The National. Red Rocks. 09.17.13

The National

As we get older, it gets harder and harder to get the band back together. Not a literal band of course. We were never a band. But there was a time when we partied like rock stars. Going out on a Tuesday night was the norm. Weekends were for amateurs! But then the years came and went, leaving nothing but fading memories and new challenges. The seasons orbit our lives, always reminding us of our mortality. One day you’re a ‘birthday candle in a circle of black girls’ and the next day you’re nothing more than another ‘white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park’. The days of lighting up a room when you walk in are over and all you can say is ‘fuck’.

Now, we all know it’s not really that depressing. Sure, careers and mortgages and children and sitters and real-world responsibilities might get in the way of a mid-week bender (not to mention being carried around by cheerleaders), but that just makes you appreciate it more when the stars do align in your favor.

Last night could have been a disaster. Mere days after our state flooded, Red Rocks could have been a water park. Flights could have been delayed; fires at work could have continued to smolder long past 5pm; a wreck on I-70 could have backed traffic up to Kansas. The babysitter could have gotten sick, or just flaked because he/she wanted to go to the show. A lot of things can go wrong when trying to coordinate twenty adults (I use that term loosely) to attend a concert on a Tuesday evening, but last night it went off without a hitch. Sure, there were a few stragglers who ended up in separate sections, but for those of us who occupied a good portion of Row 20, it could not have worked out better. It was the perfect night to keep the Rocks up past curfew one last time before a winter of hibernation.


The National have a song to represent almost every major event in my life over the past 10 years — they are literally my favorite band in their particular genre. So I would have been happy if they didn’t even have opening bands, but if I were given the choice to handpick the bands that would open, there’s a strong possibility I would have chosen Frightened Rabbit and Local Natives. You could not ask for a better line-up.

Frightened Rabbit kicked things off with a forty minute set made up of mostly material from their latest album, Pedestrian Verse. Although they did balance it out with some classics from The Midnight Organ Fight. Having seen these guys a half dozen times since that album came out, I have to say they are incapable of putting on a bad show. Even those who had never heard them before were impressed.  My only complaint is that The Winter of Mixed Drinks received no airtime. For such a great album to be left off the set completely seemed kinda cruel. But I didn’t have time to dwell on that long, because Local Natives were up next…


Local Natives are one of those bands that knocked me on my ass the first time I saw them. Someone miscalculated their popularity and booked them at Larimer Lounge not long after Gorilla Manor was released. I was late to the game on that one and the show was sold out before I could get a ticket. Luckily I was able to trade a single for the sold-out Frightened Rabbit show the week before, and in the process I made a new friend — one who was just a few rows behind us (with his new fiancé ) last night.

That night at Larimer showcased an extremely tight band. And although I’ll admit that their sophomore album left me questioning their range, I knew that they were not a band you would want to miss live.  Last night was no exception. They proved that they can own a large stage in the same way they owned Larimer Lounge four years ago. The harmonies are impressive on their own, but they wouldn’t have thousands of people on their feet without Matt Frazier’s work on the drum kit. He really is the heart of this band. The set had a great ebb and flow and ended with a freak-out version of “Sun Hands” that had the audience in a frenzy.

The National

The National is a team effort. They are one of those bands that might not exist if they lost even one member. The Dessner brothers work with the Devendorf brothers to create the music and Matt Berninger writes the lyrics. And holy shit do they all do a great job!  Their songs don’t just get stuck in your head, they graft themselves into your brain.

“Apartment Story” was my apartment story in San Francisco. Alligator was all I listened to while traveling SE Asia in ’06. I played my Boxer vinyl until I needed a new needle. I have two posters and three shirts from the High Violet Tour. My wife and I drove out of San Francisco (and into Colorado) with “About Today” on repeat.

All of those things are true, but sometimes I forget how much I love this band.

Last night was my seventh time seeing The National and it was just as exciting as the first time (and every time after that). From the first words of “I Should Live in Salt” to the acapella sing-along “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” two hours later, nothing existed except for The National.  I did take a few photos, and I see that they had quite a light/video show, but I don’t remember that. I only remember the music.

I remember being lifted to the point of euphoria and then being set back down on the ground. I remember being crushed by simple words. I remember my adrenaline pumping when Berninger’s tourettes kicked into overdrive. I remember screaming “My mind’s not right!!!” and “I won’t fuck us over!!!” because I just couldn’t help myself. I remember it all.

But I don’t remember the lights or the videos. I only remember the music.

These are the strong kind of memories. The ones that stick around for the long haul.

Fall is almost here, but Summer will be back before we know it. Another year will have gone by in the blink of the eye. But that’s ok, because the guys in The National will be a year older as well. They will be there for us — they will still be on our level.

I look forward to the next year.
I look forward to the next album.
I look forward to the new songs
I look forward to the corresponding life events which will make those song important to me.

Last night was a blast, but now I look forward…


Frightened Rabbit:
The Modern Leper
December’s Traditions
Backyard Skulls
The Oil Slick
My Backwards Walk
Fast Blood
The Woodpile
Acts of Man

Local Natives:
World News
Wide Eyes
Warning Sign
You & I
Shape Shifter
Heavy Feet
Who Knows, Who Cares
Sun Hands

The National:
I Should Live in Salt
Don’t Swallow the Cap
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Sea of Love
Afraid of Everyone
Conversation 16
Squalor Victoria
I Need My Girl
This Is the Last Time
Apartment Story
Lucky You
Slow Show
Pink Rabbits
About Today
Fake Empire

Mr. November
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks