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FUN A DAY 2019 #5: Tatsuko

She was small, five feet six inches and with a slim, seemingly curve-less body, but she knew how to look intimidating. She’d learned all about the power of performance and projecting a front at the s more...

She was small, five feet six inches and with a slim, seemingly curve-less body, but she knew how to look intimidating. She’d learned all about the power of performance and projecting a front at the shows she’d attended as a teenager, done it herself at the shows she’d later played, honing both her drumming and personal style while touring up and down the East Coast with her first band. When the all-girl hardcore band that she fronted despite overwhelming stage fright made it to Europe, and then to Australia and Japan, it finally began to sink in that maybe this was more than a performance. Sure, a lot of it was sort of superficial: her thick black hair; the dramatic acrylic nails, winged liner, pomade brows, and black lipstick; the still growing collection of thrifted denim and leather jackets and combat boots. But by her late twenties, she had to admit that she had built something, and that her choices and work had managed to amount to something.
She was both a skilled drummer and a captivating frontwoman, good at faking confidence, and at yelling at the audience when things got too rowdy. She was even better at chatting with the girls who visited the merch table after their sets. When they asked for advice, she was gracious, if cool, and firm with them: “You can do this, too. It’s a lot of work, but if it’s something you think you want? Try it. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t, or like you shouldn’t.” She traded names and numbers and email addresses with a surprising number of girls, so she could keep talking to them, and recommend local instrument instructors and guitar stores and websites and venues from her personal network. She hadn’t expected to enjoy this aspect of being in a band as much as she did; when she wasn’t visiting with her family or hanging out with her bandmates or one of her few friends, she preferred to be left alone. She wasn’t shy or anxious, she simply wasn’t very social, and wasn’t terribly warm or outwardly affectionate, even in private, even with the men and women she dated. Networking over her phone or computer was perfect for her in that sense, it was another thing that made being in a band feel like a truly worthy pursuit. Shows felt silly, and touring could feel absurd, but being with her bandmates, whether they were rehearsing, recording, or traveling together, making them laugh so hard that they doubled over with strings of her famous deadpan one-liners: all of that was real. So was being kind to the people who listened to them, and respecting the profane (un?)sanctity of the punk show.
She went to her first show at fifteen, in the middle of a long summer of feeling restless and lonely, and like she was impossibly odd but also egregiously average, despite her parents’ efforts. She went with her older brother, and was awestruck by the chaotic energy and unruly ugliness of all of it, of the warehouse space, of the kids there, of their hair and clothes. She tried not to stare, but wandered around, looking at everything and everyone, until she spotted another girl who looked like her, looked like she must be East Asian, possibly even Japanese. The girl wore a sleeveless black denim vest over a white tee shirt, black shorts, black platform sneakers, and red lipstick, and her hair was styled into a high ponytail. She grinned, and she kissed the boy (an Anglo) she was standing with. Tatsuko rolled her eyes, slightly irritated by this, until she looked at them again and realized that the boy was actually a girl, who had short hair and wore loose-fitting, androgynous-looking clothes. Tatsuko’s breath had caught in her chest, though she didn’t know why.
It wasn’t like a cheesy epiphany or sudden overwhelming feeling of belonging; she’d been an especially pessimistic and cynical teenage girl, and she knew that it didn’t work that way. But she did feel a crackling energy, a charge she’d been trying so hard to feel for what felt like ever (real time: since the last time she and her mother had played the drums together, when she was around 9). Her mother had encouraged her and her brother to be ‘arty weirdos,’ had played with them, made joyful noise with them, taken them to museums and cultural festivals, pushed them to try dance and acting and drawing classes, had even taken drum lessons herself when her children were small, both to work through her own anger over her relatively joyless upbringing, and model enthusiastically taking lessons and practicing for her kids. Tatsuko had gleefully shouted and jumped up and down and whacked her mother’s floor toms as a child, while her mom cheered and clapped along, and no class or school art project had felt anywhere near as good as that had. But at that first show, feeling that good somehow felt possible.
So Tatsuko started going to shows regularly, and got into the habit of bringing a camera, not so she could photograph the bands, but so she could documents the outfits worn by the toughest looking girls, who were always her favorites. Shortly thereafter, she began to take photographs of herself, of her first attempts to look like those girls in bands. She realized that she had this strange feeling of not knowing what she looked like, and for a while, self-portraiture became her main preoccupation. She kept up with it, learning how to use various kinds of cameras, even after she committed herself to drum lessons, and then to her bands. It took many years, photographs, shows, and a 20 hour flight to Melbourne, but that sensation of not knowing what she looked like had ebbed away, finally.

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7 tracks
  • 22min
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  • One year ago