Julien Baker – Memories of Days Before Emo Was a Bad Word

I wonder if performers realize that every show, every gig, every night in dimly lit bars or on collapsible starlit stages, is part of a unique memory for each and every person in attendance.

Julien Baker. Took me back twelve, thirteen years? True Love Cafe and Dan Potthast. Or was it Matt Skiba. Awkward meetups. Capitol Garage and Josh… he was, what? Six years old? Incredible. Rocky Votolato. Mid-week trip to SF with Kiel and the Chris Carrabba experience and the pineapple on my windshield and the belligerent vegan (my first).

baker LPI wrote the above several months ago, after first hearing Baker’s full-length debut, Sprained Ankle. I think what impressed me the most – or confounded me, maybe – was how a teenager in 2015 could transport me back to a time and a musical environment that existed before she started learning to write in cursive. How does a kid avoid all the negative associations with the term “emo” that erupted in the mid-aughts? How does she find a voice for her joys and sorrows and frustrations that so eerily takes me to a glimmer of a point in time that most people ignore, forget, or outright berate?

FullSizeRender (2)Back and forth a bit. Last week we opened our Noise Pop weekend with a Thursday show at Bottom of the Hill. I was excited to hear Baker in person, but also excited that LDG was finally going to see a show at BotH, and I thought the intimate venue would be perfectly suited to one girl, a guitar, and some pedals. What I wasn’t prepared for was the crowd. The girl packed the house, and we were buried deep in the throng. Unlike many sold-out shows at BotH and similarly configured clubs, everyone here seemed genuinely interested in the performance. No pint glasses clinking, no pockets of conversation. Baker herself remarked, between songs, at how attentive we all were. Thanks, Teach.

Back again. What was all that stream-of-consciousness note-taking about? I can isolate one part, to be certain. June 9, 2003. I took JDG to Capitol Garage in Sacramento (the original one) to see Damien Jurado. We sat at a table near the stage, and the excited little fella (luckily didn’t understand much of the spoken word poetry that opened the show but) seemed to enjoy the hell out of the next performer, Rocky Votolato, who played songs from his recent LP, Suicide Medicine. I bought JDG the smallest tour shirt at the merch table, which was a large. I’d held on to that t-shirt for years, and finally gave it to him this past winter break. JDG fell asleep at the table by the time Jurado took the stage, so we left a little early. Still, it was great.

IMG_5501So here I am in 2016 and I’m taking my other kid to a show. This is fairly commonplace now, especially now that she’s of legal drinking age, but the connection wasn’t lost on me. Instead of buying her a shirt, however, I bought myself a copy of Ankle on vinyl, and convinced LDG to go get it signed for me. Thanks, kid.

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