I finished this today with a big sad throb in my chest for past times hanging out in the Northwest with artists of all kinds, musicians, punks, hippies, folkies, secret hippies, and lots of really smart, nice, cool people--and for all the goofy stuff we DID, on our own steam. Bills where a folk singer opened for a hardcore band and a burlesque act; a marching band playing songs from Willy Wonka in a homeade parade, for no good reason I can remember. This book is full of that spirit, which blooms like an orchid, and is fleeting.
I felt the wistfulness for the folks in this scene too and don't mean to jump in and bask in their reflected glory by sharing how it resonated with me on a much smaller level. The few precious years of communal creativity described in this book changed the world. The bands were great, and then people had to hit the road and create the circuit that original independent music still runs on today. Or grow up, or burn out, or stay, soldier on, and be human in new ways. In my hometown, it all came to us late, basically through Repo Man, when we were in our late teens.
I was almost thirty before I started sharing some really weird, sensitive songs and hanging out with a scene where people were encouraging and open and I would get free beer and pizza for singing and learning how to play in rock bands. I was a dipshit in so many ways--weren't you? Incredible! Later I had my 40th birthday party mc'd by Ty Connor and he told everyone how I
like to mix lots of kind of breakfast cereal together, because Tracy
gave up the real dirt on me. That was a big honor.
Eugene is really small but it seemed like the center of something to us, and if people blew it off, we didn't really care. There were some great Monday night shows at Sam Bond's with acts like Giant Sand or Barbara Manning or Freedy Johnson, on the way to somewhere else, and maybe not that many people were there, but it was our night with them, and a band that doesn't care about that kind of night isn't worth its salt anyway.
Eugene is still really cool and this compendium of essays about 200 creative people hanging out in LA forty years ago and building a model for other scenes out of scotch tape and poetry and Mickey's Big Mouths--it made me miss Eugene. That kind of scene is sparking somewhere else now, in multiple places, in little neighborhoods, in a country turning toward callow authoritarianism and legislated indifference to human suffering.
Nostalgia has as one of its roots algos, meaning pain. I see a lot of happy, settled down people who are STILL creative these days as they head toward AARP status with their DOA tattoos, and I'm overall glad things changed and I carry all that goodness with me. Nostalgia is good, if it passes.
I STILL don't have a tattoo. Squaresville!