Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Adventures in Audio #5A: Bleachers @ 9:30 Club

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:

Why the ABC action up there in the title? I saw 2 completely different shows at the same venue, so the logical part of my brain only wants to mark off 1 venue off my 50 different venues list. The non-logical side of my brain is thinking about pie and tambourines.
The 9:30 Club has been an anchor in the DC music community since it opened its doors in 1980. The original location of the club was 930 F St. NW and the opening time was 9:30, so there you go, a double whamming in the clever name.  The first band to play? Oh, that would be The Tiny Desk Unit, featuring Bob Boilennow host of the All Songs Considered and the Tiny Desk Concerts at NPR (DC music history, yo). The original club was a much smaller, downstairs club, therefore a true underground  club, both in geography and point of view. It strove to be the cutting edge of music, whatever the genre, whatever the band, it just had to be good.
The 9:30 moved to it’s current and larger location on V street just  off the U street corridor, in 1996 and to this day is nationally now for being one of the best live music clubs in the country, both by fans and bands. 
There are a lot of music venues in the DC area, all with their own personality and grit, but every time I walk through those 9:30 doors, no matter what band is playing, I feel like I’m part of something. And maybe that sparkly romantic idea comes from  the 9:30 being  the club that I’ve been to the most times , or the place that I’ve seen some pretty amazing bands, or heard the songs that I needed to hear at that moment in life, or maybe it is just standing on my little spot of ground, usually to the left of the stage, with my heart tight in anticipation of the music, that just feels so familiar and comfortable and unabashedly happy. I have come to terms that I will never be that suave  hipster that has  a whatever stance and nonchalant too cool for school attitude at shows. Nope, never. I will also be the one with wide eyes.    
On the shows!
So here is something that I don’t normally do, that I have probably done only a couple times in my life. I bought a ticket for a show because of one song that I heard on the -regular all commercial-radio, you know the kind of stations that don’t even give out tote bags.  The song was “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers. This song was on pretty heavy rotation on Kansas City radio before I moved out here and I loved the catchy sound of it, a perfect summer anthem. Then, fast forward to a weekend a week or two after I moved back to the coast of the east;  I as driving to the beach, listening to that radio station that actually does have tote bags (NPR) and they had an interview with Jack Antonoff, the singer and mastermind behind Bleachers, you might also have heard of him from his Grammy winning band Fun.  In this interview he talked about this song, his own experiences with therapy and how most of us carry around this feeling about wanting to get better, whether that be in an emotional way, or just being better at life.  To quote from the interview ( I suddenly feel like I am writing a research paper):
I found myself with a feeling every morning when I woke up and every night before I went to bed. And now I know that that feeling is I want to get better, but I didn't know what it was at the time. And I talked about it and I thought about it and I kind of realized that maybe it's something that we all feel. You know, maybe the idea of, like, getting better is ridiculous but wanting to be better is kind of the best that we can do as human beings. I knew that that was for everyone. That's something we could all sing together. But then it occurred to me that the only way this statement could have weight and matter enough for someone else to want to yell it back at me in their car or at a show is for me to just spell out all the horrible things that have happened to me in my life and how I found a way to move on.
 So somewhere between here and the coastline, I decided that I needed to see this band.  And then I heard they were coming to DC (hooray!), but . . . I heard this after the show had already sold out (Boo).  And then in a feat of mercy, a second show was added and it was at that second show, which was actually the first show, since it was on the night prior to the original show,  that I stood there on the upstairs balcony and let my heart burst open.
Bleachers have only one album out, so they played for just about an hour (thank you for not making me run to catch the last train home!), but each and every song was like this massive explosion of joy.  I may have come to hear one song, but I left loving all them. The music may have been a little bit more poppy, more dancey (?) than a lot of the bands that I usually see, but one of side effects of this little music challenge is making more of an effect to see a more variety of music, and has help my heart grow three sizes (just like the Grinch!).  
 One thing that really stood out to me during the show was that the band seemed so happy to be in that moment, like ridiculously happy. Jack repeatedly thanked the audience for coming, and with the smiles on all their faces and sweat dripping from each song, you knew that they meant every single one of those words of gratitude.  And hopefully they felt our gratitude right back.
I adore sing-a-longs, when all the voices from the band and all the voices from the audiences meld into this huge choir of truth. That’s just awesome. And that one song that I came to hear, “I Wanna Get Better,”  was indeed played , and the place just about busted open when the crowd joined in the chorus, and a thousand or so people all raising their voices and roaring  the words “I Wanna Get Better,”  it was like a beautiful therapy session.


Bleachers @ 9:30 Club, Washington DC, September 2, 2014

  

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