Dark Rags & Red Stars: M83 at Empty Bottle.

May 29th, 2008

Hello, freak. Can you see the sky ladder by the limbo café, leading to the green ray?

A boy of leisure in a Lakeview East apartment at Broadway & Hawthorne. The city was my church and Saturdays = Youth became my hymnal. It was released 4/11 – my birthday, and not many gifts in my life have astonished me like that one did. A maximalized avalanche of French new wave. Arguably the genesis of synthwave. Single handedly crashing my path of music, Anthony Gonzalez diverted and tilted my trail toward the Northern Neon Lights.   

In my makeshift closet office, I uploaded the Reckless-purchased Compact Disk into iTunes and downloaded the mp3s to my iPod nano. FM modulation through the radio of my tiny Chevy S-10 work vehicle. I spent the next six weeks before the show, memorizing mesmerizing melody lines. Lush pads and whirring ghosts running through vapors. Dramatic excess, sweeping and vast. Syrupy sadness like a somber, solemn stack of pancakes.

The album art made me yearn for an angle of 1980s I never knew. A full decade of time I existed in, yet wasn’t a teenager in. I only have hazy memories of older kids hanging out at the Lincoln Mall fountain smoking cigarettes and telling jokes. New Order playing over the food court while I stood a seven-year-old in the line for Orange Julius with my father. Watching in awe.

It might have been my first show at Empty Bottle, but I can’t recall. Regardless it was the most important. Me and Jason met at the bar and ordered whatever beer at the time was closest to tasting like chocolate. Always flowin’. And if you haven’t been to Empty Bottle, that’s basically it; a bar with a stage in the back. There’s no separate concert room. The artists just have to walk through the crowd to get on the platform. It is tiny and I might argue, the tiniest.

It is hard to picture a time before the aural purple landscape of “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”. But this was solely the era of Kim & Jesse. A kaleidoscopic slideshow of pieces, structures of colossal sound in that miniscule venue. Morgan Kibby still with the band, painting unwieldly and other-worldly cloudwaves of Couleurs. Gonzalez manipulating some sort of transparent acrylic modular box with glowing backlit blue luminescence.

Gauzy shoegaze guitar recalling Bernard Sumner and Lincoln Mall Cinnabon.

Only a handful of songs were played from Saturdays, as it was the new record of the time. An odd, trompe l’oeil makes the Graveyard Girl. One who worships Satan and Molly Ringwald equally, dabbling in both pop culture and witchcraft in a familiar uncertainty of youth.

Somebody lurks in shadows. Somebody whispers.

Billowing sonic imagery – sounds so very ornate I wanted to exist there. A window of time before Midnight Cities existed. Communal music in a place that would eventually become my local, neighborhood venue. 2008 was years before I would call Ukrainian Village my home.

The odds of me being at that show were good. Where else would I even be? As I write this exactly fifteen years later, in hindsight I was unaware M83 would not be performing in tiny bars ever again.

I saw them play ten years after the 2008 Empty Bottle performance. A juxtaposition in droves of thousands of rabid fans standing on their chairs at The Riviera screaming lyrics back to the stage.

Through filtered aperture it clicked how special the fading polaroid snapshot of the Empty Bottle set was for me.

If I clean my rocket we’ll go flying today and hit the pockets of warm and crispy air.

[Reclaimed Timbre – Music Subseries 005]

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