Venue: Old Town School of Folk Music + Turf Club
City: Chicago, IL + St.Paul, MN
Date: October 28th 2018
Bless me audiophiles for I have sinned. It has been 4 months since my last concert confession.
I am 36 years old. I have have been a self-prescribed music nerd since I was 20. Between now and that baptismal reckoning, I have been to hundreds if not thousands of shows. I've never really counted. I have had a lot of 'favorite bands', but a pretty consistent Top 5. For a very long time, it was 5 horse race with constant jockeying back and forth between The National, Ryan Adams, Okkervil River, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and a rotating door of several bands at number 5. At some point, probably around the time The National and Ryan Adams started getting played at Starbucks, the order switched. I saw your eyes roll. I did. The Starbucks thing is real, but as I got older two bands grew with me more and maintained the quality I most connected with than the rest. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Both, extremely well-written music, a certain visceral ferocity and carefully measured in their trajectory. Latitudinal and longitudinally.
Last week I got to see Okkervil river for the fourth time. They were on a tour that was predicated on playing a fan-requested set list, half the band members they usually play
with, and mostly acoustic. It was brilliant. They played songs they hardly ever play and
some songs they've never played live. This means people in Chicago may have gotten
to see a song played live that no other city will ever hear played live. Pretty special.
This show was also special for another reason. It's the first show since I broke my leg two months ago that I had been able to go see on my own. Three out of the four times, I've seen them alone, but that never really meant anything to me until this time. Losing your physical independence at 36, or any age really, is a really difficult thing, especially if you've spent the last half of your life taking care of yourself in absolution. Getting back out there again after two months of crutches, knee scootering, constant pain and fear of re-injuring myself and going back under the knife was pretty fucking liberating. I had seen the full band play shortly before I moved to Chicago this year at the Turf Club in St.Paul. That was the best show of theirs I've seen. Performance, experience, set list and meeting Will Sheff for the first time were all contributing factors. He's one tall, lanky, gracious and very kind s.o.b. If you're a fan of theirs, you probably know Will went to college in St.Paul. It was a snowy day on the day of the concert, so it was cool to hear him reminisce about his own experiences and watch people react to anecdotes they could relate to. He has a gift for relating to people's humanity. I think that's probably why Okkervil has had the staying power they've had in my life for the last 15 years as one of my favorite bands. If they haven't fucked it up thus far, I think they can rest easy knowing they are and will probably always be one of my top three favorite bands.
Thank you for the music, the stories, and keeping it really real, Okkervil.