I have never been a girl in a band, although I was once married to a man in a band, and spent many evenings sitting at a bar at 2 am with the other band spouses waiting for the band to take the stage. I was their occasional studio accordion player and co-wrote songs like ‘How Does it Feel to Be Neil’ (this was a song about my own dad, who is a very interesting guy).
I do stand on stage now, sometimes, but my audience isn’t a mosh pit. It is a room full of Emergency Room doctors or pharmacists. What Kim says about performing was fascinating to me:
Greil Marcus says, “people pay money to see others believe in themselves.” Meaning, the more chance you can fall down in public, the more value the culture places on what you do.
Kim says that performing is fearless. Regarding public speaking, I always say there’s a fine line between being stupid and brave. I try to err on the brave side of things but don’t always succeed. But yes, the awe bestowed on people who step on a stage is due to that risk that we might fail in an epic, very public way. This is everybody’s worst nightmare (and in fact, I have my own recurring nightmare that I’ve forgotten my speaking notes at an important presentation, and that I can’t remember what I wanted to say). Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of a group of strangers is a high risk, high reward thing to do for a living.
I did glean one insight about my son from the book. He’s a boy who left home at age 18 and then moved even farther from home, thousands of miles away, two years later.
Kim Gordon says: I couldn’t find out who I really was until I left LA and my family. Until that day arrived, I was just waiting, suspended. Families are like little villages. You know where everything is, you know how everything works, your identity is fixed, and you really can’t leave or connect with anything or anybody outside, until you are physically no longer there.
To me, this says to those hanging onto your adult children, it is time to let them go. It will be the most painful thing you have ever done and it doesn’t mean you will stop being a parent. But, as the inspirational saying says, you’ve given them roots and now it is time to grant them their wings so they can fly.
I stopped writing book reviews many years ago. (Here’s a real review). I will say that Girl in a Band is a factual and chronological book. I was craving to discover how it felt to be a girl in a band, but I didn’t ever find out. I learned the steps it takes to become a successful band, and Kim did provide passionate descriptions of Kurt Cobain and the sad break up with her husband. But it was as if she was still in the thick of things with the dissolving of both her band and her marriage, and she hadn’t been given the space yet to reflect. Perhaps her next book will provide those insights. In the meantime, if you are a girl in a band, or a Sonic Youth fan, you will like this book. For the rest of us, I’d say garnering one or two nuggets from any writing, as I did, is reason enough to pick up a book and just read.