Last night I went to the Hotel Café to hear Jamie’s friend Shannon McNally play. She’s this young, smooth-skinned girl with a huge, gravely voice and a band full of hippie dudes. Her 47-year-old piano player was wearing a baseball cap with a red-white-and-blue marijuana leaf on it. They rocked the bathroom-sized stage, reminding all the Angeleno hipsters in the audience that country (and country-ish) music doesn’t necessarily mean Billy Ray Cyrus. Or that “Butterfly Kisses” song that’s always played during the dad-and-bride dance at weddings.
But before I call Shannon’s music “country” (or country-ish), I want to paraphrase what she said, between lonely howling-at-the-moon songs and bad-ass guitar jams, about genre: Her music has been called folk/country/blues/roots/singer-songwriter/southern. She doesn’t like regionalism, and she doesn’t like being categorized. But instead of saying, “I don’t like labels” (which by now is just as trite as any actual label), she just made up her own genre: North American Ghost Music. And it fits.
I love that. It goes along with how I feel about deconstructionism: If you can deconstruct, why not construct? If it’s all just made-up bullshit, why not make up some better bullshit? (I really wanted the second Matrix movie to address this in more detail; I still haven’t seen number three, so maybe it’s the thesis-I-always-wanted-to-write.)
The last time I went to the Hotel Café was last summer. I was by myself, there to hear Alanna’s band, Fascinoma. It’s always weird to see someone you know up on stage; you’re connected and not connected at the same time. Alanna is an expert at sad, beautiful songs—though when called upon to rock, she has no problems—and I felt weird and weepy in the back of the skinny club. I kept thinking about my mom, who died, and missing my girlfriend, who was in Australia. Closer than dead, but still too far.
When I left the club that night last summer, I let a homeless man cut my hair for $20. It was cool until his drug dealer started hitting on me. And drug dealers never hit on you in a classy way, you know?
So yeah, ghost music felt about right last night.