You don’t expect much on a Monday. At least I don’t. I’d read about a British band, Everything Everything, who were coming over as British bands do, to try and break America. But they sounded interesting, and my friend had bought tickets. It was cold out. The usual. I was coaxed out, with the promise of a glass of wine and even though I was the one who had wanted to see the band in the first place, it took that little bit extra to actually get out there. My friend was more excited. I thought to myself that maybe I’d just been to that many gigs, to the point I didn’t really care anymore. Still, after chatting with the bartender and downing a raspberry grappa, whose strong sweet warmth dissolved the rest of my indifference, I was ready to go and be disappointed. Let’s go – and we walked out into the cold wind barreling down past Houston Street, and onwards through the edges of the park on Chrystie Street, dodging the bits of flying trash, taking pictures of the tableau some pieces of broken china and an empty bottle of vodka made against the red brick walls of the park. Then we were there. Bowery Ballroom. Everything Everything, with support. On the threshold, they wrapped our wrists with the bit of sticky lavender paper that declared we could drink. We dawdled on the main level, gazing at the stage. It was still early, and the place was filling up. I pulled at her, come on, I said, and we went up to the second level. With a quieter, better view, I took a perch behind the sound board and beer was obtained. I watched the crowd stream in, their dark coats forming patterns, a little like muddy water swirling up through the planks of a storm-whipped boardwalk. It was the perfect spot. I could see, and I was a lot less likely to get into trouble trying to keep my space. I stood there, listening to two Brits, one of whom looked like a boxer. I wondered if they had anything to do with the band.
So when the lights went down for the opening support band, I was sipping my beer, thinking of other things. Expecting nothing but another hour of waiting.
I’m not really sure when it happened. When did I drift into the waves of echoed dreamy spaciness, all underpinned with a steady rhythm? Was it when the wall of sound synth set up space in my head like cushions in some mythic opium den, erasing the noise of the outside? I was following the bass line, running through, holding steady, holding this cloud of sound to the ground, maybe that’s when I realized I hadn’t had a coherent thought in a while. Yes, and no. Because there was the guitar, that glided from spacious texture to something that sounded almost as if someone had pushed everyone aside, and said, remember rock guitar, it goes like this, now. Lyrics bursting through the cracks in the pavement of sounds, nothing about love: “lessons from a radical man, always hears the sound of silent alarms” cutting through and just as quickly swept away. The promise and the delivery, so rare, of a tripping stream of music, running over the glittery, shimmering, steely notes from the guitar lighting up nerves in a collective spine, before the synth would remind us of chorus and verse and settle us down until the next bit of harmony and skipping lines of notes collided with a drum flourish that ended as quickly as it began. Quick intake of breath, and another song. This was nostalgia. Everything you missed in a city lacking in poetry. A hallucination of time, corrective to a world of suspect realism and routine. Instead, the music offered a glimpse of the sky, from around the corner of a row of darkened warehouses, the mysterious feeling that comes over you upon emerging from the subway, and the streets are there, beckoning in directions and to places you hadn’t yet considered.
I think about the fifth song in my friend asked if I was ok, and did I want another beer. “Yes, yes,” I mumbled, adding “they’re really fucking good” as I stared at the stage, still shocked at this unexpected pleasure, wanting nothing more than to be left alone to sink in it. There’s nothing like the feeling that you don’t expect, can’t explain, and won’t spoil with preconceptions.
Afterwards I searched. Downloaded the most recent album, Best Behavior, which fought for space on my writing rotation, and won. Every time I began to play it, I waited, fearful, sure this magic would break, strangely energized when it remained, intact and resilient. Then I discovered there were new songs. Listening for the first time, always a bit of a fearful proposition. The new one, will it do what you hope? I was attentive, expecting this would be the place where the chorus dropped the ball. No, a sudden chord change, sparking energy. Still, I was figuring they would have to do something boring, but then another switch, and a howling piece of guitar work. I sat there, in my tiny carved out piece of the city, and I slowly realized I’d been listening to a song that knew what I wanted. And it really did, it didn’t fucking blow it, it did everything intelligent and interesting, and the mood drifted and danced along.
Another Dinowalrus show. I know the name, now. And now it’s going to be one of those all-night nights. One of the ones where you can finally take advantage of the silence and the relative calm that comes afterwards, your ears ringing lightly under the street lamps. Another Brooklyn gig – they all seem to have warehouses and balconies in common. I stay out there waiting for it to kick off, watching the stars, the person walking by the brick dark square buildings, carrying a flashlight and two full carrier bags, on their way to nowhere, lit by the burning fluorescence of another treatment plant. This is where you come to dream, or be alone. And when the music finally started, I stand there, leaning on the pillar that holds the roof up, an anchor, waiting for inevitable disappointment. And when it doesn’t come, when the first piercing guitar notes fall on top on the drums like the space had already been carved out for them, the feeling of delight and relief is immense. Here, things fit into place. Maybe it’s the weird tortured sound of the guitar, the dreaminess held taut over something steady then the dirty feel of the chords coming in and stretching out over the lights, the skyscrapers to the west, the sea to the east, the darkness filling up on every side, and there it is – insistent, piercing, beating like your heart when you ask yourself why – and have another go. That echoing emptiness.
Going home, there’s the guitar again in your ears, waiting for the moment when the steady repetition of the verse finishes and then cuts though…claiming, perfect. Again. That precision unnoticed. And everything else recedes – the regrets, the remembering, and it is replaced by the steady brilliance of the verse, peeking through the desolation of railroad tracks at night. Watching the lights of the subway train you just missed disappearing into the tunnel. The cold blue lights of the bridges over the river, cold with the passage of time and gray-green water. And the notes tear it up and tear through you, standing on the platform, waiting for the train. Watching the woman passed out in the last seat, the man with his dreads tucked up under his hat, patting his daughter’s back as the train burns its way through the tunnel, long after midnight, onwards never waiting carrying along the memories you brought with you, her light blue nails gripping the pole under her father’s watchful eye. Everything. Nothing. Be there first.
The idea that anyone makes music with any poetry at all in this spreadsheet time, all risk managed, is a miracle. Go buy their album, support them, make it possible for the intangible to survive. They have a third album that needs to come out. It’s incredible. And go and find the beauty that speaks to you – I guarantee it isn’t advertised on TV. Music is a plant. Fucking water it. And every moment of your life when you feel you have nothing, you’ll see what you kept going, and helped grow.
dinowalrus.com – info and email firstname.lastname@example.org for direct mailorder.
Amazon has them, and maybe your local record store. Other Music and Kim’s in NYC stock them.