For the better part of a decade, if you went to a show at DC’s Black Cat any night of the week, there would be a large homeless gentleman with a booming voice at the door, and as you approached, he’d say, “Black Cat! Black Cat! Spare some change for the homeless.” Depending on what show you were planning on seeing, he’d throw in a reference for good measure: “Modest Mouse, baby! Spare some change for the homeless.”
I must have seen dozens of bands play at the Black Cat during that era – particularly DC bands like The Make Up, Trans Am, Tuscadero, Circus Lupus, and Dismemberment Plan – as well as a who’s who of indie bands from around the country who made their annual pilgrimage to the legendary venue. The Black Cat has since moved down the street to a larger space, and the homeless dude who announced the shows doesn’t seem to be there anymore, but it’s still one of the best best best places in all of Washington, D.C., and long may it last.
Here are 20 more songs from the list:
The first record store I ever really loved was an unforgiving shithole in Adams Morgan, DC, called DC CD. They sold independent music, which wasn’t true of most other places in the city, but they almost certainly didn’t have the album you went there looking for, which meant – to avoid walking away empty-handed after a long Metro ride, I ended up spending hundreds of dollars there on totally random shit by bands I’d heard of but never actually listened to like (memorably) Galaxie 500 or Karate or Low or, failing that, anything that had appealing album art or a cool name.
This was in no way a bad thing.
DC CD closed down sometime in the early aughts, partially because it was really not a very good record store, and by that time I had learned to love some other, shinier and better stocked emporiums – notably Rasputin Records in Berkeley and Plan 9 in Richmond, VA – but I still think of DC CD when I think about how much I miss shopping at record stores. The very best ones were the ones that had just the right imperfections.
Let’s do 20 more songs from the list:
I awake this morning with a disturbing feeling that I am not quite myself. A common enough occurrence, certainly, but this time the impression is not dissociative – that of being “other” or alien – it is a distinct and unshakeable sense that I am somebody else in particular. That I am – to be specific – hip hop impresario-turned-actor/entrepreneur Sean “Puffy” Combs.
Stopping only to reach for my spectacles, I leave the house in a hurry, my addled morning thoughts beginning to coalesce around a fully formed idea: Tonight, I shall make my mark.
But such a bold endeavor requires careful preparation. Hence, today’s agenda:
Note to self: Keep moving until the friction causes electricity.
Note to the musicians: Play louder! For tonight, we go to war, and we will not rest until the rosy glow of dawn blesses our victory. Time may pass, yes, but what use have we for keeping time when we can keep company? The revels of this night shall never end. Never.
Paradoxically, I have no real obligations or worries, but I do have an abundance of alcoholic beverages on my person, which are themselves both an obligation and a concern. And I am destitute. I am penniless and broken, but I am present in myself.
Now, the men come – compelled no doubt by my (outward) confidence. But unless their faces are wrinkled and drawn – broken in a thousand places by the excesses of reckless youth; carious and worn, with pouting lips and sunken eyes like those of Sir Michael Philip Jagger, lead vocalist of The Rolling Stones – then I have no time for them. They hold no interest for me.
Perhaps I have not made myself clear. Picture this:
A wild, orgiastic beat drives us into a state of ecstasy. Crowds of men reach, acquisitively, for my genitals, but I rebuff them with increasing violence. As we begin to give way to the pounding of the drums and the irresistable allure of darkness and chaos, the authorities arrive without warning and attempt, desperately, to hold back the massive storm of flesh and rage and flesh and music that threatens, no – that promises – to envelop us all forever…
Now, the party don’t start ’til I walk in.
The first real rock concert I ever went to (pace The Beach Boys sans Brian Wilson c. 1987 … with my parents) was Perry Farrell’s third Lollapalooza at Charlestown Racetrack, West Virginia, in 1993.
Rage Against the Machine opened, followed by Front 242, Arrested Development, Fishbone, Dinosaur Jr., and Alice in Chains, with Primus as the headliner. I can’t say that any of those bands really went on to be a big part of my life (except probably Dinosaur Jr.) but the experience was more or less ecstatic. Like, the life-affirming, revelatory, kick-ass good time that I had watching bands play for 8 hours at Charlestown Racetrack on August 3, 1993, with my friends Carlos and Charlie and Peter and Alfonso was in a perfect inverse proportion to the grim, sweaty journey into hell that Alfonso’s mother had on that same day – waiting outside the venue amongst a hundred angry, ticketless alterna-punks with hairdos to make sure we were OK and didn’t do drugs or have heatstroke or just drop dead on the spot from the sheer chaos and strangeness of it all. When we found her after Primus’s set, she was in tears and inexplicably standing on the back of a pickup truck frantically waving her arms in the air.
For a couple of years after that I was obsessed with mosh pits (when you are only four feet tall, the mechanics of this are really weird). And crowd-surfing (we called it “swimming”? I’m certain this is true. Fishbone had a song about it). Here are 20 more songs from the list: