“I Can’t Afford to Go to the Better than Ezra Show in Chicago”

There I saw it, living proof. I had proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that the universe was conceived in malice, making it necessary for us to have all these bands and crap — ‘90s alternative rock, Weezer’s “sweater” song, one band making fun of another, speaking in this complex language as if it’s hammering a rock with a stick. I could still see the words on the computer screen, on pitchfork: “Loaded is a perfectly conceived rock album.” Then what the heck is with that stupid fist song, that’s like a poor man’s doo wop with a bizarre reverse-tape segment about a minute from the end? And what’s with “Lonesome Cowboy Bill”? I’d negated my command of iTunes to import “Who Loves the Sun?”, but there it was, doing it anyway. It was like if you’d just picked up a newspaper scroll that explained the creation of the world, were about to look at it, and then it started pouring down rain.
Better than Ezra are full of dichotomies. They’re wedged in this explosion of what was “‘90s alternative rock,” but they have no gimmicks — they seem so normal. The music MAKES SENSE, but everything is defined by its opposite, so what be the opposite to it? It’s got a STRUCTURE, so the opposite, having to be something near at hand, would be like a long, endless, stopped row of semi’s on I-94, scrolled out in an anticlimactic straight line. It is the aural indication that around the next corner awaits for you something transcendent, like an end in and of itself, which cannot be seen, but understood. Some songs are about romance, but others, like “Rosealia,” handle domestic abuse. Where does their music come from? What is the meaning of it? It is of, and for, an invincible genus of moments, including, inevitably, the unfolding one to befall Chicago’s House of Blues on New Year’s Eve.
Now, these things aren’t free. Plus, people up at the Empty Bottle probably hate Better than Ezra. So commercialized, so poppy, the stuff of frat boys. But I need something quick. I’m a bumpkin living down here in Central Indiana, where the sun always shines, as if that molten ball in the sky didn’t get the memo that people are sick of it, that people would rather live a Bohemian life under gray skies, which would make them feel more like they’re in the “cool” Pacific Northwest. But I need something quick, a “shot in the arm,” like Wilco said.
Better than Ezra’s songs are divided into four minute segments, like those of every band. But they also embed themselves, within the world, like colored, metal bulwarks lain flat, existing only in minds, understood. I can listen to these songs anytime, so what I’m missing out on by not going to the show is I guess a ridiculously sticky floor from spilled beer, and a bunch of yelling, from the same people who are spilling all that beer. I would leave the show, and nothing about the world would be changed.
But does it feel extra poignant that this year, the year America was doused with the gasoline sociology of Trump as president, as if braced for a match to send this whole world to hell, that this band, this sensitive and humanistic trio will be master of ceremonies? And is their music actually a combatant, or more like a narcotic, like Wilco said, a “shot in the arm”? Will Jeff Tweedy be at the show? Will Eddie Vedder, who, in classic fashion, has spurned the Hall of Fame and donated $10,000 to a black woman in Maryland, be at the show? Maybe we don’t need any of this sh**. But maybe we do.

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