The Bucket List
Sometimes I drink out of Mason jars and shop at thrift stores. I take notes in Moleskines. I study in Periodicals. I started using Instagram before it was cool (circa December 2011), and I'm not ashamed to admit my first Instagrammed photo was of my cat laying in a gift box with ribbons on her head, filtered through "Low-fi." I use Spotify to listen to Bands You've Never Heard Of Surgeons In Heat, anyone? However, I've never pickled anything, don't have thick-rimmed glasses and have never used a typewriter or tried to distill my own whiskey. I don't even like whiskey.
"Be a hipster (till your friends get annoyed)" is on my life bucket list, and though I'm still far from this goal, I got a little bit closer last weekend, albeit accidentally, through two concerts I attended.
The first of these was Marnie Stern at Friday Night Rock. I submerged myself into the mysterious, neutral no man's land that is Sarner Underground for my first ever FNR experience. Stern, with a reputation as "the lady who shreds," had been vetted by Pitchfork for her unique presence in the classic, "art-metal math-rock bubblegum pop" genre. She wore a Led Zeppelin T-shirt and her blond hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail. The Zeppelin shirt seemed a little ambitious until we heard her play guitar her riffs were sharp and quick, perfect for jumping up and down until you give yourself a headache. The more self-conscious among us stuck with awkward, off-beat bobbing. My friend and I decided that if we met Marnie Stern, she wouldn't want to be friends with us. She seemed awesome.
The weekend only got increasingly "alternative" with the concert at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction. The performance by the Wolfson Memorial Laboratory of Colour was titled, "Spooky Motion at a Distance," a reference to movement between particles separated by space.
On assignment for a creative nonfiction class on telling stories about the Upper Valley, I had picked up a flyer for the concert in a White River Junction shop. The postcard advertisement was dark, glossy and mystical, featuring black and white anatomical sketches of brains, an eyeball, the ear canal and vaguely scientific-looking glass instruments. It advertised band members playing the theremin an electronic instrument with antennas that senses the position and frequencies of the player's hands, making music without being touched and synthesizer in addition to guitar and vocals. I was intrigued, and the concert delivered, not only with unexpected Indian food and wine on the deck of the museum, which overlooked the White River, but in the eccentricity and spatial dimensions of the music. The chorus to the first song, which the lead singer said he had performed for a kindergarten class, was "Dinosaurs, dinosaurs forever / Dinosaurs, dinosaurs forever / Dinosaurs, dinosaurs forever, woo hoo!" The band then went on to cover James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James" and the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," both imbued with an eerie, ethereal quality by the theremin. They also performed two original songs inspired by Arthur Clarke's 1956 science fiction novel "The City and the Stars."
The bizarre music fit the space a small stage in a narrow room lined with cartoonish paintings and bathed in red light. The Main Street Museum is an emporium of curiosities housing everything from a scotch glass that questionably belongs to a descendant of the Mayflower to stuffed animals (as in hunting trophies) and stuffed animals (as in the kind you named and slept with as a child) to nondescript dried plants labeled as invasive species of the White River. There is even a case for objects that look like they belong in a city trash can, or in that junk you just threw out from your medicine cabinet: old diner napkins, Anthora coffee cups, a tub of Vaseline. The crowd was mainly middle-aged couples with some 20-something community members mixed in. Most people seemed to know each other.
I had no idea what I was getting into with the Spooky Motion concert, but I was pleasantly surprised by how truly weird it was, and in a different way from the weirdness of head-banging to a rocker chick in the sterile basement of '53 Commons. I recommend the Main Street Museum to anyone feeling eclectic, and FNR for that alt-scene without stepping foot off campus.