Lali Puna and me

I heard Lali Puna for the first time six years ago today.

2004 is significant to me because it was a turning point, the year I got my life back.

The relationship of doom had ended about two and a half months previously, and I was still adjusting to all this freedom. Not simply the freedom to get off with other people: the freedom to stay out late and get drunk and leave town at a moment’s notice and have friends round to visit and go on adventures and have no-one to answer to other than myself. Summer was coming and my freedom felt intoxicating. Some of what I was doing was pretty ordinary, but I was free of the vicious cycle I’d been trapped in for years, and I hadn’t been able to enjoy ordinary things for much of that time.

It was the day after I’d gotten my ƃuıʞuıs tattoo, and the Eurovision was on. I convinced a friend to let us watch it in his flat, because I didn’t have a TV and it was important. My American friends were new to it. I wanted Athena to win that year, from Turkey; they were these ska-tastic peaceniks who just yelled PEACE LOVE AND RESPECT!!!!!!!!! when the presenters tried to get a soundbite from them after the performance. My American friends, however, like everyone else, were distracted by the skimpy costumes of Ruslana’s wild dancers from Ukraine, and they were the ones who won. I met a cute boy, my friend’s bandmate, he came from Edinburgh but he somehow had the Belfast accent I myself was lacking. He had a homemade Miffy t-shirt bearing the message You will die. Later, I stumbled across his profile on a dating website and sent him a message headed So, wanna cyber?, and subsequently got kind of a po-faced response from him, and I thought oh shit, maybe he thought I meant that.

He brought along a Lali Puna CD and played it after the Eurovision had finished. It sounded kind of like a whole new world to me. He lent it to me and I copied it, copied it several times because everybody wanted it. I tried to describe the music to Ford Catríona but I didn’t know what I was talking about, I said something about it being electro and that was about as far as I got but Wikipedia says indietronic and that makes more sense.

My new flat was near the Meadows. My old flat had only been another five minutes up the road but I hadn’t gone outdoors much unless I was going to work or to the shops; I had often spent my three-day weekends holed up in the flat the whole time, smoking dope and trying to avoid sex and arguments. I guess in a nutshell that’s why ordinary life felt so amazing now. As the weather got warmer I’d cross the road to the Meadows, lie down on the grass in the sun, close my eyes and let the sounds of Faking The Books wash over me. It was beautiful. I don’t have words to describe the music in depth, partly because I’m no good at that but partly because, to me, that isn’t exactly the point. It’s more of a feeling that’s inextricably tied up with where I was at that point in my life.

It was the summer of the bizarre love triangle. We each listened to that album, and we each were to make our way to Berlin under different circumstances. It was hard to describe the relationships we had with one another, and when I tried to talk about what was going on in my life, people would look at me and not say anything. That summer I left Edinburgh a lot. Dublin, Belfast, Leeds, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Murcia, Valencia and more. That summer I bought my home. That summer was the last summer my mother was alive.

I saw Lali Puna for the first time last night, in the Lido with John from Belfast. We drank red wine and stood near the back and for the most part I could see okay. There seemed to be a pretty even gender ratio at the gig, which was maybe kind of novel; I remembered playing spot-the-woman with Marc at a Withered Hand gig last year. The band played newer stuff but they also played several tracks from Faking The Books and they fucking killed me. Two encores, I think, unless the wine interfered with my memory. I thought about how this music was the soundtrack to the changes I had undergone. After the gig, we went to a café across the road and John sensibly drank coffee and I got another glass of wine and started to scrawl things in my notebook to jog my memory so I could write about this today, but I wrote things that I don’t even understand now.

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