Sunday, October 16, 2011

Grizzly Vear, the Vaccines, and Retracing my Steps

In the last 24 hours, I feel like I have retraced the steps of my life more meticulously than I have in the past five years. After a successful pep rally performance on Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to enjoy an after-school snack with two very dear friends that I have not seen for nearly twenty years. Both of them played trombone with me from middle school through graduation, and it was nothing short of amazing to sit with these two gentlemen that were there during the formative stages of my musicianship. I stuffed my face with peel-and-eat shrimp and, too soon, had to hit the road for a quick “guerrilla-style” trip to Denton. I was met with the jagged symbolism of these provocative lyrics.

What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? is a bit of a diversion from my recent listening. The Vaccines don’t engage in a lot of subtle complexity or cross-cultural issues. They do, however, have a clever and immediately memorable libretto. For me, a person who usually doesn’t pay attention to the words of a song until much later in the game, it is unusual for lyrics to take hold during an early listen. Imbedded as they are, however, within the Vaccines’ expansively reverbed Ramones-meets-the-Smiths soundscape, the Vaccines wordplay invokes a distraught nostalgia that straddles decades.

When I got to Denton, I attempted to make a surprise appearance at my previous school’s Band Alumni performance. I turned down the road that, for a very, very long time, I drove daily to work. That particular stretch of what used to be farmland is haunted by my past, but in the last three years the feel of the entire area has changed dramatically. Now the stadium chokes out the moonlight that used to illuminate the countryside, and the school’s Performing Arts Center towers high like a monolith. Unfortunately, I got in just a little too late and the stadium was empty.

It was an arresting spectacle. My mind was divided, however, between the barren monuments of recent rural expansion and Grizzly Bear’s lushly textured 2009 release Veckatimest. Grizzly Bear was unanimously suggested by multiple sources, and listening to them now leads me to wonder how I have missed them up to this point. Their left-of-center psychedelic pop represents the kind of accessible experimentation that I find appealing. I was even more impressed to find out that their dreamy ambience is more than a studio construction: it is the result of the excellent musicianship of the band's members.

I just woke up at 6am at my Aiki Brother’s house (when you teach in a public school and have a newborn, that’s virtually opulence). Later this morning, I will achieve my aim for the weekend: the dojo where I “grew up” is changing locations, and there is now a disturbing “for rent” sign hung in the window. This will be the last time I practice in the space. The time and experiences my Aiki Brother and I had in that space will soon only exist in our memories of the past and the movements of the present. The people that we practice with, however, will be the glue that binds the two spaces together. I am looking forward to seeing them.

As nostalgic as I am about the people I have seen and thought about this weekend, there are not many things that I see as more distinctively Denton than a couple of decidedly non-Paleo breakfast tacos from Casa Galaviz and sitting down for some coffee at Jupiter House. Although Austin has coffee houses and breakfast tacos galore, they all seem to pale in comparison to these two iconic establishments. I anticipate a fine breakfast before the throwing commences.

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