There’s a live recording of Joan Baez performing “Silver Dagger” in 1972 and while she’s warming up/trying to remember the song, she rambles. Right before she actually begins to sing she issues the quote above to the audience and it’s just such a wonderful introduction to … anything, really. People should have that put on their business cards.
Don’t sing love songs you’ll wake my mother.
On Monday night I drove up to Kansas City to sit, stand, sway and experience Fleet Foxes at the Uptown Theater before they moved on to St. Louis then my hometown–accidentally—on their way out to Denver. But that Monday night singing and swaying almost didn’t happen.
Fleet Foxes has been around for a couple of years but I only discovered them this year, thanks to Stereogum and the music video for their song “Grown Ocean.” I looked up more info on them and found out that their lead singer, Robin Pecknold, was not against fans downloading their music for free. So, download I did.
Before the album’s release, Spin Magazine gave Robin the front cover and called Helplessness Blues the “Most Beautiful Album of the Year.” They were not lying.
It starts with the lines “So now I am older…” which somehow—and maybe I’m being dramatic here (I’m probably being dramatic here)—captures everything. Like, everything. EVER. If you stop at any time and think about your life how can you not think that line and then not immediately be struck by how true and sometimes scary that is? It’s so simple that it might make you want to scoff at it if you weren’t too busy reflecting on your life – like trying to keep your eyes open when you sneeze: it ain’t gonna happen.
The line finishes with Robin singing “…than my mother and father when they had their daughter, now what does that say about me? How could I dream of such a selfless and true love? Could I wash my hands of just looking out for me?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laid on my bed and let this song—hell, this album—play on repeat as I think about all the milestones I’ve passed/am passing/will pass. I can’t tell you because you would probably come find me, slap me in the face and never let me complain about being tired again because CLEARLY I had enough time to listen to this goddamn album a lot. Wait, I’m sorry, you probably wouldn’t curse.
The whole point of the album boils down to one line in the title track.
“And now after some thinking
I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great
Machinery, serving something beyond me
But I don’t, I don’t know what
That will be!
I’ll get back to you someday soon…”
I could write thousand word essays on this band, this album and what it all felt like and meant for me to be there, but I’ll spare you the details.
Last year I lost my set of keys and had them replaced with originals. For fourteen months now I’ve been meaning to get copies of my car keys made at the dealer but somehow I have yet to make it there.
On Monday, after the opener, after I had bought a drink and found a great spot in the pit I realized I didn’t have my keys. Cut to: me looking everywhere, asking the ticket-takers (who also served as the lost and found) and them informing me that if I left the venue I would not be able to get back in. The Uptown is in a pretty seedy area and because it’s summer, there was still plenty of light out even though it was near eight. I figured waiting for AAA in the light would be a lot smarter and easier to do while no one was busy leaving and while I wasn’t stranded in the dark. So, I left and figured I’d see them some other day.
Then by some miracle, one of the parking attendants was a locksmith (maybe they all are?), I got a free ticket to go back inside and one of the security guards upstairs had been watching my drink.
The song I made it back inside for, one of their opening songs, was “Grown Ocean.” My first Fleet Foxes song.
“In that dream I could hardly
All my life I will wait to
Wide eyed walker, don’t betray me. I will wake one day don’t delay me.
What are you waiting for? Go download it and see if it will mean anything to you, too.
Oh, and don’t read too much into that Joan Baez quote, that is one very loose end that does not at all match up with the loose end I just dangled after that last quote. Though Robin Pecknold has been known to perform covers of Joan Baez’s “Silver Dagger”, he did not perform it Monday night.