I went to the 9:30 Club last night with a crew of high school students to see The National, a band that Seth introduced me to a couple years ago. If you haven't had a chance to see them play or hear any of their music, chances are you might have heard them last year during the election when Obama's campaign used their song "Fake Empire" for one of his campaign commercials. Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, the original 4-man band has expanded to include a wide variety of friends during their recording processes (including none other than Sufjan Stevens, as well as Marla Hansen & Colin Stetson, and numerous others) and many others while on tour, often having a wind ensemble and keyboard/piano/accordian player with them as well.
Last night's show was a powerful cocktail of sad songs, tails of broken relationships, layers upon layers of sound, rising and falling in the story and music, and astounding energy. I was talking with Ben Owsley on the way home about art and the power of live music, when I stumbled upon something that I have forgotten as life has become busy with work, study and new adventures in my career in combination with the joys and upheavals that come in marriage and Rowan, namely: good art can inspire change. Somewhere during "Secret Meeting" and "Baby, We'll Be Fine" I sensed a stirring within my being that I hadn't felt in a while, a sense of something transcendent and yet imminent, hopeful yet doubted, ethereal and yet down deep in my toes. Good art changes the person experiencing it in such a way that we aren't the same person after the experience. Good art, and for me a good live set of music, awakens an often dormant awareness of the world around me, the hope within me, and the power to change the world in which I live for the better.
Last night was one of those experiences when I realized just how important it is to be connected to good performance art, to take the time out for my soul to drink lavishly in the creation, experiences, and insights of another person. Shey has always understood this much better than me, and is so much more sensitive to the importance of fostering spaces for creativity and honest relfection, and recognizes the danger and loss when those spaces shrink or cease to exist. And last night I think I began to understand for the first time in any such way that I could express into words just why I think experiencing performance art is so important.
Because even though so many of the songs are dark twisted stories of doubt, failures, misunderstood relationships, and cultural shortcomings, the music communicated hope in the midst of it all. A hope that believes change is possible, real, and integral. Last night brought about an awareness in me of the importance of regularly experiencing performance art for the good of my whole being. And if you get a chance, check out The National. Alligator and Boxer are two phenomenal albums.