“Fuck California!”: Life in the Land of Gold and Gutters

Video credit: David Martínez

What happens to your dreams when they don’t come true? They turn to dirt, while the love you’ve lost turns to pain. Oh, California! Blonde haired, blue-eyed. As fake and taunting as a neon sign promising happiness. On Saturday night, I watched Erika M Anderson, or EMA, perform the recitative lyrics of her song “California,” which is from her 2011 album Past Life Martyred Saints at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix, AZ. Evoking images of disappointment, betrayal and agony, EMA churned their verbally and aurally eloquent condemnation of a place where “Schizophrenia rules the brain” through a veil of fog and shimmering stage lights. Occurring about halfway through EMA’s set before the encore, “California” appears as a poignant chapter in a story about fame and celebrity, as told from just outside of the spotlight. Yet, close enough to see what really lies beyond the illusion of stage and screen. But also far enough away to feel “boring” and to “don’t mind dyin’.”

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