Everything Is Illuminated
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I fall in love all the time. On your average weekend night about town, I fall head over heels with some 23 comely Girlington lasses. Funny thing is, I usually don’t even talk to them. I simply enjoy the crush from afar, imagining what she might be like based on the way she flicks her hair or laughs or shoots pool. More often than not, approaching the object of one’s fantastical affections shatters the allure. Maybe she has a lazy eye you didn’t notice across the bar. Or maybe she talks like a Valley Girl. Maybe her perfume is too strong. Maybe she’s a closet racist. (Those have all actually happened to me. I call them “Seinfeld” moments.) It’s almost always something. Until that one wondrous time when it isn’t.
I’m kind of the same way with music: I fall in and out of love with bands constantly and freely admit to being a music slut. Buy me a drink, whisper sweet, jangly guitar nothings into my ear, and I’m yours for the night. But fair warning: I’ll probably kick you out in the morning.
I’m easily seduced but harder to pin down. I can count on one or two hands the bands and artists I truly, deeply love. And there have been times when we’ve separated — take Wilco, for example, between the second half of A Ghost Is Born and … well, I guess I’m still waiting. For a lasting relationship with a band, I need that spark at the outset. But then I need substance and nuance: surprised by a line I didn’t catch until the 100th time I listened to it; mystified by a song I thought I understood. And I still need to find it as sexy as I did the first time we met. That’s asking a lot, but it’s not impossible.
Last fall, I fell madly and instantly in love. It was a crisp October night in New York City. I was at a sparsely attended show at the Mercury Lounge, having come to see some band whose name I can’t even remember now. On my way out the door after that band’s set, I heard the sweet, bowed strains of a cello and turned my head. Onstage, a young, disheveled quartet caught my eye. As they launched into their first song, a rambunctiously rootsy and catchy little pop number, they caught my ears. And then my heart. And I developed a crush on the Lumineers.
For the next hour it was as though the rest of the world had melted away. Looking back, it reminds me of the first time I heard the Avett Brothers, who aren’t a bad stylistic corollary. Except that when I first heard those guys, they had a catalog of records through which I could get to know them better and subsequently “friend zone” them. Not so the Lumineers. At the end of the night, breathless and flushed, I left without so much as a phone number, let alone a CD, because they didn’t have one yet.
I’m not proud, but I spent the next couple of months stalking them online — yeah, like you’ve never done it. My search was fruitless, save for a Facebook page and a bare-bones website with vague allusions to a forthcoming debut album. Was this a one-night stand? I worried. How could they do this to me?
Our paths crossed again in Austin, Texas, where we met for some afternoon delight in the form of a daytime showcase at SXSW. And again, as quickly as the Lumineers entered my life, they exited without a word as I slept. I mean that literally. There were beanbags all over the floor for folks to crash on. Why, I wondered, is my heart full of holes?
Then, a breakthrough. I came home to find an email from the Lumineers. They were coming to Burlington. They wanted to see me. And they had a gift: their then-unreleased self-titled debut. My heart soared.
The album evoked the same giddiness I felt live, but added depth I hadn’t caught before, with playfully poetic lyrics and subtly intricate arrangements that held my attention on (many) repeated plays. In other words, it was everything I’m looking for.
Now, it’s way too early to say if this relationship has staying power. But there’s reason for excitement, and I want you to meet them. Introducing someone new to your friends is always a little nerve-racking, but I think you’ll really like them. So whaddya say — the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Tuesday, April 17?
Speaking of bands I’m quickly developing crushes on, have you caught Shelly Shredder yet? Well, you should. I popped by the band’s recent live-recording gig at Signal Kitchen, which confirmed what I thought the first time I saw them: They’re really friggin’ good. But that’s not even the point. They play straight-up alt-country. That wouldn’t be noteworthy if this were, say, 2002, which is the last time the genre was cool. But in a scene seemingly obsessed with über-hip experimental pop and indie chicanery, there’s something refreshing about a band whose music is so unabashedly un-hip. And I mean that as a compliment. Check them out at the Monkey House this Friday, April 13, opening for Sleepy Sun.
EDM fans are in for a good week. The industrious cats from 2K Deep welcome electro-house sensation Revolvr to Club Metronome on Thursday, April 12. The DJ’s original productions have been played in clubs all over the globe by the likes of Porter Robinson and Steve Aoki, among other heavyweights.
Not to be outdone, our bass-lovin’ pals from Mushpost have another installment of their Booty Bakery series on deck for this Sunday, April 15, at Metronome. The headliners include Distal — a progressive-minded producer and DJ who eschews conventional ideas of genre and BPM in favor of a more emotional approach to sound — and Construct, one of Canada’s premier dubstep DJs and the founder of the blog J’aime Le Dubstep and a podcast of the same name.
If downtown Burlington sounds like a herd of stampeding cows this Saturday, April 14, fret not. It’s just the World’s Largest Cowbell Ensemble, led by Jon Fishman, marching down Church Street. Rumor has it that Jimmy Fallon, who was in the famous “more cowbell” SNL skit from which the idea was derived, may make an appearance. I can’t confirm that. I can, however, confirm how badly I want Christopher Walken to show up, too. (“I got a feva …”) The march is a benefit for Phish’s WaterWheel Foundation, as well as a celebration of the 15th anniversary of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream.
Last but not least, stay strong, Mom. I love you.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.
Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls
Lotus Plaza, Spooky Action at a Distance
Various Artists, Harmony, Melody and Style: Lover’s Rock and Rare Groove in the UK 1975-92
Chromatics, Kill for Love
Dirty Ghosts, Metal Moon