An Anderson Adventure

PG&E’s impending bankruptcy presents a golden opportunity for the state to buy it cheap so that everyone, not just a few lucky cities like Sacramento, will have public electricity.


It all started in 2006 when my friend Bob invited me to join him at Zellerbach Hall for a Laurie Anderson concert.  Laurie who? i wondered.  But then Bob is the most knowledgeable person about contemporary music that i know, so of course i said yes.

It was my first visit to Zellerbach Hall, and i was struck by the feeling that i was nestled inside a beautiful and very comfortable egg.  Then, as the concert began, it seemed that the entire performance was just for me and that everything, sight and sound, was focused on my seat by the parabolic curve of the eggshell.  What a wonderful venue.

And Laurie, she had me from the first sentence of her narrative about how when she got the call from NASA asking her to be their artist-in-residence, she assumed it was a crank call and hung up.  But it wasn’t, she explained, accompanying herself on her electric viola with an ambient synthesized background that she manipulated on a laptop.  The concert was The End of the Moon, and click on that link for an eight-minute excerpt that might explain why i was a total fan well before the concert was over.

So ever since, i’ve had warm feelings about her, eager for her to play the Bay Area again and to learn about her concert in time to get tickets before they sold out.

That happened a couple of months ago.  I learned that she’d be in town for a series of three different concerts at the cusp of November-December, went online, and working as rapidly as possible, bagged the two best seats at each.  I paid no attention whatsoever to the brief online descriptions of the concerts because i knew that anything she did would be fabulous.  OK, and if not fabulous, at least excellent like the last of her concerts i’d attended in 2015 at Miner Hall.

Then three weeks ago i started figuring out who my guests would be.  The obvious first choice was my old friend Bob, and because he works Friday and Saturday night, he was the perfect fit for Sunday night.  Saturday night went to another friend who is an Anderson fan, which left Friday night for someone i liked in my new home.  The clear choice for that was Jude, who’d invited me to her splendid salon last month.

So that took care of all the planning.  Nothing else to do but sit anticipating three great concerts.  No need to make any attempt to learn anything at all about the concerts before i invited people to accompany me to them.

As it turned out, Jude and i took a Flywheel to Grace Cathedral.  The evening was off to a fine start because our driver was a delightful man named Buzz Brooks, a jazz organist and witty raconteur.

I’d not been inside Grace Cathedral for decades, and what a magnificent  space it is.  We arrived only a few minutes early, but the concert had already started.  Some preliminary very loud droning was reverberating through the cathedral while a good many people were wandering about with only a few seated.  As we ambled our way toward the altar, the droning volume increased until it was just deafening.

Up near the altar, Laurie was standing on a small raised platform tweaking the droning, not that there was all that much variance or modulation in it.  So Jude and i sat down while i, at least, was thinking that the droning would soon segway into the real program and that Laurie would start narrating and playing her electric viola.

We sat there, and sat there, and sat there, waiting for something to happen.  And sat there and sat there as, unlike the case with other concerts i’d attended, people continued to stroll around looking at Laurie and circulating through the space.  Is she waiting for everyone to sit down before she starts the good stuff?

When we got to the thirty minute mark, i shouted in Jude’s ear my lack of understanding of what was going on and my hope that something interesting would start, but after another fifteen minutes i suggested that we also wander around like so many others were doing.  My hidden agenda was wanting to get a little distance between me and the cacophony…and to get closer to the front door where i might suggest that we make an escape.

Jude went along with it, and we did.  Whew.

When i got home, i did my homework.  Oh my goodness.  If i’d just looked at the bare description of the concert on the tickets website, i’d have learned that the title of the piece was “Lou Reed Drones” and that it ran 4 (four!) hours.  A little more digging revealed that the patrons were free to come and go as the evening ran on, that the droning came from several of Reed’s guitars backed up against amplifiers to get feedback, and that at some point in the show Laurie would perform duets on her viola with a couple of other performers.

Ah yes, a performance i’d have really enjoyed in 1978, ripped out of my skull on ecstasy (which we called MDA)…or at least just stoned crosseyed.  But no, not forty years later when my ecstasy days are a distant memory and my bedtime comes in the middle of the concert.

My great hope is that Jude will forgive me for this fiasco.

Stay tuned for an account of the remaining two concerts, there being no place for them to go but up.

Meanwhile, some handsome front steps on Fair Street.

Fair Street steps

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  1. David Ogden
    Posted 5 December 2018 at 12:04 | Permalink

    Loved the Laurie tale and photo. Thanks!

    • Posted 8 December 2018 at 18:00 | Permalink

      Many thanks. I didn’t fully understand for a couple of days that simply paying more attention when i bought the tickets would have produced a better outcome.

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