The majesty of rock

One of the reasons our mission here at S&R is as broad as it is – our writers address cultural forms like literature and popular music as well as the hardball political issues that directly shape our public lives – emerges in part from my own feeling that too much politics is tough on the soul. It’s necessary, of course, and eminently worthy, but even the good fight leaves an essential part of me hollow. Dry. Barren. So I seek balance between mind and spirit and try to seduce those around me into doing the same.

I’ve been doing a lot of ranting lately about politics and policy, so the part of me that’s been edging toward empty was feeling tremendous anticipation for last night’s Boulder tour stop by VAST. Not to make too much of it, but I feel like Jon Crosby (VAST = Crosby, pretty much) is the greatest artist or band working today. I haven’t come across anybody that I think has produced more consistently brilliant work over the last four CDs, and yeah, I include my all-time favorite band U2 in that. VAST’s music is soaring, grand, ambitious, passionate, dynamic, powerful and a host of other adjectives that all call to mind that wonderful thing Bono said at an awards show a few years ago: “It is an extraordinary thing to behold the sound of a rock and roll band in full flight.”

U2 is an apt reference here, because they’re one of the bands that Crosby has clearly listened to and studied. I’ve also compared him to Pink Floyd, primarily due to the haunting atmosphere that swirls around and through these amazing songs. But as sometimes happens with me, there was another influence in there that I couldn’t quite pin down – until late in the set last night when they segued into an absolutely staggering cover of the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” a tune that Jon Crosby was born to perform. Like Catherine Wheel doing “Wish You Were Here” or Space Team Electra taking on “Paint It Black.”

Man does not live by politics alone. Without art, without music and dance and theater and literature, all the public sphere victories in the world are hollow – we have won, but for what? Our policy wars are necessary, especially these days, but they are a means. Last night in the Fox Theater, that was the ends.

VAST may not strike you the way they do me, and that’s fine. Somewhere out there is a band that recharges your batteries, and I encourage you to find them and make a few minutes to listen closely today.

If you don’t know VAST, you might stop by the MySpace page, and if you live in or near Ft. Collins, Aspen, Lubbock, El Paso, Houston or Austin they’re headed your way in the coming days.

:xposted Lullaby Pit:

2 replies »

  1. I appreciate the sentiments expressed here. Certainly we should look for the majesty not just of rock but of all art forms – and celebrate them – in this forum. We need more of that and less policy wonking, brilliant though it is much of the time.

    I appreciate your admiration of Vast. I’d heard a tune or two before and went and gave them a thorough listening. As you say, “they might not strike you as they do me.”

    They don’t strike me as they do you. But I have current bands that do strike me – Jets Overhead, OK Go!, The Killers. And I want that sense of wonder that you allude to (if not directly, certainly indirectly). I get hints of it from all the bands I mention here.

    I’ll be pleased when I hear the following covers:

    1) Jets Overhead doing “Street Fighting Man” or maybe “Gimme Shelter”;
    2) OK Go! doing “I Can’t Explain” or “Substitute”;
    3) The Killers doing “Doctor Wu” or “Don’t Take Me Alive.”

    Pleasant thoughts, pleasant thoughts….

  2. Jets Overhead is a band that’s high on my list as well – I’d love to see them live, too. I’m told that they’re not terribly dynamic in concert, so maybe that would be less a spectacle than I’d like, but I bet the music would be be amazing regardless. Heck, what was so killer about the VAST show had nothing to do with showmanship, really – Jon Crosby is a tad on the pudgy side and is nobody’s cover boy, and there were no pyrotechnics or blood-belching – it was just that the MUSIC was so huge.

    Given what The Killers are doing on their most recent CD, I’D want to see them cover something like “Thunder Road.”

    In general, though, it’s about finding the music that speaks to you (or, if it’s Britney’s music that speaks to you, it’s about working to educate your aesthetic so that you don’t embarrass yourself in public) and making a place for that art at the center of your life.