Sunday, October 18, 2009

Your High Top Sneakers and Your Sailor Tattoos

The Gaslight Anthem at the House of Blues Boston on October 17th

I’ve been going to a lot of concerts lately that feature keyboards and synths and poppy sounds, Lights and Cobra Starship and MySpace Bands. I’d forgotten how much I love that first moment of a rock show, when the guitarist of the very first opener walks out on stage, picks up his guitar, and strums a few chords to make sure it’s in tune, to make sure it’s working. Everything melts away in those few seconds, and I’m not sure anything can cause that same overwhelming surge of happiness within me.

It was my first time at the new House of Blues in Boston, and it is so much bigger than I expected. I snagged a fabulous spot – everyone was headed right in front of the stage, and by the time I got there there were already tall people in front of me. That’s when I noticed the raised section by the bar. It’s about 10 feet from the stage and about 2 feet above the crowd. There was no one there and I snagged a spot against the railing and stuck to it like duct tape. I could see the stage perfectly without being crushed between hundreds of people. I now know where I’m headed for every HOB show.

The first band up was Broadway Calls, and they set the tune for the night – honest, hardworking, true music. These were boys in tee shirts and jeans laying their music and their hearts out on the stage. “Tonight is Alive” was my favorite. They had me at the line “I’m singing for all of you,” because isn’t that what every band should be doing? Their recorded songs aren’t striking me the same way their live performance did – it’s more polished than their live act, but the rough around the edges feel fits the music and the sentiment. I’d really love to push for more live (studio) recordings in music – everyone should play in the same room at the same time, and we should hear that on the CD, not what the band would sound like if everyone played their own part in separate tiny rooms at different times. But the band was good, the crowd was into it, and it was a great way to start. They tore through their set, barely giving us time to clap and cheer between songs, but it kept everything fast paced and excited.

Jesse Malin was up next. It was his last night on the tour, and he put everything out on the stage because of it. His music was a little less my taste, but he was still great. There were songs about New York and songs about ex lovers and songs about growing up. I liked “Little Star” and “Black Haired Girl.” It was a touch more mellow, but with racing guitars. His guitarist, however, was playing bigger than himself – no need to act like a rockstar when you’re just the guitarist for a solo act. It was good music and the crowd was into it.

This was, however, when I noticed the 50 year-old man with an earring (who knew all the words) hanging with the twenty year old girls buying him red bulls. I have no idea what that was about, but it made me realize that I need to squish as much music as possible into my twenties – I will not be the fifty year old woman dancing in the middle of the twenty year olds. I won’t let that happen to me. There was a weird age spread in the crowd in general – about 60% of the crowd was under 30, 80% under 40, and the last 20% was definitely over 40. And it wasn’t parents (there weren’t enough teenagers for that anyways). These were adults drunkenly singing along to the bands in clothing made for people 20 years their juniors. I’ve begun to realize that the older a crowd is, the more drunk they will be. Is this what 21+ shows holds in store for me? If so, I’m not a fan.

Okay. Back to the music.

Murder by Death was up next. Before the set, while the crew was sound checking the instruments, I was confused and sent a text to my roommate.

Me: Murder By Death has a keyboard and an electric cello. I am confused.

Roommate: Hmmm. They could hit you on the head with the keyboard, or strangle you with a cello string…

Their music was not at all what I expected from their name. It was very country, almost “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou,” but with an electric cello that sometimes sounded like a saxophone, played by a tiny blond with pigtails. Again, it was good music, but not at all my style. There were songs about drinking, songs about jailbreaks, and songs about friends going back to jail. The cello, however, gave it a different, modern edge and kept me interested even if the style wasn’t really my thing. They’re great at what they do, and if you’re into old time Americana country with a jailbreaking streak, I would absolutely check them out. The singer has this huge deep voice somewhere between Elvis and Johnny Cash. Amazing.

Then, oh then, came The Gaslight Anthem. They walked out on stage to “Single Ladies” by Beyonce, and it was ridiculous, and then they started playing. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. They play amazing, honest, hard working music. These are unassuming boys laying out their stories and their pasts and their hearts. They had so much energy and were radiating this amazing happiness and great vibes. They sound exactly the same live as on their record, and they play this amazing cross between old time rock and roll, blues, and punk. True Jersey music. They talked about recording with Dicky of The Mighty Mighy Bosstones, and jumped around the stage. Brian Fallon’s smile is infectious and he played to every person in that room. The crowd was absolutely in love. My favorite songs will always be “Old White Lincoln” and “The ’59 Sound,” but each and every song they played struck me in some new way that made me want to listen to it over and over.

Fallon writes songs about women out of old time movies, Maria and Anna and Gale, women who may or may not exist but who represent every person who’s ever broken a heart. Each song is a story about real people living real lives, searching for life and love and happiness. The crowd completely absorbed them and poured them back and there was such an amazing and real energy. Brian at one point turned to Alex (the guitarist Alex, not the bassist Alex) and mouthed something that looked a lot like “This is the best show ever!” I wouldn’t blame him for thinking it – the club was alive with love. I was smiling so hard at points that my cheeks were sore from the effort, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I was that happy.

Just watch, and listen, to some of the music that lives in my heart:

The Gaslight Anthem "The '59 Sound"

The Gaslight Anthem | MySpace Music Videos

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