Saturday, November 1, 2008

Big Lick at Middle East Downstairs

I begin this time with a disclaimer. This is not a review of Big Lick, but of me. I am good friends with Kevin, the singer from Big Lick, and I've met almost every member of the band before tonight, some of them over the course of the last decade. My wife said I should write about the show, and I told her, ludicrously, that it would be unethical to do so, thinking to myself of my responsibility to my adoring readers. They might feel cheated by a supposedly honest assessment of a band that was skewed by my almost family ties to them.

But, as I find my feet in this space, I realize that worries about balancing my responsibility to remain objective and trying to be connected to a musical scene in this city are more than a little premature. What I am writing here, I am becomingly dimly aware, is a short story of my experience, and perhaps that is all I will ever be able to show for paying the ticket price at the door. So be it. I can narrate instead the reasons that objective journalism will have to wait.

My image of this night at the Middle East is wrapped up in a couple of other stories, distant in time or space. The first is of another gig, from my very first trip to Boston in 1998. My girlfriend of the time - now my wife - took me to see Big Lick play their CD release party at Tower Records on Newbury. In the blur of time between that night and this I recall very little, but the knowledge that I was there and now I am here makes me feel an unusual sense of rootedness, which is nothing less than intoxicating.

On the other hand it's Halloween, and that night recalls a lot less fun times since I've been here, when Americans' self-assured bravado in making a fool of themselves walked all over my unshakable (and believe me I've tried) English rigidity. My brother-in-law, also at the gig full of memories of the old days of Big Lick, tells me I should lighten up, but the cooler and 'crazier' they all appear, the more I stiffen. This feeling of exclusion from the party overwhelms the other emotion, of connectedness to this city, and I slump.

So when Big Lick come on I'm counting down the minutes until I can make my stilted way home. I'm sure you are waiting for me to tell you that they won me over: That they played a show so passionate and fun-loving that I couldn't help but lift my spirits to meet them. And that is all true. They are a great band that deliver song after song that can carry you into the pit (where my brother-in-law was swallowed whole) even if you stay firmly on the sidelines. But there is no story in that. This show - for me - was all about watching Kevin's face, smiling for just a moment at one point near the end of the band's set, as he looked over what they had done to about two hundred people in the space of thirty minutes. In a split second his joy was mine too, and the whole night was worth it.


Dan Lavender said...

Yer miserable Manc bastard.

Although, I wholeheartedly agree about the English rigidity... I've tried to shake it too, but can't.

It's how we keep our superiority over the colonials ;-)

Cheryl said...

I like this blog entry too!! :) I like how I can connect with your comments and observations. Thanks, Nick.