So I went to see Thao and the Get Down Stay Down tonight at Bowery Ballroom, and: I have not seen that many chunky knit cardigans and cats eye glasses since I accepted my bachelor's degree and moved out of Amherst, Massachusetts (and I say this as someone who has attended the Bust Craftacular twice).
First thought: this is like a Smith College radio station show pushed ten years into the future. Second thought: I am wrong about the ten years part, because, upon closer inspection, everyone else here is actually a college senior.
Which is always a bit embarrassing, but tonight, it was also comforting: I sometimes get very old fuddy-duddy scared about how I am going to interact as adults and peers with people who were born in years that I actually remember (what up, 1991)--but tonight made it clear, no matter how much sexting and ebooks and mobisodes and edutainment they have absorbed, college girls will still go through a period where they wear an enormous chunky knit zip-up cardigan and hairdos with a zillion bobby pins and volunteer for abortion rights, and thus, we will always have common ground. Also, Thao is just the Mirah of 2011, right? Let the circle be unbroken, etc etc.
Most of the shows I go to these days are peopled with either hollow-cheeked cocaine pixies, or dads with tattoos, so it was nice to know I am not a completely obsolete model...just a relatively obsolete model!
Speaking of Thao & the ...: I think it took them a little while to get warmed up, or maybe it took me a little while to get warmed up, but either way, it was fun once the show got underway. However, I sort of couldn't figure out why I was there--there wasn't a particular song I was waiting for, I wasn't desperate to hear some new song for the first time, I did not have any of the urges or feelings I usually have at a show.
I got really, really into the last Thao album after my last (hopefully ever?) horrible breakup (read: ridic dumping), and I listened to that album so many times that it is basically a part of my brain-space now so of course I bought a ticket to go see them the second I saw that such tickets existed--zombie style!--but really, there was no way they could live up to what I expected. Because what I expected was an album-exact rendition of every song, just in a louder, more brutal arrangement, so I could go immerse my brain in some total time-travel sensory overload. Um, no wonder that didn't happen! But seriously, they got it very very right on that album, and so, I don't know, seeing them live did not scratch this particular itch for me.
But anyway, since you're so eager to know, I'm sure, I present: Some Break-Up Albums, Organized by Some Ex-Boyfriends, in Reverse Chronological Order:
1. Thao, "Know Better Learn Faster" : This was the breakup (read: ridic dumping) of basically my first non-insane, "adult" relationship, and even though of course I was wailing and renting my garments and all the usual dumpee activities, it was kind of a relief to just be sad for regular dumping reasons (i.e. I thought this was all going so well!) and not crazy-relationship reason (i.e. I am actually literally convinced I will die alone now because I am such a terrible person). Common thoughts in this time period included: "Maybe this is character-building and just part of Becoming a Woman?"
This record fits into this new experience I was having--it is a collection lot of regular breakup feelings, appropriate for persons in the 20s who have little to no inclination to cut the name of their ex into their calf with their housekeys. While I was sobbing to this record, I was, on some level, relieved to be sobbing to something so regular.
But for serious, this is the best breakup record in the world for girls (I am not sure if it is the same for boys because I have not field tested it, but it might be--why not check for yourself?) (fun fact: the linked video was directed by someone who is on "Glee," which shows exactly how hip and underground I am these days)(though in a certain way, doesn't it make sense? Don't Thao & the seem like they should be playing at the Peach Pit After Dark?)
2. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, s/t : When your life has taken so many wrong turns that a guy cheats on you by boning a maid while on vacation and then he is still the one to dump you, you might as well get as melodramatic as a suicidal teenage drug addict.
This was also a point in my life where I began regretting not having been skankier when I was younger, and whatever "grittiness" I read into this album fit in well with my plotting an out-of-control promiscuity phase that totally never materialized.
3. Joanna Newsom, "Peach Plum Pear" on repeat for 72 hours straight : I only dated this guy for like a month, but all my romances beforehand had been like these super-epic drawn-out love-junkie nightmares, so I didn't realize someone could just dump you after a month, and I was, as you can imagine, quite shocked.
4. drank my way through this one for about six months; only sound available was the echo of my own dry-heaving
5. Elliott Smith, "XO" : that fact that this would be my breakup album in my early 20s is as good a proof as any that your early 20s are seriously just the fucking worst time you will ever have in your entire life.
6. just curled into a ball for a week and then everything was fine!
7. my high school-cum-college boyfriend dumped me over the phone while Weezer were playing "Island in the Sun" on SNL. I spent all of summer break in bed, and then at school immediately jumped into eyeliner and cigarettes and attempted promiscuity. I didn't even know you got to have breakup albums, and use then as a sort of transition state, a bridge back to life (fun fact! also the name of a rehab center in Bay Ridge that an ex-boyfriend of mine attended!) between the feeling that the world has ended and you're a zombie with your brain falling out of your eyeballs, and the next phase; a place to kind of regain some equilibrium and reconnect with the land of the living, so that your life doesn't just feel like a record that skipped.
If I had known about breakup albums at this point, I assume there would have been a lot of weeping to "Violator" (don't judge).
8. When my elementary school boyfriend dumped me, I obsessively listened to a tape of Snow's "Girl I Been Hurt" that I taped off the radio. I thought it not only nicely summed up what I was feeling (note: I did not know what the word "lover" meant), but also reflected a love triangle going on in "X-Men" that was deeply effecting me at the time. Cyclops, how could you!
I guess the point of all this is, when the show was over, I left as soon as the show was over because I was tired, and decided to drop fifteen dollars on a cab, instead of spend an hour on the train, because that's one of the pleasures of adult life. Right?