My nose started bleeding about an hour before the show had started. It was probably from a mixture of the cold air, coffee, and chain of cigarettes I smoked on my way down from Duluth to see the Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith, play.
I saw six bald eagles on my way. What they have to do with this experience was beyond me. But, I took it to be some sort correlated meaning to mean that this night would an inspirational rock n’ roll masterpiece as Patti performed from her 1975 debut album Horses.
I was not wrong.
So, there I was, in the nosebleeds, sequestered to the very back row. An older woman, sitting next to me, with alcohol on her breath and conversation on her mind chatted me up for several minutes before the show started. I didn’t mind. She was there, alone, like me. But I’m not much of a talker. Especially when I’m relatively sober and unsure of my surroundings. And this Carlson Family Stage at the Northrop Auditorium could definitely be defined as so. So, even though I didn’t mind talking with this woman, I only came for one reason and one reason alone: to see the Punk Poet Laureate Patti Smith. And when those lights went down there was only one silver-haired lady one my mind.
I didn’t know what to expect from this 70 year old rocker, writer, poet, and all around awesome individual. But, whatever it was, Patti delivered it in droves. It almost seems a shame to write about it, because though the sold-out show of 2,700 people had a strong theme of unity, sisterhood, political activism, and social change/awareness that wasn’t necessarily aimed at me, it seemed that somehow it was.
Like she said before she play Dancing Barefoot, “It is beyond gender.”
And there lies the power of Patti Smith’s performance. It had the ability to transcend all the pressing issues that seek to divide us and brought our many causes, beliefs, and ideas into one space and time. It was seeing the connection between pursuing the pressing issues of Clean Water, Immigration, pipelines being built, walls going up, Womens’ Rights, Womens’ Marches, Clean Energy, cleaning up Wall St., Donald Trump being president, and being present in the moment you are in so you can make the full-circle connection to see how all these seemingly different,chaotic ideas are related.
In the moment of the show, it all made perfect sense.
And, I swear, for one of those moments, as Patti began playing Citizenship, it was like looking through a time portal back to 40 years earlier, when she was just starting to lay the foundation for the good noise to come. The auditorium was a seated venue, but by the time the final song of the night rolled around, many of us (your humble writer included) were out of our seats and groovin’ along.
One of the Godmother’s final words, “We must misbehave in a loving way.”
So, I took my leave from the nosebleeds and mustered the will to stay in line to buy some Horses Changed My Life pins and gave them to my friends, drove home the next day and watched The Sandals play their Beach Boy covers at Beaner’s Central once I was back in Duluth.
I checked into a motel room afterwards and the woman working that evening informed me there had been a stabbing out the gas station nearby.
I thought this was a perplexing way to attract customers. But it didn’t detract me from checking in. I needed to rest. But still, in retrospect, the level of violence is Duluth seems to be rising.
I wonder what the connection is and is there any practical way to solve it?
At the show, everything seemed so clear. Play music to bat away the fear and come together with like-minded people to solve problems that affect you, your community, people you care about, people you love. But, the after-show reality shows there is still a lot to be done to combat the many societal problems facing our generation. We are in the grips of chaos, trying to sort through and figure out how to stand with conviction for what we value the most.
And, even though we stand unsure, many of us uncertain about the future, I remember when Patti Smith sang People Have The Power.
So, go ahead, listen to Patti Smith, see her live performance if you can, and, go ahead, misbehave in a loving way.