To Elevate to Such Command

There are only a handful of bands that, if they grace Chicago, I will go see. Never mind the weather (tonight, the wind chill rested at a blustery -20 degrees), the plans already made, or the mood. One of these bands is the Walkmen. Loosey-goosey rock ‘n roll hanging in the rafters and pointing a finger in your face with an accusation, the Walkmen play in a style that is unforgivable, poignant, and terribly addictive. Tonight (though it was sold out, a friend managed to snag some tickets) was, luckily, one of those nights.

We got the tickets on Friday. I had given up a few weeks prior because of the little text next to the picture on the website that read Sold Out. Out of nowhere, a call. “You wanna see the Walkmen on Sunday?”

“Yeah, of course I do. It’s sold out, though.”

“Mike got tickets.”

“Awesome.”

The day was planned. Meet at Johnny’s for pork belly sandwiches at 3:00pm. A football game will be on and the music free to choose. He was digging on this recipe from some restaurant in New York City, or maybe Brooklyn. (He was so excited that he emailed the recipe to me two days prior.) While the fat-meat festered in a baste, we drank beer and tried to smoke in the cold. Finally, the food was ready.

We ate, drank, were merry, and lounged. I slept, they talked. I awoke and we hit the road, in a car that smoking was allowed, nonetheless.

White Denim. Great, great rock from Texas. Need to listen to more.

White Rabbits. Have the record and haven’t listened to it enough, especially after witnessing the pop onslaught that was almost metal in its ferocity.

The Walkmen. I always find myself out of words when I describe them. A little soft and cheesy to say but…it seems that if we would have grown up in the same town we would have been fast friends. (Unfortunately, we are set in our ways, and humor, and the amount of inside jokes would negate any relationship waiting to flourish.) I usually don’t attach myself to bands like this, but I find myself perplexed at the likeness between their music and my wont to write music exactly like they play.

Everything in its right place.

A living room gathering sounds like the Walkmen. A bon fire and a long night at a friend’s house. They chug, strum, and bang through the night, confident in the new material as well as the old numbers, re-worked to remain exciting. A few pulls of whiskey and Hamilton belts out a long note; perpetually hanging in the air and attempting to shake the rafters, the note bleeds the energy out of your feet and does its damndest to buckle your knees. Hold fast, though. It’s still going.

“All Hands and the Cook,” (My #1 song for 2007, left over from 2006) closed the set. It is the song that I search for every time they play. Sometimes it’s an opener. Other times, it’s in the middle. This time it was at the end. A perfect end.

The encore was expected, but not necessary. The magic was felt and the stress was relieved.

Reflecting after a moment…their command of the stage is unprecedented. While the openers needed six people, two being drummers, commanding presence in sheer number, the Walkmen demanded attention (though still reaching five members) through simple melody, confession, and frustration. With suit coats and disheveled guitars, the boys tried out mostly new material. Exciting stuff, yes, but it was watching them play it that was the most elating. To be excited about a song again…commercials and commercial appearances behind you…is the best part about playing music. To have a song encompass you, to take control of all action not unlike a demon, is nirvana.

I just feel privileged to witness them in this state. That’s all.

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  1. […] can’t surmise from my near-wind-breaking, I’m a fan. In my mind I’ve built up an imaginary relationship with these guys. An ex-girlfriend went so far as to call them my boyfriends. And I didn’t argue. Since then, […]



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