Cynthia Dall (b.1971, d.2012) was a musician, photographer and voting rights activist from Sacramento, CA. I first learned of her from her transgressive-styled photos in Lisa Crystal Carver's Rollerderby fanzine.
When the untitled album dropped in early '96, some people in the international underground were aware of Cynthia Dall due to her contributions to Roller Derby magazine and her role in Smog, where she sang and played guitar on a couple records and a couple tours for a couple years leading up to her record. Yeah, people knew about her, but we didn't do them any favors putting out that record- it was completely untitled in every way! After a couple weeks in the marketplace, we had to have a sticker made just to help people see beyond the awesome cover to an album that was just about as ambitious as anything we'd done. — Drag City Records
‘Untitled’ (1996) (Krutitzuh Viertitzuh — Russian Folk Song)
Initially, Dall’s debut LP was released as ‘Untitled’ with no artist credit. I referred to it as “Untitled, Untitled” for a couple of years before I found out who the artist was.
Remember when Dan came over after we asked for more money for recording? He was like, "are you guys on heroin?" We were like, no we're just depressed. Dan K gave us his infamous look and said "Well okay..." That was a moment!
See Dan O and Dan K [label owners] hadn't heard any of the songs! It was all on faith. Dan K had spoken to Mallon and he assured him it was gonna be good. Dan O told me he thought it would be pretty, but that it was just gonna be just, ukelele songs or something. Like, dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee... They thought it was getting kind of expensive for like, a Juliana Hatfield-piece of bullshit. So they were very confused about it. Dan K was like, I'm gonna trust you on this. He was like, pull up your sleeves. And then when they got it, they were like, oh this is great. — Cynthia Dall
I’d first heard of Dall, born in Roseville and raised in Sacramento, in the mid-’90s when she worked with her then-boyfriend Bill Callahan. Callahan played lo-fi moody pop under the name Smog, and Dall appeared on some of his singles and albums, including The Doctor Came at Dawn, the 1996 soundtrack to my life.
That same year, Dall released a solo album on the Chicago-based indie label Drag City Records. The untitled disc didn’t feature Dall’s name anywhere on the packaging—something I would have found pretentious if the resulting album wasn’t so captivating. [...]
Until three years ago when a friendly woman struck up a conversation with me at a Friday Night Concerts in the Park show.
The band Dog Party was playing and, impressed, the woman turned around to ask me—anyone, within earshot really—the name of the band. She had chestnut hair pulled into a girlish ponytail and brown eyes that sparkled with excitement and seemingly relentless enthusiasm. She wanted the band to play a political fundraiser—what could I tell her about them? How could she get in touch with their manager?
We ended up talking for about an hour and eventually, upon exchanging introductions, I tried to hide the slight sense of awestruck foolishness that I felt upon meeting someone who’d contributed, not insignificantly, to the musical backdrop of my 20s. — Rachel Leibrock
‘Berlin, 1945’ (1996)
Not that it mattered to her—Dall was still making music but, these days, it seemed, she was more interested in grassroots organizing. She had come out to Cesar Chavez Plaza, in fact, to register voters—an impressive task considering she lived in Curtis Park and epilepsy prevented her from driving. Indeed, she’d walked miles in the blazing heat, and as the sun finally started its dip behind the trees, she waved off offers for a ride and started on her journey back home.
In time, Cynthia and I became friends of sorts—dinner and beer, email exchanges, texts, Google chats and Facebook posts. At first, I wanted to profile Dall for this paper and although she initially agreed, whenever I broached the subject in future conversations, she’d artfully change the subject.
That was fine. Eventually, I realized, I’d rather be Cynthia’s friend than a neutral observer in her life. Sometimes we discussed politics. Periodically, she talked about a boyfriend whom she missed. Occasionally, she offered details about the epilepsy often left her tired and prone to sudden seizures.
Over the last year, our exchanges became less frequent. I was busy, she had stuff going on. Life happens. Recently, however, we briefly chatted online and agreed we needed to get together again. Sometime. Soon.
I didn’t know Cynthia Dall very well, but her death leaves me sorrowful and yet also glad I had the chance to spin, however briefly, through her orbit.
Goodbye, Cynthia—you will be missed. — Rachel Liebrock
WHO’S TALKING TO WHO?
Jimmy Kimmel: Emma Stone, Rory Scovel, Chloe Moriondo
Jimmy Fallon: Michael Douglas, Billy Porter, Mustafa
Stephen Colbert: Bradley Whitford, Carlos Watson
Seth Meyers: Joel Edgerton
James Corden: Emily Blunt, Elle King
Lilly Singh: Payal Kadakia
Trevor Noah: Michelle Zauner (R 5/12/21)
Conan O'Brien: Russell Brand (R 4/15/21)
A late night gathering for non serious palaver that does not speak of that night’s show. Posting a spoiler will get you brollywhacked. You don’t want that to happen to you. It's a fate worse than a fate worse than death.
LAST WEEK’S POLL: Another cartoon poll
George of the Jungle 4% 1 vote
Peabody & Sherman 27% 7 votes
Rocky & Bullwinkle 62% 16 votes
Super Chicken 4% 1 vote
Tom Slick 4% 1 vote
The Waterboys 'Fisherman's Blues' (1986)
Cat or Mouse
Cat or Mouse