You’d be forgiven for thinking Mark Kozelek hates his life. You’d be forgiven for thinking he hates you. It took a good five minutes for him to even play a song after taking the stage at The Soiled Dove Underground last night. He was too busy being annoyed at the two dudes eating buffalo wings in the front row. Annoyance turned to confusion and bitterness when the same two dudes couldn’t even name one of his songs. The lighting guy wasn’t playing along either — “take it easy, just leave it on one setting and then go check your Twitter account”. The man had not lightened up a bit since I last saw him in San Francisco five years ago.
Mark Kozelek is 46 years old and he wants to know what the fuck happened to his life. Back in the 90’s, when he toured with Red House Painters, the female fans were more than willing to save him from a suicidal night in a lonely motel room. Now he travels around the world signing posters for guys who eat buffalo wings — guys who can’t think of even one song during the request period. When requests were yelled out, they were mostly for Modest Mouse covers and older songs that just reminded him of those better years. It seems Denver isn’t the healthiest place for Mr. Kozelek. He’s not outdoorsy, he doesn’t like to drink a lot and he just can’t get laid here. The sporty couples who come to the shows just reflect his own isolation.
For those of us who are fans of Kozelek’s extremely prolific career, the 200 person venue was a perfect place to experience his storytelling, but after 21 years in the business, the man himself would prefer to be playing larger venues — preferably with a much larger female to male ratio. The fact that many in the audience had traveled from out of state to see the show would make most artists feel good about themselves, but those from Kansas and Wyoming and Wisconsin were told to “find yourself a girlfriend”. It seems that nothing can make this guy happy. If you don’t know his new material, it depresses him. If you travel hundreds of miles to see him, it depresses him. If you have a dick, it depresses him.
All of that being said, this curmudgeon with a guitar wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if he was a nice, easy going guy. The attitude is what makes him an intriguing individual. The stories he tells wouldn’t be believable coming from anyone else. But as they escape from this disgruntled artist’s mouth, there is no doubt they are 100% autobiographical. The man on the stage has lived, really lived. And as sad, or depressing, as his stories might be, there is a beauty in the pain. He was on that stage for 2 hours last night and he never once lost my complete attention. Cities, parents, cats, dead friends, girls, Bay Area gutters… It was fascinating to see an artist who has been so many places and experienced so many things able to share those places and things in such precise detail. But it’s also funny how a person who can be so honest about certain aspects of his life can be in such denial about his career.
Mark Kozelek sings many songs about how hard it is being a songwriter, and how tough it is to be on tour. In one song he even goes as far as to trade his life for someone who goes to work at 8:00am and is home by 5:00pm. It’s ridiculous to think he’d really want that, or that he’d find it easier or more comfortable than the life he lives on the road. But then again, if the guy admitted to loving what he does, how could he write the songs he writes? We love his music because it shows us a world that exists outside of our stationary lives. It’s not a life we want to live, but we’re glad someone is out there doing it for us. And no matter how hard it is for him to get laid, or think of a reason why he would move to Denver from San Francisco, by the end of the night Mark Kozelek came close to admitting he enjoyed the show as much as we did. He might not love being in Denver, but his neutral attitude was another example of his honestly. And although I’ll admit to being a little disappointed by those in the crowd who didn’t seem to know the material, I loved the setlist. I also appreciated the candor.
Ending the first set with “Track Number 8”, and closing the encore with (my new favorite) “You Missed My Heart” made my evening. In Mark’s opinion I am proving myself to be a “chatroom dude without a girlfriend” just by writing this, but that’s ok, because I actually came home with my wife after a great night out. I just hope he had a good night as well. Hopefully some Denver girl was able to change his mind about our fine city.
I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was the Greatest Night of My Life
Hey You Bastard I’m Still Here
Sunshine in Chicago
Somehow The Wonder Of Life Prevails
I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love
Baby In Death Can I Rest Next To Your Grave
Among the Leaves
That Bird Has a Broken Wing
Track Number 8
You Missed My Heart