Rounding out the Patti Smith 2015 beat, I wrote this piece for Vulture on Patti’s road to rock and roll.
Two pieces in the Voice today: a review of the Television show in Brooklyn last night, and the one I’m particularly proud of, a guide to the (mostly vanished) landmarks mentioned in Patti Smith’s Just Kids.
Patti used to play every year at this time. The 29th was the show for the diehards, we’d huddle in the cold outside for an hour or two before sprinting up the stairs for the front. I used to joke that we could bowl inside Bowery Ballroom on those nights, no one else bothering to get there much before the show started. (That was until “Just Kids” and the book award and god bless, the world suddenly started showing up at the Bowery in December.) The 29th was usually loose and sloppy, mistakes, chatty Patti. The 30th was “the birthday,” and she was usually on her game for that. Then there were the New Year’s Eve shows. I would either go to the 29th and the birthday or the birthday and New Year’s, but always at least two, how on earth could I be living in proximity of the possibility and not go to at least two? I would go solo to one and the boyfriend would come along to the other.
Walking onto the floor and seeing the Rust Never Sleeps set at the other end of the Barclays Center was this combination of disbelief and deja vu. I never got to see the Rust Never Sleeps tour; by the time I read about it in Rolling Stone it was long gone, and I used to sit in front of my stereo with the records and bemoan that I had missed what had to have been one of the most amazing things ever.
I traveled to Hartford last weekend to see Patti Smith’s first museum photography exhibit, titled Camera Solo at the Wadsworth Atheneum. It’s a small but dense exhibit, three rooms of photographs and artifacts. It took about an hour and a half to go through everything, which included time to watch a 7-minute 35mm short that was part of the exhibit, and to revisit favorites at the end.
The exhibit is accompanied by an audio tour that you can access from your cellphone, by dialing an 800 number and punching in an exhibit number. Patti herself recorded the narration, which was just fantastic. It definitely added another dimension to my experience of the exhibit, and I appreciated the low-tech but extremely effective method. (You can hear the narration in the museum’s account on Soundcloud!) If you had the narration and the exhibit catalog (which I had received as part of a charity grab bag I purchased during the New Year’s Eve shows, you would be able to experience about 50% of the exhibit.
Definitely did not see this one coming last night!
I am so divided on this cover of the song. I think she starts off strong and think the initial attitude and perspective work, but then feel like the performance loses its way a little bit–and not just because of the lyric changes, or that she forgets the words at one point. I think it’s that I just want it to work so incredibly badly that I will forgive it a million sins.
More on the show later.
Even I am not immune to the year-end listing process. Here’s my list of favorite/best shows of 2011. It’s so skewed as to representative of nothing except my particular universe – but it’s not like I’m pretending that 2012 isn’t going to be a laundry list of Springsteen and Afghan Whigs shows.
Standing outside St. Mark’s Church, shivering as I waited to get in, I turned as someone came up behind me. It was Patti, and Lenny. “Happy Anniversary!” I said. She giggled a little, the way she does these days, before thanking me and heading into warmth.