half awake and half in a frenzy

I never imagined I’d be able to see Blake Schwarzenbach perform live other than that grainy footage you can find on youtube. By the time I’d purchased one of (yes, he has a few under his belt) his masterpieces Orange Rhyming Dictionary while visiting my Mom in Idaho Falls a few months before my Italian hiatus, Jets to Brazil had already been laid to rest. I only discovered Jawbreaker classics 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and Dear You nearly a decade after that powerhouse of a band had broken up.

I was crushed when he formed The Thorns of Life only to have them break up after a few short months of house shows in Brooklyn. The advent of his lastest band forgetters lifted my spirits but also discouraged me to see their tour dates revolve around the tri-state area.

Last week I wanted to jump for joy when out of boredom I checked the upcoming shows in Des Moines. I thought it could only be a misprint when forgetters was listed for a show at Vaudeville Mews on 6/21. I checked the venue’s website and received a second witness of the truthfulness of this miracle.

Beyond that, my beautiful wife made babysitting arrangements for that night and agreed to accompany me. We arrived to find the majority of the people maybe totaling 20 were there for local opening band The Seed of Something, who I happen to now endorse as my favorite local band. Although I was enjoying their slacker rock jams I began to get upset they were taking up so much time as this was an all-ages show and Des Moines has some weird law that all-ages shows in venues that serve alcohol must end by 9 p.m. After almost an hour of playing one of the members of the band asked how much more time they needed to fill and someone replied forgetters had not yet arrived. My heart sank and I realized Shakespeare couldn’t write a tragedy this well.

The band continued playing until almost 8 and began removing their gear off the stage. Amy and I found a table near the door and after a few minutes Blake walked in the door. I think that was the closest to starstruck I’ve been my whole life. He must have seen me staring at him and nodded at me as he walked to the stage. I couldn’t believe it. He was notified just how little time they had to set up and play and scampered back outside for his gear. I followed a few sound guys out the front door to see Blake and the woman he’s touring with grabbing gear and heading for the stage. I held the door as they carried all the gear inside and Blake thanked me and we exchanged small talk. I asked him how the drive was and he said he needed a beer. I watched as he parallel parked his minivan, yes a minivan! Then we walked in together and they finished starting up.

The show was great for various reasons including but not ending with the performance of several forgetters tunes, a Fear cover and a cover of another song from an album I hold dear to my heart, Third Eye Blind’s How’s it Gonna Be. Blake’s new day job is teaching English and anthropology at Hunter College in NYC and the set felt like he was the absent-minded professor instructing us, the students. He even had a tattered folder full of ragged sheets of lyrics on a music stand in front of him. By the end of the set half the sheets of lyrics were strewn about the stage. He confessed he’d made them late because he had to stop in Madison County for some “Indiana Jones archaeology digs” (assuming he meant the covered bridges) and a tour of the John Wayne birthplace museum.

He even attempted an impression of “The Duke” and made several degrading remarks about the hipster culture of his home in Brooklyn. Self-deprecation sneaked in the back door when he told us how the worst thing that had happened to him as a musician was the need to wear glasses on-stage as he’s no longer the young emo-kid he once was. He quipped that nobody should buy Warby Parker products as he had as they were “more evil than Walmart.” Yes, the banter between songs was worth the admission itself.

After the show I shook his hand and thanked him for coming and he did the same. He was probably relieved I didn’t stick around to ask him when Jawbreaker would finally do a reunion tour or if he needed a TA for his classes at Hunter College. I was already fully satisfied with the experience. This was probably the second best show I’ve attended. Blake didn’t let me down.

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