Sunday, August 27, 2017

If It Sells, It Smells

Vaginacore. That's a thing.

If there was one takeaway from tonight, it was that vaginacore is a musical genre. I'm not even sure how that could surprise me, but it does.

My evening began at My Noodle & Bar, where the door was open to the beautiful night and the music was set to pure '90s: Alannis Morrisette, Soul Asylum, Spin Doctors. You could practically smell the flannel shirts and not in a good way.

I'd barely taken a stool for dinner when I heard my name called. In between the new decor of glass bottles holding herbs and greens along the bar (I like it), I could see Mac on the other side. It was strangely weird since we've never run into each other out before.

Behind me, conversation flew between the occupants of a table of eight.

Doesn't everyone go to Target on Saturdays?
He's got the handwriting of a 32-year old woman!
Got it! I'll send copies to you.

When their food began arriving, no one touched it. It was only once the older looking man said a prolonged grace in a language I didn't recognize that people began to pick up their chopsticks and eat.

Meanwhile, I had a documentary to make at 8:00, so when the bartender asked me if I wanted anything besides water, I declined. Funny, but he laid the drink menu back in front of me anyway.

"In case you change your mind," he says. "That no didn't sound very confident." Cheeky devil.

A group of 4 sat down at the corner of the bar (I pegged them for medical students) and began discussing what to order for dinner. When the bartender answered their question about making a dish as spicy as requested, it threw them into a collective tizzy.

"Now I have to read the whole menu all over again cause I didn't bother reading the hot ones!" one young woman whined as the others nodded. Her friend was too busy looking at her phone when their order was being taken to give hers, but you can believe the once off the phone, she wanted her order taken pronto.

It doesn't work that way, Snowflake.

Because I'd arrived right as the restaurant had filled up, the kitchen was immediately slammed and my broccoli and chicken entree took a while to show up. On the positive side, its tardy arrival gave me an excuse to "gobble like a field hand," as Mammy told Scarlet in "Gone With the Wind," once it did.

Since I was running behind, I was happy to see the organizer of tonight's documentary screening of "Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk" standing outside the Visual Arts Center when I pulled up. Surely if he was out here, the movie hadn't begun inside.

"Thanks for coming, Karen," he said as I walked inside. Just doing my part for punk, I assured him.

Upstairs, I found the expected group of aging punk rockers I always encounter at punk-related events. Plenty of familiar faces, although not many I know by name.

Two I did know were newlyweds, but he and I also share a love of shoegaze and reverb, so we dished on the new Slowdive album when I stopped to say hello.

Narrated by Iggy Pop, who brought both attitude and gravitas to the reading, the film was a pretty in-depth look at the music scene that sprung up across the bay from San Francisco beginning in 1981. Plenty of archival footage fleshed out the many talking heads, who had aged at various rates, if you know what I mean.

Musician after musician explained to the camera that punk music was their thing not just because they loved its energy but also because it f*cked with people. One guy pegged it as so compelling because it was all these young people singing with such despair.

The film went deep into the scene - it was over 2 1/2 hours long - but moved as quickly as a punk song so it never felt laborious. It had to be detailed to get to all the many bands and offshoots of punk.

En route to the bathroom at intermission, I ran into the musician and nerd who shares my passion for history, poetry and all things intellectual. Being a post-punk musician now, he was most stoked about the upcoming part of the film that dealt with 1987 to 1994, the years when he'd discovered this music.

When we got to talking about our summers, he shared that his had been overtaken by his two latest projects: reading all the Southern Gothic novels he could lay his hands on and watching all the Woody Allen movies he'd never seen.

As he explained it, he really hadn't had time to do much else besides those two things.

But when his face really lighted up was when he told me that directly after the film tonight, he was leaving for Corolla and bringing Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" along with his swimsuit and suntan lotion.

Sounds like an epic beach read to me.

It was some time during the part of the film about 1987 - "when punk became safe for little kids and girls" - that I began to hear overblown Yanni-like music playing softly behind me in sharp contrast to the screaming on the screen.

I looked around several times, and every time the movie had a quiet moment (there was, needless to say, a lot of hardcore thrashing to be heard) I became more certain somebody needed to turn something off.

Only once others began glaring at her did she bother to check her purse and turn off the volume on her phone. Some aging punkers are still learning their technology, it seems.

There were so many great punk band names like Kamala and the Karnivores mentioned, but it would be hard to top the Yeastie Girlz because, well, because they named themselves the Yeastie Girlz. They not only had a message, they "played" tampons on stage to songs like "Ovary Action."

I'm telling you kids, it was a more creative time.

And, yes, as you might expect, they fall under the heading of vaginacore. Just doing my part to get the word out.

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