Mecca Normal history, tour diary entries, reviews etc.
Mecca Normal history 1985 - 1995
Mecca Normal history 1996 - 2006
December, 2006 - January, 2007
Seasonal Marketing Campaign included short animated film by Jean "You're going to be buying gifts anyway -- feel better -- buy them from non-religious anti capitalists like us!"
Jean creates a quick video response called Sorbet for a Juliana Luecking project called People Are A Trip. The question, "What's the most beautiful thing you ever saw?"
The Observer CD appears on numerous BEST of 2006 lists.
A historical website in France requests permission to reproduce two of David's Inspired Agitator poster series -- Lucy Parsons and Emma Goldman.
Jean's Two Stories and David's The Tortoise are reviewed in Broken Pencil (Canada).
Jean celebrated seven and a half years as a non-drinker and began posting as clipframe on Sober Recovery.
Smarten Up! Records (Jean and David's original record company) releases Pink Noise, the second solo album by bassist Wendy Atkinson. The album uses only electric, acoustic and double bass to make gorgeous instrumentals that are variously poppy, abstract and ambient. Wendy will be performing the album at the 13th Annual Olympia Experimental Music Festival in June, 2007.
Jean receives a Canada Council for the Arts Award to continue with her writing.
Jean’s story about online dating is published online at Shebytches.com.
Canadian Dimensions Magazine will run excerpts from David's book The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism as a regular feature.
David continues work on his graphic novel The Listener.
David designs new logo for the Federation of BC Writers.
Mecca Normal's application accepted by Vancouver's Signal and Noise Festival -- for a Thursday, April 19th performance.
Mecca Normal selected to perform at What the Heck Fest 2007 (Anacortes, WA) July 20.
Mirah invites us to perform in Portland (The Aladdin Theater) June 8.
Mecca Normal's 12th CD Janis Zeppelin arrives in iTunes -- Janis Zeppelin was released on CD in 2003 on Smarten Up! (between Kill Rock Star releases of The Family Swan and The Observer).
1. Like A Rolling Stone
2. Ain't Goin' Out That Door
3. I Went Away For A While (1984)
4. It's Called Rock 'n Roll (1984)
5. In January (21 min)
6. I Don't Need To Hold Your Hand
7. Pocket Of Scribbly Gums
8. This Is My Summer Vacation
9. I Don't Get It
10. Don't Look In The Mirror
11. War Between the Neighbours
12. Elemental Steamer
March 8 -- International Women's Day
Mecca Normal played in Vancouver at the Anza Club as part of a festival of music, art and videos made by women. Jean's video Attraction is Ephemeral was screened and voted #2 out of 14 entries. The videos were shown in Leeds, UK that same day and subsequently in Ashbury Park, NJ and New York City.
April 19 -- Signal & Noise Festival
Mecca Normal performed in Vancouver at Video In Video Out as part of Signal & Noise Festival.
David is doing well after his sinus surgery -- after many years of not smelling anything, he can smell again ! Jean is happy about this because in her research (rolling along in a car on tour) she has noticed that guys who don't smell, smell more than guys who do smell.
June 8 and 9
Shows in Portland with Mirah and Seattle with Flexions went well. We had an excellent visit with Jack (Media Man) and Elise. Thanks so much for everything (and that's a lot). We dropped in on Nikki McClure in Olympia -- congratulations on the book out on Abrams! While in Portland we were able to donate 75 CDs to Rock 'n Roll Summer Camp for Girls. Thanks Alexa for having us stay ! Thanks to Genvieve and Phil in Anacortes for help with the amp.
Ladies Only video compilation film was screened at Ladyfest Vancouver (includes Attraction is Ephemeral) on June 24.
July 20 and 21
We debuted two new songs at What the Heck Fest -- Da Da Da Da and This Comforting Thing (which should appear on the festival CD). The next night we played in Olympia.
Article in the Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, July 1, 2007 featured Mecca Normal as one of Canada's best kept secrets in the arts.
Jean went camping for three nights and four days at Manning Park.
Jean finishes the film (13:30) for AntiMatter Underground Film Festival (10th anniversary) at Open Space Gallery in Victoria -- September 21. Mecca Normal will play live to the film on opening night.
November 23, 2007
Written and recorded (third time through) with one mic and a vocal over-dub. The red room footage was shot by Marilyn Freeman in Olympia, WA in 2004 at Bryce's Barber Shop. The Jean Smith solo performance -- 1993 in Worcester, MA -- I don't know who shot it.
If you told me
if you came to me and told me
you gave it all up
gave it all up
you let it all go
to climb higher
If you came to tell me
you gave it all away
to climb higher
"Malachi" was written and recorded April 9, 2008 after re-reading an email Malachi sent to me in 2002. Video by Jean Smith, April 10, 2008. -- Jean
Malachi documented musicians and I wanted to create a document of his final statement -- his death -- because the document he made, the video, was not shown publicly, that I heard about.
May 2 - 4, 2008
We played the song 'Malachi' three times over the weekend to about 250 people.
Calvin of K Records it's the best song we've ever written. It'll be 25 years for Mecca Normal in 2009 -- so that's a lot of songs.
$245 was raised for Books to Prisoners at two Art Acutions. The art David and I created was on the theme of 'Malachi' and 'Freedom'.
Chicago musician Michael Zerang put a photo of Malachi on our MySpace comments section.
Inspired Agitators poster by David Lester for Art Auctions to benefit Books for Prisoners May 3 and 4, 2008.
The Chicago Reader online
Mecca Normal remembers Malachi Ritscher
by Monica Kendrick, April 28th 2008
Mecca Normal aren't for everyone: David Lester's guitar accompaniment doesn't give you much of a buffer against the rough, quirky intimacy of Jean Smith's theatrical poetry, which gets so nakedly powerful it can violate your personal space with nothing but words. They've just posted two new songs on their MySpace blog, and one of them is about Chicago sound archivist, musician, and antiwar activist Malachi Ritscher, who recorded a Mecca Normal show in Chicago a few years ago. Stark and raw, the song has none of Smith's usual wryness. Lester also created a poster for it in the classic protest style.
For those of you traveling to the Pacific Northwest (or living there!), Mecca Normal will perform the new songs this weekend in Olympia and Portland; at the Portland show they'll also host an art auction to benefit Books to Prisoners.
Live in Olympia, WA on May 3, 2008. Recorded by J. Free of Sonic Archives. The debut of "Malachi" -- if you don't count Second Life.
"Arguably the greatest rock band without a rhythm section ever, the duo of acid-voiced singer Jean Smith and guitar hero David Lester must be seen to be believed." -- Douglas Wolk
Below: 2000-something -- Audrey Marrs
Jean Smith Films of Mecca Normal live and demo versions -- additional Films on Jean Smith Films on MySpace or on YouTube, but films appear to be better quality on MySpace.
I Walk Alone -- a film by Jean Smith (2008) from a live Mecca Normal performance in SF, 1994
One Man's Anger -- This film was thought of, filmed, edited and posted between 2:00 and 3:30 p.m. Tuesday October 21, 2008. The music, took exactly however long the song is to make -- you hear the writing of the song. Recorded with one mic. Directed by Jean Smith.
The Discussion -- Battle Ground, Washington
This Comforting Thing -- live in Battle Ground. Recorded by J. Free. Directed by Jean.
Tobi Vail's Jigsaw http://jigsawunderground.blogspot.com
Jean Smith writes songs about what it feels like to be a woman in a male-dominated society. Her art is truly necessary to me, in a way few things are. She had an enormous impact on what was to become 'riot grrl' in the early 1990's and is still writing great stuff. --Tobi Vail, Jigsaw
The things that make 2008 significant by Jean Smith
1. David and I spontaneously creating artwork to auction off for Books to Prisoners when we heard we'd be playing in the $1 Books to Prisoners clothing bin at Dumpster Values in Olympia, Washington.
2. Getting out the bike I bought years ago at an opera society rummage sale. Riding to work and the gym -- not far, not fast, but fun and sometimes scary. A bike guy in spandex and helmet coming up the hill near the WISE Hall telling me -- "Go fast. Go fast. Just let go." Me, hands clenched, brakes squealing, saying, "No! No! No!" Pulling over at the baseball diamond, using my kickstand, and eating Chinese dumplings out of a Tupperware container, thinking -- life doesn't get any better than this.
3. The Sliver Party's kudos on www.myspace.com/jeansmith blog where, to me, a kudo is an acknowledgement of the writer / reader dynamic. A kudo (don't like this word any more than blog or hiatus) doesn't interfere the way a comment can. A kudo is a mug of warm milk to the comment's dropped carton of skim pooling at my feet.
4. Playing guitar with Duane and having Singapore noodles, bbq pork and won ton soup at Happy King. www.myspace.com/jeanduane
5. Maintaining my blog as a place to put work -- in fact, creating and completing work because I have a place to put it -- stories, films, songs, paintings, photos, poems and the work behind booking a tour, which I decided to make transparent, to demystify, by posting itineraries and communication with booking people and helpful D-I-Y enthusiasts. Posting the details of the booking process also created a sense of accountability for me. There are lots of good reasons not to go on tour, but they just don't wash in the big picture. Appreciating very helpful responses from clubs who have booked us for our April tour in the USA.
7. Mecca Normal -- my ongoing music, art, political and literary adventure with my excellent creative partner David Lester. Twenty-five years intending to inspire, instigate, inform, amuse and agitate in the underground.
8. New Mecca Normal songs about war protester Malachi Richter and One Man's Anger -- understanding that sometimes anger is pain and the fear of pain. www.myspace.com/meccanormal
9. J Free -- of Sonic Archives -- recorded two Mecca Normal shows, made CDs and sent them to us along with many collected recordings including a live version of I Walk Alone from SF in 1994. Turning this and many other songs into short films.
10. Walking and running to work at The Store where good conversations happen with customers and co-workers. Learning about eco-friendly clothing -- bamboo, hemp, organic cotton and soy. The Store is closing at the end of February due to the economy. I will be unemployed, focusing on Mecca Normal -- recording and touring with "How Art & Music Can Change the World" http://howartandmusiccanchangetheworld.blogspot.com which we've been presenting for about five years in classrooms (university, art school and high school), art galleries and book stores. We intend to inspire audiences towards self-expression, encouraging them to consider political content in their work as opposed to the pursuit of status and money. Basically we set up an art show -- or use PowerPoint -- and we start by introducing ourselves, explaining why we maintain our creative partnership in its many forms -- what motivates us. David talks about the long history of art in social protest. We speak about each others artwork -- David, the non-verbal member of Mecca Normal, uses text in his poster series Inspired Agitators. By contrast, my abstract expressionism is a balance to the word-based lyric and novel content I create. At about the twenty minute mark we do three or four songs pertaining to what we have been discussing. We continue discussing the various political ideas we bring into our work -- women's rights, poverty, war protest -- relating the issues to our own experiences. We wrap it up with a few more songs. The updated version of the event includes a vision to convince the populace that it is necessary to protest and create conditions that are favourable to support the work Obama is faced with -- otherwise, without support in the form of popular protest and activism, the right wing will rip him to shreds. People must, state by state, community by community be ready to participate as activists rather than sitting back to see what Obama does.
11. Christmas morning -- 4 a.m. -- I started booking the April 2009 tour and got responses right away, including a confirmation for "How Art & Music Can Change the World" at Bluestockings Books -- a feminist book store in NYC,
12. December 30, 2008 -- dinner and a fine conversation with an old friend about world affairs, inspiration, Howard Zinn, political and cultural activism and how to take the opportunity to encourage progressive social change. www.howardzinn.org
"Why would I believe a politician?" -- Howard Zinn
"We must not have war any more." -- Howard Zinn
"The American people want health care, more like Canada's." -- Howard Zinn
13. Noticing how natural acoustics of rooms impact energy, thinking, mood and willingness to converse. The Store creaks and clomps, all wooden and warm. Understanding more about memory and history -- wild things that resist being captured.
14. August. Deciding to not go forward with a man who met my requirements as stated in my online profile. Handsome guy, my age, six feet tall. Thin, muscular body -- nice hair. A non-drinking condo-dweller with a car. No pets, no roommates. He was into weirdo-music and punk rock -- he'd heard of Mecca Normal !!!! He was a hiker, a painter, a short story writer, a filmmaker learning to play guitar. He wanted to find a partner, but he projected all his wanting and finding stuff onto me. We were, as far as he was concerned, in a relationship from the moment we set eyes on each other. I kept telling him to slow down, but he didn't see why. Week three he said we'd been together a month and I had to tell him it had only been three weeks -- it was a relentless escalation of relationship. When I said I needed to stop, I was accused of destroying his fantasy -- he got angry with me for ruining everything, but he apologized and said all the right things and promised to slow down and off we went again, but, soon enough, the end arrived. Why didn't I jump at the chance to be with a good looking guy who was into what I'm into? He listened to me talk about writing, offered ideas. He was super attentive, regularly dropping to his knees to profess his adoration, telling me how much he appreciated my body and my mind and my sense of humour and my clothes -- telling me how beautiful I am. He couldn't stop kissing me. But he represented someone willfully misunderstanding me, actively refusing to know me, in favour of pounding into my life with a box called 'relationship' for me to climb into. Which, as a way to approach life, is the essence of the insanity.
15. David donating royalties from his book The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism, in my name , to the Centre for Victims of Torture in Toronto.
Mecca Normal's Trapped Inside Your Heart appears on the What the Heck Fest CD.
August 1, 2009 -- Jean's 50th birthday
"David taped these quotes to my birthday presents."
"Mecca Normal. The first time I saw them was
on the Black Wedge tour where they got together
with their friends and said, "hey, this is important,
let's do it." It wasn't as if they were saying,
"How can we sell this new album?" It was a tour
of people and half of them weren't even bands."
-- Calvin Johnson
"Everyone tells them to ‘Get a drummer’, I get the
feeling these two don’t need to listen to everyone."
-- Option Magazine (LA), review of the first MN album
"What they reveal is an unvarnished,
unpremeditated, wholly natural songwriting skill.
This is a naked and very close musical relationship."
-- The Vancouver Province reviews the first MN album
"Jean’s the one with ‘that voice’, a completely riveting
presence that’s only more powerful when backed solely
by Lester’s guitar." – Gerard Cosloy (reviewing Calico
Kills the Cat LP in Conflict)
"Mecca Normal makes records I can see myself listening
to twenty years from now with no loss of interest."
– Terry Dawes reviewing ‘Flood Plain’ in Planet of The
Arts (Vancouver) 1993
"This music resonates with feminism’s understanding of
the body as a locus of political meaning, a knowledge
difficult for any woman walking down a city street to
escape... I don’t know of any other rock ‘n’ roll so
closely attuned to the realities of women’s rage."
– Village Voice (NY)
"But until you see her face down a crowd of hypocritical
and uninterested punk rockers, you don’t know what
true heroism is. Smith’s music is dissonant, deeply felt,
feminist, courageous." – Gina Arnold (San Diego Weekly)
"I wouldn’t be in a band if I hadn’t heard of Jean. She’s
shown me through her lyrics that you can be a feminist
and still be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to
lose contact with the world." -- Kathleen Hanna
The first time I saw Mecca Normal, I was so blown away
that I could not speak. My friend Rich Jensen introduced
me to them, but I was left utterly speechless by the genius
and power of their show. So I just stuck out the album I
had just bought and got them to sign it. They were like
music gods to me. -- Slim Moon
"Your voice, your lyrics, Dave’s guitar have made me cry
and hope over and over and over again. You are beautiful,
brave and very strong people and you have touched my
life tremendously." -- Cathee (Los Angeles)
"After these hicks where I live beat me up because I dress
& act different and think for myself I put on one of your
records and it makes me proud of who I am."
– Robert (Oklahoma) in letter sent through the postal service
Customer reviews of The Observer: on Amazon I think, unclear...
"One of their best. This album, with a quite bizarre conceptual
theme for a rock album (mostly sung descriptions internet
dating), turns out to be one of their best. The songs are mostly
quite catchy; the guitar playing is impeccable; and the singing
as stronger than ever. I have followed Mecca Normal since their
inception. Although occasionally flawed with atonal rants, their
folk-punk has always been inspirational. Most albums have been
a single guitar (somewhat similar to early Billy Bragg, but with
greater virtuosity, edge and attitude) and one set of female
vocals - with an occasional fill of piano and additional guitars.
Nevertheless, their presence is more stirring than many of the
best full scale rock bands." -- Anonymous
"Stunning, my first "Mecca Normal". I have read in fanzines
about Mecca Normal since the 80s, but I always felt they
were a little more arty and sophisticated than the hardcore I
used to be into. Wow! I was right! Now that I am a little more
sophisticated in my tastes, Mecca Normal is right on time...
Amazing, profound music that really speaks to me, I look
forward to getting the other 11 albums over the next few
years... I'm psyched! This album is a stunning and progressive
creative statement. Listening to this was like the first time I
listened to punk rock, opening up a totally new and different
world." -- Anonymous
"Quite simply, this record is a magnificent achievement. It
resonates sonically and lyrically to a depth and with a
persistence that is beyond rare. I miss listening to this and,
once you hear it, you'll understand exactly why. So why 4 stars
and not 5? Because I'd like to believe that this strange and
long-standing partnership can even exceed this work in the
future. And perhaps, after a moment's annoyance, that will
evoke a wry smile on Ms Smith's lips....you never know..."
Yesterday was fantastic. Perfect. I met Dave at the Raga. I talked, he listened; the food arrived and I went bonkers. Best food ever! Butter chicken, raita, rice. Water. Pappard, chutney. We walked over to Granville and into a couple of galleries I was in recently with Argon. I said some funny things about some paintings, Dave laughed and we went on down the street to Granville Island. I said some more funny things and Dave laughed. See? Perfect. We took the Aquabus to Science World and walked over to the community gardens on a street I didn't know existed. This is a bit of a rush report because I have plans. I already made a film -- editing later. I am going to the beach to run and swim and yelp naked in the sun. Before too many people are there. I may go to the chiropractor on the way home. Feeling a bit not quite right after the motorcycle thing. That might be nice anyway, a bit of human contact on my birthday. Sneaky, eh? Dave and I had Oranginas in the gardens and he brought out all these fantastically wrapped presents -- by fantastic I mean that they had Mecca Normal reviews from all the years stuck to them and somehow I was not really feeling immersed in Mecca Normal; I was talking about how exciting it is that Dan is reading the book and about some of recent communication episodes online and about how I'm maintaining the amazing life that I have and how incredibly lucky I am and what a great friend Dave is and then there were these snippets of Mecca Normal comments that were stuck to the gifts -- miniDVs, candles, soap, a Motown and Van Morrison mix CD Dave made for me and two VHS movies, Shadow of the Thin Man and Citizen Kane. Yes, I've recently stepped into the VHS age... having watched perhaps a ten VHS movies in my life. In this next fifty years I may get into DVD.One of the comments taped to a package was out of Jigsaw, written by Tobi Vail, "To me, Mecca Normal is one of the only true punk bands around, in that way they are totally subversive."
Sitting under the apple tree at a really rickety old picnic table, reading these comments to celebrate my 50th birthday, in the heat, in the moment, sitting there with Dave, my best friend for almost thirty years, talking, laughing -- our only plan was to go and see what sort of tree it was with the huge amount of orange-red fruit on it, spreading, laden. Crab apples! And in the big picture, the plan was to go and get gelato -- mine was a chocolate raspberry truffle -- amazing, incredible -- and then the walk home. A really great day with a guy I feel so fortunate to call my best friend. My other best friend -- Duane -- will phone me some time to day from the far north. Yes, I know, how did I get to be so lucky to have these two amazing guys as my best friends?
7:30 a.m. -- I gotta go to the beach. Taking paint and paper, and a notebook to write poems / songs.
Jean Smith -- musician -- Jean blogs here.
Jean -- the person
The Listener -- David Lester's graphic novel in progress
How Art & Music Can Change the World
Jean Smith Films of Mecca Normal live and demo versions.
Horde of Two -- David Lester (guitar) & Wendy Atkinson (bass)
Manifesto For Receiving
Jean Smith -- collaborations
Smarten Up! & Get To The Point Records & Publishing
Transmarquee -- Jean Smith with Dave Doughman of Swearing at Motorists
2 Foot Flame -- 2 CDs on Matador with NZ based unit -- Jean Smith, Peter Jefferies, Michael Morley
Contact Mecca Normal