Enjoying the ‘Asphalt Meadows’ and a short ride with ‘Death Cab’

Paul Becker, Staff Writer

Through the security check and into the Sylvee under the “Asphalt Meadows” tour sign. We had gotten there half an hour before the show started, allowing some time to check out the compact venue – hazy and dark, the only illumination being the stage lights, highlighting the instruments and speakers on stage. A wall covered in a singular mosaic of colorful cassettes, a foil to an otherwise grey atmosphere. We headed out onto the floor, the hot lights casting a shadow down on us as we conversed. Our conjoined excitement buzzing, a cloud of bees circling our heads.
Conversations echoed in cacophony, words swallowing words, monotony an overwhelming hum. Surrendering myself to the sea of bodies nearing the pool, feet on the edge but not yet in the water; Thao is the dive.
She emerges from the dark. Thao in her sequined dress. Thao with the raw intensity in her eyes, the glint reflecting onto us. Thao with the harsh guitar, splintered hooks and a ferocious look. Backed by The Get Down Stay Down, furiously funky drums colliding with the deep bass like tectonic plates sending a reverberation through the ground and a guitar with a pedaled synthesizer creating an undertone to the delightful madness. Guttural vocals, playful interaction and a warm love lullaby.
The lights dimmed and the haze settled to reveal an empty stage. Thao and her band had left. I looked around. The crows were already tearing into the aftermath of Thao’s art, casting their judgments into a collective pool of unanimous admiration. And desires to have her step on them, myself included.
A scream erupted from the depths of my soul as they took the stage. Death Cab for Cutie, in front of our very eyes, in arms reach. Ben’s voice shatters reality as we enter an ecstasy of realization.
Transfixed by “Rand McNally” atlas, the paper stained with coffee, my arm stretches past the “405” across the plains of Wyoming. The brisk clean air caresses my hand, and as the light fades, so too does the struggle. I am the outlier in the crowd. The melancholy hook of “Pepper” without my salt, except for a particular drunk lady who is singing out of tune as her head blocks the view of the stage. The man of the ocean joined only by the voices in the background, the serenity of a beautiful loneliness.
After a long search you stumble upon “Foxglove Through the Clearcut,” discovering in your journey the purpose of your endeavors — the synergetic loneliness carried by the waves of a repetitious chorus. Pollution from the “Black Sun” taints the water. In its wake, a desired penance to pay.
The once forgotten generational decay rushes down the waterway of the urban desert and beneath the withering willow tree. The parasite peeks out of the hollowed trunk toward the man with the “Crooked Teeth,” a sinister grin painting their faces at the murky water blackened by the ashes of an unrequited love and the crumbling remains of expectations born from desperation. “I Don’t Know How I Survive.” Hear the ringing in your ears they say, a panic attack, rotten wood into powder as hopelessness overcomes my heart, explode a “Roman Candle” through my soul and we celebrate in the transience of letting go. Am I satisfied? What if love is an eternal conquest? Morbid, beautiful, permanent. “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.”
Tremors travelled through every corner and crevice of my being, the music embodying my thoughts, the words symbolizing the depths of human experience. All in a singular album.
Hit after hit brought nostalgia to many and new love to others, new life and new thoughts. The crowd trading choruses with Ben and his guitar. “Crooked Teeth” is a resonator; the first Death Cab song to cast a stone in the ripples of my mind. The river oozes from my ear into the spotlight where “Soul Meets Body.” A beam on one spot, a yellow Martin on a perch. The intimacy of “I Will Follow You into The Dark” ripped through my skin and filled my sanguine myogenic organ, I shared that with you, oh drunk lady.