Broken Social Scene at Siren Festival
Coney Island, July 19, 2008
We all have them.
Those albums that in hindsight serve as watershed moments in our development as music lovers, those albums that knock us on our ass and show us an entirely new way of listening.
I remember the spring day in 2003 when, based only on a whim and a few kind words, I traveled to Other Music in New York to buy the album. I immediately took it back to my then-home in the New Jersey mountains and, armed with the new acquisition, a discman (remember those?), and a couple of grams of weed, retreated deep into the woods, sat between fractured sunbeams, and dived in.
That album made love to me.
I’ve grown more devoted to the band with each new release. For me, it’s been easy. Seeing them live, however, has been far trickier.
There was the time when, on tour for People at a time when I was a fresh convert who only knew that they were Canadians making majesty, my car broke down on the way to the show. Or the time I regrettably bought tickets to see another show before the band scheduled a New York City date on the same night. Or the evening last summer when a traffic jam bad even by Gotham standards made me late to their dual bill with Feist at Brooklyn’s McCarren Pool, resulting in me showing up just in time to hear the very end of “Superconnected,” their last song of the night, while being patted down by security.
In all, I’ve had the opportunity to see the band at least five times, with tickets to most of those shows. I missed them each time. And I began to think it just wasn’t meant to be, as if this unprecedented streak of calamity was nature’s way of telling me not to push my luck, to spoil my special relationship with the group.
But when I found out the band was headlining Village Voice‘s Siren Fest, the free two-stage show the paper annually stages on the Coney Island boardwalk, I knew nothing would stop me.
No, not the 97-degree heat. Not the swarm of sweaty hipsters. Not even more fucking traffic. And at 8 p.m., just as scheduled, Kevin Drew and company took the stage. The sun was setting, the heat was fading, and a beautiful breeze was coming off the ocean. And the band played a fantastic hour-long set.
This despite two occurrences that almost kept us apart again, this time from the other end – Drew had nearly lost his voice, and drummer Justin Peroff suffered heat stroke earlier in the day. No matter, though. Peroff was phenomenal, handling the group’s hyper hybrid rhythms in perfect stride. And Drew was a strong presence, one of the most genuinely amicable frontmen I’ve seen, and a hell of a singer even on half a voice.
It wasn’t a headlining set proper, granted, but they’re the perfect band to play a summer night on the beach. The breathy “F—ked Up Kid,” the night’s lone ballad, swirled with the wind. The rest of the set was light but propulsive, fantastically replicating the songs that have taken my breath away on so many occasions.
You might call it a great set, but it was so much more than that to me. It was a sense of satisfaction, a feeling of fate realized, and the personification of the wonder that has drifted through my speakers for years.
For so long, Broken Social Scene wasn’t a band to me. It was an enigma. It was a sort of being creating sound. Maybe you’d prefer to just enjoy the albums that way and let your imagination continue the myth — a myth that has built with every missed concert. But not I. For what has become such personal music to me, the chance to see the persons who’ve made it only accentuated the warmth, emotion, and humanity that drew me to those songs in the first place, and only made me happier to have been there taking it all in.
I finally caught Broken Social Scene. Good things come to those who wait.
Photos courtesy of the Village Voice.