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FUN A DAY 2019 #23: Lanie

I’d observed that in most or at least many bands, there was that one (1) member who was the true, designated networker, the one who was both personable and practical, who was able to hang out, make f more...

I’d observed that in most or at least many bands, there was that one (1) member who was the true, designated networker, the one who was both personable and practical, who was able to hang out, make friends, and then continually alchemize all the hours spent after her set chatting and laughing and partying with everyone else there into actual goodwill, more shows, and something resembling real success. Lanie, a slightly gangly, bespectacled, left-handed, multi-instrumentalist with a partially shaved head and asymmetrical haircut that I’d met while volunteering at a girls’ rock camp, seemed to be that person in every band she was in, and I’d seen her play with no less than eight bands over the course of eleven years, three of which turned out to be long term main projects, that went on to tour nationally and even internationally, in part because of her ability to socialize, and to connect the people around her.
The remarkable thing about her conviviality was that it felt natural and genuine, there was nothing pushy or suspicious or unctuous about her. After several years, I decided that this was because it was natural and genuine, which is to say that her magnanimity was natural and genuine. She really didn’t care what you were wearing or how long you’d been there or what your record collection looked like: if you were at the show (or gallery, or house party, or volunteer orientation, or whatever), you deserved to be there. She greeted you with this joyous, goofy but careful enthusiasm, and you got the sense that she couldn’t imagine anything other than being this unbelievably chill, welcoming person, that it had never occurred to her to be a jerk, or to laugh or look down at people from her position. Like she had no idea how cold or even just aloof the kids in her subsection of the underground could be.
She did know of course, but I had this hunch that she hadn’t really experienced much of that firsthand, for various reasons. She’d been studying music since middle school, and she’d started playing in bands (and thusly, accruing experience as well as that critical social capital) while she was still in high school. She was very, very good at her primary instrument, which happened to be the drums (a rarity on the scene, competent, capable drummers always seem to be in incredibly high demand), and she’d founded a well-loved pop punk band while still living in Long Island, that had gained national notoriety and the support of guys with diy record labels who were in bands like Bomb the Music Industry! and Screeching Weasel. She knew how things worked, and being more extroverted and much better adjusted than most of the kids I knew, she was capable of not taking anything about it too personally. She was also white, and from a very white suburban neighborhood with a high median family income, where she’d met other girls who were reading zines and listening to the Kill Rock Stars catalogue and learning instruments so they could start their own bands. The bass player of said beloved pop punk band was a member of a young feminist collective that consisted of fellow gay girl musicians, artists, writers, and activists, and so Lanie had always had access to all kinds of validation, had always had friends who got what she was doing. It would have been easy to be terribly jealous of her if she hadn’t been as absurdly cool about it as she was.
For as cool as she was, she had a narrow but detectable cynical streak, a healthy skepticism toward ‘the scene,’ and a maybe too healthy sense of perspective about all of it. She seemed to love playing, and to take working with her friends and bandmates seriously, but she knew better than to invest too heavily in the whole diy/punk apparatus, and understood that there was a world beyond the basements and squats and dive bars and house parties where she spent so much of her free time. When one of her later bands booked tour dates in Australia, she told us that her parents, delighted, had said, “So it’s going well then? You’re starting to get somewhere with this?!” (because of course, of fvcking course Lanie had been blessed with a pair of happy, loving, attentive parents) and that Lanie had told them, “Nah, we’re playing basements, just, now they’re in Australia.” She was compulsively humble, and able to question what she was doing, and the excessive amounts of time and energy that were required to make a band function, and why we did any of the weird punk shit we did without falling apart or taking it out on anyone else. So, she did.
But you wouldn’t know it when you were hanging out with her. She was always ‘on’ at shows, so to speak, she made it look effortless, because it kind of was, for her. She was always happy to see you, always acted like she was on tour somewhere on the other side of the country, and that it was an awesome and miraculous coincidence that you were on the other side of the country too, and that you’d come out and caught her set. She would grin broadly and unabashedly when she saw you, she’d laugh and she’d shout at you, showing all of her huge white teeth, and clap you on the back with her skinny, often bare arms (she wore a lot of muscle shirts, and they worked for her), and ask how the hell you were. It could have been overwhelming, but somehow, it put you at ease, to a degree she didn’t seem to realize. You’d spend the whole evening hanging out, chatting idly with her and her other friends and bandmates that you knew, catching up on things, and you’d crack your jokes about how we’re all just trying to get through this administration, and cackle bitterly about the latest assault or abuse allegations that had been made about some a guy in a band that you’d both listened to since seventh grade, or a punk that she inevitably had met and maybe even played with, and of course you’d been at that show, because the scene is nothing if not maddening in how small it is, how insular it is, what a circle jerk all of it can be at its worst.
It never felt like that when you were with Lanie, though, even when your conversation skirted just how much a lot of it sucked, and how tedious it felt, and how it could be a challenge to sustain your zeal for all of this. You both knew that at its core, it was worth something, that’s why you were both there. Yeah, sure, being in bands, writing about them, or even just supporting them, standing through shows when the world was slowly unravelling, it could feel and even be thankless, it was so much work, disguised as leisure. But when you were talking to Lanie, and she smiled and you laughed together about something, you forgot about it. When you were with Lanie, it stopped feeling like work, and for a moment, it felt as good as it had when you first started going to see her and her friends’ bands.
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