Seeing Patti Smith / by Madi Luschwitz

I’ve never felt oppressed by my gender. When I’m writing a poem or drawing; I’m not female; I’m an artist
— Patti Smith

When I was younger I was consistently looking up to male role models for creative inspiration. The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, David Bowie and Quentin Tarantino, I loved their boldness and originality. Although being a shy teen I think I was mostly awestruck by their confidence.

When i was 18, almost a year into Art School I heard Patti Smith's album "Horses." Something happened when I heard it for the first time and I beleive from that moment my perspective was starting to shift as I opened myself up to the gritty and bold females out there that I had not yet exposed myself to. Thus sending myself on a hungry absorbtion through the life work of Patti Smith.

Airport hangs in La Guardia 

Airport hangs in La Guardia 

When planning our trip to The States I naturally went searching for a Patti Smith concert! I couldn’t believe it when one popped up in Chicago on December 30th. This was the birthplace of Patti and December 30th was her actual birthday. We had to go. So in an excited panic and fear of the tickets selling out I booked them, and so began our unexpected 24 hour adventure from Manhattan to Chicago and back again.

We boarded our plane at 3pm and landed in Chicago, Illinoise 5:30pm at a pleasent -3 degrees celsius! As we made our way through subways I watched the town sweep by through the windows of the train. I had this feeling of comfort, this was exactly where I was meant to be in this moment. Totally content. Which I found curious due to the cold grey light blanketing the town, big brick industrial buildings, deciduous trees stripped bare and roads lined with black snow shovelled to the side. I loved it.

Once off the train we found ourselves going around in circles lost in this new city. Although this didnt worry us since we were in our element wandering around and soaking it all in. Eventually we made our way to the Riviera Theatre. The air was dry and icey, our faces felt electric and zapped into the moment as our feet crunched along the salt sprinkled pavement. We had left much time as the gates didnt open for another two hours. As we neared the triumphant neon of the theatre the line emerged and we both realized that seating was first in best dressed. We got in line three blocks from the front gate half smiling, half shocked and gawking at the mass of people in front of us.

Nic in Chicago Park 

Nic in Chicago Park 

As the temperature dropped lower and lower our jackets were zipped up past our noses and hands deep in pockets. My hand felt at the folded up paper note I had written weeks back. A thankyou note, an acknowledgement, call it what you need; I had written a fan letter for Patti Smith. Does this make me one of those weirdos that write letters and have an unhealthy obsession with someone. YES! but fuck it. I am a freak and I had to get it to Patti!

So began our search for the messenger to take this letter to Patti. After numerous failed attempts and a slightly broken spirit we made our way to our last option The merchandise stand. Nic, still on high alert spotted Neil Young's doppleganger with an all access pass on his hip! Nic made a run for him, the poor man actually noticed and picked up his own pace! Then he stopped, perhaps noticing the desperation in Nic's eyes. “My wife is a massive Patti Smith fan. She has a letter, can you pleeease give it to her?” “sure” he said.

The Riviera Theatre

The Riviera Theatre

To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.
— Patti Smith

After that the night was buzzing with potential! We found our place in the mosh and before we knew it Patti came on. Maybe it was the vodka but something really strange happened as she spoke those first words “Jesus died for somebodys sins, but not mine” my eyes welled up and the tears started flowing. Serious tears, not just a quick little rom com dribble, I was overwhelmed. The tears kept streaming and sharing this moment with Nic was possibly the most special inspiring and deep moments to date. As Patti said when she saw Jim Morrison perform the first time "It seemed for me a night of initiation, where i had become fully myself in the presence of the one I had modeled myself after."

Patti in all her glory

Patti in all her glory

She spoke of empowerment, change and the moral power in taking responsibility for ones actions. In the song "Elegie" she ran off into poetic speech recalling and honouring all we have lost. From Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain to Amy Winehouse she named them all. Proving her relevence after all this time in todays culture. Her love for art, experiencing and observing have transended an era, a time and place. Replacing it with the Now as we stood amongst a hugely varied and diverse crowd. It felt like a gift to be standing in the mass absorbing this. She spat on stage, danced and swore like it was going out of fashion! she was everything I had hoped and more as she performed and expressed her gratitude for rock and roll. It was 70 years to date since she was born in Chicago that very night. There truely was magic in the air as we screamed her lyrics dancing and making friends amoungst us. I felt pure admiration yet also an awakened hunger in me. An obligation and a personal mission to stay on the path of art and self expression.

new years eve the morning after the show

new years eve the morning after the show