Sep 17 2018

Extralife

Jessica Hopper

Saturday was the Hold Steady video. It is a good thing not all one hundred people showed up because we had room for about thirty-three total. People later said they did not show because filming video is waiting around for twenty hours to act fake-excited in one-minute spurts. Which might be true when you are on the set of Sum 41’s “Spooge Patrol” shoot, but this is the Hold Steady; they are a punk band on a punk budge, no time to spare. I got paid with a latte and a vegan muffin. It was like a Hold Steady show, except it lasted three hours, and they played the same song eight times all the way through. In between, the extras and the band just knocked back beers and ate nuts from a can. They played, and the first couple of times we faced one way on the set, then they played again and we faced the other way. It was not complicated and our enthusiasm was not fake. Miles and I got assigned to stand right in front of Craig the whole time, and so we were flecked with his spit.

Other highlights: Miles punched the air on the drum fill and lost his glasses on the floor. I held Craig’s BlackBerry for him during the shoot, and I sent horribly sappy emails to the rest of the band from his email account, detailing, in florid language, just how special I thought our relationship was and how much I thought being in a band with them was a fun experience.

Late night: I saw Miles play an acoustic show, and it was great. His lyrics got stuck in my brain, and I was singing them all day on the bike. Just refrains. Miles has songs that have lines about last call at Rainbo that drop bon mots like “And we all lie / for / a little / heeeaaaad.” The people who played after him were a stark contrast. The next performer had a keyboard-piano and if I had to guess I would say his musical influence is the Capitol Steps. Lyrically, it was more like . . . Rufus Wainwright as a fourteen­-year-old chess champion. Oh, and he was dressed in pleat fronts, dirty white Reeboks, a too-small women’s argyle sweater vest. When he would sing “Baby” it was like . . . a formatting error. If that dude with the piano has ever called anyone “baby” in real life, other than an actual newborn, I would be shocked.

And somehow, the next dude managed to be more wrongly fangled than the Virgin Caddy. He started out with this delicate but dramatic Skip Spence/Belle and Sebastian sound. I thought I might be able to hang, but then came the chorus of his first song. He was trailing in and out with his voice, which was going from whispery to bedroom quiet to leaves-twinkling-in-the-breeze loud. And then he sang, “We get lost / . . . on Lonely Street / We lose our . . . irection.” And then he repeats what sounds like “we lose our erection” four times. I had to kick Miles to keep from falling out of my plastic lawn chair and giggling in juvenile hysterics.

October 09, 2005

BECAUSE THE NIGHT BELONGS TO LARGE PROFESSOR, BECAUSE THE NIGHT BELONGS TO US!

The dance floor is actually just some stairs. I danced with Hunter and Vanessa. I told Hunter his outfit made him look like early ’80s David Crosby: white seersucker suit, sleeveless tie-dye shirt, a serious beard, some gold chains, and a rope belt. “Awesome, thanks.” Inexplicably, he was yelling, “E-BAY!” like one might yell, “Westsiiide!” during the breaks of songs, and then whiffing hits of VCR head cleaner from a little bottle. I asked him if inhalants are his drug of choice. He stopped dancing and thought about it seriously. “Yes, yes they are,” he said, and started again.

Some guy with a camera was trying to take pictures and was in our dance zone. Hunter and I sandwiched him aggressively, and Hunter, now down to the sleeveless shirt, did a move which can only be described as “giving him the armpit.” Once the guy relented, Hunter said, “Cameras are just so . . . stupid,” paused, puts his hands to his head, kind of sat in an invisible chair, quickly stood back up, raised his hands in the air, and screamed, “WHOA!,” then went back to dancing.

Then El-P ceded the decks to Peanut Butter Wolf after a decent string of old-school surefire. El-P’s skill with the mixer left a little to be desired; his touch with the fader could adequately be described as “violent.” Upon exiting the booth, he stood with Kathryn and me and mocked his own lack of technique. His humility was refreshing. He played Public Enemy five times in an hour, which was admirable as well.

Then El-P was back on and he played some shit from back when all rap songs were eight or eleven minutes long, then, after realizing that was a fatal move, threw on Large Professor. He was having fun, and that’s re­ally what matters.

Meanwhile, I spent this time standing by the bar, waiting for my water with ice and a straw, talking about my new haircut with acquaintances amid fancy Puma shoes in saturated matte colors that were ar­ranged between the Baileys and the Icy Hot bottles at this store opening party.

I ate my ice and called it a night.

November 13, 2004

HAVING ANSWERED SO I TURN ONCE MORE

Sandburg writes much about the new skyscrapers of Chicago being lifted, lifting the city, Chicago built and rebuilt, in “Windy City” and “Good Morning, America”—in those poems, they are valiant and tri­umphant. Their triumph is in the toil and labor as much as it’s symbolic of progress and modernity. The night I got home, JR pointed out that the glowing tower that got bigger while I was gone, the thing I would fall asleep looking at every night since it came twinkling into view this early spring, is, in fact, the Trump Tower. Since then I have kept the right-side curtain of my room pulled on it. I liked it better when I thought it was a very tall parking structure or that twirling building that’ll be the tallest in the world. The building having a name and identity changes my feelings about it; the toil of leather-handed men, and building something very tall, was progress in 1928, but now I think that continual triumph is a harbinger of ruin. But maybe it’s just a building.

July 15, 2008

Excerpted from Night Moves by Jessica Hopper. Copyright 2018 by Jessica Hopper. Published in September by University of Texas Press. All rights reserved.

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