bruce springsteen's exposed chest

plus the introduction of MUSIC MOOTS™

I’m sorry for the explicit email subject line. I’m trying to be eye-catching in these newsletters so you all feel like opening them. “Not clickbait!” say the kids, and so I say it as well.

A couple weeks ago I caught a couple of shows in Brooklyn in the same week: one was a young local band with over 400,000 followers on TikTok playing in a 250-cap room, and the other was Bruce Springsteen at Barclays Center. This is the true delight of New York City: you will never be able to see all of the live music that is happening in one night, at any price point, even if you clone yourself many times over. Which, that’d be cool to try to do if the tech were ever available.

We’ll talk about Bruce in this issue, and then maybe the other band in a future one, because I have some thoughts about TikTok music popularity, weird Ridgewood haircuts, etc…

AND STICK AROUND because we’ve got Music Moots™, a new feature…very mysterious…you’ll want to see it…

Bruce Springsteen / Spruce Springsteen / Bruce Beesting

Bruce, Bruce, Bruce. What can I say? I enjoy Bruce Springsteen because my dad enjoys Bruce Springsteen. Bruce, via my dad, was my introduction to the concept of bootleg concert tapes. Dad would play them in the car and I would be all, why is the sound quality different, this doesn’t sound like a normal album?

A moment of silence for the generations before us without the internet to help us source rarities, obscurities, and other -ities. Though the hunt for such items was probably frustrating, I would imagine the satisfaction of acquiring a physical recording of, say, a magical Bruce night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center from the Born in the U.S.A. tour in 1984 would be magnified many, many times from the satisfaction of what I just did (google “best bruce springsteen bootlegs”, see someone on Reddit said “Winterland 12/15/1978”, and search it on YouTube, where all three hours of it are even precisely tagged by song).

I was going to see Bruce with my husband Chris, his dad and his dad’s girlfriend. Now, I have generally mixed feelings about Barclays Center. Barclays is very tall. It has almost the same capacity as Madison Square Garden, but MSG doesn’t have Barclays’ sheer steepness. The 200 level in particular rises quite vertiginously, and navigating the stands reminds me of the first time I ever went to a domed IMAX® theater at the Boston Museum of Science and got dizzy trying to find my seat for Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. There was one incident where some friends and I went to see Lorde play Barclays in 2018 and we sat in the absolute last, tallest row, and my friend Dana and I got The Fear from being so high up.

at Lorde, going through it. behind us: the literal WALL of Barclays

Chris’s dad had gotten pretty freakin sweet seats so we didn’t have to encounter the sheer height of the Barclays Center. I’d describe the crowd at Bruce as generally 40+, with some pockets of Youth including some enthusiastic young women the row in front of us ; the crowd was also overwhelmingly white (but then again so am I), at least in comparison to the other 1980s Male Rock Icon shows I have seen: U2 on the Innocence + Experience Tour, and U2 on the Experience + Innocence Tour. The two genders.

Everyone was hollering BRUUUUUUUUUUCE. It seemed like people were really relishing the hollering. More and more members of the E Street band kept appearing out of the ether. At one point it seemed like 30 people were onstage. Bruce was wearing a black short-sleeved snap-buttoned Western (?) shirt that fit him like a glove. It had to have been a custom shirt. Like, Bruce has specs for his shirts, I just know it. I need to know the material of the shirt, which seemed to be breathable, yet structured. I teared up every time saxophonist Jake Clemons (aka nephew of legendary departed E Street Band sax player Clarence Clemons) blew his horn.

Weirdly my favorite segment of the show was not the mega hits, but the back-to-back “Kitty’s Back” and cover of “Nightshift” because damn the E Street band was kind of getting nice with it. They were grooving. When you think of the indie rock folks who’ve been biting Bruce’s flavor over the past couple of decades, they generally borrow from the hard-driving, speeding-on-the-highway-in-your-ideally-American-made-car type of Bruce. Ramblin’, Speedin’ Ol’ Chevrolet Bruce. Sleigh Bells Bruce (actual bells, not the Treats band.) I wish someone would rip off the big band bluesy jazzy style he also does.

Bruce and the E street band slayed at BIG SONG STOPPING POINTS. Moments where everyone swung their various instruments up into the air and waited for Mr. Bruce to signal to bring them back down all together at once for a final honk or strum. Half of playing live music is truly just knowing how to stop at the same time. Bruce and Co. knew. Oh they knew real good.

There was one solo moment in the middle of the show, “Last Man Standing,” which Bruce wrote when he realized he was the last living member of his first ever band, the Castiles. I got emotional because in my early 30s, I’m at a time of rapid expansion of life, in a very lucky phase. Our parents are generally staying alive, so are friends, and people are having babies, creating new people. Yet someday, if I am very lucky, I will be alive but like Bruce, saying more goodbyes than hellos. It’s easy to forget about yr mortality — as easy as it is hard to be a saint in the city — and it’s good to be reminded of it by a 72-year-old but incredibly fit man from New Jersey playing acoustic guitar. In my soft and sentimental state, I sent a slew of “I love you” texts the next day.

Bruce has been getting heat for using Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing, and I think the heat is deserved. I never wrote and recorded “Thunder Road” so it’s not for me to say, but at what point in your life are you satisfied with the profits from your artistry? For your kids? His kids seem like they have jobs. Raking in millions does seem to cause a brain disease, like your satiety mechanism gets broken and no amount of money is enough. It was a real privilege to go to the show, but when it comes to musical elders, I will always side with Robert Smith, who managed to jiggle some refunds out of TM when they tried to pickpocket his fans.

Bruce and the E Street Band played for almost three hours. It was humbling. I sat for quite a bit of it which is not my normal concert MO. But I knew I needed to save my strength for the encores. The 10th Avenue Freeze-Out of it all. Weirdly “Dancing In The Dark” was played with the house lights blazing, but I didn’t mind, because it was fun to catch the full freaky spectrum of 19,000 people dancing in a way that I would describe as “1996 Democratic National Convention.”


A BRAND NEW FEATURE IN THE MOLLY ZONE. In a world of shouting Spotify links into the void, where mix CDs aren’t really a thing anymore, where music access has never been easier but quality time for music listening keeps shrinking….I think listening to someone else’s song recommendation is like its own kind of love language. Enter Music Moots™ (not actually trademarked…yet) where I ask people I know, either on the internet or real life or maybe both, for a recommendation of a song they’re listening to lately and loving, and then then I listen to those recommendations and write a little about ‘em.

Jay Papandreas (@listenupnerds) writes the Listen Up, Nerds newsletter. We were on a podcast together where we listened to the same LMFAO song over and over for two hours. His song: “Naked Eye” by Luscious Jackson. Here’s Jay on why he rec’d it:

“Sam Valenti IV’s Herb Sundays playlist series/newsletter is something I get excited about every week. The conceit is that Valenti gets generally cool people to compile mixes of cool music and include a guilty pleasure or two. Jacques Greene’s playlist was full of music I’m already crazy about like Lush and Crushed and The Sundays, but it also included this banger. I’m guessing Greene included it as a guilty pleasure, but maybe not! It’s a hodgepodge of tropes from the ‘90s: breakbeat drums, palm-muted guitar-as-percussion, and rapped verses that sound like they’d be on a record called “Straight Outta Lilith Fair.” Daringly tacky and yet SO listenable. It’s clearly an old song and it sounds dated but there’s something about it that makes me think it’d get a lot of new life in a new context like it did in this mix. I haven’t stopped listening for a couple of weeks.”

My listener notes: okay it’s probably boring for me to lust after the freewheeling mid-1990s but “Naked Eye” seems to come from such a neat place in music history, where Alt Rock Girls were ruling the world, being femme was becoming way less of a dealbreaker for rock and roll, and everything seemed very fluid and fun. This was apparently Luscious Jackson’s only charting hit, and I looked up who they were sharing chart space with back in 1996: Garbage, the Cardigans, Veruca Salt, No Doubt.

I have already declared that summer 2023 is going to be the summer of drum and bass. I want breakbeats everywhere, raining from the sky, rattling out of cars. “Naked Eye” to me sounds like it should be played in your headphones while you take a sweaty walk to go get an ice cream cone: a soundtrack to a retro and indulgent treat. I love it! Thanks Jay!

Lamb (@sweetsweetlamb) is a true moot, we are Twitter buds. I knew we’d have a great internet friendship after a DM exchange about listening to Wet Leg while on mushrooms. Lamb’s rec is for “Show Me How” by Men I Trust:

it’s a song about unreciprocated love but what’s significant to me are the first two lines ‘show me how you care/tell me how you loved before.’ i hear it from the perspective of a lover and i’m reminded of my failed marriage, how my failure to ‘show’ contributed to its end, among another things, and reminded how that love is now in my past. but those requests also prove how there’s still time to try again.

“Show Me How” is a real chiller. Groovy bass and super-soft, 68 degree Fahrenheit vocals. I enjoyed how the unrequited love theme of the lyrics gets teased out over the course of the song. The lyric “tell me why your hands are cold” taken literally could represent a getting-to-know you romantic progress — you know, when you’re first dating someone and you start to notice all of their weird quirks? — but by the end it’s clear the cold hands indicate a lack of romantic reciprocation. Sometimes I like my love-gone-wrong songs to be LOUD and YOWLED (Alanis Morissette) or TENSELY SPUTTERED (Fiona Apple) but the utter chillness of the “Show Me How” sound is like a pleasant anesthetic for the heartache.

And I’m sorry but I gotta get a little intertextual - “Show Me How” and “Naked Eye” share a lyrical theme of vision! “I’m having visions of you,” sings Men I Trust’s Emmanuelle Proulx. “My vision started to clear,” sings Luscious Jackson’s Jill Cunniff. Vision can be literal, as in what you see with your eyeballs, or it can be a more mystical thing, possibly an illusion. Knowing the difference between the two is crucial to maintaining a grip on reality, but sometimes maintaining a grip on reality is a little overrated. Thank you Lamb!!

After the Bruce show I searched “bruce springsteen” on twitter to catch the buzz and saw this photo. I was glad that someone captured him ripping open his shirt near the end of the set, I myself was too distracted…agog, really…

I texted my dad after the show:

See you next week! Subject hint: hardcore music, sci fi novels, and Oops More Jazz…