It's damned if you don't and it's damned if you do
March 22, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

This ticks a lot of my boxes. Thanks.
posted by carsonb at 1:03 PM on March 22, 2012

I saw Cat Power at La Luna in Portland around this time. She literally snuck off stage. I happened to be standing near the stage exit during her set, and she walked off stage playing a little riff on her guitar. Then, backstage, she handed the guitar to the guy from the New Bad Things, and he continued playing the riff while she walked out the back door of the club. No encore.

It was a fitting end to the performance. I'd never seen a professional musician with such stage fright. It almost made me feel guilty for buying a ticket and watching the show.
posted by chrchr at 1:18 PM on March 22, 2012

My story is like chrchr's story, except someone pulled the fire alarm.
posted by Beardman at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2012

My hopes for an Accept cover have been trifled with.

There will be consequences.
posted by Trurl at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, the sweet spot of Chan Marshall's career. Yes.
posted by ifjuly at 1:28 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

(What Would the Community Think, which was 1996, has stayed my favorite all these years, and I was with her up 'til The Covers Record, which, as my now-husband and I bonded over when we began dating, was a headscratcher given before that her covers had always been so brilliant.)
posted by ifjuly at 1:30 PM on March 22, 2012

I may very well be alone in this world but am I the only one who each time, upon seeing the tile of this song, immediately has to remind himself that it is not a Garbage cover?
posted by sendai sleep master at 1:34 PM on March 22, 2012

speaking of mortifyingly awkward live stuff (which, to be fair, is kind of a tiresome topic re: her at this point, especially since apparently she has sobered up), whenever someone mentions that stuff i think of this story (page search for "tommydski") and my eyes sort of pop all over again. egads.

i really miss tim foljahn's warm, rainy, sad, plain-in-a-great-way guitar sound on her early records. the sparse, in-a-dark-cold-room production that fit so well with the ugly-mundane topics of her lyrics and that plain-but-amazingly-so voice early on. le sigh.
posted by ifjuly at 1:54 PM on March 22, 2012

The covers record was great, but I was pissed that it didn't have this:
posted by lumpenprole at 2:03 PM on March 22, 2012

I saw her live in (I think) '98. She's fairly beguiling, she was drinking 40's and seemed kinda tired of having such terrible stage fright, but couldn't get out of it. My friend Malcolm wondered if he took her shopping for sneakers if that might make her feel better. I think it might have helped. I love her music.
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:25 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

my favorite unreleased cover is "psychic hearts" and her version of "wonderwall" is the only one i'd ever bother listening to (so not an oasis fan). and all of the covers right up 'til the covers record are amazing (her version of "still in love" is super near n' dear to my heart, and it's a feat to get a smog fan like me to like covers of callahan's work but she did it with moog-y goodness)...that album has a few great ones but you just expected so much given how great she was prior at twisting songs and making them her own (the best example of this strength on the covers album is "i found a reason" i suppose).
posted by ifjuly at 2:27 PM on March 22, 2012

One of my professional goals in 2005 was Saving Cat Power from Cat Power.

I saw her perform at Satellite Ballroom in Charlottesville that year when I was an undergrad at UVA. She played three songs with literally no pause in between them, like a manic trying to read a book aloud in one sitting. Then she got upset about the PA and started banging on the piano, and finally rested her head on the keys, refusing to play anything else. It was tremendously sad. The worst part was that at that point, her reputation as an onstage shitshow had exceeded her enormous talent, so many people had attended specifically to witness the spiral. I wonder who was responsible for her when she was clearly not capable of being responsible for herself, and I wonder how they justified letter her go on stage when it had such a detrimental impact on her mental health.

I'm glad she's doing better now. We danced to her cover "New York, New York" at my wedding, and it was a really special moment for me.
posted by zoomorphic at 3:32 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

ifjuly; "Psychic Hearts" came out on a 7". That same 7" also has a Pavement and Dead Moon cover. All 3 are pretty decent. I have a copy on red vinyl. "Still In Love" is a Hank Williams song. I could probably be persuaded into putting this and a bunch of other hard to find things you may or may not enjoy onto a cassette.
posted by rainperimeter at 4:39 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

yes, i'm aware, and have all of them, hence my judgments in favor of them, ha. just meant, so much stuff on the covers record was not that memorable (some was, but a lot wasn't for me) which was surprising to me and my dude since she was the queen of covers before that.
posted by ifjuly at 5:54 PM on March 22, 2012

Cat Power is the Queen of stage fright. She beat out Carly Simon in a really awesome game rock/paper/scissors.
posted by ovvl at 7:15 PM on March 22, 2012

Okay, I hate to ask this, but there will never be a better time:

I saw Cat Power around 2000 and it was so deeply uncomfortable that it has stuck with me in a way that resonates deeper than any of the 'greatest' shows I've seen. I have seen probably thousands of live bands at this point, plenty of which ended in disaster, but none of which have touched how deeply uncomfortable it was to watch Cat Power on that day.

It wasn't just that she was awkward on stage; it was like watching a human being at one of the lowest moments in her life, and you had paid money to witness this spectacle, and you felt guilty for even standing there witnessing it. I felt bad about myself for watching her on stage. I felt a profound guilt for merely being there, and that is probably the only time I've experienced that particular emotion at a live show.

She mumbled in between songs. It was difficult to tell where they started or ended, except that sometimes she would stop playing guitar and kind of whimper in the microphone. At a couple points she wandered offstage and people were genuinely confused as to whether the show was over or not. She would wander back on without a word of explanation, play a few songs on the piano and wander back offstage again. At one point, she came back on and said 'it's like, you know when you're being electrocuted, the feeling of it? It's just, this is like being electrocuted, for me.' Then she walked off stage, this time she didn't come back out again, and that was the end of the show.

OKAY, SO HERE IS THE THING: That horrific, life-altering show she put on? It was the first of TWO shows she had booked at the same venue that day. Think about that. She put on a show that was so truly, soul-shakingly bad that it made the audience go home and reconsider their relationship with live music...and then, 2 hours later, did it again? As a real, live, touring musician myself, I just don't...I'm not sure.

Does anybody have any positive stories about her performances from this period? Or was it really like she would get onstage and just destroy herself, just utterly implode in front of an audience, multiple times a night, over and over again? For like 60 days in a row. From city to city, putting on the most depressing live music show in America. Night after night. It's horrifying to think about.

I was a kid when I saw that show, and it was one of the most upsetting things I've ever seen. I almost get it now: sometimes it's scary to get up onstage, in a way that no amount of alcohol or drugs will help. But you get through it somehow. Apparently she didn't, but she got up on stage anyway, and then what happened happened.

So I'm genuinely curious: does anybody have any positive, life-affirming stories about Cat Power shows from this time? Is there even one?
posted by Tiresias at 9:10 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

not the same era at all, but i saw her in...2004? something like that...and she was fine. milquetoast (not a fan of the greatest or anything after that at all), but fine. my (admittedly very clueless/distanced) understanding is that chan was dealing with alcohol abuse and traumatic memories pretty severely at the time you're talking about, and has since sobered up. which is great.

i find the whole harping on her live performance thing kind of unfortunate, personally (and yes, i'm being a hypocrite i realize given the tommydski story i linked upthread), given how brilliant she is in other ways. people go through shit and it's uncomfortable, and sometimes if they're lucky then they get better. my impression is chan is lucky and doing much better now. and her work before getting better is awesome anyway. there is more to her than her meltdown live show thing (and i find the whole "go to see her specifically for the spectacle of her substance abuse/mental issues manifesting on stage" kind of gross personally).
posted by ifjuly at 10:02 PM on March 22, 2012

I discovered her after WWTCT in 1996 and saw her play a show at EJ's in Portland in maybe 1997. It was her sitting in a chair on stage with a guitar and a speaker. I was in the audience, maybe another guy or two, and maybe 15 ladies. This was after she lived in Portland for a year or so in the early 1990's so they (I imagine...) were friends or fans. We were all sitting on the floor in front of her like it was kindergarden or something. It was uncomfortable, she kept apologizing, but the music was so beautiful. Everyone kept yelling encouragement to her. It was a special night.

I actually tried to see her previously, probably in 1996. She was playing a show somewhere I'd never heard of on Alberta. I drove out there trying to find the place but couldn't. Now, Alberta in 1996 (on a dark winter's night...) was a different scene than it is today... I looked for the place, but I stuck out like a sore thumb and high tailed it out of there. I'm still bummed I never found that place.

I never knew she played La Luna. I might not have known about that show or maybe chrchr's memory is bad. The biggest place I remember her ever playing in Portland (until she got big) was Berbati's Pan or maybe the Roseland (but I don't think so...) In any event, I saw (or thought I saw...) every show she played in Portland until 2005 or so when I left town.

Maybe it was because she used to live there, or maybe all of her shows were they same all over the country but she never seemed to actually BREAK DOWN like I heard about from other shows. She might have apologized a lot, might have left abruptly, might have stopped a song abruptly without finishing it. But she always played a full show.

Her music back then was some of the most beautiful things created. Yes it was uncomfortable, but it was so amazing to watch and to hear. A woman who probably wasn't in the mental state to make money and survive doing ANYTHING other than the thing that terrified her most. To make such beautifully intimate music ("I hate myself and I want to die..." "What a cruel price she thought that you had to pay them back for all that shit on stage..." "Metal heart you're not worth a thing..." "It must be the colors and the kids that keep me alive 'cause the music is boring me to death..." "I am not what you want...") To have to say those words and admit to thinking them in the first place. To have to do so in such a public way during a live performance. To have to face some of your greatest fears on tour in order to survive. I don't know what what going through her head, but for those of us in the audience who were NOT there for the spectacle, who didn't show up because they read a review and heard she was bizarre, it was always a very very special experience to get to hear her play. So Tiresias, I hope this doesn't make me sound like some sadistic asshole but getting to experience such intimate experience with her on stage and getting to hear beautiful music come out of her, and to imagine how difficult it was for her, but to watch her overcome it (at least enough to play at all...) was indescribable. And life affirming for me at least.

I saw her play a few times at EJ's, many at Berbati's, maybe once at some all-ages venue. Over time, the shows picked up more and more assholes just there to be seen or just there in case something crazy happened. I always felt though that she overcame all of them for those of us in the audience that loved her.
posted by pwb503 at 11:54 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I saw her 1999 upstairs at the Middle East in Cambridge. It was an amazing show. I recall her being awkward, but not soul-crushingly so. Though I'm not how much I would have noticed, I went to the show spur-of-the-moment, driving down from Maine because that day someone broke up with me, while I was at work, after we had dated for like two hours (oh, college). I really needed that Moon Pix wallow that night. And ifjuly, I completely agree about her decline starting with the Covers album. I wore out my records of WWTCT and Moon Pix, but stopped following her after the covers album.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:40 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

they all come and peep through a hole in the wall
keep the bastards guessing
all come peep through a hole in the wall
just watch his heart undressing...

posted by ifjuly at 9:37 AM on March 23, 2012

I've always loved this show from's so damn hauntingly sad.
posted by schyler523 at 1:44 PM on March 23, 2012

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