Normal History Vol. 5: The Art Of David Lester

davidlester5_360Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Smith: Munich, sometime in the 1990s. When we arrived for soundcheck, the booking guy had the microphone in pieces: bare wires. The PA was a pile of crap. I don’t think we even got a soundcheck. The club was packed, and management was pressuring us to start the show. The set was pretty intense—wild. At some point, the booking guy started coming up to me while we were playing to tell me management wanted us to stop; we were well short of completing the set. I probably told him to fuck off. He came up and said if we didn’t stop, we weren’t getting paid—and the money was good in Europe. They pulled the plug on their shitty PA, which suited me just fine. The mic had been an obstacle impeding my ability to be heard. Free of it, I stepped off the stage into the audience of beer-drinking Bavarians and sang right in their faces. Dave’s guitar was still coming through his amp. The DJ put the music on to drown us out, and the booking gu said we weren’t getting paid. I found the manager and yelled at him until he got out some money and threw it at Dirk, our tour manager, who we’d known for about two days. Dirk didn’t speak English at this point. We had to push our way out, lugging guitars, amps and merch through the crowd the whole length of the bar. Dirk had the car out front. There were about six of us, and we went to a restaurant and met some record store people and journalists. Dirk seemed upset—he was concerned that I was really upset—and I was like, “Hey man, this is what we do. That was great!” And our excellent friendship began.

Normal History Vol. 4: The Art Of David Lester

davidlester4_380Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Smith: In the 1990s we played some shows with Fugazi: Seattle, Olympia, New York. At the Vancouver show, someone threw his shoe at David while he was playing. Some of those young guys were really bugged to see and hear a woman onstage who is powerful (and the songs are weird and arty) and she’s angry looking and yelling—yelling at guys. Hmm, this isn’t what they want at all. Some of those guys, many years later, wrote to us on MySpace saying they hadn’t seen anything like what we were doing and, at the time, they didn’t like it, but it changed something for them. They became more open to women’s perspectives in music and more interested in different music, different than four guys onstage, and they felt it began with seeing Mecca Normal at a Fugazi show. For us, that sort of thing has been very helpful in allowing us to see how individuals can make an impact, how things change.

Normal History Vol. 3: The Art Of David Lester

davidlester3_366Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Smith: There was a guy in Boston who really wanted us to stay at his house. He had a studio, and he figured we could record together—he was a real keener. We got to the house and he had this big, aggressive dog: a pit bull or Rottweiler-type dog that was disobedient and nasty. Neither Dave nor I wanted this huge dog on top of us as we sat on the couch, but the guy and his wife thought this was really funny, that we didn’t really know how to get the dog off us. The guy seemed to suggest that we let the dog do what it wanted, as they did. I did not want this dog on me. This state of siege went on through the evening; the dog controlled the household, the dog was the only subject of conversation. The only time the dog wasn’t dominating everyone’s attention was when it left the room to go and piss on my sleeping bag. The guy explained that the dog could sense my attitude toward it, that it was like a child having a passive-aggressive tantrum. At one point, Dave and the guy were in the studio with the door closed, and the dog came into the bathroom while I was in there. I wanted it out of the bathroom so I could close the door. It started growling at me, blocking my exit. Absolutely terrifying—and there was no one around to control this beast. We left. We did not stay the night.

Normal History Vol. 2: The Art Of David Lester

david-lesterill2Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Smith: In the ’90s, at the height of grunge, we got a call that Sonic Youth wanted us to open for them in Seattle. The theater, the Paramount, was big—balconies and all that. When it came time in our set to do “I Walk Alone,” I left the microphone and ran to the side of the stage. I edged past the main speakers, singing, and down the steps. I ran up the aisle to sing directly into people’s rather shocked faces. I dashed back toward the stage, but there was a bouncer standing at the top of the steps and I guess he hadn’t seen me leave the stage. I must have appeared to be a rabid fan trying to accost Dave, who was playing the simple riff over and over wondering if I’d ever return. The guitar was blasting out of the mains right beside the bouncer, so I couldn’t get him to hear what I was saying. Eventually I pushed past him and returned to the mic totally exhausted with Dave looking at me like I’d lost my mind for being gone for so long.

Normal History Vol. 1: The Art Of David Lester

davidleaster1400Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run.

Lester: “The politics are not obvious” is a painting I did that a banjo player bought after seeing it displayed in 2004, when Mecca Normal played a barber shop in Olympia, Wash., and a bookshop in Seattle during a West Coast tour. The man later sent me a cassette of his banjo playing. He recorded just this one copy to send to me. This was art. This was political.