Notes From a Music Journalist Who Will Not Have a Drink With You

Thursday, September 10, 2015

[Giving Hectorina’s new album a second listen to prepare for covering their show the next night.]

“I want to be well. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, baby.”

Dylan Gilbert croons this line in the opening song of Hectorina’s new self-titled release. In my opinion, it’s their best album. The fucker begs to be replayed. But let’s set the album as a whole aside for now. Back to the chorus of “I Want to Be Well.” That lyric would seem romantic in the hands of another singer. But the trio performs the song with a sense of desperation that is earnest and heartfelt. A level of honesty today’s music world often shuns for irony.

Cut to:

Six songs later, as Gilbert sings “The kids won’t even hear these songs, they’ll simply feel their pupils enlarge,” I find myself in a depressing state of introspection. While staring into the oceanic abyss of a coffee pot, the realization hits me: Something from deep within is rearing its head once again. Something I thought I killed off long ago:

The desire to drink.
Friday Sept. 11 at Snug Harbor

I arrive at the venue way too early.

Sitting in Snug’s front patio section, I’m thinking about all the writing projects I have abandoned. Why is putting together a cohesive set of paragraphs suddenly such a goddamn struggle? The only things I truly feel passionate about lately are my pets, filmmaking and painting. But writing has become increasingly difficult.

Perhaps this is something all writers go through. “Ride it out,” I tell myself.

Cut to:

I’m talking to Benji Hughes! Notice that I used an exclamation mark. I try to avoid using those bastards at all costs. They seem amateurish to me. So just know that my use of it here is genuine. I had met Benji before but all I awkwardly got out of my mouth were the words “Love your album” while avoiding eye contact and quickly walking by him on Central Avenue one night.

Benji’s album “A Love Extreme” would be one of my desert island record picks so, considering we had a talk about (of all things) our favorite albums, I was ecstatic. We raved about our favorites for a while but eventually he realized he was going to be late meeting up with some friends. Before he left Snug, I arranged for us to have a proper interview.

A few minutes later, a vicious thought crept into my head, “That moment would have been cooler if you had a drink with the man.”

Why is that thought particularly vicious? Because when December hits it will be six years without a drop of alcohol. No, I wouldn’t dare describe them as years of “sobriety.” Sure, I’ve consumed various drugs but I regret none of those experiences. I didn’t get addicted to them. It’s strange how I can enjoy something like cocaine in moderation but the thought of having a drink to loosen up puts me in a frozen state of ambivalence. It’s genetics most likely.

I found myself considering having a drink tonight, after Benji left. I found myself awkwardly standing four feet away from the bar. Just gazing at it. Eventually I walked off and sat on a bench, exhausted from merely existing. But a song started playing over their speakers. One I hadn’t heard in quite a while. So with a great soundtrack backing up my brain, I contemplated the topic of moderation while smoking an entire pack of cigarillos, fully aware of the irony. It’s a beautiful night. No sarcasm.

Cut to:

Fratmouth is playing. They’re the opening act, from Columbia, SC. Dylan Gilbert told me earlier “You don’t want to miss them. They’re the act you should cover.” But, judging by the racket I was hearing while smoking outside the venue, it just sounded like I was missing out on sloppy chaos. And then, in a flash, the song they were playing became cohesive and a soaring guitar solo erupted. “Maybe this is controlled chaos,” I thought and entered the venue.

What I witnessed when setting foot inside:
A frizzy haired singer insulting his drummer, spitting at him and smacking his crash symbol around. He seemed pissed at his inability to live up to whatever it was he expected. The guitarist however played on as if the other two weren’t even there.

The singer put his mic down. Was he done with this gig? What was happening? Before I could ask myself another question in this vein, he began assembling a picnic table. In the middle of the audience.

Yes, I’m serious.

And then he ate a sandwich as the guitarist and drummer played on. [It’s worth noting that they do not have a bass player. Pretty rare.]

I couldn’t stop laughing. Clearly this is performance art.

After he finished his meal, he disassembled the table, and launched into a song that seemed to about . . . having dreams of John Mayer?

Cut to:

Tension boiling over. The singer spit on the drummer once more, causing them to erupt into a fight. Shit, is this performance art? I was no longer sure.

They wrestled each other until out of breath. It timed up nicely with the guitarist finishing a solo.

It was funny.
It was chaos.
It was noise punk.
It was fucking beautiful.

Later, on Facebook, songwriter Jordan Hoban (who performs as Eli Parker) posted “Fratmouth destroyed my sense of time and space. I walked into Snug Harbor with a fever and by the end of their set it broke. They work miracles. I will now worship them forever.”

So apparently I wasn’t the only one who went to a music venue feeling poorly and came out feeling great. And that was only the opening act! (Again, with an exclamation.) What a great time to be alive in Charlotte, NC. Seeing Fratmouth taught me something: When you get bogged down by the weight of your own thoughts, if you can, remember to laugh and embrace a sense of wonder.

To check out any of the aforementioned new releases:
Hectorina can be found here
Fratmouth can be found here
Benji Hughes can be found here

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