Friday, September 26, 2008

Blake, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and me

Blake introduced me to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' The Boatman's Call as soon as our courtship began. Well, technically it didn't begin as a courtship as much as a fling with my piercer, but I digress.

I entered this mysterious and private world of Blake, a heavily-modified man with penetrating blue eyes, living in a large house but only inhabiting a small corner of it. The soundtrack to this one-man planet was so much different from my own--slower, more intense, romantic, filled with a slew of instrumental sounds that were lacking in my own limited musical selection. I had been listening to simple, fast-paced skater anthems suited well for drinking beer in a can and playing video games. Nick Cave was better suited for slow dancing, making-out, or kicking back wearing silk and velvet with a cup of tea or a scotch. Later, as I was educated on the history of Nick, I learned his earlier music, from his band The Birthday Party, was also rowdy beer-drinking musical fare, but this was not what captured me. Our romance blossomed over the piano ballads of "People They Ain't No Good" and "Lime Tree Arbor." When we were married less than a year later, our friend played "Into my Arms" at our wedding, summing up our contrasting natures that Nick so often writes of: the unreligious man scorned by God and the sweet optimistic Jesus-loving girl he falls for.

I don't believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do

But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him

Not to intervene when it came to you

Not to touch a hair on your head

To leave you as you are

And if He felt He had to direct you

Then direct you into my arms


And I believe in Love

And I know that you do too

And I believe in some kind of path
That we can walk down, me and you

During this year, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released an album called No More Shall We Part which Blake and I listened to endlessly together, more melancholy songs of love and longing, and religious scrutiny. By this time I had laid the last of my Christian predispositions to rest, after struggling to fortify and justify the religion I was raised with when I went off to college and found that it could not in good conscience sit with me, so this side of the lyrical nature sat with me even more deeply. We caught the tour for this album in Portland when I was 6 months pregnant with Mayan. Apparently, they had not played in Portland for 14 years so this was an extra special treat, and completely sold out. The modest floor of the Crystal Ballroom was packed and cigarette smoke filled the massive space up to the ceiling. Besides the smoke, the red stage lights, and the image of Nick pounding away at the piano to most of our favorite songs from the new album such as "O Lord" and "15 Feet of Pure White Snow" with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, what sticks out the most was how terriblely painful my poor swollen pregnant feet felt squeezed into my adorable heels. I ended up asking someone near the back wall to move so I could sit down by pointing to my large belly with a pitiful look on my face among the noise. Just as we decided to creep out early to beat the rush, the encore song started and it was "Into My Arms" so we swayed together near the back to our (and I am sure MANY others) love anthem.

The years flew by. The music continues to grace our everyday lives. I will never forget how when I was in labor and I asked my body to "bring it on" so we could see our baby before morning, and within a few minutes the iPod shuffled to the song "Bring it On" from Nocturama. I leaned on the cedar walls and drank in the experience, letting all of my fears and desires about giving birth at home course through me and be purged out through the music.

This garden that I built for you
That you sit in now and yearn

I will never leave it, dear
I could not bear to return

And find it all untended

With the trees all bended low

This garden is our home, dear

And I got nowhere else to go
So bring it on

Bring it on

Every little tear

Bring it on
Every useless fear
Bring it on

All your shattered dreams

And I'll scatter them into the sea

Into the sea

George-Ephraim was born within four hours.

Imagine our excitement when we learned that 6 1/2 years, two more children, and 4 albums later Nick and his band would be returning to the Crystal Ballroom--this time promoting Dig, Lazarus, Dig and doing an all-ages show. I deliberated for months on what to do with the baby when the show came--I asked Breana months in advance to mark her calendar in case I wanted her to be a "car nanny" and watch a hopefully sleeping George a few blocks from the show. I ordered a pair of special infant headphones in case we decided to just bring him with us. But in the end, since it co-incided with the visit from D and G, I resigned myself to put the boy to sleep in his hammock and hope for the best. I even went out the day of the show and bought a natural rubber pacifier for them to pop in his mouth if he woke up prematurely. The timing could not have been better: we arrived, Blake dressing in all black and me in a vintage dress, heels, and lipstick, at the door of the Ballroom just as the first song began. Viewing was tricky since we were the last ones there but we ending up in the balcony with decent views of the whole band, and just a few yards from the upstairs bar that rarely has a line. The set list was heavy with the new material and alternated with some very old classics, many of which were played at the last show. It is hard to have any expectations of hearing certain songs when there are songs over 14 studio albums to choose from. I was just happy to see a jovial and charged Nick (the birthday boy we learned) gyrating and pointing and pounding away around his amazing band crowded together on the club's stage.

From the Oregonian review:
He might have preferred a place with a bigger stage. The concert showed the strengths (energy, intimate downtown setting) and weaknesses (small stage, very uneven sound) of the Crystal Ballroom. Cave and the Bad Seeds are a big deal worldwide, capable of filling arenas and concert halls in Europe and his native Australia. In an interview earlier Monday, Cave called touring the U.S. "an act of love" because bringing a full band to clubs is a break-even proposition, at best. Shoving six musicians as talented as the Bad Seeds into the corner of tiny stage makes it difficult for them to perform and get the sound separation they need.

My mind, of course, floated back and forth wondering if the sweet babe was at home screaming bloody murder, and as I deliberated over ordering another beer or just quitting while we were ahead and bailing early, I got the text: "All's well." We enjoyed the second half together feeling relaxed and happy and reconnected as married couple. Nick seems to alwasy do that for us.

For posterity's sake, the set list:

Night of the Lotus Eaters
Dig Lazarus Dig
Today's Lesson
Weeping Song
Nobody's Baby Now
Midnight Man
Mercy Seat
Red Right Hand
We Call Upon the Author
Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
More News From Nowhere

Love Letter
Lyre of Orpheus
Get Ready For Love
Hard-on For Love
Stagger Lee


elliesmadre said...

I'm so so happy for the both of you that you were able to get away and have such an awesome date. :) I can just see the two of you listening to your band just loving each other.

Nicole said...

Tupelo....I love that one. One of my favs. He did not perform it the time I saw him at Roseland Ballroom in NYC.
Sounds like it was a much needed evening.

UrbanHippieMama said...

Wow..this post brought tears to my eyes. So neat to read the history of you and Blake set to the backdrop of Nick Cave. I am so so glad that you two were able to have such a lovely night together, and your sweet babe slept the whole time.