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Dream Sequence: Cat Power and the Festival of Anxiety

Indie rock stars often make cameos in my dreams. As a music journalist by trade, I consider it my version of the boardroom nightmare. The only difference being that, instead of having swear words inexplicably show up in the middle of my big annual presentation, I show up at the home of Stephen Malkmus for an exclusive interview, only to discover that I am wearing nothing but Scooby-doo Underoos and that, instead of a microphone, I must interview the Pavement front man with one of the large ornamental wooden spoons that once hung in my parents’ den.

I was little surprised, then, that my dream last night starred Cat Power.

As tomorrow night’s headliner at the 5th Avenue Theatre for Heineken City Arts Fest – the inaugural festival this magazine is kicking off tonight – and as the act I am probably most excited for out of a fantastic lineup, Cat Power is a natural cipher for the intoxicating mix of excitement and worry that has been filling my brain lately. And now, the dream.

Open on me entering a recital hall that resembles the 600-seat auditorium where I took Biology 101 as a Freshman. The crowd is thin. In fact, there are only ten other people there, including the bass player for Yo La Tengo, who was probably there because I fell asleep after watching this on KCTS last night.

Chan Marshall, the woman behind Cat Power, takes the stage and plays a moving set, topped off by a stunning acoustic rendition of “The Moon,” off her album The Greatest. I am overwhelmed with happiness that I am there, but mortified that the show bombed. I leave feeling torn. But then, as I am standing outside the hall a few moments later watching an odd impromptu jam between Marshall, Joan Jett and, I think, Ozzy Osbourne (who, I know, was playing a banjo), my girlfriend tells me that the performance I witnessed inside was the soundcheck.

Relieved, I return inside the hall, which is now wholly different: resplendent in deep burgundy and gilded edges, much closer to the real 5th Avenue Theatre, where the show will actually be taking place on October 21. Marshall again takes the stage and, after playing two songs, leaves the stage, her shoulders slumped. After a few minutes of waiting, she returns, her face now covered in white makeup. She opens her guitar case and pulls out a mandolin wrapped in the logo of Dos Equis, the Spanish import beer. Then, as she began playing a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My,” I woke up.

So, reader, what does it mean?