Halycon Digested

17 Sep

Finally.

Deerhunter.

Quite a build up to this show. My buddy in Chicago had abruptly moved to Minneapolis for a job, and I had to scramble for a place to stay.I didn’t have a ride to the Kansas City Airport, and I had very little money in my budget for party favors for the show.

Things as they sometimes do, just came together. Within days of each other, I found a host on the couchsurfing website, I found a ride (barely made the flight by the skin of my teeth), and I found someone who traded me some brownies for a little vodka.

By 7:00 pm Tuesday night, I was at a bar in Wrigleyville, munching on the hash brownie and washing it down with tap water.

By 11:00 Deerhunter was taking the stage to a blanket of red stage lights. They opened up with Earthquake.

DO YOU RECALL? WAKING UP ON A DIRTY COUCH IN A GRAY FOG?

I could tell from the opening chords that it was going to be one of those shows. The sound system was top notch and the theater had great acoustics. A wall of sheer energy was blasted onto the floor. I was digging it.

DO YOU RECALL? WAKING UP ON A DIRTY COUCH IN A GRAY FOG?

Yes. I did wake up on someone’s couch that morning. Yes I had taken a nap at the library to escape the heat outside. This was it. This marked the beginning of the end for this period of my life.

There was an immediacy to their music that I hadn’t felt in decades. It was exactly like the feeling I had when I saw Radiohead in 1998. They had yet to become the household name they are today, and it felt like I was in on the biggest and best kept secret around. There is a special feeling intimacy of seeing a band in a theater–especially a band as good as Radiohead was then (and Deerhunter now). There is no way to describe the feeling of hearing such a pure sound. I silently considered my luck in seeing them at the height of their powers. There was this familiar urge to follow them around the country for a week.

But that wasn’t to be. I was no longer 24, with a disposable income and a reckless attitude. I had to enjoy the moment for what it was. There was no telling when (or if?) I would see them again. I wanted to soak it all in.

Moses Archuleta, the drummer, drove the pace for the five piece group, thrashing ahead at his bandmates like a sled-driver with a team of Alaskan snow dogs. They played fast. They played hard. They sounded very tight and rather locked in.

They went from Earthquake into Memory Boya song evocative of the 60’s band The Byrds ,

into Don’t Cry ( a song very Zombies-ish tune)

into my personal favorite Desire Lines.

As soon as they went into Desire Lines I nearly lost it. I had told a housemate that as long as I heard this song, that I didn’t care what else was played the rest of the night. Now it was being thrown down four songs into the set. Where could this show possibly go from here?

A stream of figure like lines were draped in yellow-orange light.I wanted to see every chord that was being played, but the music kept tightening my eyelids and pushing my head towards the floor. I felt the electricity running through my veins. This was it. I was there. I was HERE.

When you were young
And your excitement showed
But as time goes by
Does it outgrow?

Is that the way things go?
Forever reaching for the goal
Forever fading black
Comes a glow

Things were already changing and I could feel it. There was a psychic pull towards a more focused, more disciplined reality. This was the last stop on these type of trips–haphazardly making traveling plans, leaving things up to chance and improvisation had its place in my early to late 20’s. But things were changing…….because they had to. I started to see myself in a different light. It was as if I was already looking back at my present state in a past tense. My tendency to shirk jobs with responsibility (or responsibility itself) in order to live an unconventional lifestyle was taking its toll on my bank account. The cost of “freedom” was revealing itself to be pretty high.

At the song’s apex–the mega ending with the soaring guitars, I felt a splash on my shirt and face. I looked up. There was this drunk girl up in the balcony spilling beer onto the people at the bottom.

I screamed at her. “Hey!” “Hey!”

Of course she couldn’t hear me. She was rocking out, her long hair twirling in her face. It looked like she was biting her lip. Suddenly I was angry. Not at her but myself. I let a little beer pull me out of myself, the music and the moment. She was in the now and I suddenly no longer was. I laughed and took a few steps closer towards the stage and out of range from the clumsy drunks above me–no telling what else could fall from up there.

Throughout the show I would sneak a peek into the balcony and sure enough she was still leaned against the railing, banging away. For such a bad ass show, the crowd itself was tame. I was happy that I wasn’t the only one going ape-shit tonight.

I was in Chicago, I was at Deerhunter and I was loaded up on yummy brown THC goodness. It was only three or four months ago that I was bombing the hills of Austin on my long board–with Nothing Ever Happened playing through my ear buds. It felt like such a distant reality now.

The opening chords to Cover Me Slowly rang out just as I had concluded this thought. This meant that Agoraphobia was going to be next.
I looked up in blissful disbelief. I wondered if this was the amazement people felt when they saw Sonic Youth or Television during their heydays?

Deerhunter definitely had their own particular sound. I found their music gripping and difficult to ignore. They had a flavor that ran across many genres and it was difficult to really pin down their influences. I could hear elements of doo-wop, 60’s pop, post punk, post-rock, grunge, indie, and even a little melancholia. For an American band this is particularly rare–having so many subtle influences and yet still having one’s own sound. I was thoroughly impressed.

Of course no moment is ever truly perfect. Though the set was nearly flawless the encore ended with a weird long song that took way too long to apex. It was a song from the new album Monomania that contained lots of weird distortion, fuzz, delay pedals, and even barking.

This part of the show wasn’t interesting weird like say Pink Floyd, or Godspeed, just you know, weird.

They saved this tune til the very last song, which I can see why because any other moment to play it would have disrupted the set. As a person who can appreciate the need to go WEIRD, I was with the. But it was not all that pleasant of what felt like 5-6 minutes. The end of the song was pretty good and almost worth the strange and meandering build up.

And then that was it. Easily the best show of they year I’d attended and it was over. I was set to leave the bar and hang out at the train station to catch my 6:00 AM bus to Meh-dison, Wisconsin– a biker friendly, but meh-tastic city. It would be too dark (coming and going) to catch the rolling hills of green that Steinbeck promised in “Travels with Charley”, but I didn’t know any of this yet. Nor did I know that Union Station in Chicago closed from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM. I got there at 3:00 AM and had a couple of hours to kill. Nothing within walking distance was open this late, so I laid on the pavement at this office building down the street.

A string of epiphanies ran through my brain.

I looked up at the sky and promised myself that I would never put myself in a position like this again. I then closed my eyes and imagined the next 20 years of my reality.

No more cutting corners, no more selling myself short–settling for less, and most importantly, no excuses. I knew how I wanted to spend the next 20 years of my life, and this wasn’t going to fly. There were big plans to look forward to the stakes were only going to get bigger.

This time period was officially closed. I imagined myself looking back on this particular moment. I felt a great satisfaction and pride within him (and possibly a hint of fondness looking back at this memory). I opened my eyes just as a bus was stopping nearby.

I jumped on, and slept til the end of the route. Then I took the same bus back across town–nodding off again until I was back in front of the train station. It was finally 5:00 AM.I went inside and waited for the Mega Bus. When it finally came I put my ear buds on. I found some tunes to jam, and let the rest take care of itself.

I was asleep before we even got out of Chicago.

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