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    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    The Constantines @ Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06

    Photo by Chris Bellew

    I'd been living in San Francisco for almost seven months. I still didn't know more than twenty-five people (and had only known two when I initially landed) so I started going to shows all the time. It didn't matter where the venue was or sometimes even who was playing. I just found something so essential about slashing through the drowsy city on the crosstown bus, studying the features on that night's assortment of lunatics under hospital-white lights, slipping and squeezing my way into the front rows, watching bands fumble toward something messy and grandiose and approximating art. After the concerts, I'd usually walk the long, often sketchy roads home because the owl lines ran so sporadically and because I wanted to photograph all the strange sights I was passing.

    When I learned the Constantines would be playing Cafe du Nord, I immediately and excitedly added the date to my list. I'd seen the band every time they've come to my town—at that point, eight times—and I wasn't about to stop now. I knew all too well how vital their live show was. How they would crank up the urgency and volume, how Bry Webb would sing every line like a raw-throated revelation, how the band would play like it's the last night on Earth. Seeing them again felt almost like a homecoming; it was a confirmation that although I'd fled out to the West Coast, I was still within the reach of life-changing punk rock.

    Before the show, I bought Webb a shot of Jameson's and we chatted about Montreal, where he was living now, and Manhattan, where I'd just come from. As we went up to watch Oakley Hall open, I wished him luck on the show. Of course, there was no need: the set in San Francisco was at least as good, if not better, as many of the ones I've seen previously. It drew heavily from their most recent album, Tournament of Hearts, and also featured a ten-minute version of "Seven A.M." that spliced in the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" and a fiery encore cover of the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm A Man." The band played with the requisite tambourine-drenched fire I've come to expect, but the guys seemed especially happy and social that night, bantering with the crowd between numbers. Any outside doubts or anxieties I'd brought in with me were long forgotten by the show's conclusion, where I stood almost as drained and sweaty as the band looked.

    Wandering out, both exhausted and recharged, buzzing, buzzed, my mouth and throat still tasting the burn of whiskey, I decided to once again walk home instead of waiting for the nonexistent bus. Getting from the Castro back to the Richmond on foot would take well over an hour, but I was suddenly too energized to stand still. I sped off west on Market, the city's longest streeet, convinced that it ran parallel to Geary Boulevard. Had I consulted a map, I would've noticed that Market bisects at a diagonal like a forward slash. I would've noticed that, after walking for a half-hour, I was diverging farther and farther from my apartment.

    Another hour later, I was still walking, utterly lost. Somehow, I'd ended up stranded on a mountainside, staring down at the electric confetti of a distant cityscape. It was past two a.m. and my phone battery had just died. All the houses in visible range had their lights out. I was giving serious thought to just making a bed of pine needles and crashing in the woods. But I forged on, rewound my trail as best as I could, and thought about flagging down the first car I could find. I ended up on Twin Peaks eventually without intending to, wowed by the view but still over an hour from my place. I kept going, fueled by the aftertaste of the music and my own willful stubbornness. Formulating directions, calculating and scheming my escape, I was sure I'd succeeded in figuring it out. Another half-hour later, I passed by the exact same spot that led into Twin Peaks. Just as I was about to issue a primal scream into the wilderness, the twin beams of taxi headlights shone out at me like heaven's spotlights. I got in, provided my cross-streets, gulped in the cool summery air and realized that this would be one Constantines show I would never forget.

    * MP3: "Draw Us Lines" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Hotline Operator" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Young Lions" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Working Fulltime" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Arizona" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Thieves" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Sub-Domestic" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Soon Enough" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright)" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Good Nurse" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Lizaveta" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Shine A Light" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Justice" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Seven A.M." - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "Young Offenders" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06
    * MP3: "I'm A Man" - The Constantines, Live at Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06

    (With thanks to Kwaya Na Kisser for the MP3s)

    [Buy The Constantines]
    [Buy Shine A Light]
    [Buy Tournament of Hearts]

    Comments on "The Constantines @ Cafe du Nord, 6-9-06"


    Blogger China said ... (4:07 PM) : 

    God damn! Marry me. I love this band - thanks for the post.

    Also, I love hearing the guy in the audience say "that's a great line" during "Draw Us Lines." Oh, audiences...


    Blogger Lucy said ... (5:32 PM) : 

    Charlie B!
    Thank you for existing. I love coming across encyclopedi-opic sites like yours. You clearly are passionate for music across all boards (hip-hop, indie, etc.) I have since lost touch. I think I'm apart of that older traditionalist indie-rock generation. So I'm grateful to have a youngin' like yourself keeping tabs! Thanks again!


    Blogger Pierre Elliott Trudeau said ... (12:36 PM) : 

    Good going Charlie!


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