Stitching our Wounds with Golden Threads of Past, Future, and Self

The piece of salt given me at The Public Theatre’s production of salt.

My Friday and Saturday of this New York trip fused unseasonable physical warmth with the warmth of watching communities intersect, share, and watch out for one another. 

Hit six sets of the Winter Jazzfest Marathon Friday, trying to dip in on things that had been on my list and bands I had no experience with or expectations for. Three burned cataracts off my eyes, would not let me stay jaded or sit there with folded arms.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

I walked into SOB’s – the site of some of the finest R&B performances I’ve ever seen anywhere – smack into the last third of a dazzling performance by The Era, a Chicago footwork crew. The Era blended virtuosic pushing the limits of the body forms with a sense of shared experience, and empathy for their fellow dancers and their community, spoken word, clips of a documentary, and vital social commentary. Solos highlight the artist as an individual but build the greater whole.

For the last few minutes, as The Era introduced each other and took bows, their fellow Chicagoans Hypnotic Brass Ensemble took the stage, with the drummer laying down a beat and the horns – seven of whom are songs of the great ecstatic jazz artist Phil Cohran – coalescing behind them. That sense of community and love set the stage for Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s righteous, riotous explosion of joy. The finest funk wah-guitar I’ve heard live since Skip Pitts; thick bass lines and an almost unequaled rhythm section hookup set up blow-your-hair-back horns, gang vocals, and the dance party that’s unheard of at 7:30.

Rode that enthusiasm up 6th Ave to check in on one of my favorite bands I hadn’t seen in many years – since the week of my dear friend Mike Gamble’s wedding, I think – Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra. The 20th anniversary of this assemblage of downtown NYC jazzers was a tribute to refining and expanding an approach, to taking what matters to them from the past and never being afraid to fuck with it. 

Steven Bernstein and Catherine Russell sharing a look during MTO’s 20th Anniversary set

A paean to the joy of approaching standards like “St. Louis Blues” and “Careless Love” simultaneously as though they just heard them last week and taught them to one another and with all the historical knowledge of every great version that’s come before them. Just as strongly, it was another tribute (you’ll see a theme here) to their community. As he introduced every member of the band – including Catherine Russell, a vocalist for whom “special guest” isn’t even close to adequate – Bernstein had a witty story about how they came into each other’s lives and his palpable love for every person on that stage glowed even brighter than the blistering, surprising solos: “Curtis Fowlkes on trombone! I replaced Curtis in the Lounge Lizards, when he left I got that one solo;” “Peter Apfelbaum and I have been playing music since I was 11 – well, we didn’t really start making music till 12, that first year we were bullshitting;” “They told me I’d love [Matt Munisteri, electric guitarist] who played trad banjo; I said I don’t want to meet some motherfucker who plays trad banjo!”

That same sense of communal bond and simultaneous gazes on the past and the future suffused drummer Makaya McCraven’s Chicago-rooted supergroup. McCraven’s been making noise as one of our most exciting drummers who trusts improvisation enough to run it through a cut-up filter and expose it to every other tool at his disposal. I love his heavy, organic records. But I expected nothing to blow me away as much as the live set.

Makaya McCraven’s band with Marquis Hill soloings

Chicago’s always been one of the principal jazz scenes and they’re having a moment – big records out in the last year from what felt like every member of this Octet, off the top of my head: Junius Paul, Joel Ross, Greg Ward, Brandee Younger, Marquis Hill. This set helped coalesce that coming-out party, extended pieces full of tension and joy, grins exchanged between players but attacking the musical material with an enviable intensity. I texted a friend and said, “This is the kind of awesome, multi-layered groove machine I was led to believe Tortoise would sound like,” but this band doesn’t sound like anything except themselves.

Joel Ross’ machine-gun vibraphone arpeggios took a hi-hat heavy McCraven intro and built a bridge into a volcanic Hill trumpet piece, then subsumed by the whole horn front line at once. The entire band gathered around Brandee Younger as her harp washed over all of us. Ward and the tenor player (I apologize, he was spectacular, I just can’t read my damn handwriting – someone post in the comments so I can correct?) bubbling up uncanny harmonies between their horns. Every few bars brought a wholly surprising and perfectly right turn after turn. Friends and peers who built this language together, like the Yehuda Amichai poem, that baked in the same sun and froze in the same cold, lighting a path straight to the future.

Saturday, both plays I saw were excellent but salt stuck with me and resonating in time with everything else of these two days. Written by Selina Thompson and performed brilliantly by Rochelle Rose with razor-sharp direction from Dawn Walton, salt traces a journey into Thompson’s family history as an adopted black woman grown up in Birmingham, England.

Crowd at Drom for Secret Planet

That journey back to Jamaica and to Ghana excavates old wounds and finds new wellsprings of joy. Ugly slights and horrific mistreatment but also putting her story in the world’s context at large. Better than any performance I think I’ve ever seen, salt understands the crushing repetition of oppression, the way the boring and the horrific take each other as eager dance partners. And, though most of 2019’s year-end list for me dealt with why do we live and what we owe each other, nothing I’ve ever seen has done it better than Thompson, Rose, and Walton do it here. I walked out into the sunlight a blithering idiot (okay, more of).

Later that night, one of my favorite APAP adjacent showcases, Secret Planet, took over one of my favorite clubs, Drom, for the best version of it I’ve ever seen. Cochemea – who I knew best from his sideman duties with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – kicked us into a frenzy with instrumental soul, his variety of reeds backed by a band almost entirely composed of percussionists. Seven or eight people building riffs into surging tidal waves and delighting in the sense of play with one another.

Cochemea

That thread got picked up and danced with by Sunny Jain’s (from Red Baraat) new band Wild Wild East, merging featuring Jain at a trap drum kit instead of his usual dhol, fusing spaghetti western tunes, Indian pop, and thick ‘70s psychedelia with a band of sax, guitar, sousaphone, and dueling man-woman vocals. A tribute to exploration and migration wrapped up in a wild party.

Sunny Jain’s Wild Wild East

Alba and the Mighty Lions turned up the psychedelic salsa elements for giant, catchy songs in a rhythmically intense, barbed, rocking package. I didn’t stick around for the whole set only because I realized not eating in 7 hours and running on dancing and whiskey would go badly but I’d watch them again and again.

Alba and the Mighty Lions

Another full day I’m walking into, to badly paraphrase the Andrew Hudgins poem, “As if I’ll only – fat chance – live it once.”

Two Sides of the Big Band: Ryan Truesdell's Music of Bob Brookmeyer and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

Ryan Truesdell and band, Jazz Standard
Ryan Truesdell conducting The Music of Bob Brookmeyer

Curation is an act of love, when you’re doing it right. Trombonist John Mosca, longtime comrade of Brookmeyer said, while introducing “Ding Dong Ding,” which he played with the Mel Lewis band during its triumphant late ‘70s run, said “There’s no better curator or champion for Bob’s [Brookmeyer] music than Ryan [Truesdell].” 

Truesdell and his crack 18-piece band proved that again and again in their final set of a two-night run at Manhattan’s Jazz Standard on a blustery January night, a belated 80th birthday party for Brookmeyer, the great composer, arranger, and player who changed the shape of jazz, especially large group jazz, since the ‘60s. As much as jazz is the first American art form, the big band feels like a peculiarly American animal.

The music is a masterful evocation of what a big band could be at its heights, fresh and alive, and warm. Rippling shocks of chromatic heat revealed sublime beauty, more than once I felt I was peering into a blast furnace full of precious stones. But that visceral, massed sound always parted for the primacy of some of the sweetest melody you’ll ever hear – Scott Robinson’s river-of-life bass clarinet on “Django’s Castle; ” Drew Gress’ funky flamenco bass runs on “Verticals; ” John Mosca and Riley Muhlekar’s dance-battle brass on “The Fan Club; ” Gary Versace’s lilting piano, insistent on the intro and light as a lullaby at the end of “Ding Dong Ding.”

Truesdell wove a thread through pieces of Brookmeyer’s dating back to the Gerry Mulligan Concert Band until not long before he passed away. He gave us enough of that ranging sound world to feel like we got it. And, as a renowned arranger himself, he highlighted Bob’s ability to let people shine in his own compositions and to bring out the key facets in others. I’m a Cole Porter freak who grew up with a grandmother who idolized Sarah Vaughan. It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve heard 100 versions of “Love For Sale” – that might be conservative. The version of “Love For Sale” they closed with, with the exquisite Wendy Giles on vocals – I missed Brookmeyer’s late Standards record, to my chagrin – made me feel like I was hearing it with fresh ears. I won’t say I was crying but I wouldn’t deny it under oath.

Beyond the musical mix, Truesdell nailed the mix of personalities in the instrumental blend, their connections to each other, and Bob as a person.  He let the players introduce songs with rambling, hilarious personal anecdotes, and cultivates an atmosphere that feels as though we’re lucky enough to be at a real birthday party, even including Brookmeyer’s widow. May we all be so lucky to have people who love us as much as the love in that Wednesday room.

Darcy James Argue and (part of) band
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society shone a bright light on another angle of the promise and beauty of the big band the next night at Jazz Gallery. I’m an unabashed stan for Argue’s work, discovering him through his blog and responding to Infernal Machines, seeing two premieres at BAM and hitting my yearend list many times. Appropriate for the week of APAP, he and his co-conspirators ran us through a whiplash-dazzling deep dive into the band’s rich catalog.

The band tore into this material with an uncommon passion and fire, fused to the wisdom of players who know the tunes in at a cellular level and the camaraderie that doesn’t come easy. Early gems like “Dymaxion,” brand new pieces including “Ebonite” commissioned by his hometown Vancouver Jazz Festival, “The Hidden Hand” from his epic Real Enemies, every pitch sailed over the fences.

Argue’s debt to Ellington paid off with tailored, perfect solos rising out of the landscapes he sculpted as though they couldn’t come from anywhere else. Highlights in that regard came in Carl Maraghi’s rippling bari work on “Dymaxion,” and Alexa Tarantino’s tough and supple soprano on “Ebonite.”

The highlight for me came with the most direct Ellington homage – Argue’s response to “Diminuendo in Blue,” “Tensile Curves.” This was my second journey through that piece, riddled with astonishing playing with particular attention to Ingrid Jensen and Matt Holman’s trumpets, Sam Sadigursky’s clarinet, and Sebastian Noelle’s guitar. It’s the rare tribute with heavy conceptual underpinning, where knowing the technical aspects deepen your appreciation without being required and the even rarer 40-minute composition that never flags or lets your attention drift.

Similar to the Brookmeyer (one of Argue’s teachers), the stage overflowed with love and respect for the players as people. My time following that band has turned me onto as many great players as those Ellington and Basie records I grew up with – Nadje Noordhuis, Jacob Garchik, Ryan Keberle, Sam Sadigursky, people whose other work I’ve sought and loved. These two shows got this trip off to the righteous start it needed, plugging back into the battery after some dark months.

Best of 2018 – Visual Art

“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
-Mary Oliver

Delacroix, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This has been a year of incredible highs and incredible lows, the latter all self-inflicted. Wearing myself so far down I was susceptible to a week in the hospital with pneumonia. To spraining an ankle so hard I was in a boot for two weeks. But one thing that always helps center me, that lights and maintains the fire called wanting to go on, is attention. And no cultural activity centers me more, nothing puts me in my place, nothing bows the strings in my soul like trying to focus on visual art.

And I will say this in all three posts but the best macro-gratitude exercise I undertake every year is keeping track of what I see/listen to (I need to be better about tracking what I read) and going over it at the end of the year. I took in around 75 exhibits this year and narrowing it down to 20 was hard. I am, always, very, very lucky.

Anyone else sparked by this or who bothers to read these, I appreciate you . Drop me a line, let’s talk about what we both saw or what I’m an idiot for leaving off. Everything here is in Columbus and any photo is taken by me unless stated otherwise.

Mickalene Thomas, Afro Goddess Looking Forward, 2015, Courtesy of the artist via the Wexner Center, Copyright Mickalene Thomas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

1. Mickalene Thomas, I Can’t See You Without Me (Wexner Center for the Arts) – I can’t think of an artist who better epitomizes taking all of art history and synthesizing it into a voice utterly, unmistakably hers, than Mickalene Thomas. The bounty of riches presented with I Can’t See You Without Me was like tapping into a deep vein and realizing it’s full of stars: completely personal, in touch with the world (and worlds behind the world) and full of monumental, magic beauty. Everything I love in art was in this show and while I visited it five or six times, I regret not seeing it seven or eight more.

David Wojnarowicz, Whitney Museum of Art

2. David Wojnarowicz, History Keeps Me Awake at Night (Whitney Museum of Art, NYC) – Dispatches from one era when the world was on fire still shone brightly in this dazzling retrospective of one of American art’s foremost poets of ecstasy and rage.

3. Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrors (Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland) – I still remember the first time I saw one of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, at my first Whitney Biennial. It was an eye-opening reminder of the power of repetition to unlock a world and a potent mix of serenity and discord. I came to love the permutations of her varied work over time, most prominently in a stuffed, ranging retrospective at the Whitney. but this hyper-focused touring show was a concentrated dose of the mix of sensations that first drew me in.

4. Kerry James Marshall, Works on Paper (Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland) – An epic-scaled domestic scene in panels fragmenting it like a comic strip and also recalling large Renaissance triptychs, was surrounded by other drawings in this tight, sharp show of an artist who only gets better.

5. Various Artists, Trigger: Gender as a Tool and Weapon (New Museum, NYC) – This ferocious trip through depictions of gender ended a January New York trip on a head-spinning succession of high notes, including Ulrike Muller’s jagged abstractions, a dazzling Mickalene Thomas video collage. This summed up everything I love about the New Museum when it’s clicking, work within the last 10 years – without cheaply valorizing youth – that summed up and exploded 40 years of the institution. A good sign for the future of the Wexner Center as the curator of this spectactular exhibit is the new director to succeed Sherri Geldin as director.

6. Hilma af Klint, Paintings for the Future (Guggenheim, NYC) – This hypnotic, transfixing, spiritual show cemented another contender for an originator of abstraction and opened my eyes to a voice I knew almost nothing about. A paean to the magic of drilling down into oneself with specific instructions not to show most of her work until 20 years after her death, working on instructions from spirits she communed with through a seance group. You couldn’t write af Klint’s story in a way that seemed believable but the art was as accessible as layered and elusive.

A Color Removed, SPACES Gallery

7. Michael Rakowitz with Amber N. Ford, M. Carmen Lane, RA Washington, and Amanda King with Shooting Without Bullets Youth Photographers; A Color Removed (SPACES Gallery, Cleveland) – Rakowitz in collaboration with a variety of local artists created an assemblage of the color orange, underlining the irony of trying to blame the deaths of children on the warning color or lack thereof. And it was one of the most devastating things I’ve ever seen in my life. A quiet temple to absence, loss, and rage.

8. Mary Corse, A Survey in Light (Whitney Museum, NYC) – I walked into the Whitney that sweltering July day knowing I loved Wojnarowicz, steeped in him since I was a teenager. I had no such knowledge or preconceptions of Corse and her deceptively simple canvases pulled my breath right out of my body. Working with the most fundamental element not just of painting but of sight – light – she made me look at it in a different way that recalled the meditative work of so many earlier artists but was still like nothing I’d seen.

9. Eugene Delacroix, Delacroix (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC) – This presentation of one of the old masters I knew the least about was refreshing in a way art of that vintage doesn’t usually affect me. The breadth of his literary influences and the wide range of stylistic techniques were dazzling; a self-portrait casting himself as the main character in Scott’s Bride of Lammermoor led me to dub him the creator of the cosplay selfie. And it was not just the Musee de Nancy frame that led me to say, and my companions to repeat the rest of the weekend, “Delacroix is lit.”

9. Charles White, A Retrospective (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) – Another artist I wasn’t as familiar with as I should have been, a 20th-century American, this selection of White’s work was the perfect thing to see upon first arriving in the city. Enormous, dazzling, powerful and rich with the contradictions and terror still reverberating through the fabric of daily life. Almost impossible to take in but refusing to let me go, demanding and not letting me off the hook.

10. Various Artists, Inherent Structure (Wexner Center for the Arts) –  The Wex hit a home run with this vibrant look at the ways contemporary artists continue to suck the marrow out of traditional concerns of abstract painting while tweaking and subverting it. One of the best-arranged exhibits I saw all year, where every corner I turned revealed something else about what I’d seen and what I was about to see without pandering to the obvious. Artists I already loved like Amy Sillman illuminated a gateway toward those I knew less (Angel Otero) and those completely new to me (Channing Hansen).

11. Carolee Scheenman, Kinetic Painting (MoMA PS1, NYC) – This expansive retrospective, going back to the ’50s, was a lesson in how not to weaken in rigor, in curiosity, in feeling. Scheenman did almost everything and did it all with blinding heat and depth that continually revealed itself. Shaming and inspiring and astonishing.

12. Marlon de Azambuja and Luisa Lambri, Brutalismo-Cleveland (Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland) – Another piece in the fantastic Front triennial, this collection of local materials in an iteration of de Azambuja’s ongoing series investigating Brutalism paired with Lambri’s photographs in something that was unsettling and perfectly in keeping with its surroundings (not just the Breuer wing of the CMA but Cleveland itself).

Phyllida Barlow, Hauser and Wirth

12. Phyllida Barlow, Tilt (Hauser and Wirth, NYC) – There was no shortage of art I saw this year that grappled with the way we in more privileged vantage points have realized the world doesn’t sit on its axis as comfortably as we once thought. Very little did it with the same arresting punch as British artist Barlow. A queasy circus singing a melody in its own voice, a voice that haunts me weeks later and I want to hear more of. Seeing the nods to Brutalism in these pieces transported me to the de Azambuja earlier on the list and the way those two artists of different nationalities exhibiting in different cities and different seasons spoke to one another in my head was a tribute to trying to see as much art as possible.

13. Sarah Lucas, Au Naturel (New Museum, NYC) – There’s a recurring theme in what shook me this year: artists I damn sure should have known better. Sarah Lucas epitomizes this, storied career as a sculptor I mostly knew as a name, one of the Young British Artists, with Hirst and Emin. This intense, witty, beautifully vulgar retrospective was everything I want art to be – speaking not just truth to power but a specific, personal, idiosyncratic truth.

14. Junya Ishigami, Freeing Architecture (Cartier Foundation, Paris) – Most of my first trip to Paris was spent doing exactly what you’d expect – the Louvre, D’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Shakespeare and Company, wandering boulevards, drinking wine, all spectacular. So I was surprised by how affecting I found this show of a visionary Japanese architect. Breathable open spaces that feel like the future; echoes of ’70s science fiction movies like Silent Running but also evocative of the flowing purity of a Basho line or the meditative canvases of Agnes Martin. I wanted to live here. Paris, sure, but also inside these models.

15. Cyprien Galliard, Nightlife (MOCA, Cleveland) – I’ve been a fan of Galliard’s since the Wex showed his photographs but I’ve never been as enchanted as by the swirling dive into the after-dark of this video installation. Rodin’s The Thinker shattered by a bombing (the version in Cleveland), a tree planted to celebrate Jesse Owens also in Cleveland, fireworks over the site of the 1936 Berlin Olympics where Owens, shuddering plant life around Los Angeles streets, all throbbing to a looped sample of the Alton Ellis classic Blackman’s Song, the original chorus of “I was born a loser” melting into the re-release of “I was born a winner.” I could have stayed there for hours

16. Martha Rosler, Irrespective (Jewish Museum, NYC) – Martha Rosler’s acerbic retrospective at the Jewish Museum was the kind of fresh air and reawakening to the atmosphere of terror around us I needed. Steeped in language and sharply aware of the limitations and obfuscations of every vocabulary, this was as immediate and accessible as a slap in the face but also layers upon layers.

17. Susan Phillipsz, A Single Voice (Tanya Bonakdar, NYC) – Phillipsz is the master of the subtle, disorienting environment and one of the finest artists at using sound in a gallery setting. An installation with film of a violin player playing a snatch of score from a Karl-Birgir Blomdahl opera, with 12 speakers bouncing the violin tones through the room and surrounded by canvases caked in salt and named after the Lachrimae. Defying description and intoxicating at the same time.

18. Jennifer Packer, Quality of Life (Sikkema Jenkins & Co, NYC) – Packer achieves a balance of the intimate and the explosive that’s unlike any work I’d ever seen. These breathtaking canvases all had an interiority that I found beguiling, coupled with potent colors and surprising juxtapositions that grabbed me by the collar and forced me in off the street.

19. Ernest Withers, A Buck and A Half A Piece (Brooks Museum, Memphis) – Everything at the Brooks Museum this trip reminded me why it’s a must-stop in Memphis, the Jaume Plensa work very nearly made this list. But that slice of Memphis photographic history on the main floor wouldn’t let me go. Withers was a master at documenting cultural life (like the photo of Rufus Thomas and Elvis Presley above), civil life (with arresting images of the civil rights movement like the SCLC conference) and day-to-day “ordinary” life the way we should always see them: as parts of the same fabric, not discrete plants grown in their own pots.

20. Various Artists, All Too Human: Bacon, Freud, and a Century of Painting Life (The Tate, London) – It’s no surprise Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud were massive to me from the moment I was first aware of them; so seeing this retrospective on their home turf in my first trip to London was amazing. But more than that, this retrospective accomplished the tricky feat of showing these names as the nucleus of a burgeoning movement without overly inflating or denigrating the lesser-known student works. It painted the kind of picture that normally I’d have to buy the catalog to come close to.

01.11.18 – Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd

How much of remembering is an act of love? That question suffuses every molecule of Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd, the unequivocal highlight of my first day in New York this trip.

The first time I saw Ishmael Houston-Jones it was like the first time I heard Monk or Joni Mitchell; the first time I heard Amiri Baraka; the first time I saw a Rauschenberg combine. So I went into this revival presented by American Realness barely knowing anything about John Bernd, to whom tribute is being paid, and only a little more about Houston-Jones’ co-director Miguel Gutierrez. That instinct didn’t disappoint.

The cast of dancers is perfect, Toni Carlson, Talya Epstein, Alvaro Gonzalez, Charles Gowin, Madison Krekel, Johnnie Cruise Mercer, and Alex Rodabaugh. They feel like they like each other. Physical chemistry is paramount and abundant but there’s a warmth that’s much harder to capture. For a show about communion and tending to one another that sense means everything.

Sweet moments of singing syllables that boil down to “Oh, hi, heya” stretching out and sparkling like stardust (Nick Haslett beautifully reworks Bernd’s original compositions) master the supple stillness of being together many of us only strive for. There’s a gorgeous, subtle glow in the way these bodies slide through the original music; themes build, go through a chrysalis, then spark between the dancers.

Toni Carlson’s warm intensity, especially in concert with Charles Gowin, is a highlight; they ground the more abstract sequences in a heightened, best-selves version of the world we know too well.

Photo from American Realness website, by Ian Douglas

There’s a delightful slapstick edge here, most prominent in a sequence about fighting illness by “Taking control of [your] diet” making a parody of a smoothie. This shifts into a thesis statement as everyone puts their hands on the blender like a sorcerer’s talisman and chant in tones equal parts defiance and desperation words of hope like “I will not die before I do justice to my gifts.”

The use of pre-existing songs here is remarkable, with nary a cop-out crutch or easy wink for miles.

Copland’s “Hoe Down” section from Rodeo gets jubilant irreverence. This only piece from a traditional ballet gets razor-sharp use of that post-Balanchine narrative dance language but also the childlike play at Cowboys and Indians and some frankly erotic “playing at cowboys.”

Prince’s Dirty Mind grows out of the kind of hard triplet stomping Houston-Jones says is a signature of Bernd, a thudding, sensual shudder that’s a call to attention that could turn into “Walk this Way” at any moment. With this Prince song, the dance vocabulary that served as a quicksilver carrier for many moods, flowers into an electric bacchanal. Pairing off, tossing each other around, finding space for one another’s body. The highlight for me was Epstein, split off from the others, dancing in shadow back by the audience, twitching like a power-line violently ripped from its moorings; the kind of intense, erotic defiance of gravity and death it takes this much craft to look natural. I blushed and wanted to look away but I couldn’t take my eyes off her. New Order’s Age of Consent captured the bursting joy and melancholy of that song in a way I’ve never seen any movie or TV use pull off.

The coup de grace (double-entendre sting on “grace”) came with Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. Circumventing what most people gravitate toward in this song, the hustler narrative, Variations drops us right into Part C. We get strings already growing lush and Springsteen’s cameo before the sweet, keening melancholy of “I need you, baby. Oh please, baby… Please don’t slip away.”

I know how reductive this is for such an intense and complex work. But what I left with was: no energy is wasted. Bernd was an unlikely candidate for the canon but his friends made a zine 10 years after his death in tribute. 20 years after that an oversold crowd had the privilege to sit in a church built in 1799 and marvel at all the work in this recreation.

I don’t want to get all “Can I get an Amen” on you, but… May we all be so lucky to have someone love us that much. To love even one thing we made that much. To be some small part of reflecting or amplifying that love in some small way.