There are bars, clubs for dancing, places you take your drinking buddies, and that bar that you all go to after work because it is the closest thing to your office, and all of you need a fuckin’ drink, now. And then there’s the kind of place that is united by the family that pops up around the location, where the crew that run the place are as dedicated to each other as they are to the focus of their venue. Those spaces are fewer and further between as we retreat into our phones and MyFacester+ Twinstagramblr, and when we see them, it is certainly a majestic thing to behold.
It is hard to ignore the kind of family feeling you get when you interact with the people who run The Space Concert Club, located “across the bridge” (in Lancaster Mall-speak). The bartenders and staff all offer a friendliness that makes even the most hipstery and stubborn music snob soften up when they descend into the back patio. While this would be merely a bonus in any typical bar, this is a major benefit to a local club that hosts a wide range of acts and music events. All of this was in evidence at the Crown Larks / City of Pieces double header last night (7 June 2017), where two expert groups offered a taste of the musical chops they’ve developed over the years, and put it on a display for an audience with more than just getting blotto on a Wednesday night on their minds.
Crown Larks hail from Chicago, and immediately took us into art-rock painted atmospheres of the strangest time signatures and Sax / Bass duets that I have seen in recent years. Having honed their stage show while on the road, their new record – Population – mines post-punk tropes and a Flaming Lips sensibility toward mashing up genres, and in doing so create their own vision of indie rock. In front of a crowd, there are certainly more rock and roll elements to their performance than on the record, and this is clearly their style, causing asses to shake, and yet scratching that krautrock itch the kids are all dying for. Any group that mixes equal parts Miles Davis and Mission of Burma is okay in my book, and Crown Larks dispelled any misconceptions about their ability to rock the joint, while simultaneously vying for an experimental label. When your reference points are Sonic Youth and the other late ‘80’s / early ‘90’s art rockers, you don’t have to do much to win over this crowd.
And what a crowd it was. During this show I was watching people quietly make out in the corner, joke back and forth to each other about other shows, and watched plans for future gigs all coalesce around me. It was a community that felt not only inviting, but seemed to drag out all the old folks and make the dance in front of everyone. (Even Grandpa Pete was there to snap photos, so you know it must have been a good show.)
It’s hard to write about City of Pieces without showing a bias of some kind. As one of Salem’s most epic rock bands, hyperbole and exaggeration seem to just roll off the tongue. But there is more going on than rock star good looks, killer chops and a band that is downright physical when they play. Their mission statement seems more on-point than ever in 2017; opening with a cover of “We Are The One,” it felt like a song that we all need to be singing in Trump’s America. “We are the leaders of tomorrow / we are the ones to have the fun / we want control, we want the power / not gonna stop until it comes.” In a way, City of Pieces has that power now. A crew of rockers, some older and needing to get back to their children, and some fresh-faced and newly 21, were all there, absorbing this bands performance as if it were gospel, or at least, pointing the way. This is the sound of rebellion, of wanting to say, “Fuck it,” and drink the week away. This is the sound of the kids that are so completely horrified by current events, and want to fight back.
City of Pieces seems to understand the power of rock and roll in a way that a lot of people in town might have forgotten. I was reminded of a saying that I read many years ago in reference to Dead Moon, when they were still active: “we are lucky to have them, and know that every time they play we owe it to them and ourselves to go out and see them.” I’m paraphrasing, certainly, but you get the idea. City of Pieces is Salem’s Dead Moon, a band that we are lucky to have, a band that will put on a great show every time, will dance and yell and scream anthems and show us a good time and make us think and reveal to us our own hypocrisys and confusions as well as where we can find pure rock and roll joy.
They have a following, for sure, and one that is dedicated enough to turn out on a Wednesday night, and that’s important. As they blasted through a set of loud and fast tunes that absolutely blew the top off The Space, they spoke to me so completely in a way that actually brought a tear to my eye. This is what I want to be a part of. This is the place where I want everyone to know my name. This is the kind of family I want. I want songs dedicated back and forth, the club’s owner playing drums, I want Stan and Summer swaying back and forth to the songs. This is what a club should be, this is what a Space CAN be, and for everyone that turned up for the bands, there were also people who just turned up because they knew that this was where the action was, tonight.
As the evening wound down, as everyone was paying their tabs and arranging for rides and making sure they all had a place to stay and go afterward, I felt myself attracted to this group, wanting to stick around even though I was clearly outstaying my welcome as the bar went into post-customer mode. But still, I wanted to be there. I wanted to show that I cared that much, too. Sure, it is one thing to turn out on the weekend, to sit on a patio and smoke and drink the weekend away, mentioning all the bands and groups you ‘Saw’ with your friends from the back.
But to be crammed into a club, with the volume up full blast, surrounded by kids who are ready to show up hungover to work tomorrow because this, THIS! is important, and to feel that this is where you belong, where you need to be, where you were always meant to be…
That feeling will never stop being important to me.