Mark Lanegan, Old Shoe Leather, Smoke and Sadness


I’m not doing well. I saw Mark Lanegan at the 9:30 Club in D.C. Friday night. It’s all I can think about, now. I am used to living as an obsessive, immature person, but this too much. I wore my concert t-shirt all day yesterday and I must wear it again today, so it’s in the wash right now. I have never let my children wear the same thing for days in a row, and I can’t understand why I’m letting myself do so.

My friend Sarah sent me a CD of his music some years ago, and I was instantly, completely in Lanegan’s thrall. For me, his music is a direct line to the furious creative force suspended in every moment, an amalgam of suffering and joy, like roses blooming in a forgotten garden or a broken winged archangel surrendering to an ancient demon. Lovely things to a dark heart like mine. If I am happy, Lanegan’s music makes me happier. If I am hurting, he transmutes the pain into something I can work with. I’m his bitch, in other words.

I have been to many concerts. I saw all of my idols when I lived in San Francisco in the early 90’s-Nirvana, Soundgarden, Beck. Eddie Vedder sweated on my sister and I at the Warfield, we were so close. But the problem was that all of this happened in my drinking days. And while I thought I had a marvelous time, and kind of did, it wasn’t about the music as soon as I got a drop of booze in me. It was about getting more booze.

So when I walked into the club on Friday night stone cold sober and saw the musician who means the most to me in this world, it about killed me. I was gobsmacked. He’s tall and lean, and simply stood holding the mike stand, singing with his eyes closed almost the entire show. He creates a storm with his voice, his tight, hurricane force band right behind him. I’ve read numerous complaints about how he does not interact with the fans. Excuse me, but the man is blowing his guts and entire soul into his voice. You want him to smile and talk, too?

After the show, Mark courteously signed autographs. I stood in line practically shaking. I could not believe I was going to interact with him. I clutched my t-shirt and waited. The t-shirt is the most perfect ever: black, of course, a soft, fine preshrunk cotton. His name in a pale, creamy green, with the blowsy pink rose brocade from the cover of the  Blues Funeral album outlining a skull. It’s so pretty. And Chris bought the second to last one for me. He also went up to take a peek at him and reported back, “Oh my God he is intense. Really intense.”

My turn came. He was hunched over at the table with a baseball cap on backwards, his face suprisingly fine boned in person. I shook the massive, tattooed hand. His eyes will haunt me forever, a fragile rare tundra of world weary pain. I wanted to take him to  quiet, safe room and make him a sandwich. A man who writes of magnolias blooming and his own brokeness is someone I want to feed and protect.

“How are you,” he politely asked.

“Fine, now that I’ve met you,” I said. “Could you please sign this “Sarah, you are a whore?” I asked him. Now, see, I thought I was being hilarious, but apparently this was all old hat to Mark. He simply asked how she spelled her name.  “I owe her, ” I explained. ” She turned me on to your music.” Later, on facebook, Sarah asked me how he smelled. She postulated he smelled of old shoe leather, smoke and sadness. I wish I could have found out.

When I had my autograph, I said, “Thank you, so much, for your music, man.” The unthinkable happened. He smiled at me as I walked away. Chris said it was like it was against his will, and it was a smile like a broken bicycle with a bent frame, only moving part of his face. I’d like to think it was because I reached him with my hearfelt thanks, seriously coming from the deepest part of me. But maybe he was just thinking to himself, “Dork.”

About Julie Geen

I am a freelance writer and creative writing teacher. View all posts by Julie Geen

4 responses to “Mark Lanegan, Old Shoe Leather, Smoke and Sadness

  • Moni Mueller

    Dear Julie,

    Thank you for this. This is exactly how I felt and feel now for the 2nd time after seeing Marks Show and meeting him after the concert. The last one is 4 days ago now and I am still acutely heart-broken. I am german and did not know what to say to him. I only wanted to see him in real. So I waited in the line for an autograph. After he signed my T-shirt I lost my countenance and asked him, if I could take his hand. I just took his beautiful tattooed hand and he sayed nothing. But he looked into my eyes and smiled. I whispered “Thank you” and walked away like on clouds. After a few steps I turned around once again and he still smiled at me. Maybe he thought I was only a kook but I felt blessed. I got a Mark Lanegan-Smile!!!

  • Julie Geen

    Moni, I’m so glad you got a Lanegan smile! And touched the massive tattooed hand!!

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