A Day of Oldham

Had an interesting day...definitely the first time I've ever watched a film, then attended one of the actor's music concerts in the same theater. The location was the Mission Theater, part of the McMenamin's empire. The movie was Old Joy and the actor/musician was Will Oldham aka Palace Music aka Palace Brothers aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy aka a shit ton of other monikers.

Old Joy appealed to me for a couple of reasons...not only am I a huge fan of road movies, but I especially like ones that deal with the issues of failing friendships, aging, social awkwardness, and the stagnation of life/energy caused by increased "responsibility." There isn't much of a plot, but that's not really the point here. The music (courtesy of Yo La Tengo) perfectly accompanies the urban city & primeval rainforest settings. A favorite scene of mine is an extended visit to the Bagby Hotsprings (located near Estacada, Oregon along the western slopes of the Cascades), where Will Oldham's character utters this gem..."Sorrow is simply worn-out joy." Or something to that effect. Much of the first half of the film is shot on location in Portland, which tickled my more vainglorious side...it's nice to see that the hometown's appealing enough for the fickleness of filmdom, you know? A couple minor gripes...there were quite a few geographic inconsistencies during the Portland segment and the trip out to the mountains...too much warping around, driving "east" and passing landmarks 50 miles to the west of town, crossing west over the Burnside Bridge and ending up in front of the Baghdad theater on the east side of the Willamette. Easily avoidable and somewhat ruined the effect of "accurately" representing the city on celluloid. And for the love of god, it's illegal to pump our own gas in Oregon, so don't put your actors in jeopardy of getting molested by Johnny Law by doing just that.

The concert following the film (actually it was a few hours later in the day, easily passed at Powell's Books down the street) was quite satisfying. Human Bell opened for Bonnie "Prince" Billy...big ups to Baltimore (I spent a few years there in my youth) where both groups currently hail from. I have to admit that the band that played with Oldham seemed a bit extraneous...the sole reason I went to see this man was for the man himself. He has a voice that is tender yet razor-edged...a rusty blade caressing soft soft skin. Such intensity and depth of emotion, yet threatening to crumble into nothingness at each breath. And his lyrics are so fucking sad, it's unbelievable. Well, for the most part...he does seem to have branched out and perked up a bit since the era of his discography I've been exposed to (very limited, but present all the same thanks to my buddy Reid). Will Oldham is hard to watch in person...he constantly fidgets, picking up scraps of paper, putting his hands in his pockets, tapping bandmates on the shoulders, wiping his forehead with a hanky, cuffing his pantlegs, adjusting his microphone, standing on one leg like a seagull then crossing his legs and shivering like a preschooler holding his peepee in...his body was pure chaos, but his voice always seemed to be aimed directly and solidly at the microphone, a disconcerting juxtaposition of sensory inputs that never failed to keep my attention. It wasn't until a co-singer by the name of Donna came on very late in the show that he mellowed out and focused both his body and his voice onto the task at hand. Anyway, enough blahblahber, I'm fucking tired...it was a great show. He's actually played three nights in a row, all completely sold-out. I was fortuitous enough to purchase the very last ticket, a last-minute cancellation that looked like it had gone through the wash 36 times then given to a Saint Bernard for safekeeping. I'm surprised I got in the door with the scrappy rag...and happy I did just that. Thanks for a good time, Will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you do such a good job writing so that everyone feel as if they are right there with you...you should write for a zine, or a magazine, or a book or a newspaper---say one of the local ones maybe??? whatever you do i hope you do some sort of professional writing in your life time...
I love you boo