What follows is an epistolary response to the Wreck and Reference/Some Ember show that took place in Tucson, AZ at Solar Culture Gallery on September 3rd, 2016.
1. Dear City of Tucson,
You are the second worst city in Arizona. Stop it.
2. Dear Small Live Music Venue,
I understand that part of the hipster appeal is in remaining obscure, mysterious and unknown almost to the degree of nonexistence, but please: advertise your fucking shows. You don’t have to go crazy–you could even just post basic information on your website, such as the time of the show and what bands will be playing, and leave it at that. Otherwise, what in the fuck is your website for? I realize it is just a basic html chop-job, but if you cannot figure out how to adorn it with fresh information then you could at the very fucking least post informative flyers on the corkboard which you’ve fixed to the wall at the entrance to your establishment for this very purpose. Come on now. Also, if you do not serve alcohol or food or most importantly ALCOHOL then please do not open your doors an hour before the first band is scheduled to play. Or, if you must, then please post the approximate start time of the first band on the website you have created for this very purpose.
3. Dear Solar Culture Gallery,
I realize you are a non-profit venue, but if you continue to host free live shows in the hopes that members of the audience will take notice of all the audaciously priced local art and popsicle-stick sculptures in your gallery and purchase one of them, you should give some cursory thought to promoting the shows you host. Simple math: the more people at your venue, the greater the likelihood that one of them will prove insane/desperate/flush enough to cough up the scratch for some of your art. Also, please don’t display the work of actual children with a price tag. That’s just… ew.
4. Dear Local Artist,
You may be confused about the market value of your art. If you produce faithful renditions of Game of Thrones characters on 5″x8″ canvases, go ahead and charge $750. If you do that thing where you have a bunch of paint lying around but no training or innate skill so you just put a bunch of it on the canvas and let it dry and then name it anything (because it looks like nothing), go ahead and sell your remaining art supplies and donate the proceeds to Scientology.
5. Dear Drone Artists of the World,
Do not play your music live—ever. (Or, if you must, then only at drone festivals.) If you want to have your tracks playing while the bands on the bill set up or break down, that’s fine, but watching you perform them in person is no less awkward and embarrassing than watching one’s darling six-year-old daughter butcher “Green Sleeves” at her first piano recital. Drop your CDs off at the yoga studio where they belong and leave the live experience for musicians whose delivery requires more than twisting knobs. If I wanted to watch you sit in a chair, your face illuminated by your laptop screen as you conduct your digital symphony of variegated waveforms, I would come to your house.
6(66). Dear Opening Act Zachary Reid,
Your drone music is pretty good. I mean it can be difficult to differentiate between good drone and someone who merely fell asleep face-down on their laptop while Protools was recording, but your sound collages are busy and dark enough to be engaging. I could see myself unwinding to one of your albums with a bottle wine and a hot bath. But standing in a hot, dark room while you cast your candlelit spells of calming ambience, lilting choirs and showering noise ultimately yields the same results as taking a bunch sleeping pills. I know that I was not alone in my response; I witnessed certain members of other bands on the bill yawning and wearily rubbing their faces while waiting for you to wrap it up. (The candles were a nice touch, though.)
7. Dear Random Middle-Aged Pedestrian in Yellow Hat,
Please practice your conversational English. I know you are a native English speaker because your pronunciation was spot-on. And I don’t think you were highly intoxicated because you were walking straight and not slurring your words. But when you came up to us outside the show and asked “Do you know of anywhere that has bass?” you must understand how perplexing that was for us. The phrase “has bass” being the operative mystery. Your issue is one of diction. Technically the venue behind us had no bass guitars, but certainly their sound system was capable of emitting bass frequencies. Were you looking for bass guitars or bass frequencies or perhaps the proprietors of “all your base”? We were thankful when you finally specified that you were looking for a club that played dance music. In our world, the real world, the word “bass” itself is not a universal signifier for dance music, so the elaboration was a big help. (The insinuation that you were looking for a concentration of young inebriated women with whom to bump n’ grind was not lost on us.) Still, we remained befuddled, because at that very moment bass-heavy dance music was bleeding through the walls of the club across the street and into the marvelous downtown Tucson night. We pointed to the club; you looked confused. Sorry we weren’t of greater assistance in your noble quest for The Bass. Hope you got laid. (You probably didn’t.)
8. Dear Supporting Act Some Ember,
You had me at “satan.” Prior to learning that you would be supporting Wreck and Reference on this tour, I had never heard your music. Before even pressing Play on any of the songs on your bandcamp page, I saw that tag–satan–and I knew there was a good chance your music was for me. I was not let down; I appreciate the raging nostalgia boner induced by your darkwave tunes. Nina Chase: Your sultry voice, subdued by miasmas of reverb, was a total bummer in the best possible way. And Dylan Travis: Watching you ply your half-strangled, melodramatic and frighteningly vulnerable croons was like observing someone masturbate. I’m not talking the frustrated lust or automatic animal process of regular masturbation, mind you. More like the weeping and inconsolable masturbation of one envisioning the forevermore inaccessible body of a lost lover. I was so stricken by the nakedness of your performance (metaphorical nakedness; you were fully clothed) that I forgot to dance to those big bold electronic beats.
9. Dear 1/2 of Phoenix Post-Rock Duo Ghost Island,
The fact that I recognized you as you took photos is only relevant because my photographer very nearly wore her Ghost Island shirt to the show. Weird coincidence. (Stop following us.)
10. Dear Wreck and Reference (again),
I appreciate you putting on a (di)spirited and harrowing show despite the obvious fatigue in your eyes, which was doubtless the result of two facts: 1) This was the last show of the tour, and 2) There were only about 20 dorks in the audience. Your disappointment was obvious. That it was so obvious probably made everyone in the audience a tad uncomfortable. This discomfort probably fed back into the negative well of emotion from which your delightfully bleak music springs. Whatever the case, thank you for saying “Fuck it” and beating the shit out of our feelings anyway. Felix: You sounded every bit as raw and bitter as you do on your recordings, and you shred your sampler like no one’s business. Don’t ever change. Ignat: I appreciate the workout I received while dodging the splinters of your drumsticks, which began to fly off in every direction as soon as you started playing. No, I was not dancing, I was merely trying to avoid a pricey visit to the ophthalmologist. Seriously, Ignat, do you hate your drums? Because the ballistic force with which you battered them from start to finish–despite the volume of the sounds which accompanied you–suggests that there was a falling-out between the two of you at some point. If you two need help I know a good marriage counselor.
11. Dear Ignat’s Drumset,
Don’t tell Ignat I said this but I don’t like the way he looks at you; I don’t like how he touches you. Get a restraining order against that brute and find a percussionist who will treat you right. You’re worth it. (I’m currently set-less, but I do own two pairs of sticks; hit me up on Instagram.)
12(66). Dear Left Ear Infection I Had During the Show,
I thought you were the result of a spider living in my ear but in retrospect you probably weren’t (although the spider could have become upset by the loud music and crawled out while I was asleep). And although you made it difficult to wear earplugs and gave me nightmares about ear cancer, I kind of miss you. Do you still think of me?