26 May 2007

Icelanders Are Just That Way, I Think, Pt. 2

3. Having been told by guys at the ticket window there would be no coat check for the show, I take my backpack to the hostel half a block away. A Colombian girl there with a Swedish girl who's actually lived in Milwaukee told me the hostel checks bags for a mere $2. I change into my trusty black party dress, brown tights and rust-colored suede Natural Comfort platforms, in the grotty hostel bathroom. I top it all with the manky cement-colored suede jacket for a perfectly raffish, perfectly adorable combination.

4. Finally, finally they let us in! Even though I have an "orchestra seat," it still sort of sucks.

5. Björk's countrymen Ghostdigital--which they pronounce with a hard "g"--including fellow ex-Sugarcube Einar Örn, are the opening act. The first song Örn dedicates to glaciers, which seems appropriate. Their music is electronoise that was not danceable. To me, music is for dancing. They had the volume up very loud, preventing a thoughtful critique of their work. Many audience members hied themselves to the lobby against the considerable onslaught. The production designer, it seems, was given free reign of the strobe lighting effects. Icelanders, I surmised, are just that way.

6. This set list was provided to me by Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune:

Cover Me
Earth Intruders
Venus As A Boy
It's Not Up to You
All is Full of Love
Pagan Poetry
Pleasure is All Mine
Army of Me
Hyperballad(LFO "Freak" outro)

Declare Independence

The gigography section of bjork.com lists it thus:

01. Cover Me
02. Earth Intruders
03. Venus As A Boy
04. Aurora
05. Unison
06. All Is Full Of Love
07. Immature
08. Pleasure Is All Mine
09. It's Not Up To You
10. Pagan Poetry
11. Army Of Me
12. Innocence
13. Bachelorette
14. Wanderlust
15. Hyperballad
16. Pluto

17. Oceania
18. Declare Independence

7. "Cover Me" was the intro, and I thought, I cannot believe it. In a few moments I will be looking at Björk. I will be in the same "room" with her.
When the lady appeared the audience obviously surged to its feet and cheered. The next song was from the new album ("Earth Intruders"), so I didn't know it. Next a stripped down version of "Venus As A Boy."
I could not believe Björk performed "All Is Full of Love." I had goosebumps. She did a version that is on the Greatest Hits disc, including very interesting and effective trombone slides in the last part. This song is special to me because it's so unbelievably compassionate. In 2003, I was working in the Periodicals Department of the University of Iowa Main Library. To combat eye-crossing boredom, I listened to music through headphones at my computer, including Homogenic. There are other very compassionate songs on that album, including "All Neon Like," which includes the lyrics: "Don't get angry with yourself," and "I'll heal you." Quite interesting from a lady who seems very no-nonsense and, well, a bit unsympathetic compared to say, Tori Amos, the Great and Compassionate Earth Mother/Goddess. A year later, I was visiting a friend before she left for Argentina. We were staying with this couple we knew through Iowans For Peace. Consequently, they had an excellent sound system. The morning after I arrived they were playing music they'd downloaded onto their computer through those very fine speakers, including Telegram and Homogenic. This is the first time I heard the version of "All Is Full of Love" that appears on Greatest Hits.
So, I got a few tears in my eyes. Later Björk also sang "Pagan Poetry," which I've always found a very beautiful love song. More tears coming to my eyes necessitate the use of manky jacket sleeve as hanky. Omigod, I thought, my favorite songs! If the set had also included "It's In Our Hands" I would have surely had some sort of collapse right there.
Of course, a Björk show is no fun if you can't dance. The effects, including the pyro during "Army of Me," absolutely enhanced the experience. I was jumping around, waving my arms and singing along. (To people who complain, "I didn't pay to hear you sing!" 1. Since I'm not miked or amped and Björk is, I think you're not going to hear me, ok? 2. Shove it.) It was a bit disappointing that, from what I could see, most people weren't dancing like their lives depended on it--or at all. The best part came toward the show's end during "Hyperballad" and "Pluto." By then I was sweat-damp and breathless. It was like a present, really--the best club experience a person could ever hope for--Björk was right there, and the beats were excellent. Also during my tenure at the library, I had listened to "Pluto" thinking, This is a club anthem waiting to happen. By that point, there was little else to do but jump up and down to the beat and fling my arms around. Thank god the floor was wooden.

8. For the encore, Björk performed "Oceania" and "Declare Independence." The second song was perfect for pogo-ing, and that's what I did. The audience clapped along to the 1/2 beat. I thought she was doing a cover of some punk band because of the lyrics "Raise your flag" and "Don't let them do that to you!"
Björk said only "Thank you," and "Thank you very much." Though she did introduce the band much later. Everyone seemed to find it charming that she curtsied. I wrote in my journal the next day: "Her speaking voice is more whimsical and lilting than I thought it would be--or more so than it's sounded on recorded media." She has touring with her very talented Icelandic brass players--women--who looked as if they were enjoying themselves very much. They also sang. Oh, good, I thought. It must be nice for her to have other Icelandic speakers around.

9. In a dream last Saturday morning, I was explaining that Icelandic is a Germanic language and not so scary as I'd once thought. Remarkably like German, it has the same four cases. (And the same declensions for gender and number--and the same three articles--masc, fem, neuter--I think. This info is all from the Wikipedia entry on the Icelandic language.) In the past, I had imagined it was a ferocious language with 15 or so cases like Russian or Polish. I also noticed that Icelanders pronounced "Björk" to rhyme with the English word "work."

10. Photo from bjork.com.

18 May 2007

Icelanders Are Just That Way, I Think, Pt. 1

1. Last week I was preparing for the Björk show in Chicago. I was in my neighborhood library doing some emailing. A woman sat down next to me. When I glanced at the book she had, I saw it was one I had previously read: Silence of the Grave by the Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason. So, I said: "I read that. It's a good book. It takes place in Iceland." It turns out this woman had been to Iceland before and written about it previously. So, we started talking about Iceland. She, of course, encouraged me to go. A few moments ago I was checking job listings at University of Wisconsin. I could not prevent myself from clicking on the listing for Lecturer in Scandinavian Studies out of curiosity. Oh, ha ha, I thought, perhaps they are looking for a teacher of Icelandic. (It's well known that virtually the only place in the US to learn Icelandic is the University of Minnesota.) Scandinavian Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking for a teacher of Icelandic, Finnish, or Scandinavian Literature. The coincidences were too great to be ignored.

2. Actually, just as I was writing this (here in the same library), the same lady I saw last week sat down by me.

11 May 2007

The Ponys, Chicago, etc.

Brown is the new black, or at least, I'm thinking so as far as eyeglasses are concerned. Brown warms a face up a bit more than black does. Let's try that for a few years--or white.

On the eve of Björk show, still don't know what to wear. Perhaps rust-colored wedges and purplish 1940s vintage dress. Though I am tempted just to wear my standby black dress. Listened to Drawing Restraint 9 soundtrack and Gorecki in the past couple days.

The interview with Vetiver's cellist will go up a bit later than I thought because she is travelling around right now. However, check out piece I wrote about the Ponys/Milwaukee's Riverwest by clicking on the headline.

03 May 2007

Keeping It Creative

Spring is like nature putting on her prettiest dress. Though, in Milwaukee it's still rather cool. Earlier today I chatted with the lead singer from the Chicago band the Ponys and walked around Riverwest for a story I just finished for the Madison weekly, Isthmus. Yesterday afternoon I got out my sketch book and actually did some drawing. Otherwise, it has been a not-so-great week. I wore a pair of boots today hoping it would make my back hurt less. (Yes, there is a logic in that, thank you very much.) Though, it does make me feel somewhat better to know that I will have an interview with Vetiver cellist Alissa Anderson to post in the near future. Keep it real, kids. Keep it creative.