I Got To Dance With Belle & Sebastian In A Tiny Club In Chicago!
I tend to view people in two ways. Some people are actual people, like friends and family; other people are more concepts than people. Famous people usually fall into the latter category, but not all concepts are famous. Crushes, infatuations, favorite professors can all become fixed in your mind as a concept in a way that prevents you from truly observing the person in front of you.
Conversely, some famous people just seem like actual people. I view pro-athletes this way. They’re just dudes (or dudettes) who are good at sports, you know?
Last Saturday night, I ended up dancing at and around some of my favorite concepts on a very tiny dance floor in a very tiny club.
We begin our story in January. The Pitchfork Music Festival had just announced its 2013 lineup and upon seeing that Belle & Sebastian was headlining, I immediately bought tickets as a surprise for my husband’s 30th birthday.
I kept this secret for six months. This was nearly impossible, as I am a secret sieve, but somehow I did it.
Everyone be really proud of me.
ANYWAY. This was one of those presents where everyone wins; my husband and I are both huge Belle & Sebastian fans. You already know how much I love sad bastard music, but allow me to focus on B&S for a bit. I’m going to get really ridiculous for a moment -- lots of feelings and other malarkey.
Belle & Sebastian is more than sad bastard music. It is poetry. It is romantic. It makes me nostalgic for things I haven’t even experienced. AND THE LYRICS. I just want to have a Trapper Keeper with lyrics sharpied all over it like some sort of hormonal teenager. Sometimes these lyrics are so good they make me angry because god damn it, why didn't I think of that? I obviously felt it. Why didn't I just write it down?
But I suppose that’s the whole point. Your favorite music is your favorite music because someone else’s poetry expresses your feelings better than you ever could.
It doesn't help that Stevie Jackson references not one, but two Rolling Stones songs in “Chickfactor.”
I told you it was going to get silly.
DOUBLE ANYWAY. Fast-forward to the second day of the festival and my husband and I are parked at the Green Stage. Belle & Sebastian were scheduled to go on at 8:30 so we got there at 2:00 to make sure we got up TO THE VERY FRONT. I think the only people who were there before us for the same purpose were some teenage boys that were wearing the French frog shirt from the cover of Dear Catastrophe Waitress. I tried to talk to one but he was disinterested, which is weird because teenage boys who listen to introspective indie pop are usually sparkling conversationalists.
We were lucky in that the Green Stage was a pretty excellent stage at which to spend the day. Besides the fact that it was hotter than Satan’s scrotum, we enjoyed our time there. We were able to see Phosphourescent, Savages and The Breeders (who played Last Splash in its entirety), and they were all outstanding.
But then Belle & Sebastian played the most perfect show I have ever seen and I died and now I’m writing this post from beyond.
After the instrumental "Judy Is a Dickslap," they launched straight into "I’m a Cuckoo," which is quite possibly my favorite song by them. Stuart Murdoch was a vision in white jeans, who seemed to flirt with the entire audience, making each audience member feel like they were somehow contributing to the performance by simply being there.
That’s how I felt, at least, but I am a narcissist. So.
I’m not going to go through each song they played, but I will show you the set list (also, here is a Spotify list of the set list, which is missing two songs because they weren't on Spotify).
That in and of itself would have been a fantastic night, Sean had even caught the set list. How could such an experience be improved upon?
BUT THEN EVERYTHING GOT EVEN BETTER.
Because Richard Colburn (the man, the myth, the drummer) was doing a DJ set at the Debonair Social Club. We gave ourselves quick washcloth baths and took a cab to the club.
No one was there. Sean realized he was hungry because he hadn’t eaten since lunch (luckily a bunch of free pizza appeared so that worked itself out). I did not feel hungry because I was too anxious. What if it was canceled? What if we were somehow in the wrong place? What if I sprained my ankle before the set even started?
At least my outfit was bangin'.
But then Richard shot by to the DJ booth and started spinning. (Is that what we call it? He had a big binder of CDs, and those DO spin). After a couple of songs, I approached the booth and asked for him to please sign my set list.
Not only did he sign it, he was beyond nice about it. He thanked me profusely for traveling from Florida to Chicago and shook my hand. He wished Sean a happy birthday.
Sean and I danced around ferociously for a while, and then he went to get another drink.
While he was gone, and I was thrashing around like a water beetle trapped on its back, I saw a figure approach the booth to talk to Mr. Colburn.
It was Stevie Jackson (lead guitarist and sometimes vocalist), who was also kind enough to sign the set list. Stevie retreated to the bar and Sean came back. I told him I had gotten Stevie’s signature and he was very proud of me.
Then the remainder of the band (sans only Stuart Murdoch and Sarah Martin) showed up on the dance floor and started dancing mere feet away from us. I ended up dancing at them a couple of times, and I think a couple of them danced back. There were definitely awkward “Hey we’re all dancing” smiles exchanged.
They came and went, returning to the bar to refill their drinks or talk to people, but we managed to get a total of six signatures. Chris Geddes (keyboardist) was especially kind, taking the time to ask my name and making sure he had the proper spelling.
Later, I turned around to spot Sean in conversation with Stevie. I approached, Sean introduced me. Stevie said I was a great wife for arranging the trip and I think called me “lovely” but it was very loud, so I can’t be sure. We talked briefly about how they probably won’t come to Florida next time they tour because…well you know, Florida.
I awoke the next morning acutely nostalgic for something that had happened only hours before. It was so surreal dancing around on a tiny dance floor with a band that I’d been listening to for years, especially because said band’s catalog includes songs that I've listened to at my most self-indulgent (so like, all the time).
And that’s my story of dancing at and around 80% of Belle & Sebastian. My only regret is that I didn't ask Stevie about this scene in High Fidelity. Wasted opportunity.
Have you ever met any of your favorite “concepts”? Am I a giant dork? Tell me your celebrity stories in the comments.