Tag Archives: Avenged Sevenfold

Conceptualizing Groupies, Bad Boys, Wonderbread and Water Sports.

In theory, I am writing a chapter proposal on Bad Girls this weekend. Whether or not this will come to fruition is a question that will best be answered on Monday. When the proposal is due.

My academic career and research curiosities (okay, so that comes out really badly) have led me to skirt around the subject on a number of occasions, riffing off of the stories of Lilith, the Queen of the Night, assorted fairy tales, video characters and Diamanda Galás at various times. There exists a thread between these fictional and real women, but I’ve never attempted to suss it out clearly, and I am not certain that what the call for critical responses to the “bad girl” in popular culture is looking for is this binding. I have the shape, the notes, but not that…whatever it is the yanks this together (that isn’t Benjamin).

(Before I move on. Diamanda Galás: “This is the Law of the Plague” and “Skótoseme“. Oh, hell…”Do You Take This Man“, for sport, particularly if you want to go for something more…straight. And the last two are with John Paul Jones. Plague Mass is also worth a listen. You’re welcome.)

Certainly there are elements of the big theme–redemption–is here, though that goes in dozens of directions (though, having typed it…this could be the starting point I was looking for. Violent redemptions. Redeeming bad girls–or not, as is the case so frequently, etc. ACK! I know what the damn thread is! I knew I’d find it if I stopped looking).  I was looking for a story about Joan Jett that I ran across a dozen or more times in the punk oral histories, and damned if I can’t lay hands on it this time.

What I kept returning to as I worked through an outline without the hook (I knew I should freewrite) was the narrative of the groupie.  I even reread parts of Roxana Shirazi’s book, Last Living Slut, reminding me just how degradation was framed throughout. Specifically, I reread a scene I have written about before (misspellings and all), when she depicts encouraging Synyster Gates to urinate on her breasts. (N.B.: Piss is apparently a theme for them. There is something here to unpack, but I suspect it ends around egotistical assholes who know how to play the roles. I swear, if the porn remark on the second link doesn’t scream “no, really, trying to be bad boy,” I’m not sure what does)**. She describes them, on the one hand, as so frightening that she can’t look at their pictures for long, particularly Shadows’ (Matt, though the stage name does seem relevant here). She does note that “though their look seemed aggressive at first glance, their reputation for excessive behavior unfortunately reeked of public-relations press release” (171).  See also, “World’s Most Dangerous Band” motifs.

Though she twice uses “serial killer” to describe one or more members of the band, she also uses “instant cake batter”, “cute as puppies” and “soft, Cheerios-fed, California beach boys,” which may be my favorite description ever. Brian gets an additional nod toward “blue collar machismo” (which is interesting in light of the rest of the chapter). With respect to Matt, she later remarks “[his] face was actually less of that of a ravaged serial killer than that of a lovely little boy. That damn marketing department didn’t do them justice” (173).  I’m still trying to figure out the ravaged serial killer bit–that marketing department (and the band) was never unaware–no matter the characterizations–of the, um, attractiveness of the band members (for the love of Pete, you need only see them once to recognize that they are perfectly aware of it too. Watch Brian identify the young ladies who are seeing the band for the first time. Trust me, he can. He flirts shamelessly and wins their hearts. Every. Single. Time. Man knows how to perform. Then there is that vocalist and his dimples. He can get away with pretty much anything with just a smile. I feel certain he’s known that since childhood).

The chapter’s structure seems to bear some of the dichotomy of bad boy/wonderbread out: Brian and Roxana go off alone, engaging in an act neither have done before and subsequently return to the bus in silence.  Her following descriptions of her infantilize him: “He was mumbling, and I just wanted to hold his hand and tell him it would be okay” (179). Here, she sees herself entirely empowered in the situation–he is merely following her lead. He subsequently disappears only to return in a bizarre…not sure what to call it here…Brian ex machina?  He stands at this point as the confirmation of the archetypal PR-created bad boy (heart of gold near the surface, of course) that she thought they would be in the first place.

He comes of as so much the little boy, which was, I suspect, the point, particularly as he serves as the foil to the Rev in the next scene. While the first scene was shrouded in sort of privacy–though outside, they were alone–this sequence is public (even though on the bus). She follows the Rev and her friend Lori upstairs… I can’t do justice to this paragraph in summary, so…here:

I can only describe what ensued in the next half hour as nerdy frustration. The Rev tried to fuck me while the singer, M. Shadows, watched [***]. When Synyster showed up, though, The Rev’s dick died. He kept trying to fuck, but his dick was spaghetti limp. He tried to shove it in again and again. (179)

That “nerdy frustration” apparently comes out as a fairly violent, perhaps drug-induced assault on Roxana by The Rev. She grabs Lori and her clothes and leaves furious…”because I hadn’t got proper sex’ (180). I don’t even know where to start with this. The humorous: where exactly was Lori (who goes unmentioned between upstairs and exit)? Unless bus lounges have gotten somewhat less cozy, we’ve got a considerable number of people stuffed in here. Not going to touch the Magical Brian ™ arrival. And then there is the obvious thing–she brushes off having had her head slammed into the ground, angry instead at sexual frustration. Granted, I’m making a judgement here about how she “should” react–certainly she has her own agency, but it’s troubling, particularly as it is hardly the only denial of violence.

Also…nerdy?

I confess that my recall of her depiction was off–I thought she had described Matt in some detail during this scene (including some reference to the omnipresent aviators), but I apparently made that part up. Which means I am rewriting this book in my head. I’m not sure I want to follow that too much further.  But, now that I think on it…The Rev and Brian are both framed as little boys, aren’t they?  One is shy and mumbling in the face of her empowered self, and the other is an angry little boy who doesn’t get what he wants (and, to that end, she doesn’t either). The whole damn chapter is about children, isn’t it? Right down to Matt as “lovely little boy.”

How in the blue hell did I end up here?

Well, at least it’s getting research out of my brain and into the ether. Even if it is research I would never submit.

Though apparently I’ll happily post it publicly.

W.T.F.


*What are the corollaries for bad girls on this? I suspect there are more similarities that I was assuming at first blush. Bad Boys with hearts of gold are, after all, stock in trade.

**Important reminder: immaturity. Eye-rolling, remarkable, immaturity. One hopes this is at least partially self-aware caricature. Actually, it’s damn difficult to ever read Zacky through any other frame. As the world’s finest internet troll (retired), he knows something about how to stay in character.

***Fits nicely with the porn remark, yes? Straight on, dude.

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Induced Euphoria: Yet More Fangirling

(Warning for the faint of heart: what you are about to see may forever warp your vision of/for me.  Continue at your own peril.  And certainly mine.)

This is a sobriety post, though it may take a while to look like one.  It’s also a bit all over the place.  Apologies for the scatteredness.

A few months ago, I wandered into tumblr.  I don’t recall now how it happened.  Probably it was some sort of livejournal bourne accident…though, having said that, I’m not so certain that is a rational assumption.  Livejournal is far more engaged in navel-gazing than tumblr, so the link going that direction seems somewhat unlikely.  Tumblr posts can manage to mention livejournal, insanejournal, greatestjournal, journalfen (okay, so probably not this one), mibba, and facebook in a single rant. LJ does well to post about other LJ communities [and this from someone whose own LJ points specifically to a number of fanwank communities (best non-LJ example)] .

However it happened, I stumbled in and upon in.  Around that time, I began posting my horror via Twitter*–horror mostly at the fansites I was tripping across and the…um…how do I put this?…internal logic that drives them.  Internal logic like:  Why do people mourn band member X; he wasn’t Kurt Cobain.

Actually, the internal logic is rather more closely akin to the internal logic of, say, Twilight.  For those of you blessedly unfamiliar with Twilight (how??), here’s an example of Meyer’s, er, logic, courtesy of one of my favorite, terribly amusing tumblrs, Reasoning with Vampires:

 

Meyer is scary, no?

 

 

Tumblr–perhaps because, in part, of the particular nature of the microblogging there–tends to have this kind of logic floating about (Meyer’s book, not Reasoning’s).  Not exclusively, mind; I’ve seen a number of awesome feminist debates and some excellent addiction support.  I’ve also seen a professed desire to be “raped” by (fillintheblank celebrity).  And a whole kettle of “OMG, I hate this fandom!” wanks.

One other thing I’ve noticed is my own tendency to retract from laying claims–including to my own desires and opinions.  Increasingly, I’ve noticed myself doing it in my real life (that is, I’ve noticed it more, I don’t think the overall rate has increased).  I’ll make a claim and then hedge to make the other person comfortable.   And I do it all the damn time, even on subjects about which I am both knowledgeable and confident.

Part of this is an honest desire to refrain from steamrolling conversations.  Much of it stems from fear and shame.  And those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

The feelings of fear and shame associated with elements of my life I adore have been around for a long while–at least since 8th grade (I distinctly recall being rather more bullheaded in earlier years, and I’ve nothing specific to point to–like getting my ass kicked (though I did get a fairly solid punch to the head on about 8th grade)–as the cause of this switch, not even boy-craziness, because I was pretty far gone in that regard well before age 13.  Many of the early exchanges were about music.  While my experience in that matter is hardly unique, it was memorable–getting yelled at (why did we rely so heavily on raised voices?) classmates for my music obsessions (GNR included).  Sadly, I came to be at once strident and ashamed about my musical habits (I could get into knock downs, but eventually learned to hide names and favorites unless I meant to be deliberately provocative).  Well, when in public, music was a guilty pleasure.  My bedroom walls told a different story (both in what covered them and what they “heard”–I imagine that those walls still retain the memory of Appetite for Destruction, for as often as they heard them).

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

The door-length Skid Row poster on my closet door that was, as it turns out, completely visible to those on the street below, is another story.  I’m sure you can imagine what else, as it turns out, was completely exposed.

Rather than own up, I turned bandom into innuendo,  like the time three of us stayed overnight in Trixter’s hotel rooms (they guys had moved on to the next city, but took pity on our not-even-18-nevermind-the-21-needed-to-rent-a-room-there selves and left us with the keys).   I vividly recall how I told that story after T and I waltzed in during 3rd period, and I assure you the parenthetical remark was not included.  I elided my shame about the band I was then obsessing over by turning to allusions to sex–because it was more comfortable to be imagined whore (for there was little in the way of sex-positivity among the seniors of my high school class)–than fan.

Better whore than fan.

You should hear the Danger Danger story sometime.

Better whore than fan.

Jeez.

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

So, when I read the groupie-blogs (of which there are many) or the naming-themselves-as-wanting-to-be-groupies blogs (of which there are more), I get it.  I get the drama and the cat fights.  I get the odd pieces that look a bit daft to the outside world.  Trust me.  Been there.  Moreover, I understand why it happens in a semi-anonymous environment.  When I read the fangirl chatter, I get it.  I even sort of get the absolutely-hysterical-now-that-I’m-here-but-probably-was-just-as-bad reactions to band marriage and (as happened this summer) the dreaded thirtieth birthdays.

As a result of whatever drives my habits of mind, even in my adult life, I tend to separate my desires from my reality.  The difference is that I now correct people who call me a groupie (seriously.  At least two colleagues, in perfect innocence, replied to my remark that I was going to follow Avenged Sevenfold for a couple of nights by remarking with glee “oh, you’re a groupie??” In high school, I might have said yes.).  I maintain separate blogs that, in theory, won’t meet, so that I can fangirl away in one and remain relatively academic (if occasionally fangirling.  and academic is likely the wrong word for this joint) on the other.  Tumblr is a neat, strange world (as is Twitter, if you dig too deeply), full of imagination (and role-playing–fascinating.  Also, terrifying) and play.  But it is also a place of fear and shame–hiding and pretending and hoping never to be discovered.

Those habits of mind, I have to remind myself, are the same ones that drove me to drink.

Music is essential for me in sobriety, both the aural and physical sensations.  I mentioned this here before–and to my class this week–that music is very much a physical experience for me.  I need to feel it.  And in my descent into alcoholism went alongside a separation from music–particularly live music.  When I am in the moments of my music, I don’t feel fear and shame.  I feel…whole.  Together.  And not because my brain turns off (though that is clearly true at times).  I was very much engaged in music and–yes–fandom before I went off the rails.  In some ways, it answered the nagging lack–performed what AA calls the spiritual awakening–in my life for years.   I need music in the way I need meditation and community.

Another colleague mentioned last night that she’d heard an Avenged Sevenfold song on the radio for the first time in the days before–she’d simply never heard them before (and how, after knowing me, I’ve no idea).  She asked her husband, before hearing who it was, if this was a Dream Theater or Rush (?).  She then looked at me levelly and said “I can see why they appeal to you.  The drums.  The dramatic guitars.  It’s so you.”

As a matter of being honest, I do have a tumbleblog (or however the fuck you spell that), and it can be found here.  Should you be brave enough to look, you will note a decided, though not exclusive, influence.  I apologize for nothing, including (especially?), the rather untoward fangirling over a non-curl.  And over a vocalist, a fact I simply don’t know what to do with.

That said, the blog is, like A7X for my colleague, so me.


*Clearly I am playing the “how many social networking sites can I mention in a single blog post” game.

Fangirls and Community

Weirdly, this post occurred to me as I finished Brad Warner’s Sex, Sin, and Zen last night, coupled with the exciting revelation that I get to go be a fangirl with some of my favorite fellow fangirls in April *bounce, bounce,* when Loaded plays the Revolver Golden Gods Awards Show (add to this Alice Cooper AND Avenged, how was I to miss???).  Anyway, I’ll get back to his book and his notion of the effect of personal choices within a community in a bit, but if I recall correctly, I was initially inspired by the realization that I am something of a Brad Warner fangirl (read all the books! link to his blog! *sigh*) and in that regard, fangirl possibly doesn’t mean in my head quite what it might once have.

Fangirl (per Urban Dictionary) [A/N– all spelling errors belong to the site/poster, not kitsch]:

A rabid breed of human female who is obesessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Similar to the breed of fanboy. Fangirls congregate at anime conventions and livejournal. Have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obesessions. 

I’m fond of the use of rabid here; good image, fits the rest of the definition, which seems to regard fangirls as a subspecies of Saint Bernard (read it again, am I wrong?).  I tend to use the term somewhat more loosely, as a female-identified fan of a particular stripe.  You sort of know us when you see us at a concert (yes, I have an lj, and yes, we’ll get to that in a moment).  We often travel in packs, it is true, and we are often a tad…let’s go with overwhelming to the uninitiated.  Couple of examples, all pulled from personal experiences:

At the Avenged show last month, I found myself, as my partner-in-crime observed, square in the ZackyV fangirl squad.  This was not, she also rather cheekily noted, an entirely incorrect placement, either (and not a bassist.  Who would have imagined?).  Now, I’m older than most of the denizens by a decade or more (man, that was horrible to admit–and older than the object of their affection by 6 years.  Ack), and while I sport a few tattoos, piercings, and dyed-hair, I’m afraid my particulars are rather tame in comparison to most of the girls that were in the area around me, owing to the realities of my calling (the industrial, visible tattoos, and penchant for wearing combat boots or Converse high-tops have probably pushed it about as far as I can go, though I would rock blue hair and a lip ring, thank you).  Now, for those of you who don’t congregate in General Admission pits, please note that I am not referring to the sort of lady who pitches her recently-shed thong (not footwear) on to the stage.  Or bra, if you were from an older, calmer era–about 1990.  Those are not fangirls; we have other names for them….like Roxana Shirazi (I kid).  Fangirls, at least the younger and more boisterous set, come equipped with signs that name the object of affection’s dogs (case in point:  “Icky for Prez”* was one that was spotted) and stuffed animals of various sorts.  While such items were certainly present in the ZV fanbase, I did find myself wondering what the group in front of stage left was like…I couldn’t see any of what was thrown at Syn, but I feel certain there were similarities.  Including signs about Pinkly (shut up. That one at least has an easy explanation for its placement in my brain).  And the pet thing…I’m pretty sure this random information collection habit is a holdover from my youth (I arguably reached stalker-like knowledge of the objects of my fangirl affection pre-internet.  Fangirls got it easy now, I tell you.).

More well-known around these parts is the fangirling over Duff and his various bands.  I’ve connected with other women (and men, but we’ll leave them off for right now) over Duff’s bands and Duff himself through various media, including (once upon a time) letters and (now) email, discussion boards, the comment section for Duff’s blog on Reverb, and in person over the years.  And while we embrace our inner teen divas when we rock out at concerts (yeah, much excitement right now), gone are the signs (mostly–they still crop up from time to time) and gifts are likely to be books from discussions or food, should there be any at all.  Giggling and screaming, admittedly, has probably not reduced by much.  Pack-level attacks, on the other hand, probably have, what with our far cooler adult approach to seeing the objects of our affection.

Hey, I managed to keep a straight face to write that!

Once upon a time, of course, I was one of those teen fangirls, complete with signs suggesting rather lewd behaviors (the lovely lady formerly known as CDR, should she read this AND remember any of those signs, is specifically forbidden to relay the contents of those messages.  Ahem.) and, probably, some sort of gifts.  I know I gave Steve Brown (Trixter) a photo album for his birthday one year–filled with live shots of the band (I think.  I don’t really recall what was in it now).  So, I get where the young fangirls were coming from, and I was amused and amazed at the similarities some 20 years on.

What I want to get at here is the formation of community–real, functioning communities–built around a shared adoration of a band/book/person/etc.  I’m utterly fascinated by the creation of such communities, their ability to self-sustain (or not), and the particulars of the communication strategies.

One other common feature of (some–YMMV) fangirls, and this is particularly visible now in communities,  is fanfiction.  Real Person Fiction, as such, has been around practically forever (I’m willing to hazard a guess that Farinelli had a good bit scrawled about him, never mind the fannish movie made in 1994.  Ah, stupid me–googled it.  There is fanfiction NOW about him.  Sheesh.).  I wrote (hideous) fanfiction as a teen, most of it band-related, along with those friends who participated in the same.  In those stories, we tended to work out our anxieties about growing up, about identity–and the band members functioned mostly as sockpuppets for whatever crisis we were attempting to work through at the time.  While I’m sure communities did arise out of such works, I first became aware of such communities only in my twenties, when a friend of mine joined a Xena community (I’m not sure how most of their exchanges were conducted, though.  One person subsequently self-published a novel from the community works, if I recall correctly).  I don’t write fanfiction anymore, but I do read it (as I’ve mentioned endlessly), and I participate at slightly more-that-lurker levels in some commenting areas, but the primary difference for me between now and then (other than identity establishment, maybe) is that I now have a shared language based on community (and to describe the fanfiction community as large would be a rather egregious understatement) standards and agreement, which means we all can more or less have a clue WTF the other person is ranting about.  The language includes an extensive vocabulary, rules–these are the most fluctuating**–and expectations of behavior from authors and commenter.  I’m also fascinated by the breadth of fandom–fiction, discussion boards, tumblr sites, and so forth (along with related expectations regarding ownership, censorship, and plagiarism); take a gander if you’ve not–it’s wild out there.

For the most part, the fanfiction of my youth, not unlike zines and DIY cassettes of the same period, was exchanged primarily through personal means–there was no large-scale publication that I am aware of, prior to the advent of online exchange.  Say what you will about fanfiction, there are serious communities that form around it, and those in bandoms are particularly interesting to me.   These communities form rules–some highly concrete (how to post, standards of exchange (banned words, slash/gen/het), ) and some more ephemeral–particularly in the portmanteaux that have become so common (Brangelina), the alliances behind which can cause some almighty arguments in communities*** (to say nothing of the One True Pairing fights) over what will be regarded as a canonical shorthand for a particular pairing; Glee fandoms have some of the best fights about them (personally, I still haven’t recovered from the advent of Puckleberry).  Like other online communities, the fangirl/fanfic communities have particular attitudes and, for lack of a better phrasing, flavor, based on the personalities of those involved and the participation level of the moderators (who deserve their own discussion).

To follow:  Some Communities are Self-Policing.


*Were Rikki sitting here, she would require the following confession, so in a spirit of honesty, she nailed me on the appropriateness of our placement in the pit when I translated the sign for her.  Her response was naught but a lifted eyebrow and a giggle.  At me.

**A recent occurrence, courtesy of one of my favorite fandom rant sites:  a lengthy debate over the necessity of trigger warnings and, more over, correct trigger warnings (that this debate mirrored one that happened at Shakesville was both astonishing and a bit heartwarming, though I tend to suspect there are more than a few of us in both communities).  The Supernatural fandom was particularly set afire by fics posted on this matter after episode 6.15.  That I am aware of the ferocity of the debate in that fandom is testament to how widespread it was (for that brief internet moment), since I am not a part of that fandom, though I do watch the show.

***We’ll leave off the various splinterings in fangirl communities over wives/girlfriends.  That, my friends, gets ugly.  Far more so than I care to touch, thankyouverymuch.  Like some of the stuff below, I feel certain the same existed in my own youth (I seem to recall some of it in conversations), but nothing like what I see online.  These debates seem particularly common on tumblr sites.

Listening

Whatever is going on in my life at a particular time, I inevitably find an anthem for that period.  The anthem isn’t always a song new to me, nor is it always an obvious one, but almost invariably, the song will smack me across the face one day and tell me that I have been listening for it (higher powers work in mysterious ways.  Mine is apparently a part-time musician and radio programmer).

Though it was certainly not the first anthem of my life (I can’t even remember the first one–my brain has simply always done this, though, were I to hazard a guess, “C is for Cookie” [thank you youtube!] was among the early contenders), a brain anthem happened about a year before the first time I got sober when I was driving home one day, listening to the radio.  I’d heard (and even listened to) Blue October’s “Hate Me“*** more times than I could count by that day (it was on heavy rotation–hello there, HP).   I found myself on that particular listen, crying.  Identifying.  Kind of wishing that G would, in fact, hate me–so that I could have an excuse to stop being such a thorn in his side.  This was 2006, if I recall correctly.  That song stayed in my head for months–right up until I finally sucked up and quit drinking.

Like earworms, which I also enjoy regularly, the anthems play in my head when the song isn’t on the radio, iPod, or in the CD player (and I typically play them over and again, even before I realize whatever lyric or movement my brain is picking up on).  Unlike earworms, my brain is kind enough to play the whole song through–it’s just always there, but subtle, unlike, say, when I had one line of “Unholy Confessions” trapped in my head for almost a week in December: “Nothing hurts my world, just affects the ones around me.” Now, given what I was struggling with in December, the hyper-focus on the notion that I was hurting others, not just myself, doesn’t seem particularly surprising.  But the earworm, which cycles only a portion of a song (mine never really go away until my brain is willing to let go of them–the trick of singing the whole song or listening to it seldom works), can be irritating in a way that the anthems aren’t.

There was a Betty Blowtorch song in here somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t recall which one, and, truth be told, Are You Man Enough? is one of my go to albums for damn near any contingency.  Along with Amy Ray’s Stag.

So, the next anthem that I recall  happened sometime after had stopped drinking in 2007, when I heard Duff’s “Then and Now” for what may have been the 10,000th time.  And the line, “if you saw me yesterday, you wouldn’t recognize my face” practically screamed out at me (good morning, HP)–I was, as I recall, running that morning.  Dark Days would end up powering a great many runs, but that particular song still gets me.

Didn’t happen the third time (probably because it was so farking short–though, I think I already had the song I’m about to cite in my head quite often by this point, I just didn’t know why).  Happened again this time, though, again with a song I listened to over and again since the album came out last summer.  A7X’s “Buried Alive” (again, thank you youtube–that’s the concert I saw in TN).  Yeah, the song says something about “sober up quick,” but that wasn’t the lyric that caught me (also, “psycho lunatic,” the cadence of which amuses me far more than it should).  I thought about trying to explicate the song, just for grins, because it’s an excellent example for me of the differences between explication (finding what is there) and the creation of meaning between audience, artist, and art.  I won’t claim to know what the song is “about, ” though, I’ve seen enough references on the matter to know what Matt says its about, and, yeah, it’s hard to ignore the obvious readings to “much has changed since the last time” when you’ve got a band recording an album in response to and in the wake of a bandmate’s sudden death.  Clearly, if nothing else, it was part of the band’s grief process.  But, since the album’s release, the song has been in my head pretty consistently, in no small measure because of the musical construction (I’m a sucker for a song that begins haunting and goes out blistering), but a couple of weeks ago, I heard this with new ears:

I walked the fields through the fire/Taking steps until I found solid ground/ Followed dreams reaching higher/ Couldn’t survive the fall/ Much has changed since the last time/And I feel a little less certain now/You know I jumped at the first sign/Tell me only if it’s real

Now, admittedly, I see a little Neil Gaiman running around in here–and, conveniently, Gaiman blogged on the very lines not to long ago (he saw them tattooed on a woman’s back), which came from Fear of Falling: “Sometimes you wake up.  Sometimes the fall kills you.  And sometimes, when you fall, you fly,” but that connection is as much the serendipity of Gaiman’s blog post and my own recognition of what the song was saying to me as anything else.  Because much has changed since the last time for me; more than I can presently articulate.  And, of course, there’s my fear, which is pretty roundly summed up here:

And I’m chained like a slave/Trapped in the dark/Slammed all the locks/Death calls my name/And it seems I’ve been buried alive

I’ve got some pretty good analogies about what alcoholism is like, but this sums it up about as well as any for me.  When they played the song the other night, I held up my surrender chip.  Why?  No clue–but it felt right (and, yes, I geekily looked in the linked video to see if I could be picked out with the flashing silver pieces.  I think I am glad the video was shot from the other side of the venue).

Not completely unrelated, but not musical: I heard something else with new ears last night: the Sixth Tradition.  For some reason, be it my mood, the setting, the increasing clarity in my head (not least because I’ve finished three major projects this week that have been looming over me for months–headspace is a glorious thing), and whatever united to make me hear “An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.” Given where my butt was parked, it could very well have been the setting, but hearing this last night gave me pause:  is this where the church institutional went wrong, that we moved away from our primary purpose, distracted by these other problems?  Or, more pointedly, are we so distracted by them that we are confused to what our primary purpose even is?

Reminded me of a conversation Rev. Dean and I had about the nature of 12-steps and the nature of churches.  I didn’t let this wandering thought distract me from my primary purpose of the evening, which was to listen to other alcoholics sharing; I took a lesson from meditation, named the thought, claimed it, and let it slide off until this morning.  Curious thought, I grant, but interesting enough to drop here, I think.

A Few More of My Favorite Things

I find it remarkable how making this list involves two diametrically opposed problems:  thinking of 10 works of art that are important to me and limiting the list to just ten.  I can’t even muster up an explanation as to how that is happening in my brain, but I assure you that it is.  Indeed, I’ve spent several chunks of time wondering if I can even complete what should be a very simple, even mindless, task.  *sigh*

If you missed part one, click here.  I should, someday, maybe, finish the final five.  A real list of five.  What follows, however, will catch many of the five that have rolled around in my head the last several weeks.  As it happens, however, I couldn’t have finished this post without the events of last week.  Well, okay, I could, but this allows me the benefit of only torturing my adoring (or, at least, patient) friends once. And allows me to wander into an aesthetic argument that normally exists only in my head.  Here’s the crux:  when I think about a “work of art” that means the most to me and to my development, there is none so important as the work behind art.

See, I had forgotten, prior to a blustery, cold day in Knoxville last week, how much I love the stage (my students, who are regularly afflicted by my quasi-theatrical foolishness in the front of the classroom might find themselves questioning the validity of that observation).  And while I do indeed love performing, I really, really love the work of the stage–backstage, sidestage, racing around in the dark stage…

On January 26th, my ever-patient-partner-in-musical-crime, hereabouts known as Rikki, took off for an adventure to Knoxville.  I had asked begged pleaded for tickets to see Avenged Sevenfold’s “Nightmare After Christmas” tour, having missed their last swing through the Southeast when I went on that little run last September.  I made her stand with me, surrounded by fleets of the high school brigade (and not a few who looked like my own students), in the freezing wind, waiting for the doors to open.  Why?  Hellbent for an old-school GA pit (that’s General Admission for all you heathens).

Poor, innocent Rikki had never been in one (*insert kitsch’s evil laugh*).

I took all of 16 photos on the night in question, primarily because I was having way too much fun in the pit to bother with my camera (or, for that matter, to risk the poor, innocent piece of electronics).  Over half of those 16 pictures, even two of them that *shock* have members of the band included, are devoted to the stage.  And thank you to Avenged Sevenfold for giving me all the stageness a girl could want.

Stage. Gates. Roadies. Fire Pots. And what is not to love here?

So, for number 6, I give you:  the stage.

Way back, when I was but a high school lass, I was a techie.  A techie, for those of you who are not in the know already, is a breed similar to roadie, except the techie stays put, as does the techie’s stage, normally at least.  My favorite role as techie, other than stage manager (because I love to boss everyone around, of course) was running crew.  This photo captures the responsibilities of the average running crew: get shit set on stage,  make sure the performers won’t be killed and/or maimed by said shit, and get the hell off stage.  Typical garb?  Black.  Primary tool?  Gaffer tape. Glow tape if you need to make sure the performer or prop lands in a specific place in the dark.

7.   I love theatrics of all measures, but I am a sucker for fog.  Every techie I

Behold the Fog! Right before the band enters. "Sound of Silence" is playing.

knew (save for one who was nearly choked to death by the stuff) loved the stuff.   And, Avenged, kindly, provided some.  I seem to recall knowing that they would–it fits the general level of theatrics that the band displays, but also I recall an interview along the way in which Matt* recounts a story about the “one time” (it wasn’t.  He forgets the mace story when he tells this particular “one time”) Jimmy lost the beat on stage–when he was (drumroll, please) overcome by the fog.  I guess this would not be the best time to recount the various times we tried to do that deliberately in high school, is it?  Or that we could identify which fog variety we were dealing with by smell.

Oh, fog.  Those were the days.

8. I wasn’t much of a pyro girl myself (and if Gwen is reading this, she is surely laughing her ass off), at least in comparison to many of my compatriots (yeah,

FIRE! Oh, and look, we have a band, too 😉

okay, so I lit a select few things on fire.  On purpose.).  Sure, I love a good fire pot, and I am a sucker for a well-choreographed explosion, and I even, once upon a time, knew how to rig all of that crap up safely.  But I’ve never excelled in the art of arranging lights and pyro, so I am ever impressed by people whose aesthetic senses allow them to make all the light, color, and heat dance so beautifully.  Give me a set design, pieces, and a couple of cues, I can make the changes happen before the audience has a chance to process that someone was there.  That was my thing.  Orchestration of people and pieces (and, occasionally, threatening a performer or two).

I’d like to note that the photo above is the first that has any band members in it (it was the second overall once the band hit the stage), and, more stunningly, I managed to get all five guys in this shot, though I noticed that only later (today, in fact, when I realized that Johnny was over on the side of the stage near Brian’s behatted shadow–well, and the owner of said shadow).  In all likelyhood, getting all five was a complete fluke; I’m pretty sure I had my arm fully extended in the air to take this picture, and had nary a clue what was going to end up in the frame.

9.  While I was enthralled throughout the show, tons of energy traded off between audience and band, I can’t fail to mention the part of the show, the first encore, that struck the most wonder in me, and, I suspect, for the greater

"Fiction," w/o Piano

portion of the audience.  First, I was dumbstruck that they even did “Fiction” live, for various reasons, not the least of which were emotional.  But the way Avenged staged and performed it was just breathtaking.  Matt stood more or less stage right (though, I grant, he was fairly close to the center).  He was joined on stage by Arin (the touring drummer) and Syn (see, there’s me trying), who stood about as far to stage left as was possible.  If Johnny and ZV were on the stage, I never saw them.  The stage remained mostly dark, save  occasional spots on Matt and Brian and for the constant spotlights on the drums and the piano that the roadies carried on stage.  In the dark.

See, that’s one of those stage things I love.  Imagine: the band is offstage, the venue dark, the audience screaming for more, and here come four roadies, stealthily carrying a white piano out on the stage and lining it up just so.  Dude.

The astonishing part was yet to come.  “Fiction” is a piece that is emotional enough as a recording–the ways in which the band chose to preserve Jimmy’s voice–effectively turning the piece into a duet between Jimmy and Matt, is striking enough, but the ways they chose to orchestrate his presence on stage was all the more so.

"Fiction"

See, toward the end of the piece, the spots on Brian and Matt went out.  Matt, who was in front of me (I couldn’t see to the other side of the stage to say for certain what was happening at stage left), stood stock still, hands at his side.  The venue, for the first time in hours, was silent.

And then…Jimmy’s voice.

For all the orchestration, sampling, and lighting choreography that surely went into the production of the song live, there was, in those moments, something, be it emotional or spiritual or both that transcended the artifice.  If I were to put my aesthetic hat on, I’d say that in them, Benjamin’s aura was made palpable.  And had I to argue what makes art for me, what defines any of my own profound aesthetic experience, it was the aura what moved me–the spiritual connection between artist, audience, and art.  And, my god, did they manage to find it that night.

10.  Lest I leave on a note that too closely approaches the academic (though, aura isn’t academic.  It’s too much a moving spirit for that), I’ll list my tenth item as the “art” that drew me to the concert in the first place.  Before I was a professor who ranted about aesthetics and literature and theatre and punk, I was a and avid concertgoer and techie, who ranted at performers who were in the way and other techies who thought they were gods.  Before I was that preciously obnoxious techie, I was a dancer.  My world was defined through movement–the manipulation of the body in space and time.  I was, because of my build, primarily a tap dancer–I was taller than most adult male ballet dancers by the time I was 12.  And though I walked away from dance when I was fifteen, in favor of music and theatre, I never really left being a dancer.  I still experience music as movement (which can make me terribly annoying, I’m sure, to stand next to at a concert); I move–constantly–when I’m listening (I also, as it happen, use music in the same way I used dance–to isolate myself, so it wasn’t all that dramatic a departure).

So, the night.  I wanted to go to this concert because I’d never seen the band live before.  I’m pretty sure I’ve noted this elsewhere, so I’ll spare you the GnR fan joke.  And, I wanted to be in a pit that would remind me of those from my youth–particularly the more aggressive ones of my youth–and for that one needs a solid metal band, a younger crowd, and, yes, General Admission.**

"Nightmare" in the pit, which remains calm enough for the photo, but not for very much longer.

As with 20 years ago, I loved every second of the pushing, the foolish-drunken moshing attempts, the camaraderie you have no real choice but to form if you want to remain standing (and in order to help those poor ones who faint mid show–to get them out of harm’s way), and the energy that is generated between artist and audience.   So, while on the one hand I could have slapped Shadows for the command for a giant circle dance at the end of “Unholy Confessions,” I could have kissed him for it too–I grinned the whole time as we hung on to each other, Rikki to my right, anchoring herself on young Mario, and Travis to my left, who managed to (how I can’t begin to say, given how we were twisted) anchor himself to the rail as we whipped around in the furious frenzy (apologies for the alliteration there–I was thinking how much the scene reminded me of Neil Gaimen’s images of the furies in Sandman, a connection requiring a special kind of geek).  We’ll never see Travis nor Mario again, but they, along with the other kids, young adults, and other thirtysomethings in the immediate area, helped to create the beautiful energy of the evening, every bit as much as the band.

And, so help me, I’ll get back in the pit again, where, for me at least, exists the most visceral expression of the aura, where music becomes its most physical.


*For all of my love of theatrics, for some reasons these guys (save one) don’t operate in my head under their stage names.  I’ve no clue why.  I end up switching back and forth when I try to use the stage names any way, so I’m just skipping the pretense.  I *think* it’s because as years have worn on (and particularly so in the last), they’ve been wandering back and forth between them.

**Rikki and I had pit passes to a Crue concert the last time they came through Atlanta, wherein the pit inhabitants paid more for the privilege of being sweat on by band and fan than others at the concert, whereas GA pits are more like Shakespearian groundlings, who paid less, expect more, and get far more riled up.  Let me assure you that the two are very different animals.  Say it with me:  poor, innocent Rikki.

Postsuburban Youth Culture

I really, really try not to write about books before I’ve finished mulling them properly, but the one I am picking my way through right now has me thinking so much that if I don’t get something written down, I’ll never get through to review the book.  Kids of the Black Hole: Punk Rock in Postsuburban California by Dewar MacLeod came to my attention by way of an email from my ever fabulous Librarian,* who keeps tabs on newly released books on punk, since I teach composition classes on the subject fairly regularly.  I was standing in the middle of a bookstore during December when my phone announced the incoming email (now, as to why I was in a bookstore AND checking email, I can’t say.  I can only assume it was destiny).   The title grabbed my attention, and I shot over to the music section in the vain hope the book would be there.   It wasn’t, so I ordered it and it has sat in my book pile, keeping a bio on Thelonious Monk company, while I wandered through several other texts before coming back to this one.

I was a mite surprised to see Exene Cervenka gracing the cover, largely because my initial impression of the title had me thinking several years beyond the advent of SoCal punk–I assumed that the book would trace, at the earliest, the decent of the HB hardcore crowd into the scene.  My completely wrongheaded thought was this would look into the more recent punk phases in SoCal–primarily because I kept seeing phrases like “neglected episode in rock history” associated with the book (that phrase is off the back cover).  Since it covers the advent of punk in Los Angeles, we aren’t talking an area that is completely neglected, even in academic circuits (or, at least, I spend so much time with my head buried in that period that it doesn’t feel like it to me).  A jolt of honesty:  the band that first came to mind upon reading the title (and, indeed, the first chapter–I’m further along than that, but I keep tripping over my own thoughts) was (and this is where the “that’s not punk” arguments begin) Avenged Sevenfold.**

Just hang with me for a moment.

In his introduction, MacLeod notes “In the post-war era alone, Orange County (south of L.A.) went from rural to suburban to post-suburban.  The new types of localities contained industry (increasingly information-technology oriented), office parks, services, and shopping centers, as well as housing tracts.  For bored teenagers, though, this new type of psychogeography represented the worst combination of suburban exile with posturban desolation” (3-4).  I was a little surprised by this, in no small part because I needed to spend sometime boning up on my geographical terminology.  My experiences with human geography have tended to deal with rural areas, not terribly surprising given that I live in the South (which is obsessed with its own real and imagined “ruralness”).  I deal with cities on occasion, usually when dealing with, yes, punk, but I was out of my league here.  I wouldn’t have posited any form of “postsuburbia” any earlier than the 90’s, so I was well and truly confused.

So, to research.

According to the editors of Post-Suburban California: The Transformation of Postwar Orange County, California,:

Postsuburban regions have distinct locations for commerce, recreation, shopping, arts, residences and religious activities. These activities are often all conducted in different places which are linked primarily by private cars. This fundamentally decentralized arrangement makes postsuburban regions complex, incoherent, disorienting, dynamic, and lively. Postsuburban regions cannot be easily understood with traditional categories of suburb and city or by focussing on one city, such as Irvine, since residents of any one city travel throughout a post-suburban region for work, shopping, worship, recreation, and arts. (Kling, Olin, and Poster)

The key elements of the postsuburban experience include the spreading out of services and experience–not insignificantly– a nightlife.  Private cars are a necessity; often the post-suburban environment lacks significant (or any, in some cases) public transportation.  If I am imagining this properly, we’re looking at rhizome (Dear god, Deleuze and Guattari find me here too??)–multiple population centers without any single one being the “center.” I’m familiar with the set up–it’s more or less how my hometown is organized, though in the last few years (I think the plan existed for 20 or more, but I don’t recall), there has been the artificial creation and placement of a “downtown,” which cannot hope to actually function as a “center” in any traditional sense, as all the same things: food, hotels, shopping, recreation, etc. are available in places throughout the city–in various segments we loosely referred to as neighborhoods.

Anyway, what struck me in MacLeod’s remark was the word bored, one often associated with suburbia and, I take it, with post-suburbia; certainly that seems to be part of his claim about Orange County.   Suburban boredom came from exile–“there’s nothing to do here.”  One fled to the city for recreation and the vaunted nightlife.  So what of the post-suburban, when recreation moves home, though not necessarily next door (“over there” always has better stuff to do, more danger to find.  Ask any 80’s or 90’s Virginia Beach kid where the best drugs  and parties were, and my high school was always named.  Except by us.  Well, except for the parties.  We’d claim those, but “they” always had far better access to far better drugs.)  So what generates the boredom and the frustration in this environment?  And why the heck did I keep thinking about Avenged Sevenfold, even as I read about X, the Screamers, and the transformation of one Jan Paul Beahm into Bobby Pyn and then to Darby Crash (who, let us agree, manages to focus me and is an interesting example in MacLeod’s work that I will look at later)?

Or, to be more precise, why did I keep coming back to the band members’ collective backstories, which are replete with arrests, fights, expulsions, and general mayhem, other than the two obvious things–OC and my own misapprehension about timing.  The Orange County band has a heck of a backstory at that–ones that practically scream PR (and, are often dismissed as such), but not atypical, necessarily.  Good kids who found trouble and turned that trouble into art.  Kids with violent streaks, drug habits, and penchants for not always knowing where those fine lines between teenage misbehavior and troubled really were:

Shadows played basketball, earning a few scholarships – but only after years of run-ins over drinking. Vengeance was placed in honors classes, all of which he quickly flunked.  Seward simply dropped out. “If it weren’t for this, I’d probably be working a normal job and playing on the weekends for 10 people at the Irvine Spectrum,” he says.  Gates, who describes his divorced parents as “very supportive,” was still “tossed out of my home a couple of times. I was living out of my truck for a short while. My dad wanted to emancipate me at 16 and send me to music college. “But school never worked for us. We failed miserably, got expelled, you name it.” “We were all bad kids,” Sullivan says. “So, we stuck together. But what I got kicked out of my house for I make a living at now.”(Wener, OC Register)

Or this, which recounts Sanders’ (well, more to the point, his parents’) experiences.  By their own accounts, he was pushed into basketball and practice (and if this didn’t remind me of more than a few friends over the years) by his parents.  His rebellion?  Alcohol.  Fighting.  Arrests:

“This is how nightmares arrive. They walk up your driveway in a pack. With knives and chains and baseball bats. Twenty, maybe 25 kids. All of them high on rage. Most of them high on something else, too. They are here, at your so-straight two-story, in your so-straight neighborhood, with one so-twisted mission – spilling your son’s blood.” (Miller, OC Register, Feb. 2000. Link points to blog with full-text.  Register site wasn’t cooperating)

I’m not getting into the particulars of the parenting experience recounted in that article (my heart goes out.  There are phone calls no parent wants to make and no parent wants to get.  And damn near all of us get one or the other.  My heart still leaps to my throat when the phone rings, unless TG is in the house with me.  And even then sometimes.  Miller follows up 7 years later, noting “And you just learned that, two weeks after the story appeared on these pages, Dad was summoned to the police station, where he found his son bloodied and handcuffed to a post. Arrested again.” (Miller, OC Register, 2007. Links to a blog with the article.  Grrr.) .  The articles–the second from well before A7x was of note outside the OC–strike me as capturing a question–something that hasn’t changed, why are they so angry?  In this case, at least, boredom is not the word that comes to mind; if boredom, that perhaps it’s the boredom with false choices–be the basketball star or be the rebel.  Be good (successful??) or be pierced and tattooed (guitarist Vengeance (Zack Baker) articulates this particular idea fairly often, actually, even now–wanting to be both the success and the guy no one would look at and think successful).  If suburbia bored teens to untoward escapes to the city, what in the world did postsuburbia do?

The question of anger is one that comes up time and again with respect to punk (and metal, though they are handled rather differently).  Often, the anger that fueled punk is regarded (by punks then and by academics now) as righteous–American punk responding to the failures of the Reagan administration, for instance, just as their British counterparts responded to their own failing economy.  But, just as often, someone (yes, even the academics–and nearly always my students) asks–why so angry?

More than just a PR blitz for another angry metal band, the stories of the members of Avenged Sevenfold seem to tap at something essential, though I’m having a hard time articulating exactly what that is at present.  They strike me as archetypal experiences–and not just for the subset who would get to ride off into rockstarland (the determination, drive, and, (occasional–more so now–less so in some early encounters with the British press.  Oy.  Youth.) professionalism of the band is another story entirely).  Archetypes for a youth culture that has twisted and shifted and de-politicized (and repoliticized when useful) stylized themselves away from the youth culture of the 70s–but the anger has not abated, even if it has shifted–and, in the case of this band, perhaps shifted into a rejection of some proscribed visions of what success is supposed to mean.  I see it in my responses as a youth (and I am all of 6 years older than the majority of the band, after all, so it’s not that unlikely), though less so in my son’s generation, who, at least the ones I interact with, are chafing for a fantasy world of yesteryear, where success followed a certain script (that script having long since been destroyed).

Or something.


*Bonus points to anyone who pictured Noah Wylie just then.  More bonus points to those who know why that would be appropriate.

**Hokay, let me put my prof hat fly my geek/freak flag for a moment.  No shit, not punk–metalcore band, initially.  Metal, by their own estimation and by style (though with considerable punk influences.  Another post?).  Waking the Fallen and Nightmare are my favorite albums, in no small part because of the thematic similarities (go ahead, listen to Waking (ahem, WtF), you’ll hear the roots of virtually every theme (lyrically and musically) that the band works through in a more mature fashion on Nightmare.  Got away from them in City of Evil and went WAY the hell away on Avenged Sevenfold (though, I am enamored of that album as well) . Seriously, same themes.  Even the same fucking phrases.  I probably should write through that some day too).  Anyhoo, what I hear in Waking (and Nightmare and my favorite tracks on AS) is a persistent punk influence (not that this should surprise anyone and, lest anyone be under the impression that I’ve forgotten, such music exists on a continuum.  How do you pick a punker from a metalhead circa 1983?  Measure the hair), particularly in the speed of the drums.  I didn’t go see them when Jimmy was still alive; figured I had time.  I’d get around to it.  That, by the way, is what being a Guns N’ Roses fan does to you–I mean, if those 5 can still be kicking…

Be Here Now

That title haunted me all weekend, which something of a conundrum I suppose, since the haunting propelled me to a place I simply couldn’t be at that moment (no opportunity to blog).

****

Aaannnddd….that was the end of what I wrote in July. I *think* I tried to blog once after that point, but I also think I got about that far. I’ll not bore you with the tales of why I couldn’t write then and am forcing myself to do so now, but I’m sure the time will come when I can fess up.

Lord knows I usually do.

So, I’ve been forcing students to read old posts lately–those on the punk project that–embarrassingly–I never finished. Never really got good and started, for that matter. Reading through them reminded me of the other music project I intended to follow (well, one of them), and as fortune would have it, a book landed in my lap of late which recalls that particular project.

I wanted–once upon a blog post–to explore the gender identities in both punk and glam music cultures. I did look at some elements of gendered fantasy in glam, but I never finished (at least as far as I recall) the arc. I do believe I’m going to make myself get back on this particular hobby horse.

Last week, I was busily and happily buying books, and the following was recommended to me: Roxana Shirazi’s The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage. A number of sources have reported on this book since it’s publication in June (the linked article in Bitch has a host of links to other reviews and comments or, hell, just google it–warning–many of the pics posted on reviews and blogs are NSFW). Why was the book recommended? I’ve no idea–I assume it has something to do with the cover, which includes a certain GNR logo (the stories include a handful of GNR members and former members as well).

I don’t disagree with Shirazi’s “academic introduction,” “A Few Thoughts on the Word Slut,” at least in theory. I can get behind an attempt to reclaim “slut” from it’s derogatory usage,* in ways similar to “bitch” (a term she does not reference as a comparison). Should sexual double standards die an unseemly death? Sure–why leave all the fun to the cis, straight, sexual male folks? I am down with female sexual empowerment (and queer, and asexual, and….you get the idea, right?)

Only…I’m not sure that’s what I read here.

See, I can’t really disagree with Zeisler’s skewering of Shriazi’s book either. I found the autobiography to be extraordinarily depressing (which is saying something–it made me feel worse than I was already feeling!), in no small measure because of the conflation of abuse and debasement with empowerment. Now, it appears that in other sources (I’ve scanned, not read, them, so no linkage here), Shirazi clarifies some of her points about feminist empowerment, which is lovely, but as a feminist, empowerment tome, this book really doesn’t cut it for me.

A couple of things it does reveal, though. First, Nikki Sixx is, like, real man. Totally. Like, a person and everything. Who digs gardening! Shirazi reads this is boring and…ohmy!…not very rock. As you might imagine from the post linked there–I kind of disagree with her assessment and am baffled by her surprise, since, you know, there are these deliberate projections that are employed to sell music. And then there are the men behind the projections.

Projections and the humans associated with them are not identical–even if said humans do occasionally believe their own PR, and I think it safe to agree that Sixx has likely done just that from time to time in his career. Granted, the gardening-desirous human she encountered was decidedly not who she wanted that day, and her perceptions–misguided as they might be–are hers to own.

None of which changes how morbidly depressing this book seemed to me. The childhood setting (Iran) seems more exotic than significant. The childhood events, are curiously understated, particularly given other topics she addresses much more directly and without the soft-focused lens that glosses the exploration and abuse that marked her childhood– a “divine euphoria” during a Persian evening with her grandmother (38) or “duck-shaped bread,” the waiting for which caused her to shake “with uncontrollable joy” (23). Like the gardens of Nabokov’s youth in Memory, her childhood Iran was not perfect by any means, but her voice treats it with undeserved reverence (realizing that this is often true of childhood narrative–and more because it is her childhood than because of the setting. I think. The last remarks in the book suggest otherwise to me) that belies the remainder of her narrative. That’s intentional, I’m sure (I hope); I can’t imagine that the final evening of group sex with Buckcherry was intended to be a parallel to her childhood. If it was, it fails in every direction, as she had no power in her childhood, and I’m not sure she demonstrates that she had it in her later years either, especially not in the last bits about the politician.**
For the most part, her sexual encounters are…well, let me quote April Levy here on the subject of “sexy” versus “plastic erotic” from her book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture:

I don’t feel titillated or liberated or aroused.  I feel bored, and kind of tense (81).

That’s pretty much how most of the encounters she described left me feeling (though, in truth, so did much of Dirt, to which this is frequently compared.  I can’t recall feeling as put off by I’m With the Band, but that may be a case of failing memory).  Some of the events are outright abusive–cases in which she was in no condition to consent, for instance.  Some are just…odd.  Some are so hyped up as to look comically banal in the end–such as her watersports with Synester Gates from Avenged Sevenfold (and that she seems delighted in his later discomfort is just disconcerting and irritating).

That she was absolutely obsessed with Axl was, admittedly, a bit heart-warming.  Her allowance that VR-era Duff is hot [she dismisses Appetite-era Duff as “essentially a subservient drunk” (105)] also gets a nod from me.  For reasons that are a tad unclear, Slash is dismissed as “not her type” at one point, and later she looks for him desperately.  Her accounts of interactions with Matt Sorum and Scott Weiland are..well…let me put it this way, I can’t say that is the first such description of Matt I’ve encountered and her accidental dismissal of Scott just amused me.

Shirazi and the other women she describes seemed determined to embody a particular image of rock woman–in one of the opening sections, she looks around, sorting through the particulars types of woman (BTW–“fat” women and “old” don’t come off well.  Are you surprised? I used the scare quotes here because I can’t really tell what either means for her) at the show.  I won’t say that guys necessarily come off much better (especially if “fat” or “old”), but they do get more of a pass than the women, especially if “fat” or “old” or otherwise “not my type” comes equipped with–and I feel it necessary to quote her here, but I can’t find the page–a huge penis–she refers to one man’s as a “museum piece,” if I recall correctly.  This image of women (my that was an impressive digression, wasn’t it?) is angel and whore–all corsets, lace, denim, and leather.  Breasts are large (“watermelon” perhaps being her most often used descriptor) and hair silky and highlighted.  Oh, and women are thin, though exactly how she means that is a bit unclear.

It is from this angle that I hope to force myself back into writing–the mythic construction of the rock n’ roll groupie.  So, I hope, here we go…I’ll try–try–try–to make the title post the truth.


*OED sidenote: favorite meaning for slut? “Foul Slattern.” Huzzah.

 

**Her article in HuffPo damn sure doesn’t. Goats. Seriously?  Yes, I get the joke, but the rest of the article leaves me as listless as her book.