I was fortunate enough to go to Area 15 and experience Listener first hand. When I first found them, I was blown away by not only the presentation of Dan Smith and Chris Nelson, but also the words. Words are severely important to me, so if you have a song that doesn’t have much to say, chances are I’m not going to dig it. Listener is like heavy poetry with instruments. The timing of the instruments really adds to the overall effect of the song and the experience for us, the listeners. The very first song I heard, “Wooden Heart” would be the perfect example of this. In this version, Dan is speaking at the beginning, not accompanied by anything but his energy. Toward the middle Chris starts to play light, individual guitar notes, held long that slither through Dan’s words and create a thick feeling. Like they’re letting you know you’re going to hear something important, so pay attention. And from that point on, everything that is said, accompanied by the guitar, is heavy. Very heavy. The timing of the guitar and the words that follow made my heart race, and do so every time I listen. I can’t help but, nearing the end of the song, allow the lump in my throat some give and open up the floodgates. Every time. I think that is a song that I could listen to every day for the rest of my life and still end up crying at the end. The imagery is outstanding and I can’t think of a single person, good or bad, that wouldn’t be able to relate to it in some way.
So, when the chance came for me to see them on Saturday, I took it. Because I don’t leave my apartment that often (checking the mail is a feat, at times) and haven’t really been out in almost a year, I was very nervous. I was nervous about the drive into NoDa and nervous about being there. The “what ifs” swarmed around in my brain and my heart felt like it was going to give out several times. Enter Valium. That helped. What also helped was Jeremy. Jer enjoys picking on me because of my taste in…everything. Music, movies, etc… We’re opposites with most things. I wanted so badly to share Listener with him, but I was worried that it would be yet another thing he would pick on me about. I chose to link him to “Ozark Empire, or a snakeoil salesman comes to your town” because the meaning of the song is something I knew he could relate to, plus it was a video so it didn’t nearly show Dan’s energy that some find off-putting. Win-win. He listened to it and hasn’t stopped since. He was 100% in for everything – really into Listener, wanting to go with me to see them and be in a community that he always thought he would feel uncomfortable in. Brilliant. Everything was brilliant. He was so into the people and the group that he melted into the community that he was worried about fitting in with. It was beautiful.
I attempted to talk to Dan and Chris, but I didn’t do very well. I’m known for writing well and speaking like shit. That’s what happened. There were so many things that I wanted to tell them and I couldn’t get any of it out. I didn’t want to gush or proclaim my love for them or anything. Really, I just wanted to thank them for doing what they do and how they do it. There’s a lot of love there, in the words and everything. I can’t call it a performance, because that word makes me think of something that’s put on, feigned – nothing like what Dan and Chris offer. They’re both very down to earth and friendly and…genuine. Dan’s handshake is firm and he has a very intense fire behind his eyes. Intimidating, but not for the purpose of being so. Chris has an childlike smile and seems to be softer and lighter, with a handshake to match. To help us, mainly me, remember everything about that night, we have a photo. Jeremy is standing between Chris and Dan, all three looking as though they hang out all the time, and Jeremy’s face is lit up more than I’ve ever seen. It’s great to see his light. I’m looking forward to the next time we get to experience Listener. Perhaps then I won’t mumble and stutter.