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wrens, cereal, and... more wrens

the oddest part of the night wasn't getting to hang out with greg, or to find out what charles likes to eat for breakfast, or to flirt unashamedly with kevin. while all of those things are strange and fabulous in their own right, they still didn't take the cake.

get this: I got recognized for my blog.

now, we've all got our own little corners of the internet, and we show them off to our family and friends, or we link people to them when we're trying to prove a point. however, if you're anything like me, you tend to forget that anyone reads your blog. except for maybe like, four or five people. and a friend you forgot about will go, "hey, yeah I saw the pictures you put up!" or "that story about charlie post was great!" - but other than those little moments, the impact that your blog has on the stratosphere seems minimal, at best.

I get to the eclectic house at wesleyan last night around ten, having driven past it four times and finally determining that the pirate flag over the door was a signal from the universe. I was right, and stumbling past cigarettes and pabst cans I finally make it to the door. the kids behind the table usher me in eagerly, after being able to say that one glorious sentence - as not accurate as it may have been, but kind of, but still:

I'm with the wrens.

what awaits beyond the entryway is your typical old mansion turned sparsely furnished frat house. sweeping staircase directly ahead, complete with chandelier above. cavernous room to the left with exposed beams, big old windows, and a makeshift stage. this, as they say, is where the magic happens. to the right, a smaller and slightly less cavernous room, with some merch tables and a few scattered places to sit. I must pause here to note that one of those places was giant red armchair, ten feet tall, circa alice in wonderland (yet slightly less glamourous). after a few fervent calls to kristin about being four feet away from various wrens and not knowing how to function, I took up residence in the big chair to review the shots I'd taken so far. I managed earlier to say hello to greg, giving much thanks and politely excusing myself. now I've got direct orders to converse, to ask about halloween, and to not look back.

I jump.

I strike up a few odd sentences with greg, and when he ever so sweetly asks if there's anything he can do, or get me (the beer ran rampant, being a frat house and all), I answer honestly and tell him it would be great to hang out for a little while - being that I was a twenty nine year old who wasn't getting drunk and had come to a frat party by herself. he gladly obliged, and the tables turned. I'm standing behind the merch, with greg, stashing my stuff in the bucket of cds. and I've got no delay, so I'm joking with him about how I've got to pretend like I'm just having a regular conversation with him instead of standing a foot away from a guy who plays in a band that puts out music that changed my life.

it actually worked out well, because I had to come up with these funny everyday topics to discuss, like what he does on saturdays and what he buys at the grocery store and stuff. as it turns out, greg has an eighteen week old blond lab mix named lola. she's doing better with her housebreaking, she does still have accidents, but by the door, which is their fault, really (he says) since she's making it over to the door and they're just not getting there in time. apparently he and kevin have varying desk jobs in manhattan, where they do everyday things. and they did in fact all live in that one house until recently, when greg got married he and his wife bought a house and then charles and kevin bought a house five houses down. so that's where they hang out and do what wrens do and are hopefully going to be recording a new album at sometime soon.

jerry wasn't able to make it to the gig, so standing with us was another charles (who took a GREAT PICTURE - and I HATE how I look in pictures - of me and greg and charles b.) who had - get this - flown in from LA to sub for the gig. these are my kind of people. we get to talking as well, and I ask him if he's posted on the message board, because he looks like one of the guys that commented from time to time. and he goes (steady yourself, this is the blog part) yeah, I post on there sometimes, wait, (grins) don't you - don't you have a blog where you journal and put up pictures and stuff? and I go, yeah, and he goes, well, you had posted a link to some pictures once, and my girlfriend read your stuff, AND SHE FOLLOWS YOUR BLOG (he said it normal, I'm just making the point that SOMEONE FOLLOWS MY BLOG)(!!!) and she had said, look out for this girl with the red hair.

my girlfriend follows your blog. it's still hanging there, out in the air, for me to gaze at in amazement. I know it doesn't make me famous or anything, but still. it was pretty cool to know that someone I didn't know read my stuff, liked it, and follows it the way I follow the blogs I like.

oh, by the way, if you're reading, hi! tell your boyfriend to send that picture, stat! my email's on the bottom of the right column. you're the best! and your boyfriend is nice, and just as importantly did a bang-up job filling in for jerry. I never even noticed, which is a good thing.

so, we talk about pictures and he takes one of me and greg and charles and I just want to die, because I'm afraid I'll be making a funny face or something, but what winds up happening is that I am completely and totally beaming and excited and it totally shows. so I'm thrilled, and we continue our banter. now I talk to charles (b.) for a few minutes, and have the same giggling beginning where I tell him that it's a little difficult for me to just like, stand there and talk to him and stuff. so I ask him what albums he's listening to, and what he wants to be for halloween. as it turns out, they're going to england or something in like, a couple of days, so they'll either be there or just be back that sunday, so no big plans. charles did come up with some good stuff though, like how there are two types of people: the people who get to the day before the party and grab whatever they have in the closet just to wear something, and the people who show you stuff in july and go "this is what I'm going to wear for halloween" and they've got it all planned out and there's like, various mechanics involved with the workings of the costume and stuff. and then I asked him what he had for breakfast. and as luck would have it, it was cereal. apparently charles got by for a long time on cereal and peanut butter and jelly. but the cereal wasn't a good budget stretcher, because charles has quite a fondness for his whole grain consumption. not fruit loops or cocoa puffs, but like, raisin bran and stuff. like, killing a box of it in a day or two. I told him I do the same thing with peanut butter, that it's a total nightmare and that I can't even have it in the house. he agreed - the cereal is off limits. multiple bowl a day habit. to counteract, he generally has toast and a strong cup of coffee. but really, he wants cereal.

right.

I'm reading back over this as I'm writing, about how I got to talk to 3 of the 4 guys in the wrens for like, two hours almost, and I asked about cereal and halloween and not about what inspires them and what makes them write and all that stuff. but then, I always feel on the spot with that - well, sometimes at least. sometimes I'd much rather talk about how I can kill a tube of cookie dough in two days when left to my own devices than try to sound all suave discussing the logistics of fante and nabokov and what I really think about howl. or something. not that those aren't good things, good fodder for talk, but it's a high bar to stay at all the time.

so, cereal. oh, and t-shirts, one of which I will be wearing this evening, gifted from the glorious greg himself. fabulous. then, because it was bound to happen at some point, kevin came ambling up and greg made the introductions. we went on round three of trying to have regular discussions about stuff, with me interrupting into fits of giggles between responses. covering my nose with my scarf and looking at him with a sparkle in my eye, saying, okay, we can keep talking, but you're like, touching me, and I think I'm going to freak out, and then managing to pull it back into logisitical discussion about him being excited for england, and as the rest of them had mentioned, not having big halloween costume plans as a result. he came on the scene there a little closer to show time, so I was like, do you have to write up set lists and stuff, and he's like, shit, yeah, I need to do that, and I'm like, um, okay, so can I like, have it, when you're done? and he and charles look at me like charles did when I asked for his pick, totally flattered and grinning. double checking to make sure I really wanted it. and he slipped off and scraped up the oddest scraps of paper, ever - mine wound up being the inside of a package of cake mix or something - and came back as they continued readying for the set.

one of the other interesting things of the evening at wesleyan was the bathrooms. co-ed, and not only co-ed, but you'd go in and people were like, drinking beers and hanging out and stuff. one time I went in and these little hippie girls were making out with each other, which I of course brought back in full report to the table. and this spawned a discussion about how kevin doesn't really get into girl on girl action - and as an aside, doesn't like blondes or young chicks, or so I've been told. greg calls him over immediately to discuss this, and once again he's standing right next to me and the conversation turns to something else and I'm just all wide-eyed and wanting and I'm like, I'm sorry I keep having a hard time, but when you put out the kind of music you do, it's just hard to stand here and pretend like it's all normal and stuff, and he's like, really, it's okay, I kind of like it actually, and I'm like, okay, do you want to go make out? and we're both busting up laughing, and I'm like, well, we've got like, ten minutes before the band is done, I'm sure those girls in the bathroom won't mind, and it was like flip-flopping between being totally aware that I was talking to him and being totally unaware and making jokes and flirting with one of my friends, and I loved every second of it.

and then they played.

the light was dark and ill-placed, think lamps and torchieres in a vfw hall. not the best for shooting, but great for ambience. I'm actually loading shots in as I type, so I'll see how they came out in a little bit... if I managed six good ones out of the 200 I shot, I'll be thrilled. so I'm testing out the light in front, on the side, and I'm on greg's side for once, usually being stationed dead between kevin and charles. and I'm like, do you mind if I'm like, here, or here, or here - and he goes, you can go where you want. really. and I'm like, can I climb up back there? and he goes, yup. and I go, can I go behind the drums? and he goes, sure. victoria, you can seriously do whatever you want! and I'm like, are they going to get mad? and he's like, are you kidding? shoot away. and so I did.

the crowd, being as they were, busted into full blow mosh pit body surfing chaos. pushing into the stage, knocking over microphone stands, yelling stuff at the band, jumping and screaming and just totally freaking out. I thought a few times that the speakers were going to tip, but they got saved every time. I even managed a save when I was up behind the amps behind greg, and the keyboard almost went flying. it felt great, being there, being involved, and to top it all off, they played a sick fucking set. the same as what I've heard, meadowlands mostly, but it was different this time - I mean, we talked about dogs and cereal and stuff, and then I got to see them in show mode, jumping around, freaking out, totally doing what they do when they play live - and it made it that much better. the tangibility that I talk about, the fact that I heard the meadowlands for the first time and cried in my car in the parking lot outside of my work in the rain, and then being able to stand next to kevin and talk about it. to lose my shit at a show and then help load out. to send love letters, and then discuss housebreaking behind the merch table.

I've realized at various points during this recap of last night that I still haven't written up the frames, and that I'm not writing like a reviewer. I think it's because actually having conversations with these guys just kind of left me stupid and smiling, so it just seemed like I needed to write about it, and that I'm not a reviewer. maybe I'll go back and turn this into a story for rolling stone, but this is for me.

and you.

I did get the set list delivered, remembered, directly from kevin - as promised. it's absolutely the best one so far, handed over with flirts and smiles and enough goodness to make me spin around in the middle of the room between piles of gear. and then the post show lingerings turned into babysitting gear in the other room and hugging goodbyes, of nice to meet you's and see you soon's and hey, I'll send you some pictures - at three in the morning, outside a van from new jersey, on the front lawn of a frat house in middletown, connecticut.

that was my night with the wrens, better than anything I could have imagined when I woke up, or ever, for that matter.

frames pics tonight, at a minimum. promise. I'm off to hear tom brosseau do an opening set at the iron horse, and then wolf parade at cafe nine if I'm up for it.

this is, in fact, my life.

and bottomless bowls of cereal all around,

~vvb

ps - sorry if there's any typos, I'm just throwing this up and running out the door - I'll edit later...

Victoria Uhl