Setting Summer Suns and New York Night Walkers

Commandeers, spendthrifts and chainsaw jugglers, its been too long since we’ve done a bit of gonzo journalism on the going going gone social scene bubbling up between our shining seas so I implore your forgiveness and I understand it has been a dark journey down in the catacombs, but despite the dreaded end of our solstice of sun, liberation and departure from the norm, the fall offers new bounties to be won and new stories to be told. Sit back relax and let me relay a highly anticipated holiday weekend.

Labor day was originally established for the organized trade and labor battalions to parade and display their “esprit de corps” but this weekend every union carpenter I know was parked on a lawn chair slamming frosty Old Styles and tossing the empties into the kiddy pool for their wife to collect. I prefer this style of celebration especially with the lack of moral concerning our nation’s economy and job market. Let’s face it, having Labor Day off was not a well deserved treat for most people but just one more crack in their lives to let the fear seep through.

I attempted to produce a satisfactory parade permit to our block’s neighborhood watch organizer, but after noticing some regulations in regards to pyrotechnics I quickly shifted my focus to slamming beers for an opening College Football Saturday. The trip to South Bend for ND’s opener was a must, and although I knew next to nothing about their squad this year I was still able to mingle in with the diehard domer’s and gurgle down  free beer like it was the last of the Miller Lites on the planet. Pigskins, apple wood smoke, barely legal co-eds and a collective high spirit of anticipation provided the scenery for games of shoulders and flip cup with mi amigos while we were catching the last UV rays to come through South Bend until next June.

The Irish pulled it out in a somewhat close game but were clearly the better team all afternoon. I called the under and the spread push but lo, no bookies or lambs in sight for fleecing (don’t fret though sports fans, my NFL picks will be in later this week). Between the long afternoon dancing between sun and shade and the drudge back to the parking lot it could of been a day-ender, but every one in my crew rallied with the victory and gasped in a second wind of brew slamming whilst all the other Irish fans sat in traffic anxious to get out and became painfully more sober. The post game tail gate is a little known art form, but when done correctly it can really prevent the early evening let down that inevitably comes from an all day drinkathalon. The Becks and Coronas were unveiled from hiding and after six or seven more it was back to center.

After reaffirming my footing in back-at-college-drunk-o-land it was time to carbo load for the lengthy trek back US 90 and there was no better option than Five Guys which had just recently opened across the street from one of the stadium’s parking lots. 5 Guys, if you haven’t had the pleasure, is the Midwest’s answer to In and Out Burger. The ingredients are fresh and made to order, the fries killer cajun and the portions hefty. The combination of perfectly cooked patty and melted cheese creates a sound base for the addition of grilled mushrooms and onions, jalepenos and tomatoes. This burger quenched every drunken food craving I had that day and the following three. It was immense and epic and incredibly satisfying and I will continue to give them my money after games. New traditions can be a thing of beauty.

Drive home is a mess in the loftiest sense of the word; bodies sprawled out in the back seat beaten to sleep while pot smoke wafts up front; Hoosier police slinking slow and sneakily along the highway like a radioactive herd of lampreys; the night air cool rushing through the moonroof greeting us like an old forgotten friend. A shit ton of INXS (and a healthy dose of Vampire Weekend) kept our attention most of the way home as I sat shotgun and made every attempt to rotate the volume dial in collusion with the various ebbs and flows of each song. We make record time back and upon pulling into my driveway it strikes my memory like a pissed off asteroid of the apocalypse: this was only Saturday part 1 of 2 and we still had a date with Vampire Weekend at the Aragon the following nightfall.

Saturday part 2 of 2 is another display of slackerdom’s finest daytripping: Gravity bingers and Heinekens splatter the porch all afternoon while a circle of troops talks sedition, and night time finds my brother and me grabbing supplies and shuttling down to the Aragon Ballroom for a gamut of  smooth sonic groovings.

Beach House opened but  a cervesa stop and some crowd gazing were in order so we only caught the last few songs of their set but they sounded more psychedelic and heavy than I would have guessed just from their hit “Norway.” The leadsinger looked like an 80’s madman caught up in some sort of Krautwerk marathon but turned out to be just a dream pop princess with loads of hairspray a relatively (as much as scarf’s can) kick ass scarf. They played a new track in front of a triage of glow in the dark pyramids with a brain-spinning disco ball careening dead center under the starlit sky painted onto the rotunda of the Northside venue. Ambiance like this usually requires an batch of blue dragons and a pre-ordered copy of ODDSAC but neither was required to enjoy the offerings from this Baltimore indie group that has paid its dues for over four years and seems to be an album away from headlining a major tour of their own.

Then came the boys of Vampire Weekend. I’m not going to have my reader under false pretenses- I got the tickets for my brother’s birthday (VW is his favorite band at the moment, forgiveness) and I didn’t think I would enjoy the super-conscious hipster East coast scene I associate with a VW crowd. It’s not that their songs directly speak to those tendencies, but you can’t pick who listens to your music. After seeing most people were dressed up and it would be more preppy suburbanites and businessmen on bang the secretary dates than waxing poetic emo-fist-fuckers I felt a little better (as much as you can I suppose). It looked like we would be the only ones roasting bones during the show, but what the fuck fortune favors the bold(there were probably 10,000 no smoking signs at the ballroom to boot).

Then the music kicked (after a short introduction from Jason Thomas of 93.1 XRT, one of my heroes and answers for the “three people all time you could take out to lunch” question) and I stopped musing over the crowd’s composition and began to perma-jump with a crisp cone hanging between my lips. I hadn’t given Contra more than 2 listens straight through all summer and their performance made me feel like a lazy dumb shit because they played the hell out of those songs.

The split set was filled with crowd interaction and at one point Ezra Koenig dedicated a lick to “all those Irish Catholic kids out there” which needless to say (if you read the first 500 words regarding the ND game…) got me smitten. I swelled up super nostalgic duringtheir first half of the set, filled with tracks off their first album. I felt some great emotional synergy bringing me back through time and space when they first came on the indie scene and I was rolling jays on the quod. Oxford Comma, A-Punk, Blake’s Got a New Face, and Campus  all sounded tight yet playful as these New Yorkers proved they had the chops and the sound at a venue that is often knocked for poor acoustics.

I was able to appreciate their new songs as the set went on and was fascinated by Koenig’s warbled voice on the AutoTune (“Taxi Cab”)and the funky drum-machine beats hidden in some of the tracks (“Diplomat’s Son”). “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” coagulated the holiday weekend energy and electrified the crowd during an excellent encore even though many had called out hoping for “Kids Dont Stand a Chance.” Gotta keep ’em interested, these distracted little fuckers.

All in all a great success and a strong lesson in that the scene exists only in your head. Attitude is everything, so walk nineteen feet tall and don’t forget to avoid the ants because being big doesn’t entitle you to being an asshole. With fall approaching and summer ceasing to be it is easy for melancholia to take hold, but the inner life can be as rich as your imagination and I will embrace this changing of seasons with a sense of awe and a case of amnesia in regards to our impending winter.

See you in a day or two for Week 1 of the Fleecer’s Fight or Fight: NFL Picks That Murder. I know you’ve been waiting patiently for the last 7 months, but until then, let the big dog eat.

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