After sitting on the question of what to write all week, I eventually landed on one common theme that has been following me around effortlessly: Making new friendships, letting go of old friendships and revisiting friendships that work has gotten in the way of have filled the past seven days with some genuinely gratifying human connections.
I've started to think about phoning more than texting and meeting for dinner more than phoning. I've started to say hi to those people I'm sometimes shy to say hi to and hug those people that would normally just get a "nice to meet you." I've started to see more of those bands that I've never heard of, never liked, or doubted to be good live, just to come face-to-face with the human behind the Soundcloud page or Twitter handle.
It got me to start thinking about interviews I've done with artists in the past and how I've copped out more than once by settling for a list of emailed questions instead of a long chat on the phone or even a few minutes before a show. It's something that, as a journalist in a digital world, I've taken for granted - that human connection - and I have too often let an opportunity to save time compromise the personality that really makes the heart of a story beat.
One of the best interviews I've done this year was with Derek Vincent Smith, the producer behind Pretty Lights. It was one of those interviews that moved more like a conversation, where one answer sparked another question and that question lead to a discussion, until 20 minutes later the topic had shifted from music to drawing inspiration from sunbeams on the Aquarium floor.
Just like a free-flowing interview can expose new depths to the interviewee, experiencing a band live is an active encounter filled with a vitality that can't be replicated on an mp3. The dialogue between the artist and the audience brings out a human aspect to music that makes each second of the performance breathe a completely unique breath. It's one of my favorite aspects of music and one that I was missing out on while I let "accomplishing more" get in the way of "meaning more."
What better time than the New Year to make a conscious effort to reinforce the human connections in my life -- whether personal or work-related. I got a head start this past week by meeting with a few bands I've been itching to hang with and others that I didn't even know existed.
A friend of mine played me a Sonnymoon track after dinner a while back. Her comment on their song "Run Away" stuck in my head until I saw them live on Thursday. "They are so much better live," she said -- a statement like that just can't go unnoticed.
I saw them perform at Tammany Hall (formerly "The Annex") -- a space in New York that has been creeping into my favorites and where I spent most of CMJ week. The sound at the bar was weak and full of feedback. The crowd was slim and filled with quite a few people who were more for the booze than the tunes. And still, the voices of Anna Wise and Dane Orr (when he graced us with its presence) pierced through smoothly and subtly like the chocolate syrup in a milkshake and moved the crowd.
I was amazed that this fiery redhead (really a brunette under the vibrant wig) could belt out three octaves plus while keeping the cool of Erykah Badu. The beats provided by Dane were mellow and off the radar, similar to something you'd hear from Nosaj Thing. Their dynamic was alluring, divinely human and natural in the process. And sensing a genuine connection between the two made the whole performance more captivating.
On a similar vibe, Body Language, who I've been a fan of for quite a few months now, played the second gig of their Brooklyn Bowl residency on Monday night (their third and final show is tonight). I was getting my ass kicked in bowling but hardly bothered to up my efforts with the band's care-free melodies coming from the stage behind us.
Body Language, as their name might suggest, produces a seductive sound with just the right combination of technical accuracy and the ability to let themselves go and have fun. Nothing ever feels forced in their live performances and fans aren't just grooving on their own, they're grooving along with the band. I'm always playing their music at the office or around my apartment, but that sort of connection doesn't surface unless you are standing right in front of them, watching the group get down just as much as the crowd before them.
If you have the time, I suggest coming out to see Body Language perform, and if you don't have the time, then I suggest you make it, whether Body Language or another musician, tonight or sometime soon. At the hands of technology and busy schedules it's important to remember just how much depth music can possess when it's being played between people rather than through headphones.