In 2007, i signed to beggars banquet records. i was living in dallas, texas in my childhood bedroom at the time, which i had fashioned into a makeshift studio in order to record some of what would end up being my debut album “marry me.”
the first days of touring my own songs and as “st. vincent” are very vivid. in early 2007, in anticipation of the release of my record, my (much beloved) agent put me on the road as solo support for jolie holland and midlake. he saw potential in me, but rightfully, thought i needed to get my live act together. get comfortable playing for people. get road-tested. like most of the rest of my career, it was a trial by earth, wind, and fire.
i was performing solo; just my voice, a guitar through an array of effects pedals, a “stomp board” — a homemade device i made out of a piece of plywood and a contact microphone that i ran through a bass EQ pedal, and a keyboard. i thought the keyboard looked unmysterious on it’s own, so i designed a lighted wooden enclosure to go around it. my brother-in-law helped me build it in his garage. it weighed a gazillion pounds and gave me splinters to carry, and i don’t think anyone was under any illusion that there was anything but a keyboard inside it. neither the first nor the last in a series of hilariously ill-fated ideas.
January 2007, i borrowed my father’s station wagon and drove 12 hours from dallas to frozen lincoln, nebraska to open for jolie holland (what a voice) at a half-full 150 capacity carpeted club. i believe the compensation was $250/gig but it could have been as much as $500 — more $ than i’d ever seen for a gig for sure and guaranteed, no less! in my memory, this midwestern jolie tour dovetailed right into opening the midlake tour. they were out in support of their excellent record, “the trials of van occupanther” and were the sweetest good texas boys you could ever hope to meet. the drummer of midlake, mackenzie smith, would later prove to be a great collaborator, playing on actor, strange mercy, and st. vincent.
On this tour, i’d enlisted my dear friend, jamil, to come and sell merch and help do the long drives. we’d just played a show in detroit and while we’d been inside, a blizzard had swept through and covered the stationwagon in snow and ice. it was treacherous. jamil, who always had some incredible hustle going, hired a homeless man named larry to dig the stationwagon out of the snow. (in college, he had a gold lexus, stripped it of the good parts, and resold it. when i asked if he was sad to see it go, he said, “girl, they think they bought a lexus but they bought a corolla.”) i’ll never forget driving out of bombed out-detroit, apocalyptic at 1 AM. interstate 94 tense and quiet, jamil trying to make sure we didn’t crash or stall on the icy road.
I have eaten years of veggie subway sandwiches on highways 10-90, stayed at a super 8 motel behind a kansas federal prison, peed in cups in dressing rooms when there was no bathroom, gotten eaten alive by bedbugs at a cincinnati days inn. i would not trade a single highway or city or moment or person i met for anything. i have loved it all.
I’m very grateful to have received this grammy. thank you to my producer john congleton, thank you family, thank you friends, thank you to all the incredible musicians involved, thank you managers and agents and publishers and labels and publicists and everyone who works hard at their jobs. and thank you guys. thanks for everything.
It’s thunderstorming in Barcelona, so Annie Clark – who performs as St. Vincent and who “really, really, really” wants to go to the beach – is forced to make other plans. “You visit a lot of museums and aquariums when you’re on tour,” she says, crossing the rain-slicked plaza of the Museu Blau, a natural-history museum overlooking a stretch of the Mediterranean that’s currently the same desolate gray shade as the sky. “I watch a lot of Sex and the City on tour, too,” she adds. “Not that I watch it watch it, but it’s on TBS, so it’s always fucking on.” Clark is all black from the neck down – suede ankle boots, skinny jeans, scoop-neck tee, biker jacket – and polychromatic up top, with huge green eyes and stralavender-blond curls escaping from a cobalt-colored hat, its brim ample enough to keep her cheeks dry. The Blau resembles a vast slab of soil that someone dyed blue, stabbed with shards of broken terrarium and set upon a pedestal. Clark suggested that we come here, but she is unfamiliar with the place. “What kind of museum is this?” she asks. “Oh. OK.” She says she never really went through a science-buff period: “I had a brief shark obsession, but didn’t everybody?”
What about her music, dude?
Inside the permanent exhibit, contemplating some trilobite fossils, Clark says, “It’s crazy to think about the tiny fraction of time that we’ve been on the planet.” She revises that statement: “That we’ve been a pox on it.” We head into a gallery marked Evolución, where a primate skeleton stands beside that of an early man. “I went to the Creation Museum, in Kentucky,” Clark says. She identifies as a “reformed” Catholic and intended the visit as a lark: “I thought it would be a fun adventure, but it kind of darked me out. They tell you the dinosaurs died in the flood.”
One of Clark’s preoccupations on St. Vincent is the persuasive power of cult leaders and how such figures parallel pop performers. “It’s kind of the flip side of the same coin,” she says. Pushing her sound in a more danceable direction, she says, represented an attempt to “democratize” her concerts: If people didn’t move, performances would be incomplete. For the tour, she hired the choreographer Annie-B Parson, who developed a set of mechanistic movements for Clark and her band to perform on cue, in a winking acknowledgment of the artifice that goes into seemingly spontaneous performances. (It’s also, of course, a nice bit of stagecraft.)
What about her music, dude?
Clark moves on to regard a deep-sea spider crab, preserved in a jar. “The thing that really depressed me about the Creation Museum is that the tickets aren’t cheap,” she says. “They’re, like, $25, and yet there were buses pulling up from all over, full of these people who didn’t look like they had $25 just lying around. It seemed predatory to me.” She frowns. “Why would you want to control people like that? Would you even want to? I’ve thought about it a lot, and I wouldn’t. To have people live in this weird little art world you’ve created? Fine. But to make them believe some bullshit and build their lives around it? Unh-unh.”
Religion hangs over St. Vincent’s lyrics, where she pits salvation against desire and divine fervor against earthly love. Its role in her life is similarly spectral. Clark’s grandmother baptized her in a kitchen sink “with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in another,” Clark says, adding that her parents weren’t remotely devout, but “they decided that it meant a lot to her, and it wouldn’t do any harm.” Clark was born in Oklahoma and grew up in the middle-class Dallas suburb of Lake Highlands. Clark’s dad worked in finance; she thinks his job involved “stock-y things,” but isn’t certain. “My parents separated when I was three, so I didn’t really grow up with him as much – just Christmases and summers,” she says. Money was tight: Clark’s mom was a social worker, “supporting three kids on her salary, for a long time,” she says.
Clark’s creative side manifested early. “I remember submitting a comic about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to some contest,” she recalls. (She didn’t win.) She describes herself as a shy child who suffered anxiety attacks, stemming from what she characterizes as profound existential dread at the “vastness” and chaos of the world. “When I was six or seven, I started to have really intense anxiety, and I didn’t have the tools to even know what it was.” Such attacks still overcome her, though less often, and she still finds the sensation hard to articulate: “It’s always been this little buddy of mine; it informed my entire worldview. There’s general anxiety, and then there’s panic attacks, where I have really catastrophic thoughts, where I’m not in control.” This is where art came in. “When you’re forced to deal with something big that you don’t understand, you try to find ways to interpret the universe in a way that can make you feel safer or alleviate that crazy. For me, it was music.”
What about her music, Dude?
Uploaded on Sep 21, 2009
Band will be joined by Cage the Elephant, Jake Bugg and St. Vincent at various points during the trek.
The Black Keys will spend this fall hoofing it across North America on a massive tour behind their new record Turn Blue. After a headlining slot at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama and a stretch of dates in Europe, the band will kick off their North American tour at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio on September 5th and wrap things up at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO on December 21st.
The band has also tapped various openers for the multi-leg trek: Cage the Elephant will join the group between September 5th and the 27th, up-and-coming UK rocker Jake Bugg will open shows from October 24th to November 16th and St. Vincent will take over from December 4th to the 21st.
You can check out a full list of dates below, as well as a silly tour announcement video in which a disgraced Dan Auerbach tries to make amends but receives only laughter and cheers, while the mere site of Patrick Carney elicits a swarm of boos.
The Black Keys’ video game has been on point, per usual, during the lead up to Turn Blue. After teasing the record with clips featuring a wackadoo hypnotist, the band went to church in the new video for “Fever,” with Auerbach preaching the gospel as a sweat-drenched televangelist.
Turn Blue, which follows up the Black Keys’ 2011 LP El Camino, sees official release on May 13th, but you can stream the album in its entirety now.
9/5 Columbus, OH – Schottenstein Cente
9/6 Cleveland, OH – Quicken Loans Arena
9/7 Grand Rapids, MI – Van Andel Arena
9/9 Milwaukee, WI – BMO Harris Bradley Center
9/10 Louisville, KY – KFC Yum! Center
9/12 Detroit, MI – Joe Louis Arena
9/13 Pittsburgh, PA – CONSOL Energy Center
9/14 Rochester, NY – Blue Cross Arena
9/16 Toronto, Ontario – Air Canada Centre
9/18 Montreal, Quebec – Bell Centre
9/20 Philadelphia, PA – Wells Fargo Center
9/21 Boston, MA – TD Garden
9/24 Brooklyn, NY – Barclays Center
9/25 Washington, DC – Verizon Center
9/27 Chicago, IL – United Center
10/24 Minneapolis, MN – Target Center
10/25 Winnipeg, Manitoba – MTS Centre
10/27 Calgary, Alberta – Scotiabank Saddledome
10/28 Edmonton, Alberta – Rexall Place
10/30 Vancouver, British Columbia – Pacific Coliseum
10/31 Portland, OR – Moda Centers
11/1 Seattle, WA – KeyArena
11/9 San Diego, CA – Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl
11/10 Phoenix, AZ – US Airways Center
11/12 Salt Lake City, UT – Maverik Center
11/13 Denver, CO – Pepsi Center
11/15 Houston, TX – Toyota Center
11/16 Dallas,TX – American Airlines Center
12/4 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Arena
12/5 Raleigh, NC – PNC Arena
12/6 Richmond, VA – Richmond Coliseum
12/8 Nashville, TN – Bridgestone Arena
12/9 St. Louis, MO – Scottrade Center
12/11 Atlanta, GA – Philips Arena
12/12 Charlotte, NC – Time Warner Cable Arena
12/13 Greenville, SC – Bon Secours Wellness Arena
12/15 Ft. Lauderdale, FL – BB&T Center
12/16 Tampa, FL – Tampa Bay Times Forum
12/17 Orlando, FL – Amway Center
12/19 Austin, TX – Frank Erwin Center
12/20 Tulsa, OK – BOK Center
12/21 Kansas City, MO – Sprint Center
Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. During her concert in Chicago last night, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark paid tribute to the Nirvana frontman with a scorching rendition of “Lithium”, another entry in her list of exceptional cover songs. Watch fan footage below.
Clark is currently finishing up the first leg of her North American tour in support of her new album (read our review here). Next, she’ll hit the summer festival circuit playing sets at Pitchfork, Ottawa Bluesfest, and Sled Island. You can also watch her semi-regularly on Portlandia.
St. Vincent at 9:30 Club, March 1 & 2
Oh my! These two shows are among the top five best I’ve seen in my concert-going life! So good I went to see it twice! St. Vincent’ show is marriage of great songs played brilliantly and amazing visuals. You won’t see projections or pyrotechnics, simply Annie Clark in performance with simple lights, choreography and a single prop — a small set of stairs for Annie to climb and later slink down. Her movements were well thought out and didn’t feel superfluous, as a lot of choreography can feel. It was stunning and any moment could have been a fabulous still frame (I know, I took a few pictures, one of which you can see above). In the end it was the songs, the words, the guitar, the sounds and the place that made this ingrained forever as a truly memorable show.