a song from your favorite album
I would say my favorite album, one I can always turn to, is Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens. I first heard Sufjan Stevens back in my senior year of high school, when my editor at playback:stl said to me in a meeting - "Hey, Kaylen, do you want to review Sufjan Stevens at Mississippi Nights this week?" I was wary. I hadn't reviewed a show before - only albums.
But I said, "sure, okay - what kind of music is...that...person?" (SOOF-yan is how you pronounce his first name but I wasn't even sure if this person we were talking about was a boy or a girl or a group or what)
Laura said, "well...he's, uh...indie?" And I suppose that's true. She knew that I was into indie rock (The Decemberists, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Go! Team, etc), so she figured I would enjoy it.
God, that is such an understatement.
I was nervous the day of the show. I knew I had a free ticket for someone other than myself, so I called my friend Sam to see if he wanted to go with me, because I didn't want to go alone and for some reason Domenic (boyfriend at the time) was busy. Laura had given me Seven Swans to listen to before the show, so I could maybe catch some familiar melodies/lyrics within the two-hour set.
I met up with Sam before the show and we stood in line for an hour before we got up to the front door. I didn't know what to say; I had no paper tickets, I was on will call.
"Um, I think I have tickets reserved for me?" I said, looking at Sam. "And a plus one ticket, as well?" (Note: I still get uncomfortable asking for tickets at will call. I'm always afraid that there will be a mistake and there sometimes are.)
"Yeah, who are you with?" the scary-looking bouncer asked me. I told him playback:stl and he said, "oh yeah, are you Kaylen?"
"Yes," I answered.
"How many tickets do you need?" He had a wad of them in his hand. For a sold-out show. Interesting.
"Just one, I think," I answered.
So then he stamped our hands and in we went.
I had been to Mississippi Nights many a time. I miss it SO MUCH. Within the last couple of years, St. Louis bulldozed over it to make from for Lumiere Casino. Mississippi Nights was my favorite venue. It was dark and smoky and cramped and falling apart.
I don't remember who the opener was - I have a Moleskine notebook, and seven pages of it are filled with my review notes from this concert. I didn't make any notes about the opener, though - just Sufjan.
He appeared in a red, white, and blue jumpsuit with blue stairs and stripes. He sang. He and his "Illinoise makers" made human pyramids and jumped around and did dances and pumped arms. It was a beautiful thing.
He sang a lot of songs from Seven Swans. And I had a hard time "recognizing" the music as he sang, because...it sounded so incredibly different from the album. Maybe because I was present, or because...it was surround sound.
Seven Swans is a very, very spiritual album. Sufjan tends to shy away from discussing his religious beliefs in interviews, which I think is probably a good idea. I don't think he wants to be pigeon-holed into "Christian rock" or whatever other genres exist.
And I will crochet you a hat
And I have a red kite
I'll put you right in it
I'll show you the sky
I cannot pick a favorite song from this album, but "Sister" comes close.
It reminds me of the first time that I went to Camp Ondessonk. New Years Eve, 2006. Pete and Steve (Pete's twin brother) both worked at Camp O for years, and every New Years Eve, past and present counselors are invited back to part-ay and ring in the new year in style.
I'm not a big outdoors girl. We never really went camping as a family when I was younger. I like having a bathroom nearby, at all times. So because I wasn't sure what it was, and it was new, I had some horrible, horrible anxiety. Also I think I was sort of carsick.
So as me, Pete, Steve, and Mary (Steve's wife) chugged along towards Camp, someone put on Seven Swans. And it soothed me. And it was wonderful.