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I Can Be Happy Too…

I wonder how many blog posts begin with “it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog.”  I’m sure it rings true in most cases, cause really who can keep up a blog these days?  Apparently lots of people can just not me haha. I’m sure I will get better, just stick to the chase and keep up the pace.

Part of my internet blogosphere absence has to be blamed on my former job as a real estate agent that I tried out for a month.  Now that that is done and over with I have much more time to dedicate to creative things, writing, music, film and the like.  But I also wanted to get something off my chest.

Yes, it seems that all I have written so far is about concerts, nights on the town, social commentary, and of course, how bleak my outlook on the world can be.  Several of the people close to me pointed out that I should maybe delete those depressing posts in case somebody would take them too seriously.  But that would be dishonest.  I know to a lot of people out there, this blog might be the only chance I’ll ever get to make an impression on you, so you might see those post about my feelings as who I am all the time.  It’s not true.  I wrote those in a moment in time, a moment which has passed and other things have occurred. New feelings of arisen and the old ones have ceased in a never ending fluctuation that is the human psyche. Basically, all I want to say is I can be happy too.  Yes, there are times when the world seems completely and utterly bleak to me and I still feel that ultimately, that’s probably how it really is.  But we were built with the capacity for joy, so that must be worth something, and normally that’s how I feel.  Just don’t be too dissuaded but what sounds so sad, it might just be the happiest moment of your life.

Make sure you all check out my soundlcoud to see what fresh sounds I’m coming up with.

Post-Punk on a Wednesday Night: Merchandise Live at Home Sweet Home

Merchandise Live at Home Sweet Home

It’s hard to believe that the great Post-Punk (or rather post-post-punk) explosion of the early 2000s was nearly ten years ago.  It seemed like every band wanted to add jagged Joy Division rhythms, a deep baritone, and slick Cure guitars to their sound.  And who wouldn’t want to include that? They’re good tricks that add great power and depth that all moody rockers want ultimately include in their music.  Yet, as last decade moved on naturally the trend began to die and those old timbres that sounded so new started to sound old again.  I even myself felt that I moved on from the post-punk sound that was so important for me for the second half of my teenage years, opting more for psychedelia and shoegaze as I continued through my college years.  However, on September 12th I saw possibility the best living example today of what it really means to be Post-Punk ten years after the beginning of the trend.

Merchandise played at Home Sweet Home, a small bar bordering Chinatown where earlier this year VÅR made their live debut.  I really wanted to see Merchandise at this venue, mainly because I had no idea how it would be in such a small space.  Anybody that’s been to Home Sweet Home can recount the difficult journey to the bathroom since it is only accessible across the dancefloor, a poor design choice if you ask me. Yet sometimes bands thrive in claustrophobic places, and if any band would, I figured Merchandise could.  Merchandise was born out of the Tampa Bay hardcore scene, which lead singer Carson Cox address when he got stage. “Everyone thinks we’re from Brooklyn” he said, “nobody knows we’re from Florida.”  And how could you? Any shred of their straight edge hardcore past makes no real appearance in their music, at least sonically.  To me, the “punk” in post-punk was not about sounds, but rather ethos, ideals, and spirit.  What the Sex Pistols did, most famously at that hallowed Manchester concert attended my Tony Wilson and the young men who would become Joy Division, was show a generation of disenfranchised British youth that you too could be in a rock band, no matter who you were.  But instead of lashing out against the establishment and society, post-punk tended to look inward, exposing their deepest feelings and most tragic thoughts, the most tragic being of course Ian Curtis.  However, the members of Merchandise had their time lashing out in hardcore bands and straight-edge ideal, but now they realized that the real battle is within.

Their album certainly lives up to the name Children of Desire. It seethes with sexual desperation. The music whirls and flows mimicking the hundreds of feelings that can go through a person when they make love.  Home Sweet Home, despite its flaws, really seemed to be the perfect setting for this type of music, with endless fog streaming into the small space, lending overall mood of darkness and dank.

Merchandise started their set with a strumming guitar and bass accompanied by Cox’s not quite Morrissey-esque vocals. I noticed that almost immediately several females began clutching their chests and looking adoringly at him.  They too evidently picked up on the sexuality of his music.  After a few minutes of hypnotizing the crowd, Cox kicked on the drum machine and the band went into a rousing version of track “Time.” I was pretty impressed by their set up and overall noise level they produced for being only three guys. The crowd was quick to react and started moving almost as one since there wasn’t any room for individual space.  Several of the punks started to slam dance, but the rowdiest of the crowd were very drunk middle agers who would lean against anybody and anything in an attempt to move the crowd as much as possible.  As Merchandise continued their set, the crowd fell over a few times in a wave which I hadn’t seen happen in a long time at a concert.

Cox grabbing on the rafters

Cox was truly great in his performance.  He had a particular ease about him while he was on stage. You could tell that it was his territory.  His sanctified stage was briefly disrupted at one point during the show when one of the drunken moshers got up on stage to hump him briefly, but he wore it with good humor.  Someone else threw a bottle at him as well, which he cooly dodge and responded with a simple “you missed.”  He truly broke the fourth wall when he climbed up on to the crowd and was carried throughout the venue while singing his songs.  It was exhilarating  punk showmanship draped in the moodiness and depth of post-punk’s sonics. A perfect combination if you ask me.  They ended the set with the brooding closer of their album “Roser Park.”  As the crowd swayed, they enjoyed every bit of the slow build that led to that familiar riff in the beginning of “Time.”  After they had finished for a bit, declaring that they had nothing left to play, Merchandise relented and played one more song even though it ruined the big finish according to Cox.

Cox’s head well crowd surfing

I walked across broken glass as I moved towards the the stage to congratulate Cox on his performance. As I shook his hand I said “I knew you guys were from Florida.”  He seemed to appreciate that.

I Never Learned How to be Angry

Off all negative emotions, anger definitely seems the most foreign to me. That’s not to say I don’t get angry, on the contrary. I just have trouble expressing it directly. Yet I still have it inside of me and I dont really know how best to channel it.

I have plenty to be angry about I suppose. Mainly at the state and the place I am in this foul year of our lord 2012. The economy is supposedly getting better, but I don’t see it. I’m applying to jobs all the time but I get no indication if I’m doing it right or not.  I also try go the extra mile, call the offices, show up in person.  So far no one has been receptive and it has gotten me nowhere.  I also feel lots of anger at the false hopes people have fed me over the years. Everyone tells you that you can be anything you want to be, well fuck that that’s not true. I sometimes wish that people had dissuaded me from pursuing Religious Studies as my major, but I really can’t blame anyone for that. In fact I can’t really blame anybody for these problems. That’s the problem with my anger, I really feel like the only person to blame for my situation is myself. If I had only been more reasonable, if I could have seen how useful it would have been to cultivate helpful relationships in extracurricular activities, if I just studied something practical. At the very least I could have minored in something other than music.

Its all so frustrating that I’m the one who put myself here, continually being dissuaded from the practical in favor for what I felt to me higher causes. Art, philosophy and the big questions has what driven me to do what I do. The thing is though so far all this pursuing of meaning has only led me to on conclusion, there is no real meaning. There’s incredible freedom in that statement, I can do whatever I want goes fuck it! It doesn’t matter. But lately when that thought comes into my head I feel no freedom. Only darkness in the pettiness of our existence. Another thing thing to be angry about I suppose.

I am continually dissatisfied with reality and I think I always have been. On my good days I can look up to the sky and almost see the seems that hold reality together. I feel like I could reach up, grip them with my fingers and tear them open, revealing the truth behind it all. Of course i haven’t been able to rip the sky in half and even if I did, I doubt I would find anything underneath.  Yet saying these things that I find ultimately true seems to strike a painful chord in most people, as if they know that there is nothing beneath but they are just too scared to admit it.  And what business would want somebody who thinks like I do anyway?  Rarely do I express myself fully to those close to me anyway for fear that what I say is too real for them to handle, and its stifling.  I don’t know how to get it out without damaging others, leaving myself to hold onto it until I figure out a better way to deal with it.

Chick-Fil-Gay: The Inevitability of Marriage Equality

One bond I have found between southern expats living in New York is our love for Chik-Fil-A. For us, it was a treat that we could only get south of New Jersey.  When I rode home for this past Memorial Day weekend, everyone in car-all Virginias-agreed that only Chik-Fil-A would be acceptable for dinner.  As we pulled into one in Delaware, it was a sure fire sign that we were headed home.  Of course, with the current controversy many of us have felt conflicted towards our favorite chicken sandwiches.  I certainly don’t agree with President of Chik-Fil-A Dan Cathy stances towards gay marriage, but damn, those chicken sandwiches.  Oh, and I can’t forget the waffle fries either.  Have you had their milkshakes too?  They’re incredible, especially for a fast food place. Still, should their politics effect my patronage? Do I give up the chicken, fries, and shakes? Does homophobia really taste that good?

Like pretty much everything in life does, this current event reminded me of an episode of the Simpsons.

What the clip doesn’t include is Bart and Lisa rushing in trying to retrieve the pink elephant.  Once they have the balloon back, the head gay republican hands Lisa a bumper sticker.

“A gay president for 2084?” she reads.

“We’re realistic” he states simply.

Though exaggerated, I think this scene illustrates a very important point towards the current and future state of gay equality in law and society. As I drove around Virginia Beach listening to NPR last week, I caught some of the Jefferson hour where they were talking about this very issue.  In it, Clay Jenkinson discussed feelings towards homosexuality in 18th Century America.  He suggested, among other things, that colonial Americans held more advanced views than our own towards the subject.  In Jefferson’s time, homosexual behavior was merely acknowledged as eccentric, rather than immoral, behavior that was hardly talked about in the open. Of course, that view would never work in this day and age where members of the gay community want to live an open life free of prejudice. However, Mr. Jenkinson concluded by saying that when you look at the trends in the last thirty years, it seems inevitable that gay marriage will, in time, be fully accepted. All we need is to be patient, or as the Simpsons would say,  “realistic.”

I feel that enough has been said about why marriage equality should exist, but there simply is no logical reason not to support it. Religious reasons, sure, but those reasons are rooted in faith, not logic.  Frankly, I don’t think marriage should be sexualized at all.  If I had to marry anyone in the world right now, it would be to my best friend Alexander.  I would marry him, not because we are attracted to each other sexually (although this may be somewhat true), but because out of all the people I know, Alex knows me best.  If anything were to happen to me, he would know exactly how I would want it handled.

So, why should I face political resistance to the idea of marrying my best friend and equal?

Yes, as time goes on it seems inevitable that marriage equality will prevail over the forces that try and hold it down. If the trends continue, those who don’t support gay marriage will either change their minds or simply die, while more tolerant  generations grow into maturity in a culture that more and more depicts homosexuality in a domestic way. Yet with the victory looming over the horizon, I want to suggest that we don’t push too hard or go to fast.  Keep fighting the good fight, but don’t turn into an extremist. Extremism only tends to breed extremism and the hastier we force the issue on those that don’t agree with us, the more extreme the backlash will be. The most important thing that we can be doing to help the movement is to show the opposition compassion.  You have to understand, those people who don’t support gay marriage do so because it shakes their very view of reality.  If something that they have held onto all their lives suddenly seems untrue or obsolete, they can begin to question their sanity and many other things that they have held dear.  The best way to convince those people though is to show them that homosexuals are not the devil, that they are still people who are committed and in love as any heterosexual couple could be, and that both groups share more basic human similarities than differences.

Have I eaten a Chik-Fil-A sandwich this round home?  Yes I have.   A spicy one to be exact and it was delicious.  I figured that no chicken sandwich, no matter how tasty or homophobic, will stem the tides of change.  We just have to be smart enough to ride with it since, at least in this case, good and truth will ultimately prevail.

There is No Life West of the Chesapeake Bay

Sun begins to set on the Chesapeake Bay.

How much they err, that think everyone which has been at Virginia understands or knows what Virginia is. – Capt. John Smith

On the drive down from New York City, the highlight for me is always crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  Of course it signals that I’m almost done with my journey, but it is also an incredible feeling to cross that expanse of water, especially on the longest bridge in the world.  For those of you who don’t know, the Chesapeake Bay is the worlds largest estuary meaning that it’s where fresh water and salt water meet.  It’s a threshold essentially. The relatively low salinity compared to the ocean makes it a perfect place to harbor infant aquatic sea life.  Historically, the Bay became the entrance to the new world when Captain Christopher Newport, John Smith, and their crew sailed across the ocean and first landed on the shore of what would not only become my hometown of Virginia Beach, but these United States of America as well.

It electrifies me to think about that.  When I was in Nepal, I loved being able to see monuments and places that historically had religious significance.  For example, the cave on Nagarjun Hill where the great 2nd century Mahayana Buddhist philosopher saint Nagajuna meditated, or the caves of Pharping where Padmasambava and countless other meditated and continue to meditate today. They practice there because of the history of the place.  Pilgrims regularly visit these places to basically absorb their energy and gain good merit.  Certainly this is not exclusive to Buddhism; pretty much any religion you can think of has the motif of travelling to a holy place for spiritual benefits, but pilgrimage is something foreign to most Americans and not something our culture openly supports.  I think the main reason for this is due to the lack of historical holy places that exist in America, besides sites associated with Mormonism.  However, we have certainly done a good job in mythologizing the founding of our country. In the case of the mythology of America, the Chesapeake Bay feels just about as holy as it gets.  This is the place where  it all began, the Bodhgaya if you will of the United States.  Upon stumbling out of those ships and onto land for the first time in months, the crew must have felt incredible potential which Fitzgerald touches on at the end of Gatsby.

Its vanished trees…had once pandered in the whispers  to the last and greats of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Here they found a new land and a new life, here they found a New World.

I like to think that those first settlers’ feelings of endless possibility still reverberates in Virginia Beach, much like a Buddhist would say the energy of Padmasambava lives on in the caves where he meditated. I guess it can be hard to imagine Virginia Beach now as the settlers saw it.  Strip malls and shopping centers litter the main roads here, driven by a bland need to provide familiarities to the nomadic military and tourist populations, but the other day when I went to the Chesapeake Bay I felt like I touched what those first settlers felt.

My plan all along was to go to the Bay the first full day I was home, but I had gotten off to a late start.  I didn’t actually get to the Bay until around 5:00 p.m. and I had plans to meet up with some friends for dinner at Big Sam’s.  With such a short amount of time before our meal, I didn’t think it was going to be worth it to get myself completely soaked beforehand.  I decided that I would just wade into the water a bit instead.  At first the water felt cold and harsh as I began to walk in, but with the gentle waves lapping against my legs I soon found the Bay embracing me with the warmth of a mother.  After a few minutes of enjoying the sun, feel, and sight of the Bay,  I knew I couldn’t resist the urge to be completely submerged by this body of water, even if it was only for a little bit.  I ran to the beach, took off my shirt and ran back into the water.  Wading out farther than I had before, I held my nose as I dunked myself in for the first time.  Again, it was a shock at first but I soon couldn’t imagine anything more comforting.  I started to swim as fast as I could away from shore, away from everything, striving to reach the undifferentiated space held in the depths.  I soon exhausted myself and raised my head to look around.  With the sun setting to the west, I turned to float on my back. I tried to relax all my muscles and just let the water support my body.  My eyes closed with the sun on my face and all I could see, all I could feel was a warm glow as the Bay held me in her watery hands.

As I laid there embraced by the water, I felt free.  I had come home to the source of everything I ever knew and found at least briefly that feeling of eternal potential that John Smith saw in Virginia.  Here was a new beginning, a chance to fulfill all his wildest dreams and more.  It was all there, the raw materials; he just had to make it so.  But what for him marked an entrance has now so often been marked as an exit for me since, of course, I cross over the Chesapeake every time I head back to New York. The Bay for me then was an estuary.  Its beaches and waves had raised me just as it had raised countless other sentient beings, but I knew at that moment in the water  that like many of those beings, I would need to leave the calm waters of the Bay and enter the wide ocean to truly thrive and live.  I love being home, it can be such a comfort to be here.  However, I know I will probably have to leave Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay to accomplish what I want most in my life, whatever that may be.

As I headed back to the shore, feeling salty yet clean, I was reminded of a line from Terrence Malick’s The New World.  As John Smith (Colin Farrel) wanders through the marshes and forests just inland of the Chesapeake, his voice exclaims “There is only this – all else is unreal.”  I know John Smith probably didn’t actually say that, but I can believe he felt it. There is only this, there is only Virginia; there is only this, endless potential.  I just hope I remember that when I head back New York City.

A Night (Back) in Brooklyn

Tomorrow I go back to Virginia, which always makes me excited.  I cannot wait to feel that southern heat on my face and skin.  It’s a different heat than in the city and much less stifling too.  Yet the real treat for me will be when I wade into the Chesapeake Bay, net and bucket in hand, and start crabbin.  I only did a few times last summer as it came to a close, but God was it relaxing. I can feel the stress dissipating just from thinking about about it.  While I daydream of the bay and crabs, I look out of the window to find myself in Crown Heights, a very different scene indeed.  Friday marked  a return to Brooklyn for me after living in Spanish Harlem for a month and I feel that it’s fitting for me to end this round of my New York odyssee here since Brooklyn is where my journey will most likely end .

Friday I was still staying in Harlem, but my friend Davey and his girlfriend Nina had come to town to hang out with Nina’s friend Jess.  I had actually ran into Jess the day before on my way back from the Grimes concert.  She informed me that she had just moved to Williamsburg and that she wanted to take Davey and Nina around there.  I’m always a bit hesitant to go to Williamsburg. Just as my friends and I have grown up sort of on the outside edge of indie rock (whatever that means), we’ve been hesitant to embrace the particular places that have become identified with such things.  Despite this hesitation, I had really only spent a few nights out in Williamsburg and to be honest they were all a little hazy.  Basically, I felt that I cannot really claim to “know” Williamsburg well enough to appropriately judge it, so I kept an open mind when visualizing the Friday night ahead of us.

That night, I got off the Grand St. station on the L and headed towards Jess’s places. I was worried that I was ridiculously late, but I had overlooked the fact that I was going out with girls and that they would need time to properly apply makeup and drink vodka before going out.  Davey and I caught up while we waited, discussing booze and the like.  Finally, when the girls were ready (including coffee cups filled with beverages that weren’t coffee), we headed out to our first desitination of the night, the Radegast Hall and Biergarten.

Bar at Radegast Hall

A strange place to find in Williamsburg, I feel likes it’s the closest thing to an actual Biergarten that I’ve ever been too. There’s the bar side, then the hall side where we sat. I was pretty excited because over the years I have really grown to love German style beer, especially in the summer.  Refreshing, delicious, and easy to chug, it was the perfect choice for a Friday night in August.  The tables were open seating to encourage dining and drinking with perfect strangers, but most people tended to give those outside of their party plenty of distance. Ultimately that translated to less room at the tables for everyone but especially for our party of seven. Luckily we found a table with two kind gentlemen from Mexico and Argentina. I didn’t talk to them at all do to the way we were seated, but I know Davey and Nina enjoyed their company and at least I shared a couple toasts with them.

Draught Selection at Radegast Hall

Davey and I, knowing how shit should be done, decided that we would share a pitcher. We opted for the Gaffel Kölsch.  Ever since last summer, I’ve been kind of a fiend for kölsch, so I’m always looking to try new ones.  It tasted great to me and I quickly downed my half of the pitcher once it arrived.  Davey treated himself to what turned out to be the largest pretzel I had ever seen.  The food I saw at the other tables looked delicious too, including what look like a giant prehistoric piece of a meat that I would one day like to try.  Like I said, the kölsch was quickly gone so it was time for another pitcher.  After waiting awhile to get a servers attention, we ordered a pitcher of the Krušovice Imperial from the Czech Republic.  I’m always looking to try Czech beers since ethnically I’m more Czech than anything else and this one turned out to the best I’ve ever had.  It certainly had more body and complexity than the kölsch but it didn’t sacrifice any of the drinkability.  Again, this pitcher was gone in a heartbeat and it was soon time to move on with our evening.

#davey #nina #beer

After quickly dismissing a club asking for a $10 cover, we headed to the Cove.  As we entered, they informed us that it was Brooklyn’s hottest new gay bar.  Well ok, gay bar it is then.  Upon entering, I realized that I had been there a couple times before when Alexander had been going to Columbia. We had ended up there late New Year’s of 2010 and another time we stopped in to get $5 Beers and a shot. It wasn’t a gay bar before, but the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself, so I embraced it. The music was still pretty good though I didn’t recognize any of it. It did what it needed to do. Getting our drinks in hand, we headed out to the dance floor.

Getting on the dance floor

After polishing off my beer and boogieing for little bit, we were all treated to a performance by the beautiful Destiny.  Though she was was only lip syncing to various pop songs-including the appropriately chosen “If I were a Boy”-her energy and charisma actually brought the club together and when she left the stage everyone hit the dance floor with a renewed vigor.

Destiny doing her thing

Destiny and the girls

After the girls congratulated Destiny on her steller performance we headed towards our final destination of the night, the Alligator Lounge.  I had heard of this place before especially since I imagine anywhere that gives your a free pizza with your drink can be quite the conversation starter. Yeah, I said it. You get a free pizza with your drink.  Now is it good pizza? Not particularly.  Is it good when you’re drunk? Oh hell yes.  I ordered a Blue Point Toasted Lager, which was quite delicious.  Then they handed me a beautiful ticket that would grant me the grace of my own personal pizza.

Ticket to Pizza

Alligator Lounge really is the perfect place to end the evening in the Williamsburg area, especially when you know you got a long trek back to Spanish Harlem.  Filling up on that last beer and pizza gave me the strength to endure the subway ride back, which would undoubtedly be the longest subway ride ever.  I finished my pizza and left with Davey, Nina, and Jess.  After bidding adieu, I entered the station to find myself with a twenty minute subway wait.  “All the more time to reflect” I thought.  I leaned against one of the pillars, closed my eyes, and thanked god that I ate that pizza before I left.

Looks like it’s time to go home, doesn’t it?

Reverb on the River: Grimes, Wild Nothing, and DIIV live at Pier 84

It used to really upset me when people called me “witch house.” And then one day I thought, “But I did make a witch house record, whether I like it or not. Boo-hoo.” – Claire Boucher (Grimes)

Another day, another concert as the old saying goes, but this time I didn’t have to find a ticket on craigslist. No, this time all I had to do was show up.  It started like any other Thursday out on the town.  I met Kyle at the 2 Bros. Pizza outside his office and quickly scarfed down two slices and a can of Coke.  Instead of being just plain hot like the day before, it was pure swamp weather in midtown.  The dark clouds in the distance grew steadily closer as Kyle and I headed towards Pier 84.  Arriving on 12th ave managing to only suffer through a quick dousing of hot rain, we were greeted by what appeared to be at the time a very grim fact: the line to see Grimes, Wild Nothing, and DIIV was long as fuck.

Hipsters as far as the eye can see!

I was pretty excited to see this show and it was a hell of a line up, especially for free.  First of all, it would be my first time seeing Wild Nothing, headed by Virginia’s very own Jack Tatum.  That alone was worth the trip to the West Side. I had like what I heard of DIIV as well, so why not be excited to see them?  The really crazy thing though was an opportunity to see Grimes for free.  Her four (count ‘em four!) other shows in New York at the end October are all sold out. So with a line this long, was there any chance Kyle and I could get into this seemingly free hot ticket?

There’s a spaceship on that boat

Well apparently we made it in plenty of time as the line only got worst as we waited.  Eventually, it started moving pretty quickly and finally we were let into the concert area with very little hassle.  The lines forbathrooms and beer looked to be another story, so we avoided those and headed straight to the stage.  We managed to get relativity close so we had some time to admire the giant Aircraft Carrier with a spaceship on it.  We were also able to admire the giant herd of hipsters we found ourselves a part of as we waited for DIIV to hit the stage.

There’s a spaceship in that thing! (There’s a hipster at this concert!)

I had only listen to DIIV’s album Oshin all the way through once, but I enjoyed it plenty when I did.  It sounded incredibly similar to the dream-pop landscapes of Wild Nothing, but not in an annoying way. Both bands, along with being drenched in 80s style reverb that’s become so familiar in todays music that it kind of seem silly calling it 80s at all, relish in a certain sense of monotony. I love Wild Nothing and I’ve listened to both Gemini and Golden Haze a lot, but it’s still incredibly hard for me to name the individual songs. That’s not to detract from the music of either Wild Nothing or DIIV, it is rather a shared strength. It sustains a mood, which can be as equally challenging as changing everyone of your songs, and both bands do it well. Grimes does this trick incredibly well too, though she doesn’t raid the same sonic palette as the other two bands. She’s more in debt to hip-hop and R&B. Her songs kind of all sound the same, but they extend a feeling that can be hard to find in a lot other of music.  After hearing Visions all the way through a couple times though, I have tended to just go back to a couple songs when I’ve wanted my Grimes fix, rather then devote the time necessary for a full length listen. How these moods would translate live, I could only wait and found out.

DIIV rocking out

Like I said, I’ve enjoyed DIIV but I didn’t have spectacular hopes for their live show. My friends Alex and Jeremy had went to DIIV’s San Francisco show last week and had walked out after 20 minutes agreeing that it just wasn’t very interesting.  Maybe it was the low standards, but I actually thought DIIV’s performance was pretty good when all was said and done.  They all came onstage looking like they had been wearing the same clothes for a couple days in a row. Despite some technical difficulties with the bass, they started out sounding pretty strong.  At one point their drummer dropped his stick and the other band members had to scramble around onstage to get it back to him.  However, there was a certain joy to DIIV’s sloppiness that I found appealing and plus they just looked like they were having a lot of damn fun.  I also began to notice the differences in DIIV’s music when compared to WIld Nothing.  DIIV seem to have more rock muscle to their music compared to Jack Tatum’s pop structure prowess. It also seems like DIIV does more drugs. DIIV’s more rock and roll leanings were exemplified in two moments in particular.  First was a Nirvana cover that I couldn’t recognize but was greeted with one very enthusiastic middle finger.  The other was their closer “Doused” which was their most energetic and upbeat number of the evening.  It even inspired a little moshing from the so far static crowd. DIIV finished their set as the clouds continued to roll in.  Earlier there had been an announcement that if any lighting was seen, the show would be stopped.  So Kyle and I waited for Wild Nothing anxiously while puffs of cannabis smoke from the crowd mixed with the humid atmosphere over the Hudson River.

Kyle and the boat #backgroundhipsters

Of the bands last night, Wild Nothing is the one I’m most intimately familiar with.  I remember downloading Gemini the summer after I graduated college.  I had no idea who they were, only that they were on the great blog http://shoegazeralive5b.blogspot.com/ which at the time I was rummaging through to find some new music to scratch my severe shoegaze itch I had. To my shame, I didn’t learn that Jack Tatum was from Virginia until Pitchfork gave Gemini Best New Music.  After that, I delved more deeply into the album and found an incredible world within it.  Gemini worked so well as a complete statement, it was hard to believe it was assembled in a Virginia Tech dorm room rather than being a classic from dream pop’s late 80s early 90s heyday.  Yet, I still heard Virginia in it. The sense of lovely monotony that Gemini contained perfectly echoed Virginia’s still and beautiful landscapes that I’m sure Mr. Tatum had become quite accustomed to during his tenure at VT.  At the very least, it was meaningful for me to hear somebody come from mt homestate who loved those washed out British sounds as much as I did.

Wild Nothing

Once Wild Nothing came on stage, the threat of lightning was all but forgotten. I had heard that Wild Nothing’s early live career had gotten off to a shaky start, which is understandable considering his dorm room beginnings. However, last night they sounded great as they played through old cuts off of Gemini and new ones from their forthcoming album Nocturne.   Jack Tatum’s voice sounded strong, confident, and a bit more raw live which I thoroughly enjoyed.  While the new stuff sounded tight and solid, it’s not all that different from Gemini.  Despite this, you can tell though that Jack Tatum is growing as an artist.  With his growing confidence I predict that his next album is going to be the one that really shows us what Wild Nothing can be. A highlight for me was when they played a thrilling live rendition of the title track off their Golden Haze ep, my favorite release of theirs actually.  “Shadow” off the new album sounded equally as strong with it’s pounding drumbeat driving the song forward into time and space; it could be the “hardest” song Wild Nothing’s ever written. Of course they played “Live in Dreams,”  the opening track off Gemini which got the crowd singing and dancing.  Tatum ended the set by announcing the last song and exclaiming that he was going to “take a big drink of my drink then I’m going to play that song.” After a leisurely sip, he went into the appropriately titled “Summer Holiday” with it’s rousing chorus and jingle jangle guitars.  Leaving the stage as nonchalantly as they walked on, I felt excited that us Virginians can offer our own take on a sound aesthetic that I first began to fall in love with almost a decade ago.

Crowd waits for Grimes

Now it was about time for Grimes to hit the stage.  It seemed like original listings for this show had put Wild Nothing in the headlining slot, but as great as Wild Nothing are, they can’t really compete with Grimes in terms of internet buzz right now. And of course there are those four sold out shows I had previously mentioned.  While I would have gone to the show regardless of Grimes playing or not, it was pretty clear that she was crowd favorite. As show time drew near, Kyle and I got more and more packed into the crowd as people tried to make their way closer to the stage. You could sense the anticipation on the pier as the roadies brought out Grimes’s equipment.  I personally was trying to be cool with it, but I was excited to essentially see a sold out show for free. Also, moments like this tend to capture a time even if the artist hasn’t quite endured the buzz long enough to know whether she will rise above it or succumb to it.  To many I’m sure this will be the summer of Grimes even if they won’t be pulling out Visions for regular listens in the future.  With the buzz in mind and my natural tendency to reject it, I tried to be open to Grimes and see what she had to offer.

Grimes and backup dancers

Once her gear was set up, Grimes came onstage and the crowd let out a roar.  Interestingly enough, the girls next to me starting screaming at her to “take it off”  which seemed like a strange request to someone who markets vagina rings, especially coming from the same sex. Very casually she walked up to microphone and thanked DIIV and “Cloud Nothings” for opening for her.  I’m sure it wasn’t the first time Wild Nothing’s been called that, but it still kind of a bummer that she hadn’t taken the time to get to know my favorite home state band.  Grimes then got started making her beats and loops, however when she started to sing “Symphonia IX (my wait is u)” I gave up all my previous misgivings I had held towards her.  To put it simply, her voice sounded incredible.  On record, even when it wasn’t being heavily manipulated, her voice still had a pretty thick slab of ambience covering it.  Live though it was pristine, clear, and impressively otherworldly.  As the show continued she would later add her signature vocal effects, but for the first moments of her set she sounded truly angelic.  As she continued into the next song, it started to make more sense to me that those girls felt a certain sexual affinity to Claire Boucher.  She’s incredibly talented, artistic in several different ways, and extremely independent and while she bopped around onstage turning her knobs and changing the pitch and tone of her voice to make her sound like at least a dozen Grimes, she was creating all the noise by herself.  Also, the music itself is sexual, whether she means for it to be or not.  Her pulsating rhythms and transcendent voice imply an unfilled desire that naturally makes people long for a climax, and what’s not sexy about that? Plus, she looks and acts like a Canadian nymph siren, pig tails, bangs and all. Once she started  playing “Circumambient,” two back up dancers came onstage and really began to kick the party up a notch. As the show went on, Grimes demonstrated her prowess for live mixing messing with the arrangements of the songs in an incredibly satisfying way.  She even included a dubstep bass drop on the end of  “Oblivion.”   It was after that the pit began.  It all started when I saw two very clearly drunk bros storm through the crowd up to a few rows in front me.  Once the beat started up again, they began to swirl and push trying to start something more appropiate for a punk concert than an electronica show.  However, other people seemed to be into it and got moshing too.  There were also a couple of crowd surfers, including one girl whose ass got thoroughly  and satisfyingly dropped.  I’m not against that type of stuff, I’ve been in plenty of pits in my day, it just seems odd that slam dancing as become the default mode for enjoying a concert for some people (and by people I really mean bros), especially when the music calls for you to shake your ass rather than push the guy in front you and wait for him to push back.  Grimes ended her set a bit abruptly announcing that she didn’t have anymore songs to play. Despite this announcement she managed to play two more songs, including a new one which sounded like it could be promising given time to develop.  All and all though, I was thoroughly impressed by Grimes performance and I feel safe in saying she lives up to the hype.  I now think in time she will overcome the buzz that’s been a double edge sword to so many before her.  I would say go see Grimes if you get the chance, but that might be awhile unless you have your ticket already.

The Year I Spent Dreaming: M83, Unemployment, and Moving Forward with Life

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The main influence of this album is the 80s – Anthony Gonzalez

Waking up yesterday on a balmy late August morning, I found myself wondering something that I wonder a lot nowadays, what will I do with my time?  It’s true what they say about New York City in August, you can feel the heat driving everyone out of the city.  I guess most people after a certain point can’t take it. I, however, have a particular fondness for the heat these days.  Sure I’m lazy just like everyone else, but the haze makes me feel loose and profuse. Back to the original point though, what to do on a Wednesday night in a city suffering from heat exhaustion.

Maybe it was because I was warmed up or I had a need for spontaneity, but I found myself on craigslist searching for a ticket to last night’s sold out M83 Central Park show. Funny, it was a year ago this month that Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming leaked.  My friends and I had been listening to “Midnight City” on repeat since it was first released.  As the season drew on, it transformed into that song that will now forever signal the summer of 2011 to me. There was no album at that point and time that we would have been more excited to hear.  I remember vividly the moments leading up to my very first listen.  I was sitting in the fabled Opium Den of Jeremy Flax’s house when I received a text message from none other than Kyle Green. “M83 leaked.” I quickly exclaimed “holy shit” to Jeremy and informed him that I would need his computer right away.  Not only had this album leaked more than two months in advance, but Jeremy and I had been planning a night out at Big Woody’s with our friends that lived all the way out in bumfuck Chesapeake, VA.  We had been promised that Big Woody’s would be a good time. The most convincing evidence that our friends presented for this fact was a video of one of them making out with a full blown GMILF.  But now with M83 in tow, we had a perfect soundtrack for our long ride to MILF City, USA.

Once it finished downloading, we burned it onto CDs right away. We got it the car and sped off towards our destiny. As those first synths began to arpeggiate in the beginning of “Intro”, I felt electricity in my whole body and I knew that this album was going to be close to perfect.  Nika Roza Danilova of Zola Jesus’s guest appearance only heighten this feeling as I drove in the late August Virginia night.  Jeremy and I were continually amazed as track after track just killed.  It seemed Anthony Gonzalez finally made the album that he wanted to make, epic as all fuck with absolutely nothing held back.  It was almost a shame that we arrived in Chesapeake because we didn’t get to finish the album in one sitting, but that was really the point of our journey and we should have thanked God for giving us such amazing music to accompany us on our way.

Nothing from that night at Big Woody’s really stuck besides the album of course. That’s not to say good times weren’t had (how can bad times be had with two dollar Red Stripes?), but let’s just say that nobody made out with any GMILFs. HUWD sustained itself well over the next few seasons, with each season lending its own palette of colors and feelings to the sounds presented on the record.  In August, it seemed to contained all the emotional urgency of the last days of summer.  When fall came, it had the subtle excitement of new beginnings despite the dying leaves. In winter, it sounded cold, clear, and clean. What started as the soundtrack to the end of summer became something more simply because the emotions in HUWD were just too big, complex, and intense to contain in one season.  Those same two CDS accompanied me on so many trips during those last months of 2011. The trips on Route 58 to Durham seem particular vivid now as I remember watching the subtle changes of color, weather, and mood during those monthly trips down there.  I know we now live in an age of digital music, but it felt and still feels so good to have those physical objects in my car. I traveled a lot that fall, not knowing exactly what I’d be doing or where I was headed, but as long as those CDs were there, I felt comforted that I might be able to wake up out of this post-college dream and finally figure out what to do with my life.

Of course, after the album comes the concert and Bryce, Kevin, and I were able to snag tickets for M83’s early show at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. during the last week of that October. The album had (finally) been released for real and this was one of their first shows playing the new material.  We had been pumping ourselves up this concert and we wanted it to be a big one. Due to the hype, I knew M83 would most likely never play a venue that small again, so naturally I wanted to make sure I was on a fantastic mixture for this show. Unfortunately, mixtures can tend go sour if not carefully applied. Since I was feeling in a particularly festive mood, Kevin convinced me that a 4 Loko would make a tasty treat for the ride into D.C. That, along with lots of whiskey and a few xanies on the side led to me spending most of that concert in the bathroom, praying to god that the room would stop spinning soon.  I was able to gather myself enough to stumble out to see M83 finish their set with a rousing version of “Coleurs.”  I then bought a copy of Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts on vinyl determined to get at least someting from that concert.  I went back to Bryce’s feeling a bit ashamed and disappointed in myself, but you can’t change what’s be done so I’ve learned to let that night be what it was.

Yesterday though I found myself faced with a chance for redemption; a chance to enjoy M83 and the music that had become so important to me in the past year live and in front of me, instead of from the bathroom of a club. I spent the better part of my first two full waking and functioning hours messaging anybody and everybody that had listed a ticket on craigslist.  I must have messaged ten people before I got a reply, but luckily I found somebody willing to sell me a ticket at face value and I quickly rushed to meet her on the Lower East Side.  I ran back to East Harlem to eat something and begin a not so epic pregame as last time.  With a nice buzz going, I rushed down to Central Park and quickly entered the venue.  The first band Big Black Delta was playing while I moseyed threw the crowd in the late deep heat of the day.  Beers were too small and too expensive to abide in so I just played it cool and drank some water from the New York tap water bar they had set up.  Big Black Delta was interesting enough.  I was mostly perplexed with their band set up of a singer with two drummers and a laptop playing backing tracks.  I respect the whole two drummer thing, but it just seemed a little like misplaced man power to me.  At least one of them was a lady drummer. And they sounded pretty good all things consideredg.  They finished there set around 7:45 or so and the crowd began to wait anxiously for Anthony and co. to take the stage.

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-Notice “ye olde bro” behind me.

Finally, around 8:15 the creature that had graced the “Midnight City” single cover emerged onstage complete with neon light up finger tips. He seemed to leave as quickly as he appeared, but soon M83 was on stage playing “Intro.” Immediately I was brought back to that August day when I first heard the song and I could feel that same excitement rippling through my core.  Honestly though, it didn’t quite hit as hard live as it does on the album, and though suitable, Morgan Kibby cannot replace the chilling depth that made Zola Jesus’s part so perfect on that song. However, it was still incredibly thrilling to see.  They then went into the BEFORE THE DAWN HEALS US cut “Teen Angst,” the one pre SATURDAYS=YOUTH song that M83 played all night.  As M83 continued to play with bright lights flashing and great showmanship, I noticed how incredibly eclectic the crowd was.  Nerds, bros, hipsters, tweens, yuppies, all were accounted for though not all I felt were particular welcomed. Stranger still was how this crowd literally had the worst rhythm of any other crowd I’ve ever seen.  I’ve never seen a crowd stop clapping because they were so clearly off the beat and it happened more than once too! My favorite (and my favorite I mean the most annoying) of these seemingly disjointed guests was the tiny white lady behind me screaming along to “We Own the Sky.” At a certain point I felt like asking her if she knew that the “it’s coming now” was referencing psychedelic substances, but I refrained.  It probably means something different to her and I don’t want to take that away. Like the seasons, I guess the emotions in M83 are too big to be contained in social cliches either. And yuppies also like these feelings too, apparently. Other song highlights from the show were “Steve Mcqueen” and “Skin of the Night.” The saxophone solo for “Midnight City,” performed by a very enthusiastic saxophonist was incredible and was something I remembered the D.C. show missing, despite my inebriation. The most epic moment of the night however was the ending of “Outro” which used the accompanying strings and horns to their maximum effect. M83 then ended their set with the live version of “Coleurs” I heard last October, which got everyone dancing even if they had avoided it for the rest of the concert.  After the stage was cleared, I exited Central Park content that I had seen an amazing show from one of the great bands of our time.

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As amazing as it was, I do have some constructive criticism for Anthony Gonzalez as he continues to tour the world.  Listen Anthony, everyone knows you want to be Kevin Shields and trust me, everybody wants you to be him, so drop some money on some big ass stacks and make your show loud as fuck.  Especially incredible loud earth shattering bass.  People want to get lost in your music and the volume will only help with that.  Also, I know it’s probably been years since you played anything off Dead Cities, but seriously how can you not play “Run Into Flowers” and/or “Gone” when you have a string quartet?  It just seemed like such a missed opportunity. I know you know how epic that shit would be and it would also be a nice treat for those of us that love your earlier stuff as well as your later stuff.  With that being said though, overall great job and I would recommend that anybody interested go see them as soon as you can because tickets will only get more expensive from here on out.

So here I am the day after the show in New York City living in Spanish Harlem where a year ago I was driving to redneck bars.  What’s changed since then?  So much and yet so little it seems.  I’m still wanting a job but not really wanting one, and I’m still figuring out what I want to do with my life.  I’ve shed much of my identity in the past year, but what I’ve shed has made me realize who I am and what’s really important to me.  Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming really signaled a chapter in my life, a chapter that I’m still trying to close.  Hopefully now that I’ve seen M83 live it will mark a change for me and I can finally stop dreaming and actually get to where I need to be going.

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One Last Day in VA

Tonight I will board the Chinese bus back to New York City. I’ve done this trip about an estimated 534 times, but it doesn’t really get an easier. In fact, it’s been getting harder. I don’t know if it’s my old age, but the thought of getting on that bus grows increasingly more stressful as I remember the hours spent tossing and turning as I ride up the Eastern Shore and onto the Jersey Turnpike. Past trips I’ve been I have had a specific purpose it felt like, this time I don’t really know what I’ll be doing.  In truth, I know what I’ll be doing. I’ll be taking care of my friend Amanda’s apartment and her two lovely cats, but the greater purpose? I don’t know anymore.

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Certainly, I’m going to be applying to more jobs, but it’s beginning to seem more pointless especially since I’ve been sending out dozens applications with only a few responses. I’ve tried also go to places where I applied to so that I can talk to someone in person, but that hasn’t really helped yet either. It’s just so hard to stay motivated. And all these people say it will be okay, I will find something, but that seems fucking stupid. My natural tendency to dismiss whatever anyone recommends to me doesn’t help, I’ve always needed to find things on my own. In any event, with the job application process becoming seemingly more vain, I’m not sure where I should place my time in the big city.  The possibilities are endless, but how to narrow, how to edit, how to choose?  What do I do? The more time I spend pondering this question, the less time I’ll have following through on the answer. That’s the kicker. Yeah, I can be whatever I want to be, but who wants to be that?

-Jeremy McMahan

Welcome to A Southern Space

Dear Ladies (and Gentlemen if you must),

Welcome to a Southern Space.  With this post I establish another form of digital presence in this increasingly digital world.  I would like to say I have a particular inspiration to start this blog, but in all honesty it’s more of a sellout move then anything.  It’s been over a year since I’ve been able to hold a job or find anything that I really feel is worth dedicating my time to.  Establishing this blog, I create space for me to be heard as I continue to try and figure out exactly what makes me happy and what I find true.  In time, I hope that my opinions will catch enough eyes so that people can finally see what I have to offer.  Not all of what I write will be the truth, but I can promise you none of it will be lies.

 

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-Jeremy McMahan

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