seattle Times issues brought in and passed around.  Hearing how a friend who's office was in the same building as The Rocket had to get out of there as the media frenzy heated up.  Those images are what I'd hang on the walls of the SAM.  And they'd probably look just as stupid.  The personal decontextualized and writ large is doomed to fail.  Time and time again.

Where I sit now is altogether in a different time and mental space.  Maya starts kindergarten tomorrow.  We're going to head out now to do some last school shopping.  That's the show I can't wait to see.  Call me past prime or whatever suits your taste for snark these days.  But know that I'm still looking backward as I focus on what's to come.  It's just that those things in the rearview mirror are no longer closer than they appear.  Thankfully.

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