Last night I saw Calvin Johnson. It was awesome.
Here is my shitty, Instagrammed-out photographic proof.
We met a few friends and held cold hops in the hot space. One friend got really wasted and effusive but we (or at least I) forgave him. Most of us were slightly dressed up, and by that, I mean I did not wear my pizza shorts.
One of the openers, DC-based Priests, was pretty killer. The lead singer had a hoarse, busted voice, but it worked great for their 6-feet-under-fi twee punk. The drummer sometimes lent her cute, shrieky vocals to the jam, which was nice. However, the guitarist was really committed to doing this weird humping dance while playing which wouldn’t normally be such a big deal but I was in the front and he dribbled into the crowd like he was in a fucking audience-engaging musical number and it made me nervous and unhappy. Other than the bummer of avoiding eye contact with that dude (I strayed a few times and am convinced this enticed him to continue the wandering), I really enjoyed the trio.
I must mention, too, that throughout all of the openers, Calvin (you like how I keep referring to him by just his first name? Me too. We’re intimate friends) kept climbing through the stoned audience (we bumped shoulders. It’s part of the secret handshake we’re currently developing) to flash his point-and-shoot at all of the action. It was a really cute and humanizing gesture, kind of like seeing a grown man open a birthday card from his mom or something. It made me like him even more.
In between sets, I dodged the humidity and leaned on trees and walls out front. A lot of lighters flicking and weird conversation. A little whiskey.
“Let’s go inside and see Calvin,” a friend said and so we did. I crept close enough for a good view and settled into a slouch. My main point of reference of Calvin Johnson is Halo Benders, particularly 1996’s Don’t Tell Me Now. I first tried them in high school while ferociously researching all of Doug Marstch’s past projects and continued to revisit over the years. In college, I would sometimes listen to “Lonesome Sundown” when I was feeling blue and OK about indulging in it. The contrast of Johnson’s impossibly deep, purposeful voice with Martsch’s love-it-or-leave-it wailing harmonize in the nostalgia whackoffery. But it’s totally self-actualized, those lyrics, and for that I will always love it.
I wasn’t familiar with the bulk of the set. The songs seemed stream-of-conscious, mostly starring crazy girls and sometimes talking about period blood. I didn’t know them, but I loved them. He didn’t use a mic, but he didn’t have to. The audience finally fell to a respectful hush.
Creeping to the set’s close, Cal (getting more intimate all the time, guys) started, in his glorious baritone, “I don’t know if any of you liked the Halo Benders…” The twisting opening chords of “Lonesome Sundown” sprung beneath the pads of his fingers. I felt my jaw slack. I probably drooled or peed a little (maybe both?). It was lovely.
After, everyone finished their drinks and hit the single-serving bathroom one last time. We made our way back into Greenpoint, tripping over weeds and sidewalk cracks a little.
It was a good night, including the hot lava colors and feelings of the sun setting while completely alone, toes curled into nostalgia. Ironic to hear a song like that during a time I feel certain for which one day I will feel yearning.