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The “Easy” (a.k.a. “less difficult”) Poetry of Southern California

PART TWO: Charles Harper Webb and the “Easy” (a.k.a. “less difficult”) Poetry of Southern California

Starting in the late 1990s, the Idyllwild Poetry Festival had a decade-long run as one of the best events of that kind in the United States. Under the exceptionally fine management of its co-founders, Artistic Director Cecilia Woloch and legendary civil rights activist and college president John Maguire, the huge outdoor stage at the Idyllwild School for the Arts accommodated both a small jazz ensemble and a half-dozen poets at the same time; poets and musicians directed by Marshall Hawkins alternated with precisely timed presentations. Gently undulating parachutes strung above the grassy slope of the amphitheater enabled the venue itself to amplify the advantages of the mild summer weather at 5500 feet in altitude. It was indeed an idyllic setting.

The line-up in any given year at Idyllwild represented both the well-known and those who should have been more recognized. Several of the poets, in fact, whom Cecilia and John chose to read at Idylliwild became much more famous in the decade after their leadership of the festival ended. Terrance Hayes, Eloise Klein Healy, and Natasha Trethaway, for instance, all went on to receive major honors between 2007 and the present moment that no one could have foreseen back in the early days of the Festival. Other guest poets, such as Tom Lux, Carol Muske-Dukes, Yusef Komunyakaa, Billy Collins, and Galway Kinnell were already about as famous as they remain.

Among the regular poets who led workshops as well as took the main stage were Richard Garcia and Charles Harper Webb, both of whom were relative late bloomers in terms of mainstream recognition. While Webb, for instance, had published dozens of poems in little magazines through the 1970s and early 1980s, his first collection, Zinjanthropus Disease, was limited to a print run of 250 copies and published by Querencia Press in Seattle. It received a Wormwood Review Award, but little other notice, and was followed up by Everyday Outrages, published by a Los Angeles co-operative of poets, Red Wind Books, which also issued the first of three editions of an anthology of Stand Up poets. Three years later, Applezaba Press in Long Beach published A Weeb for All Seasons, which according to World Cat became his first book to end up on more than a score of library shelves.

Webb shifted gears at that point, and it would appear from a note in Shadow Ball that Edward Hirsch (“teacher extraordinaire, who got the train on the tracks”) played a role in his transformation, for beginning in 1997, Webb commenced a run of prize-winning volumes of poems that boosted him into the top two dozen of the most nationally recognized poets based in Southern California. A dozen years later, the University of Pittsburgh Press published Shadow Ball: New and Selected Poems, which gathered Webb’s best poems from five books published since the appearance of Reading the Water in 1997. One of the most remarkable aspects of Webb’s Shadow Ball, however, is the absence of any poems from his early books. That Webb achieved mainstream poetry validation as he hit middle age hardly makes him an exceptional case. One of the more recent poet laureates of the United States, the late Philip Levine, was equally slow to gain public notice as a poet. His second book (Not This Pig) was published in 1968, at the age of 40. In contrast with Webb, though, Levine’s first Selected Poems in 1984 included a half-dozen poems from On the Edge, which had been published when Levine was 35 years old. For a poet in mid-career to have no poems from a book published before the age of 40 in a “new and selected” volume is virtually unheard of.

There is yet one more puzzling absence from the book: no mention is made whatsoever of Webb’s editorial activity and his advocacy of Stand Up poetry, an attitude towards contemporary poetics that had achieved its initial critical mass in Los Angeles County in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the time Webb arrived from the Northwest in Los Angeles in the late 1970s, the best known poets in this “school” were already appearing in national anthologies, such as Edward Field’s A Geography of Poets, a mass market paperback from Bantam Books that was meant to update and build upon the success of The Voice that Is Great Within Us, Hayden Carruth’s immensely successful compilation.

As I have pointed out before, Edward Field holds a distinctive position in American poetry: he is one of the few poets in Donald Allen’s 1960 anthology to go on, in turn, and edit an important anthology. Field’s introduction to A Geography of Poets would have served, in retrospect, as a good model for Donald Allen’s too brief and almost reticent commentary. Whereas Allen pointed to Venice West, in terms of Southern California’s presence in West Coast poetics, Field pointed to the southernmost environs of Los Angeles County as a bastion of canonical usurpation.
“Today, for example, there is a lively poetry scene around Long Beach, California, with its own magazines and small presses. Against the clean background of blue sky, a sea with tropical islands that are camouflaged oil derricks, beautiful blond people – the American Dream – poets like Charles Stetler, Ron Koertge, and Gerald Locklin are writing poems that are direct, funny, and often filthy. …Their vernacular style, sassy and jaded, is at the opposite pole from the issue-oriented, righteous poetry of the Bay Area to the north.” (page xxxix).

Published in 1979, A Geography of Poets provides the best context for Webb’s early development as a poet. The scene he undertook to champion by the end of the 1980s was already well in motion when he arrived in Los Angeles about the time Field’s anthology appeared. In point of fact, Field neglected some of the most significant contributors to the core ensemble of the Stand Up school. The absences of Jack Grapes and Bob Flanagan from Field’s anthology are major omissions, especially in light of Stetler’s minor contribution to the emergence of Stand Up.

By the mid-1980s, Webb had established himself sufficiently in Los Angeles to earn a spot in my second anthology, “Poetry Loves Poetry,” which I published in 1985, and like Field, Webb became one of the few poets to appear in an anthology and then go on to edit a collection in turn. Before his first, thin edition of Stand Up Poetry was published in 1990, however, the late Steve Kowit edited an anthology that reiterated Field’s commentary. Like A Geography of Poets, Kowit’s The Maverick Poets does not include Charles Harper Webb, but Kowit’s brief introduction to the collection (published in 1988) strikes many of the same notes that Webb will elaborate on in his introduction. Here is Kowit’s opening salvo:

“In 1980, Alex Scandalios and I decided to edit an anthology of “easy” poetry for his Willmore City Press. ‘Easy’ was Alex’s word for a kind of straight-on, anti-rhetorical poetry written in the mother tongue: colloquial, hard edged (sic) and feisty – a brand of poetry that was easy to read but not, he liked to remind us, easy to write. Much of the work he had in mind was inspired by Charles Bukowski, poet laureate of the disaffected, and was being published in off-beat poetry magazines like Nausea, Purr, Scree, Vagabond, and The Wormwood Review. It was an underground poetry that avoided the preciously self-conscious diction of mainstream verse on the one hand and the unrelenting incoherence of conventional avant-garde poetry on the other. It was gritty, raw, anecdotal, often funny, and seemed to us decidedly more interesting than the rather solemn stuff being touted by the respectable quarterlies. It was our contention that if the public had turned away from poetry, it was due not to the pernicious influence of television or the incompetence of schools or the technocratic bias of the culture, but simply to the fact that most of what was being published was ponderously obtuse and unrelievedly dull.” (page 1)

Although the anthologies that Kowit and I edited in the 1980s featured a considerable number of the same poets, I can hardly say that we shared the same analysis of the alleged plight of contemporary poetry. (It should be noted that Webb’s commentary in his essays is to a large extent extrapolated from Kowit’s stance.) In particular, the categorization of “conventional avant-garde poetry” as being grounded in “unrelenting incoherence” was an appalling oversimplification and remains an example of the egregiously uninformed attitude that served to undermine the thoughtful efforts of many equally maverick poets affiliated in some manner with the Language poets between 1970 and 1985.

Nevertheless, the overlap between Field’s, Kowit’s, and my anthology provides the best means for tracing Webb’s trajectory as a poet with a successful academic career. Here are the poets who appeared in both Kowit’s The Maverick Poets and “Poetry Loves Poetry”:
Laurel Ann Bogen
Charles Bukowski
Wanda Coleman
Jack Grapes
Ron Koertge
Gerald Locklin
Austin Straus

Webb includes all of these poets in the first edition of Stand Up Poetry: The Poetry of Los Angeles and Beyond, which he co-edited with Suzanne Lummis. Other poets who had appeared in “Poetry Loves Poetry” who are also included in Webb and Lummis’s anthology include Michael C. Ford, Eloise Klein Healy, Jim Kruose, as well as the editors (Webb and Lummis), and myself. In other words, 13 of the 22 poets in Webb’s anthology had already been clustered together in an anthology that was visible enough to be reviewed in the Los Angeles Times as well as the Bay Area’s Poetry Flash. Sharon Doubiago also wrote a long review of “Poetry Loves Poetry,” which appeared in Electrum magazine.

Despite the obvious overlap and despite the fact that my long introduction to “Poetry Loves Poetry” emphasizes how humor plays an unusually prominent role in poetry being written in Los Angeles, Webb completely ignores my anthology in his introduction. Given that he cites both Field’s and Kowit’s anthologies, this omission can hardly be accounted for as anything but a deliberate gesture meant to marginalize PLP‘s editorial complexity in addressing the heterogeneity of contemporary poetry. Heterogeneity, however, tends to make aspiring trend-setters uncomfortable. Diversity complicates any given situation, though anyone working with gene pools in an environmental context understands its importance.

The lack of any acknowledgement by Webb of the contribution of “Poetry Loves Poetry” to the evolution of a poetics largely associated with poets working in Los Angeles County hardly affects the impact that my collection had on catching a particular turning point in the region’s literary history. What interests me more at this point is how Webb represents a model for career success in the overgrowing field of MFA programs. Let there be no mistake made about the chasm that exists in American poetry right now: there are a huge number of aging poets who achieved fluency in their art well before the MFA programs started proliferating in the early 1980s; and there are a massive number of younger poets whose social context for writing poetry is almost completely embedded within the world of MFA programs. While Webb’s initial edition of his Stand Up anthology emphasized poets from the former cluster, the subsequent editions drew heavily upon the ranks of those who teach in MFA programs.

I don’t think this shift in the composition of contributors to his editions of Stand Up poetry is unrelated to the culmination of the article Webb published in The Writer’s Chronicle, which I addressed in the previous post. The longer I have thought about it, the more I have come to understand that Webb’s dislike of “difficult” poetry is not just an aesthetic preference, but umbrage about a loss of market share. “They have bet on the wrong horse,” Webb says, in reference to those who have committed themselves to “difficult” poetry.

What I don’t understand about Webb’s position is why one is supposed to bet on only one horse. Or only one stable of horses, as if a single trainer had the “whisperer” secrets that enabled one to claim the trophies of success. Am I truly expected to choose between reading only Thomas Lux or only Ron Silliman? Only Pattianne Rogers, Heather McHugh. and Natasha Trethewey, or only Rae Armantrout, Harryette Mullen, and Laura Mullen? I refuse, point-blank, to live that way or to encourage young readers of poetry to make such either-or selections. It would seem to lead to the kind of in-breeding that marks so many academic programs, with the result that many MFA programs have very little of the risk-taking, eclectic energy that marked the work of the contributors to “Poetry Loves Poetry.”

I suppose it is possible to live as a poet and be more concerned with career success than fostering a diversely empowered audience of readers. My lifelong experience of observing, either at a distance or close-up, the preferences of academically based poets is that they encourage homogeneity as a foundation for one’s personal claim to canonical representation. I choose to discourage others from taking that path. It is not a million M.F.A.s that are needed, but a million maverick readers of maverick poets. Potential readers of contemporary poetry are far more ready to begin turning pages than most contemporary poets give them credit for. It is not “easy” poetry or “less difficult” poetry that will increase the number of readers of poetry, but thoughtful poetry willing to answer the questions, “What’s at stake?” and “Who cares?” Whether Charles Harper Webb wants to admit it or not, both Language poets and poets who write long poems are frequently capable of answering those questions in a more interesting manner than those who settle for the safe bet of “less difficult” poems.

(Upcoming Post) PART THREE: The Intriguing Complexity of Charles Harper Webb’s “SHADOW BALL”

“What is an artist?”

“What is an artist?”

I had never heard of the Darwin Awards before this past year, when recent recipients were announced. It’s given to people who do humanity the favor of removing themselves from the gene pool by doing something stupid. One of the all-time winners is the terrorist who mailed a letter-bomb and who thoughtfully inscribed his name and return address on the package. While he could have worked up a fictitious residence, I guess he wanted the recipient to be cognizant of who was getting the most pleasure out of the explosion in the instant it happened. However, the package got returned for insufficient postage and one can only assume that some very pressing matter distracted the terrorist from paying close attention to that day’s mail, since he opened his own thoroughly efficient device in a moment of undue haste.

Oddly enough, I remember a cartoon from a number of years ago that showed a terrorist working as an instructor in a suicide bomber school. He’s wearing a vest and has his hand on the detonator. “Watch carefully,” he says. “I’m only going to do this once.”
It seemed funnier at the time I first saw the cartoon. Writing a description of the cartoon, in fact, only leaves me feeling despondent about the contempt for human life that seems so prevalent. Why are the war machines still so well funded? People don’t put bumper stickers on their cars anymore. Back in the days when they did, one of my favorites was “It will be a great day when schools get all the money they need and the Pentagon has to hold a bake sale.” Or something close to that.

*****

I’ve been reading Sarah Thornton’s 33 Artists in Three Acts as part of my on-going inquiry into the willingness of modern societies to fund ever more sophisticated weapons for combat. The key question that Thornton asks each of her subjects is: “What is an artist?” My guess is that unless a society is willing to devote enormous energy to coming up with an answer to that question, those of us who dislike warfare have little hope of human beings ever growing tired of hunting other human beings.

An artist is like a hunter, but the difference is in the simile itself and in the way an artist extends that simile, for the artist is not only tracking the unusual, but is leaving behind a record of her own tracks in doing so. In thinking of leaving footprints behind, I recall that the huge retrospective of Gabriel Orozco’s art at MOMA in New York City back in January, 2010 included what appeared to be a simple shoebox. Here are my notes from my visit to that exhibit, which I originally typed up as a letter to Stephen Motika:

I had more or less circled the entire main portion of the exhibit upstairs when I arrived at a shoe box on the floor, which seemed to be viewed as a prop by an unusually aggressive guard. He sidled up to a couple ahead of me and said, “You see the beauty in it?” and then scooted back a few steps. The man and the woman didn’t reply, but gazed at the shoebox, uncertain of whether to take advantage of the guard’s cue-line and move on to another piece or to challenge his dismissal quietly by lingering at the taped border of the sculpture.

As I studied the shoebox, the issue of sex and gender power in Orozco’s art only now became visible. The shoe box seemed to be a neutral signifier, but the size of the box was anything but neutral. It was far too big to have served as a box for women’s shoes. It was definitely a man’s shoe box, and when I read on the plaque on the wall that this particular piece was Orozco’s response at the big Italian biennial to being given a “closet-size” space to exhibit his work, I realized that the shoebox was far more than a sarcastic critique of the curators, but also an assertion of his “masculinity”: “I’m a big man,” the box seemed to say, in every sense of the word “big,” at which point sex impinges on gender.

At that point, I went back to the “bicycle sculpture,” which proved to be exactly what I remembered: men’s bicycles. I had liked this piece very much when I first saw it, and my admiration for it remains undiminished. For one thing, I didn’t think it was possible that someone would be able to take on using a bicycle as an armature for sculpture after Picasso had made such deft use of one, but Orozco’s piece more than beats him at his own game of modernist transformation. (The kickstand, in fact, evoked Eliot’s “still point of the turning world.”) Even with its pediment of retro aesthetics, however, the piece conveys the urgent pleasure of self-generated motion that is indifferent to physical condition. The age of the bicycles only makes them more attractive, although I wonder if that would have been true if they had not been men’s bicycles.

At a minimum, though, the bicycles were unambiguous in at least this point: while it would be possible to debate the “sex” of the shoebox (“Are you saying that no woman could ever have feet that big?”), the bicycle sculpture privileges masculine public mobility. I guess my question concerns what the response to the piece would be like if he had used bicycles conventionally designed for women; in fact, I wonder if he even considered that alternative. Somehow, I doubt it.
(Side-note interjection: Thornton mentions Orozco’s bicycle sculpture in passing, but makes no comment on the issue of the sculpture’s explicit gendering.)

At least one other piece was less subtle: the three large white balls encased in mesh, in a piece called “Seed,” for instance, were in full phallic display, with the mesh vertically poised in an ejaculatory state. This third piece I cite is a minor work and more of a footnote than thesis, but it serves to confirm the overall heft of Orozco’s work. The masculine inflections in Orozco’s work (at least in this exhibit) are not surprising as such; indeed, his ability to rearrange what we assume we’re familiar with seems rooted in a playfulness that is all too often squelched by patriarchal authority, and his response affirms his value as a transmitter of well-defined strength amidst temporal uncertainties.

In a letter sent to Kevin McNamara shortly after I sent my comments to Stephen, I noted that “my favorite portion of Orozco’s show was the large room, on one of the lower floors, filled with posters which revolved a set of colors (yellow, white, blue, red, if I remember correctly), according to a move on a chess board. I wish I could have spent more time there. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded at all being able to sit on a mat on the floor in that room with a small group of people engaged in some form of meditation. Or even chanting, quietly.”

My definition tonight (January 6, 2014): An artist is a person whose work within the realm of imagination removes them from the gene pool of imitation. Emily Dickinson is an artist because she is impossible to imitate. Ironically, an artist’s work serves as a termination point and as a primary discharge of continuity.

Miramar

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Last night Linda and I went to a poetry reading at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. Although we technically live in Los Angeles County, we’re so far south that Orange County is less than a score of traffic lights on Seventh Street away from us. To make the trek worth it, we left early enough to catch a few galleries on Washington Boulevard in Culver City. We especially enjoyed the paintings at the Maxwell Alexander Gallery, which has only been open for a year. If this gallery can keep the doors open, it may start giving the George Stern Gallery some serious competition. One of the paintings was not a depiction of a California or Southwest landscape, but a superb encounter by Ray Roberts with a coastal scene in Maine in which the mist and ocean-slathered rocks hunched together in the brevity of several trumpet blasts of light.

Oddly enough, Maine put in an appearance at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, too, in the form of environmentally derived sculptures by Nathalie Miebach. An old friend of ours, Larkin Higgins, was already there when we arrived and she enthusiastically recommended the soundtracks that were available at the far wall of the exhibit. Miebach’s work is a fabric-based transcription of the weather conditions in the Gulf of Maine, which then becomes the basis for a collaboration with musicians and composers. Unfortunately, we didn’t have sufficient time to spend at her show and we’ll have to make a return trip sometime in December.

The reading was well attended and MC Brendan Constantine kept the evening in good spirits with his inimitable effervescent wit. Brendan mentioned that Rick Lupert and he had first seen Mindy Nettifee reading her poetry in her mid-teens: “She had no right to be writing that well.” I’m happy to report that she’s writing better than ever and a breakthrough book is long overdue. The other readers included Brynn Saito and Bruce Snider. All three had broadsides printed of a poem or poems written in response to the exhibition on the third floor. I had a little trouble hearing Saito’s poems, though that may be due to the deterioration of my own capacity to hear, so I was happy to see her “W.W.” (“Woman Warrior”) poems printed on both sides of her card. Bruce Snider told me that the poem on his broadside, “Creation Myth,” was a new one. I look forward to sharing it with my students this coming week. He set up a sequence of “t” chords from start to finish in the poem that fastened the images to each other with startling clarity.

Several other readings took place last night in the Los Angeles area. It was a tough call about which one to attend. Beyond Baroque featured Alan Soldofsky, Carol Davis and Dean Rader; and across town, Ron Koertge and Charles Webb were reading at a bookstore. Linda and I made the right choice, though, because I got a chance to talk with Marisela Norte, who is now working at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. At first, I didn’t recognize her, which reminded me how much I depend on context to help me remember. She had worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art for so long that I couldn’t imagine her being at the counter of any other arts institution. I was abashed when she said, “Bill Mohr, don’t you recognize me?” I certainly hope to bring her to CSU Long Beach very soon to give a reading.

We’ve had two poets so far this semester: Myriam Gurba and Christopher Buckley. Myriam’s poems exemplify some of the missing links in lesbian identity formation in a film such as “Blue is the Warmest Color.” I appreciated the DIY small press spirit of Gurba’s production. One photocopied chapbook had a notation that was absolutely in the spirit of those who worked forty and fifty years ago in alternative publishing: the page read simply: “copyright and all that shit.”

Chris Buckley has launched a new magazine, MIRAMAR, which deserves your subscription money as soon as you can find enough left over after rent and food. The first issue has more good poems than any single issue of a magazine has a right to assemble in its table of contents. Gary Soto has one of his best poems in many years; Jon Veinburg, Naomi Nye, Suzanne Lummis, Richard Jackson, Laurel Ann Bogen, Greg Pape, Amy Uyematsu, Dixie Salazar, Christopher Howell, and many others contribute to an extraordinary first issue, dedicated to “old school truth and beauty.” All the contributors subtly make a case for Buckley’s choice of the lower case.

Here’s the pertinent information:

MIRAMAR

342 Oliver Road

Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Single copies: $10. 2 year subscriptions: $15.

NOTE: “Submissions are read February through August and will be given prompt attention.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A POSSIBILITY”: MUSIC AT THE SANTA MONICA CIVIC AUDITORIUM

“A POSSIBILITY”: MUSIC AT THE SANTA MONICA CIVIC AUDITORIUM

Thursday, August 8, 2013

News outlet reports that the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium would be shutting down its operations cited surprisingly few of the famous music groups and bands that performed at that venue. I was astonished, in fact, that so many substantial figures were left out of the Civic’s history, and began to wonder if the reporters actually had any knowledge (other than newly minted press releases from Santa Monica’s bureaucracy) of how many significant musicians had played there.

Before I had ever gone to a concert there, though, I had heard one of Harry Northup’s early poems, “Listening to Savoy Brown at the Santa Monica Civic.” Harry has graciously given me permission to include his poem, which is dedicated to Paul Blackburn, in this post.

if

if i if i

if i can       can get

can get       into       in-

to the rhy

rhy

rhy     the

rhythm of this

of this

of this

 

of this song

 

if i can get into the

rhythm of this song

if i can get

can get

can get

if i can get into the rhythm

if i can get into the rhythm of

this                 of this

of this song

if i can get into the rhythm of this song

there is

there is

a possibility.

 

aug 21, 1971

By the end of that decade, Patti Smith would be singing on the Civic stage the imperative to “seize the possibility.” The most underappreciated period of recent American poetry is the 1970s on the West Coast. The struggle to comprehend and subsequently seize the possibility of self-definition through small press production has only been partially documented in my book, HOLDOUTS, and a new generation of scholars needs to begin work on excavating the multiple layers awaiting their close reading. Along with the writing of his poet-spouse, Holly Prado (who is also an extraordinary poet). Harry Northup’s poetry needs to have a prominent space made for its vigorous, yet subtle audacity.

I asked Harry about other bands he heard at the Civic and he supplied me with the following list, in which he first praised in particular the music of Savoy Brown:

“I remember clearly how great the band was & in particular,
Kim Simmonds, the lead guitarist.  A great working class English blues band.

“I went to so many shows at the Civic from 1968 to 1973, including “Traffic,”
where I saw & talked with Jon Voight; Bob Marley, whose show was for some reason
transferred from the Shrine — it was like he was running in the sands of time;
The Allman Brothers; The Kinks; Steve Miller; Humble Pie with Steve Mariot —
what a beautiful voice; The Faces with Rod Stewart; Freddy King — the best blues
player — he looked like he had done time; & Van Morrison.  My first wife Rita &
I went, along with a bunch of surfers.” Harry added in a follow-up note that “Stevie Winwood of Traffic had the prettiest voice in rock and roll.”

The Civic was a venue that Harry and I both agree possessed great sight lines. There truly wasn’t a bad seat in the house. There were (and are) very few outlets of that peculiar capacity. Most venues are fairly small or huge stadium affairs. It’s not that easy (for performer or audience member) to find a stage that gives the both sides of the equation a chance to feel comfortable with its size and yet large enough to give a sense of occasion. The Civic did that.

I lived within a half-mile of the Civic for over 20 years. One advantage I had in attending concerts there was avoiding the hassle with parking. It was fairly easy to walk there or to find parking in one of the side-streets, that were blocked off enough from through traffic, so that only those who lived in Ocean Park would know about it.

Harry and I are hardly the only ones, however, who have affectionate memories of the Santa Monica Civic. Dennis Cooper’s diaries (at Special Collections at New York University) record his attendance at a concert by Iggy Pop and the Stooges at the Civic that Cooper regales as one of the highlights of his young life. When Bowie comes on stage as part of the encore, pandemonium (his word, if I recollect correctly) broke out. It wasn’t a riot, however, (or so it seems from Cooper’s description) so much as a moment when the carnivalesque took over, and there was (however briefly) an instance of collective liberation. The entire audience got a glimpse of what Northup had proposed: “a possibility.”

I want to close today’s post with the following list of 30 or so of the memorable concerts I’ve attended in California. Over a third of them were at the Santa Monica, McCabe’s Guitar Shop or Beyond Baroque. Obviously, there are dozens of musicians and composers whose work I never heard in a live setting, but wish I could have heard. I especially wish I could have seen some of the Motown groups. One treasures what fortune has provided. For instance, I only ended up attending the recording of Waits’s live concert because I walked into McCabe’s Guitar Shop and saw free tickets on the front counter. All I had to do was call a number and say I had picked up a ticket at McCabe’s, and I had a seat at a table less than 20 feet from Waits’s piano. I grabbed two “tickets” and called a new friend, Cher’rie Lawrence, and off we went.

 

Chrissy Hynde and the Pretenders – Santa Monica Civic (Her voice was even more full of timbre than on record.)

Minutemen – Beyond Baroque (as part of Jack Skelley’s Beyond Barbeque Series)

The Residents – Pasadena Concert circa 1984

Elvis Costello – First American Tour – Long Beach Arena; Los Angeles Sports Arena

(“Pump It Up” was his final song in these sets.)

X – The Whiskey A-Go-Go; with the Avengers – summer, 1978.

Among numerous other places I saw X were Club 88 and Santa Monica Civic (with Dave Alvin).

Exene Cervenka – The Alligator Lounge; May 30, 1995; The Prospector (Long Beach)

XTC – The Palladium (“Living through Another Cuba”)

David Bowie – The Forum – Summer, 1978; Anaheim Stadium (with the Go-Go’s)

Paul Simon – Santa Monica Civic – 1973/1974

Hollywood Bowl – Etta James & Solomon Burke (Summer, 2008)

B-52s and The Blasters — Los Angeles.

John Hiatt – Hollywood.

Solomon Burke and Etta James (Hollywood Bowl, 2008)

Tom Waits –  July 30, 1975

Rolling Stones – The Forum – June 11, 1972 (Stevie Wonder opened, and did not get as much applause as he deserved.)

Bill Evans (1929-1980) – San Francisco (with Harley Lond). This concert was in the late 1970s, and when I heard about his death not that much longer after hearing him live, I realized how fortunate I had been to have this one encounter.

Harry Partch – University of California, Los Angeles. Delusion of the Fury

Bob Dylan – Long Beach Civic Auditorium – 2008

(I once walked out on a Dylan concert. It was at a venue in Hollywood in 1978. I can’t recall what he was playing, but it was most certainly not songs from Blood on the Tracks nor his mid-1960s albums. He was listless and seemed merely to be going through the motions.)

Deborah Iyall and Romeo Void – Eureka, CA 1981

Stan Ridgeway and Wall of Voodoo – Santa Monica Civic, 1982

Rickie Lee Jones – Belly Up Tavern, Salerno Beach.

Beck – University of California, San Diego.

Bo Diddley – Redondo Beach club, summer, 1969

Wim Mertens – McCabe’s Guitar Shop (one of my favorite musical performances of all time).

Ray Manzarek  (with Michael C. Ford) – McCabe’s Guitar Shop

Chick Corea – Santa Monica Civic.

Talking Heads – Hollywood Bowl.

Patti Smith –the Roxy (her first show after Horses came out). Santa Monica Civic and Beyond Baroque.

Oingo Boingo – I’m quite sure I saw them live, but can’t remember where. (“Dead Man’s Party” is a classic.)

Suburban Lawns – Santa Monica Civic.

Bruce Springsteen – at least a half-dozen times. Santa Barbara, where he ended with an incredible version of “Jungleland”; Santa Monica Civic; Los Angeles Sports Arena; and the Coliseum.

Of course, there are also concerts I almost heard, but ended up having to leave before the music started. In particular, I was invited by a poet friend, who had an extra ticket, to see Neil Young at the Forum in the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, this person was prone to substance abuse and became ill once we were at the Forum and I had to drive her home before the lights came down.