10/14/05 - Charlottesville, VA, Satellite Ballroom

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10/14/05 - Charlottesville, VA, Satellite Ballroom

Post  Cokelike on Sat 4 Aug - 5:39

10/14/05 - Charlottesville, VA, Satellite Ballroom

Incomplete setlist:
The Greatest
Living Proof
House Of The Rising Sun
All I Have To Do Is Dream
I Dont Blame You


The third date of the twelve date midwest tour. Spokane was the opening band.

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I saw her perform at Satellite Ballroom in Charlottesville that year when I was an undergrad at UVA. She played three songs with literally no pause in between them, like a manic trying to read a book aloud in one sitting. Then she got upset about the PA and started banging on the piano, and finally rested her head on the keys, refusing to play anything else. It was tremendously sad. The worst part was that at that point, her reputation as an onstage shitshow had exceeded her enormous talent, so many people had attended specifically to witness the spiral. I wonder who was responsible for her when she was clearly not capable of being responsible for herself, and I wonder how they justified letter her go on stage when it had such a detrimental impact on her mental health.

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Comrades–you know that gossip about Chan Marshall going nuts during live performances? Turns out it’s very, very true.

I saw her last night at the Satellite Ballroom. It’s a small venue, so when she came out she told the whole audience to sit down, which got everyone ready for a low-key, intimate show. She played at least three songs in a row on the piano, with literally no breaks in between. It was halfway through the third song when she got frustrated with the PA sound, banged her hands on the keys a few times, and simply stopped playing.

This went on for TWO HOURS. It was obvious that Chan wasn’t paying any mind to her set list and was playing off the top of her head. At several points she broke down into incoherent rants and even starting talking to herself at one point (“Whatcha gonna do now, biatch?”) She muttered how this night’s performance wasn’t very good because “it was only half of last night’s show,” how she felt “lots of judgement coming from the crowd,” and several other things I couldn’t make out.

When she finally played the opening chords of “I Don’t Blame You,” the crowd cheered. But she barely made it to the first chorus before she had a meltdown and stopped playing. A few minutes later, she muttered something about the KKK, claimed she felt “this weird energy,” and literally RAN off stage.

There was no explicit statement that this was the end of the show, but the audience had had enough. We got up and left without applauding.

That shit is bananas.

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So when the house lights go down and the PA stops playing Postal Service, one would think that the show is close to starting. But it took another 20 minutes for Chan Marshall to meander from the bar to the stage. It seems key to point out that the first line of Cat Power's biography on the Matador site is ''Marshall exists on a plane somewhat different than yours or mine.'' The somewhat difference between these planes is now legend. I'd heard about shows being cut short by her nervous breakdowns. Honestly, I spent the 2 hours waiting for her to off herself on stage, a la G.G. Allin. And yeah, her voice is beautiful, ghostlike and ephemeral. I suppose that her instrumental style could be described as elementary, or fundamental, or just bad. But she did insist that everyone in the club sit down (Indian style). So for the next three hours, we sat, hopefully awestruck by the difference in our planes, as Marshall pouted through song after song, keeping myspace bangs in her eyes the entire time. Every few tracks, she would stumble over a chord and push her self away from the microphone, dry-heaving and trying to regain composure. And of course this was met with cheers of support, mainly from the crowd's large lesbian section. ''We love you sister.'' At least The Indigo Girls can cover Dire Straits. The traditional set, as determined by the set list, only lasted an hour or so. After that, she continued for another 2 hours (not kidding), playing 30-second tributes to everyone from The Everly Brothers to the White Stripes. If she addressed the crowd, it would only be to say something along the lines of ''I just feel...there's so much criticism in the air. And it makes me just feel like... (makes weird hand motions) pisshhhhhh.'' And while I love the music itself, the whole fiasco seemed like a 14 year old trying to fuck up her piano recital to get back at over bearing parents. Imagine how much coke she does.

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This was the most disturbing show I've ever seen, and we're just coming off the big Rolling Stones bomb threat show from a week ago. We were given a Cat Power CD a year and a half ago from my hip aunt and it's enjoyed medium rotation in our house since, but our decision to go was more or less based on the "we go see any concert by someone we've heard about" rule...

As the show approached we had been warned by our friend and the internets about her flaky performances. We didn't know what to expect, but the snoozeworthy opening act (Spokane, I ain't linking them 'cause they stink) did a great job cooling down the crowd with their total lack of stage presence (ooooh, we're hiding behind the amps, we're so vulnerable!) and dirge-like melodies that at their best approximated a third-rate Sigur Ros. Mrs. Nevskaya and I found a dry place against the wall and hunkered down cross-legged, chatting and wondering how the hell we were going to see Ms. Power (Chan, pronounced "Shawn") since we were twelve back and everyone there was at least two inches taller than we were.

A stir and applause rises from the crowd, we stand on tiptoes and a catch a mop of blonde hair, and a pleasant murmur with a touch o' Southern drawl rises from the stage. I can't catch the general murmur, but people start sitting down on the floor like a reverse wave, and there she is in her waifish glory. In jeans and a t-shirt, she walks over to the piano bent over and immediately launches into one of her two-chord songs which is ostensibly new yet resembles many songs from the album we have. After eight minutes or so, she peters out, fiddles w/the piano a bit, then goes into her next song. This continues for a half hour or so, song, fiddle, next song. She plays crouched over the piano like Shiny McShine and doesn't give the audience a chance to applaud, and you can tell they're itching to; they finally throw in some cheers when she pauses a little bit. Then she walks off the stage...

...and comes back w/a guitar. Fiddle, fiddle, two-chord song; it's the first time I get to see her face, and she desperately avoids eye contact w/the audience. But she's feeling her oats and belting 'em out, song-fiddle-song (Living Proof stands out, maybe because it was the only one there with an easily recognizable chorus), but then she starts asking the sound tech in the back if he can make her guitar sound "less bright" and "less heavy". I'm guessing they had these conversations before, because my immediate response would be "what the fuck are you talking about?" Suddenly she turns down the volume on the guitar and turns back to the piano.

And so it goes for a while; turn to the piano, song, song, fiddle, song, turn back to the guitar, song, song, fiddle, song, turn to the piano. I'm liking it just fine, but the divide between the enraptured folkies and the chipsters chatting it up in the back became more and more pronounced, and Chan's total lack of patter and soft tunes weren't helping. Finally, some dude from the middle of the floor yells "Shut up!" and I get a little excited at the thought of a fight. Though my sympathies initally lay w/the folkies, I drift towards neutrality when a self-righteous douchebag that was hopefully looking to get laid starts this exchange:

"Did you all buy a ticket just so you could piss people off? Shut up!"
(from the back)"You shut up, asshole!" (slight chuckling)
(non-douchebag folkie)"O'Neill's* is down the street!" (more chuckling)

O'Neill's - an Irish bar popular w/the UVA students

So I was enjoying the crowd tension, but Chan, in one of her piano/guitar exchanges, mutters into a microphone something like "hopefully I can play a song that doesn't piss anyone off" and goes into a nice cover of "House of the Rising Sun". I'm not a yell-in-the-crowd type of guy, but if I could have innocuously slipped her a note to the effect that she shouldn't let the in-crowd posturing affect her, I would have.

And it was at about this point that I noticed (along with my body becoming increasingly numb from the ass down as I fidgeted more trying to get comfortable sitting on the hardwood floor) that Chan herself was becoming more and more fidgety. The fiddling increased, she became more and more uncomfortable in a manner recognizable to anyone who saw Matchstick Men, the guitar/piano switching became more awkward, and she'd stop songs short. The crowd would cheer as a recognizable lick came up but the expected song wouldn't follow. She then started to mutter how she hears the patter "she-she-she-she" echoing in her head. Mrs. Nevskaya turned to me and said "she's making me nervous", and I was trying to psychically advise her by projecting "play 'I Don't Blame You' and say goodnight!" She turned to the piano and started to play it and the crowd erupted into applause (in my case, fueled by relief), but after the first verse she stopped and rolled her right hand down the piano. Some sycophantic "we love you"s came out from the crowd, but she said into the mic "I'm afraid of the KKK, I'm afraid of the KKK, I have to go" and ran off the stage.

Well.

As we were walking back to the car, we couldn't help but feel bad, but Mrs. Nevskaya did speculate if there wasn't some element of schtick involved in her antics. The next day I was at our local music shop buying an older CD (using the logic that if she made more money from sales she wouldn't need to do shows) and the clerk, who had also attended the show, told me that some members of her circle were saying they would have been disappointed if she hadn't broke down on stage, so maybe there's something to it.

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A disaster — Cat Power’s performance last Friday evening at the Satellite Ballroom can be described as nothing less. Chan (pronounced “Shawn”) Marshall, the singer-songwriter who takes on the feline moniker, is known for her on-stage hysteria. In fact, stories abound about her public breakdowns in the spotlight following nearly every show. Even with such forewarning, this night proved to be all too much for this concert-goer.

It all started out so well. The audience immediately heeded Chan’s request to be seated and was treated to an intimate piano rendition of “The Greatest,” a song off her forthcoming album of the same name. The chords were sparse and rang throughout the venue, mesmerizing all within earshot. Chan’s characteristically airy vocals emphasized every syllable and yet felt as vulnerable as they did guarded.

Even after her initial switch from piano to guitar, Chan still appeared to be fully in control of the audience. But some time after performing a spattering of new material, the audience lost its patience and Chan lost her confidence. Songs began to trail off, unfinished and unrealized, while a slow murmur developed in the rear of the room.

The sly, soulful swagger Chan developed earlier in the set slowly turned into self-neurosis. Fans tried desperately to cling on to fragments of their favorite songs before they were eventually aborted in disgust. In an attempt to mend the divide between new and old material, Chan played two quiet and harrowing covers of “House of the Rising Sun” and The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” These would be the last satisfying numbers of the night.

Chan’s frustration with the increasingly talkative audience came to the fore when she complained about feeling judged while performing. She even mentioned that the rumble from “those people in the back” sounded like “she, she, she” as if talking about her. While it is doubtful those audience members near the bar had any more on their minds than the drinks in their hands, her indirect request for their attention fell upon deaf ears.

Like nothing I have ever experienced, the very audience-performer relationship had broken down.

Nearing two hours into her performance, Chan suddenly aborted a piano number mid-verse, quipping, “I’m just getting a bad feeling about this. I need to get out of here,” before darting off stage. The house lights were immediately turned on, and music began to play. It was over and I can almost guarantee that you’ve never seen so many dumbstruck faces.

What happened? And more importantly, do I care? Most emphatically not! At the end of the evening, I talked with a number of Cat Power regulars who told me matter-of-factly that fans come to these shows and pay money just to see the train wreck we’d both just experienced. A sickening feeling came over me, one that continues to bother me even as I write this article. What kind of a fan comes to a show in order to gain pleasure from watching a fragile performer break down? And what kind of an artist continually performs in spite of a well documented self-esteem issue?

At the end of the day, I would like to think that we’re all big boys and girls when it comes to concert-going. Friday evening’s show, however, has taught me that, even with the lowest of expectations, fans and performers can still find a way to let you down.


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"Ready to get depressed?" - Chan, 11/16/13
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Cokelike

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Date d'inscription : 2012-02-14

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