Sun Kil Moon yells at cloud: “The War On Drugs: Suck My Cock” and the language of male violence, by Meredith Graves (of Perfect Pussy)
I recently saw Sun Kil Moon (the project of Mark Kozelek) play in Montreal. I went to the show because I legitimately love the album Benji even thoughI had, from the start, some weird feelings about the record. There are moments on it that make me uncomfortable – moments where it leans towards macho, bro bullshit – but I felt it possible to look past these moments since, in a way, this record is can be seen as a progressive. It is a record that uses proper names, telling the stories of real people with real detail; it is an album where the author openly situates himself within the context of these stories, in relation to these characters. In short, it is an album where people are not simply objects in relation to a desiring subject (the male writer); it is an album where people have names, distinct characteristics, and real relationships of various kinds (friendship, family, romantic, etc). Sadly, this is a rare thing especially amongst male folks singers (in my experience).
Going into the show, I had a nagging fear that Mark Kozelek would dip into misogynist asshole territory but I set these fears aside, hoping and, unfortunately, my fears were quickly affirmed when, early in the set, Kozelek launched into a story about a female fan who praised Benji saying “Mark, you’ve finally made a masterpiece.” A masterpiece. Kozelek’s response was , “Bitch, please. I’ve been making masterpieces since before you were born.*” The first lesson I learned was that I should listen to my intuition when my asshole-bro meter is being triggered.
The saddest part, to me, of the obnoxious, asshole bro posturing that was Kozelek’s performance (complete with his patronizing treatment of the audience for being good little passive listeners, not like those "fucking hillbillies" in Raleigh, and being attractive – he praised all the pretty girls in Montreal, fuck off) was that nobody seemed to be bothered by his. No one spoke up, no one held him accountable, we all just let this middle aged white man act as if he owned the place – something we seem to do with many middle aged white men….many of whom, do own the fucking place (cuz that’s how privilege and private property work). So, I was stoked to read this article by Meredith Graves from Perfect Pussy because it deftly calls Kozelek’s actions for what they are: “emotional abuse” in the form of misogynistic, homophobic and sexually aggressive behaviour that reflects “a dangerous patriarchal herd mentality.” Her piece expresses this better than I can, so I encourage you to read it.
The second lesson that I learned from watching this Mark Kozelek drama came after reading this piece by Graves. There was a moment in his Montreal show where Kozelek aid something along the lines of “What to want from me?” It was a rhetorical kind of question – he didn’t actually seem to want a response, as it was his stage, not ours. But, in the moment, I had the impulse to yell “Take Feminism 101.” I repressed the impulse because 1) I didn’t want to anger this man and risk his mood changing…him stopping the show…his angry response and, 2) I didn’t want the crowd to be disappointed by the change in mood (potentially) caused by the comment or, further, to hate me for angering him. And that’s fucked up. This man’s demeanor – his notoriously cantankerous/aggressive relationships to audiences mixed with the mild praise he was doting on us for being pretty, quiet listeners – made me feel as though I couldn’t talk back for fear of waking the beast. And that’s male violence right there. That’s the patriarchy clearly playing on stage at the Ukrainian Federation.
My lesson, from this is, and from my nagging guilt for not speaking up, is that I can’t be afraid to be quiet. As a white man I carry so much privilege and this was a spot where I could have used that and suffered the potential anger invoked by calling out this shit publicly. Sadly, there will probably be a ‘next time’ when I can try to implement this lesson in practice.