Discover more from Blue Bucket Of Gold
Festivals, anger and (self) forgiveness
mediations on the past few weeks
We performed at the Roundhouse, a labyrinth of metal rooms/wombs and warehouse lifts. I did my vocal warm ups in my van, where I can also sleep, now. Friends’ faces stared warmly up at me, until I screamed the lyrics from our second album. I tried to make eye contact with the audience, like I used to before Covid. This time, whenever I locked eyes with someone, I could viscerally feel my face contort as if it were a locked house at night: my mouth a brick wall, my eyes curtains drawn.
Recently, I did a training day where someone explained the idea of living in an ‘exclusionary society’, and how we are trying to undo thousands of years of that society in just decades. He asked us all what his body language was saying as he stood shoulders and feet wide apart, palms facing us. I said, “open”.
He said, “I am showing you all that I have no weapons”.
I’ve seen a lot of artists try out an angrier persona onstage, usually after years of ‘showing no weapons’. Here’s a question I keep coming back to - why am I so afraid to be angry? Why can’t I allow myself an emotion I allow others? I was tired of playing the nice girl onstage, tired of belonging to everyone but myself. Now, I wonder how to return to her, how to reconcile all parts of myself, how to be both a warning and an embrace.
In real life, human beings are everything, multifaceted, in order to survive. Yet most of us are stereotyped, often expected to be only one idea, consistently denied the full human condition while punished for inevitably possessing it. But the stage isn’t real life. It’s more one-dimensional. Easy ideas get through better.
So I’m going to create a character to perform these songs. Might sketch them. The character will get conflated with who I am in real life, but that’s out of my control, something all performers have to face.
Meanwhile, actual Catrin does therapy and drove to the Lake District.
A rainbow patch illuminated the sky like a UFO. Trucks sounded like thunder through the open window, like I’d put my left ear to a roaring shell. I cupped my ear with the palm of my hand instead, protecting it.
Birds littered the power lines, moving in waves, as if they were one organism breathing. A hot air balloon sunk perfectly between two wind turbines, a perfect picture. I didn’t get my phone out to take it, that time. We drove past a field of solar panels, sparkling in the sunshine, and then a steel factory, pumping out thick, dark smog that covered it. Still, the sun persistently diffused through the clouds, a seemingly ever-burning fire.
August was finally over. The smell of ‘biosolids’ lingered everywhere. The crops haven’t been good this year with the changing weather. Every few miles, it smelt like chlorine, at least to me.
Closer to The Lakes, I saw two trees split in half by lightning, I assumed, and wondered how often it strikes there. My favourite farmer’s small wind turbine swayed in the wind, tethered to the land by a single black thread. The sun began to dip and diffuse like a lamp, a giant red orb that could be directly stared into. A small speck of a plane flew across it.
Why could we stare into the sun like that? “It looks like Africa”, my partner said. Apparently, the jet stream had brought the sand in from the Sahara this year, obscuring the brightest rays. Our van started to get covered with dust from the other side of the world.
At the Lakes, military jets ripped through the sky like loud knives. It was so hot, I lowered myself into the water and felt underwater plants curl around my legs, and saw schools of fish permeate the top layer, so fast, as if ripples underneath skin. The water there is so still that when boats cross, they create lapping waves, some kind of ephemeral ocean. Cows were standing hoof-deep in the water to cool off from the heat. As I swam around, I felt this beautiful excitement.
I never saw myself doing this - correction, I never saw myself as deserving to do this. I’ve never been to the Lake District before. “You have to work, work, work”, I always told myself, “to deserve nice things.” Well, my life has been full of work, work, work, and I’ve ended up with absolutely nothing except a van on loan and an open road.
(I am aware that sounds like a Cole Swindell track).
I’ve always wanted to travel. When I left school, I worked in a supermarket in my gap year instead, and told myself it would be too difficult. I’ve always found a reason not to.
But I’m even worse off than I was then, and I can’t wait anymore. I might not get to an age where I can ‘afford it’. I wish I had travelled then. I was healthier, younger, less scarred by life. Now, I’m rattling around in a rickety van, asking myself what on Earth I’m doing with it - my life, I mean, and I’m a bit traumatised, asking myself what went wrong. That’s what these angry songs are, really - despair - and that is why as you get older as an artist, you begin to feel more comfortable exhibiting anger. Which is ultimately your total despair from prolonged exposure to an exclusionary society after learning again and again that there is no escape. But I can’t wait like I told myself to in that supermarket. Not this time.
Actually, is that true? It might be for me, I found anger later in life. But I think artists probably go through phases of anger at different points in their individual lives, and if you look at different back-catalogues, it’s so interesting to see the journey of how different artists deal with it. It’s also probably quite a cyclical, human thing, something we have to confront in our lives again and again.
Last night at rehearsal, Naomi showed me Nick Cave responding to a fan’s criticism of losing his anger in his music. He said how “rage lost its allure” after his sons died. He said, “I changed. For better or for worse, the rage you speak of lost its allure, and, yes, perhaps I became a Hallmark card hippie. Hatred stopped being interesting. Those feelings were like old dead skins that I shed. They were their own kind of puke.”
I was quite shocked to uncover my own anger in the safety of a studio, and I’m having a hard time owning it on stage.
I felt exhausted heading to the Lakes. Me and my partner questioned if we were up to it. Then, swimming in that lake, something clicked. “This is what I’ve always wanted”, and it is, it’s what I’ve always wanted. I got here, even if ‘here’ is ephemeral, precarious and conditional, even if ‘here’ can’t last forever. Even if ‘here’ is just one day. What a glorious day.
I am trying to appreciate just being here, even if what lies around the corner is terrifying. I’m trying not to waste anymore time.
I went through quite horrible things, and I reacted by putting on a defence. Being ‘an embrace’ all the time meant I got exploited. It also wasn’t honest, it wasn’t the full human experience. I was serving everyone else, showing everyone I had no weapons so they could project whatever they needed onto me, or perhaps because I thought it was my only way to survive. I offered myself up like a sacrifice and I paid the price.
(That’s more like it).
In a world where I’m not allowed the full human experience, can I at least allow myself it? Can I forgive myself for reacting in understandable ways, even if I wish I’d known better at the time? How could I have known better without the information I have now? There is only forward.
I read recently that shame thrives in silence. Upon reading that, I decided to speak to a close friend, opening up the palms of my hands. I chose wisely, someone who had ‘earned the right to hear it’ as Brene Brown says. ‘In the face of an empathetic, understanding response, shame can’t survive’, I read, somewhere. And for a brief moment, I felt connected. And now I’ll swim along in darkness waiting for the next passing ship. Maybe life is just about passing time, always waiting for that next fleeting, beautiful moment of connection.
We’re going to Germany for Reeperbahn festival next week. The last time we played, Covid restrictions ended at midnight. People stood on crosses, 2 metres apart from each other, masked. They weren’t allowed to cheer. At midnight, restrictions lifted, and a rave exploded in the same room. Arbitrary rules - the invisible line was man-made. Covid didn’t change when the clock struck midnight like Cinderella in a pumpkin, did it?
Which leads me to the thought I want to leave you all with, today. What invisible lines do we place around ourselves, and what do they actually mean? What have we internalised from our exclusionary society? What invisible lines are you not even aware of? What is stopping you? Why? How do you move forward? You might have been behind this invisible line, once. Are you now? Do we stay the things we have been forever? Can we allow ourselves to change? Other people’s ideas of you are just that - other people’s ideas. What is your idea of you, the only one that matters, the only idea you can control?
What if, instead of negative events in your life being absolutely awful, they are accepted as an inevitable part of living? And perhaps catalysts to finally allow yourself to live? What if that’s what getting older really is - living enough to fail enough to finally know the only truth - that there isn’t one?
We’ve been booked for Mutations in Brighton, Sunday 5th November. Look at this monster lineup:
We’re preparing for our only headline show this year at Lafayette, 8th November. We’re planning beautiful things. Please buy tickets.
As I finish writing this, I’ve just seen Sufjan has released a new song off his upcoming album. Here it is: