Monday, October 21, 2013

The Long Winters in NYC

I have never been one to have favorites.  I have such a wide variety of tastes and interests, it is nearly impossible for me to boil everything down to one single favorite of anything.  There is, however, one notable exception to my no favorites rule.  I absolutely have a favorite band, and I am 100% proud to admit that my favorite band ever is The Long Winters.


Which is odd, considering I just discovered them within the last 16 months.  You see, the band last released an album in 2006.  Back in 2006, I was too wrapped up in MySpace and listening to Dashboard Confessional to realize that there was so much more out there.  I probably *did* encounter The Long Winters somewhere along the way, and I was too engulfed in bad relationship bitterness to realize their greatness.  Luckily, last summer, John Roderick opened for Jonathon Coulton in Pittsburgh, and Hubby and I became instant fans (here is a hint, pay attention to opening bands, it pays off).

Over the next months, I devoured every bit of The Long Winters music I could get my hands one, and became a full fledged fangirl.  If only I had learned about them back when they were touring regularly!  Then, the most amazing thing happened.  The band's record label, Barsuk Records, announced that they were celebrating their 15 year anniversary.  Part of the celebration would include a reunion of The Long Winters, to play their album When I Pretend to Fall.  Alas, most of the shows were going to be on the West Coast.  Makes sense, since the band calls Seattle home.  But then, my luck changed, and a New York show was announced.  And I miraculously convinced Hubby to go to the show.

It was a whirlwind trip (more about that in the next post) that resulted in 23 hours actually spent in NYC, 7 of those at the concert venue.  The show was part of the CMJ music festival.  The venue was the Bowery Ballroom.  There were 5 (yes 5) bands performing before The Long Winters.  We watched them all: Promised Land Sound, Otka Logue, Kan Wakan, Reuben and the Dark, and Eleanor Friedberger.  For us the most notable was Kan Wakan.  Within the first 5 seconds of their set, Hubby shouted to me "I am sold!".  We both were; the sound was sensual and mesmerizing.


  We bought the band's EP later in the night.

 I also was converted as a fan for Reuben and the Dark.    

Not only are these guys easy on the eyes, their rich warm harmonies are easy on the soul.  

But of course, the draw for us was The Long Winters.  And it was every bit as amazing as I anticipated it would be.  The crowd was a mix of old fans back from early touring days and newer fans like us.  But we all knew that this show would be nothing short of greatness.  John Roderick and Sean Nelson have a playful chemistry on stage, and it just quickly became apparent that they were loving every minute of what they were doing.  John Roderick is one of the few performers who not only sounds better with age, but sounds better live than on studio recordings.  His voice is so sumptuous (almost as much so as his beard), it feels like a warm blanket wrapped around you.  Although I love the whole When I Pretend to Fall album, my least favorite song is one titled Blanket Hog.  Yet John made it sound so beautiful that night, I can no longer do anything but love the song.


There were so many awesome moments to the show: John rocking out at the end of Scared Straight, experiencing Cinnamon (my favorite song) live for the second time, hearing John and Sean get good-natured heckling by the crowd (and each other) and giving it right back, the band calling out a couple who tried to sneak out at the last song.  It was nothing short of magic and perfection.


The thing I like the best about this band is they know exactly who they are.  When you encounter John Roderick and Sean Nelson, you know exactly what to expect.  They are purposeful with their lives, and make no apologies for themselves.  I find that incredibly brave, and it inspires me to live that way as well.  Anyone who was surprised that John needed to tune his guitar multiple times, or that he was going to give us the finger a few times that night, or that John would get so lost in the music that he would close his eyes for long periods of time, well, they are not true fans, or they are not paying attention.  


This was, most likely, a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.  Seeing the band reunited, playing their album all the way through in order for the first time ever.  I hope and pray that the band does release a new album soon, and then does a tour for it.  And I hope that tour comes somewhere near Pittsburgh, or at least a day's train ride away.  Because even though we did not sleep for about 48 hours, and were too dead tired to try to stay and meet the band afterward (seriously, I almost passed out during the encore), the concert, and the entire trip, was everything I hoped for and more.  And I would do it all over again.


So, the moral of the story is always check out the openers.  You just might find your new favorite.  

You can see all my photos from the opening bands here, and all the photos from The Long Winters set here. Some of them a a bit blurry but they still capture the energy and emotion of the night, plus it is hard for me to delete any photo of them no matter how blurry.  Imagine what I could have accomplished with a professional grade camera!