One of my favorite bands effectively broke up this weekend. The Walkmen made an announcement – well, it was less an announcement than a quote buried in a Washington Post article – that they would be going on an “extreme hiatus,” effective almost immediately. I had tickets to their show at Union Market on Saturday. Likely, this was the sixth and final time I would see them.
1. Opening for Kings of Leon, George Mason University’s Patriot Center, April 2009: They were way better than Kings of Leon, who were on their very first arena tour, which I will call the “Sex on Fire” tour since mostly likely that was the only Kings of Leon song that half the audience members knew. This was their tour supporting You & Me, an album that moved away from their previous ambitious punky offerings to something more melodic and melancholy. I had just decided where I would be going to grad school – Georgetown – was dating someone, and was feeling generally liberated, intelligent, and wanted. From the nosebleed seats, I fell in love.
2. 9:30 Club, Washington DC, December 2010: I went with Jenna, one of my very first and very favorite roommates in DC. We were standing next to this group of kids who looked so familiar. We started talking to them and they turned out to be kids from Goucher, where I went to undergrad. Nathan met us there, and he and I went to a dance party backstage at Black Cat after the show. We were in a long line of people waiting to get ID’d because Black Cat was hosting a popular gay dance party upstairs. It was freezing. I found out he had a girlfriend that night when she passed us on the street, jumped on him, and kissed him. I stayed for two songs, feigned anxiety over my looming thesis, and left before I had the chance to stress-vomit on the dance floor. I went home and stood in a scalding shower until the hot water ran out.
3. Williamsburg Waterfront, Brooklyn NY, September 2011: Jenna and I missed part of the show because they went on much earlier than anticipated, opening for Fleet Foxes. I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen that night. It had been stormy and soupy all day and the clouds finally broke before sunset, leave brilliant streaks of pink and purple behind the Manhattan skyline. We went out for tacos afterwards. It was also, coincidentally flamenco night at this half empty, fluorescent lit restaurant and we had to yell to hear one another across the table. I went back into Manhattan after dinner to meet Candace and Pilar, friends from college also visiting for the weekend, and then split once more to meet Nathan back in Brooklyn.
4. Union Transfer, Philadelphia PA, March 2012: Jenna and I went to Philly for what I believe was their 10th anniversary party. They played for three hours and performed every song I wanted to hear (except “Tenley Town,” which I think is extremely underrated and have never heard live) and songs from their forthcoming and now evidently last album, Heaven. The show was in a former spaghetti restaurant-turned-music venue. After, Jenna, her boyfriend at the time, Meagan, a friend from high school-turned-Philly-resident, and I all went dancing in what looked like someone’s living room.
5. 9:30 Club, Washington DC, October 2012: I don’t remember a lot about this show. But I’m sure it was amazing.
6. Union Market, Washington DC, November 2013: I wasn’t supposed to go to this show alone. My roommate, Emily, was supposed to be in town but had to go home for a family emergency. I do not like going to shows alone. Not because I feel self conscious, but because I get bored, and when I get bored, I get anxious. But The Walkmen are a band I love, and so I knew that once the music started, I could never regret my decision to go. So I went. And the show turned out to be, unbeknownst to most people in attendance, outdoors, in near freezing temperatures. Union Market’s website said they would go on around 9. Which came and went. 9:10, nothing. 9:20, nothing. Around 9:30, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to Nathan, who was supposed to be in Ohio, holding a lit cupcake to surprise me for my birthday. My 27 years embodied by a single flickering flame on a red velvet cupcake perched on the gloved hand of the man who has defined the past three years of my life. The Walkmen went on around 10, played for about an hour and twenty minutes. One of the last songs they played was “Thinking of a Dream I Had,” four and a half minutes of pounding drums and ringing guitars, and Hamilton screaming over the din, longing for a vision of happiness and tranquility. I wanted to cry when it was over.