Posts Tagged ‘The Magnetic Fields’
April 30, 2012 | by Emma Straub
There comes a point on every tour—very early on, after about the third show—when I completely forget that my traveling companions play music. We sit in airports together, we ride in crowded minivans, we play games, we eat both terrible and amazing meals. I think of them as my older siblings, some of whom are grumpy in the morning, others who always want to chat. What happens onstage is so separate from the rest of the experience that I really do forget that they all speak this other language—when I duck into the crowd every night, for just a few minutes here and there during the down times at the merch booth, it’s like waking up and realizing that the rest of my family is fluent in Japanese.
When all together, we talk about the merch more than the music. That is not a joke or an exaggeration. Is that because it’s easier to talk about T-shirts (a quantifiable object) than the experience of playing music? I don’t know. But it was bothering me, this distance, so I decided to ask the band what they enjoy about the act of playing music. The first three responses came to me live, while we were all sitting in our hotel’s lobby bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Because they were (sick? warm? perverse? besotted?) individuals, the people in charge of the hotel sound system played nothing but the Magnetic Fields for the entire first day of our stay, and so while we were talking, we were also listening to their albums, played on shuffle. When there was an unusually long pause between songs, Stephin Merritt said to me, “We are listening to the absence of ourselves."
April 3, 2012 | by Emma Straub
The People Behind the People
This tour is the biggest the Magnetic Fields have ever done, in terms of the number of people traveling. In addition to the five members of the band and one eighteen-month-old baby, there are five members of the crew: me and my husband (merch, blog, Twitter), Jason Thompson (tour manager), Mike Yesenosky (sound), and the very lovely Julia Knapp (nanny). That brings the grand total to eleven people, and with all the suitcases, instruments, and gear, we are a small society all our own. Someone is always holding the leftover snacks from the previous night’s greenroom, and someone is always holding assorted painkillers and stomach remedies. We are all getting very good at traversing airport terminals and hotel lobbies en masse, like a pack of nomads, or zombies, depending on the amount of sleep achieved the night before.
The Hotel Life
This tour is more grueling than the last few I’ve done with the Magnetic Fields, and we are rarely in one place longer than a day. This means less time for exploring the cities and more confused moments in the middle of the night when one wakes up and needs to pee. Stephin Merritt (vocals, harmonium, melodica, kazoo) told me a story about their last European tour, during which he was staying in a room so small that when he opened what he thought was the door to the bathroom in the middle of the night, he in fact had opened the door to the hallway and promptly locked himself out. In the last ten days, we’ve stayed in six different hotels, and so in addition to having no clue what day of the week it is, I also now have no clue where the bed is in relation to the door or what floor my room is on.
Of course, there are perks to staying in so many hotels. At heart, I am not a kleptomaniac, but when it comes to hotels, I can’t help myself.
March 27, 2012 | by Emma Straub
I’ve worked for the band the Magnetic Fields for the past ten years and have sold their merchandise on every tour since they released i, in 2004. Their latest tour, for their new record, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, began last week, and, as is my wont, I’ve been taking notes. After a warm and fuzzy show in Hudson, New York, the first completely positive experience in Philadelphia in recent memory, and a very quick trip to Minehead, England, for All Tomorrow’s Parties, the Magnetic Fields took the Tour at the Bottom of the Sea to Austin, Texas, for their first-ever appearance at South by Southwest, the juggernaut music festival that turns the entire city into a beer-and-taco-stained pair of jeggings. Half the band and crew flew in from New York, and the other half from Boston, meeting up in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport for the puddle jumper to Austin. We shared the plane with several members of the E Street Band, which made Sam Davol (cello) quiver with excitement. When we landed, the steamy Texas air relaxing our synapses, Sam asked E Street violinist Soozie Tyrell for her autograph, and I made a proclamation: in Austin, I was going to find a) Bruce Springsteen or b) Timmy Riggins, my very favorite fictional character on Friday Night Lights, played by heartthrob and Austin resident Taylor Kitsch. I find that wishes are more likely to come true when spoken aloud. Read More »
December 1, 2010 | by Dan Chiasson
6:15 A.M. Our children wake us up. Nobody wants anything read to them this morning. They are involved in some kind of acrimonious negotiation involving Lego heads (“That’s my head!” “It’s MY head!” “No, mine!” et cetera) so I go into the next room and start thinking about a class I am guest teaching today at BU. I’ve been reading (and writing) father-son poems, and I think, Why not just tell the students what’s on my mind: Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem for his son, “Three Things There Be.” The poem comes in several variants; I print them out and look at a brief discussion of the variants as well as the provocative “spoiled riddle” poems (poems that act like riddles but give their solutions away) on Slate, by Robert Pinsky.
I go to the Times website, and there is (fortuitously) this article on metaphor and the brain. I skim it for something I can say to the class. Neuroscience is very keen on poets and poetry these days: It turns out that when you call someone a cockroach, you activate the same part of your brain that can recall the picture of an actual cockroach
8:30 A.M. I head into Boston. It’s an hour drive this time of day. I get a four-shot latte at Karma Coffee, Route 20 in Sudbury (do yourself a favor). I am listening a lot to the Byrds’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo these days, especially “One Hundred Years from Now.” I have a problem that technology has solved. When I like a song, I listen to it over and over for weeks at a time. You used to have to keep rewinding the tape, and the tape would snap or come unraveled. Now, with iPods, it’s no problem.