These past few weeks have been a bit rough. I am moving from read, read, read mode to write, write, write mode (which, ironically, still includes read, read, reading). The kids have been sick, so the late nights spent studying have sometimes got much later. Last week, in fact, I didn’t get to bed earlier than 1am a single night and a few nights it was later than that.
I remember last year at this time as I was scrambling to get all of my information together for my grad applications how overwhelmed I felt—so much was riding on the polish of my writing sample and statements of purpose. I poured over them, revising, reordering, rethinking, and produced (especially in the various SOP texts) documents that I still think about when I think about what the writing process is really about. I guess I didn’t realize that getting into graduate school meant that I was going to be repeating that process at the end of every semester until the end of eternity (ok—maybe just until 2013).
Tina has been gracious enough to allow me to spend some time away from the house doing what has become, really, one of my only true escapes from the stress: live music. I was about to change the grammar of that last sentence, but I think that it is an accurate way of thinking about it: doing live music. Doing includes a participatory function that isn’t just listening, it’s being there.
Watching well-crafted music being performed live is a special experience (watching not-so-well crafted music being performed can be an excruciating experience). There is something really exciting about a musician (or musicians in concert, or together) displaying their unique combination of musical and poetic art for a live audience. These experiences are most exciting when they are precise and sharp—when you know that what you are beholding is the result of hours of practice—but also when you are watching that art being innovated in front of you…when you know that no one else has heard this song the way that you are hearing it at that moment before. Sometimes it is in the artist’s energy and presence on stage (Ben Folds is like this live), sometimes it is in your sense of raw talent being displayed (I felt this way at the Andrew Bird show I went to earlier in the semester), and sometimes, when it is most fun, you can sense it in the way that they are looking at each other and smiling—they know something new is happening too (this is rare at big stadium shows—but happens all the time in small local shows that I have seen, which seems backwards).
That being said, I must report a bit on the Jimmy Eat World show I went to last night. It was held at the huge basketball stadium in campus about 10 minutes from where we live and I got there late on purpose in order to miss the first two not-so-exciting bands. When Jimmy and crew came out to rock, I was in about the third row of heads from the front directly in front of the guitarist Tom Lindon. The band was great—what follows is not a criticism so much as it is an observation. This is maybe my 4th time seeing JEW play. They are always good. This time—and this is really similar to how I felt the last time I saw Weezer play live way back in 2001—it just felt flat. I could sense, especially from the non-lead-singer members of the band, that this was just another night, another crowd, another time through the same old songs. And the songs were played perfectly. I watched Tom play especially since he was standing right in front of me. His parts—if I may be so bold—are not that hard. I realized, in spite of that hidden rock star that lurks somewhere in my subconscience, that If I were him I would probably be bored (gasp!) . Maybe it is because the songs were played so perfectly, so according to formula, that it was flat. There was no jamming, no innovation, no real fun happening on stage: merely performance. They played one "new" version of an old song: Your House, from Bleed American--it might have been the best tune of the night. The other really great moment was during a song that I hadn't heard until last night called Disintegration. I don't have the EP that it appears on, and while the song is long, intense, and complicated, my excitement may have been more about the fact that it was new to me.
Regardless, it was an escape and a welcomed one at that. Here are some bad pictures from my phone: