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Robin Renée & Terri Nunn @ World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA, 7/14/14. Photo by Andy Campbell

I got to see Berlin @ World Cafe Live in Philadelphia last night. It was an excellent show. Postponed from May 1st because of severe weather that knocked out the venue’s power, this time there was an intense downpour to contend with to get from my car to the building, but no big deal. I went to the show with my friend Andy Campbell, who suspects Terri Nunn may be a rain goddess.

I could wax poetic about the show, which really did go above and beyond – Her voice is in excellent form, the new songs were very good, sometimes surprisingly emotional, and I really liked the way they revamped the classic tunes, especially “Pleasure Victim,” stripped down, so to speak, to piano and voice.

My friend Andy, who said he could barely remember winning anything, was chosen for the after show meet & greet in a random drawing. I was happy that he chose me as his +1, and just as happy that the show actually happened this time. We were waiting for only a short while by the stage until Terri came out to say hello to the small group of waiting fans.

Andy complemented her on the show and had a brief but deep conversation about the life and death of her father, actor Larry Nunn, about whom she sang in “Blame it on the World.” When I got to the table where she was chatting and autographing, she asked me about my choice of T-shirt.

“Sex Geek,” she read. “Well, I guess people ask you, right? Why are you a sex geek?” I explained with a winking smile attitude that I like to know as much as I can about the things in life I enjoy the most. I told her it is actually a T-shirt design by my friend Reid Mihalko, a sex and relationship educator. “What does he teach?” she asked. I wasn’t expecting to give Reid’s elevator speech in that moment, and I don’t remember exactly what I said. I think the words “openness in sexuality, honesty, and integrity” were involved in what I felt was likely way too concise a description. She smiled, said “All right!” and gave me a high-five.

I gave her a download card for All Six Senses, which is the older recording of mine I seem to enjoy the most these days. She seemed genuinely psyched that I am also a musician and I gave my music elevator speech (NOT my elevator music speech), which was probably even more truncated than the one I gave for Reid. I handed her my cassette copy of the Pleasure Victim album for her to sign. She laughed. “A cassette! Do you actually listen to this?” “Not lately,” I told her, also laughing. “It is quite an artifact, isn’t it?” She agreed.

I got my photo op and we said goodnight (I wish I had been standing more straight ahead so it doesn’t look like my shirt says “SEX GEE,” but oh well, it was in the moment.). “Keep playing,” she called out as we were walking away. I intend to – in all good ways possible.

"Robin, you're gorgeous! Terri Nunn"

“Robin, you’re gorgeous! Terri Nunn”

 

 

It may sound a bit morbid, but at times I practice how to feel when people significant to me die.  I don’t mean to do it in the sense that I set aside a time for mortality drills or something.  It’s that every once in a while I realize how profoundly I idolize certain people.  Somewhere in my mind I recognize that in the event such a person would pass away, I could really freak out.  So I allow myself to think about it, if only for a moment. I let myself feel little bits of the emotion at a time.  I’ll recognize the person’s huge contribution to my life, art, or world culture.  I may even imagine something productive I might do when I hear the news.

I was on a short break from figure modeling yesterday when I saw the news on my cell phone about the sudden death of Bob Casale of Devo.  I had prepared a little for such a moment.  There were times when I’d find myself looking at a classic image of Devo, allowing my mind to wander through how I might feel when not all five of those guys are still with us. Then came the sad news about Alan Myers last June. It took me days before I could even speak of Alan’s passing. However, bad news is just that, and it hasn’t been a whole lot easier to wrap my brain around the loss of another member of my favorite band.  Through all of the passive prep work, I never imagined having to sit for an hour and a half for a painting class before really reacting. The still contemplation time was probably exactly what was needed.

I’ve been to a lot of Devo shows and since 2004, I have had a number of great opportunities to hang backstage and elsewhere with them.  Bob 2 was always cool, friendly, and even-tempered.  While other band members may have been a little intense to be around, that was never the case with Bob. My favorite memory of him was the time he came to DEVOtional, the fan event held in Cleveland, in 2009.  Aside from being a great musician who had his own unique way of holding together the band’s sound, he was also quite the chef.   He actually prepared a menu, came to our event, and served lunch for a club full of DEVOtees.  How awesome is that?  At the time, I was annoyed that a miscommunication led to him not getting the word on saving aside some vegetarian fare for a few of us, so there wasn’t a lot for me to eat.  But his taking time out to be with all of us was the main point.  I had the pasta, and it was yummy.  Last night, I cooked up some angel hair marinara and remembered a very kind guy.

 

2/25/14 Addendum: My friend and fellow fan Richard J. Anderson just posted a moving essay on Bob Casale @ Sanspoint.com. It is definitely worth reading.

sex dwarf new year, new order

New Year / New Order – 1/4/13

Dancer’s invisible hand, this time
did not push me to the platform
No particular synth rhythm
persuaded
Already,
tonight is motion, sex
and flash
shiny with silver fleck sequins
‘wish you cud see the glitter’
she teased
the ones not here
and now

Friday night
on stage, suddenly
leading pristine, sweaty, t-shirt, gender bent ball gown crowd
in a chorus of electric
groove
she joins me
hips hair arms miming the instinctual
undulation
I pretend not to see DJ’s camera
capturing spectacle
I pose
breathe
remember music-love-desire
as saving grace

She is taller than I
I wait for kisses
lean up
to take them
we draw a small crowd
of admirers – I know the beauty
is in every face mid-lyric
with favorite song
in silver-painted spikes
in blue luminescence
in every joyous dance floor grind
as much beauty here
as on renunciate mountaintop

The ego
and the living-the-moment
make desperate, impossible love
right here, in public
just below the balcony
until which is which, a memory
for armchair gurus.
I was ordained by sound before the womb
into the Order of Bodylight
Dance trance rishi has spoken
and this is my mantra.

♪ I know, you know, we believe in a land of love
I know, you know, we believe in a land of love ♫

Too-drunk chick yells above edgy guitar thump
“YOU… are a PARTY girl… and I DON’T take that LIGHTly!”

Satori.
Nor do I.

Well, look at the time… It has been ridiculously long since I’ve written here.  I’ve written a few poems, done quite a bit of ghostwriting work, finished most of the forthcoming kirtan recording, and I still have fantasies that tease of a novel.  For a lot of the time I’ve been absent from this blog, I’ve been thoroughly sick of my own navel-gazing.  I never could quite bring myself to share it with everybody else.  The CliffsNotes will be much better, trust me.

Since I’ve written here, I’ve tried hard to think of myself as a semi-retired musician.  Many months of a seemingly lost ability to tell a story that matters, an economy that ceased to even kinda-sorta support traveling singer-songwriters (at least this one), and a couple gigs in a row too absurd to mention were all contributors to this shift.  I asked myself if I am neither making ends meet nor having fun, why am I doing this?  “Because it’s what I always do,” wasn’t a good enough answer.  So, I set upon the exciting adventure of not doing what I always do.

I’ve discovered that I can’t retire from music.  Sounds show up.  Words show up.  They will become something even when I resist.  I decided I wouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time pursuing performance and traveling without focused assistance.  It felt good to take off the bookings hat.  I decided I would respond happily to requests while I re-imagine possibilities.  Offers do arise while I work on other things.  The forthcoming chant CD that I’ve been recording at glacial speed has come back into my heart.  I feel the spirit that sings through those mantras and songs again.  It will emerge of its own volition.

Casting off the have-to’s has led to more rediscoveries than new discoveries.  I am dancing again.  Not only at the Sex Dwarf dance party off of South Street, but as much as possible.  The beach last summer. Latin Heat class at the gym.  When I wake up and Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” is a leftover earworm from dreamland.  I used to walk for miles everyday and it made me inherently happy.  I have been taking a lot of that back from the suburban abyss.

I used to write for the absolute love of it.  Age-old wisdom would indicate that making the thing you love your business will alter it, perhaps not for the better.  More wisdom would indicate that if you do what you love for your living, you are truly blessed.  I’d say both are correct.

There will be more music, more concerts, more creative surprises, and new approaches.  There will be art for love and art that matters, at least to me.  I have begun to write through the gunk and the fear to get to the center, the heart of things.  I am reminded of Om Mani Padme Hum – the jewel in the lotus. No matter what whirlwinds I spin around it, there is that.

11/4/11

Eyes strain open above water

Lukewarm, then too warm to escape

Forget entropy-

This is the science

of my regularly scheduled life

the art of evolving

from surface tension

to shore.

The memory of arms flailing

a lesson

to seek the winter sunlight

and keep moving.

This has been the most difficult week so far to keep writing for NaPoWriMo. I have been too busy, too tired, too restless, too something to write almost all the time. Sometimes the basic idea and the essential words come late at night when I am not present enough to write and in the morning when my brain is awake it falls together. I haven’t enjoyed putting forth some of the pieces that are more likely sketches than real poems. Still, I feel the value in taking on the challenge of showing the rough edges and the work in motion.

I have been noticing simple themes that help lead me. The spiritual power that dancing holds (Sex Dwarf New Wave Dance Party!) and the organic emotions that electronic music stirs up have come to the surface. I am anxious to start a new branch of my musical journey writing with samples and sound libraries more a part of the initial process.

It was strange to discover myself being not quite honest in poetry. Longing to connect with one particular individual, I wrote about longing for many. What I wrote was not untrue – I do want to travel to all those places and see those folks – but in the moment, there really was a certain place I wanted to be most of all. What a cop out! Maybe one day I’ll profess my silly crush.  Leave it to the making of art to point directly to these fears. 

My favorite poem of the week is First Child/Old Soul, written for the daughter of a friend of mine, who I hope will be a friend in her own right. She recently showed up in my world as a college student (!) wanting to interview me about my work for one of her classes. I’ve been enjoying her poems at Sonnetess in Progress.

April 13, 2011

New wave pied pipers
pulled me back across the bridge
DJ-healers Marilyn and Robert
pushed reset and I remembered
When I slowed down dancing
I saw geese and green return
and got over the Anywhere-But-Here

Still there is the genuine longing
for unkempt love and ballsy new creation
Kansas City, Stockholm, Delray Beach and Seoul,
Dublin, Mt. Tremper, Port Angeles,
New Brunswick, New Jersey to New Brunswick, Canada
Chuck Berry’s Promised Land for all and for now.
I will dial home, touch down in Philadelphia
and I’ll dance worldwide

April 14, 2011

Phone-shaped cages and
the minds of weird geniuses:
home to angry birds.

April 15, 2011

Tangerine juice and the light on mysteriously downstairs.
No good explanations but variety and ghosts.
I try to recall what I’ve learned today
but life and lessons aren’t handed out in gold bars.
I wonder if fun for me is possible in the future
where there are old CD cases and bodypaint, taxes, sudoku and gardens.
I hear your voice still there, and your touch,
So I’ll guess ‘Yes.’
I hope there will be tangerine.

April 16, 2011

First Child/Old Soul

She emerged whole cloth
Anime & zombie cloaked
Wise in a field of sleep,
waiting for ripe fruit.
She knows the young love poems
& the secrets to rise from the see-no-evil dead.
Listen: her new voice is a healer’s rain.

April 17, 2011

This sleepwriting
yields a dull spark
where life is measured in TV news
and sitcom currency.

April 18, 2011

The Hair is a Big Shape

That my hair is a big shape,
I learned today,
and that my ribcage casts a shadow.
“The” hair “and “the” ribcage, I should say –
With art modeling, there’s nothing personal.

Stood 6 hours
an all-day mannequin to assist
the slow birth of illustrators.
Some days the dreams come,
the novella, the poems,
so vivid I am sure
all props hold still vibrancy
and the “girls” in Gary Wilson’s closet
live large in cramped quarters.

Today,
mind zeroed out
to big nothing
not like enlightenment,
but detention.

In boredom, I exposed my imperfections
and the ones with the pencils
rendered theirs.

April 19, 2011

On Pesach

A sweet taste of memory
A walk in bitter shoes
Each inner freedom grows
To strengthen a table of friends.

April 20, 2011

A Sampled Prayer

Electric and nervous
Button-pushing snippets
Captured in bits
Used to be called cop-out
Now brilliance,
Now holy testimony.
Vision of sound waves
Across the path of downtown
Dance floor
Invisible kiss of motion
And all is forgiven.




www.robinrenee.com

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