"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Sunday, October 02, 2011

the light by which i travel into this and that

Jens Lekman and his drummer, Addison. they played a show at the California Academy of Sciences on Thursday, September 29, 2011. this post is about their performance.

i'm in a delicate state right now. i've tried to write this blog post several times over, over several days (this is attempt #5 6). i never do that, not with blog posts anyway. never. it's weird for me not knowing what to say, but then again, i understand: it's hard to write about things that mean a lot to you, that are deeply personal, that are personally significant. it's hard finding the perfect words to say something that just makes sense to you, something as simple as liking someone's music and how it makes you feel. that's what's going on here. that's what happened when i tried to write a thoughtful post about seeing Jens Lekman perform in San Francisco. nevertheless, something must be said. 

the seasons are changing and i feel lost, like i often do this time of year. there are so many things that i miss and can't return to, and i'm reminded of all those things the most when summer turns to fall. i've spent the last few weeks listening to Jens's music because it makes me feel at home in a place in my heart and memory that doesn't exist in a physical place any more.

i guess that's why seeing Jens perform live is such a meaningful experience for me. it's a physical home for an emotional state.  it's dancing and singing along with others who feel the same way you do.

Jens played a fantastic set, including songs from his new EP and some stuff that might be on the new record (my guess is the songs "Cowboy Boots" and "The End of the World is Bigger Than Love" are on the forthcoming record, in which case i already can't wait for it to be released), and he also played some older stuff, like a beautiful acoustic version of "Black Cab," and one of my favorite Jens songs of all time, and a song i want played at my wedding, "I Saw Her In the Anti-War Demonstration" (videos below). and when Jens played "Opposite of Hallelujah" and he busted out a sample of Chairmen of the Board's "Gimme Just a Little More Time," i swear we both looked directly at each other while we waved our arms in a come hither motion and shuffled our feet in place, while lip syncing the lyrics. Jens also played "A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill," and i sang along and yelled "oh no!" like it is on the record, and then everyone else started in with me, and we did the "bumpa bumpa bumpa bumpa bumpa bumpa BUMP!"s and at the end of the song, Jens clutched the mic tight to his chest and, beaming, asked us "can you hear the beat of my heart?" while his hand thumped a heart flutter on the mic for all of us to hear. he looked so happy to have shared that song with all of us, like we had just made his night because our collective understanding of the song matched his, and that synchronicity was putting a smile on all of our faces.

Jens playing the crowd like a xylophone at the end of "Opposite of Hallelujah"

something else i really appreciated about seeing Jens this time around was the light politicking he did between songs. reading his blog and listening to his music lately has made me realize the subtle politics in his music that are gradually coming more prominently to the surface. during his set, Jens paused to tell us about the debates over a Good Samaritan law in Sweden, healthcare and education, and he sang a love song about an anti-war demonstration. and "Waiting for Kirsten," from his new EP, though ostensibly about missing the chance to see Kirsten Dunst at a local club, is also a delightful song about social equality and a Swedish disinterest in celebrity ("in Gothenburg we don't have VIP lines/ in Gothenburg we don't make a fuss about who you are"). 

i've always thought critics have underestimated the resonance of his music; they get caught up in the surface, distracted by the adorable lyrics (he rhymes "Jehovah's [witnesses]" with "pullovers" and "casanovas" in a way only someone with a sweet Swedish accent can do), without realizing that Jens is writing/singing about some pretty heavy stuff: love, loss, the end of the world, missed connections, life's changes. his work has always had that common theme of working thru life's transitions, difficult times, with a sense of humor and a childlike questioning. his music is liminal, transitional music with some of the despair diluted with fun. it's dancing-because-what-else-can-we-do kind of music. i always label his music "Holiday" when i put it in my library, because that's how it feels to me, like a holiday from my life's worries, but also because holidays as a kid were always those short breaks between the end of something and the start of something else, when you were at home in your old house that you grew up in, but don't feel like you live there any more, and you spent your days lying in your bed staring at the ceiling, thinking about your life and scared about your future.

i had more, so much more, to say. but you know what they say about pictures and words. so here are some pictures and some moving pictures i shot at the show (click on pictures to make them bigger!):

Jens sampling Chairmen of the Board's "Gimme Just a Little More Time" during a live performance of "The Opposite of Hallelujah" (i think this is from his 2007 tour for Night Falls Over Kortedala, because of the girl group with him, and because i remember filling with joy when they busted out that sample during the show i saw in Chicago)

Jens Lekman extract by Wirewool

my college friend Karen and i at the end of the night, happily holding one of Jens's limited edition picture discs in the lobby of the museum.

additional things that must be said:
- i think the most frequently uttered word of his entire performance was "pocket." that in itself encapsulates how much love i have for his music and what great friends Jens and i would have made, if only we grew up in Sweden at the same time.
- i have mp3s to share with you! 
Cowboy Boots (Live) (link goes to another page, right click on mp3 link to download)

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