I’ve been pondering whether this is an odd choice for an inaugural post. It’s not a remarkable video – iPhone quality and taken portrait orientation like an amateur, view obscured by heads (hey, at least it’s accurate – this is what it’s like to be five foot me), doesn’t see the song through to the end. The artist fumbles. It is not particularly graceful or special.
As I mused over it and what I would say, I realized there’s certainly no better choice to exemplify the beginnings of this blog and of this chapter of my life. This is a project meant to chronicle the music that I have loved, experienced, felt. For me, this video perfectly embodies the sublime effect that music can have on a person.
This recording is not remarkable, but it has charm. Much like any performance I’ve seen on the internet of Zach Condon doing O Leãozinho, he can’t seem to remember the words, and you’ll notice that in my shot he’s got the lyrics taped to the microphone stand. It is the single most endearing thing in the world. In fact, it encompasses my favorite thing about Beirut: they are not perfect (and I hope to god that they never ever get better).
This is a song that I never expected to hear live, and there at my third Beirut show it came alive for me. It was almost instinctual to pick up my phone and film it. You will remember this, but you will want to see it again, I thought to myself. It was the only video I took of their set.
It’s always an experience to see Beirut, but this time it felt different, and that was not captured on camera. This is partially because it was different for personal reasons, and partly because of the aura of the band. There was something so distinctly Baltic about them this time, which was baffling to me. Post-No, No, No I read an article in which Zach implied that the Baltic sound they’re so associated with was not actually their calling, or wasn’t authentic (I’m paraphrasing – I’ll have to hunt it down again) and I was palpably disappointed by this thought for days. This particular evening, I think it was Zach’s mustache and grown out hair that did it for me. Possibly also his generally lazy disposition. This is not a bad thing, mind, and it might’ve been due to the five-week-old broken wrist he was sporting. I prefer to think it’s just his nature, though; it is all more intriguing that way.
The blankness of the stage made it seem like the band had sauntered out onto a platform that they were not ready for, and it was not ready for them, either. I sure as hell wasn’t ready, myself. I felt like I was in a basement in a foreign country watching the locals, instead of inside the ubiquitous Music Hall of Williamsbug. I was deep in my own nostalgic head. I slightly transported back to first time that I saw Beirut at Bearsville Theater in Upstate New York, an exquisite wooden mammoth of a place that I will always look to fondly. It was their first show back from a long hiatus, and I remember Zach speaking French into the microphone under his breath. It all seemed pregnant, shaky, nervous – but when the brass blared everything was completely and exactly correct.
This video holds a snippet of time that is personally important; it represents a diamond in a rough night for me. This set brought me anguish but O Leãozinho contextualized everything. It reminded me why I’d made the weighty decision to do something despite it being difficult, even if I wasn’t quite ready.
I do not speak or understand Portuguese. Therefore if it weren’t for Google, I wouldn’t ever have had even an inkling of how this song might translate to English. Let’s think about this for a moment. This song that I can hear – but never would’ve understood had I not looked it up – had the power to momentarily give me a sunnier disposition in a very dark strand of moments, simply from the feeling of comfort that I had from hearing it. From thinking fondly of the goofy grin that took over my face the first time I saw a video of Zach Condon messing up the lyrics. From remembering the opening lines (which at the time were about all I could remember of the translation) and casting a thought towards a fond memory. O Leãozinho means “Little Lion.” Maybe this evening by choosing to do the brave thing, I was the little lion. Imagine that? That’s music.
I’ve read that this song is about someone with the Leo sign, hence “Little Lion.” The person that comes to mind when I think of this song sits two signs away from Leo, but he was golden, and I always sort of felt that it was fitting to throw a thought in his direction when I listened. The start of my favorite English translation is as follows:
I really like seeing you, Little Lion
Walking under the sun
I really like you, Little Lion
To un-sadden, Little Lion, my oh so lonely heart
it’s enough to have found you on my way
The part of my life where it’s fair – to myself, to anyone? – to throw my thoughts towards that gold is, I think, over.
So, to spin it another way, to bring it all back to my thesis: this video is the perfect choice for an inaugural post. It’s enough to have found you on my way. That’s it, isn’t it? That’s what I’d say to any music that makes its way on here. That, and thank you.