In the month span between December 2016 and January 2017, I lived out all of my emo (being liberal with this term) band dreams.
I saw Kevin Devine for the sixth time (this was my third time seeing him with The Goddamn Band, I think). Kevin has been a staple in my life since middle school. In fact, I think that if my favorite band, Arctic Monkeys, didn’t exist, he would be my be-all-end-all. Frankly, some days he is anyway. This Kevin show brought me Pinegrove, a band that has skyrocketed straight to the top of my list of Bands That Are The Most Important to me.
From the crowd of that KD show, I bought tickets to ‘Something In The Way’ fest, which Modern Baseball was headlining and Pinegrove was also playing. Later, my friend and I tried to understand how we thought that not going to that fest was even an option – we couldn’t. This was the first of many times in the months to come that I would say “Thank God for Pinegrove.” The ‘SITW’ lineup was quite frankly insane and it exposed me to some great stuff I probably wouldn’t have otherwise known (Turnover, Alex G.)
After MoBo was The Front Bottoms’ annual ‘Champagne Jam’. This was my first time seeing The Front Bottoms after years of loving them. One of my most potent musical memories is discovering them one high school summer and becoming totally addicted. I remember my dad asking me to help with yard work, and me bringing my mp3 player outside – I could not survive without them in my ears, and I’d never enjoyed yard work more.
After all of the above, it only made sense to go see the Fathers of Emo, American Football. It was like the previous two months or so were one long emotional concert leading up to American Football as the grand headliner. I won’t pretend that I’ve been a fan all the while; I was seven years old when the debut came out. I’d tried to get into them a few times at the suggestion of a friend, and just couldn’t. Then I was turned onto one of Mike Kinsella’s side projects, Owen. Hearing some of those songs live completely changed me, and I went into one of those “I need to listen to everything this human has ever put out” moods.
C, meet American Football.
What an incredible and awe-inspiring performance! I did not expect to love it as much as I did, truly, having only gotten into them when the first songs from the new album dropped. But to hear “Honestly” live was like hearing it for the very first time. There are times when that bassline pops into my head and won’t leave until I play the song thrice on repeat. They have completely and totally infected me.
I could not believe how dynamic the band was on stage. I fully expected stagnant calculated guitar playing and not much else (which isn’t necessary a bad thing). Instead I got probably the most entertaining drummer apart from Mat Uychich or Matt Helders (join me for a later post where I attempt to determine why all of my favorite drummers are named Matthew), Steve Lamos. He is plain and simply put, The Man. I guess I also wasn’t really expecting two percussionists which threw me for a loop, but ultimately gave me so much more context.
I was also surprised by how danceable the music was – I don’t think I ever would’ve realized had I not gone to the show and stood behind a guy who had such rhythm and was so endearingly into it all. Also, moment of appreciation for the very nice guy who let my friend and I take his spot on the coveted back-of-the-room-bar-platform at Terminal 5 because we were shorter than he. Thank you, kind stranger.
All in all, the crowd was actually perfect. As much as I love seeing my favorite artists, sometimes I love being the wallflower at a concert – I love watching people love things that I only like. It gives me perspective and I’m always in awe when I discover how much more dimension a band has than what I felt I could determine from listening to them. I guess ultimately that’s the magic I keep seeking by attending gigs.
I’ve recently seen several articles about artists that are battling assorted types of loss pop up on my radar. I think I’m most looking forward to Richard Edwards’ new solo album, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset. The first single, “Disappeared Planets,” paints a pretty accurate picture of the massive feelings that are associated with losing something; in Edwards’ case it’s a relationship. But feelings of loss translate to and permeate other types of loss, which is why I think I’m particularly drawn to it as a theme in songs.
Begrudgingly, I am not a musician. I don’t have a catalog of songs that speak my own emotions, but I like to think that I’m pretty well-equipped to carve out paths for myself in other musicians’ works. I think the same can be said of any music lover.
This playlist is something that I’ve been working on for the past five months and some change. It is simultaneously personal and impersonal in that only a few songs speak directly to the subject of my own grief. I sort of couldn’t bare to include artists or songs that were too relevant. The rest of the songs speak only to me – they quantify the huge emotions that I have felt in this last near-half a year of my life. I guess the criteria for this collection was any song that thematically or in a single line shook me to my very core, made me think, Yeah, they get it. If it seems like the entire thing is a tribute to Sam Phillips, well, I can only say, she gets it.
I don’t usually configure playlists in a specific order, but I’ve tried to achieve some sort of narrative here that covers all of the major waves: confusion, dissatisfaction, anger, sadness. It covers emotional black holes like being jilted, misguided elation, facing an impasse, feeling forced to reinvent the wheel. It twists and turns and loops back around to the beginning, because surviving loss is as much a process as it is a journey.
“Survivor Man” is:
- Hole in My Pocket – Sam Phillips
- Kicking Roses – Benjamin Francis Leftwich
- Unfucktheworld – Angel Olsen
- Okkervil River R.I.P. – Okkervil River
- The Industry – Okkervil River
- Broken Stones – Paul Weller
- One Less Bell to Answer – The 5th Dimension
- I’m Not a Part of Me – Cloud Nothings
- I Did Something Weird Last Night – Jeff Rosenstock
- I Love You, What Are You? – Gene
- Working Titles – Damien Jurado