{"'Liebchen, this is the other half of the earth. In Germany you would be yellow and blue.' Mirror-metaphysics." - Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow}

I am Oak – oh, and The Dirty Projectors

A couple of days ago a former student invited me to come and see him perform with I am Oak. As they were opening for Dirty Projectors I immediately warmed up to the idea. Every now and then there are advantages to teaching: you get to meet inspiring young people and if – like me – you don’t have children (yet?) you can experience some pride in the fact that you used to teach them. Jolly!

Now for the difficult part. Obviously I enjoyed the concert. But what to say about it in this little blog post? Writing about music turns out to be quite a challenge. What to say? How to write about music and a concert? How to commence? Let’s explore some heavily trodden paths.

The first thing I am supposed to do I guess is tell a little about the bands, who they are, what ‘kind’ of music they play, what ‘scene’ they belong to. [I am Oak = a young Dutch one man ‘alternative indie folk’ project, supported by an awesome band of Live Oaks. Check it out. / Dirty Projectors = a New York based ‘experimental rock band’ (that should fill you in), with an elaborate Telecaster+Stratocaster guitar sound and three girls yodeling along. And yep, those girls are pretty amazing.]

Now I should probably say a word or two about the setting and the atmosphere of the concert. [Here goes: “When I arrived at the Tivoli in Utrecht the turn-up seemed pretty slim. However, having lived in the Netherlands for a very, very - very - long time I quickly realized that the crowd wouldn’t turn up until after the concert had already started. And it did. The Tivoli is a small and cozy venue that holds only a handful of people, which possibly explains why both bands connected with the audience so effortlessly. Do I need to add some specific little anecdotes? All right then. After fifty minutes of sheer mesmerizing intimacy I am Oak erupted in a rambunctious finale that would make any galley drummer jealous. During a song performed by only two of the six band members Dirty Projectors’ front man asked to dim the lights and leave them that way for the entire show. En toen werd het helemaal gezellig… And another one. Right in front of us a huge Dutch guy and his equally huge girlfriend went absolutely ecstatic over Dirty Projectors. Later on at the coat check I learned that he was their biggest fan and that she was actually slightly embarrassed about his erratic dance moves."]

After which I could go over the play list and discuss how ‘cleanly’ the songs were played, whether the live rendition of the songs added something extra or rather took something from the songs, say what songs they did and did not play, whether they played mainly older or new songs, and things like that. [The songs were well played by both bands. I couldn’t say anything useful about the play list, except for the fact that I am Oak played a lot of songs from their new album and Dirty Projectors didn’t screw up any Black Flag songs. Thank God for that.]

Finally I ought come up with a lot of adjectives to describe the sound of the bands, and compare them to other bands. [Encore un petit effort. I am Oak: eerie and earthy, stripped to the bark drums, the melody of the songs carved out by an austere yet vivacious banjo and a deep weeping voice that sounds as though it has ripened for at least twelve years in an oak barrel. / Dirty Projectors: although I really liked their performance I am not that much into their sound. Really, do they have one song without ‘EAAAAA’, ‘AAAAH’, ‘OOOOH’, ‘EA-O-EA’, and ‘O-A-O-A’ and any variation on that theme? No comparisons today.]

Ultimately I ought to mention whether I did or did not enjoy the concert. [I did.]
I’ll even give you a little extra in the category ‘unlikely connections’. That guy from Dirty Projectors bore some uncanny (vicarious? speculative?) likeness to Graham Harman (not so much qua physique as qua gestures). Spooky!

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