In the penultimate episode of HBO’s series Treme, “Sunset on Louisianne,” the character Antoine Batiste careens around New Orleans desperately looking for places to play. He bounces from an all-night jam session to a second line in the morning, burying himself in music just to escape a sting of sadness.
I love that run of scenes, because I get it. I’ve run to music. I’ve run to “substances.” I’ve run to things physical and emotional and spiritual to escape. But music…
Life, as you know, is capable of knee bending sadness. Certainly, the converse is true, and there are moments of supreme mind flipping elation.
But I’m curious, today, about the hiding.
I am 100 percent behind looking for art or music or spirituality or nature — something higher — to remove me from the moment.
Words work sometimes, but maybe because I make my living stringing letters and punctuation together, I more often look for the fault than the beauty.
Images — photos, painting, drawings — are easy escapes. Even without the help of hallucinogens, I can drop in to a scene. Didn’t mean for that to sound so 1965, but whatevs.
Music is what does it for me. For some crazy reason, Lorde’s “Royals” transports me beyond my emotions right now. Years ago, Ben Harper’s “By My Side” did it. Sam Cooke, Pink Floyd, Joe Henry (I’m now playing “I Was a Playboy” from Joe’s 1996 stand-on-your-chair-in-amazement release Trampoline), Elvis Costello…
Costello’s King of America was the soundtrack to the summer of 1989… being OBSESSED with that one, trying to find myself after “graduating” from college, trying to write. I saw him that summer at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. He played “Brilliant Mistake” and while the Obsessive and I had broken up, I wasn’t over it and that song gave me more truth about that relationship than anyone else could. Sigh.
Maybe it’s just me — I doubt it, but I suppose it could be — but there are some songs that are emotional anchors. I cannot hear Modern English’s “I Melt with You” without going back to Major Girlfriend 2, 1988, St. Mary’s College, DJing … Some of those are great memories. Some are crazy heartbreaking. Actually, I couldn’t listen to that song for 20 years because it brought me back to Midnight on a twin bed in Becket Hall where she said, “I think we should date other people.” Best decision that girl ever made. Seriously. Hope she’s well.
Then there’s “Rock Lobster” and high school. “Straight Outta Compton” and my first job out of college. (Okay, that’s a story for a different day.) “You Send Me” as the first Husband/Wife first dance. Singing along to “Cecilia” with the Mom and Brother driving from Faith Baptist School in Encino to our house in Simi Valley, circa 1974-ish. Third grade. It was the last year we lived in Los Angeles.
There are a lot of songs for me, obviously, and I’m not gonna waste any more of your time now running though mine.
Oh, you know, the Billy Corgan solo version of “Tonight, Tonight” on Stern is astonishing. Check it HERE.
What are your artistic escapes? I really am curious.
I think one of the reasons I surrendered to music as a main escape is because it’s a relatively easy return to reality.
Batiste comes back from his 24-hour musical escape to find an angry note from his wife. He’ll face it without collateral damage. If you watch the show, you know that’s not always how it was for him.
I’ve re-entered life after five minutes or five hours under the headphones, at a concert, in the studio, wherever, able to face “IT” because there’s a little air in my life. In those times just some of the angst melted, some of the fear faded, some of the love was heightened and some of the happiness multiplied.
It’s what got me through. It’s what will continue to, I believe.