Flush it Friday: Go Face the Day
But you’ll remember me…
Sometime in the year 2000, the same year I became a man at Temple Beth Tefiloh, I found and bought a copy of Sunny Day Real Estate‘s magnum opus The Rising Tide. Sitting there in the racks at Circuit City, there was that weird little object. A blank blue blackground, band name and able title typed in that typewriter font we’ve all come to recognize as both belonging to ’90s emo generally and to SDRE specifically, and the statue of an angel holding up a backwards-crescenting soldier. I hadn’t heard Sunny Day Real Estate before; I had heard the term “emo” but didn’t really get what it meant; I was still fully submerged in the swamps of nu-metal, though I was starting to swim ever steadily up to the brackish surface; and, on top of it all, I’m fairly certain this recommendation—if we can call it that—came from a long-defunct message board that went by the name Wickedland. This, in some many ways, was a Hail Mary. Or, to lower the stakes, this was a whim.
And live I did. From the second “Killed by an Angel” began, I was awash in Jeremy Enigk’s spiritual, dark, and glimmering heartbreak. I’d heard never heard a voice like Enigk’s before—something with that much depth and range and pathos. The guitar work, so indebted to not only the janglier sides of ’90s rock but also deep prog sensibilities, was lacily delicate yet formidably robust. Or on tracks like “One,” the band would easily drop into a finger-picked acoustic bridge only to then soar back to a pre-post-rock crescendo that leads right back into a chorus that is so angelic to be damn near ephemeral if it didn’t land with such soulful force. And the drums. Oh, the drums. William Goldsmith’s kitwork is clean, is intricate, is full of brush sweeps and cymbal claps and a million little surprises and fills that are never—not even once—out of place or obscene. It’s become a bit of a cliché of a cliché of a cliché to say about an album, but let me join the chorus: my life charted a different course owing very much to this album.
Oddly enough, one of those different courses is that I got into Sunny Day Real Estate precisely backwards. Diary, their debut album, was the last SDRE I ever heard, and I’d still, to this day, only rank it above LP2, giving second place to the obviously deserving How it Feels to be Something On. For most of my life—well, all the life I’ve led since 2000, which is, in fact, most of it—I always thought of there being a marked split between Diary and Rising Tide, and, in some ways, that’s true: the band had broken up at least once; the sound on Rising Tide seemed far more indebted to vaguely Eastern dynamics and proggier songwriting and less so wholly committed to a mid-’90s emo aesthetic. There was a Before and After with the SDRE. I was firmly in Camp After, turning my nose up at Camp Before, attempting to seduce anyone and everyone to my side by pointing squarely and directly at “Faces in Disguise,” begging anyone to find me a more beautiful, more aching, more searching, more ebullient, more gutting, more shocking, a more irrepressible song in either SDRE’s oeuvre or the rest of emo in general. Hell, the rest of rock music. One of my BFFs, perhaps far too seducible by my wild gesticulations and earnest pleas, has been on my side for a while and, fortunately, was on my side, quite literally, last Saturday when I finally, after all this time, saw Sunny Day Real Estate live.
My buddy, who has been by my side for so many landmark shows I’ve (sadly or gladly or joyfully) lost count, was there. As was a friend I met freshman year of college and have known ever since. So was a stranger, to my left, with whom shoulders were rubbed, who, like me, got extra excited any time something from Rising Tide was played, a phenomenon we soon noticed and took much delight in throughout the night and then talked about briefly at Little Kings Shuffle Club post-show. (Missed connections: should I put in a listing?)
But, the show. From the opening moments of “Pillars,” my buddy and I looked at each other, adding a few shoulder slaps and arm punches, in the full recognition of just how good this was all going to be. The band sounded full, young, vibrant, and, of course, there was Jeremy Enigk, up front, in all his bald glory, still belting it out. Sure, there were a few moments at the highest of his range that he reined in, but, ya know, sometimes even the greats have to recognize their newfound limitations. From there, the band ripped off a more or less perfect setlist. Aside from maybe some idiosyncratic or personal favourites (another buddy asked if they played “Round,” because he’s a Diary-ass motherfucker), you couldn’t find any faults in their choices. “One,” “Killed by an Angel,” and “The Ocean.” from Rising Tide showed up, standard “J’Nuh” from LP2 closed out the main set, and the rest was a veritable greatest hits from Diary and How it Feels, with a slight edge to How it Feels in total songs played. I mean, they ripped through “How it Feels,” “Guitar and Video Games,” and, oh yes, “Roses in Water” back-to-back-to-back in the middle of the set. It was thrilling.
(A break to tell a brief story I told to my buddy about “The Ocean.” In 7th or 8th grade, I sent that track to a friend of mine, and she replied, “I didn’t know you listened to soft music like this.” To this day, a knee-slapping anecdote.)
Back to the show: everyone in the crowd was jubilant. The show was barely packed and mostly full of people in their 30s and older (kinda like when I saw American Football a few years back in Atlanta) with a few stray youngsters wandering about, probably there for Pool Kids more than anything. As the show went on and other Rising Tide tracks not named “Faces in Disguise” came and went, I had resigned myself, with a bit of remorse but not too much owing to just how enriching and rejuvenating the show was, that I would never see my favourite song live. So it goes! I’m sure there were 100 other people there with their favourite song that didn’t get played. The band left briefly for the perfunctory break before the inevitable encore and came out with “The Rising Tide.” I was beside myself for two reasons: here was the soaring ebb and flow of the final song the band ever released, a song I didn’t expect them to play, a song I was happy to float me a million miles into the breathful ether; and here, too, was the song that follows directly after “Faces in Disguise.” That was it. There would be no “Faces in Disguise,” but it was okay. Here were, lingering side by side, our hearts speaking this time, riding the rising tide together, three friends who have known each 18 years in one case and over 20 years in another case. What more could anyone ever want or ask for or deserve? We had rubbed up against each other, stamped our feet, clapped our hands to chests, gotten misty-eyed, grabbed each other’s hands, smiled and said, “Oh I love this song,” all night long. We had smiled so hard our mouths hurt. How could we ever be so lucky?
So, of course, and I mean, of course, because I live a life so charmed that ever being unhappy is a slap in the face to the universe that has given me all of this, just as “The Rising Tide” fades out, what should happen but the opening traces of “Faces in Disguise” rise up like a warm mist from the stage, the drums shuffling along underneath the hazy, washed-out guitars. I couldn’t look at my anyone. My buddy just grabbed my arm and shook me, just shook me. My other friend squeezed my hand as I was wiping away happy tears—the kinda happy tears fogging up my glasses as I type this. Except for them, I could have been the only person in the room. My homie said it was funny to watch the rest of the crowd sort of scratch their heads collectively at the choice and watch me explode into a billion strands of galactic ecstasy. It happened. And it happened next to two friends who could understand why its happening mattered so very much.
After that, they finished with perennial favourite “In Circles” and underrated “Days Were Golden,” and that was it. 23 years later, there I was, glowing in the aftermath of not only seeing one of my favourite bands of all time, but seeing them play just what I would have only dreamed of them ever playing.
I’ll remember the show always. I’ll remember sharing it with my friends always. I’ll remember the jubilance, the tenderness, the sweetness, the intimacy, the freedom, the tears, the touch, the exuberance, forever.
What are your favourite show memories? Who are your favourite folks to see shows with? How do we tell those outside our silly little world just how much this means? Can we ever do so? Are we only ever looking for people who get it?
Ponder that. But first, let’s f-f-f-f-f-lush!
Friday last, Bob Genghis Khan jammed a bunch of words together to make cooler words in this Battlemaster review.
Every week, Joe ‘n Jordan record a podcast that I’ve heard is pretty cool. Let me know if it is in the comments!
Stick is back with that post-rock goodness courtesy of MMTH. Stick’s Post- posts are always noteworthy.
What’s that? Aaron reviewed something normal? Nah, just kidding. More weird shit with Anti-God Hand!
That’s the week on the Toilet, folks! Make sure to read and re-read everything these folks wrote and/or recorded. Make sure to leave comments and interact with the contributors. Make sure to be excellent. And, of course, make sure to leave those G/B/Us below. I love you all.