J got an email from the Austin Film Society yesterday about a benefit screening of a documentary made by an Austin filmmaker. The filmmaker had been hurt in a car accident on the way to the world premiere at SXSW this year, and the AFS put together this benefit to help him with his medical expenses. It was at the Alamo Drafthouse downtown, so we walked to the 7 o'clock screening.
We love the Alamo. Everybody loves the Alamo. They program everything from first release Hollywood films to obscure local documentaries. They host all kinds of film events, they serve food and beer. They don't let people talk during the movie. It's the best movie theater ever.
Before the film started, when they were showing promos for all the Alamo events, like a night when comedians make fun of Planet of the Apes while its playing, or various sing-along nights, like "Sing Along with Eighties Rock Ballads," etc., we realized we were in the wrong movie! Instead of the benefit, we had stumbled into the "Morrissey Weep-along." We had no idea whether we were in the wrong theater, or it was the wrong night, or what, and we had already ordered food, so -- after a few moments of "Is this going to be fun or awful?" -- we decided to stay. And it was great.
I'd forgotten how incredibly cool The Smiths were, and how much we all loved them. I think the consensus among my friends back then was that, after The Smiths broke up, Morrissey's records weren't as good or interesting or something. His narcissism got to be a little overbearing. But what I'd forgotten is that his music was all about narcissism, and how bracing and beautiful so many of his songs are. The Weep-along was heavy on back catalog Smiths. Remember the video for How Soon is Now? It's mesmerizing and totally holds up as a work of art.
Looking at the work now all these years later, the gay iconography is so painfully obvious, it's hard to imagine a time when all that stuff was buried in code, when Morrissey and Michael Stipe, the two biggest sissies ever to front rock bands, could fly under the radar just by telling interviewers that they were "asexual." Times have changed.
When I met B, my boyfriend through most of my twenties, in 1984, he was the drummer in a band called Crash. B and his friends were the original generation of alt rock gay boys. B was more into old Joy Division and Fairport Convention than the poppier stuff, but they all loved The Smiths, and they all wore straight leg jeans and white t-shirts and mod haircuts.
The songwriter and lead singer in Crash was Mark Dumais. They played around the East Village for a couple years, and Mark created a record label called Justine Records. In 1985, he put out 3 7-inch 45s. One was by Crash, one was by a band called Nothing but Happiness, and one was by The Woods, which consisted of B and I and two women, Mark's friends, a lesbian couple who had just moved to New York from Baltimore. One of them was Linda Smith, who went on to make a name for herself on the cassette home recording scene that flourished for a while in the late 80s and early nineties.
The Woods never really worked because the four of us all had different ideas of what we wanted the band to sound like, but we had a few sublime moments. Our Justine single, "Miracles Tonight" (a Linda Smith song), with the second song I ever wrote, "Love Me Again This Summer" on the B-side, was one of them.
Mark moved to London in search of fame and pop fortune. He died of AIDS a few years later. The guy playing tambourine in this video, a very sweet man who also played saxophone in the band, died of AIDS, too, a few years later. B and I separated in 1989, and I didn't keep in touch with most of our friends from that time who were really B's friends more than mine.