Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wayback Whensday!

What's this, another new feature? Yep. If you haven't guessed by now, we're starting to run a daily feature every weekday in addition to the random nonsense we'd post anyway, because as fun as reporting new singles and tours can be, nothing gets our collective motors going quite like making mixtapes, top 5's lists, and reminiscing about the days of yore, which is the whole purpose of this new column. Each week we'll take turns waxing about a concert we went to, an album we loved, a shirt we bought, a kiss shared over Sigur Ros, anything, so long as it was in the past. Wayback Whensday is also where you'll find our ongoing Don't Tell Anyone You Don't Own... column, which we'll do once each month.

For now, read on as I recall some of the highlights of my first Interpol concert, which occurred almost 5 years ago exactly.

I first heard about Interpol in the summer of 2002, thanks to a CMJ article that was actually written about the Strokes and the resurgence of intelligent (ahem...), yet simple rock music. For the life of me, I can't remember any other bands that wound up being compared to the Strokes in that article, though I'm certain I listened to all of them at some point in time. The only one that would eventually matter to me, however, was Interpol.

Not long after reading the article, I downloaded my first Interpol song, "Obstacle 1." I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was nonplussed after my initial listen. I should note, however, that thanks to the CMJ article I had expected more of a Strokes-y sound instead of the jarring guitar interplay and the imagery of a person repeatedly stabbing their neck, slicing the jugular vein and dying a horrible, bloody death. Throw in the fact that Paul Banks sounds perfectly cool, and not "hip" cool, but calm, collected, about the whole thing, and you can probably understand why it took some time before I was finally able to "get" it. In the meantime, I stuck with old favorites like Coldplay, Queens of the Stone Age, and Zwan, all bands that represented a certain era of my life, the end of my teens to be exact, and satisfied me perfectly up until that point, but bands that I no longer listen to. Honestly, I think Interpol is the reason why. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Coldplay or QOTSA (Zwan might be a different story), but the introduction of Interpol in my life, and especially that first concert, was simultaneously a giant period, a turning of the page, and the first sentence of the new chapter in my life. It probably sounds dramatic, over exaggerated, but I swear it's true.

I officially became the proud owner of Turn on the Bright Lights on New Year's Eve in 2002. A friend of mine took me CD shopping as a late Christmas present, and because I had heard Interpol were coming to Kansas City, I decided to pick up the album and give the whole thing a listen. As the next couple of weeks passed, I listened to the album a few times, and while the catchier numbers finally started to sink in with me, I was still having a hard time absorbing the whole thing. But if I was starting to come around, my girlfriend at the time was another story. She thought it was boring, and when I offered to buy her a ticket to the show, she thought I was crazy to even suggest the idea (I should not that a month or so later, she finally saw the light too - I guess this album's a grower also?) Desperate for some company at the show, I called my best friend Adam, who is more into punk rock than arty New York post-post-punk, and pleaded my case to him that he should go. Thankfully, Adam likes live music more than life itself, and he accepted my offer. The day before the show I was also able to recruit a co-worker named Jason, who was the only morning employee at Panera Bread that I could talk music with. On a cold, January night, the three of us hit the icy roads to Kansas City.

We arrived at the Madrid Theater extremely early, which meant we had to sit through a couple of openers. On the plus side, however, we were able to score an excellent spot very close to the stage and with a nice view. The first band was a local one called the People. This band would later become the Golden Republic, one of Kansas City's flagship bands until they broke up last year. After the People was Calla, who I thoroughly enjoyed at the time, even going as far as to buy their CD at the show, along with an Interpol shirt that I would lose 20 minutes later in the Madrid Theater bathroom (Femme Fatale, the wonderful friend that she is, replaced the shirt several years later for my birthday).

Next up was Interpol, who took the stage to some polite fanfare and quickly started into "Untitled." It was clear from the start this was a band that wasn't going to wow you with any fancy tricks, and instead let the performance speak for itself. This can backfire if you have an off night, but lucky for us the band sounded great. After "Untitled" settled down, I was expecting "Obstacle 1" to start as it does on the album, instead the band opted for "Roland," a solid choice if you ask me because it maintained the momentum that the fans were surely expecting and saved a great song like "Obstacle 1" for later (just before the encore, in fact, which was the perfect place for it).

After "Roland," I remember someone from the balcony yelling "Stellllllaaaaa!" I have since grown accustomed to hearing this, it seems to be a favorite among the contingent of Kansas City Interpol fans, but I'll admit it struck me as odd back then. I mean, of course they were going to play "Stella," they were going to play all of Bright Lights. It was the only album they had! Two songs later, as they started to play "Stella," I chuckled, and wondered what the guy would request next. Then the song got rolling, and I could see why that man was so keen on hearing the song. That's when it hit me, I still hadn't digested all of Bright Lights yet, and here I was at their concert, and there they were playing one of their best songs, and I was fairly oblivious as to what was transpiring. I focused in on the song, the band shifted gears and chords, "She broke away / broke away" sang Paul Banks. She may have broken away, I thought, but they're pulling me back in. As the song drifted on, with Paul Banks muttering "she was my catatonic sex toy / love joy diver," repeating "right on" and "oh yeah," it started to sink in. Finally, I was "getting" this band.

With my brain finally willing to accept these songs, and because the songs were much louder in concert, I was able to dissect some of the nuances to Interpol's sound. What hit me almost immediately at this point was the tight rhythm section, especially Carlos D, who is practically a symphony all to himself on the bass. Hearing him and Sam Fogarino play on "Hands Away," a song I had never paid full attention to until that night, was stunning and fascinating, as it was like watching the curtain slowly pull open, revealing the men behind Interpol's rich sound.

I also took notice to how most of the songs end somewhere completely different from where they start, a trick that Interpol has pretty much abandoned with each passing album. This was especially evident in during the night's encore, where they played "The New," which also happens to be my candidate for Interpol's best song. Just thinking of the chiming guitars that began the segue from the song's first half to the next, then Paul's waling on his Rickenbacker's B-string, detuning it down and back up again, I get chills all over again.

The night ended with an inspired rendition of "Obstacle 2;" Paul's soaring voice still echoing in my head. As the house lights came up, I exhaled for what felt like the first time in an hour. I was exasperated, and completely surprised by just how much the show had affected me in such a short amount of time. I should be fair, though, Paul Banks warned me way back at the start of the show that a "Surprise sometimes / will come around." He wasn't even fucking kidding.

[mp3]Interpol - "Obstacle 1"


Mandy said...

I'm still kicking myself for missing this show! Sigh. I should have listened to you. :) I think I was too much absorbed with the Strokes sound at the time to let Interpol into my heart. Haha.

Femme Fatale said...

Me too... I was even later getting into TOTBL. I HATED Paul Banks' voice. Blasphemy!

P.S. Ryan, I can't believe you remember the entire set list!

SonicRyan said...

Well, they did only have one album's worth of songs to keep track of, I guess that made it easy for me.

Mandy said...

I'm convinced Ryan knows the setlist to every show he's ever been to. It's stored in a special section of his brain.