By Adam Lawrence
I was first introduced to my Sweet Princess Neko Case about 36 months ago. Napster was in its heyday, and I, like many other music-loving single men in their mid-to-late-twenties, spent a lot of time frantically looking for new female artists.
“South Tacoma Way,” the first song I downloaded by Neko and her band The Boyfriends, promised to at least be a cute novelty song about the nearby city. Instead, I was treated to a heartrending treatise on the unfair death of a loved one delivered with a voice unlike any I’d heard before. Confident, striking and immediately memorable in its power, it almost seemed as if Neko was singing the song especially for me.
Since then, I’ve dedicated my life solely to being with my soul mate and future wife, Neko Case. Sadly, Neko’s busy schedule – which includes recording and performing her own music as well as contributing her many talents to Vancouver super group The New Pornographers and acting as one-half of The Corn Sisters with Carolyn Mark – often keeps us apart for long periods of time. But while she’s oftentimes not able to see me as much as either of us would like, she’s made it clear over the past two years that she’s thinking about me. A brief history of our relationship follows.
Furnace Room Lullaby, Neko’s second album, is released. I notice it in the new release bin and confuse it with a new Nick Cave record. The beguiling cover art piques my interest.
I download “South Tacoma Way.” My world changes, and the journey begins.
Despite my immediate enchantment with Neko, her voice and her teachings, I struggle with the fact that my new favorite CD is, in fact, a country album. I pick up her first album, The Virginian, which is even twangier. I love them both anyway.
I see Neko perform live for the first time at Ladyfest Olympia when she headlines “Country Night.” I’m slackjawed by her performance and vow to someday make her my bride. As she exits the stage I’m almost certain she makes eye contact with me and smiles seductively.
Many of my friends and relatives receive copies of Furnace Room Lullaby for Christmas. My role as a Neko disciple is secure.
Discipleship pays off when my editor schedules me to interview Neko when she comes to Seattle to open for the Jayhawks. An overnight stay at the hospital, during which I’m diagnosed with diabetes, slows down my growing anticipation only for a while. The idea of meeting her face to face begins to take on a near-frantic seriousness. I later learn that she’ll only have time for a phone interview, so I console myself by downloading every picture of her I can find on the ‘Net.
Eventually, I track her down via cell phone. After a rocky start due to poor first question about how “all the punks were going country,” our conversation is a smashing success. I garner her sympathy with my tale of woe and the interview quickly becomes the greatest single moment in my short life. Noticing the undeniable chemistry between us, I confidently add Neko’s phone number to my Day Runner and make plans to call her to touch base in a few weeks.
Nick Cave announces a tour. Neko is scheduled to open in Seattle. I can’t help but wonder if this unexpected trip back to the Northwest is an effort to finally meet me in person. I anxiously await a phone call inviting me to come to the show and meet up with her backstage.
I’ve slightly underestimated the intensity of Neko’s rigorous touring schedule, as her invitation and offer of free tickets never comes. Ticketless, I head over to her show anyway, and somehow manage to somehow acquire 15th row seats. I’m determined to applaud first and loudest for every song she performs to show her I’m not upset.
After the show, while she’s breaking down her own equipment, I screw up my courage to approach the stage and say hello. Too many times people miss out on a wonderful romantic relationship simply because they’re both too shy to approach each other. Determined to not let that happen to us, I ask her what her plans are for her short stay in Seattle, hoping to set up an in-person interview. I shamelessly name-drop her label contact as a conversation starter, but the fates conspire against me. I walk away cursing myself for not revealing my true feelings.
I’ve managed to build a nice collection of mp3s of live Neko tracks, including her Peel Session, which I sequence in its entirety from individual files. Scenarios constantly run through my mind wherein Neko asks me to compile her career retrospective in the year 2022.
I attend the sold-out New Pornographers show at Seattle’s Crocodile Cafe with a large NadaMucho.com contingent in tow. Although Neko’s role in the Canadian power-pop band is limited to occasional vocals and mad tambourine shaking, she remains the centerpiece of attention. I make it a point to undersell the extent of our relationship just in case she’s too busy after the show to come down and meet all my friends.
Aside from my drunken editor’s incessant screaming in my ear throughout the night, it’s a fantastic show, highlighted by Neko making eye contact with me several times throughout the night and flashing me that sly, knowing smile. “I see you baby, I think to myself. Oh, I see you.”
I finally catch Neko’s side project, the Corn Sisters. She and her “Sister” Carolyn Mark put on a bawdy show at Seattle’s Tractor Tavern. Even my roommate blushes on occasion, but knowing that’s just Neko’s sense of humor I’m one of the few audience members who takes the sexual innuendos and bathroom humor in stride.
Thrown panties, corncob innuendo and improv-ed songs about fellatio make my night in the front row unforgettable. I’m awash with guilt as I do so, but I catch myself undressing my Sweet Baby with my eyes several times. There seems to be a near-animal attraction between us at this point. As a funny little way to show that even someone who’s as close to Neko as I am can be fanatical about her, I steal a stray tine from her broken drum brush after the show while waiting for she and Carolyn to come out and talk to the other fans. I take the joke a step further when I get in line with the rest of the starstruck nobodies and have Neko sign a copy of Furnace Room Lullaby. Her message is a simple “Love, Neko.” Sigh.
I pre-order the Canadian Amp EP from Neko’s label the first day it’s available. Thanks to an eye appointment earlier in the day, I can’t really see shit, but that doesn’t deter me from staring lovingly at the album art. My Baby is looking as foxy as ever, and I can’t help but wonder to myself if she’ll find it weird if I want her to recreate her album covers or publicity stills in the bedroom. Seems like honest fun to me, but maybe the mixture of career and relationship would just be too much for her. I can understand that.
I make a last-minute pilgrimage to Vancouver, B.C. to catch Neko play the 10th Anniversary show for Mint Records, her home label. I get pretty close to the stage but can’t tell if she spots me or not. Knowing that she’s going to be stoked about the surprise visit, I send her telepathic suggestions to come to my table afterwards. For some reason, they go unheeded. I make a note to find out if she dislikes surprise visits in general, or is just having a rough day.
Mere days after the Canada show, I lead a contingent to Neko’s triumphant return to the Pacific Northwest and Seattle’s annual Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival. For some reason, she seems like she doesn’t recognize me from my closely guarded spot, front row center.
Despite this, my love for her is stronger than ever. I battle back feelings of embarrassment as the other Nada staff ask why I’m getting the “cold shoulder,” content just being back with my Baby so soon after our little spat in Vancouver.
My pilfered drum tine is missing from its usual spot in the bathroom. I freak out for about 3 hours, then find the tine inches from where it once safely resided. My sigh of relief is audible for several blocks.
It’s been several months since I’ve seen or heard from my Sweet Baby, and I’m getting a little worried. Temporary encouragement arrives when I win an online auction for a limited edition Neko poster from a show in Nanaimo, B.C. In an effort to make the most of the distance that separates us, I hang the poster on the ceiling above my bed and stare longingly at her come-hither smile several hours a day for the next few weeks. Occasionally I imagine all of the other men looking at the same poster, thinking her sultry look is intended for them, and chuckle to myself. Losers.
January –July 2002
I don’t get to see my Neko for a long period of time, as she’s recording her next album in Arizona with members of Calexico and Giant Sand. Promises of an early-year release are found to be spurious. My frustration builds over her lack of effort in making our relationship work. I’m confused, but still feel very lucky to have such a wonderful woman in my life.
August 20, 2002
Blacklisted is released to the world and immediately takes its place as one of, if not the best, albums in Neko’s catalogue. I celebrate by holding my own private record release party (if you know what I mean), and begin making plans for a more aggressive strategy for proving my love to God’s Most Perfect Creation.
November 7, 2002
Neko finally comes home to play a two-night stand at the legendary Crocodile Café’ I’m especially pleased when she performs the song on the new record that’s about me. It’s called “I’ll Be Around.”
“When the new crowd starts to bore you
Just remember there is someone to adore you
When you’re weary of nights out on the town
Look for me, I’ll Be Around”
She tries to play it off like it’s an old song by some chick she calls Ketty Lester, but I know better.
March 29-30, 2003
After months of touring, which totally puts a strain on our relationship, Neko finally gets her shot to play in her natural habitat – a museum where everyone can adore her majesty. Well, at least watch her play her music in a museum. Together with pals Kelly Hogan and Carolyn Mark, Neko performs two sets at the Sky Church within the Experience Music Project. The first Saturday night and second a Sunday matinee geared more toward children. It’s a great feeling being with her around so many children and families, and I realize that next time she comes to town she’s prolly gonna be expecting me to propose. Unless she was expecting me to do it this time. Crap, I better go call her and see.