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from the archives: carson (and convolution).

18 Oct 2012

Memory is a strange beast.

I can remember the first time I heard Built to Spill’s Keep It Like A Secret* (though I can’t remember the exact date): Spring 1999, in Ithaca, New York, at my friend Mindy’s house, the one next to that nursing home on Buffalo Street.  With the volume turned up, we pranced around her dining room, pretending the light bulb hanging down from the chandelier-less ceiling was a microphone.  Two things are special about that night: realizing I’d found a true friend in Mindy, and absolutely falling in love with that album.  Especially track 7, Else.

I don’t use the word love lightly (trust me on this one), but I really, really love that song.  Once I got my hands on a copy of the album, probably a few days after that fateful night, Else has gone everywhere with me.  It goes onto just about every iTunes playlist, is on every gym/running mix on my iPod, and back when I had a car, I burned a copy of the album so that I’d have one for the car and one for the house.  I can count on two hands the number of days I haven’t listened to that song since I first heard it.  No joke.

Built to Spill were on tour in 2001 and were coming to New York City, to what was then Irving Plaza (I think it’s called something different now?) and an acquaintance of mine knew someone who worked there and did I want to head to the city to go with him?  In hindsight, I probably should have said no.  The show was on September 16th, just a few days after 9/11.  I don’t think I was fully prepared to be in the city then.   I’ll leave it at that.

The show itself was …. subdued.  Maybe for the best.  I would go on to see the band a handful of times over the next decade — once in Cleveland, even, where Mindy had moved to after she got her phD — so the shows and setlists are sort of blurred together.  Which is why, when I look at the photograph above of my friend Carson, who had come down to the city with us that weekend, I think of Else.  Because it wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized that that particular show, back in 2001, wasn’t when they played Else and I got weepy and then, about 2/3 of the way through the song, Doug Martsch, the frontman for the band, totally messed up the lyrics, stopped the song, and despite the crowd insisting that he just play it again — I am clearly not the only person who loves that song — he just skipped to the next song on the setlist.  No, that happened in 2005 or 2006, and yes, I totally cried on the spot because love makes you do stupid things.

So this post was originally going to be about how this photograph makes me think about a weekend that probably shouldn’t have happened except that some nice photos came out of it, and I got to hear my favorite song in the world played live, except what I’m thinking about now is how I got to be with my New York friends on a difficult weekend, and there’s something about Carson’s face that seems so bittersweet and poignant and a bunch of other adjectives that don’t really adequately describe that weekend.

Oh, and here’s the song. (Sorry about the silly visuals; youtube is hit or miss with these sorts of things.)

And here’s the song in cello form, which is differently exquisite and made me burst into tears when I first heard it because, again: love is probably totally awkward.


[*Leave it to Pitchfork to give an album a glowing review and not even talk about the best track.  Fools.]

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