sometimes i wish i could go back to that first night at the bowery ballroom.
take in the dark wood floor for the first time. the vaulted ceilings and small stage. the space as an ode to a different time: a simple, uncluttered, unfettered time.
i didn't know that night would be transformative. didn't know charlie fink had been reading bukowski as he wrote the third album. didn't know he was attempting to tell stories about the outliers--a move away from the deeply personal narrative of the first days of spring.
the music that night felt redemptive. holy. a controlled bubbling of euphoria. it filled me, washed over me, touched some part of me i didn't quite understand.
and so when the night ended, i went back to the band's previous work. i listened again to the first two albums groping for that greater meaning. why was the night transformative--for me, what made the experience transcendental?
i think bereft may well be one of the greatest words the english language has yet produced. bereft: lacking, without. the word itself is an expulsion of air. just to say it requires something, demands something.
that's the word that comes to mind when thinking of the first days of spring: bereft. a man bereft. abandoned, bereaved, utterly without.
with songs entitled "i have nothing" and "my broken heart" it's fair to say i'm not hitting on anything revolutionary here, just stating the obvious.
the thing about the second album that's so interesting is the progression of it. because smack dab, middle of the thing comes "love of an orchestra" and with it, these brilliant words:
I know I'll never be lonely/ I've got songs in my blood/ I'm carrying all the love of an orchestra/ gimme the love of an orchestra
and if that isn't a breath of air returned to the body, i don't know what is.
empty of everything else--love and happiness and hope, even--there is the music. the resurgent, hypnotic melodies that drop down, invited or not.
and so the third album, last night on earth, well, it's that love of an orchestra made manifest. it is an album about the return of joy.
in fink telling stories about those that ring the outskirts, those who live on the fringe, he unwittingly reveals the very axis on which much of humanity balances, himself included.
when things get tricky on my end, when upheaval reigns, and nothing is clearer than murky, when i feel most alone--most bereft, i remember i am filled with words. gimme the love of the english cannon, or the library, or...well, i'm not sure what the equivalent is, but you see where i'm going with this, don't you?
when all else fails i am left with words and their endless, malleable patterns. they are my music, or my attempt at such. and i am never without.
there is bereft. and there is life after. and the life after, it's just so much better. and no one tells you that, and no one prepares you for that, and those on the other side of it just don't understand. but it's just so much better. you grow up and you find balance and you feel happiness in a way you didn't even know to be possible: there is more in this world to be found/ than dreams.
and you wake one morning to find you're a better person. filled with the love of an orchestra or the love of small, tangible, wriggly words--and those words open worlds and life thrums along. only different, better. and you live your life as though it is the last night on earth because you already lost everything once and you came back from it so fear doesn't have the same hold. and we're all living on some line, some edge, some axis anyway--might as well enjoy our own precarious placement in the universe.
that night, for me, was both explanation of the past and road map for the future. and touchstone, too. reminder of where to look when even hope evades: the words. always, the words.