Monday, July 19, 2010

Nostalgia training

Y'all will know The National is my favorite band. Going to a National concert makes me feel like I am in the presence of rock greatness. Going to a National concert I feel surrounded by everyone else in the audience's Deep, Significant Inner Turmoil. This post is not about The National. This post is about... Weezer.

My sometime-concert buddy I.— asked a couple months ago if anyone wanted to time-travel back to the nineties and see Weezer at the Williamsburg waterfront; I promptly agreed, thinking it would be fun. But I didn't realize just how fun. Weezer puts on a live show that works on so many levels.

What struck me first of all was how much they sound like a recording of themselves. Most live shows of course provide significant variations from a record. Weezer obviously wasn't to-the-letter the same as a CD, but they did eerily replicate exactly the sounds that I remember.
Which brings me to my second point, which is that for me Weezer is not just one but two nostalgia trains. There is the Blue Album–era bone-deep recollection of songs like Undone (very early in the setlist) and Buddy Holly (the night's final rocker-out). I got goosebumps listening to these; there is something that just strikes you deepest about songs you first encountered at a really young age. Maybe it's like how children learn languages and, of course, music better than adults. This kind of memory is powerful and visceral. The second nostalgia is, for me, of a more high-school variety. The Green Album and Maladroit came around at a time when I was finally starting to find my interests and my own community, around tenth and eleventh grade; this marks a whole different era for me from the Undone one even though they're only separated by a few years, and fills me with memories of walking around feeling really satisfied for the first time.

And everyone else, regardless of their exact age, was clearly riding the nostalgia train as well. Because Weezer just makes everyone happy. I remarked to I.— that this was fascinating to me because their songs aren't really happy at all (even though the music itself is so damn peppy). Maybe I am mellower than I have been at times past, but I grinned at the groups of former frat kids rocking out, smiled knowingly at the tiny high-school-looking nerds, found the couple swaying in front of me charming rather than annoying. At this show, I felt closer to belonging to, and feeling a concrete sense of what constitutes, my generation. Maybe it isn't about what's driving current popular tastes; it's more about what we all remember, what we felt when we were growing up, what we can all look back on and see we share.

And so I found Weezer put on a much more enjoyable show than many bands I would say I like a lot more. They struck just the right communal summer evening note.

My only complaint is that there was lots of smoke floating around, of many and questionable varieties. But that's what I get for going to a concert that opened with "Hash Pipe."

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