Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wherein Sara Leah's music geekness rises to a new level...

I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be singing. It seemed to be a sing-a-long type of moment. We were crowded in the center of the room. Crowded in the dark, circling John Vanderslice and his guitar, David and the bass drum, St. Vincent and her crystal clear harmonies. John pulled his arm up from his side and waved it in the air. Was it a sing-a-long? No one else was singing with them, but Will and I, but at that moment there could have been choirs behind us. The whole room was filled with sound. As John opened his mouth and wagged his blonde head, the whole world seemed to be singing along:

"You know that guy who
stole your girlfriend
away from you
in the summer
of '95
he's going to die

you know her name
sits in your brain
like a tumor
eyes still shine in your memory
she's going to die

well you can carry that grudge
or you can let it go
but as sure as I'm singing this song, you know
she's going to die, she's going to die

five'll get you ten so just let it go
that she and he and i will hear the final chord
just let it go, let it go, we're going to die"

-Nikki Oh Nikki, Life and Death of an American Four Tracker

john vanderslice - May 2007

The room was still. The lights were very low, casting an orange and golden glow upon the faces of my friends, standing just across the way. Rebecca stood, elevated on a bar stool, camera pulled up to her small serious face. Amber stood below her, hands clasped, eyes warm, smiling in my direction. This was it. A perfect moment.

I sat at the bar earlier, trying to tell Ben way I love John's music, telling what scattered history that I knew, what my nervous brain could remember. I kept saying the word perfect. Scott Solter's production, perfect. John's lyrics, perfect. I know that these statements are not true. The lyrics, the clicks and whirrs, the piano, the guitar...not perfect. They are odd and interesting, off putting and inviting at the same time. There is an earnestness in every measure that I can't shake off, that seems perfect when it hits my ear, like that moment when you slip into a warm bath and you sigh and smile. It's a good moment and to you, it is perfect because it's what you've longed for. I long for music that speaks to me. More than that, I long for music that makes me think, drives my day. I long for music that will make me tilt my head as I start my car, exhausted from a long day of work. I turn through the intersection, underneath the overpass and forget everything. I lose myself in his voice and what he has to say, every clear strum of the guitar. Every distorted chord transports...

John had walked quickly to me once he had found that I was there. We chatted about the music scene, the Bottletree, Chris Ward and Pattern is Movement, the SDRE/Mk Ultra show in St. Louis. He smiled so easily and spoke with an honest warmth. Why was I so nervous? I felt nauseous still and the meeting was already over. I knelt down by Hamric, who was sitting at a table on the patio, his green "Wes McDonald and the Fizz" t-shirt, his smirking, wonderful eyes. I told Jason Hamric and Brandon that maybe it was because as a listener, you build this image of, this meaning behind what you hear. This is the freedom that you are given, to create a persona, a history from which the stories and the songs are born. To finally meet the person behind all of this can be devastating or transcendent

I remember meeting Mark Kozelek a couple years ago at the Nick. I had seen him in Nashville the night before and had decided not to talk to him as he stood beside me quietly during Warren Gently's opening set. Having seen him on stage a few times in my life and knowing his cloudy and sometimes downright mean disposition, I did not want to actually talk to him, for fear that his stage persona would leak into his true self, a self that I so honestly wanted to be the yearning, sad hearted, quiet lover of his voice. In other words, I did not want him to punch me in the face for asking him about a particular song or album. When I finally got up the nerve to approach him at the Nick, after much pushing and prodding by my friends, he was genuinely...well...sweet. "Hi. Hey. I remember you. Pink scarf girl." It was a great moment.

I've been listening to John Vanderslice for ten years. His music has been a great part of my life soundtrack. I do not know him, but I know his climbing voice. His voice has been a friend to me. His music has gotten me through dark days and accompanied me on great adventures. When he walked up to me after his set and hugged me and thanked me for smiling and singing along...I thought to that moment, sitting at a table at the back of the room, when he had traveled from the stage to the organ by the bathrooms to sing a number. I sat at that table and smiled as he lifted his head and sang out. It was a perfect moment. Worth all of the nervousness, worth all of this quiet hope.

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