the very first time i heard rilo kiley i was driving towards the airport, on my way to pick up a good friend who was coming to spend a week in october with me. we were first and foremost music friends, the kind of connection that initially began in the trading of mix tapes and snippets of lyrics; anyone who veers on obsession with music will know what i mean. i had made a mix of music for the drive, and for our subsequent time together. it was a blend of favorites, with a few new discoveries peppered in for variety.
i am not sure where the rilo kiley track came from, whether it was off of a mix someone else made me, or if it was one of those random gems you sometimes stumble across. whatever the reason, it's a hit made it's way onto that cd, and as i drove on the los angeles freeway i listened to it for the first time, hitting repeat four or five times, until i finally let the next song play. for the rest of the week i kept coming back to that song, until i was singing along, windows rolled down, belting out my best car concert voice. it was this catchy pop song that swirled around as if it were all sugar and honey promises, but the lyrics were laced with the grit and skinned knees that living in this city sometimes marks you with, and jenny's voice - it was this delicious mix of jaded dismay and hopeful restlessness; a holiday for a hanging, indeed.
last night rilo kiley opened up with it's a hit, and at that moment i thought to myself that this show will be a moment for me, and like all incredible music, a piece of my life will be saved tonight. it was just the start, though. i would need the scabs ripped open a few more times, the tears to fall, my voice to go hoarse from screaming and singing along, and the last song which i still do not think has left my bloodstream.
jenny lewis' voice reminds me of old hollywood starlets, a grand ole opry era patsy cline, and a streets of los angeles girl grown up with broken hearts and hardluck stories tattooed in places hidden from a passing eye. you can just hear it, in all those hope(ful)less love songs and shake me loose but drag me back ballads that she has stories; and i stood there taking them in, mixing them with my own, thinking that perhaps it is something hidden in the leaning palm trees, or washed up on the shore of the pacific ocean, that makes los angeles - and those from it - so beautifully broken and chaotically put together. she has strength that just crackles and pops off of her, and when she had us all holding our arms up, and singing along, for with arms outstretched i felt inspired, a little healed, and a lot less alone. she made me wish that i had learned to play guitar, that i had turned my words into lyrics, that i had run off and found myself a band to join.
silver lining was my first favorite off of under the blacklight. it is the kind of song that on first listen creeps into your subconscious and has you singing along for days. the song feels like veiled optimism, the feigning for self, and the change of definition and perception that you invariably have to take on as your own when you finally let someone go. recently julia came to me struggling over a boy who she thought she fancied, but who she was beginning to realize was looking to her to be all his hope and a life jacket to pull him out of depression, and that his way of showing love was through jealousy and too tight of a hold on her. she told me she was never one to let go first, that she hated to hurt anyone, and that breaking up with someone was really touch. i held her hand and told her there is a lesson here, beyond the obvious ones, that perhaps you can see that the clumsy break-ups boys have done with you, including the one who said nothing, could have been because breaking-up is hard no matter if you are the breaker, or the broken. we both agreed that no one likes letting go, even when you know you have to, and that sometimes you have to let yourself be gold - for yourself.
close call was seedy, desperate, tragic and sexy as hell. all the boys with crushes on jenny lewis, yeah, i get it. again, there are stories behind the voice, and inside the reverb and chord progressions, that i would love to peal off in layers and discover. but, then again, in my possibly selfish way of taking in music, i like to think some of those stories reflect more than a few of my own. i suppose that is the stumbling block for me in ever writing a so-called proper review; i have a hard time not taking it all in so personally. and, with this song, i may not have traded money for sex (in the most blatent of ways), but i know too well of the trade offs and consequences, and the almosts that almost take us down, for good.
i have said before that jenny lewis, and rilo kiley, tell the tales of los angeles that only someone who has really lived here can completely know and understand. the bitter taste that the city leaves on the tip of your tongue, the way it can strip you of the things you think you believe in and dirty them up like some stepped on star on hollywood boulevard, and how sometimes all you can wish for is a quick escape. that said, there is something about the city that holds your heart, that calls you back, and that forgives you in a way that only someone broken can. it is with bruises and smog-made sunsets that we find a sense of redemption, and maybe it is what makes us stronger, more open, strangely beautiful even with pollution in our lungs. when jenny sang her ode to los angeles, i felt it in that yes, i have ran before, too, kind of way. i have messed up and made mistakes, and when few seem to be able to forgive me, los angeles, and those that still hold my hand in parking lots overlooking the water - they always seem to take me back, too.
i never was breathtaking, 15 was delicious - jenny being playful and a bit naughty - a song that reminded me of kate at that age, and the boy who went on to write music about her, who fell for her when she was at that just a little too young for this age: a little blue-eyed soul for his black and blues.
and that song, the one i most hoped for - does he love you?, closed the show (pre-encore) and brought tears and much needed release. music is healing, breathing and pretty much always just what i need; i will never not believe this.
the final number, with blake sennet up on the top of the high side stage platform, losing himself in the guitar - it felt like we were collectively sharing a dream actualized. you could almost see him as a teenager playing guitar in his bedroom hoping to someday have that moment, and it gave me chills to see it, even if it was just my interpretation, because i do like to believe that people get that someday - all of us - a moment longed for, realized. it was a spectacular view.
the venue felt like a high school gym decked out a bit for one of those first year welcome dances. when we first walked in i told blair i half expected to see all the boys on one wall, all the other girls on the opposite. but, by the end of the night i hardly noticed, and the long lines for drinks and the weird guy who told kate, maggie and i that we looked like medievel times seemed to matter not one bit. rilo kiley at the santa monica civic is in my top ten ever gigs, if not in the top five. it really was just that good.