The day before the show, which was Friday, I’d left work early and gone with The Patient Mrs. to Connecticut to see her grandmother, who’d cracked her sternum in a car accident. Grandma was sore but okay, so we went up, did chores, did some grocery shopping, ultimately had a nice dinner out at a place that has Palm on tap — which is about the only condition ever needed to meet my approval — and crashed up that way for the night. Still, even with the drive back to Jersey beforehand, I got to the St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn earlier than I needed to be there to catch Pallbearer and Loss, and much standing around ensued.
Fundamentally, I am an awkward person. I speak like I write (actually, I think it was the speaking that came first, but why quibble on timing?), and I flat-out suck at meeting people I haven’t already met four times over. This can make things like standing around or, say, existing, kind of rough. Nonetheless, I flopped myself here and there until a few friends showed up and I didn’t have to feel anymore like the whole world was in on a joke I just didn’t get. I ran out for a bit but came back in time for the place, which normally divides its front and back rooms but for this show was open the whole way, to be totally packed out up. I elbowed my way up front to get some pictures as Pallbearer got going and once again wondered what happened that this kind of music draws people now.
Pallbearer — whose Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), will undoubtedly be one of 2012’s doomed highlights when the year is over — were the band I was there to see. A noise act called Sewer Goddess had opened, and Loss was playing after, which was probably a mistake considering the bands’ respective pulls, but I wanted to see if Pallbearer could capture the same sense of underlying melody live that they brought to the record, play out the same kind of emotionally wrought atmosphere while still pummeling with volume and tonal heft, building hope and crushing it almost simultaneously.
In short, the Arkansas foursome did precisely that, their Emperor cabinets vibrating from the punishment they were charged to convey on the crowded room. They were less outright emotional than, say, 40 Watt Sun at Roadburn, but running a more modern American vibe along a similar wavelength — the tone, as on Sorrow and Extinction — as prevalent as the mood, though no less voluminous. Their songs, extended and excruciating, were surprisingly engaging and immediately recognizable, and kept grounded by drummer Chuck Schaaf (also of Deadbird) and bassist Joseph D. Rowland (interview here), the riffs had all the room to breath — at least sonically; that room was pretty crowded — they could ever ask for.
Awash in downtrodden melody and the beer that I’d been carrying that spilled directly in my beard after I took an unseen elbow up front toward the stage, I made my way to the back bar, to replenish and get a change of vantage. I was talking to Steve Murphy from Kings Destroy about I don’t even remember what and the dude standing behind him, whose name wound up being Bill asked if I was the guy who ran this site. Whether it was the camera bag, my gut, sandals or the fact that I was bitching about being surrounded by humanity that tipped him off, I don’t know, but I said I was me (which I was) and he asked me, “Do you know Gina Brooks?”
I’ve talked about Rock and Roll Gina a couple times in this space, mostly in the context of awesome music she recommended I check out. She had lung cancer and died this past December. It was hard to take. I’ve missed seeing her out at shows. I’d been thinking of her at this one only moments earlier, and here was someone asking me “Do I know her” and not even, “Did I know her.” He didn’t know she had died. So I told him. Pallbearer were still playing, and that was pretty heavy, but this was heavier.
We shot the shit for a couple minutes about Gina, and he said he’d been trying to get in touch with her but hadn’t heard back in a long time and feared the worst. The language of death is always the same. I missed her right then more than I missed her at her memorial service, and though I’d heard Pallbearer were doing a secret show later at The Acheron and I would’ve relished the chance to see them in front of what would almost certainly be fewer people, I pretty much knew then and there my night was over and it was time to sound my retreat back to Jersey, stew in it for a while, and crash out.
So that’s what I did. I stayed through the end of Pallbearer and waited while Loss set up their gear and got going. I went up front, took a few quick pictures of them — the room had thinned out a bunch, so moving through was easier, but there were still plenty of heads around — but honestly, I wasn’t even hearing the music at that point. My head was somewhere else entirely, and when I left, they were maybe two songs into their set. I just couldn’t do it anymore, and moreover, I didn’t see any need to try. Brooklyn is Brooklyn whether I’m there or not. I’m sure Pallbearer killed at The Acheron. Even though I knew it was the exact opposite of anything Gina would want, I couldn’t stay. There’s a reason we admire the people we admire. They’re better than we are.
I cried most of the 90 minutes home, turned off the radio and just started shouting at nothing, at myself, I guess, for being alive and whatever else. A long string of impotent curses. I was half-drunk. I’d collect myself, feel like I had it together and then bust out again, tears and yelling. I pulled into my office, which is on the way from the Lincoln Tunnel, and went in and sat for a while, ate the last of the antacids in my desk, drank some water, thought about sleeping here, thought about writing, tried to call The Patient Mrs. to ask her to come pick me up but couldn’t get through.
After a while, I got back in my car and drove home, tried to eat, but ended up just going to bed. Sunday was better.
Extra pics after the jump. The lighting at St. Vitus Bar was less than optimal, as always, so I made the pictures black and white just because I thought they worked better that way this time around. Thanks for reading.
LossBrooklyn, Loss, New York, Pallbearer, Profound Lore