Friday, May 13, 2016

Something for Us All

No evening should probably end with someone yelling, "It's like the running of the bulls!" to a crowd trying to exit a venue.

Especially when there are people in that crowd who admit to having no strong feelings about anything or anyone. As the maitre d' said in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," I weep for the future.

My original plans for tonight got rescheduled, leaving me to punt, although it wasn't much of a challenge given that Wild Nothing was playing the Broadberry tonight. I had my ticket by 2:45.

Walking in just after Charlie Hilton and her band got started, there was no doubt I was in the right place given the sound: hazy guitars, surging synths, female-penned lyrics and a voice detached yet pointed in its word choices.

After a couple of slow songs, she announced, "Enough of that sad stuff, here's a love song," and did "Let's Go To a Party," a club-ready song that got some of us dancing:

I'm only happy when I'm dancing
When I'm dancing for you
Please don't think about it
We don't want that here

Her look - long bangs, dark hair past her shoulders - immediately reminded me of Karen Carpenter's but I realized that to the two young beards in plaid falling hard for her in front of me, the frame of reference was more likely Zooey Deschanel.

A minor point, but with her skirt and colorful jacket, she was looking pretty groovy and her delicate hand gestures as she sang only added to the appeal. Besides, young men should worship at the altar of female guitarists/singers as part of their music education. Hello, Julianna Hatfield et al.

I was sorry when the band's set ended because of how much I was enjoying them, but that's why there's a merch table, right?

Waiting for Wild Nothing to set up, I tried to engage a guy standing nearby alone by asking whether he was waiting for someone or just standing out of the fray like me.

"I'm looking for people I know so I can spot them before they see me," he said as if this were perfectly logical. When I commented that all his people looked alike, he nodded. "It's a hip town." It was news to him that it hadn't always been.

A woman walked by and he acknowledged that he knew her but hadn't spoken because he really didn't want to have an interaction. She circled back and they exchanged words, but when she left, his comment was, "That wasn't so bad. I could talk to her again."

He sounded surprised. Curious about why he had no interest in human interactions, I asked point blank. Nothing. No broken home, no annoying siblings, no clear emotional trauma. So what were his happiest childhood memories, I asked.

"Being in front of the computer," he says without irony or awareness.

Asking why he'd come, he said it was his fifth or sixth time seeing Wild Nothing. He'd bought his ticket three months ago, not mid-afternoon like me. Clearly a music lover.

Yet when I inquired what his first concert had been, he had no clue. "It's all been a blur since the first one," he explained. And the first one was...?

2010. He's 24 now and already his show history is one blobby history but no specific memories. I wasn't accepting it, so I asked for the last really great show he saw.

Archers of Loaf last Fall "wasn't too bad," he admits. Frankly, I see that as damning with faint praise and insisted on hearing about at least one show he'd rate higher than not bad.

And then the kicker. "I don't have a lot of strong feelings," he tells me. "About anything." I'm not sure which is more tragic: how they've turned out or that they know it and accept it.

Fortunately, it was time for Wild Nothing, whom I'd last seen on a shirt-soaking August day in 2012 at Strange Matter around the time "Nocturne" was released and singer Jack had found it necessary to form a band so he could tour the album he'd recorded all by himself.

That night, I'd recognized lots of faces in the crowd, but tonight nary a one and, in fact, it felt like a lot of infrequent show-goers with bad manners.

Let's just say it wasn't the kind of crowd who would have sweated out three bands in an un-airconditioned venue four years ago to hear Wild Nothing.

My solution was moving away from the talkers and those who spent 97% of their time looking down and texting, so I could better enjoy the dream pop I'd come for.

When he said they were going to play an older song, the crowd cheered. "It's not that old!" he admonished them, but I was more than happy to enjoy washed out gems like "Paradise" and "Nocturne."

What struck me as odd was that while there was a handful of people moving to the very danceable music, most people were rooted in place like tree trunks. How can you hear those guitars and synths and not want to move your body?

Because Jack grew up in Williamsburg and had gone to school in Blacksburg, there was a large family contingent present, perched high in the raised, former VIP area and yelling corny things to him onstage, as only family can do.

One of the last songs was also from Nocturne, "Only Heather."

Misunderstood yet she's good, I can tell
Though everyone tells me I'm under her spell
I'll never leave her, they don't know our deal
It's better to fake than to love her for real

Cause only Heather
Yeah, only Heather
Can make me feel this way

At least he feels something. That's more than I can say about my young friend without feelings. But "It's better to fake than to love her for real"? Why feel when you can fake?

Please don't think about it, we don't want that here. Cue weeping for the future.

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