Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band

The Echoplex, LA
August 27, 2009

A few things were going through my mind as I entered the Echoplex tonight:

  1. In a week and a half I’ll be standing in this same room, watching Nine Inch Nails perform their last show ever. . . or until Trent changes his mind.
  2. I hope Conor’s show isn’t as boring as the last one I went to (several years ago). I want him to captivate me again.
  3. How is the sound in this room?
I know that victory is sweet. Even deep in the cheap seats.

I know that victory is sweet. Even deep in the cheap seats.

Here’s some history about Conor and me: I love Conor. I think he writes great lyrics. He’s written some of my favorite lyrics. Conor chooses words with precision and I have deep appreciation for that. Words are extremely powerful.  And while I believe it’s important to say what you feel, the words you use to convey that feeling are even more important. Just one seemingly innocuous word can mean something entirely different to two people, depending on each person’s perception of the word and the previous experiences and meaning they associate with it. This is why I’m a fan of non-verbal communication. . . and Conor.

So in 2003, in New York City, when Conor asked me if he could write something in my journal, I didn’t waste time saying, “yes” – I simply placed the journal in his hands.  He took a breath, looked toward the ceiling, looked back down toward the paper and wrote the following words before closing the journal and handing it back to me:

Never go to sleep. Always lie for love.

There’s a double entendre in there of course. For the past 6 years I convinced myself he meant one thing.  And then 3 weeks ago I understood it differently. And that’s the thing about words – their meaning in an individual’s life can change over time.

Sometime prior to that moment, we were sitting on a couch, vowing to stay awake until we die so that we wouldn’t miss anything.

Even after all that, I’m able to remain objective about his live shows. And I will tell you this – the last time I saw Conor play it didn’t move me at all.  In fact, I left the show early (which rarely happens).

Thankfully, he won me over again tonight. First with his lyrics, then with his band (unassuming talented musicians from around the country), and then with his lyrics again.

I know I'm alone if I'm with or without you

I know I'm alone if I'm with or without you

In fact, I was so in tune with the lyrics that when Jenny Lewis came on stage and performed “Portions For Foxes” with the band, I heard things in that song I had never heard before.

During dinner my friend and I (both having recently seen The Dead Weather) were talking about how shows really don’t need to be longer than an hour. Just give us one solid hour when every song you play hits hard.  The Dead Weather nailed that. But after seeing Conor again (and knowing that I’d like NIN to play all night), I changed my mind. Just as I changed my mind about the words Conor wrote to me in 2003. . .

“Cape Canaveral” live at The Echoplex:

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