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

by jeremyrmcmahan

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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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