Interpol At LA State Historic Park, Saturday September 30th 2017
I knew it would be hard, I knew it would be a big concert in a huge place, after all, the LA State Historic Park is the old location of the FYF fest, although it is now totally renovated. I expected a long wait for this Interpol concert, and I knew that the view of the stage would not be great, but things could have gone a bit more smoothly to say the least. Waiting from 5 pm without moving from your spot to save it, and then being pushed and almost crushed by a sea of young guys way bigger and taller than you, is not amusing at all. But this is what happened nevertheless, as soon as Interpol took the stage, the crowd got out of control and I didn’t really touch the ground for a few minutes, being carried away by a strong wave of people, while barely being able to breathe until I decided it was enough… I was out of there. I watched the show from afar and then got a bit closer, on the side of the stage, and if it wasn’t the best view in the world, it was safer and bearable. Still, this is so unfair to steal people’s spot by force and I guess it will be the last time I attend one of these big events in the park… what’s the point? In any case, I hadn’t been to an outdoor concert of this size for a long time, exception of festivals of course. This had the look of one of these big 80-90s event, with a large lawn invaded by people camping out there for hours, with booths and a beer garden and an adoring crowd sharing the same love for Interpol.
Before them, two bands did open the event – and that’s why the thing was so damn long. Battles took the stage at 7pm while it was past 11:30 when Interpol finished their set, so I guess you could have called this a mini festival after all.
I didn’t know anything about Battles but the trio is completely spectacular live, they put on a vigorous show filled with beats, experimentation and surprises. Drummer John Stanier is center stage, restlessly beating his machine while guitarist/keyboardist Ian Williams and guitarist/bassist David Konopka bring up endless loops of happy music, so that the circus-like result looks as chaotic as geometrical. I had never heard anything like their sound, a mix of psych-punk-prog-rock, bouncy and spiky, bringing a lot of fun and playfulness with inventive noises and sounds. The band is essentially instrumental, but when there were vocals, they were coming form pre-recorded choral-like voices, and while playing their very long and adventurous songs, the three men very often looked like three guys cooking (look at the cover of their album ‘La Di Da Di’) their own improvised stuff and mixing it up in front of us. It was as if they were creating a new genre of krautrock punk jazz, it was intense, super groovy and fascinating and I hope to see them again, closer to the stage.
Deerhunter was also playing that night and if it is difficult to categorize their music, they rocked their diverse sonic palette through a set led by frontman Bradford Cox, who first looked like a Jedi with his oversized hoodie outfit. He eventually removed it and sang their multi-influenced songs with a big voice, going from pop noise to indie experimental rock. If I was not too familiar with Deerhunter, the band played a medley of songs from 5 albums, which offered enough sonic diversity to figure them out. There was the delicate eeriness of ‘Fluorescent Grey’ soaring into a cathartic instrumentation, the laid back poppiness of ‘Helicopter’, the catchy groovy-ness of T.H.M. and the krautrock sprawl of ‘Nothing Ever Happened’, which put a spell on the audience, whereas all the songs seemed to be wrapped into space-y floating static effects. ‘Take Care’ was the only song from their last album that they performed, and if their set was relatively short, they knew everyone was there to ‘celebrate Interpol’, as Cox said.
As soon as the crowd knew it was time for the anticipated performance of the New York band, a tidal wave from behind pushed us a few feet ahead, then a few more feet, until everyone was tightly packed without any space to raise a hand or even breathe. I saw a few girls getting really mad, after all they had been waiting for 4 hours to be in that spot, and I kicked a few legs and backs in vain while Interpol had started playing ‘Untitled’, the first song of ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’.. What’s the point of being crushed without even seeing Paul Banks’ head? At ‘Obstacle 1’, I had already back up, strongly regretting to not have being able to secure a ticket for Interpol’s show at the El Rey, the previous night. This must have been a completely different story with a much much smaller crowd. In any case, I was there for the entire ride, for Interpol playing their 15-year-old album. I realized that this was the album I was the least familiar with, as I have listened to ‘Antics’ and ‘Our Love to Admire’ many more times, but everyone around me was singing all the lyrics to my great annoyance… at this point the voice of the girl next to me was covering Banks’ dark baritone, and she was not that good.
A lot has been said of Interpol’s sound, its dark beauty has been dissected over and over, and if its apparent Joy Division rip off has never been a true representation of the sound of the band in my opinion, the morose and emotional detachment of Banks’ voice is certainly the connection. From the little I could see, Banks, Fogarino and Kessler were wearing their signature and impeccable suits, and looked in great shape, playing with the assurance of a triumphant band. Banks called LA ‘a second home’ and the crowd returned the love many times, and if the songs magically combined angst and melancholy, aggression and anxiety, people were constantly cheering up, expressing their joy to revisit this part of their life.
The album appeared even shorter than it really is, of course, they played many songs after TOTBL, brushing their catalogue from ‘Our Love to Admire’ to ‘El Pintor’, and all the hits were raining on us like desert manna, ‘Slow Hands’, ‘The Heinrich Maneuver’, ‘Evil’… this is when my personal time machine really started working, as I had a stronger connection with these songs.
Interpol hit the new LA State Historic Park with assurance and the fabric and aura of big stars, they brought lots of emotion but mostly joy, pure joy and I am not talking about Ian Curtis’ old band. A song like ‘NYC’ and the loneliness it exhales should resonate with more significance when it is played in New York, but the fervor of the Los Angeles crowd was certainly a testimony of Interpol’s impact in the music world… and if there weren’t too many adventures around the songs, which were executed with a scientific precision, the music was speaking for itself to the thousands of people who had gathered in the park.
Say Hello to the Angels
Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down
Not Even Jail
All the Rage Back Home
The Heinrich Maneuver