Some notes on favorite musical moments in the most unlikely contexts
Two nights before Christmas, I went to see Eli perform for his peers in a theater called The Black Box. (Yes, I had to ask one of his cronies, “Where is the Black Box?” I sounded like a David Lynch character.) Eli was wonderful, of course; he and a few dozen of his buddies played a pair of Arcade Fire covers that were as big and loud and over the top as you’d want from a big band of high school friends playing Arcade Fire covers. I went to The Black Box to hear Eli and I enjoyed his performance a great deal.
But it’s not his performance that’s still front of mind the better part of a week later. That dubious distinction belongs to the last band that played to those of us in the audience who lasted the full three-and-a-half hours. They were a trio who smashed big holes through a pair of Talking Heads songs, “Psycho Killer” …
… and “And She Was.”
In the spirit of being honest that I hear is important on the bloggernet, I must acknowledge: the band didn’t learn half the words or half the chords of those two songs, and they didn’t take the time to recruit a bass player. They were sloppy. They were, on the whole, not very good.
Yet I must also proclaim: I loved them.
I loved them for the attitude and excitement and affection for music that they brought with them to the performance in lieu of talent and rehearsal. They were smiling, laughing, playing hard (poorly but hard), unsure how to play the songs but absolutely certain that they were going to have a great time bashing these sturdy songs within millimeters of their lives. I’ve seen great bands seem to enjoy themselves onstage, I’ve seen great bands seem like they’d rather be getting prostate exams than performing, and I’ve seen thousands of bands in what I imagined was every possible permutation of engagement. But the other night was the first night since the early heydays of punk and rap that I saw a bunch of amateurs as free and in love with not only what they were doing, but the possibility of what they were doing. It was going to be over in a few minutes, they knew that. No one was ever going to ask them to do this again, they might have suspected. But while they were out there they were going to be as alive as any band could be, standing on chairs, falling to their knees, not caring whether the other members hit their cues. They were there to be loud. They were there to connect. And they were there to play music by Talking Heads, a band that broke up before these kids were born.
Talking Heads have been on my mind and my headphones lately. They’re my favorite person‘s favorite band, and early this year we were lucky enough to see David Byrne perform some wonderful new songs, like this one …
… some classics, like this one …
… and reanimate some more obscure songs I didn’t think enough of the first time around, like this one.
And now, to bring a few strands of my life closer together, here’s an amateur video of the lead singer of my wife’s favorite band playing with a band my son adores, singing a song that has made me fill up more than once:
Happy new year, everyone! May it be full of music and people who make you feel something.