Kenyon College

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Music, Swans, Graffiti, & Good Red Wine - Part 1

First things first: I'm writing this upstairs at Boston Tea Party, a cooler and more expansive version of Starbucks (forgive me, it's nothing like Starbucks). The upstairs is an ordered confusion of tables, chairs, and slightly more comfortable chairs. You can come here with friends because the noise level is enough to have a pleasantly loud conversation, but the space has the acoustic feature of blurring everyone's voices together to create an ignorable white noise, so it is perfect for the solitary student as well. The atmosphere is such that you could disappear, if you felt like it.

I have a beefy white mug full of deliciously strong coffee. Since coming here I've been surviving on about seventy-seven cups of Earl Grey daily, simply because it is too expensive to keep my coffee habit up. This excursion's coffee is a rare treat.

Right. Let us speak now of music:

The Exeter Phoenix - I've only been here once, to see Idlewild play before I knew of their gloriousness (it was quite an enjoyable show!), but it left a good impression on me. And when I say good, I really mean to say complex, in the way that a complex wine is good.

Walking up to this grand edifice, you immediately feel an uncanny tug of remorse for all the books you're not reading at that moment, for it feels like you are approaching the front steps of a magnificent library. Similarly, the atmosphere inside is like the attitude of a group of students playing hooky in town - like it still isn't right to drink pints and listen to music in so scholarly a place, and at any moment a severe woman will chastise you and drag you by your ear to the door. The thrill is there, and it's brilliant.

The Phoenix's auditorium only triples this effect. You are funneled through industrial double doors into your old high school's gymnasium, complete with folded-up bleachers. I half-expected to see basketball hoops being slowly lowered and raised during the course of the show. But oddly enough, instead of making me feel a wave of anxiety over playing badminton, the high walls and ceiling disappearing into dusky darkness made me feel very close to everyone. It is an intimate venue; a pleasant euphoria steals over you, brought on by knowing everyone around you loves music as much as you do (whether or not this is true, the feeling comes regardless). A word of caution for the directionally impaired: from the gymnasium to the toilets is quite the trek - bring provisions.

Next time, I'll tell you about the Cavern, at once similar to and completely different from the Phoenix.

Now, two weekends ago I took a day trip into Bristol with my new tour-guide friend T.J. Having been away from Bristol now for nearly two weeks, I feel myself going into withdrawal; there is a small creature in my chest that longs to go back to that eccentric, lovingly disorganized city. It is quite different in its hold over me from London. As wonderful as London is, it is honest with me about its feelings - Bristol, on the other hand, is a tease. It plays hard to get.

Here is why: The sunlight in that city on that day, the 17th of October, was warm, strangely thin, falling palely on the buildings and the water, as though it were distracted or lost in thought. Similarly, you would happen upon small wonders in Bristol almost as if they were put there mistakenly, or as an afterthought, dropped by an absent-minded artist like splotches of paint on a dusty studio floor. A bridge with huge bugle-like protrusions, as though it were at any moment going to burst into a symphony over the narrow canal; in a small park overlooking a muddy river far below, a hill made of stone that has been so smoothed by the seats of many trousers sliding down it that it shines alluringly (I will slide down it next time!); the works of famous street artist Banksy appearing to you on the sides of boats and buildings; even a sleek black Lamborghini parked in between two other unremarkable vehicles - I felt a child-like sense of wonder, ambling naively around this unfamiliar city, being constantly surprised and captivated by what I was seeing. This is better than any museum.

Stay tuned for Part 2, including swans.

Here are some pictures of Bristol (click for high-resolution images):

The colored houses of Bristol.
The Lamborghini.
Christmas Steps - another joy to behold.A strange disco ball.

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