Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Like Dreamers Do" - The Radiators

This weekend was a bizarre time to be in Chicago. Ours was a schizophrenic city with its attention divided between baseball, beer and batons (in fact, perhaps the only thing we in the city didn't obsess over was the actual substance of the NATO summit). Twitter feeds and news cameras may have runneth over with downtown protestations but in most neighborhoods people were more concerned with finding a cool place to lounge about in the luxuriant mid-90s swelter. It was a sentiment that, after a few hours of watching NATO coverage I myself shared - the need to step back, exhale and live in the moment with what's in front of me, unconcerned with external events. As you might expect, I achieved this most easily with aid of music.

Now I'm not saying that living in the moment requires pure musical escapism (believe me, listening to JC Brooks sing about "remaining awake in a great revolution" while walking through the city this Sunday was oddly haunting and an essay in and of itself) but sound is one of those things that can short-circuit our logical brains and let us tap directly into moods, emotions or memories that are otherwise much harder to access. This weekend I felt like between my life and the world at large, I had more than I could process and I needed a way to blow all that thought and worry out of my brain like Homer blowing ants into space.

I chose the song "Like Dreamers Do" to help get me to my happy place. I discovered this band on a trip to New Orleans I took last spring. I had just been unceremoniously fired before leaving and I needed a vacation in the worst way. On the strong recommendation of an old friend I was staying with, I took an early March(!) music festival that featured world-class barbecue, some great brass bands and, to my great good fortune, one of the last ever performances of NOLA cult favorites, the Radiators. Coming from a cold city where I'd just been scorned, this was like heaven, lying out on a warm summery night, surrounded by music, hearing some hometown favorites take a well-earned victory lap, it was all such a sublime release.

I don't remember if they played "Like Dreamers Do" that night I saw them, I'd never heard their music before. But I do remember the feeling in the audience when they took the stage. It was like people were reuniting with some old friends to knock back a few and tell bawdy, exaggerated, tall tales of the old times as a way to celebrate the present. Their set was packed with songs that breezed by at eight minutes, handled perfectly by old pros working with top-notch material. It was a mixture of funk, zydeco, blues, classic rock and anything else you might care to mention filled with instrumental breaks and guitar solos that should be mandatory watching for Phish and the current incarnation of the Grateful Dead as examples of how to jam without descending into boredom or self-indulgence.
When I got home I naturally sought out what Radiators I could find online. Listening to their debut live album Work Done On Premises I discovered that they'd be trotting that corking live show out for over 30 years but it was the lead single from their major label debut Law Of The Fish that became their calling card for me. Entering on a jaunty piano accented with castanets and shakers, "Like Dreamers Do" immediate creates a sensation of being somewhere warm and happy without a word being uttered. The full band slowly enters, first the heavy kit, then some friendly bongos with occasional splashing of spluttering guitar for color. Camile Baudoin's opening declaration continues in this vein "I've been waiting for ya / 'fore I call your name". He's singing about the depth of love for someone he may not even have met yet, but still has utter faith in. The song manages to be incredibly hopeful without becoming cloying, possibly because unclear weather this vision of a woman ever actually appears in real life or remains a dream.

Of course, reality isn't quite the point of this song. It's about the happy piano. And the beat. And the visions of something so great that it's safer to just let it hang in that glorious space between our wishes and our realities rather than ruin it by forcing it to land on one side or the other. In other words - it's promises nothing more than the feeling you get from enjoying it. For me it's a feeling of foolish freedom. The freedom that came from taking a non-refundable vacation even after something terrible just happened. Of watching an Indian chief dance with a rock band, of walking down a trolley line at 2am with a Pimms Cup in my hand, of getting sunburned exploring a new city and not caring. It's the freedom of getting to go back to a time and place that may not have even existed exactly the way I'm remembering them and not even caring. To care about that would be missing the point entirely.

Like Dreamers Do - The Radiators
Buy Law Of The Fish

No comments:

Post a Comment