So Sam's nephew says, hey, he says, you like music, right? And Sam, being a fan of music, and being someone who saw Hendrix play, was like, yeah. Of course. So Sam gets tickets, and asks if I'd like to go. I'd been playing their new album for a while at work, and he knew I was a fan.
Now, let me first say that everyone has a taste in music. Some people listen to and love things that I could never in my life learn to like, much less love. But that's OK; I'm a fan of music as a conduit of emotion, and I'm a fan of it as a snapshot of a time in space, a sort of anchor for emotional content that can be revisited. Also, it sounds better than nothing. That said, I'm not a raging fan of any particular artist. I've seen most of the bands that I really like, and I've enjoyed the hell out of them, but I don't want to know them or hang out or collect anything of theirs that isn't music. Plus, while I acknowledge that TOOL may be the very best collective of talent in modern rock, some of their shit sucks. I'm not crazy.
Death Cab is an odd band. They remind me, capability-wise, of Vampire Weekend: technically solid musicians who find a gimmick and nail it every single time. In the case of Death Cab, that gimmick is catchy hooks surrounding really horribly depressing lyrics. They have a solid basis in experimental electronics, and a very solid rhythm section. They know how to make a very bouncy hook when needed.
In the realm of music, I find that I like flaws in "honest" music, those DIY not-quite-pro moments in punk and Appalachian folk that make the song that much more human. More emotion than polished capability. But, I'm also a huge fan of King Crimson, a band that has zero technical or musical flaws in their output; everything is precise, engineered, solid, clean, and very, very well done. Death Cab is a very dense version of that: a very polished, solid sound that doesn't do well if played poorly. There's a lot of technology hidden in the tracks, and it is well hidden...never obtrusive.
I could have just written, hey, I like it, and saved us all a lot of trouble, but I find that as a fan of music, I often defend my listening tastes preemptively. I like Michael Jackson's first four solo albums. I'm a fan of 1970s Tangerine Dream. These two things are not at all related, and they are liked for very different reasons.
The thing with a lot of the music I listen to is, it is new. The artists are new-ish. Also, I tend to like hipster music tastes; the aesthetic is very appealing to me. Not the early 20th century garb or the quirky fashion scene, but the music itself. That means that in a lot of shows I'd like to go to, I'm the oldest person in the room, or at least in the top one percent of age.
I don't go to a lot of live shows because I really like music. The live shows in Austin...and there are more than you can imagine...are sometimes fairly well mixed and the crowds aren't jerks. That's maybe one show out of a thousand in a week. The odds of going to a decent gig are tiny. This particular Death Cab show, though, was taking place at a newly renovated (and recently bankrupted) Austin Music Hall. In the past, AMH was an awful venue. Terrible sound, stupid crowd layout, and the very worst people in the crowd. I had high hopes, seeing as how the actual sound production of Death Cab is very well reviewed. They carry a lot of their own PA with them. That's normally a good sign.
Sam and I drove downtown and met with his newphew and the girlfriend at a faux-Irish pub, had a few drinks, then walked over to the show. Nephew and girlfriend went immediately to the will-call area and got their passes, then went back to say hi to the band. Sam and I wandered inside and found a spot to the left of the mixing panel. Good solid view of the stage. While waiting, I wandered to a bar area to grab a beer. The woman serving the beer looked to be about sixteen, and though she'd carded the folks in their twenties in front of me, there was obviously no need to card me.
I felt as though I was there babysitting. Looking around the room, it was pretty obvious that, in the section I was in, I was very much the oldest looking guy in the room. Very out of place. Walked back to Sam, who is older than I, and said "Well, I think we're the oldest people here, man." He looked around, and right about then a couple in their mid 60s walked up. The man, in a fishing cap and lots of Patagonia clothing, said "This must be where the old folks are hanging out." We laughed and looked around. The woman who was with him said she'd never felt so dang old at a concert in Austin, but that she just loved this band. Over the next half hour, a handful of other older folks would end up around us.
When the show started, we were given a pretty decent berth. I'd noticed a few very nervous looks from well muscled, well manicured guys in their late 30s, dressed fifteen years younger than they should have been, arms casually around bored pneumatic brunettes. These nervous looks, like, hey, keep your old person disease away from me. Knowing they'd catch up, eventually. There were hipsters, but they are meek people, and this was a mixed Austin crowd: meat heads, frat kids, generic twenty-something blonds, drunken young wealth playing at boredom. Like most Austin crowds of late, they were exceptionally loud and extremely obnoxious. But when the show finally started? It was sort of nice: everyone shut the fuck up, and the band played.
This particular show was in support of Codes and Keys, a distinctly non-pessimistic not dark batch of tunes. The lyrics sort of match the music. As the sound came up, the crowd immediately fell into bouncing, quietly (rarely loud enough to hear) singing along, and generally being a damn fine crowd. And the show was fantastic for it. Stands out as one of the five or six best shows I've been to. Something about a group of extremely professional, very talented musicians making their craft appear in thin air. Goddamn fine work.
Later, after we'd left (we ducked out before a second encore), Sam remarked that the crowd was very well behaved. A good crowd. I said, yeah, that's because their parents were standing there in the back of the room, next to the mixing board. We kept 'em in line. The little bastards would have gone wild had our calming reminder of un-hip mortality not been in full effect.
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