Sunday, July 06, 2008

When Band Crushes Collide!

And so my European adventures have come to a close, and Brooklyn has welcomed be back with large, sweaty arms. Ew.

After the joys of Caserta I hit up London Town where I enjoyed Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Blackheath, clotted cream and scones, Henley, punting and wandering around the mews of Oxford with a bottle of red wine in hand, and lots of other things that make England near and dear to my heart. Also, I met my friend Anna's new baby, Georgia May. If you think it's weird when your friends start getting married, just wait till they have babies.

Upon return I was tickled pink to catch a show at Southpaw with not one, but TWO of my band crushes: Frightened Rabbit and Oxford Collapse.

Both rocked, and FR's live version of "Old Old Fashion" put a grin on my face that still hasn't quite vanished. Oxford Collapse played some new tracks from their up-coming record and they sounded pretty faboo.

In Rome, I finally got the courage to go to Keats's grave. He's buried in the Cimitero Acattolico Delgi Stranieri (The Cemetary for Un-Catholic Foreigners). It's mostly known as the Protestant Cemetery. Not only is he buried there, but Shelley's heart as well. Also, Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist party. Communists and Romantics: my kind of people.
Anyway, the place is beautiful. It's sort of gregariously gothic, with graves and full-blooming trees stacked upon each other. Keats is quietly resting in a corner, and there's a small bench there for people to sit. There's also a little stack of notes left beside his marker, which I contributed to. Shelley wrote of the place, "It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place."

Go figure.

I also visited the small apartment which looks over the Spanish Steps where Keats died of tuberculosis at the ripe old age of 26. (The apartment also houses a small, perfect museum documenting other Romantics who were ex-pats in Italy, like Shelley, Byron, and Mary Shelley Godwin). When I saw they had Whitman's copy of Keats open to "Endymion" with his margin notes, I may or may not have started crying. Just saying.

Later that evening, my younger brother asked me why it is I'm so into the Romantics, Keats especially. There are a lot of reasons the Romantic Philosophy appeals to me, but none so much as an understanding of the Sublime.

The Sublime, is the feeling you get when you're confronted with that which is more than you are. More beautiful. Bigger. More powerful -- whatever, it doesn't really matter. Whatever makes you feel conscious that there is more out there than you, that there is an enormous beauty and terror and you cannot possibly understand it, that is the Sublime. Poems that aren't written yet, places you've never been, trees that are older than your great great grandmother, cities that seem sentient, realizing that stars are both space and time, meeting your friend's baby and realizing that you love her for no good reason.

The Sublime makes you feel at peace and comforted, but it always makes you conscious of the need to transcend the immediate and reach for the eternal. The Sublime is never nihilistic, but it can be terrifying.

I get it a lot when I see a really great band play.

How do people reach into themselves and pull out music? When music really gets in your brain, really touches something back in your catalog of memories, it's bigger than the people making the music -- chances are they don't even know what they're doing. They're plugged into something way way bigger than three guitars and a shitty drum kit.

I like to think about what makes someone write a song: the memory that sparked it. Even if a song seems explicit to me, there's no way I know what the song is "really" about. It's coming from a place that is totally unknown to me, and the rest of the crowd -- it's untouchable. It's a mystery that everyone knows the words to.

It's the same with great poetry or fabulous cooking, or the perfect goal. Where do people go when they're creating something that is more than just who they are or what they can do?

The next weeks are going to jammed packed with work, work, and more work, which I will hopefully be able to fill everyone in on, but until then, I'm knocking on wood, and chaining myself to my laptop.

In the mean time, I hope you'll enjoy this little list of music I've been enjoying this summer. It's by no means a mix, but a random smattering.

1. Summersong / The Decemeberists /The Crane Wife
2. Marry Me / St. Vincent / Marry Me
3. Old Old Fashioned / Frightened Rabbit / The Midnight Organ Fight
4. Handle With Care / Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins / Rabbit Fur Coat
5. You're No Rock'n'Roll Fun / Sleater Kinney / All Hands On The Bad One
6. Bishop Danced / Bruce Springsteen / Tracks
7. In The Springtime Of His Voodoo / Tori Amos / Boys For Pele
8. Saro / Samamidon / All's Well
9. Who Is It? / Bjork / Medulla
10. Poke / Frightened Rabbit / The Midnight Organ Fight
11. Nobody Knows Me At All / The Weepies / Say I Am You
12. Walcott / Vampire Weekend / Vampire Weekend
13. Festival / Sigur Ros / Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

1. Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit.
2. Michael Pace of Oxford Collapse
3. One Whose Name Was Writ In Water
4. The Protestant Cemetery
5. When Band's Collide! Andy Monahagan on Keys (FR), Michael Pace on Rhythm Guitar (OC) and Scott Hutchinson (FR) rock out on the last song of the night, "Keep Yourself Warm." Toward's the end, Hutchinson threw in a little lyric from Oxford Collapse's "Please Visit Your National Parks," (a favorite of mine): "You should be standing right next to me / Instead of three feet in front of me."