It’s always strange to me when people tell me that they don’t really like music, don’t listen to it, that it isn’t a defining part of their lives. Music, sound, the noise with which we surround ourselves to escape from the noise that is all around us and within our own minds. Music has always been that escape for me. As someone with HFA, I have severe problems in communicating how I feel and even worse with being understood for my true meaning. In the darkest parts of my youth I almost completely lost the ability to speak for myself, and being heard was truly in vain.
Death in June. How do I start. How do I summarize nearly fifteen years spent listening to this band or to that voice? I was fifteen when I first heard Death in June, and the song was “Little Black Angel”. At the time, nu-metal and ‘gothic’ metal were all the rage in the alternative circles I ran in and I was there on the periphery with old Cure and Joy Division albums, losing my shit over finding tattered cassette tapes of Southern Death Cult in this small town anachronism. A friend of mine used to send me mix tapes, and I counted on him for exposing to me to the music that I really wanted to hear. Death in June was one of those gifts and despite losing contact with this friend, this gift lives on. “Little Black Angel” became the song I would listen to almost constantly, rewinding the mixtape over over and over to hear that incredibly shitty recording. It was transformative, this experience. A few years down the road, though, I had almost forgotten Death in June, I was lost again in that inability to communicate and because of this I was in and out of psychiatric care. On an afternoon that I was debating ending my own life, a new mixtape came in the mail and I put it on and heard the eponymous and so accurate at that moment, “Fall Apart” and was really moved by the line, “to love is to lose and to lose is to die..” and being motivated to find out more about this glorious noise, I recognized that name again, Death in June.
Being seventeen with no money and nothing but a high school internet connection in small town fuck nowehere BC, I downloaded Death in June tracks from Napster. That’s right. I did that shit. I had shitty mixed CDs that I listened to in my even shittier car and Death in June stayed with me in that form until I grew up, got a job and could afford to buy my own music and in that way, Death in June never left. In the way back, which is where I’m speaking from, I didn’t research anything much about the band, because I connected to those lyrics and not an image. And besides, I was too busy being spooky as fuck and reading old Romantic poetry in the local cemetery while wearing Joy Division shirts.
Growing into my late twenties, CDs fell out of fashion and digital became the rage, I lost most of my music in a series of poor life decisions, but a couple years ago I found Death in June vinyl at a hipster record store in Vancouver and that noise filled my life again, and rarely now does a day go by that this noise is not with me.
When I found out that Douglas P. would be playing the inaugural Canadian show in Vancouver, at the Rickshaw Theatre, I knew I had to be there, had to photograph it. I have never desired for something so badly. As I have written previously on this blog, I endeavoured into this kind of music journalism as a kind of way to make peace with my own inability to communicate with others. The internet age makes it so easy to sit down and pen out all my thoughts because the words just do not come in person. Photography served even further to capture all that language that otherwise escapes me.
With many thanks to Covenant Festival, the Rickshaw Theatre and of course Douglas P., this desire became realized on Thursday November 26, 2015.
Braving a six hour shitty drive from small town fuck town to Vancouver was nothing (braving it home right after required some fortitude). Arriving early at the show, I purchased my vinyl, my patch, and a pin and took in a moment of drinking in the satisfaction that this was happening. I reflected onto who I was fifteen years ago when I first heard Douglas P. I’m not the same person I was, and then again, I was exactly that person. If I could get in the way back machine and go back to tell my oh so spoopy self that I would one day stand at the foot of the stage and photograph this band, see this band, experience this band, I would not have believed it. Even now, a week later, part of me still sort of thinks I will wake up and this will have been a very confusing dream indeed.
Herr Lounge Corps opened the show, a strapping and very attractive Miro Snejdr arriving onstage in full military fatigues and a very creepy white mask to play lounge music. Though I was only somewhat familiar with his work, the crowd was lulled like squalling babies into respectful silence, which was a stark contrast to the Mammiffer opening set for Chelsea Wolfe, where people were literally going nuts and recanting their life stories in the loudest and most ridiculous way possible while Faith tried to make herself heard over them.
The Rickshaw reeked of incense, this heady and atmospheric aroma that conjured to my mind a smokey lounge bar and classy mixed drinks. I don’t know if PBR can count as classy, but at the Rickshaw, the scent of cheap beer also permeates the air and it is a comforting and homey smell. When I shoot shows at the Rickshaw, attend shows there, I am most at home.
Miro’s delicate piano overdubbed with cassette tape spoken word bled into the arrival of Douglas P on stage, understated and masked. I could hear the din of the crowd and those in attendance were literally going fucking nuts. There’s something about that moment when someone you have so desire to see walks onstage and your heart catches in your throat and the air feels thick. All of those moments. With a fluorite lens worth five to six times more than the shitty car I drove fifteen years ago, I shot the show. When the three songs were up, I retreated to the crowd to watch. Douglas P. and Miro made this amazing duo, performing in harmonious unision. When Miro’s time on stage was up, he retreated to the periphery and Douglas took over. The terrifying white mask was not enough to contain the uniqueness of his being. In between songs he engaged in playful banter with the crowd, his dry British sensibility apologizing for “taking 34 years to get to Canada, the planes just kept getting delayed”. The crowd was full of barely clothed women dancing drunkenly (which is nothing really to remark on at a show, unless that show is neo-folk in which case it is very strange indeed), and grown men (I’m looking at you Shawn!) FREAKING THE FUCK OUT – in the best way possible. There were moments during the show where I thought I was the only one so fucking excited to be bearing witness to this intense wonder and looking around, watching the organizers from Covenant lose their shit, and people in faded Death in June shirts singing along to EVERY WORD, I really realized about how important this band, this man has been, how this music has affected so many.. not just me. Like the Rickshaw said, what is so unifying about this act is the themed of loneliness, loss, betrayal, and overall though peppered in this hope. If we lose hope, we stop making noise, and if we stop making noise, we stop hearing it.. When Doug P took requests from the crowd and someone screamed out “Little Black Angel”, I was immediately back in that room of mine as a confused teenager, and though I am rarely emotional in public I screamed every word, and seeing that I was not alone, that others around me who linked arms like some kind of gothic line dance were doing the same, indicated to me that those people were back in their rooms, or cars, or shitty nightclubs, or wherever this band had first made an impression. That connectedness, that feeling of brotherhood proliferated the crowd, and it wasn’t motivated by the social lubricant of alcohol or mind altering substances, just mutual love and respect. It was fucking surreal.
I’m not going to go song by song of the set and tell you exactly what happened, because that’s not the point of this post. Unlike some other publications who attend shows simply for coverage, I attend because this music has changed me, changed my perspective and helped me to better understand myself and the world around me. The show was amazing. Period. Full stop. If you have wanted to see this band and have not – do it. Now is the time. The Runes and Men tour 2015 extends now into the USA and Douglas P is so very much at his prime. Do it. You will NOT be disappointed.
I offer up these photos. I hope I have captured the night adequately.
To Shawn and Abelardo at Covenant – thank you. Thank you for giving to me this oppurtunity, and thank you for believing in what I do. To the Rickshaw, thank you for maintaining and keeping the peace with immense class. To Douglas P, and to Miro – thank you for doing what you do. Thank you for creating the noise that I have not been able to shake.