Tag Archives: patti smith

Dancing Barefoot

When I saw these books staring back at me in a bookstore in NYC, I almost felt tears.  These books have been the reason I researched my trip to NYC so thoroughly.  Not only was I romanced by the stories of Suze Rotolo, Patti Smith and Leonard Cohen during their respective histories in NYC but their stories were my refuge from the daily grind and also creatively stimulating.

It’s funny how things show up when you least expect them.  They were a beautiful reminder of my NYC dreams from long ago.  I was so grateful for making those dreams a reality.

An Evening With Patti Smith: Massey Hall (Friday Sept 6, 2013)

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This year has been a punk rock hero year for me.  I didn’t think it would get any better after seeing Iggy and the Stooges at Riot Fest a few weeks back here in Toronto.  But nothing could have prepared me for seeing my punk rock heroine, Ms. Patti Smith, at Massey Hall on a cool Friday night in September.

Surprisingly it was not a full house at Massey Hall; I’m guessing it was the dear ticket prices that kept the aging Toronto punk rock community away.  Massey Hall was the perfect venue for Ms. Smith.  This building has some of the best acoustics in the city and aches history.  A wonderful welcome mat for our girl. Those that there were in attendance were ready for our Ms. Smith dose when she took the stage.

In full swagger dressed in her signature creased blazer, shaggy long grey black hair, a distressed white t-shirt, rad motorcycle boots, wrinkled faded denim jeans she grinned a genuine smile as she walked onto the stage.  She began her performance by singing and dancing effortlessly to songs like ‘Redondo Beach’, ‘Distant Fingers’  (for the girls and Amy Winehouse) and John Lennon’s ‘Beautiful Boy’ (Darling Boy)  (for the boys).

In between songs in true Patti form she segued between spoken word poetry moments and strutting it liked she was transported back to New York’s Punk Rock heyday with dashes of familial warmth.  She congratulated Toronto on our film festival and mentioned she had checked out Jim Jaramusch’s TIFF offering the night before.  In typical cheekiness she pumped the comment up by paying Nicole Kidman an ode in song.

I observed fellow ladies up dancing to ‘Dancing Barefoot’ perhaps like they had many times before in their own living rooms without Patti as a witness. It was earlier this year that Patti was in town showcasing her photographic works at the AGO.  Her performance that accompanied that shown sold out in seconds and left many disappointed.  This show was making up for that.

Next up was ‘Psychotic Reaction’ which was sung with so much sexy venom that it left us wondering what was behind the smirk in her performance.  After the song, she told the audience many had asked her what punk rock meant to her during those CBGB years.    ‘Psychotic Reaction is my punk rock,’ she stated giddily.

By the time Springsteen’s ‘Because The Night’ rolled out the crowd was warmed up and ready for sing-along.  Full of melancholy she dedicated it to her late husband Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith.  In that moment, I had a flashback of reading her book ‘Just Kids’ in bed at home and remembering the honour she paid to her relationships with men during life.  Sam Shephard being just another one of them (man, he’s a dreamboat).  Patti is a class act.

She continued on to bring us gorgeous versions of ‘Birdland’, ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’ , ‘Land/Gloria’, ‘Banga’,’ My Blakean Year’,’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger’,’ Pissing in a River’, ‘Break It Up’ and ‘We Three’.  There were continuous heckling moments from concert goers between songs begging her to play tunes from her catalogue.  At one point I observed Patti looking vulnerable as she listened closely to their demands.  But she wasn’t bien sur.  She was doing her own thing on her own terms as per usual.  A fellow concert goer shouted ‘let her sing what she wants’ and she did.  Punk rock.

Not at all too cool to dance and socialize amongst her people she took moments to come out onto the floor to dance with the audience, give a young boy sitting in the front row her guitar pick and then invite more guests onto the stage to play guitar, dance and sing.  We were family.  You can’t pretend that kinda joy as it beamed from her face.   For a normally reserved Toronto crowd, they were brought to their feet.

As the show was in its last minutes, there were mentions of God, Syria, whilst spitting onto Massey Hall’s stage once shared, as Patti mentioned, with the likes of Maria Callas.  ‘This is not a movie, this is real life’ she screamed.  That’s when the strings of her guitar were pulled in full performance art fashion.  ‘Katniss Everdeen’ was even mentioned.  Who knew our girl Patti knew of The Hunger Games?

A living punk rock heroine?  Indeed and just as antiestablishment.  She blessed and dumped rose petals onto the head’s of her worshipping fans before she quietly said goodbye and left just as quickly as she came two hours before.


Patti Smith: ‘Camera Solo’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario (February 9, 2013 – May 19, 2013)

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It’s exciting to see that the AGO is trying its best to encourage a younger crowd into its space while also ensuring their more dedicated members are just as welcome.  With the success of 1st Thursday’s (an event night featuring art, artists, live music, food, drinks and you on the first Thursday of each month) – the AGO certainly has their finger on the pulse of hipsterdom while generating a buzz towards a new generation of gallery goers. 

Enter Patti Smith.  The 66 year old Queen of poetry, spoken word, punk rock, antiestablishment by way of Chicago.  A perfect match of the vintage vs. au courant.

This winter the AGO offers a glimpse into the world of legendary musician and artist Patti Smith through an intimate exhibition featuring photographs, personal objects, and a short film. Patti Smith: Camera Solo provides a rare opportunity to experience a different side of this rock icon – best known for her profound influence on the nascent punk rock scene in the late 1970s and 80s – through her poetic expression in the visual arts.

A first for a gallery in Canada, this exhibition highlights the continual connections between Smith’s photography and her interest in poetry and literature.  The ghost of Walt Whitman, Frida Kahlo and Robert Mapplethorpe’s haunt this exhibit.  For more than four decades, she has documented sights and spaces infused with personal significance.   One cannot help but get lost in the beauty of each image and marvel how at times bleak images are married together in its solitude. 

The 75 works, a number of its 70 photographs from local collectors include of vintage Polaroid camera, presented as gelatin silver prints, alongside personal objects.  They are dreamy, hypnotic and chock full of emotion.  At times I felt like I was wafting through a My Bloody Valentine vs. Mazzy Star musical loop.  The images are stopped in time in places such as Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris in 2008, Europe and the United States.

The AGO is also speaking ‘the kids’ language by popping up a toll-free telephone in front of every installation that you can dial to hear a brief synopsis of each piece.  This plays into a nice juxtaposition to Smith’s use of a vintage Polaroid Land 250 and Gelatin Silver Print processing tools used to fashion her art. 

The exhibition also features Equation Daumal, a film directed by Patti Smith and shot by Jem Cohen on 16mm and super 8 film.  You can watch the film in church pews that were assembled to give a place of worship or pay respect as one would during a funeral.

A quote in Patti’s word on an installation wall read “I get pleasure out of having their things and sometimes photographing them. I’ve been like this since I was young. It’s part of who I am.”  For Patti it’s about paying these pieces gratitude and bringing significance to her daily life.  For you and I – perhaps the same motif.  Do we not dwell on the same album covers, books, jewellery pieces or even mementos from past loves and family for moments of pleasure and joy? 

Smith and her band are to perform two shows, called An Evening of Words and Song with Patti Smith, in the AGO’s Walker Court on March 7, 2013  as part of the March lineup for the AGO’s 1st Thursdays.  Which as you can imagine sold out immediately.  Looking at the Facebook and Twitter fury of the unavailability of tickets selling out in a matter of minutes, the AGO’s website allegedly being ill-equipped to handle the pandemonium of interest – the feedback was intense and was not only voiced by ‘Just Kids’.  Since it is now too late to catch  her performances at the AGO – this exhibit is a perfect way to enjoy a winter day inside with Patti.

This exhibition was organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut.