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Haunted by John Cale's 75th Birthday Celebration

After the Jesus and Mary Chain show the night before and the show at Brooklyn Bazaar the night before that, I was a little tired. I had also wandered around New York City so much in the last few days, searching for old video games, little stores, and remnants of Ramones. Now it was Saturday, November 18th, and I was set to see a true living legend, John Cale, the reason I planned this trip in the first place.

After stopping by VideoGamesNewYork to search for an elusive black GunCon that apparently never existed (at least in terms of me seeing it there in October), I went back to the Airbnb and got ready to head back out. I ate my last Italian bread/Tofurky slices/green sauce sandwich that I had been eating pretty much every day and dropped off all of my camera junk. I took a different train to where I needed to go. This train took forever to arrive.

When I got to the Atlantic Terminal, it was almost showtime. I asked some people where the Gilman Opera House was, and it turned out that they were headed there too. We got there in a minute or two.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is not as rude or thorough at the gate as the security at the Playstation Theater. It was a grand building that is just what it sounds like it would be, clearly designed for things far before rock musick and the like. My seat was on the second floor, mezzanine 1, which I misread as "magazine 1" to the usher. "I guess you need new glasses", she said.

The view was a little blocked. It said that on the ticket, but the picture on the website made it look a little clearer. Still, it wasn't much of a problem for me. The curtain was closed, glowing with a violet light as a drone filled the air and a man memorably yelled out, "Hail! Hail! John Cale!"

I was so excited to see this, even if there was not much to see at the start. As the song progressed, I realized this was "Frozen Warnings" from Nico's The Marble Index. That was quite a surprise. Actually, the whole set was to me.

I had thought that I would be seeing John Cale play The Velvet Underground and Nico. He did not do that. He had played that album the last two nights, but this third night was dedicated to his solo material. Surprisingly, I have never listened to any John Cale solo albums. I know "Rosegarden Funeral of Sores" from Bauhaus' cover, but that is it. The things I heard on this night were not much different than what I expected, Scott Walker sounding stuff. Cale's songs started more droney and dark and melancholic, but they became more rockish and electronic towards the end with three new songs - "Pretty People", "Hatred", and "The Legal Status of Ice". It was all new to me.

Those last three songs stood out to me. They recalled when I saw Patti Smith, her call to younger generations to fight back against evil beings that sprang from her generation. "Rise up! Rise up!", Cale told us on "Pretty People". "Hatred" was harsh and dissonant. The last song might be the most interesting on a lyrical level. ICE is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that has been in the news in the past year due to the actions of the orange man who assailed the highest executive flagpole. How legal are ICE's actions? And also, how long will this last? Orange ice will melt eventually just like normal water. This was a call to everyone in the audience to do what is right.

John Cale's band was huge. I don't know what classifies something as an orchestra, but this had many of the same pieces. In addition to the standard rock drumkit, synth, bass, keyboard, and guitar, there was an entire string section and small choir. In terms of visuals, videos sprang up behind the band, huge and eerily distorted by the cavernous building. It was a place more than just an event.

I felt lost in that place throughout the show. I felt a little drained from all the melancholy of those songs, lost in a darkness with the others around me. When the lights came back on, I felt strange but somewhat relieved. I gathered my belongings and left the building. I walked around a fountain outside and went to the train station to charge my pfone. Then I just went back to the Airbnb. I didn't want to be out all night and have to ring the bell and awaken my host. I also didn't want to be late getting up in the morning.

That night I realized I overpacked my bags. I had bought some cheap vegetables to bring back to Pittsburgh, but I ended up having to cook them right away. I figured I would eat them in the morning. However, I had nothing to store them in or a way to reheat them. I ate a bunch of cooked leeks in the middle of the night. I was still thinking about John Cale's musick. I packed the pineapples, Famicom games, PS2 light gun, Lego sets, Jesus and Mary Chain shirts, and various CDs. It barely fit. Then, in the morning I said goodbye to my host, took the train to Manhattan, and walked to the bus station. I was actually early. The trip back to Pittsburgh was fine, though I still felt lost in that darkness from the night before.


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