I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009's best concerts

The best photo I have of any concert this year is the shot you see above: that's the debonair Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips on the far left, and those are his soulful eyes on the screen behind him. I have compared the Lips to William Blake and the Who on this page so it pains me to say that this concert was bad. The Lips were off their game, and the confetti and theatrics seemed empty and sad. My dad is my concert buddy and I told him we should go to this and it would be great. The Lips at the Electric Factory during the Yoshimi tour is one of my best concerts ever. This time, my dad and his girlfriend stuck around as long as they could stand it and then split. It was painful. I felt like I had taken my dad to see Gallagher.

The new album is good, though. The apocalyptic party mania of the last three albums has dissipated, leaving a landscape of dull tyranny with the faint scent of betrayal on the wind. An Antonioni kind of album.

Anyway, I saw four truly amazing concerts this year. The first was:

THE DOVES at the Trocadero:

I know almost nothing about this band, except they are from the UK and two of the trio are fraternal twins. I bought their album The Last Broadcast after hearing it in a pub. The singer started dropping choruses late in the concert; eventually his voice gave out and he went behind the drum kit and the drummer went to the mike. The drummer's voice sounded identical to the singer's. It was eerie, like some weird feat of self-willed ventriloquism or a heartfelt imitation. Or do they just sound alike? The drummer sings a few songs on the albums and I don't think he ordinarily sounds like the singer at all.

The Dove's encore was There Goes the Fear, which I thought was one of the lighter weight songs on Last Broadcast, but was stunning live. Evidently this was a hit in the UK. The entire house became euphoric. I was so overwhelmed with positive feelings I did not shush the happy singing drunk next to me! The Doves played with Fear's video as a backdrop--the video is a collage of existing footage that manages to tell the story of an anxious man who finds peace and happiness only as the world is ending. The Troc felt like it was about to lift off like Charlie's Great Glass Elevator.

Strange, exhilarating moments like this are the reason I attend concerts.

That's the Bob Dylan show at Temple University. People imagine Dylan will sound like his parodists. Only sometimes does he sound like his parodists. Dylan hit at least every third note when I saw him, and sounded earthy and powerful. His storytelling is fantastic; he isolates unnamed emotional states and encapsulates them in a song, like a better Poe. He is to REM as Ben Kenobi is to Luke. If you can't inure yourself to Dylan's voice, you should try harder, or read the prophets: Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, with Ecclesiastes thrown in. Dylan goes all the strange dark places the prophets go, and the beautiful places, and the surreal places. He has the grim wisdom of the prophets.

My family at the Dylan concert. I'm stage-managing the photograph, having put my camera in the hands of a semi-buzzed Dylan fan and already regretting it--as the man has sprinted away from us as if we are pachyderms and will not fit in the frame if he is nearer than twenty yards. When my aunt saw this picture, she said You're getting bossy in your old age. I said, Shut up!

Bob Dylan was good, but was not one of the top concerts of the year. Sorry Bob! My next two great concerts of 2009 are:

THE DECEMBERISTS and THE LOW ANTHEM at the Philly Folk Fest:

I saw the Decemberists and Low Anthem the same weekend. The Decemberists rocked like you hope and dream rock legends could rock (instead of being overproduced and bombastic). All kinds of mythological heavy metal folk art spooled through my brain as the Decemberists played. But why were they on in the afternoon? Why weren't they the headliners?

The Low Anthem is the only band I've seen twice this year: I sat in the swelter of the Folk Fest and saw them by myself in August, then dragged my dad and my camerado to see them last month when they opened for Josh Ritter at the TLA. Everyone should see the Low Anthem live. They are by turns surreal and sad, and can also rock out. They are all talented multi-instrumentalists, and cute baby Dylans. What I've heard of their lyrics suggests some seriously smart literary minds are lurking behind those sexy desperado mustaches.

My final amazing concert of the year is:

BLIND PILOT at World Cafe Live:

Driving up to see my camerado in Vermont this summer I heard Go On, Say It on the radio; it grabbed me with its urgent yet reticent lyrics. There's a self-possession to this song, an Emily Dickinson self-possession that may be stable and content, or rushing toward breakdown, or both at once. Blind Pilot's album is brilliant and moving, if at times glum. Live they were astounding: Every song was stirring, even startling in its force and freshness. The singer has an appealing way of closing his eyes and rising on his toes as if certain notes are airborne and he must poise himself to inhale them at just the right moment.

We were also awed by the trumpet player.

The crowd pleaded and pleaded for more songs. Blind Pilot played through their material, and had no songs for an encore. So they did a cover of MGMT's original, weird, harsh, and exquisite Kids, from last year. The Blind Pilot set was so lovely I had tears in my eyes at times, and when they launched into Kids I was overwhelmed. You go to concerts for these glorious, privileged moments: When they come they are sometimes more than you could have imagined--more than you can bear.

Blind Pilot's Kids was uncanny--sublime--alongside the Dove's encore, one of my best concert moments of the year.

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