Last summer, in 102 degree heat, I stood on black asphalt in front of a tiny stage surrounded by the Van’s Warped Tour’s over-abundance of screamo bands, listening to Ben Nichols and the boys play songs off of 1372 Overton Park.
I should have been miserable– and it wasn’t just the screamo and the heat. That week my dog had died, and I’d finally announced that, as far as I was concerned, my marriage was dust in the grave. To top it off, the date, August 5th, would have been my niece’s 13th birthday. Instead, it marked that nearly ten years had passed since her death.
I should have been in hell. Yet, as the urgent strains of “Smoke” drew the crowd into a knotted heart, and Nichols asked if we gambled and what we’d be willing to lose, I turned my face up to the beating down sun, and it felt like rain. The rising heat felt like water, and the catharsis pouring from my broken soul left me feeling alone, but also redeemed and new.
A band gives me a moment like that, I’m willing to love their music pretty much unconditionally– especially when they’re this damn good.
In addition to their signature guitar riff and the blue-collar-poetic lyrics, one of the great pleasures of listening to each Lucero album is the genre irreverent layering of instruments and an evolving sound that captures a group of musicians becoming more and more themselves.
On their website, Lucero describes Women and Work as a love song to Memphis, and Nichols is quoted as saying, “You work all week, thinking about women and the weekend…’Downtown’ is Friday night, ‘Go Easy’ is Sunday morning. The rest of the record is the party in between.”
However, it seems to me that Lucero’s Memphis–much like Joyce’s Dublin– is a metaphorical place we all have access to no matter our location.
It’s a place where the fairy tale veneer has all rubbed off. Where lovers are friends, and you’re always taking a chance. It’s a place where desire doesn’t demand perfection and the heroine of the story is “…a superhero down on her luck [who] drinks like a sailor at the bottom of the sea, but she sings like a siren in the belly of the beast.”
It’s a place where we don’t have to hide the worn out and failed pieces of our hearts.
Which, here lately, has been the only place I’ve wanted to be.