This year has been particularly weird for me personally. That kind of year where your life is turned around and you are searching for a refit. Where my brain tells me that nothing is stable or normal and the few constants in my life are friends and music.
Knowing that I was having a weird year, my friend Ariel (and Unsweetened contributor) bought me tickets to go see Neko Case with her in Chattanooga because this is how we’ve always coped, lived, and celebrated.
Some background here: Ariel and I went to high school together in Florence, SC. Her parents were the cool ones, so, naturally, we’d all end up at her house. All those times my father thought I was doing something churchy, I was really hanging out with Ariel and friends at her house. Having been forced to go to church twice a week from birth, I was ready to find refuge in other areas. I have never felt guilty about this, sorry Dad.
Ariel and I have been to so many shows I’ll sometimes have to ask her if we actually went to xyz show or if I’m making it up. From the Florence VFW to lawn seats at an overpriced arena show with 1000s of drunkards – we’ve hit them all. At a Lollapalooza show one year we snuck backstage and ran into James Iha, briefly having a conversation about god knows what.
Fast forward years later to a Sleater Kinney show where we drank sangria at lunch and almost had to share a full-sized bed. Don’t worry, crisis averted when the hipster hotel clerk saw my need for space and granted us a room with two beds. Ariel is a snuggler and I’m just not. When I sleep, please don’t touch me. We know this about each other.
This is also not our first Neko Case adventure. Once, with other friends, Ariel and I went to see Neko Case where I kinda, sorta ignored the no pictures rule and almost got kicked out of the show. Lesson learned and I promised never to embarrass her (and myself again). Well, at least about the no pictures rule.
Ariel has put up with a lot of me at shows and otherwise over the last twenty something years. Dating and break-ups, weddings, separation, divorce, moves, and career changes – including the “what am I doing with my life, career, etc” moments that we all thought would end in our 20s and 30s which, by the way, have not ended. No end in sight apparently. (Thanks to our elders for lying to us.)
So it was only natural to receive a text from her a few months ago regarding my weird year and some Neko Case tickets to a Chattanooga show. She presented them as a birthday gift but we both know it was a “girl, I need to hug you and make sure you’re ok” gesture.
After pregaming with margaritas and queso dip, we arrived at the venue just in time to see the opener. At 41, I’ve stopped being polite about music. Life is too short to waste my time seeing a band that bores me to death. Honestly, maybe I’m a music snob and maybe I’m just too tired to be nice anymore. Perhaps that’s why I always go back to my favorites. At any rate, we sat and watched the opener (band not named because Bless Their Hearts) looking surly and checking the time. At one point we discussed how we couldn’t handle it anymore, which ended in being shushed by one of those plaid shirt dudes (they all look the same) and me going to get another beer just for reprieve.
Finally it was time. If you’ve never seen Neko Case live, it’s like going to church. With only minimal guitars/bass, her voice holds the show on its own – magical, emotional, and healing. She’s wryly witty and takes no bullshit – it’s all about the music – not the show, the glam, the crowd.
Afterwards Ariel and I went back to her house and fell asleep because we know we’re old and that’s ok. Our friendship no longer needs staying out all night, or getting wasted (for the most part – eek!), or sleep deprivation. Whew, thank goodness because I’m slap worn out and just want pajamas and some crosswords.
That’s the thing about Ariel – she takes me as I am, still sends me actual mail and calls me right when I most need a hug. She can still make me almost pee my pants laughing at some crazy thing we did in high school. We haven’t lived in the same city since 1994 but we’ve had the romance of a lifetime. We’ve taken our love of music and used as fuel to keep in touch – I’m not sure we even realized it but it’s been magical. I cannot wait to see what show we end up at next, hopefully skipping the opener.
Every dial tone
Every truck stop
Every heart break
I love you more.
Check out Neko Case’s new album Hell-On coming out June 1st.