October 10th, 2005
|01:35 pm - the too personal|
The moral of the story, presented first for a change, is sometimes it's OK to keep a private thing private.
laurenhat and I went to an a cappella benefit concert at the Somerville on Friday night, mostly to see a group her coworker was in. I was reminded of how I enjoy groups that don't take themselves too seriously. Cover songs are always fun, original story songs work well if you have a decent songwriter handy, but I get all itchy and cranky once the original love songs start marching out of a group. You know, the songs with lyrics that are obviously way too personal for anyone's good. You'll know you're encountering one of these ultra-personal songs if and when "the party at Jimmy's" is mentioned with no context, but confident in the presumption that if you knew their love like they knew their love, you'd know exactly which of Jimmy's parties is the one in question. When Jimmy's party is mentioned, I tend to sit politely and fiddle with my ticket stub and space out, imagining that I'm eating a delicious prime rib dinner with the horseradish and the au jus and the baked potato is cooked just right, and...
Ok, so I was hungry.
The solo opening act was one of the members of Five O'Clock Shadow, and he was an affable fellow with a tiny mischievious streak in him. I kept waiting for that streak to really manifest itself, but alas. His stage banter included jokes about the unpronouncable names of coffee blends ("Ethiopian Ybleuhguleharalhck") before launching into a pedestrian gotta-have-my-fix song about coffee, which could have been a funny mispronounced word song. (Hymns to caffeine are so overdone, people, seriously. Welcome to Seattle 1992!)
Then the fellow announced that he had been considering one of two songs with which to finish his set: One was simply "a funny song" and the other was "a bit more personal." He explained, in a cadence that began to break haltingly, that this song was the one he wrote for his wife on the occasion of their wedding, and that he sang it to her, and it was Their Wedding Song, and it's extremely personal and that he hoped -- he just hoped -- that he could make it all the way through without crying.
Guess which song he picked.
The first verse included flowery cliche -- the breezes of the ocean waves, the morning sun warming and waking them up together, thanking one's chosen deity for bringing them together -- that I was almost certain that The Big Turn was just around the corner. You know, where the song, so earnestly and sincerely talked up, turns into hilarious parody. Where he starts singing about loving her in spite of her faults: the horns growing out of her head, her foul repulsive stench, the way she laughs like a dying donkey, her hatred for all things bright and beautiful, her superfluous third, fourth and fifth nipples...
The entire song went along as planned. And I'm sure this song was meant with the most sincere love possible, and it's obvious they love each other very much. I'm also sure that were she wearing socks at the wedding when he sang it to her for the First Time in front of God and everybody that those socks would've been charmed right off. Unfortunately, in the eyes and ears of the audience, this was a Pet Name song. A musical version of those digusting pet names you know that you and yours have given each other. Do you call each other bedroom names in public? Well, okay, maybe so (I know who you are.) But for others, well, perhaps "noodle pants" is a name best kept to yourselves. So it went with this ultra-mushy, ultra-cliche love song which, frankly, was embarrassing to hear. Still, Lauren and I kept quiet during it and tried not to cringe too outwardly. We were the Good Ones.
There was a woman across the row from us in the theatre who, by the fourth or fifth time the Lord had been thanked for "letting me have you", was doubled over with convulsive laughter. She got the giggles something fierce from this experience, and just could not stop. I hoped the singer hadn't noticed, but there came an agonizing moment when the song ended. The silence between the last guitar chords and the audience's dutiful applause was shattered by a high-pitched chortling laugh. She couldn't keep it in. I simultaneously laughed inwardly (glad it wasn't me!) and felt bad for the guy.
But still. Some pet names are best kept to yourselves.
*squirming uncomfortably in sympathy*
Noodle pants? NOODLE PANTS? Oh, god.
Your experience reminds me of the time I was at a conference on Romanticism, and the afternoon entertainment was supposed to be a female professor who would sing some parlor-songs of the 19th century written by female composers. I expected them to be glurge, but thought it would be interesting to hear them anyways. The professor stood by the piano wearing a red tea-length afternoon gown, and I figured she must be a semi-professional musician and prepared to hear a light mezzo-to-lyric soprano voice.
Then she opened her mouth, and oh, my god, I have no words. She was utterly tone-deaf. I'm not kidding. She sang five songs entirely in a monotone. Oh, her diction was wonderful. She had little artsy flourishes and gestures all through the recital, but she was singing entirely on one note that I'm not even sure was a note.
The audience was dead quiet. It was torture. I was using every muscle I had to keep a straight face--it would have been deadly to crack a smile. I was horrified to feel a hideous shriek of laughter welling up inside me. Luckily, I managed to restrain it. There was only polite applause at the end, but no request for an encore.
I left the building wondering if my ears had deceived me, but the woman who followed me out, a Byron expert from Denmark, said, "What did you think of that?" and it all came tumbling out. "I couldn't believe that," she just said, over and over. "What did she think she was doing?" It was such a relief, coming at the end of one of the most tension-filled half hours of my life.
(Maybe I should clarify that the singer did not use the phrase "noodle pants." And neither has any of my significant others. Thankfully. I merely included it to make a humorous point, and I think that if you're actively calling your loved one "noodle pants" then you better have a damned
good reason for it.)
And it sounds like you encountered the modern-day Florence Foster Jenkins
. What an achievement!
Whoops, sorry. I misread that bit of your post.
Oh, wow. I have vaguely heard of Florence Foster Jenkins in the past, but did not know that much about her. Wow. That is exactly, exactly how this woman was. The little embellishments, everything. And she apparently had no idea that she was not anywhere near the tune.
The thing this puts me in mind of is the Provost's Concert, which is a little intimate affair at my college where anybody who wants to can come along to the Provost's lavish pad and bash out whatever they feel like in a semi-formal context, because the place is crawling with people who have scads of musical ability but don't want the massive dedication of the formal societies. Have a bit of wine, have a pleasant chat, listen to that godawful duet where sopranos pretend to be cats. That sort of thing. Mostly classical and operetta stuff. Very chamber-music atmosphere.
Anyway, there's this guy in my year (which would be, at the time, second-year undergraduate); biologist, and good at it to a terrifying degree. You know, a 'we'll let you off the fact that you technically failed your first-year exams, because while you didn't actually answer the questions you did solve Borbozky's Conjecture' level of terrifying. Apparently a curious, starry-eyed innocent with no concept of cynicism, taste or any other form of self-awareness, except that he was just a little too good at fostering his own boy-wonder image. And he came up with a self-composed piano piece entitled 'The Scientist'; he played competently and sang well enough. The trouble was that it was basically an interminable boy-band ballad. Really interminable. About himself and his life and how much he loved science, and how awesome he was at science compared to everybody in the universe, and how his greatest ambition was to come to understand God through science but he was tragically destined to ultimate failure. On and on and on. Heartfelt and agonisingly awful.
Leather armchairs facilitate squirming very well indeed.
Hey, I've sung that duet! In church. On Halloween. Wearing little cat ears! (The children loved it.)
That sounds horrible, but at nineteen and twenty, cringe-worthy moments of pretentious, trite self-indulgence mistaken for profundity are almost rites of passage. I remember a few of my own, although thankfully the witnesses were either nonexistent, or few. They are often common at poetry readings.
What would be more horrifying to contemplate would be if, unchecked, he continued to do these things at twenty-five or thirty...and I've seen that behavior in certain colleagues...
Thanks for attending with me, despite the impressive lack of irony. Golly gee whillikers, some of that was bad.
Reminds me of the time as a college freshman when I chose a debate/persuasive argument topic a little bit too near and dear to my heart. It was so bad, it pains me to recall that class at all.
You walked into Jimmy's party, like you were walking onto a yacht...
I say, laugh loud, obnoxiously, with pride.
That's so atrocious.
Prime rib dinner...you are very unkind to a hungry Nanda with a weird stomach issue.
That sounds so revolting! Hi, I'm a friend of laurenhat
How was the rest of the show?