[Editor's Note: Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. Her column, Exene Says..., is her space to basically just write what's on her mind, everything from crazy life stories to political theories and observations about what's going on in this fucked up world of ours. To contact her, send all messages to email@example.com.]
I'm still on the road. I recently had a day and night off, and let's just say I made the ultimate best of it. Austin has a magical, weird, energy-vortex thing. You really gotta experience it to know what I mean, but it's never gonna change, even if it sprawls more and gets gentrified even more. The energy is very dark and scary, yet loving and all-encompassing.
We were to play the next night at Stubb's, a famous, delicious barbecue place with a big outside room. I wrote a poem, which I rarely do anymore, about sound check, the most unglamorous part of being in a band.
A blank stage/Thread-bare lighting/Enameled floor/Of colors forgotten by dancing feet/Gray brown gray over cement sloping down to/The front/Old gold velvet chairs/Bolted down sitting still/In expectation waiting for/Something to happen/Snare cracks bounce back/A ball hitting the wall/Scrambled guitar scrapes the/Hall/melted melody/Muddied words/Slide around/From monitors/Is that me warmer or sharper/More or less/Bass is just plain thick/We play one loud song/And every naked surface/Cringes/There is one guy/In front of the stage/slowly sweeping last night's/Mess away/He doesn't care what we/Sound like/He's heard it all before.
There are so many great musicians and singers and artists in this country, and it's a terrible shame so many people never get to see them play live shows. Pat Benatar, Heart, Joan Jett, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Etta James, Wanda Jackson, Rosie Flores, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, just to name a few--they can/could sing, play guitar, write forever songs.
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Sure, people go to concerts nowadays, but you know what? They've never actually seen someone sing or play. It's lip-syncing--no musicians, just a soundtrack, a trick, a spectacle that dazzles the masses.
California used to be a place where everyone wanted to live. Blond beach girls, barefoot hippies, crazy happenings, acid, freedom, endless possibilities, love, freaks, bikers--did I mention freedom? It was a place that once existed. But now it's a place of rules and taxes and fees and regulations, and everything has been known to cause cancer, and that's why gas costs extra, and we protect you, but it's gonna cost you, and taxes and taxes and paperwork and traffic stops, and those are worse than traffic jams.