Music, Lyrics and the Void Between Us

I spent this Valentine’s Day driving south on I-95 from New York to DC to perform in the backing band for a burlesque troop. Everyone in the van spent some time behind the controls of the stereo, and we all heard a lot of music that was new to us. Occasionally someone in the backseat would get that love-at-first-listen gleam in their eye and ask what was playing, but for the most part the music was a kind of passive entertainment, filling those inevitable voids in conversation.

We got to the venue and warmed up. A few long tones to get the sax up to room temperature and the twang of a B string being pulled into tune served to provide the soundtrack to the peaceful hollowness of an empty club.

Meanwhile backstage the girls were getting ready in their own way. A quiet discussion started between a younger girl breaking in her new shoes and another older performer ironing her shorts. They were talking about relationships and the older woman was describing the way she found her husband. As the steam billowed out of her iron, she explained the way that that first incendiary passion had worn off and they’d gradually settled into a more enduring, and ultimately more meaningful, rhythm.

A couple hours later the promoter came back and herded us on stage. The girls looked great, really hitting hard on every accent. Each cymbal crash sparked a fresh spasm, like the drummer had stretched wires from his sticks to the arms and legs of the dancers. The whole first set our music was just about drowned out by the cheers of the seven hundred or so couples in attendance. Maybe it was cabin fever from the foot and a half of snow that had hit DC just a few days before or maybe it was the Valentine’s Day drink specials, but whatever the case it seemed like the crowd had sped past responsive and were headed towards ravenous.

In the middle of the show we took a break and a sort of campy crooner went out to do a short set. He was great, really involved with the audience without seeming desperate. He wrapped up to equally thunderous applause as we got back on stage.

In the next act most of the girls were appearing for the second time. Their routines were just as tight, and the MC was really getting into some wild sideshow tricks in between performances. The men and women in the seats were still paying close attention but this time they didn’t have the same rabid enthusiasm. They’d already seen as much skin as the aesthetic of burlesque allows so they weren’t hungry for that kind of satisfaction anymore. They seemed to have gotten used to the spectacle and were enjoying following the narratives as much they’d appreciated that taboo rowdiness of the first set.

After we’d filed backstage I asked that girl who had been using the iron if the audience always got tired by the second act. She told me she wasn’t sure if they got tired, but that they always quieted down.

The next morning we got back in the van, and started up our game of iPod roulette again. The drummer asked our guitar player if he could play one of the tracks from the ride down and as the first few notes started I could tell that this time the music wasn’t just filling the voids in our conversation, it was causing it.

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

More articles by:

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
Matt Smith
Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back
Kenneth Surin
What The President Said (About The Plague)
Patrick Cockburn
The Chaotic Government Response to COVID-19 Resembles the Failures of 1914
Marshall Auerback
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Opened the Curtains on the World’s Next Economic Model
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic
Jeremy Lent
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?
Dean Baker
The Big Hit: COVID-19 and the Economy
Nino Pagliccia
A Simple Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela: End All “Sanctions”
Colin Todhunter
Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order
Robert Fisk
Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Enough Information’ on Iran to Have a Vew. How Odd, He Negotiated the Nuclear Deal
Wim Laven
GOP’s Achievement is Now on Display
Binoy Kampmark
Boastful Pay Cuts: the Coronavirus Incentive
Dave Lindorff
It’s Spring and I’ve Turned 71 in a Pandemic-Induced Recession
Steve Brown
FLASH! Trump Just Endorsed Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Health Plan
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump