JUNE/JULY 2006

SOME PROPOSITIONS CONCERNING THE LOUNGE LIZARDS

ON THE BEST CONCERT I EVER SAW IN MY LIFE

by Rick Moody
THE LOUNGE LIZARDS
AT MERKIN CONCERT HALL,
NEW YORK CITY
APRIL 12, 1992

Preface: The problem with being an engaged music listener is that it’s completely unscientific. Unlike being, e.g., a deranged baseball fan, or a hardcore weather person, or a day trader. Those pursuits have their elective affinities, but they also depend on rigorous templates of factual material. The deployment of these facts becomes an important part of the obsessive lifestyle of the cathected individual. In the case of popular music, however, this absence of statistical abstracts gives rise to annoying compilations of top-ten lists, desert-island discs, accounts of various shows. Concerts especially. It’s one of those High Fidelity–style games, talking about the gigs you’ve been to. Guys do it a lot. Apparently, going to concerts involves a masculine manipulation of worldly impediments. You have to wait in long lines, you have to exercise Machiavellian crowd-control instincts, or you have to exhibit first-rate scalping prowess. (“I just waltzed up to that black dude and got two third-row tickets off him five minutes before the show, only fifteen bucks!”) You camp out. You wait until the lights go down, and then you somehow connive your way down to the row where the industry suits repose. In these pages, I attempt to replace the High Fidelity–style obsession with a more serious apparatus, one which ideally gives the concert to which I address myself a stately, serious treatment. Please see below.

First proposition, that the best concert I ever saw in my life was a gig by the Lounge Lizards, on April 12, 1992, at the Merkin Concert Hall, New York City. This concert was part of the New Sounds Concert Series, svengali’d by one John Schaefer, the host of the radio program of the same name, broadcast each night at 11:00 p.m. on WNYC, public-radio affiliate in my fair city. I first heard Arvo Pärt on New Sounds, first heard Górecki’s Third Symphony and David Hykes and La Monte Young and Ingram Marshall and a lot of other stuff. Some of this music has probably been lost to history, alas (viz., A. Leroy’s placid and hilarious “Home Sweet Home”), especially now that you can no longer listen to archives of the really old episodes.

Second proposition, that a certain period of music by the Lounge Lizards amounted to some of the most transportative music ever recorded. See, somewhere in the midst of my enchantment with the New Sounds show, in the late ’80s, I heard this saxophone solo playing over the airwaves. It was late one night, and I was barely awake. My delusional semi-sleep was a recombinant mixture of hypnagogic voices and New Sounds, and I heard this saxophone playing. Sort of the most beautiful thing I had ever heard in my life. It was what I imagined music could do. I couldn’t really fathom how melancholy and enthusiastic it was. It started with one saxophone, and then there was a second answering horn performing these sort of arpeggio-like runs. Just when I was kind of getting used to the saxophones, a really fractured guitar came in, a downtown-ish guitar, the kind of guitar that would be used to repel gentrifiers on the Lower East Side, then some percussion, then the guitar just broke out into some massive cacophony, like a pallet of submachine guns toppling over onto the floor, drowning out the saxes. The piece ended with a childlike drum section, a rather meditative drum pattern. Then a little more solo sax. I woke, I waited, I stayed awake, just so I could hear John Schaefer announce what the hell it was.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Rick Moody’s recent novel is The Diviners. His essay about the Lounge Lizards is forthcoming in The Show I’ll Never Forget: 50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Concert-Going Experience, edited by Sean Manning, to be published by Da Capo in January 2007.

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