Sunday, February 26, 2017

You Live, You Learn

And we pause from today's hefty dose of testosterone for something completely different.

The evening may have begun with the stench of hops, but before long, estrogen was the overwhelming scent in the room. And it's a big room.

Mac and I arrived as the DJ was inundating the growing crowd with songs from the era: Smashing Pumpkins, Goo Goo Dolls, Bush.

Hardywood was hosting the latest in the Cover to Cover series, cherry picking a '90s gem sure to pull every woman who was in ninth grade or above in 1995: Alanis Morrissette's "Jagged Little Pill," a prominent feminist musical screed of the grunge era.

And let's not forget it was written and sung by a 19 year old. Nineteen!

When I commented on what a seminal album it was, Mac said she knew every word. What I recalled was that the record had boasted a ridiculous number of hits.

Wearing an off-the-shoulder black knit dress, torn black tights and boots, Kelsey kicked things off with "All I Really Want," sounding eerily like Alanis while Matt played the harmonica.

All I need now is intellectual intercourse
A soul to dig the hole much deeper

The thing about the harmonica is that I'd just seen Matt at the Elbys Sunday and mentioned my excitement at this show coming up. "Yea, I gotta learn the harmonica by then. I haven't started trying yet," he'd said, shrugging. "But I have a feeling they stuck it in front of Alanis and she just breathed, so I'll be okay."

The boy had come a long way in 6 days.

You could barely hear Morgan doing "You Oughta Know" because the mostly female crowd sang every syllable at the top of their lungs, fists pumping, especially on the "But you're still alive!" part.

"Does anyone have a bra I could burn?" Morgan asked after finishing the song. Wrong era.

Well, that was cathartic, I said to Mac, who shared that her friend had reminisced that the album had gotten her through her divorce. Her and every woman who got divorced for the next decade, I'd bet.

I spotted my photographer friend making his way toward the stage, the massive lens on his camera giving him easy access to a front row position while his honey happily danced and sang nearby.

There was the angst of "Perfect," a solid reminder of how dark grunge got, followed by Maggie in a plaid flannel shirt doing "Hand in My Pocket" while the crowd not only sang along but did the hand gestures - peace sign, playing piano, hailing a taxi.

I'm broke, but I'm happy
I'm poor, but I'm kind
I'm short but I'm healthy, yeah

With Kelsey singing "Right Through You," guitarist Oliver did double duty, alternately playing the electric guitar around his neck and the acoustic guitar on a stand in front of him, the electric wedged between them.

So it wasn't only major singing talent onstage, the band was superb, too.

Debra came out to sing "Forgiven" to find the mic set about two feet over her short stature, but, as always, used her force of nature voice to command the room.

You know how us Catholic girls can be
We make up for so much time a little too late

The angelic-faced Georgia not only killed "You Learn," but managed a high legged kick (in Chuck Taylors with green shoelaces, no less) during the ai-yi portion of the song.

I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah
I recommend walking around naked in your living room, yeah

Maggie was back for "Head Over Feet" (would the radio hits never end?) and by now, the crowd was nearly orgasmic with memories of their youth.

You're the best listener that I've ever met
You're my best friend, best friend with benefits
What took me so long?

When it was time for "Mary Jane," Matt said that Debra had told him years ago that if Cover to Cover ever did "Jagged Little Pill," she had dibs on "Mary Jane" because, according to her, it's her car jam. When she finished belting it out, Mac looked at me in awe. "She has an amazing voice."

And speaking of amazing voices, around the time the crowd was beginning to wonder if an Alanis album meant we weren't going to get to hear Matt sing, he appeared to do "Ironic," promising that it was going to get weird.

Matt playing a girl's part is hardly headlines for him and we got a terrific cover of "Ironic," never more heartfelt than when he sang about "meeting the man of my dreams."

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
And life has a funny way of helping you out

When he concluded, he observed that there was something timely about the album to him. Mac said she'd just been thinking the same thing.

"That's the year I was born!" Kelsey piped up while sporting a shit-eating grin and getting grief for her youth before doing "Not the Doctor" and pushing the young women behind us into ecstasies.

I don't want to be the sweeper of the egg shells that you walk upon
And I don't want to be your other half, I believe that 1 and 1 make 2

"I want this album," one announced. "I'm going to Spotify it."

Kelsey and Morgan's harmonies on "Wake Up" were goosebump-inducing, almost as magnificent as their manes of hair.

And, in what seemed like no time, "Jagged Little Pill" was over, except no female in the room was ready to accept that. Matt announced a five-minute intermission to re-hydrate with beer before the show carried on.

Afraid of losing our prime floor space in the second row, Mac and I stayed rooted for the duration and Matt began the second half with an a capella version of "Your House" before Kelsey took the reins with "21 Things I Want in a Lover" and we moved into Alanis' subsequent music.

I'm in no hurry, I could wait forever
I'm in no rush because I like being solo
There are no worries and certainly no pressure in the meantime
I'll live like there's no tomorrow

It only got better with Debra singing "Thank U" while Matt played a small keyboard on a shoulder strap ("What I'm doing is so not impressive," he assured the audience) and one of the trio of blond sisters behind us (none of whom could have been as old as this album) sighed, "I looooove this song."

The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I touched down

When Debra sang, "How 'bout no longer being masochistic," she also said in an aside just afterwards, "Unless that's your thing..."

But what struck me about the song was the difference in the words from the angry female lyrics of "Jagged Little Pill" three years earlier. Clearly our little girl had done some growing in those years.

"It's about to get real meta, y'all," Maggie warned as Georgia told the crowd to take a deep breath in and launched into a slow burn version of the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" set to acoustic guitar and sung by a woman who looked like Doris Day and who, for a change, was not throwing snack-sized Ziplock bags of bacon at the crowd as she has been known to do.

She was doing such a fabulous cover of the song that half the room never even recognized what she was singing or the fiercely clever arrangement she was using.

Morgan got up to sing "Hands Clean," saying, "This song has more lyrics than a George R.R. Martin novel," while being accompanied by Matt on bass, playing it for the first time in his life. It was quite a combination.

Ooh, this could get messy
But you don't seem to mind
Ooh, don't go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime

"You have to really live in 1995 tonight!" Matt exhorted the crowd.

By that point, they'd covered the highlights of Alanis' post-"Jagged Little Pill" period but the crowd still screamed for more, which netted us an encore of four songs we'd already heard - "All I Really Want," "Hand In My Pocket" and "You Learn."

It would have been plenty to send us out into the night except for one song.

To close out the night, Kelsey did "You Oughta Know," sounding every bit as angry as Alanis had circa 1995 and with a crowd hoarse from singing yet still trying and determined to dance in place until the last.

And the stench of estrogen so thick in the air you could have cut it with a knife.

I recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone
I certainly do
I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Feel free

After living and learning from Alanis, I recommend letting go, walking around your living room naked and living like there's no tomorrow.

And as for the pursuit of a soul to dig the hole of intellectual intercourse deeper, I'd also recommend whittling that list from 21 to something more realistic. I certainly do.

Far greater likelihood of touching down that way.

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