Home > Uncategorized > I Wish That I Believed in Fate… I wish I didn’t sleep so late.

I Wish That I Believed in Fate… I wish I didn’t sleep so late.

So, I’m not in the minority here but Music is my vice… maybe my life.  It’s kinda strange because not one single other person in my family is as musically snobby as I am.  My mother loves to read, my sister fill her time with her family and still listens to music she grew up with to the best of my knowledge.  My brother has me send him music I’m currently listening to on a bi-yearly basis but makes no effort to go out and find it as voraciously as I do.  Lord knows what my father is in to.  I take that back, my father sings but shows no desire at all to keep up with modern music or make any attempt to connect with music as a whole other than to fill his void with gospel.  As far as I can tell, I stand alone in my incessant need to absorb and find new music and that’s fine with me.  If I’m having a crappy day or a great day, I have two dozen records I can put on and everything seems to be put into perspective or wash away in a sea of melodies or cannons.  Lyrics speak to me the way most people are moved by watching their children take first steps.  The way musicians seem to make their instruments sing never ceases to amaze me.  The harmonies they create with guitars or voices reach deep down.  It’s kind of weird that I never learned to play an instrument but in a strange sort of cosmic justice, I don’t think I was meant to play.  Otherwise I’d get nothing done.  Which brings me to my point.

When I was a kid I went on vacation with my Uncle Neal.  He’d always take my brother and I on vacation with him and my cousin Elizabeth and I always looked forward to the time together.  One summer when I was very young we visited Hylton Head SC where one night Uncle Neal took us to see a guy singing songs in a park.  I can’t remember his name but it was my first concert and I loved every second of it.  There came a part in the show where he invited kids up on stage to sing with him while he played the guitar.  A group of four kids from Tennessee sang “Rocky Top” in harmony and I thought it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard.  (Coincidentally I still love this song despite my hatred for the Tennessee Volunteers, but I digress).  I suggested to my cousin Elizabeth that we get on stage and sing My Old Kentucky Home and she tentatively agreed.  But when he called on us, she clammed up and I had to go up there by myself.  I was terrified but I had sung in church before so I soldiered on and got up on stage.  He didn’t know the song so I had to go a capella.  I started in and halfway through the first verse, I closed my eyes and with my little falsetto voice, I took myself mentally back to KY and sang the song to my mom.  By the end of my rendition, I opened my eyes and saw the reason I love music.  People’s mouths were open, this guy said to the crowd that it was the best he had ever heard that song sung and gave me a T-Shirt as a prize for being the best of the night.  He even stopped my Uncle Neal after the show to talk about it… Neal was beaming with pride.  People had tears in their eyes.  It was moving.  I was hooked.  And for those two verses and chorus, I was king of the world.  I could sense that what was happening, energy wise, was much much bigger than me.  I felt that again Saturday night.

The National, possibly one of my favorite bands of the past decade, descended on The Wiltern this weekend for a two show run in Los Angeles and I was lucky enough to experience these guys play live for the 5th time.  They’re from Cincinnati, at least two sets of brothers are (one set are twins) and the lead singer is from Brooklyn.  It was a different experience this time around.  Scotty and I got to the show relatively early and landed some sweet standing spots one tier up from the stage and floor, right behind the white line that keeps people out of the aisle.  This is my comfort zone.  Either right in front of the rail or standing with no one directly in front of me.  Anyone who knows me knows that when I attend shows I typically stand somewhere out of the way because big crowds freak me out.  But when the ushers started putting floor wristbands on just anyone two songs into the show (wristbands are generally given out for floor standing to the first few people in line before doors open) Scotty jumped at the chance to pull my arm and take me to the floor where we remained for the rest of the show.  I didn’t think there’d be a difference between sitting in seats with my eyes closed, letting the live music swirl around me or being 10 feet away from the band.  There’s a BIG difference.  Musicians often say that the “vibe” or “energy” of the crowd is a viable thing.., alive at times in a way that feeds them while on stage.  Hell, Steven Tyler once said that in Arena shows, he’s seen the energy, a flowing warp of colored air circling him and the band and flowing toward them like Aurora Borealis.  Not too hard to imagine when you think about it.  From the front, 10 feet away from the band, I too could feel it and I turned around to attempt to gain photographic evidence of this phenomenon.

Words fail to describe the vibe at a National show.  Their albums are typically so well polished and produced but their live shows are so full of energy and grit that to a person who’s never seen them live, it can be a game changer.  I literally had to drag my buddy Pat to his first National show at the El Ray some years ago and we got separated just before the encore.  When I met him outside after the show the look on his face spoke volumes.  He’s gone with me to every show since. This feeling of awe accompanies just about every live show I see but for some reason, the National seem to stick out.  Maybe it’s because they’re from Cincinnati, maybe it’s Berninger’s baritone voice, or maybe it’s the brothers speaking to each other in a sort of twin language that’s only audible through their guitars. Their anthems, Fake Empire, Mr. November, and the newer England are so big and powerful live that at times I thought the roof would be blown off the Wiltern.  They’re songs so orchestral that you’d think it impossible to re-create live but between their voices and the sheer skill of the band, they manage to overwhelm me every time I see them live.  A feat no other band outside of Radiohead and The Walkmen have accomplished. Shows like this one make me wish I never gave us singing or that I would have taken up guitar or piano.  Shows like this one make me remember when I was a kid when music could make anything possible… that I’m not the only one who can be moved by this kind of thing.  Whatever the case may be, do yourself a favor and go see The National live if they’re anywhere near your neighborhood and if you care about good music at all.  You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a video of the first song I ever heard from these guys… a far cry from the moody orchestral opus’s you get from them today, but the guitar in the chorus will certainly make you understand how I can immediately fall in love with these guys songs…

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