Bark: ian curtis is dead. long live ian curtis.

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

This post was originally published at Bark on October 17, 2013


peter hook performs at the double door, 9/15/13 – photo © alejandra guerrero (

i’ve long felt that “regret” is an incredibly powerful word, one not to be trotted out lightly.  you can be disappointed that you sounded like an idiot, stumbling over your words, while trying to talk to your own personal hero, live in the flesh.  you can even be ashamed at your lack of courage, quietly enduring disrespect only to silently berate everyone (including yourself) after the fact.  but you can learn from those things & move on & become a better/worse/not-really-all-that-different person for it.  regret, though.  regret is like begging a genie from a magic lamp to let you go back & profoundly redirect the course of your life.  regret is the thing you’d probably feel after suicide if you were still capable of feeling.  regret you save for the heavy shit.

you regret not being honest about how you felt & telling that girl that, yes, of course, you loved her.  you regret going through four years of college (and even more years after graduation), reading all those goddamn books and not making the cognitive leap that, hey, you’ve always been a pretty decent writer, and, well, maybe you should try writing something like all those books you love so fucking much.

so it might be a bit of a stretch to say, now, i regret assuming that some late night rock show would start well after the posted start time, like they always do—except for this time, when it didn’t.  this time being when peter hook & the light brought their “movement/power, corruption & lies” tour to a tiny club in chicago at 11pm on a september sunday.  it might be a stretch to say i regret not showing up until almost 11:30.  but then again, maybe not such a huge leap after all.

you might say i have a deep/f’ed up/quasi-religious relationship with joy division’s “ceremony.”  there was a time when i posited that no one could ever really know what  that song was ultimately supposed to sound like.  what the real lyrics were.  what the song was really all about.  what it might’ve sounded like performed by a band at the top of their game.  but now i think someone does know.  i think peter hook does.

because i was late to the double door that night, i missed peter hook & the light’s version of “ceremony.”  but what i did hear the rest of that night made me feel like ian curtis was in the room with us.  it felt like peter hook was channeling his long departed friend—channeling him because he honestly didn’t know any other way to play those songs now (even though ian curtis had killed himself well before any of those songs were ever written).

during the show that night, i wondered what might have happened if ian curtis had lived.  and how often peter hook thought about his old friend.  and if there is an afterlife, whether ian is/was wondering what his life might’ve looked like had he not hung himself.  including what his band might’ve done with him instead of without him.  what was the sound not of new order covering joy division—but, in fact, the very opposite?  and if there’s such a thing as eternal life, does that also mean there’s such a thing as eternal regret?  as it happens, i have no idea.  mostly because peter hook’s bass (and several cans of brooklyn beer) bombed that thought right the fuck outta my head.

i also don’t know who comprises “& the light.”  some young dudes half hook’s age?  but who they were didn’t really matter.  the songs mattered.  hook’s lead vocals were gruff.  not what you’d expect for new order songs.  he certainly wasn’t monotone, but he wasn’t really concerned with inflection, either.  for the most part.  his was a weary voice.  but joyful, too.

while i stood toward the back, a big stupid grin gouged into my face, peter hook’s bass was sprinting its way through a marathon race, and colored lights spun around the club like light trying to escape a prism any way it could.  “temptation” was a goddamn skittles rainbow.  hot pink like the ink on that note the girl wrote to you in 8th grade, telling you something that any adult could see plain as day but which was oblivious to your young heart: she is not ever going to give you what you want.  lemon lime like the first gatorade you ever drank when your best friend somehow talked you into golf lessons at age 13, just about a year before he got into drugs, then seriously into drugs, and drifted away from you, your relationship with him never to return quite the same.  neon blue like the curaçao your buddy from high school drank to excess then puked back up in a remarkably similar color, not too long before he started dating the ex it took you years to get over.

can regret only exist after the fact?  can you still call it “regret” later, if you’re actually aware of it as it’s happening?  can you say you regret not being able to “be in the moment” because you were already thinking about how to write about the moment for your blog/journal/someday memoir (knowing full well how fucked up that is while you’re thinking it)?

barring the release of a bootleg* someday, i’ll probably never know what peter hook & the light’s version of “ceremony” sounded like that night (though i think sam edmonds can tell you).  but in my head, it’s precisely what ian envisioned.  peter hook the pied piper leading us all to certain death.  and every motherfucker within earshot dancing.


after writing this post, i discovered that peter hook is selling downloads of a show he did with the light in manchester.  oddly enough, now that i know this exists, i kinda don’t want to hear it—like the mystery of the possible “ceremony” is better than any version i’ll ever actually hear.

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