Wednesday, January 31, 2007

SaraLeah-co + Car Wreck = Wendy Whiplash

I heart Miami Vice Wednesdays

On the drive to work this morning, I'm sitting at a stoplight, getting ready to turn onto I-65, listening to Yo La Tengo (can't stop listening to the goodness of YLT). In one flash of a moment, my whole vehicle is lurching forward, cds flying across the passenger seat and to the floor. This can't be happening.

7:30am: I pull onto the interstate. My dad has just jumped the battery to my car, which died while sitting with the radio and lights and heat on in the cold. The lady who hit me is sitting in her daughter's car. Her vehicle is being lifted onto a tow. Green puddles of coolant and plastic parts are scattered across the pavement.

8am: I walk into work and check myself in as a patient. I feel very silly.

11:30am: 20,000 xrays and about 3 and a half hours (of ridicule by my co-workers) later I head home with a neck foamy thing (which I suppose is to keep my pretty head attached) and some painkillers.

Noon: I deposit myself on the couch.

Sometime later: What is this show? I've not watched television in so long. I'm not sure what I'm seeing...dear did this end up on the lifetime channel?

Sometime after that: Where's the ice cream? I've got legs.

Top Chef: (a bit of lucidity in the madness of culinary rivalry) No Foam!

Rebec-co: Stops by after a trip to visit family in Alabaster. We form a band.

The Vicodins

Wendy Whiplash

Catatonic Candi

I'll be on the couch all day tomorrow. Awesome.
Send me a line.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Autumn Sweater

"What time do you want to meet up? 9pm? Does that sound okay?"
My head tilted left, holding the phone between my shoulder and ear, my hands busy cutting the corners of one more little bucketboy picture. "Mmmmhmmm, Trav, that sounds fine. I think I'm going to take a nap before the show." My stomach growled, I closed my phone and tried to get the tape sticking to my fingers off of one, then another, transfering the little spare pieces in a Charlie Chaplin type of innocent confusion. What? What? Eyes darting from one hand to the other. I WAS tired. I rubbed my palms together, gathered up my coat, turned off the light and collapsed on the couch.

"What are you doin'?" My feet stretched across the arm of the stale, paisley couch. I kept my head underneath the warmth of my deep wool coat, pressing my ear closer to my phone. Gorjus's voice drawing me from slumber with a yawn. "Sleepin'. What are you doin'?"

"Shouldn't you be getting ready for the show? It's almost 8'o'clock."


Brooks and Rebec-co and I stood underneath the staircase to the left of the stage. Leaning up against the railing in the room full of so many surprisingly unfamiliar faces. Who were all of those people? Seriously? We'd become so used to the returning crowd at the Bottletree, the carousel of regular customers coming out to every show, we'd kind of decided that was it. It was a little jolting to be amongst this sea of strangers and it was also decidedly inspiring. They had come out for the show. Maybe they would come out for more.

I found myself completely taken in by Georgia's pale and quiet grimace of intent. I sketched her face again and again, trying to capture that perfect concentrated gaze as she set the pace through every song.

Halfway through the set, I walked down the steps to the floor and caught the eye of my friend Greg who was standing to the right of the stage. He motioned for me to come to him, and I turned and pushed and turned and slipped past the crowd to his side. I stood right under Ira's Compact Deluxe.

My eardrums were vibrating with fury. The boys next to me were wavering with every note that Ira played, the girls with their arms held tight to their chests. In my head I kept thinking that this moment was meant for something else, for someone else, not for me. It was too much, too much for me to hold. I was wrapped in the distortion, this mess of sound. I was taken to nights, roads, driving, in the dark, around Highland Avenue in the winter chill. I was turning up the road and up the stairs and into my old apartment, in the dark, in the aftermath of a storm. Jessica was there, candles and darkness, blankets and beer and hours of conversation.

When the song ended, I had to step back and look around. Travis had appeared at my side, smiling. The guy next to me was still dancing. The faces around us were fixed on Ira's crouching form. James approached the keys and with one quiet measure the journey began again.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

By the Time It Gets Dark

One foot on the ground, one foot pushing upon the side of the bar, I sipped my redneck corona, and swiveled back and forth in the barstool. Merr sat at the end of the bar, pushing a pen across a blinding white page. Brock stood across from me, looking to the rather large movie screen that filled the south end of the room. Garbage Pail Kids were sitting in a semi-circle, moving gruesome heads from side to side, most probably discussing evil plans in the glowing light. Nicole pointed out their creepy muppetness. We all nodded and turned back to the screen, eyes bright. Midlake's "Roscoe" flowed over the speakers and I found myself singing harmonies, my lips pressed onto the cold metal tab of the beer can, a sigh of lime catching my inward breath.

"Thought we were devoid....
A change or two...
Around this place..."

I picked up my little leather bound notebook and began to scribble form after form, the back of stripey shirt guy, the squares upon the wall, Brock pushing the hair off of the tops of his glasses with inside of his arm, the awkward cut in the stacked cinnamon cake under a thick glass dome.

This was the end of my day, Sunday evening, the end of my weekend. Not at all what I had planned, but better than I could have hoped.

*Taylor Moore and Sunni*

Friday night was Taylor Moore's going away party at Cosmos. The great Book of John played a set as Taylor Moore wandered around the room, sitting at one table and then another.

*Bekah, Taylor Shaw, and Alex Mitchell (also featuring the floating head of Amber Quick on magic tambourine)*

It didn't seem real, that he was leaving us, this smiling, smirking creature. I think back to so many moments from this last year, this extraordinary year, how many moments did he take part in, how many songs had he sung, walking around Sunni's living room, sitting on the front drive, the back yard. How many quiet notes had he whispered from the stage in stooping, bouncing way and how many instances had I been completely enchanted. Here he stood, in front of the microphone as Taylor Shaw and Alex and Bekah took a break. His arm was up in the air waving several bound volumes of Hemingway. He reached into a coffee mug and pulled out a peice of paper "C-7". Door Prizes. I cheered every time. These random gifts, the last of his things packed in boxes at home, this was all that was left: a cassette of Christopher Lee reading Edgar Allan Poe, a half a pack of pez, some 3-d glasses, a glove from his sister (a large red one designed for use while helping with artificial insemination of cattle), a DVD, borrowed from Amber (she won it back, of course).

Taylor Shaw started to sing some Jeff Buckley, his face so earnest, we smiled around my small table and sung along under our breath. Another round of drinks, a phone call from Gorjus, too many text massages to count. Rebec-co and I made our way outside, winding around conversations through the Pickwick walkway and down to the the Upsidedown Plaza.

*Sara Leah & Rebec-co in 3-D*

Saturday morning, 10:45 in the morning, I rolled over into the pillow beside me, covering my face as my cell phone rang, the piercing sound breaking through the tequila still in my head. Grasping the phone through the haze and pulling it to my ear, Amber asked about the plans for the day. Scottsboro? Unclaimed Baggage? Sleep a little while longer? Yes please. Covers up over my head, Grizzly Bear's Yellow House playing on my stereo, I drifted back to slumberland for another hour.

We piled into the car, one after the other, Pelham, then Highland Ave, then Roebuck. The French Kicks set the soundtrack for our trip into unfamiliar territory. Destination? Unclaimed Baggage, the fabled Solomon's Mine of Bargainness, a Treasureland of the lost and found. The drive up was beautiful, the curves of the Tennessee River, Clay Mountain, the hills sinking into the dreary January day in the distance.

Unclaimed Baggage (-)
Picked over and over priced. But I did find a very cool picture for my friend Merr:

Dinner at Rebecca's Cousin's restaurant The Docks (+++++)
The best broccoli I've ever had (gorjus said that I'm most probably the first person to ever say that phrase in the whole world. I disagree. I'm sure people have said it before, as broccoli can be very tasty).


This morning I scraped the frost off of my windshield with the CD case for Yo La Tengo's Prisoners of Love. The muffled dreamy licks from "Did I Tell You" drifting up from clouded windows, I couldn't wait to get inside the toastiness of the car and be on my way.

Tomorrow, Yo La Tengo will be playing at Workplay.
Saturday, Jeff Tweedy will be at the Alabama.

It will be a Mike Moore sort of weekend. I'm so excited.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

short sleeps and shallow hearts

On Tuesday afternoon, I fell asleep in my Medical Reimbursement seminar. Who wouldn't, right? It was only for a second (like six times). It was that crashing cymbal kind of falling asleep, where your brain sort of floats down into the floor until it makes contact and then you pop up and look around, your ears full of sound.

It's been quite a week. I finally finished Rob Sheffield's "Love is a Mix Tape" yesterday. My outfit this morning is beautiful nostalgic mess because of it. I dug to the back, the very-very back of my over-crowded closet and found my plaid flannel skirt from high school. You know the one, with the largest safety pin in all the world stuck in the side to keep it together? Yeah.

As a testament to the rock'n'roll, this actual safety pin was once worn on the jacket of Jonathan McKnight, an art rock angel whom I met on the steps of the St. Louis Art Museum during a class field trip in 1993. He had cut class at his magnet school to come and sketch passers-by and listen to his walkman. I stumbled in my doc martens off the bright yellow country school bus, long blonde hair flailing around my black and plaid attire. The boys in their ball caps and car-harts lined up in front of me, the girls in their tight levi's and big hair behind me. I stuck out like a sore thumb. Jonathan sat on the stone steps a little bewildered by the sight. He helped me gather myself and my black leather satchel, and my journals and pens which had fallen all over the sidewalk. I smiled a foolish smile. He returned it and nodded. I ran away.

I was supposed to stay with the group. These boys who would most likely rather be bow hunting than gazing at a Degas were sticking close together, a pack of little wolves with darting comments and biting glares at anyone who seemed to be enjoying themselves. The girls giggled and cackled and clucked, fists resting on hips, fingers pointed at anything they thought was weird or unusual. I think for once I was relieved to find that the things they were pointing at had nothing to do with me. We walked slowly through the galleries. I, with every turn, pulled further and further away from the group until I finally found myself all alone, staring straight into the swirling, spilling greens of a Van Gogh landscape.


My eyes flickered to the side and stayed, held by a pair of big, doe eyes and a quiet smirking smile.

"Hey." I looked down at his boots, worn and ragged, the frayed laces dragging on the floor. I looked to his hands, clutching a book, covered in stickers and dark drawn faces, overflowing with bits of paper. I looked to his face, relief filled my shoulders and chest. It was something about his face. I knew it or wanted to know it and knew it was okay. He was okay. We walked to the next room together, sat down on a bench. He asked me where I was from and handed me his notebook. I told him about the bus ride in, about my tiny town in the flat plains of Illinois, about listening through the static to bits and pieces, those precious moments I could get of morning show on the Point everyday as I got ready for school. "You're lucky," I breathed, flipping through page after page of beautiful forms and lonely faces, "to have a station like that. I have nothing in my town. No way to find out about new music." He laughed a little, "It's nothing. It's not that cool. I'll tell you about GOOD music. Can I write to you?" "Sure."

He did. Long letters full of confusion and lonelness. Drawings full of distorted faces and shallow hearts. That day that we met. He hadn't just cut class. He walked out of school. He walked out and intended never to go back. His favorite art professor had killed himself the day before. Jonathan's music was twisted and broken. And every other song he sent to me over the next year, from Pavement to the Smiths, Skinny Puppy, the Pixies, was a testament to some deep drawn emotion he was winding through during his days. He was working at an IHOP. Somehow, whether by his parents wish or my urging he returned to Art School.

I met Jonathan only one other time. Months later, I went shopping with my parents at a mall in St. Louis. I slipped away from them while we wandered through a department store to call him from a pay phone. He took the bus and met me in the food court. He had changed in those few months. His eyes, though still brilliant, were older, harder. He'd gotten several piercings, his eyebrow, lip, and nose. It didn't make him seem anymore edgy or frightening. It was like he was wearing that pain that he felt in his young, mangled heart, he was wearing it for everyone to see. But no one seemed to get it. I got it.

Before I left to find my parents he handed me this large metal safety pin. It was the length of my hand and heavy. He pulled it off of his leather jacket with a jagged smile. It was my token. He said that besides the letters, the drawings, it was something real, something i could hold and wear and know it was his, that he was alive, that I had known him. I hugged him and told him that I'd write and ran away.

A month later I got a frantic call from his mother. He had disappeared. He had taken some clothes with him, his sketch books, a little money, not much else. A few weeks after that she called to say they had found him, living on the streets in Indianapolis. He had been picked up by the police for vagrancy. His parents put him in the hospital. They said that he'd be okay. I never heard from him again.

"Quiet, quiet, you go away,
to short sleep and shallow hearts.
They do not hear you,
they'll never say,
that everything will be okay."
-SLM, 1993

Monday, January 08, 2007

dear sarah shu

-Hello you beautiful bloodshot eyes.
How are you doing today?
-I'm on my second diet coke and third cup of tea
and it's only 8am.


While leaning up against the counter in Jay and Jaxxie's kitchen on Saturday night, I glanced up into the corner of the room and saw a framed poster for a benefit show. One name from the roster stood out to me and with a blazing piece of heartache in my hand (also called a buttershot), I couldn't get John Vanderslice's steady dream of a voice out of my head for the rest of the night.

John Vanderslice. His lyrics are beautiful cryptic little stories. Sometimes it feels to me that as he's singing, he's across the street from me, observing and thinking to himself, wishing, wanting, hoping that these thoughts could instantly travel through air and into my head. And here I recieve them. And love them. His latest album, Pixel Revolt (released on Barsuk in August of 2005), is filled with letters and conversations, observations of humanity and it's tendencies. His wit is playful and honest, yet full of imagination and sometimes sorrow. I love him best when he takes these everyday situations, such as changing jobs or losing a friend's pet, and turns them into a warning, an adventure, a well wish, a love song to something that does not exist:

dear sarah shu

dear sarah shu,
I leave for you
all I knew about this job
on microcassette for further review

what it meant to me
how you’ll make it dear, hopefully
it’s dangerous here
yes it’s dangerous here

peer round corners with dental mirrors,
heed the threats, taking cautionary measures,
in the end, it is love
you’ll have to learn to survive

dear sarah shu,
I leave for you
all I knew about this job
on palmcorder for future review

your office will flood every night,
it’s water, don’t try to fight it
suspend all your files using
my system of hanging wires

break apart what I connected
show what I only suggested
’cause in the end it was love
I had to learn to survive

picture me by the window sill
wrapped in copper wire, my autumn sleeves,
with torn up directives
spread round the floor like shoreham leaves

picture me locking office door, now
kneeling down on the floor,
screaming: “protection,
I can make it, I can make it!”

peer round corners with dental mirrors,
heed the threats, taking cautionary measures,
but in the end, it is love
you’ll have to learn to survive

so long, sarah shu,
farewell to you,
stay calm, stay sweet,
regards from the other side of the teeth

break apart what I connected
show what I only suggested
’cause in the end it was love
we had to learn to survive

The imagery is dramatic, yet there seems to be no seriousness to it at all. In contrast, another of my favorite songs on this album, dead slate pacific, is a despondent dream of a song, containing rivers of quiet and pain:

at my low point
I went to a professional
he asked me some questions
sent me to a doctor

there’s a moment there,
when you’re under a doctor’s care
when you’re safe and hopeful

punched in the code
ran up the stairwell
he asked more questions
gave me celexa

that’s when I really knew
the only thing standing between
me and that long rope over a carpenter’s beam
was you

I went off the pills
bought my ticket
I used to think
there was nothing between us
just 6,000 miles of
the dead, slate pacific

but on that united flight
in a white hot panic I
sank to the bottom of the sea

my countless horrible creatures
complicated undersea secrets
if I didn’t go diving there
with a spear gun, knife and flare
how would I ever make it through

that’s when I really knew
the only thing standing between
me and that long rope hung on a carpenter’s beam
was you

I've been following John Vanderslice since the late 90's...(it feels really weird to say that, as if it's so terribly long ago). MK Ultra opened for Sunny Day Real Estate on the SubPop How It Feels Tour (Mississippi Nights, St. Louis). That night, that show, changed the way I had thought about music up to that point. And it wasn't just that I finally GOT the dischord and timing and distortion of Enigk and CO and the slowing mapped out guitar work and sarcastic tones of John. It was the entire experience. I know I've written of it before. The strange mixture of the crowd, the droning wave of heads and hands as the first notes trickled through the speakers, the energy bouncing from soul to soul, the dark and brilliant charge of light through every phrase. I remember this. I remember how much it affected me and my twenty-year-old heart.

The JV's diary from the Subpop tour:
I love the entry about St. Louis, February 25th.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


At some time in the midst of NYE! festivities and after about 25,000.82 knee-knock inspired Kir Royales, I got the notion in to my pretty hairsprayed head that if I looked up in pictures taken of me that I would look much more attractive.

You know how that happens. 250,682 PBRs (with Lime) into a night of pool and other quite general debauchery you find your sense of reason must have packed up and beat it for Bonita Beach, while you stood there balancing a completely borrowed cigarette on the side of your puckered lip as you sized up the next shot. Reason knows that leaning back on said table will cause nothing but ash and pain and spilt beer. You however, believe that you most probably look incredibly hot stretched to the side over the pool table. Hot and willing to take dangerous risks. In reality, what my friends and co-conspiritors observed was Sara Leah after I just spent a shot squirming on the table, then having fallen down but having also found my limey Pabst attached to the cup holder on the side of the Plaza's pool table (right where I left it...)with wails of the great unspeakble joy of discovery. Ahh, and that my friends love me just the same. Amazingly wonderful.

Check out the Bottletree Myspace for all of the incredible upcoming shows this spring. John Vanderslice - Midlake.... holy crapness.

off to bed.

All the day long

It doesn't have to be like this. I wait and wait and nothing comes to mind. Nothing but this ringing in my ears and the quiet hum of Adem on my car stereo. Driving in the dark, on a roaring, stale winter night in Birmingham, Alabama, I turn the volume up a bit and stare down at my dashboard and then out to the tail lights and head lights scattered across the horizon. My eyes are burning from hours staring at a glowing computer screen, first at the ER, then at Skybucket. My face is itching with the creeping tingling of exhaustion. I wait. And maybe that's the problem. The hours of rest ahead of me have been whittled away to almost nothing. And it's my own fault.

When I arrive home, I return to my computer, scrolling through pages and pages of words and ideas, listening to Eddie Hinton wail through pain and addiction, brave love and sad desire. His scratched and broken soul scream, I hear it in my sleep at times, driving in the day, staring out of the window at work. I hear the rolling composition of his songs, the power and brass of the horn section, the winding guitar with his signature tone, the years of his ragged working man's heart put into every single lick.

To meet someone who knows of him, I find myself grasping a brother or sister's hand, as if the memory of that primal note on Hard Luck Guy makes us family. But it is so rare, even in this town, to find and that is a shame.

The Legendary Dick Cooper's short bio on his friend Eddie Hinton

I've also posted "Hard Luck Guy" on the seldom updated Chachi Loves Vinyl Myspace

PS - It's ON! Soul Show next Satuday at the Bottletree featuring Roscoe Robinson and DJ John Ciba. More details soon. I promise.

Monday, January 01, 2007


This morning I awoke with glitter on my pillow, my shoes covered in cheese, and my knees terribly sore from channeling David Bowie.

It's going to be a banner year.

(Picture courtesy of DC)