it's just about 11 on sunday morning, and I'm sitting in my apartment in my underwear. there's a giant pile of dirty clothes to my right, and some schwag from cmj to my left. thus begins my dilemma: do laundry, or write up the rest of thursday night - laundry, wrens. laundry, wrens. sneakers. goldspot. kevin suggs. wrens.
the rest of thursday:
by the end of all the in-studios on thursday, my feet were screaming. throbbing ankles and blistered toes and such - my boots weren't made for walking, like shannon's, and I was starting to suffer. the reformed hippie in me wants to be barefoot, so she figures that flip flops will more than suffice.
so I put a call into beth to see maybe where I can score a pair of saucony's, and tiffany throws down exact specifications: that I am to head to broadway and 18th, to a place called parragon, in the downstairs. good colors, good prices. I try to figure out how I'm going to go up to michael's apartment, nap, grab something to eat, get to parragon by 8 before they close, and hit the goldspot show before the wrens at the mercury lounge. the nap gets the ax and kevin suggs and I head down to union square.
I've just got to say again how much I <3 new york, how it's dirty and magical and perfect. I may not be a big fan of those thousand degree subways in the summertime, but there's something about the people and the lights and the everything-all-at-once of it that really turns me on. I don't mean the tourist traps, which I guess you should see once in your lifetime, the times square-y types of places, but moreso the little corners of the village and union square and hidden treats in brooklyn and stuff. wednesday night we had this gorgeous thai food in williamsburg and the bathrooms were these space pods behind beaded curtains and there was much communal hand-washing. southpaw was a hidden gem of a venue, doors opening into sprawling stage and cavernous ceilings. pianos, with the awning from where they actually used to sell pianos. stickers, surfers, be-bop corner performers - it's like someone flung a handful of precious gems over the city for people to be forever stumbling across.
so kevin and I emerge from the subway triumphant, and acclimate ourselves to east and west and head down to the bottom of union square. as I really started to think that I couldn't take another step, the little sign for parragon stuck out over the storefront like an oasis. we wandered and pilfered and I finally slid my feet into these great little new balances - not only were they the most comfortable shoes I had ever graced my feet with, they were totally adorable as well. I threw out my three dollar flip flops and handed over the credit card, and we were ushered back out into the muggy streets.
from where we were to get over to pianos and the mercury lounge looked like over a mile, and we decided to just walk in the general direction of where we needed to be in search of a quick dinner. we wound up covering about three quarters of the way there on foot and stopped at an asian and thai themed bar that was offering california rolls and veggie pad thai at a bargain. definitely the least spectacular of our dining experiences so far, but it worked perfectly for our time frame and budget. we wound up walking the rest of the way down, past cb's where devin davis had a 9:30 set and hipsters and cigarette clogged sidewalks, past katz's deli and huge american apparel billboards, finally stumbling around the corner to piano's.
pianos, as I mentioned earlier, has got an old striped awning above it and apparently it's where someone used to sell pianos. it was white inside, which threw me for a bit, because I don't think any clubs I've frequented lately were. there was a walkway through the middle, tables and a long bench seat up steps on one side, and a bar down the other side. we sat down gratefully – it’s funny how things change like that, how there’s bliss in sneaker stores and wooden benches... it was pretty crowded, and kevin stepped over to the bar for a beer as we fought our way back to the door. this whole thing with the passes was so great, it was like it didn't matter to piano's that the show was sold out - we flashed them and the doors opened to the back room like magic, past anxious patrons and band member's parents and fans filing in and waiting for the set. apparently in new york it's not so hip to stand right in front of the stage, which means you can show up for the last opening band, even when there's six of them, and amble right on up. kevin and I pushed through a wall of people, thinking that the room was already packed, and as it turns out there was a full five feet of space in front of the entire length of the stage. we took our spots, snapping photos of a kexp sticker someone slapped onto the floor, all perfectly bathed in red light, and waited for the show to begin.
when goldspot took the stage, the room went nuts. I heard some professional people during the week talking about how this band was one of the best things to come out of los angeles as of late, and if you get the chance to see them play I think you'll agree. I don't actually know who else has come out of los angeles as of late, so I can't actually make any kind of comparisons, but goldspot is a hell of a band. they really mesh together well, they have fun and get incredibly intense all at once, and the drummer has this big grin on his face the entire time. the lead singer, sid, really just loses his shit and plays with the audience and - I guess it just seems to me like they really want to be up there. musically and lyrically fantastic, they knocked our socks off for about forty minutes, strumming and reeling and making us dance - a bigger louder version of the in-studio, with hair pullings and freakouts notwithstanding. I grabbed the setlist after it was done and abruptly disappeared with kevin back into the night.
at this point, being the wise man that he is, Kevin decided to part company with me for the evening and head back to his hotel for a decent night's rest. seeing as he actually had to legitimately function the next day and all. on the heels of my seventh "fuck sleep!" we said our goodbyes at the doorway of the mercury lounge and I wandered in. I knew that there were three bands to suffer through before the wrens took the stage, but I was happy with two of them - unfortunately they were the first two. I sat down next to a guy who had moved to the city about ten days prior, and hung out with him for about half the set, and then later at various points in the night. his name was ben and he was a funny, funny guy, and somehow involved in some type of indie label something or other, but I can’t quite remember. the only thing that stands out about him in my weary head is that he had a cool graphic design to his business card and he was very good in his descriptions of things. my sleep reserve was already running low, so it made for some interesting discussions of music and life and being drunk and not being drunk and it kept coming back to the whole, “holy crap, we're going to see the wrens” thing. sparrow and the jim yoshi pile-up saw us through to about midnight, when goblin cock took the stage. maybe I'm just not cool enough to get it, but this band is slightly ridiculous. they put on big hoods and capes and play fake death metal, for fun, or maybe for real, I don't know. all I know is that shannon, janet and deb had showed up by then and we spent the set up in the front room, talking to the absolutely kosher guys and buying some posters and albums, desperately looking for places to sit, finding little or none. finally it was about quarter to one and janet and I braved the darkness and headed back in to secure our spots in front of the stage. no way was I going to get pushed to the back of the room, not after I had already met the band.
so I need to digress and get into groupie mode for a moment – I have to say it's evolved from being penny lane to being the kid with the sharpie and the tshirt, wandering around in a frenzied daze, totally stunned at the fact that it is actually all happening... so earlier in the morning I had the pleasure of meeting kathryn from littlequill.com during the prayers and tears set, she's the one doing the wrens documentary, from the little buttons I picked up for everyone at the first wrens show at the bowery. she promised bliss and much meeting of band members, which I proclaimed then that I would absolutely be incapable of. I mean, the wrens are inherently some of the best songwriters that I have ever encountered, ever. and I'm no indie snob about it, but I think I listen to a decent selection of music - and these guys are it. the query of "well, who do you like to listen to?" is almost always followed by, "the wrens, and..." so the thought of any type of conversing was completely freaking me out. I told her that I'd probably hang back.
that's not exactly what wound up happening...
and to briefly wrap up the kexp day, which I was slightly removed from because I was on the phone dealing with some problems at work for a big part of it: prayers and tears totally blew me away, so much so that I threw them on the list of things I needed to buy tickets for when I got home. I missed part of kimone because of the work crisis, cloud cult rocked the room with forcefully delicate meanderings and gorgeous songwriting, blackalicious had the room jumping, and tenement halls turned up the volume on balls-out indie rock progressions. random comments for the day include: that cloud cult actually has some cult stuff going on, they all live on a farm or something; that I missed the first half of blackalicous because they sent me out for espresso; and that I even got to kick around with cheryl a little bit before kevin and I broke off to head for the sneakers. plus more of the bliss of the first day, of just hanging out and having a total time with everyone and really being happy to be there, to be part of such a good thing, to just totally be doing what I love.
so back to the mercury lounge, earlier in the night during a few minutes of sparrow, I was out on the sidewalk talking to abby, when I realized kevin and greg were standing about three feet from me, listening to me talking about them. I closed my phone immediately and said hello, and then politely excused myself - I explained that if I continued to talk to them that I couldn't guarantee that I wouldn't morph into a fifteen year old that was unable to hold up any semblance of a conversation. I did manage to get out that they were really great, and that I was really looking forward to the set. they grinned and shook hands with me, and I walked away with my heart pounding out of my chest... it's funny, how brilliance is more attractive than outsides for me. I mean, the brilliance shines through and comes out, of course, but on top of that for me it's way more important than so many of the external things - just knowing what brilliant writers they were totally floored me. these are guys pushing forty, from new jersey, and it didn't matter. I was, and am, totally and completely smitten with them.
and to continue digressing, inside between the first two bands, I run into kathryn, who is talking to charles. she motions me over and I try to melt into the wall. she comes over to tell me it's really all going to be just fine, and grabs my hand and grabs charles as he's going by and introduces me. and I almost fall apart, right there in the red and blue lights... he's got these beautiful soulful dark sparkling eyes, and he locked them right on with mine, and I remember all of a sudden that I need to say something. I introduce myself and tell him that seriously, he is one of the best songwriters that I have ever come across, and that "made enough friends" might be the best song I've ever heard, that it’s so perfectly written - and that I saw them at the bowery and that I was really looking forward to the show. and he tuned in, and absorbed what I said, and spoke to me for a minute but I was reeling so bad I almost couldn't hear him. he had to go help out with soundcheck, and left amid promises of pulling me on stage to play percussion for "boys, you won't" and smiled and left and I swear I could have just died right then - well, I wouldn't have minded catching the actual set and all, but in that moment everything enough, and I was rendered speechless.
so that was me meeting charles.
and now we’re back to real-time, sparrow and the jim yoshi pile-up have pulled off excellent sets and we are enduring the end of goblin cock before the wrens take the stage. they start to set up and I'm mesmerized, I've managed to have verbal and physical contact with everyone but the drummer and like I just said, I can barely speak. it’s like meeting your heroes, like when kristin and I talk about how these bands are so important and inspiring but yet they remain so tangible – it’s almost like my head doesn’t know how to handle it. I'm watching them with my mouth open, plugging in, tuning, can I have some more vocals in my monitor, you know, the usual stuff. I don't know if I even snapped off a lot of pictures because at this point it's one in the morning and the shit is just running through my veins and I am so totally jacked up about hearing an entire set that I can barely see straight. and then they start to play.
like the show at the bowery ballroom, I'm not really able to describe the set very well. they played from about 1:20 until about quarter to three, so a good hour and a half almost. eighty percent of the set was off the meadowlands, with a few odd songs I had heard last time and a few I didn't know. but right from the start, from the first chord until the last, it was full energy – a total screaming at the top of your lungs and jumping up and down from the sheer bliss of it experience, and that sentence is so far from doing it justice that I almost want to delete it. the national have it too, where they just turn on and put you into a trance and your brain almost comes out of your ears because you are being blown out of the room, but you're still in the front row, and this insane adrenaline mindblowing catastrophic event just keeps happening - so you're seeing this amazing performance and going "jesus, this is so fucking good I can barely take it" and it just keeps happening - in this case, at full volume for almost and hour and a half. and to give myself an honorable mention, I did almost get pulled up for "boys, you won't" but pulled back in sheer terror. (after watching everyone play percussion and the floor and whatever else the drummer told them to tap on, I decided that if the opportunity presented itself next time that I'd gladly take the stage – don’t pass it up if it happens to you.)
so they play forever, and when they're done there's no moment of feeling like they're done too soon, even though it could go on for hours... but then something like that can't sustain - so it's perfect, and the room clears out immediately, and it's the four of us and the band and maybe a dozen other people among the cleaning up and unplugging and loading out. janet's birthday is friday, so she's getting autographs and shannon is doing the kexp thing and I'm just sitting on the stage, stunned and grinning. as they wrap up and get cds to get signed and stuff I say hello to charles, and thank him for the set. at this point there's no delay between what I'm thinking and what I'm saying, so I think about the fact that he makes me want to write more, and I just say it, and he asks me if I'm in a band, and I'm like, no, I just like, write, for me, you know, and he's like, yeah, I always wish I would have gotten into writing - and all of a sudden I can talk, and I put my hand on his arm and I'm like, are you kidding? and he's like, no, why? and I'm like, charles, you are - when I told you that you were one of the best songwriters I've ever gotten to listen to, I was nervous to talk to you and everything, but I mean that - you are an amazing writer, some of the best lines I've ever heard, and I'm pretty picky about what I listen to - and he was all like, really? are you serious? not like he doesn't inherently know that he's good, but I don't think he equated it to writing writing, like putting it against like writing a book or something. and then I'm just talking to a guy about his writing. and it was awesome. and then I'm not scared anymore, and we're laughing and joking and I said, I have to tell you, can I ask you one more stupid question, I'm sure you have people to talk to - and on a side note, when I had said that to him and the other guys and the guys in the national, kind of an offered out, they went, um, no, I really don't have anywhere else to be right now, and my heart sang - so he was like, no, it's cool - and I go, do you have a bunch of picks in your guitar case, and he's all, why, do you want to play, and I'm grinning and all, no, but I was wondering if I could have the one in your pocket, just for posterity's sake, and it was the biggest grin I'd seen that night, probably akin to the one I had on - and he was like, really? and I was like yes, really, I know it's silly, but I want to remember all of this, you know, and he digs in his pocket and looks up at me and says my name back to me, “victoria, right?” and I'm like, yes, and he goes, “well then this is for you, victoria, from one writer to another” and gives me the pick and closes his hand on my hand for a second, and I'm thanking him and now my eyes are sparkling too and I tell him again what a tremendous set it was - and I come back to janet, still reeling, and the night isn’t even over yet.
so then kevin is talking to some guy, and I'm lingering as we all freak out and show off our treasures, afraid to make an approach. and I abruptly turn to kevin and go, I don't know when we're going to be leaving, but I just had to tell you what I told charles, that I can't not tell you that you are some of the best songwriters I've ever listened to, and I hand him my sharpie and ask him to sign me. and he’s all, like, sign you? and I hold out my forearm, going yes, it would be really cool, and in my head I’m going oh my god he’s going to like, touch me, and for more than three seconds - and he's like, wow, no one has ever asked me to sign them before, and I'm like, I know, it's totally groupie of me but I'd really love it. so he proceeds to put "te amo" and then sign his name below it (and I got bill to take the pictures the next day to prove it) and when I looked up and he was grinning and I was sure that I was shooting beams out of my eyes, and it took everything I had in me to fight wanting to just lean in and start making out with him. so I thanked him for the set as well, and told him to please keep the site updated as to whether or not the show at wesleyan was just for students, and then some guy was waiting to talk to him so I had to turn away, and now I really swayed and almost passed out - I'm sitting here reeling from it still, managing to be a little bit of everything, primarily into the beauty of what they do, but topped off with just a little bit of freaking out and just being able to be a fan - it was just so perfect. I didn't feel stupid or over or underdone, I didn't regret a moment of it. I really feel like while I've got a kexp badge on that there is a certain amount of responsibility that has to go along with it, that I can't be a screaming freak about stuff, but I was able to be a dedicated fan and a grown up about it all at the same time. and from what some guys have told me since, that there is no guy in a band that doesn't like signing body parts on a hot chick.
I stopped to say hello and goodbye to greg before we left, and he was a little easier to talk to from having done the whole guest list thing from the bowery, and he actually came and squatted in front of me and kissed me on the cheek and asked me how I was - and I said all the same things to him and thanked him and we wound up talking about how weird it was that they were going to be playing at wesleyan, and about how maybe I could come out to seattle for christmastime to visit the friend of mine that lived there (because he remembered!!!) and to catch some of their shows - and it was more of just this honest to goodness talking, for a few minutes, not in the middle of him doing something and being obligated, but it was him being approachable and actually just having a real conversation about stuff. unreal.
I said it a hundred times so far over the last seven days, but I can not believe that this is actually my life. that this is all really happening. but it is.
all of a sudden we were leaving and the steamy city streets greeted us as janet and I took the train back uptown, and we just let it all run through us – we stared at our autographs and posters and picks and badges and finally crawled out of the train at our subsequent stops. I tiptoed into michael's apartment at about four in the morning, bursting at the seams, and fell into a beautiful four hours of sleep before I got up to head into the station for the last day of broadcasting.
this is (say your name) from (band name), and you're listening to john in the morning on kexp, seattle. love me.