Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jack's Mannequin @ The Troubadour

Last week, I went to the Troubadour to see Jack's Mannequin again. This was the first LA date of his small club tour and it had the emotional impact on me that I thought the previous Jack's Mannequin show would have. I guess the show was special to me because I feel like I have a long history with the lead singer Andrew McMahon. Although I've never met him, I feel like I've grown up with him in a way.

My freshman year of high school, way back in 2000, Something Corporate played at my high school's Battle of the Bands. They were unsigned and unknown. I didn't go to the talent show because I wasn't a huge fan of Aliso Niguel high school and didn't know that such a talented band would be performing. The next morning my school played a clip of Something Corporate on the video announcements. I really enjoyed the clips so I went to the basic and plain SoCo web site that just had some contact info and links to download MP3s of their music for free. I downloaded the music, really enjoyed the songs "Babies of the 80s" and "Mulligan Goes to War."

Soon after, the band announced that they signed to Drive Thru Records. When it came time for them to release their first EP on Drive Thru, I e-mailed the band with questions about the CD release show. I heard back from them and sent a few volleys of e-mails back and forth. I couldn't make it to the show (no ride), but followed the band closely and picked up Audioboxer and later Leaving through the Window. I still remember quite vividly seeing SoCo play with Yellowcard and Rufio. SoCo became one of my absolute favorite bands.

When I started at UCLA, I saw on the Troubadour web site that "Jack's Mannequin (Andrew from Something Corporate)" was playing. I hadn't heard anything about JM (no one really had, I bought tickets before they played their first show) but I got tickets and got excited. The show at the Troubadour was among their first ever shows and it was their first sold-out show. At the concert last week, Andrew even mentioned that first show at the Troubadour and it really brought me back to where I was just a few years ago and how things have changed. When Everything in Transit came out months after that show, the themes really resonated with me. In addition to being about his break-up, Andrew said it was about "coming home, and having home be way different than I had remembered it [...], abandoning a lot of people, and things, that I had normally been so attached to [...], exploring and being okay with myself, and not having to make excuses for who I am, and accepting who I am."

Andrew grew up not too far from me in Orange County but decided to get away and move temporarily to Los Angeles. He went through a bad break-up and had to find himself. I knew how he felt. When I found out that he was diagnosed with Leukemia the day he finished recording his album, I was devastated. I found out the day before it was publicly announced during an interview. It took a lot of self-restraint not to tear up during the interview.

To end my rambling, I feel a close connection with Andrew and at the show I really had a chance to reflect on how things have changed for me in the past 8 years. It was great going with Aaron J. (as usual when it comes to concerts) and then seeing Aaron Israel, Danielle, Isidro, J.D. and Tracey all there. In addition to really enjoying opener Eric Hutchinson (I got him to sign a CD for me after the show), I just loved every second of Jack's Mannequins performance. There was a good mix of old and new songs and a great crowd (including Andrew's parents). This is a show I really needed and I'm just sad that I don't have any concerts coming up that I plan on going to. It's time for Manchester Orchestra, Brand New, Moneen, Anathallo, or any number of bands to roll through LA.

Here's a video from the show of quite possibly my favorite song from the new record:

"Hammers and Strings" at the Troubadour

These hammers and strings
Been following me around
From a box-filled garage
To the dark punk rock clubs
Of one thousand American towns

And my friend calls me up
She says, "How have you been?"
I say, "Dear I've been well
Yeah the money's come in
But I miss you like hell
I still hear you in this old piano"

She says, "Andy, I know That we don't talk as much
But I still hear your ghost
In these old punk rock clubs
Come on, write me a song
Give me something to trust
Just promise you won't let it be
Just the keys that you touch"

"Give me something to believe in
A breath from the breathing
So write it down
I don't think that I'll close my eyes
'Cause lately I'm not dreaming
So what's the point in sleeping?
It's just that at night,
I've got nowhere to hide"
So I write you a lullaby

These hammers and strings
Been following me around
Behind passenger vans
Through the snow, dirt, and sands
Of one thousand American towns
And my friend calls me up
With her heart heavy still
She says, "Andy, the doctors Prescribed me the pills.
But I know I'm not crazy
I just lost my will.
So why am I, why am I
Taking them still?"

To the sleepless, this is my reply:
I will write you a lullaby

Also in the crowd was industry insider turned blogger Bob Lefsetz.
Excerpt from Bob Lefsetz Review:

From an empty room on the first floor
As the cars pass by the liquor store
I deconstruct my thoughts at this piano

That’s what Andrew did. He sat at the lip of the Troubadour’s tiny stage and banged the keys like he truly meant it. He even stood atop the piano, not in a fuck you Billy Joel way, but in an expression of sheer exuberance. He’d written songs in his basement at sixteen, he was now thankful to be able to play rock music for a living. HE SAID SO!

From the corner by the studio
The gold-soaked afternoon comes slow
I deconstruct my thoughts and I am walking by
On Third Street, the freak show thrives
Santa Monica’s alive, but
Something’s not so right inside
Living with the news

These are not lyrics written by committee. So bland they can work in countries where English is not just the second language, but oftentimes the third or fourth, or completely unknown. This is directly from Andrew’s heart to you, you feel like he’s speaking to you. Yes, he’s cut all his records in that studio in Santa Monica, by the Third Street Promenade. It’s where he goes to be inspired, it’s where he concocts these numbers that mean so much to you.

The other classic track from "Everything In Transit" is "The Mixed Tape".

Where are you now?
As I’m swimming through the stereo
I’m writing you a symphony of sound
Where are you now?
As I rearrange the songs again
This mix could burn a hole in anyone
But it was you I was thinking of
It was you I was thinking of
It was you I was thinking of

Heartbreak isn’t about buying a new pair of shoes and sleeping with someone else. It’s about waking up with them still on your mind, just like when you went to bed. It’s wanting to close the curtain, shutting out the light.

Where do they go after you’ve broken up?
They should be dead, they can’t be continuing their lives. They can’t be talking to anybody else, they can’t be laughing, they can’t be going forward. Because you’re stuck. And the only thing that says exactly how you feel is music. The lyrics jump out of the stereo, from your earbuds, the singer knows you, exactly how you feel. If only you could send her this song, maybe she’d understand, maybe she’d come back, maybe everything would be all right.

And this is my mixed tape for her
It’s like I wrote every note
With my own fingers

That’s the power of music. And last night at the Troubadour the music was quite powerful, enough to sustain a life, keep a person going. It wasn’t for you, but for those in attendance, it was…everything.

No comments: