VIEWS: 6 PAGES: 3 POSTED ON: 11/12/2009
Damn Colonists Bjork brings a high price with her. Her performances command a certain level of drama, high steaks, and the promise of a musical explosion bent on reminding an audience of their dangerous proximity to the nearest supernova. Bjork brings her audience to the edge of the cliff where you never know if she'll fly them out to Pluto and back, or just jump off and leave them scrambling for earth. My history with Bjork has always been as such. Either 100% on or 100% off, she never fakes her live presence. Such raw emotion unveiled with a singing that comes from the vibrations of the big bang itself, can spark emotions that will linger and haunt for years, causing you to return again and again to that particular time in your life when you saw Bjork and it turned your life inside out. Deciding to go to the Sasquatch festival in central Washington this year was kind of a no-brainer, despite the odds working against me. I had been living in Spain all spring, and was flat broke. I had only returned from Spain three days before the concert, and still needed to figure out how I was going to get from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon, where I'd hitch a ride with my friends Mandy and Nathan (http://www.flickr.com/photos/honeycut07/542184123/) to the Gorge Amphitheater five hours away. But, Bjork headlining a festival at the most beautiful amphitheater on the planet, a place Mandy and I have been drooling to get to since we started traveling to see rock shows together, it was a perfect fit, there was no way we wouldn't do it. “Oh, how nice it is that you get to do all these nice things.” Underneath the tone of my mom's excited pleasure that “you get to do all these nice things,” was her clear displeasure and a head shake that may have well said “Um, hello, job, bills, rent, ever heard of these things?”Well, yes, but in the light of going with my best music-traveling-partner to a place we've always dreamed of going, you just have to grab the opportunities that present themselves and run with them and smile all the way. In fact, Mandy and I traveled to our first festival together with my mom. It was the Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco in 1996. My mom wasn't a chaperon either, she was a willing participant. She too wanted to see Bjork, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Rage Against The Machine, The Beastie Boys and many others play and rally for a free Tibet. So with our friend Jason Nunez (http://www.flickr.com/photos/honeycut07/329551148/) and a friend of his, we set off from San Diego to the Polo Fields of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and treated ourselves to two days of the finest music on the planet. To this day, the image of a spiky-blond Bjork bouncing from one side of the stage to the other, smiling with all the light of the sun, is inseparable that of my mom getting “Violently Happy” right along side Bjork, and sharing a beautiful connection with her son. That's the thing that made growing up with my mom so amazing; she was along from the grungerock ride, she wasn't indifferent about it. It wasn't enough for her to know that I listened to that loud screechy music, she read the lyrics for In Utero and empathized, she sang Breeders songs around the house, and saw Pearl Jam a handful of times on her own. It was a beautiful connection we shared, because I knew she knew what was up with me, if nothing else, based on what I was listening to, and I, in turn, was exposed to a pallet of life that rival's Bjork's in its colorful reaches. If my mom could write songs, they would be Bjork songs. That was twelve years ago though. I'm an only child, my parents are aging rapidly, and I'm far away. They're lonely, and their “family” is busy getting in all sorts of trouble all over the globe. These days, the Bjork song my mom would be singing is the one that sounds like: I'm a tree that grows hearts one for each that you take you're the intruders hand I'm the branch that you break (Bjork, “Bachelorette”) I hear that, but still, I don't know what to do with the “Wanderlust” she injected into my life. Being that she managed to catch me on my 24 hours home between Spain and Portland only to offer a finger wag and head shake, it causes tension. I didn't want to expect it, but somehow I instinctively knew Bjork would provide some kind of direction, some kind of answer. She strangely always does. Weather it was inspiring an entire Boston Opera house into joy and relief in a show barely a month post 9/11, or mirroring my own personal rage by storming off stage on a Seattle Pier in 2003, Bjork has an ethereal connection to her audience in a way that suggests she doesn't even do it on purpose. Just the description of her job alone forces her into that position: singer, howls, uses the energy of the crowd to be in their face what they're afraid to be in private. All that, and Bjork hadn't even taken the stage yet. Prancing onto the stage and instantly declaring, “We are the earth intruders,” Bjork capped the long day of festival going off with a fireball of power and intrigue. Her Icelandic female brass band glowed fluorescent pink and blue under the black lights while they danced with colorful flags flying from their hats. Banks of electronics surrounding two band members, plus the keyboardist, a drummer and TV screens showing close ups of the electronics filled the stage, and an impressive array of lights and lasers soared high over the Ice Queen. She herself looked like an American Indian diva, with poncho and glittering forehead. From here it only got more dramatic, more sincere, more captivating, and more liberating. She wound the audience through many of her new and old songs, including a nicely reworked version of “Oceania,” a song which had only ever been performed at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Olympics in Athens. Songs from Post, “I Miss You” and “Hyperballad” received raucous treatments allowing her to dance and run from side to side playing with and enticing the audience. The new songs were truly the stars, however, with tracks like “Wanderlust” bringing out the hunter in all of us, and the karate punch drive of “Innocence” blasting the audience into realms of the unreal well past the midnight hour. But it was the evening's final number, “Declare Independence,” which was the moment I had been waiting for. Declare independence Don't let them do that to you Her mantra began. Damn colonists Ignore their patronizing Tear off their blindfold Open their eyes I suddenly had a flashback to 1996 and the Tibetan Freedom Concert. I felt like that's what we were doing back then: damning the colonists and tearing off the blindfolds, learning about Tibet's non-violent protest to regain independence, and using real tools to try to bring that to fruition...and I was having a very personal moment with my mother, who stood there and encouraged me to figure out ways to tear off people's blindfolds and go off to declare my own piece of independence. For whatever reason, the plight of the Tibetans didn't change too much, and the concerts and the cause just sort of faded into the backs of people's minds. Likewise, my mom has taken way to patronizing and a love of leather sofas. With a flag and a trumpet go to the top Of your highest mountain In light of people's complacency, Bjork hasn't given up trying. She's shouting louder than ever to get people there. She even once decried the Tibetan Freedom Concerts on a song called “Alarm Call,” where she sang “I'm no fucking Buddhist, but this is enlightenment.” And there we are... my mom and I... I'm not meditating, I'm not being responsible, I'm taking risks and not slowing down to be sorry. I am scaling the largest mountains in my world, with my flag and trumpet strapped firmly to my back, and I know this is enlightenment. I just hope that when I get there, I can bellow the trumpet loud enough, so in spite of all the miles and age between us, she can hear the sound of everything she taught me radiating through the land. It's amazing that a concert can bring us to this. It's especially amazing that this can happen at a festival no less, where within five minutes of Bjork telling us to declare independence, tens of thousands of us were stuck in a line trying to leave the amphitheater, and then in a line to leave the parking lot. While stuck in these lines, I heard people rejoicing about what they had just seen: “That was the best performance I've ever seen by anybody,” “I'm glad you convinced me to stay and see Bjork, because that was the best night of my life,” and “They should just cancel tomorrow's festival, because no one can dare to come close to that.” Clearly, I wasn't the only one who was brought to a special place that night. And with the pounding beat of “Declare Independence” firmly planted in my brain through the drive home, through my sleep in a tent that night, and through the next day's journey home, I left the Sasquatch festival with a new set of tools to build a refreshed relationship with the muse who brought me to this place to begin with. I still don't know how to use them exactly, as Bjork's instructions are cryptic at best. Her swan draped howl brings us to the brink of wondering if we can face our own fears before whispering to us that we're already flying. The nights where she doesn't get in the way of her own explosion are the ones where this works best. When she can't bring herself to trust her own abilities, I've seen entire audiences walk away in bewilderment and confusion. But this night she gave it away in spades; for those who came just to see her, for those who didn't even know who she was, and for those who came with nothing but the hope of a little bit of inspiration from someone who seems to breathe it. Everyone caught a little bit of the fire that is Bjork.
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