Tagged Pop and Rock Music

At a Heavy Metal Concert, Balancing Independence With Boundaries

Ties

At a Heavy Metal Concert, Balancing Independence With Boundaries

My mother, a freewheeling feminist, gave me freedom, while her mother gave me a nest of safety. Both shaped how I’m raising my own daughter.

Credit…Lucy Jones

  • Feb. 5, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

A cloud of marijuana smoke drifted by as my 13-year-old daughter asked, “Mom, can I walk around and meet people?” We were standing in an outdoor line for Warped Tour, a music festival with acts typically described as “pop punk” or “metalcore.” That is, hardcore heavy metal. Men in ghoulish masks playing electric guitars and growling lyrics about the devil.

It was 2018, long before the pandemic brought us the concept of social distance. Festivals like this one involved spending hours in extremely close range of other people’s breath and sweat as they screamed along with the bands. My daughter loved this music. I did not. I have no idea where she picked up a taste for it. All I knew was that she wouldn’t hold my hand anymore — she was too old for that, she said. She still had her blonde hair, but in a few months, she would dye it deep red and start adorning the corners of her eyes with eyeliner “wings.” She’s a smart kid — and even though she’s her own person, she’s also at the point in her development where it’s normal for her to “follow the crowd,” which scares me a little.

She asked me again if she could go explore. I said no. She asked me why, just as a car drove by with a shirtless woman hanging out of the sunroof screaming, “Unleash the beast!”

“I need to get inside and get my bearings before I feel safe enough for you to walk around on your own,” I told her.

“I know, but still!” she pleaded.

How many parents parent the way they were parented? Probably a fair number. Many of us also deliberately push back against what our parents did. I do both, perhaps because I was raised by two women — my mother and grandmother — who had very different parenting styles.

My mother, elated with the freedom of her fresh divorce, wanted to make me strong and independent, an adult before my time. Her mother, the martyr, shielded me from the world by giving me a nest of comfort and safety. Which parenting philosophy would inform how I raised my newly teenage daughter?

My own preteen years were intense. On my 10th birthday, my mother, whom I called “Mama,” gave me a private birthday celebration. She’d started her period at 10, so she expected mine any day. She told me that as soon as I started bleeding, I’d go on the pill. She’d had the traumatic experience of getting pregnant as a teenager, and then being whisked away by her mother to a town where no one knew them, giving birth and putting the baby up for adoption with Catholic charities. She’d insisted that the pill would give me freedom.

Not only was Mama my mother, she was also my best friend. I felt fortunate to be positioned as her confidante, even though that meant, according to her, that I was “too old” to hold her hand in public. In the months leading up to my 10th birthday, I heard all about her newfound dating life. This included a one-night stand with a 19-year-old bartender. Since she was 36 and he 19, she said, “we were both at our sexual primes.”

On my birthday, Mama served pink champagne and she-crabs — the egg-bearing females — and dared me to eat the roe. She played Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World,” and when Helen sang “when one of us is gone / and one of us is left to carry on,” we cried in each other’s arms. I felt aching nausea at the fear of losing my mother; it started in my stomach and spread up across my chest.

When my period finally came, I was 13, but by then Mama no longer needed my friendship and confidences; she’d met the man who would become my stepfather. I became part of the wallpaper. Mama moved miles away to their new house. And I moved in with my grandmother and started drinking.

When Mama was 13, Grandma had left her with her mother for nearly a year so that she could try to find her husband who had run off with another woman.

By the time Grandma was 80, she was ready to make up for how she’d abandoned my mother, by providing the safest, warmest, most loving home possible for me. I hid my drinking as best I could, so I wouldn’t disappoint her. That limitation most likely saved my life, because I was, shall we say, wild.

Grandma doted on me. As soon as I got out of my bed, she’d make it. She woke up at 3 every morning to do my laundry, press my clothes for school, and make my meals. Living through the Depression made her a workhorse for ensuring everyone was properly clothed and fed. She was the opposite of my mother, who’d insisted that I cook for the family and do the dishes, but didn’t care if I made my bed or not. In return for everything she did for me, however, Grandma made sure I knew it: She’d show me the bones visible through the soles of her feet after she’d stood on them all day. I hated when she did that, almost as much as she hated it when I unmade my bed right after she made it, just to spite her.

By the time my daughter and I squeezed into the festival, pulsating with bass and throngs of leather- and spike-clad metal fans, my wild days were long gone. This was her heaven and my hell, but I was happy she had found something she felt passionate about. My wife and I have tried to bring our daughter up in such a way that she knows she is loved, and that we are happy when she is happy.

As we made our way toward our eventual meeting spot, I surveyed the landscape of the three stages and thought about what kind of parent I wanted to be. Should I nurture her independence to ensure she can survive this often-cruel world, or should I protect her for as long as I can to show her that I am always there? The truth is that although my mother was selfish and irresponsible, she cared that I would grow up to take care of myself, and I have. And although my grandmother martyred herself with her overabundance of attention and selflessness, she cared that I would be safe in the world, and I am. My parenting can be informed by both of my “mothers.” I can nurture my daughter’s independence and give her boundaries to make sure she is safe.

“Can I go now?” she asked impatiently.

I looked into her eyes. “Yes,” I replied. I’ll be right here.

I found the “parent tent,” also known as “reverse day care” — a cool, comfortable lounge perched atop a hill with a vantage point that allowed me to see all three of the stages, with the audience pumping heads and tattooed fists to the various screaming guitars. I was afraid. I wanted her to hold my hand. I wanted her to need me. But I reveled in her sense of freedom. The joy of her budding independence rippled through my heart and cracked it wide open. At one point, I caught a glimpse of her running through the crowd to make it to the next show. She was smiling and laughing. “There’s my daughter,” I told the mom next to me.

“They grow up so fast,” she said.

“I know,” I said. But still.

Susannah Bell is a teacher and writer who lives with her wife and teenage daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area.

New Year's Eve Playlist From Around the World

A Global New Year’s Playlist for Your Party of One

This year finally coming to an end is reason enough to celebrate a bit. Even if you had to stay home, your music can travel the world.

Aya Nakamura performing in 2019.
Aya Nakamura performing in 2019.Credit…Helene Pambrun/Paris Match, via Getty Images
Sebastian Modak

  • Dec. 26, 2020, 11:18 p.m. ET

Around the world, New Year’s Eve is going to look very different this year, but the applause and cheers at midnight might have a level of catharsis not seen for awhile. People will certainly be celebrating 2020’s passing.

And these celebrations, whether with a small group of friends, household members only or solo, need a soundtrack.

Even with so much put on hold, musicians still managed to put out music this year. This playlist draws from releases all over the world, demonstrating how a guitar-rock band from Mali, a dream-pop singer from South Korea, a reggae legend from Jamaica and more all managed to express little moments of joy in a universally difficult time. You will find beats to dance to, new genres to fall in love with and, hopefully, connections with different cultures that will make you feel a little closer to the rest of the world — even if you pop the cork of a champagne bottle and toast yourself.

‘Doudou,’ by Aya Nakamura

The flashing lights, the thumping bass, the crush of dancing crowds … For most of us, nightclubs are such distant memories, they have retreated into the realm of make-believe. This track, from the French-Malian singer Aya Nakamura’s latest album, brings it all flooding back. The mid-tempo, rolling beat and glittering synth hook are full of barely contained energy and possibilities, much like the beginning of a night out.

‘Champetizate,’ by Kevin Florez, The Busy Twist and Caien Madoka

What do you get when you combine a globe-trotting producer from Britain, the looping melodies of a Congolese soukous guitarist and a Colombian champeta star who is known for taking an Afro-Colombian dance genre and catapulting it into the 21st century? An absolute rager of a song, this is a four-minute approximation of what it would sound like if the whole world were partying at once.

‘Waydelel,’ by Bab L’Bluz

Anchored by the guembri, a three-stringed bass lute that is traditionally used by the Gnawa people of North Africa, this transcontinental quartet creates rollicking, headbanging music. Somewhere in the mix, you will find the hypnotic loops of Gnawa religious music, poetry from the Sahara and the reckless abandon of fuzz rock and blues. And every listen reveals a little more.

‘Yenimno’ by Onipa

Highlife — an energetic genre of music propelled by guitars and horns — originated in Ghana in the early 20th century. This song, from the Britain-based Afrofuturist band Onipa, shows what happens when those musical ideas spread through time and space, evolving as they go. It takes exactly 16 seconds for the foot-stomping beat to lock in, and it doesn’t relent until the final roll of drums, almost five minutes later.

‘Fey Fey’ by Songhoy Blues

Songhoy Blues, a rock band from northern Mali, knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity. The band formed in Bamako, Mali’s capital, in 2012, after fleeing their home region in the midst of a fundamentalist Islamist insurgency. Their music, characterized by squealing electric guitars over looping polyrhythms, evokes resilience and determination — two qualities we will be leaning on in 2021.

‘Black Catbird’ by The Garifuna Collective

A cut from a compilation of music inspired by birdsong might seem like a strange addition to a playlist for a party, but a few seconds into this groove, it makes more sense. As you bob your head to the rich melodies from this collective of Garifuna musicians of Belize, you can feel extra good that any proceeds from your purchase of the record is going toward protecting endangered birds.

‘Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be the Same)’ by Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela

This is what happens when two legends, the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and the Nigerian drumming virtuoso Tony Allen, end up in the same room. The majority of the album was recorded in 2010 in London, but the finished product was only released this year. This song, a tribute to Allen’s erstwhile bandmate Fela Kuti, shows both musicians in perfect lock step; Mr. Masekela’s trumpet melodies and vocal lines flowing in between the cracks of Mr. Allen’s loping rhythms. The song seems particularly poignant now, as Masekela died in 2018 and Allen died this year.

‘Three Little Birds’ by Toots & the Maytals, feat. Ziggy Marley

Toots Hibbert, considered one of the forefathers of reggae music, was another of the many musical pioneers we lost this year. “Got to Be Tough,” his band’s final album, was released less than two weeks before Hibbert’s death and serves as testament to his legacy, both in terms of music and activism. There are slow-burning reggae jams, calls to celebrate, social rallying cries and then this, a ska-inflected cover of the Bob Marley classic that turns the roots reggae song into something eminently danceable.

‘Volantia’ by Sexores

Sexores, an Ecuadorean duo based in Mexico City, doesn’t exactly specialize in party music. But occasionally, in between the dark undercurrents of shoegaze, synth-pop and psychedelia, they hit upon something that feels jubilant. Propulsive and shimmeringly beautiful, “Volantia” is a song for shaking off the cobwebs of 2020.

‘Bye Bye Summer’ by Aseul

Every party must come to an end, even this one. This dreamy, washed-out track from the South Korean producer and singer Aseul is the sound of last call at a bar. It drips with nostalgia, and the high-pitched whines of synthesizers cut through the mix like the first light of a new year after a long night. It invites you to take a breath and be hopeful for what is next.

How to Pretend You’re in Tokyo

While your travel plans may be on hold, you can pretend you’re somewhere new for the night. Around the World at Home invites you to channel the spirit of a new place each week with recommendations on how to explore the culture, all from the comfort of your home.

A few years ago, I walked through Tokyo’s neon-lit streets for the first time, wide-eyed and jet-lagged. It only took three days to learn some of the city’s secrets. If you can’t find the perfect noodle shop for lunch, for example, look up and you will see another dozen options, filling the upper floors of what you thought were office buildings. Or that famous places — like Shibuya Crossing, the intersection you’ve seen in 100 timelapses — are famous for a reason, but there’s so much more to learn by picking a metro stop at random and going for a long walk.

This was supposed to be a big year for tourism for the city — already one of the world’s most visited — as it was set to host the now postponed Olympics and Paralympic Games. That, of course, did not happen.

With most of the world still confined to their homes, that Tokyo trip will have to wait for the millions of people who canceled flights and hotel bookings. In the meantime, there are ways to capture the spirit of a sometimes impenetrable, always fascinating, city. Perhaps, just for a night, these recommendations might even make you feel like you are there.

From left, the Asakusa Hoppy Street, commuters on the morning train, and a view of Tokyo from the Skytree.
From left, the Asakusa Hoppy Street, commuters on the morning train, and a view of Tokyo from the Skytree.Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times (left and center); Andrew Faulk for The New York Times

Hear the city

I first met Kazuto Okawa, who performs under the name LLLL, outside a convenience store in the quirky neighborhood of Koenji on my first night in Tokyo. He was sitting on a curb in a circle of friends, his face obscured by long, disheveled hair. Over the years since that first encounter, his music — a blend of sugary pop hooks and space-age soundscapes — has become synonymous with the city for me. If those conflicting feelings of disorientation and joy that hit every visitor to Tokyo could be translated to sound, this would be it.

When I asked Mr. Okawa what music best captures his home city, he directed me to the classics. The musician Keigo Oyamada, better known as Cornelius, is sometimes reductively called the “Japanese Beck” for the way he swoops between genres with ease. Every album is a journey, but for the most evocative of the city, Mr. Okawa suggests his 1995 album “69/96.” “It’s forever futuristic,” he said. “A perfect match to Tokyo.”

If Cornelius is too out there for you, Mr. Okawa recommends “Kazemachi Roman” by Tokyo folk rock pioneers Happy End: you may recognize a song from the soundtrack to that great tribute to Tokyo, “Lost in Translation.”

To begin understanding the phenomenon that is Tokyo’s J-pop scene, Mr. Okawa says to start with Sheena Ringo’s “Kabukicho no joou.” “It captures the dark side of the city,” he said. “And it happens to be one of the most popular J-pop songs of all time.” For the flip side of the same pop coin — perhaps it’s a more lively summer night you are trying to recreate — he recommends Taeko Ohnuki’s aptly titled “Sunshower.”

The lunch crowd at a Tokyo restaurant. Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times
From left, crisp nori chips with toasted sesame oil, spring chicken miso soup, and yakitori chicken with ginger, garlic and soy sauce.Credit…From left, Evan Sung for The New York Times; Romulo Yanes for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Vivian Lui; Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Cook at the dinner table

No trip to Tokyo is complete without a whole lot of eating. While it may be hard to accurately recreate a bona fide Tokyo bowl of ramen or plate of sushi, there is plenty that you can do from home.

Head to New York Times Cooking for a selection of quick and easy dishes, from yakitori (yes, you really can make it at home) to nori chips (perfect with a cold Japanese lager).

For something more involved, and seasonally appropriate, follow the lead of Motoko Rich, The Times’ Tokyo bureau chief. “With the weather getting cooler, it’s time to break out the butane burner for shabu shabu, a classic Japanese dinner that you can make and eat right at the table,” she said.

First, make a kombu dashi, a broth flavored with dried kelp, then take beef, tofu, vegetables and mushrooms and dip them into the bubbling liquid, making sure to swirl in the ingredients long enough that they cook through. “Although we can cook shabu shabu at home, it also reminds me of fancier mid-20th century-era restaurants in Tokyo, where the servers wear kimonos and carry regal platters to the tables.” Ms. Rich recommends this recipe from Just One Cookbook.

Nakano backstreets near Nakano Beer Kobo.Credit…Andrew Faulk for The New York Times

Expand your literary horizons

If you want to lose yourself in Tokyo by curling up with a good book, we have plenty of recommendations, whether it is a long work of fiction you are after or more snackable short stories. There is more — a lot more — than Haruki Murakami. Ms. Rich recommends “Breasts and Eggs” by Mieko Kawakami. “I love the way Kawakami references real and recognizable, but not exoticized, Tokyo locations,” she said. “You feel in the know, reading it, rather than as if you are being introduced to a precious Other World. It is Tokyo as it is lived in, not a film set.”

Fron left, scenes from “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories,” “Shoplifters,” and “Tokyo Drifter.”Credit…From left, Netflix; Magnolia Pictures; Nikkatsu

See the city on the screen

If an evening of TV and subtitles is what you are after, start with the binge-worthyMidnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” on Netflix. The show is about the customers who pass through a tiny counter-service restaurant that is only open from midnight to 6. At turns heartwarming, hilarious and melancholic, it is a moving portrait of Tokyo after dark. If the opening title sequence doesn’t make you feel good, check your pulse: it is ASMR for the soul.

When it comes to movies, as Mike Hale, a Times’ television critic, said, “Tokyo is simultaneously the most cosmopolitan and the most intensely local city you can imagine, and that’s a perfect combination for storytelling, as directors from Kurosawa to Kiarostami to Sofia Coppola have shown.”

Where to start then? You can’t skip Akira Kurosawa, the influential filmmaker whose career spanned almost six decades. Mr. Hale recommends “Stray Dog” (1949), shot in Tokyo in the aftermath of World War II. He describes it as “a walking tour of the city in sheer survival mode.” Next, try “Tokyo Drifter” (1966) by Seijun Suzuki. “Suzuki’s stylized yakuza story sets traditional themes of honor and corruption against a jazzy, jagged, surrealist distillation of the rapidly changing city,” he said. Finally, for something more contemporary, watch the Cannes Palm d’Or-winning “Shoplifters” (2018) by Hirokazu Kore-eda. In Mr. Hale’s view, the film, about a family of grifters, “shows both the glittering modern metropolis and the shadow world just beyond the neon.”

Morning commuters in Shibuya Crossing.Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

Get lost in the virtual world

While Japan’s most internationally famous video gaming figure may be an Italian plumber with a taste for mushrooms, there are also plenty of games more grounded in real-life Tokyo than Super Mario Bros. Brian Ashcraft, an Osaka-based senior writer at the gaming website Kotaku, recommends the expansive “Yakuza” series, which follows Kazuma Kiryu as he makes his name in the underworld. The Yakuza games are action-packed, but with dance battles, karaoke sessions and laugh-out-loud dialogue, they are also unabashedly silly. “This year has resulted in all events and trips to Tokyo being canned,” Mr. Ashcraft said. “The Yakuza games do a fantastic job of bringing parts of the city to life. These obsessive, digital recreations mimic the idea of Tokyo. For me, that’s good enough.”


How are you going to channel the spirit of Tokyo in your home? Share your ideas in the comments.

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