Sometimes the Crate-Digging adventure leads you to live settings, where the most improbable things happen…
(bootleg, nyctaper.com, 2011)
Hey dudes. I’m Kyle, Ryan’s younger brother, here to give you a masterful report on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s March 16 show at Brooklyn’s Masonic Temple. You heard me right, that’s Godspeed that I saw live. They’re on a “reunion” tour of sorts. Or at least a “hiatus-ending” tour. And I saw them. Because I’m the man.
But this wasn’t a normal jaunt to a rock concert – far from it, you guys. I went with my friend Josh, who had actually purchased the tickets (because, you know, they were sold out by the time I knew about the show, and he’s on top of all this stuff), and I met him at the subway station near his Brooklyn apartment. As we walked to the venue, he wouldn’t shut up – Godspeed this, Godspeed that, blah blah blah, I can’t believe Godspeed’s back together, did you know your brother saw Godspeed join Mogwai onstage at that Philly show to play “J.L.H. Outro,” Godspeed are the best, I want to eat Godspeed burgers, look at that weird cat, Godspeed rules. It went on and on. He didn’t even ask me what was in my backpack.
We got to the Temple and both of us were patted down by security. I admit, my excitement was starting to rise. Would the band play anything from F#A# ∞? Would they play anything new? The bouncer searched my backpack. “What’s this?” he asked. “Soccer ball,” I replied. He gave me a weird look, then shrugged and waved me past. Josh went through a different line.
We packed toward the front of the stage, surrounded by whispering hipsters tingling with anticipation. The lights dimmed, and the band came out, all 600 of them – well, that’s what it seemed like at least. They filled the stage. The first strains of “Gathering Storm” from Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven began, as strings and screwdrivered guitar warbled together, puddling together like raindrops on a tin roof before overflowing their boundaries. I felt it was time. I took out the soccer ball.
I began to juggle it, carefully at first as I had very little room to maneuver. Josh gaped, incredulous, then started to smile as he realized just how smoothly and flawlessly the ball bounced on my feet and knees. Other attendees noticed too, and they stood, transfixed. I could see about four bouncers out of the corner of my eye start to make their way through the crowd, but as they reached the edge of the small circle around me, which had developed around the time “Gathering Storm” had coalesced into a melody, Josh quickly gestured and mouthed, “No, no, wait. Watch.” The bouncers stopped and did just that. They stayed that way for a long time.
And on Godspeed played, through Murray Ostril’s sample preceding “Monheim” to “The Albanian,” the latter of which kicked up the dust with an eastern violin melody, careening gypsy-like into “World Police and Friendly Fire.” I was psyched to hear “The Albanian,” as it’s an unreleased live favorite. It was nice to quicken my juggling pace, too, and a couple guys began dancing like Russians around me in support while nothing but smiles and laughter poured from the perimeter of the circle. The band woke from its trance as well, and squinted into the spotlights, trying to see what was happening. They saw me. Mauro nodded to Thierry, who threw a guitar pick that hit Efrim in the forehead. He looked enraged, but then he, too, noticed my athletic grace. He motioned to the lighting technician for a spotlight. I was on display.
Godspeed continued to play, their exquisite take on “Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls” further accentuated the bleakness of the road they were traveling; the world following the global catastrophe that their music evoked left little room for games and enjoyment, as survival was the key. And yet there I was: me, my soccer ball, and a wide-eyed crowd, swaying as if hypnotized by the music and my performance. We were all one, and by the end of “Rockets Fall” there was nothing else for the band to do but dive headlong into Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada in its entirety. “Moya” and “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III,” a tandem whose power, beauty, and pathos is rarely, if ever, matched, brought the audience to its emotional knees, the sampled monologue of the latter’s titular doomsayer steeped in a sadness rendered even more raw in the live setting. As the show came to a close, I softly balanced the ball on my knee, then brought it down to my right foot, and finally placed it on the ground, the first time I had done so in over two hours. My spotlight turned off. I looked at Efrim as he laid down his guitar, and he was weeping. He mouthed “Thank you” at me. The crowd erupted.
* * *
We left the venue, and it was a few minutes before either of us spoke.
“A soccer ball,” Josh said. “I had no idea what was in your bag. Don’t Canadians like hockey?”
“Don’t all nationalities like soccer? I can’t juggle a hockey puck.”
“Well, that was amazing,” said Josh.
“Yeah, they were unbelievable,” I agreed.
“No, I meant your footwork. Have you been practicing?”
* * *
Hi everybody, sorry about that, I left my computer on and Kyle got his grubby paws on it. I can’t vouch for anything above, and frankly, it all sounds a bit preposterous if you ask me. But then again, he was there, and did all the heavy lifting here on the writing end. Luckily this show is available for download at the always reliable nyctaper.com. Enjoy!
RIYL: A Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire to Flames, Mogwai