Sunday, April 26, 2009

For two songs, my favorite band was back

On Friday night I went to the National to see a new band named Fun. (don't worry, as they informed us during the show, the name is temporary). The band was an opener and only played for 20-30 minutes, but I waited through two insanely painful pre-openers (dark and moody and shouty) just to see this band. The reason: the lead singer of Fun is the former lead singer of my dearly departed All Time Favorite Band, the Format. You may not have heard of them. They only put out two full length albums and were never hugely famous or even relatively famous outside of their intensely devoted cult of fans. But I loved them. To quote from my All Time Favorite Movie, Almost Famous, I loved them like a true fan, which means to love a "band or a silly little piece of music so much that it hurts." I could listen to their songs every single day. I saw them live three times which in retrospect was not nearly enough. And to pay them a very strange compliment, their live shows were the closest I've come to the two N'Sync shows I went to as a kid. This is not to say their music is in any way similar. Nor did the Format dangle from giant puppet strings in their shows or perform coordinated, highly choreographed dance numbers. What I'm trying to say is that even as a (kind of) adult, I went to a Format show and sang at the top of my lungs. I didn't need to be drinking. I didn't need to be cool. For the entire length of the show, I didn't think about anything else. Their could be a war going on outside the doors of the concert halls, and I wouldn't know it. It was like tunnel vision, where the only thing I could see was that stage. Hearing those songs live, the songs I knew by heart, the songs I loved so much it hurt, being able to be surrounded by those songs for an hour or two hours, was a religious experience. It was a high, and the moment the show ended all I could think about was the next time I could see them live. And then, on a horrible day last year I read an email from the band (yes I was on their e-mail list) that said very simply and very plainly that they would not continue to make music together. And my heart broke in a very small but very definite way. Not because I wouldn't still have the songs to listen to because I would. And even though I wanted new music from them, I could subsist on the two brilliant albums they did put out. My heart broke because I thought I would never hear these songs live again, that I would never have that pure, beautiful experience. I was excited when I heard that Nate was in a new band (despite my apprehensions about that name) and I was even more excited when I heard the new band was going to play in Richmond. But even in my excitement, I didn't really expect to hear any of the Format songs. Fun started playing and I bobbed along to their songs which I enjoy a lot and could one day love. And then after about four songs, I heard a familar chord. My heart started racing, but I was sure I imagined it. And then they went right into "Snails" and there it was again, that concert tunnel vision, but made even purer and sweeter by the fact that it was completely unexpected. "Snails" ended. I grinned from ear to ear. And then it happened again. But this time they played my all time favorite Format song, probably my all time favorite song period, "The First Single". And for about four minutes, I was in heaven. Nothing else mattered. The stress from Thailand planning faded away. The sadness from ending my nanny job disappeared. All that mattered was that song and that band and that unmistakable but rare concert moment where live music cuts right through your defenses to the very core of your being.

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