My Blog__ No Love Lost
The first time I heard Hole's debut album, "Pretty on the Inside", my concept of music changed. Courtney Love taught me that music could be loud, messy, thundering and ripe with painful screaming. She was the reason I picked up a guitar. She was the reason I developed the confidence to know that singing did not have to be done right, but could just be done. I became obsessed with her brazen attitude towards rock n' roll. She embraced everything traditionally feminine (lace, poise, lipstick), everything that wasn't supposed to be feminine (anger, violence, sexuality) and struck a perfectly calculated balance between total disaster and iconic front woman. As I have said before, people love to hate Courtney because she "killed Kurt", fixes her nose every 2 months and despite the years of heroin, cocaine and Oxycontin, refuses to die. And, after seeing her play in Seattle on Sunday at Bumbershoot, I hope she never goes.
I had many predictions for this show. First off, that Courtney would not even show up since she had tweeted, "Am not looking foreward to 'Bumbershoot' wtf is a Bumbershoot btw? spoke to Cornell., like he sees Seattle as a warzone." Second, was that if she did show up, she would storm on stage, rant about Frances Bean or refuse to finish the set when some 15-year-old burn out yelled, "You killed Kurt!" But none of this happened.
Bumbershoot is a festival geared towards teenagers and people who don't actually care about music. So, when Hole played the crowd was a ragged mix of kids who were too young to know Courtney as anyone other than "Kurt Cobain's wife" and people in their late twenties to late thirties who were excited to see if the Queen of Crazy could still sing "Miss World". You can imagine the types of trolls who only stuck around to see Courtney because her set was sandwiched between Rise Against and Weezer. I, on the other hand, was just there to see her and wasn't going to let any dweeb get in my way.
Courtney has a good surgeon. She looks amazing for her age and years of drug abuse. When she walked on stage, her face beamed like a plasticine model of the world's biggest Barbie. Her lips were colored pink, her blue eyes bulging next to the thick charcoal make-up some professional had painted onto her skin. Her body, though verging on too-thin, was decked out in sparkling crystals, a tiara and her signature black baby doll dress. She was striking, but even at her most fucked up, when has she ever been anything less? She picked up her guitar, waved at the audience and started humming the 1994 Weezer hit, "Buddy Holly." "Ooh wee ooh, I look just like Buddy Holly." Then, she shook her head and laughed. "Sorry, Weezer is later," she cooed. "Is that how that song goes?"
Courtney (accompanied by four men who are the reason there will never be a true Hole reunion) powered through a clean, tight set. Her voice was intoxicating as she marched into old hits like, "Violet", "Reasons To Be Beautiful", "Live Through This" and "Plump" with the same, signature scream she harbored in 1995. During "Pacific Coast Highway" - a ballad off her new album which has the same riff as two of Hole's previous songs, "Sugar Coma" and "Boys on the Radio" - she pulled a classic Courtney move, changing the lyrics from abstract to cathartic. "I knew a boy/He came from the sea/He was the only boy who ever believed in me." She nodded as she howled, "Some day you will ache like I ache." This is what makes her such a genius: her ability to embody a psychic wisdom and communicate it through three-chord punk songs that should have been forgotten years ago.
I studied her carefully the entire set, even though I had to fight off moshing teenagers who reeked of sweat and bong water. At one point, a man behind me was pressed so close I could feel him humping my back for a full song. I elbowed him in the stomach. Every time some drunk girl in the front pit was carried off by security for fighting, I wedged in that much closer. 18-year-old me wasn't going to miss getting as close as I could to my punk rock icon.
Of course, it wasn't Hole without Eric, Patti and Melissa, but it was Courtney. And even though the crazy was turned down to a low hum, her songs, voice and infamous stage moves were enough to keep me mesmerized. She pointed at the audience with her bejeweled, weathered hands. She barely played guitar. She hoisted her leg up on the monitor and flipped the bird while the teenagers beside me cheered at this barely shocking maneuver. She sauntered the edge of the monitors, teasing the threat of a stage dive. She only had one cigarette. She referenced her weight, her old house she shared with Kurt - "171 Lake Washington Boulevard" -, attempted a Pearl Jam cover claiming at best it was "charmingly awkward", talked about Kate Moss and then, she was gone.
Courtney has grown up. As much as the world still wants her to be the punk rock tabloid mess who can't keep herself together, she has, for the most part, moved beyond that. She didn't spit on anyone. She didn't cry. She didn't show her tits - although she did grab them, twice - and she didn't beat anyone up. Oddly enough, I walked away feeling spellbound and totally satisfied. It was exactly the Courtney I wanted to see and with no Love lost.
Photos via Seattle Weekly