Say Hello to the Angels

Before I even start this entry, I have a disclaimer. Since I majored in journalism, and I don’t read the newspaper as a result, it has been suggested that I use my four years at a major accredited university to write music reviews. Considering my absolute love of music and my predilection for writing, it seems like a logical conclusion. But this topic came up recently with someone who clearly hasn’t read any of my music reviews. It seems to me like what I have to say about concerts and records would be largely useless to the general public. I mean, would the average consumer considering the purchase of the new Luna album need to know I think it sounds like Coney Island at seventeen and drinking out of a pineapple? That the Iron and Wine show was so tender that I cried through most of it, rendering the set list illegible? That Enon’s High Society makes me want to wear velvet pants and smile? Is it relevant to know that Josh Ritter’s performance feels like a fresh-picked bucket of homegrown strawberries, and I would make him pancakes the morning after?
Maybe you do. If so, welcome to my world.
As a secondary disclaimer, we all know Interpol is good, I’ve been telling everyone to buy Turn on the Bright Lights for the past year, it’s on my top five… blah blah blah — that’s the reason last night was my third Interpol show in the past six months. So I don’t need to detail the cinematic atmosphere, the familiar set list, the midnight-in-the-city lighting, and the way the sound is pulsating, aching and dark. I just need to detail the way I wanted to rip the clothes off of a certain band member with my teeth.
I waited outside in the cold for an hour before the doors opened, and it was a violent snow storm. I was the fourth person into the club, and immediately staked my territory front row center. I was a little nervous about it; the show was sold out and there were two opening bands. I mean, what if I had to go to the bathroom or something? Anyway, I refused water, stretched out my back and I was in it for the long haul.
The Raveonettes were good. They’re Danish. Go see them.
Then Interpol snuck out in their shy, wispy-haired, black suit procession. It’s quite an experience to be up front against the stage for a big show; it’s not something I usually do. But I had to, you see.
The bass player. I wanted to yank him by his dark, sweaty forelock, drag him into the back of a cab, and bite him til he bled.
There are the bands I want to Just Be Friends with, and the singers on my Must Make Him Breakfast list. And then there is Carlos, who I want to ravage, tear apart, and smoke Camel non-filters with between the sheets. No omelets involved.
Rumor has it that you can tell what a musician is like in bed by the way they play their instrument. So here I was in front of that fine choice piece of a bass player, with the jawline, the shock of hair, magical hands throttling away like the bass was part of his body, darting and jumping. I just stared in disbelief.
The thing with Interpol is, I love them. I love their music; after a year I still listen to their albums several times a week. But they could never be one of My Favorite Bands. And I was trying to figure out why. Last night, leaning up against the stage being almost sucked into the performance, I realized this is because they are so disengaged, so cut off from the audience. The reason I go to so many live shows is because studio albums may be fulfilling to a certain extent, but I don’t feel I understand a band until I’ve seen them live. And as overwhleming and darkly vibrant as an Interpol show is, there is a wall. There is a coolness, a non-smiling distance. At the first two shows I ascribed that to their swollen egos, but last night I realized that’s not the truth. Paul Banks just seems painfully shy. He’s modest and quiet and hides behind his blond bangs, singing “I’m sick of spending these lonely nights training myself not to care.”
I think in the past I hadn’t gotten such an up close feel for them because I was on the periphery at the Middle East, and we all know how I feel about that hell hole of a club. (Speaking of hell hole clubs, Avalon last night was not. They had a total supersonic genius on sound, and it was perfect.)
Bands that become My Favorites are those that are interactive performers, that realize the fans are the only reason they can be there, performers who don’t throw up this barrier. A little bit of banter never hurt. Acknowledgement of breathing humans in the audience, a little humility.
While I’m airing my disgusting image-conscious side that I never show, I also got to thinking about the resurgence of bangs. Four-fifths of the band was hiding behind their little Brit pop hair cuts. Bangs and pleats. Rock stars in suits. That got me thinking about ironing — ultramoody singer in his boxer shorts, iron in one hand, frowning over his charcoal pants, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
Sometimes my head is busy during shows.
Ears ringing, legs aching from dancing, I crawled into bed exhausted and smiling.
How’s that for a review? Phoenix? New York Times? Anybody interested?