In which Margaret & Sophie boss the Internet with impeccable discernment & insouciant charm. Cultural recommendations & commentary every Friday evening.

Saturday, June 16, 2018 

Raccoon Naps & Tunes for All Time

Hi friends. This week has left your Dames feeling like we’ve accidentally stress-scaled 23 stories of a 25 story building, and need to take a quick nap here on your window ledge.

We know just how you feel, button.

Hopefully, when we regain our energy and make it to the top (er… end of this newsletter) someone will be waiting to feed us soft, delicious cat food (or its human equivalent), with or without an appropriately sized cage.

Today, we are dealing with some of our emotional exhaustion by throwing the money we get from our blessed paying subscribers at supplies for immigrant children separated from their parents and held in detention camps by our unrelentingly evil government. Please join us-- as your budgets allow-- and call your senators to encourage them to support S.3036, the Keep Families Together Act.


UPCOMING: Live Dames Hangout Opportunity for Mid-Atlantic Area Dames Nationals!!!!

The crowds, predictably going wild.

Alert, alert, alert, Philadelphia-and-surrounding area Dames Nationals! Dame Margaret’s television podcast Appointment Television and their brother podcast Overdue are both participating in the Philadelphia Podcast Festival next weekend, and We Your Dames will both be fabulously present at said event! Appointment Television’s live show (wherein we’ll discuss TV and travel, and also pitch a variety of Philadelphia-set TV shows we think should exist)  will be at 12 o’clock on Saturday the 23rd at the Philly Improv Theater, and Overdue’s live show (on Redwall, Brian Jacques’s classic adventure story about… vaguely medival mice) will follow at the same location at 1:30. Afterward, we will all go to a nearby watering hole, grab drinks, and gab. So, if you’d like to hob nob with Us Your Dames, grab tickets, and we’ll see you a week from Saturday!!!!  


Dame Margaret’s New Music, New Crushes, and New Musical Crushes

Dame Margaret’s newest obsession: Broadway actor Katrina Lenk

I mean, come on. Like you’re not equally here for this noise.


Dame Sophie: Still Just Wild About Larry & Adam & Bono & The Edge

So last night, my husband & I went to see U2 with some friends on their Innocence + Experience Tour. I was super-psyched, but also a little leery? Partly, it’s that I don’t allow myself to look forward too much to events I might have to bail on due to my chronic migraines, and partly it’s that last year’s experience at their Joshua Tree anniversary tour was so magnificent that I felt nothing could top it.

I was right and I was wrong. Last night’s show was a totally different thing in a bunch of ways: they’re not playing any Joshua Tree songs on this tour (who could blame them?), they’re using a huge, elaborate, technically dazzling augmented reality & animation setup on the bridge connecting their A and B stages, and they’re deep in a period of reflection on their back-catalogue, weaving songs from throughout their career into a single narrative.

I was ready to roll my eyes more than a little bit (with love!) at the augmented reality stuff: it’s just not my thing, and I was worried that it would detract from the point of the show, which, surely, is the songs & the performance. I should have known better, because they did a great job of using the technology to highlight lyrical & thematic leitmotifs, to poke a bit of fun at themselves, and to bridge the elements of their set that moved them through time (the early 1960s to the present) and space (between their A & B stages). It was masterful and super-effective. Their stripped-down performance of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was especially moving -- they highlighted a specific trio of car bombings in central Dublin in 1974, and used it to recall the names of the 23 people who died, as well as to hold up a mirror to an audience who need to see what some of the long-term consequences of our government’s inhumane immigration policies could be.

Their encore performance of One was a similarly beautiful bit of cultural alchemy: here’s a very sad breakup song that they’re always able to transform into a song about what each of us owes our fellow human beings. It’s better than a neat trick, it’s a call to arms that functions as a hymn, which is what they’ve always been best at. We get to carry each other. It’s an obligation and a privilege. If you’re looking for ways to do that, #DamesPal Jasmine Guillory has rounded up some top-notch suggestions in the latest issue of her wonderful newsletter.

Tonight, I’m going to see Harry Styles (yes, concerts on two days in a row, like I’m some kind of twenty-something! Don’t worry, I disco-napped and have my migraine meds with me, just in case!), so I’m going to leave you with a slightly updated version of the piece I wrote last year about these steady-rocking Dubliners. New links woven in at the very end, if that’s your cup of tea.

How I Fell Back In Love With U2 (Maybe U Will, 2?), by Dame Sophie, Happily Re-Ensconced in the Bosom of Her Talented Irish Sons

tenor.gifAre you two serious right now?

Like a lot of people who listened to the radio and bought music in the 80s & 90s, I loved U2, and then I really, really didn’t. They hit their popularity stride right when I was very ready to be swept up in their dramatic, political fervor. I plunked down my babysitting money for a big, moody-ass Joshua Tree poster to put on my bedroom wall, I got a cute boy to dub copies of War and The Unforgettable Fire for me, and then I bought myself a subscription to Rolling Stone so I could obsessively reread all of their U2 coverage, especially The Edge’s interview about his musical influences. (As I had been a George girl, so I was immediately & forever remain an Edge girl.)

I saved up my babysitting money to see them on the ZooTV tour the week before my senior year of high school started - my friends & I got seats on the field! We were so psyched! And then we loved Zooropa, too! Everything was so great! And then I went to see them on the Popmart tour, and I just didn’t like it. How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was...fine, I guess? Obviously, I bought a copy, but the thrill was gone. And so a solid 15 years or so passed. U2 continued to tour, and they did that Spider-man musical (???? I can’t even link to it), and Bono had that horrible bike accident, and then they continued to tour some more, and I just thought, with a sad sigh, “well, we’ll always have Paris.” I tweeted snottily about it back in 2013, saying weeeeee were never getting back together, but still sometimes like to make out.  

But then they announced The Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour and all my “ugh, they haven’t done anything interesting since 1993” cynicism was washed clean away. U2 was touring my gateway album! They were going to play it in full! The 12 year-old who played & rewound and played & rewound her copy of The Joshua Tree was beside herself with giddy anticipation.

My husband & I attended their show in Philadelphia & let me tell you, it was a religious experience. I started crying the second I heard their walk-on music (“The Whole of the Moon”, by the Waterboys, just take me now, Lord), and didn’t stop for a solid 20 minutes, and that was before they even started playing a single note from The Joshua Tree. I was taken directly back to the glories of ZooTV, and better still, everything was tempered & strengthened & given new meaning by my memories of all those good old times and even by the terrible awareness that as a people, we US folk are in as much of a political and cultural pickle as we were in the 1980s. It was beautiful and energizing, and sad and enraging all at once. I loved every minute.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 6.54.59 AM.pngI can’t remember the last time I was this delighted to be so very wrong.

If you’re feeling susceptible to being swept up (or swept back up) into a love for this band of brothers, here are some of my current favorite things & some places to go next.

  • Ok, so first of all, these four dudes - working together since they were scrappy teens in the mid-70s - all still love each other and are having the best time together on this tour. One of many things I cried about at the show we saw was the evident joy in their faces as they played together. They were having so much fun making sure we all had so much fun with them. Their delight in each other was every bit as infectious as their beautiful music. That fun was really moving. 41 years into this enterprise, they don’t need to tour. They don’t need to do anything they’re not 100% into doing. They love it, so they do it, and I’ve been very happy to be swept up by and into that joy.

  • Specifically, it seems very clear that Bono and The Edge are the OG Harry & Niall. The evidence:

This is not another 1D rant, promise (OR IS IT?)

  • I mean. QED, friends. There’s obviously some kind of non-murder-based horcrux use in play here. I could just rest my case, but the historically-minded Tumblr-based fan Mars has this excellent summary of Bono & The Edge’s 41-year friendship and creative partnership. If you haven’t yet watched Sing Street, the film they acted as musical advisors on, oh, do! It’s a charming portrait of friendship and youthful artistry and first love, and the songs are so, so good. Anyway, the lifelong partnership between Bono & The Edge is a homoerotically-charged friendship & artistic collaboration of the highest order and I am 100% here for it. Relatedly, I now have a high quality 5x7 of this image framed in my house right now. The photographer is happy to sell you a copy, too, and has a new set of photos available from the current tour, as well.

  • People (myself included, on more than one occasion) like to ding U2 for being blowhardishly, sometimes clumsily political. And yeah, sorry, guys, rhetorical subtlety is not really your long suit. But when I was 12, I didn’t know anything about apartheid, or the repressive political regimes in Argentina and Chile, or the troubles in Northern Ireland. I barely knew anything about Martin Luther King, Jr. You know what’s a very effective inducement to start following world news? Getting great, catchy songs about geopolitics stuck in your head. This nerd started reading the international section of the newspaper and joined Amnesty International thanks to U2. They had zero fucks to give about how uncool it was to write & sing those songs, and that’s...kind of cool, actually.

  • E*MO*TIONs: for my money, nobody delivers a heartbreaking, impressionistic tone poem like Bono. Seriously, when was the last time you saw their Live Aid performance of “Bad”? Give yourself the gift of a rewatch of this superlatively earnest jam about heroin addiction (and please look beyond the mullet, I beg you). The Edge is a very close second in this category, as in the case of his spare, bleak as hell Love Is Blindness and Running To Stand Still(oh, is that what it feels like to have your heart ripped out of your chest so delicately that you think it feels good while it’s happening? Ok, great, good to know.) (Avert your eyes from Mario Batali in these clips; I really wish he weren’t there.)

  • When Achtung Baby first came out, my friends & I drove around and around and around in our parents’ cars, debating the lyrics, trying to understand how U2 got from the hopeful expansiveness of “Where The Streets Have No Name” to the desperate, soul-crushing loneliness of “Love Is Blindness”. (TL;DR: the Edge’s divorce is how.) If podcasting had been a thing back then, we would have started one. Happily, here in the present, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks binge-listening to some U2-y podcasts, all brought to my attention by lovely DamesPal & Guest Editor Syazwina Saw. The best is this episode of Talking Like a Jerk, in which hosts Lindsay Hogan & Jason Mogavero get all the 100% accurate, furious critiques of the band out of the way at the top so they can then unabashedly praise what’s still so great about them. The silliest is U Talkin’ U2 To Me?, hosted by comedy fellows Adam Scott & Scott Aukerman. [2018 update: they’ve moved on to dissecting R.E.M.’s catalogue, but scroll back for U2!] These episodes are long, and digressive, and did I mention silly? Very, very silly. And addictive: I’ve already burned through the whole series. I recommend starting with their Rattle & Hum episode, though the episode where they actually interview the band is also a classic. Again: FUN.

  • Charming band banter is all my joy, and the YouTube has furnished a trove of such delights, including A day in the life of The Edge (in which Bono wakes Edge up way too early and then suffers the consequences when his night owl bestie is ready to stay up til the very, very wee hours following their show in Miami), this lovely performance & interview on Irish TV’s The Late Late Show, all four of the lads on Graham Norton, and of course, this video for “Electrical Storm”, in which Larry Mullen, Jr. falls in love with a mermaid played by Samantha Morton. I mean, who wouldn’t?

  • Ride or Die: these men care about each other so much, something Adam Clayton highlighted in his acceptance speech when he was given the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award from the MusiCares Foundation last month. “We have a pact with each other. In our band, no one will be a casualty. We all come home or none of us come home. No one will be left behind. Thank you for honoring that promise and letting me be in your band.” My emotions! Healthy masculinity is a nutritional supplement for me.

  • In other award news, Yamaha recently bestowed their lifetime achievement award on Larry Mullen, Jr. and made a lovely short film about him to celebrate. Mazels!

  • It’s easy to rattle off a list of contemporary rock acts who owe a sonic debt to U2 - the Killers, Airborne Toxic Event (remember them?), Arcade Fire, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay and more - but what about country? This very week, Rolling Stone published a fascinating, in-depth piece about U2’s love for country music, their 90s work with Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Willie Nelson, and their influence on contemporary country. It’s so good!  

  • Last summer, music critic Caryn Rose undertook a massive project: ranking all of U2’s songs from worst to best. My personal favorite is in there at #3, but I can’t argue with #1, which still gives me chills, puts a lump in my throat, and makes me sing along with total joy, every single time.

  • Jon Caramanica & Jon Pareles hit a slightly-uncomfortable-for-me nail on the head last fall on the NYT Popcast when they declared U2 a praise band. I know it’s true, I’m making my peace with it, and also this episode is excellent all the way around.


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In which Margaret & Sophie boss the Internet with impeccable discernment & insouciant charm. Cultural recommendations & commentary every Friday evening.