I’m in complete and total awe of how incredible she is.
It was a cloudy day, with some rain showers (you would not believe what a crappy summer we’ve been having here) and so we almost didn’t go. But the rain held off and mid-way through her set there was the most beautiful sunset, with the clouds turning brilliant orange and yellow over the lights of the city. Audience members were taking pictures of Patti and the sunset.
But back to Patti. According to her website, the woman is 60, and she is still the most kick-ass rocker in the world. She played full out for two hours. Her voice, that deep throaty growl, is still in great shape and she uses it, baby. I didn’t keep a list of songs, but some she played were Gloria, Gimme Shelter (amazing), Because the Night, Are You Experienced, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and others. She did play several from her covers CD, Twelve.
Apparently she was hanging out in the Music Millennium booth earlier, signing CDs. From the stage, she talked about how she’d enjoyed walking around the festival and stood in line to eat 6 tacos from the Canby Asparagus Booth. Wouldn’t you love to be standing in line for a taco and turn around and see Patti Smith behind you?
She played the clarinet and the harmonica and the guitar and I adore her spoken word interludes. Over the course of the evening she referenced the meteor showers, Barry Bonds (a "flawed hero") and her beloved H.P. Lovecraft several times, since Portland is the home of the H.P. Lovecraft film festival.
She came back out and did an encore, even though this was technically a festival setting and she said encores usually weren’t done out of respect for all the other artists who had played. I’m so glad they came back out because she did a heart-stopping cover of Lou Reed’s A Perfect Day.
What does all this have to do with writing? Everything.
I watch Patti sing and play and just put herself out there, and she does it in front of thousands of people, and all I have to do is sit at my computer and put myself out when I’m all alone in a room, so why is that so damn hard sometimes? Watching someone give their all, full out, no holding back, no apologies, no justifications, in front of thousands of people gives me chills. It’s the essence of rock and roll, it’s the essence of writing, and it’s also the essence of all creativity that is worth a damn throughout all of time. So let us all go forth and do it.
Photo courtesy of Gareth Owen under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2. I found it on the Patti Smith entry on Wikipedia.