Let me just say that, today, in July 2021, I am fine. I mean, the country and planet are still fucked in profound ways, that are likely to stay fucked, barring an invasion by space aliens or the second coming of Buddha. But I still have a job, and a roof over my head. None of my family members or friends contracted Covid. Still, it’s been a year. My job had been a grueling, stress fest that kept me tethered to my laptop every day. We had the pandemic, nationwide protests over the George Floyd killing that were met with brutal police repression, unprecedented wildfires that erupted in multiple states, including here in California where 1000’s of my neighbors were left homeless by the CZU lightning complex fires. We were evacuated for 3 weeks, but our house was okay when we finally returned.
Let’s rewind the clock to March, 2020, the last day of normalcy before lockdowns and so many other changes that would shake the country to its core. I was at the Melo Melo kava bar in Santa Cruz with our friends and the various regulars we had come to know. I could see the writing on the walls with respect to the lockdown coming. Coronavirus was already raging through NYC, and our governor Gavin Newsom had announced that California would go into lockdown on March 16. It was evening and we were hanging out with our kava bar friends – Andi, Carly, Lisi, Amira, etc. It was kind of an impromptu farewell for Carly, who was moving back to Texas. We were drinking kava outside Melo Melo and at the same time a BLM protest was zig-zagging through downtown. I remember Carly asking me how I’m doing and me answering that my heart was breaking for my country – alluding to the pandemic which it was already clear to me would cause terrible loss and suffering – as well as the grievous racism that is so deeply rooted in our laws, economic system and minds, which the latest police murder had thrown into the spotlight again. I also gestured to the protesters and said they gave me hope.
The political situation in the US was a grim charade. The Republican party was a full-throated death cult – ignoring science, attacking LGBTQ rights, women, people of color, the environment on every front. President Trump, his family and his cronies were openly breaking the law and nobody seemed to care.
So let’s talk about Stereolab, a band that has been offering a critique of capitalism wrapped in sophisticated post-rock sounds since the early 90s. I had come to Stereolab late in the game – I discovered them around 2015 long after they had stopped being active. But the music was still out there, and I fell for them hard. I listened to Emperor Tomato Ketchup, ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions, Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements and others. I love their first album, Peng!, with its more guitar-based sound layered with Laetitia Sadier’s haunting melodies, a lot.
A couple of years ago Stereolab started re-issuing their entire catalog in deluxe, remastered editions. It wasn’t long before tour dates began to be announced. I picked up tickets for their October 18, 2019, 8pm show at the Fillmore, the 2nd of a 3-day run in San Francisco.
[To be continued…]