The National’s New Album, Or That Time First Ave. Reminded Me That I’m Old.

28 Jun

Posted by: Alex

The National Album Cover

I realize that when I talk about music on this blog, I tend to focus my attention on current pop hits, and that’s because they are all so good and I love them. But a secret about me is that I actually do like and appreciate good music that isn’t on a Top 40 list. My friend C.j. has always so kindly referred to my taste in music as “crybaby cowboy music,” which is quite accurate. I don’t really have a way around hearing good music, as 90% of my friends are talented musicians and when you spend all of your 20’s going to their shows, you get to hear a lot of solid bands. You also listen to a lot of horrible nonsense, but that’s kind of fun too. Well, it’s fun when you’re new to legal drinking and being in a bar for a 21+ show is incredibly novel. You get to stay out late and drink PBR, or whatever shitty beer on tap is cheapest, with all of your friends. What could be more fun?? Since I never get out anymore, I now require that everything start very early, be of top notch quality, and I will spend a great deal of money to not drink PBR. A 6pm show that ends by 8pm and has a 2-for-1 special on a nice glass of pinot noir? Now that’s my idea of fun.

But back to the music. I get abnormally nervous saying that something is my favorite of a genre, such as “this is my favorite movie” or “this is my favorite song,” because it’s so limiting! I panic as if by even casually naming something as a favorite that someone, somewhere will write it down on a stone tablet and I can never take it back. But then I remember that I’m not Jesus, or whatever, and no one really gives a shit. They’re probably just making small talk. But ask me about the weather, instead! That is so much less of a commitment. I am choosing to put my paranoia aside today and make the gutsy announcement that The National is my favorite band. Here is evidence to support my proclamation: I consistently love every album they put out; I can’t name a song I don’t like; I never get sick of them and I go through long periods of time when they are all I listen to; and I have a slight crush on the lead singer, but not because of his dapper good looks, it’s because his voice has wizard powers that drowns me in emotion. And one of the most telling pieces of evidence is that The National is the last band that got me to go to First Ave. and stand among a crowd of young, pushy people on the main floor.

First Avenue

For the four of you in Sweden that may read this (who are we kidding – you just want to know, again, what happened to the people on Laguna Beach), First Avenue is an historic music club in downtown Minneapolis. I spent a great deal of my 20’s there and have wonderful memories. Like the time I drank too many gin and tonics at a Son Volt concert and kept having to bolt upstairs to vomit. And that time I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and my friend and I wouldn’t stop screaming “Maps! Play Maps!” just to be annoying. And that time I saw Atmosphere and people started moshing (no, it was not 1993 and no, it was not a Green Day concert) and I thought I was going to be killed. Good times!

When The National announced that they were coming to First Ave. to promote High Violet, their last album, I was beyond excited to see them live. My husband and I, along with a couple of friends, bought our tickets right away. Every regular to First Ave. has a game plan – they know what time they need to arrive and they have a specific place they always stand. Some stay upstairs, others are dedicated fans who plant themselves up front on the main floor, and others take a seat at the bar or on the ramp next to the stage. My spot was always underneath the stairs. I somehow did not mind being crowded beneath a small space for hours on end. In fact, I enjoyed it. This time around, though, my friend Leah threw out the very wise suggestion that we pay to reserve one of the nicely placed tables, with seats, on the 2nd floor. It’s a great view, it’s comfortable, and you feel very Bougie. So naturally, I declined this amazing idea with the argument that we are young and agile and we should be standing like everyone else. “That’s crazy,” I naively said. “Let the old people take those tables!” My husband, whose first priority is always comfort, tried to convince me otherwise, but I stubbornly ignored him. What an idiot I was.

When we arrived, I encouraged the group to go stand in my usual spot, under the stairs. At first, it was all fun and games: the show was great and The National was playing all of my favorite songs. But then good looking hipster people slowly starting crowding in on me, and I was getting increasingly anxious and annoyed. First of all, get out of my personal space, better dressed person! You didn’t bug me 10 years ago, but now you are in my private square and I am not having any of it. Second, WHAT IF THERE IS A FIRE?!?! I WOULD DIE!!!!!!!! That’s when I made a frantic beeline towards the exit and planted myself next to the merch table, i.e. the lamest place to stand at a show. But also the safest, because the fire door was directly behind it. Who’s going to die in a club fire now, you idiots!?! Not this girl. And this time, who didn’t vomit in front of innocent women touching up their makeup in the bathroom mirror at the end of my jog? Again, this girl. The other plus side to this location, other than saving my own life, was that the lead singer, Matt Berninger, walked off the stage during the final song and walked through the crowd to the front entrance, which was right in front of me! See? He was worried about his safety, too! And that, my friends, was the last time that I saw a show at First Ave.

Here's Matt Berninger getting bummed out by his own music.

Here’s Matt Berninger getting bummed out by his own music.

Well, this post went in a direction I was not expecting. I was going to rave about how much I love The National’s new album, Trouble Will Find Me, and how I can’t stop listening to it. Instead, I told you a story that taught me so many things:

1. I can no longer stand for extended periods of time.

2. My mom’s claustrophobia has rubbed off on me, and I get completely freaked out in large crowds.

3. Club fires are a real fear of mine, and I need to respect that.

4. The Gin and Tonics at First Ave. are pretty strong.


I’ve posted the new album below for your listening pleasure. If you’ve never listened to The National before, be prepared – they are not peppy. If they’re doing their job right, this album should make you feel pretty bad about life. But bad in that good sad song way, you know? Take a listen and let me know what you think. And if you ever go see them live at First Ave., please tell the young people that I say hello.

11 Responses to “The National’s New Album, Or That Time First Ave. Reminded Me That I’m Old.”

  1. Felicia June 28, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    You probably already know this but they have a new documentary out about how Matt’s brother is the band’s roadie and their relationship. You should watch it. Are you going to their show in Aug? I’m thinking about it…

  2. athed June 28, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    I’ve been meaning to watch it! And I am not going to the show. I didn’t buy tickets because I wanted to save up for Beyonce. But you should go and then tell me everything!

  3. John June 28, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I went to an ASAP Rocky concert with my buddy Rob, and we were surrounded, on the main floor of the Roseland Ballroom, by a figurative sea of pot smoking 20 year olds. I’m pretty sure that’s the last show I go to where there isn’t a fancy table I can reserve.

  4. fgagliardi99 June 28, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    Did you get Beyonce tickets?? We tried three times (presales and regular sales) and I swear they sold out in like, 1 second!!

    • athed June 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      I didn’t, because I’m an idiot and forgot which day they go on sale. But then Dan surprised me with them! I’m going to Beyonce, girl!!! Single laydays!!!!!!

      • mthep June 28, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

        well done, dan! he’s the jay-z to your beyonce.

  5. mthep June 28, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    i have nothing to say about the national, but wanted to highly endorse/recommend the ramp/railing area of the main room. the ledge is perfect for rotating between sitting/leaning/standing, the railing is good for tying a jacket and/or purse to (coat check is for suckers), and the door connecting to the entry isn’t very far, which i think would be an underutilized exit in the event of a fire.

    although sometimes i do sometimes gaze up at the bourgeoisie tables and wish that i had an adult paycheck that afforded me an actual chair to sit on…

    • athed July 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      I didn’t think about that Entry as a fire exit thing. I think I have a fear that I’d accidentally run into the bathroom and slowly die in the grossest restroom that isn’t in a gas station.

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