In Which Microphones Are Pulled From Every Conceivable Orifice

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I Got Tricked

by Will Hubbard

When Alex asked if any This Recording staffers wanted to take up a publicist’s offer to attend a preview of Spring Awakening – ‘The New Class’ – on Broadway, neither he nor I had done our research. He maintains that his offer was not a joke, and recalling what many people had told me about the show, I convinced myself that it might be a fun evening.

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A pre-requisite for getting my ticket was that I attend the pre-show cocktail hour for ‘music bloggers’. It is the kind of thing that you don’t realize will be horrible torture until you touch the handle and go inside. Though the publicity people were perfectly pleasant, offering to buy me a drink as soon as they ‘recognized me sitting helplessly’ at the bar, they had not done their research either. Or at least the right kind of research.

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I am most certainly not a ‘music-blogger’; I am not really even a blogger. This site is not a music blog, despite its title. We use .mp3’s to attract people to our otherwise unpalatable discourse, and when we do write about music, as Danish will tell you, people get pissed off at us.

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‘Recognized me’. By this I mean that one of the publicists came over to the bar and said “So you must be Will; you look different from your picture on the site. Decided to take off those glasses, huh?” I wish someone could have seen the expression of terror on my face as I was led to where the other publicists were sitting with their martinis.

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It was my great honor to be the first writer in attendance, and I came to think, based on their eagerness to begin pitching the Spring Awakening to me, that no one else would be showing up. For a few minutes while I listened to them tout the ‘indie appeal’ of the show, I was pretty sure I was playing into some new, sordid incarnation of Candid Camera.

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After a rather long while I was prompted to say something. I told them I was excited, that my mother had really liked the first cast, and that my Catholic roommate had deemed the show “quite an experience”. I also asked if I might have another margarita, that the first one had done wonders for my oncoming cold.

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Someone said, “So tell me what you already know about the show, and don’t worry if your answer is nothing, we don’t work for the producers.”

I said that that was reassuring, and came up with “The guy who wrote all the music….”

Duncan Sheik.”

“….right, well I know he went to Brown. I went to Brown too, so that’s something.”

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Luckily a few new arrivals broke the tension. One introduced herself as Faith-Ann and began talking incessantly about her exploits at the CMJ Festival, pausing finally to catch her breath and ask if I had attended any of the festival panels. Some guy in the back cut in with a comment about his ‘friend’s bands’, saving me from divulging that I’d seen a poster for CMJ and thought it was a country music awards show.

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When we did finally make it through the first bitterly-cold New York night into the theater, I promptly girded myself with a tall glass of cabernet and a large pouch of peanut M and M’s. The crowd was largely blonde. I was expecting a healthy showing of teenage girls, but found the dominant demographic to be the slightly older, slightly richer segment of the show’s target audience—Sex And The City girls.

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The singing and dancing began straightaway, and for the next two hours microphones sprang up from the strangest places at the most expected times. Microphones pulled out of breast pockets, microphones in pants, microphones hidden in the floor. I think the male lead even pulled a microphone out of the female lead at one point.

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It was all very charming, but I could not help feeling under-entertained. The plot weaves in and out of a half-dozen emotional platitudes, and any supposed ‘edginess’ was undercut by the show’s refusal to take up it’s subtexts in a meaningful way. There’s a sexual abuse song, a gay song, and a domestic violencey, S and M moment—great for the adolescent listening to the soundtrack in her car who wants, as the characters of the play constantly reiterate, ‘to feel something’, but a mile off from even Rent’s dubious yet concerted engagement with the aftermath of the AIDS epidemic.

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Duncan Sheik’s songs are as unmemorable as they were a decade ago, which is why they work so well in Spring Awakening. They provide a simple anachronistic foil, and a bit of comic relief, for the story of the play which is seemingly set around 1900 in Germany. Neither the show’s drama nor music, taken alone, would be of much interest; spliced, jumbled, and ratcheted together, it can at least be called a spectacle.

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Dodging the publicity team after the obligatory but lukewarm standing ovation, I overheard a big, husky-voiced guy outside mumble to his wife, “It was well-done, but there sure wasn’t a ‘Five Hundred, Twenty-Five Thousand, Six Hundred Minutes’”. My thoughts exactly.

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Will Hubbard is the contributing editor to This Recording

Spring – Eric’s Trip: (mp3)

Spring – Peter Walker: (mp3)

Lullaby Of Spring – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy: (mp3)

Where Did My Spring Go – The Kinks: (mp3)

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PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING:

Will Hubbard On Van Gogh

Alex Carnevale On Eric Rohmer

David Noriega On Situationists

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7 thoughts on “In Which Microphones Are Pulled From Every Conceivable Orifice

  1. A great piece–funny, even brilliant at times(i.e. the closing phrase that follows the beginning line from which the title comes, “…microphones sprang up from the strangest places at the most expected times”). However, one caveat: regarding the seemingly ‘naif out of water/what have i got myself into’ thread; is one too cynical to deem the piece a bit disingenuous in its overall ‘i-don’t-belong-here-but-heck-what-do-you-know-my-very-unbelonging-will-make-for-a-great-observational-piece-what-luck’ vibe? In short, a tension exists between the writer’s obvious intelligence and the seeming lack of it required for one to get all the way to the ‘door handle’ of said situation and not foresee potential anachronistic folly? Perhaps I am stating the obvious here? That is, in terms of the underlying genre this piece wittingly or unwittingly nods to, be it exemplified by EB White not-belonging on the psyche doctor’s couch but instead, outside, where the “the second tree on the corner” waits patiently for his epiphany, or the seminal example of Foster Wallace not-belonging on the good ship Carnival cruise of otherworldy surrealness, the piece is a worthy appendage.
    Apologies for this long ramble.
    First time caller long time listener.
    Thanks again for both the overall spirit of this website
    and this piece’s further contributions to it.
    Best,
    Duggan

  2. Awesome — I’ve been waiting for a review like this since I first read about this horrible thing with Duncan Sheik. (How could it be good, and yes, wasn’t he bad/boring enough the first time around?)

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