Last night, thanks to a totally unexpected and completely solid move by my friend Ed, I got to see one of my favorite bands of all time perform live, long after I had resigned to never being able to do that. I had to leave work early and haul ass three-and-some-odd hours down the interstate to get there in time, but I did and it was incredible. I got to see some old friends and those warm greetings were good for the ol’ withered heart.
The show was lovely and spooky and sad and sloppy and beautiful and wonderful, the melodies at times held together just barely and threatening to break open and run away in different directions. The band was large and there was a rotating cast of instruments getting the spotlight: Trombone, trumpet, baritone, banjo. Jeff Mangum looked like he was wearing a Duck Dynasty costume — long hair, enormous beard, big bulky clothes. Louisiana solidarity, I presume. His voice sounded like as much of a clarion as ever, rising above the chaos. He seemed to be enjoying himself mostly. But what a thing to say about someone who was a room away, hiding under a hat and a beard and a guitar. We don’t know anything and we are glad he came out. I figure a good portion of us were there in part to make sure he understood how grateful we are for what he gave us and that he decided to give those of us who missed the moment the first time around another chance to get in on it.
Hearing “Oh Comely” live was surreal. A little close to an out-of-body experience, actually. I enjoyed that after it was over, someone in the audience yelled, “HOLY SHIT!” and Jeff said, “No one gets that.” Heh. Except we did. I kept trying to figure out how the whole show was happening in the same room as me. I don’t know if the kids who talked LOUDLY through the whole thing understood what the fuck they missed. Maybe they don’t believe in poetry and beauty and memory and the exorcism of demons through word and sound or the sanctity of real fucking art happening in your presence which is as close as you’re probably ever going to get to actual salvation but I feel bad for them in some ways and want to punch them in other ways. I would almost rather them sit there and stare into their phones and tweet stupid stuff rather than verbalize it where I have to listen to it while trying to have A Moment At A Show. Oh, other people. You challenge me to rise above. Literally. Because I think I’m getting shorter. (But kudos to Ed for yelling “Put your goddamn phone down!” to the chap holding a screen up high with TEXT MESSAGES ON IT. Not even recording. Cool story, bro.)
They closed with “Engine.” And because I am nothing but a moving, flesh-encased carton of hormones and regret and hope and sadness and joy, I cried.