It was a pleasure to burn.
Imagine this: The high priestess of no wave is dressed in black from her boots to her bangs. She walks into a parlor room filled with oil paintings of eerie, otherworldly women (Caitlin Karolczak’s “Imitations of Mortality,” on display until September 4) and she’s squeezing people on the shoulder, shaking hands, greeting strangers as old friends while she walks down the aisle toward the makeshift stage. She takes her place beside noise rock bassist – and co host of her podcast – Tim Dahl. The lights dim and like a needle drop the feeling of congeniality is supplanted by a sense of the vicious.
Lydia wants to talk about fucking. She wants to talk about cunts. She wants to talk about death, isolation, disaster, and rich old white men in suits and God and blood and and and. She drinks wine and speaks with the tiniest slur but she assures us she’s not drunk.
What she is is prolific.
The Lydia we see tonight is perched somewhere between her spoken word work – she flirts between wondering what her younger lovers think of her to instructing the audience on how to break a man’s dick in half – and her more recent self-empowerment lectures, of which this writer has not yet had the pleasure to attend. After scrolling through her mind’s eye for all the righteous fury that accompanies three decades as principal witness to the Tyranny of Bullshit, she takes a second and the viciousness dissipates – she’s not your vengeful lover or the devil on your shoulder, she’s back to playing your mother and your friend. What preoccupies Lydia, right before our hour with her is up, is time. It’s God. After the storm, this is what she wants to leave us with: Things are going to be okay. That’s what time does, it erodes the past like tide-rinsed stones. If anyone can assure this, it’s her.
She leaves us when there are no more pages for her to turn, and without another word she glides down the aisle toward the door, no friendly caresses this time. She was here, she raised hell, and she left when the day’s fight was done.
Tim Dahl stays onstage for a while after she’s gone, emitting dog howls and sobs and crunching gears from a barrage of pedals, conjuring Lydia from the hole she just left in the room. The final lingering moments are a seance – and the setting is perfect. The mournful paintings and the people in black, the pentagrams and blood roses and all the ghosts Lydia just let loose fill up the room until Tim, too, has had enough. There’s nothing more to wrench from the air, and it’s time to go home.
Did the evening have a point? Perhaps not in the traditional sense. Lydia isn’t Roger Daltrey, you’re not here to pretend alongside her that it’s 35 years ago. And she’s not trying to shock you, either, though the uninitiated might be shocked anyway. It’s hard to say if she’s even trying to give you wisdom, or a new experience, or force you into an understanding you didn’t possess when you entered the room.
After all the projects under her belt and hyphens in her resume, Lydia art does more than convey a meaning you can wrap up and take home with you – it’s an act of compulsion. She doesn’t regret, she is not repentant, but she does have a ritual desire to expel the darkness and extol the light that’s more than therapy, it’s more than a confessional. Lydia does not need a doctor or a priest. You do.
She just needs you to shut up and listen.