I had a list of some songs that I really, really wanted to hear them play. Only one of them was played, "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying," the song they closed the show with, thankfully it the one song I needed to hear them play and the one which I would have been really been bummed not to hear as it's probably my favorite by them and one that seems like a sure bet for a set list. Less sure bets for a set list and ones that did not make it were "Electronic Renaissance," "This is Just a Modern Rock Song," and "Lazy Line Painter Jane." These ones were not played. I am okay with that.
Because at some point during Belle and Sebastian's set at the Williamsburg Waterfront, I realized some things, that, metaphorically, you can't be always listing off the songs that weren't played but have to appreciate the ones that were. That wasn't necessarily what I was feeling at the time - that's the metaphor I'm trying to extend to the sentiment now. I have been bitching on here lately in sometimes muted and sometimes not muted ways about the feeling that my life sucks, that I am entering adulthood not as the person that I would like to be, doing a job I don't really care for, and not spending any of my time writing and still yet having far less fun that I used to. I had been hoping earlier in the day that the concert would be cancelled because of the threat of a storm and that they would reschedule at an indoor venue later on down the line. But anyways, I really connected again with this music that means so much to me, has meant so much to me at really important parts of my life. Stuart Murdoch led the band in these beautiful songs with gorgeous orchestration and lyrics that hint at a life I used to want, that I still do, that I had, and that I still do and which I forget about sometimes in my whining. So they are playing a really spirited version of "Boy With the Arab Strap" and I am dancing along with a few other people around me, whom it is clear to me also have some really personal associations with this band, and we are going through it, releasing something, a bit of catharsis, a bigger serving of nostalgia, and I smiled so much throughout this show, really felt like this life had something magical to it, that I needed to recognize that more often.
The chorus to "We Rule the School" felt like a finger being wagged in my face, the good kind though, the kind you occasionally need, your friend telling you to get your shit together and quit thinking about that boy that breaks your heart. They sang, "Do something pretty while you can. Don't fall asleep." And I, churchgoer, thought Amen, Brother, Amen, Brother. I have to do this.
But back to the feeling. So they are playing the titular track of their third studio album and the skyline of New York City is behind me and I thought about what this band used to mean to me, the person I was some ten years ago, the summer I lived in Madsion, Wisconsin, with Bonnie when we listened to Belle and Sebastian all the time, going through some emotional changes and thinking about life and our place in it, what it was that lied ahead, feeling on the cusp of things and looking back longing toward other things, this music really helping with feeling, living. I do not know if I can emphasize enough how much this band meant to me and how many times I have listened to If You're Feeling Sinister and The Boy With the Arab Strap. There is no doubt in my mind that I have listened to these two albums way more than any other albums ever, hundreds, if not thousands, of times. So many sad afternoons and nights and mornings and also happy moments were spent listening to these albums. These two albums really helped guide me through so many moments in my life.
I thought about that Madison me during this song and thought what he would think about this current me, if he thought I would be in New York City a decade later, living there, and seeing the band play in my new residence with a boyfriend I am in love with who is the age I was then. I doubt that he would have. I am not sure he would have had any clue that this might have been where he ended up, just as I now have such a hard time imagining what my life may be like in ten years or what I would even like it to be like. But I thought that I am here in New York, okay, a place I dreamed about living ever since I was a sexually confused teen and reading slam poetry and thinking that this was the bohemian Oz that would provide me everything I wanted in life. And so maybe it doesn't necessarily match up with that fantasy, but I am here and I do have a job and I do have a nice home and I do reside with a beautiful man who tells me he loves me often and who when I think about, I smile a lot. Things could be so much worse and I am a fucking ungrateful asshole for whining about all the ways in which I am sad or disappointed when there is so, so much to be grateful for. The rain, the remnants of some tropical storm, that was supposed to flood New York this evening never appeared and the show went off with not a drop of rain falling on me, and them closing their performance with my favorite song of theirs and this man I love next to me for all of it and this gorgeous city I live in lit up behind me, shrouded in clouds and fog.
I have got a lot going for me, so much to be happy for, so much to celebrate. This life is a hard thing and the news from the past couple days has really reinforced this, all of the young gay suicides. Each story has broken my heart and the amount of them has made me incredibly angry. Each story has made me remember difficult years in my life, middle school and early high school and the relentless bullying I had to deal with, and it's bullshit that kids have to suffer through this, and it's bullshit that there are adults that through their anti-gay rhetoric foster this climate where these things are seen as okay. Belle and Sebastian, during their set, after some lame banter about American football and rugby, played " Lord Anthony." The song, about a young femme kid being harassed at school, really brought forth all this anger and sadness I have had about these recent events. I am not sure Murdoch was aware of the recent events at all, as he introduced the song with a flip remark, saying here's a song about someone that probably didn't play rugby. The lyrics aren't entirely clear as to what's being said and this was one of the off-moments of the night for me where I wasn't sure what Murdoch's intentions were, if he had any, and whether he was just a patronizing straight indie asshole that doesn't get it, couldn't get it. It seemed weird to play this song without reference to all the suicides that have occurred lately amongst young teen queers because of bullying.
I put it past me though because I can't hate a person because of some rugby comment, even if it does seem like the same type of flip remarks that trivialize homophobia and assert some notion of gender norms at the expense of the safety and even very lives of queers. Sometimes musicians just shouldn't talk. It's sometimes a dangerous thing to see bands you really love and then to hear their on-stage banter. Sometimes the image you have of them is so inflated because of gorgeous songs that hearing them make bad jokes or even saying something that makes you cringe just a little in the way your uncle might at a wedding can really destroy the thing you have going with them. But with this band, it'd be quite difficult for that to occur for me because of the years and years I have spent with this band.
Up and down, washed back and forth between Madison and Sarasota and New York and various roads and highways around these United States. These songs have been with me everywhere and so to hear them again tonight played live while I was a bit stoned brought together all these places, all these memories, all these old friends and old lovers. They all gathered and we danced and we cried and we all had such a lovely time. For a couple hours, we all still hung out and still talked. It was such a shame when it had to end and we had to herd out with the crowd past the really high young man, kind of chubby, holding up a peace sign, incredibly sweaty, smiling at everyone that walked past him, and everyone walked past him.