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PopCon

SEATTLE Museum of Popular Culture (formerly EMP) Saturday, April 22, 2017, 5:15 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

16 minute film by Jean Smith for PopCon 2017, introduced by Evelyn McDonnell (Associate Professor of Journalism and New Media and Interim Director of Journalism at Loyola Marymount University in LA).

PopCon 2017 theme is music and politics.

The annual EMP Pop Conference, first held in 2002, mixes together ambitious music discourse of every kind in an attempt to bring academics, critics, musicians, and dedicated fans into a collective conversation.

Jean 1

Jean 2

Stills from the film. Jean Smith performing “The Dogs” outside Pages Books on Queen Street in Toronto circa 1993. Jean Smith being interviewed by Much Music inside Pages, talking about feminism and the increase of women in bands.

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Pitchfork’s story of feminist punk in 33 songs

pitchforkMecca Normal‘s “Man Thinks Woman” (1987) made the cut with a great write-up by Douglas Wolk for Pitchfork’s story of feminist punk in 33 songs

“Mecca Normal break rules like they never noticed them in the first place. The Vancouver-based duo of singer Jean Smith and guitarist David Lester are anarchist-feminist activists and constant experimentalists, implying a rhythm section with negative space alone. Always an intense presence onstage, they’ve become the most tenacious of D.I.Y. road warriors, touring and recording for 32 years now. In the early ’90s, they popped up on most of the biggest American indie-rock labels (Sub Pop, K, Matador); by their 25th anniversary, they were on the road with a performance-and-lecture project called “How Art & Music Can Change the World.”

Smith’s lyrics often foreground her political perspective; their anthem “Man Thinks ‘Woman,’” released in 1987, started out as a barbed dissection of gender normativity: “Man thinks ‘woman’ when he talks to me/Something not quite right.” The song kept expanding its radius from there, encompassing both bitter poetics and a disarmingly funny account of a drunken makeout gone weird. Kathleen Hanna has cited Smith as an early inspiration: “When I saw her,” she told The Fader, “I was just like, that’s it. I’m done. I’m sold.” –Douglas Wolk

“Man Thinks Woman” video by David Lester

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“Oh Yes You Can” 7″ on K Records (1987)

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Jarred Up” compilation of singles on K Records (1993)

A mess of Mecca Normal songs pulled together from singles and compilations dating to 1992, rounding out the first eight years of their existence. Dunt fear, Mecca Normal are still going strong! Jarred Up reveals the awesome might of their thing; it is the essential Mecca Normal Document.

A K Records Essential.

Track Listing
Strong White Male
Man Thinks Woman
Forlorn
He Didn’t Say
Follow Down
It’s Important
How Many Now?
Horse Heaven Hills
This Is Different
Armchairs Fit
Accidently
You Heard It All
Days
Fan of Sparks
Narrow
Upside Down Flames
From The Surface
More More More
Echo
One More Safe
Rose

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2014 Whitney Biennial Installation

Whitney installation

Whitney installation 2

It’s installation day at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The 2014 Whitney Biennial opens next week. David and I are excited to have our work included in this major exhibition.

Thanks to Public Collectors’ Marc Fischer for sending photos and stories from inside the Whitney!

Public Collectors’ participation in the Whitney Biennial focuses on the life and work of Malachi Ritscher, who recorded several thousand concerts from the 1980s until 2006.

It’s a total thrill to see the Mecca Normal 7″ and the photo Malachi took of us at the Empty Bottle after he recorded our set in Chicago in 2002. Our set — and a small portion of the music he recorded over the years that he was meticulously documenting the live music scene in Chicago — is available via an iPod mounted on the museum wall. A short piece I wrote about Malachi is included in the official biennial catalog and in the booklet that Public Collectors has published.

David Lester’s poster “Malachi” will be framed and hanging on the wall. The poster features a drawing Malachi Ritscher at an anti-war rally, holding a sign that says “Unjustified War is Mass Murder.”

Malachi’s final act of protest was self-immolation. He intended for a video document of his death, his protest, to be widely distributed by the mainstream media to impact the American people. This did not happen. In part, I wrote the song “Malachi” to further Malachi’s intention, to use art and music to carry his message forward. The song was also a reaction to Malachi’s death, a death devised to be much more powerful to many more people. At some point, I suggested that David include Malachi in his ongoing Inspired Agitators poster series to exhibit and discuss in our touring classroom event called “How Art and Music Can Change the World” within which Mecca Normal performs “Malachi” after talking about his death, the video and how artists may choose to represent profound social, political and personal content in their work.

“If I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country. I will not participate in your charade — my conscience will not allow me to be a part of your crusade.” – Malachi Ritscher, 2006

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2014 Whitney Biennial

Press Release

poster

Click through to high resolution image.

FREE poster

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

David Lester poster in 2014 Whitney Biennial, March 7 to May 25, New York City

Malachi (18 x 28″ poster) by Mecca Normal guitarist David Lester is included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The exhibition also includes a recording from a live set performed by underground rock duo Mecca Normal,

Mecca Normal, and both sides of the cover of the Mecca Normal 7″ record that includes the song Malachi about war protester Malachi Ritscher.

 

cover

The painting on the record cover is called Discovering Utopia by Mecca Normal vocalist Jean Smith. Click through to high resolution image.

Mecca-Normal-Malachi-BACK-COVER

Back cover with “Malachi” lyrics by Jean Smith. Click through to high resolution image.

These four artifacts are part of Public Collectors: Malachi Ritscher – an exhibit curated by Chicago’s Marc Fischer about American activist and music documentarian Malachi Ritscher (1954 – 2006) who self-immolated on a freeway median outside of Chicago to protest the war in Iraq. Ritscher made a video of this action that was not widely seen.

“It was Malachi’s intention for the video of his protest, his death, to reach people through mainstream media, to jar them from complacency, to have them raise their voices to end the war. But that wasn’t what happened. The video was not released in that way. When we added our song – and the poster – to our performances and classroom events, we regarded them as extensions of Malachi’s intention. We had created documents about the documentarian whose final statement on war was not heard. We created art and music because Malachi’s voice was not heard.” – Jean Smith, from the 2014 Whitney Biennial catalog

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David Lester is a visual artist and the guitar player in the rock duo Mecca Normal from Vancouver, Canada.

Jean Smith of Mecca normal

Jean Smith is a writer, a painter, and the lyricist/vocalist in Mecca Normal.

Malachi – the title of David Lester’s poster – includes text about Ritscher’s beliefs and a drawing of Ritscher attending an anti-war rally in Chicago. The poster is part of his ongoing “Inspired Agitators” series of posters which tours in the USA and Canada as an element in a classroom and art gallery event called How Art and Music Can Change the World, co-presented with Jean Smith. Of his poster series, Lester says, “Presenting the ideas and lives of activists and artists this way is a form of social protest.” David Lester is giving away the poster as a pdf document.

Public Collectors: Malachi Ritscher will include artifacts from Ritscher’s work as a documentarian focused on recording the Chicago music scene, including a Mecca Normal performance at the Empty Bottle. The live set was recorded by Malachi Ritscher on November 11, 2002 while Mecca Normal was on tour with their album “The Family Swan” (Kill Rock Stars, 2002). On this occasion, a touring version of How Art and Music Can Change the World was being exhibited upstairs at the Bottle Cap. Malachi visited the art exhibition, which included many of David Lester’s “Inspired Agitators” posters and Jean Smith’s paintings depicting politically-charged events.

Malachi – the Mecca Normal song about Malachi Ritsher’s intentions and his death – was released as a 7″ record in 2010 by Olympia, Washington’s K Records. The cover art for the record is a painting by Jean Smith called Discovering Utopia. An acoustic version of the song and a video by Jean Smith were released on November 3, 2013, the seventh anniversary of Malachi Ritscher’s death.

Malachi poster, 7″ cover art, Malachi videos and lyrics

David Lester’s Inspired Agitators posters

Jean Smith’s Discovering Utopia series of paintings.

During July and August of 2014, Public Collectors: Malachi Ritscher will be exhibited at the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago.

Mecca Normal – NEW ALBUM out in September of 2014 on M’lady’s Records– produced and mixed by KRAMER.

Free download – acoustic version of Malachi released on November 3, 2013, the seventh anniversary of Malachi Ritscher’s war protestation in Chicago. Jean Smith vocals, David Lester acoustic guitar, KRAMER on bass and keys. Produced and mixed by KRAMER.

Mecca Normal Newsletter

ARTIST BIOS: Jean Smith and David Lester formed the electric guitar and voice duo Mecca Normal in the early 1980s with the express intention of changing the world. The band has released thirteen albums (K Records, Matador, Kill Rock Stars). Together, Lester and Smith run a small press, a record label and a political art museum.

David Lester is the author of The Listener graphic novel (Arbeiter Ring, 2011) – the story of Hitler’s rise to power correlates to questions about the power of political art. David Lester lives in Vancouver, Canada.
The Listener graphic novel
Graphic Design

Jean Smith is the author of two published novels and a two-time recipient of Canada Council for the Arts awards as a writer of creative fiction. Her paintings have been included in two Black Dot Museum of Political Art exhibitions in OlympiaWashington, in 2010 and 2012. Jean Smith lives in Vancouver, Canada.
Paintings
Writing

Mecca Normal (Jean Smith & David Lester), 2011, photo by Judith Baumann

Click through to high resolution photo of Mecca Normal – Jean Smith and David Lester. Photo by Judith Baumann

CONTACT: meccanormal@hotmail.com

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Oh Yes You Can! EP

Mecca Normal recorded the three song  “Oh Yes You Can!” EP on April 15, 19 and 26, 1987 in Vancouver. Jean designed the cover art and delivered it to K Records​ in Olympia, WA. It was released on August 17, 1987.

Strong White Male
More More More
Man Thinks Woman

Vol. IV in the International Pop Underground Series

“I like it. Your feminist/intellectual stance as filtered through backporch Appalachian phrasing is quite unique.” – Bruce Pavitt​, The Rocket (Seattle)

In stock at K Records, ships without a cover.

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