The second day of Bumbershoot 2011 for me is going to be spent listening to musicians talk about music, writers talking about musicians, and all of them dialoguing down the long dark hallway first created Nebraska-hours ago on the walls of caves in France. It was either Diamond Dave or Elvis Zappa who joked, "Dancing about architecture? What kind of shopping mall can a player make from those plans?" but you see, not all of us go to Northgate on the weekends. Some are perfectly happy in a candle-lit lean-to oggling over deep cuts with fellow nerds. 'They say, "You are ill, so what appears to you is only unreal fantasy,"' Kristin Hersh quotes Dostoyevsky at the opening of her psyhically tortured, entrail-rending autobio-book Rat Girl (Picador), and that could be a pompous dismissal, or a clarion call for dreaming.
12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.: Kristin Hersh: Paradoxical Undressing at Bagley Wright Theatre
Throwing Muses was a band signed to 4AD Records in the mid-80s, a label from which I would buy everything I could get my hands on, but this poetic, feminist-friendly lady band was unique even in abrasive, personal post-punk terms. There was something thorn-covered delicate, a little fiery-mad, about the six string razzle and journal entry rasp of Kristin Hersh, primary song-maker. Hersh recently came to terms with the black hole of time many of her generation (such as myself) weerily describe as "1985," which caught her snared in bi-polar depression (which had been throbbing even when she was a 14 year old prodigy) and a passion to musically express her troubled soul (newly signed to a label). Rat Girl was praised by writers such as Mary Gaitskill and Simon Reynolds, and at this mixed spoken word and musical performance she will be sharing all about being teenage and pregnant, and suddenly adored by many when you feel like death inside. A special treat for those of us who have loved her since Throwing Muses, through the post-grunge era 50FOOTWAVE, and now with her new blissful tunes of blood-art, Crooked.
1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.: Questions & Answers with Miss Pamela Des Barres at the Words & Ideas Stage
A confession (don't worry, considering the topic of this blurb is an author talking about sex with famous rock stars): I have never read Miss Pamela Des Barres' I'm With The Band, which has always been recommended as an excellent way to get to know an era in which someone wouldn't take offense to being called "Queen of the Groupies." (OK, I guess that depends on who got called that; and I wouldn't mind being called that, if the bands cuddling with me and calling me that were really HOT — though my wife probably would). Anyone who's seen Almost Famous (you have, of course, I'm sure) know that the late 60s-mid 70s groupie milieu could actually be a terrific muse to the makers of pop and rock music, even though at that time there were criticisms of such behavior already. The line between fandom and suck-lines can be a thin one, however, and we will expect interviewer and KEXP DJ/fellow author Kurt B. Reighley to help her map out some of the difficult ethical and problematic health-angles a groupie probably should have been (be) aware of. Come by for a whiff of faded patchouli, melted bikini wax, and sweaty vinyl (oh my!).
3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: From Music to Literature with Nelson George, Kristin Hersh, and Nathan Larson
Nelson George is one of the main reasons I'm attending Bumbershoot this year. His incredible biography of "The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound," Where Did Our Love Go? is mysteriously back on Seattle bookstore shelves (get it! Thanks whoever it was at University of Illinois Press who put this back out), and should be in everyone's supreme scribe library, along with Hip Hop America and The Death of Rhythm & Blues. (Naughty gossip claims Prince's "All The Critics Love U In New York" is venomously directed at his position of power at the Village Voice in the early 80s, and how journos followed his lead.) Having him in Seattle for a reading/discussion (hell, drink of water) is a rare honor, as he is about to release his novel The Plot Against Hip Hop after directing Queen Latifah on HBO (Life Support). And yes, he is joined as well byex-lead guitarist for Shudder To Think's Nathan Larson (who put together tunes for such critically-crooned about films as Boys Don't Cry and The Messenger). Larson has just put out a crimey/science fictiony novel titled The Dewey Decimal System I'd like to hear more about and will probably end up reading. (One of the great things about Bumbershoot's literary events is that it often connects me with the books and magazines I'll be reading for the next few months, after hearing the editors and author speak from/about them.) Kristin Hersh is at this panel as well, and who's going to tell that creative boss lady three's a crowd?
Ahoy, fellow Seattle scribes! See you at these wonderful Bumbershoot events too, I hope!