By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
"You want to see your intestines?" says a guy whose forearm is tattooed with a scene from a Hitchcock film. I've just walked into the Speakeasy, and the first thing I see is Mandy Cox, DJ and booker for the bar's new rock-themed Tuesday night, listening to her friend read what is quite possibly the most disgusting story I've ever heard in my life. You don't want to hear the next sentence he reads from Chuck Palahniuk's "Guts," a short story that reportedly caused audience members to faint during a reading in Portland, Oregon. Suffice it to say it involves peanut butter, lambskin condoms, and about five feet of digestive tract tangled in a swimming-pool vent.
When Hitchcock Tattoo breaks from his vivid incantations, Cox stands up, unfazed, and hands the decks over to me. It's my turn to spin some music (by which I mean: hit the play button, open the disc drawer, then hit the play button again). My stomach isn't in it. But Cox, ever-friendly and cheerful, coaxes me toward the cross-fader, and soon I'm cueing up the first song. Some local musicians show up. The bartender papers the room with free shot tickets. Two girls get up from their chairs and move to the music right in the middle of the room. I'm starting to love the Speakeasy. People are dancing! Music is playing! It's gonna be a good week! I think, almost forgetting Palahniuk's tale.
And then I go home and get sick.
Metric, Monday, February 9 at the Fine Line Music Café Emily Haines is wearing the shortest skirt I've ever seen. If it gets any shorter, I fear I'll see her chin poke out under the hem. As the munchkin-sized rocker jumps around stage--mouth agape, eyes bulging, jazz hands fluttering as if her arms were being swallowed by rabid hummingbirds--the men in the crowd crane their necks. But if their eyes wander toward lower vistas, at least their ears are glued to the band, because tonight the Canadian agit-pop group sounds phenomenal. Keyboards burble mournfully, walking basslines practically sprint, drums sizzle and snap like Rice Krispies left out in the rain, and the divine Ms. Em slingshots situationist slogans straight at our heads.
"Give a little kick with your fine thigh-highs," she croons, delivering a kung fu punt that could launch moon boots past the dark side of the lunar surface. Just like that, Haines flashes her Hanes at the whole wide world. Ready to wax philosophical about the psychosexual and sociopolitical significance of such a gesture being made by a powerful female rocker, I turn to the stylish blonde next to me, who sums up the bottom line much more eloquently. "I just saw her panty crotch!" she gasps.
Ssion, Wednesday, February 11 at the Triple Rock Social Club There's a chicken running around onstage. I can tell it's a chicken because it's got a little red beak and lots of feathers--though the fact that it's over five feet tall and wearing heels does seem a little strange. Everyone knows that chickens over four feet should wear flats.
"What's your major?" the poultry sings in a nasal whine.
"My major is fuck you!" screeches an angsty bovine, gyrating with his udder in full swing. The mad cow is Cody Critcheloe, a flamboyant Kentucky wailer with larynx by Kathleen Hanna and style by Hanna Barbera. When he joins up with his duo of backup singers (the third member of Ssion is dressed as a lion), he sounds like the greatest riot grrl to ever rock a Y chromosome--like Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love shoved into the same Halloween costume. Behind him, the Lioness works her finest air-guitar moves as the prerecorded art-punk disco beats blare over cut-and-paste collage films. We watch hot dogs float in midair, cassette tapes rewind themselves, and long shots of Critcheloe picking his nose.
Meanwhile, the chicken dry-humps the lead singer's tail. I hate to think what their offspring would look like. But I bet they'd be tasty in a potpie.
Let's Spend the Night Together, Saturday, February 14 through Sunday, February 15 at the Walker Art Center Dozens of red heart-shaped balloons stick to the wall on the third-floor gallery; one has the word "love" scrawled across it in cursive handwriting. During the last five hours of UK experimentalist Janek Schaefer's haunting performance, it has shriveled down to a tiny wrinkled mass. It's 2:00 a.m., and beneath a rosy glow cast by the crimson globes overhead, Schaefer twiddles knobs until a low, mournful drone rises from his mixer, warping Celine Dion's "Power of Love" so that the Canadian chanteuse moans like a demonic drag queen. "I'm your lady and you are my man," Dion sighs, as if to clarify any gender confusion. In the center of the room, two women slow-dance to the bizarre ballad, their exaggerated waltz looking like something from a David Lynch film. A handful of voyeurs watch, transfixed.
Three hours later, just before sunrise, Schaefer is as energetic as ever, wide-awake and expertly perverting his favorite love songs. Downstairs in the lobby, the rest of us are drunk, exhausted, or some combination of the two. "Tomorrow I have to do... something," mumbles Revolver Modèle singer Ehsan Alam, checking his watch. "And I have to get up... sometime. And I don't know if I can do it, because right now I'm feeling so... something." Exactly.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Sufjan Stevens, Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre) As a sage in a funny hat once sang, sad songs say so much. Often, they say too much, espousing an überdramatic fatalism that makes you want to strap yourself to a suicide prevention billboard and launch the whole thing into an industrial-size paper shredder. Sufjan Stevens's melancholy minimalism feels too delicate for such rash deeds: Listening to him, you'd probably settle for drowning quietly in a warm bubble bath. Over stark guitar melodies that expand and deflate like the lungs of a deep sleeper, the Michigan balladeer murmurs in his best library voice, whispering of William Blake poems, Flannery O'Connor stories, omens delivered by street signs and vagrant birds. Despite the epic themes, though, Stevens's love songs make no claims to move mountains or walk 500 miles--tasks that lead singers from other bands always hire a record-label intern to carry out. He promises simple things. He'll sell his shoes to be with you, he says. And you believe him.