Tonight is about chance. And about community, and a sense of belonging.
When it turns evening here in New York, my friends and family trans the Atlantic are nearly sleeping, and so these hours feel like stolen secrets; they are private hours, time which borders on the non-existent.
But if I hadn’t met Artur, a French guy sleeping in the same dorm as I am, I would not have known about tonight’s gig at Our Wicked Lady, just around the corner of our hostel in the industrial, not-yet-gentrified Bushwick area of Brooklyn. So this gig is a chance event, and therefore all the more promising.
When we arrive – early, as the first band hasn’t started yet, but still a good hour after doors open – the crowd at Our Wicked Lady can be counted on one hand, mostly sitting on bar stools. The first artist is Cindy Cane, whose music is described online, or so Artur tells me, as ‘coldwave’. The acoustic songs with ghostly distorted voice are far from any sort of wave, however. This mismatch of expectations and reality increases the evening’s dream-likeness.
Gesserit (pictured) are on next, and my favourite on the bill. How to describe their music? I remember coming up with a range of comparisons, but cannot remember any of them. Slowdive, perhaps, but not as boring (I think Slowdive are boring in a nice way). Artur told me their genre is classified as ‘post-rock’. I don’t care, because I am mystified by lead singer Elizabeth’s bird-like movements, now spreading out her arms like wings (Slowdive’s music is always falling, but Gesserit’s songs are always rising), then crouching down, landing and yet somehow distancing herself from the crowd, who are now standing in small groups with their backs to the bar.
Elizabeth’s voice is amazing; I tell her this after her set. We talk a little, and I meet some of the others. As it turns out, most people here know each other, and live in the area (though most aren’t born here). There is a friendly sense of community.
Elizabeth also shows me her band’s Bandcamp page, but warns me that the stuff on there sounds quite different from what I have just heard live. It is true, I realise when listening now, that the online tracks are stripped-down, sparser yet recognisable as simulacra of my memories. This is another sign of chance: the music I heard tonight exists only in that space of low-stakes adventure. It could easily have been different – a solo set, or a different band altogether. Tonight, chance makes me cherish what I have heard all the more.
Vamonos! is a duo that plays fast and loud. The Ramones are a rather obvious reference point. It is too loud for my sensitive pop sensibilities, though, so I am glad they play fast. Coco Verde come closer to the indie pop I prefer, sounding like a combination of The Beatles – including two guitarists singing backing vocals into a shared microphone – and Guided By Voices. That, with a good dose of pop punk. The band’s energy is infectious, and I find myself bouncing along with the crowd, temporarily having lost sight of Artur. The openness of the night has emboldened me. Lead singer Julian Anderson’s endless energy notwithstanding, it is the sole song sung by keyboardist Koko Susa Williams that I find most beautiful. I don’t think it’s on their record. Coco Verde finish up their main set soon after that song, but are convinced even sooner by chants of ‘one more song!’. During their encore, Elizabeth spontaneously grabs a spare microphone to add her unique voice to the mix. Do I need to remind you that tonight is about community?
About community, and about a sense of belonging. But it is impossible to belong to a community to which you obviously don’t belong, despite its friendliness. I don’t feel a sense of belonging, although I do feel a desire to belong. Mind, this is a mere observation, not a complaint. I leave without saying goodbye to anyone, and this I regret. Yet, the previously vacant night-time has been coloured in with music and people, which form their own community of memory ghosts. And these memories do belong to me.
-- Caspar Jacobs, November 19, 2018