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Mama Kin Music Hall, Boston, MA
Saturday, 29 March 1997

I looked forward to this, my first Low show ever, with considerable anticipation but with some degree of concern as well. I was afraid that Low would disappoint me live, and somehow fail to conjure up that magical vibe that made them so special to me...or that the audience would be horribly noisy and completely ruin the experience. The whole way there (a three-hour drive!) I peppered my friend Jonathan, who has seen them live probably half-a-dozen times, with questions about what they were like live, whether they were nice people, and so forth. (At that time I wasn't on the list and didn't know much about them, really, outside the music.) He reassured me that they were even better live than in the studio, though I had a hard time imagining how that could be. Still, before long, I even dared to hope that I might get to meet them...of whom, again, I still had very much an ivory-tower conception.

Well, without going into the gory details, we ended up arriving horribly late, in part because we'd thought the Dirty Three were opening for Low...but they switched places that night. Snapping at each other throughout Boston, we eventually found the club, parked, and dashed out of the car. We scrambled into the hall, paid for our tickets, and burst in, about 40 minutes late.

The sight of it hit me first. They were just finishing a song -- to this day I don't know what one -- and the last chords were dying out. I felt as though I had walked into a religious ritual of the greatest sanctity. They stood, bathed in red light, in the poses that have long since become familiar to me: Zak facing away from the audience, Alan meditatively stroking a final chord or two, and Mimi gazing down at her drums. The audience was completely silent during those few seconds, until, after a few moments, they began to applaud. I found somewhere to stand, fairly close to the stage, hoping no one would ask me to move.

Low thanked the audience, tuned, and perhaps Alan said a thing or two. They then began to play a song, the Curtain version of which I had always liked, but never loved as much as some others: Coattails. As they began I found myself practically saying a silent prayer that they would live up to my hopes.

Within thirty seconds my jaw was hanging open. Within three minutes I was crying silently -- something I'd never done before or since at a concert. It felt as though it were the most beautiful thing I've ever seen or heard. I couldn't take my eyes off the stage. In Coattails I heard a requiem for all things...for an impossibly magical love affair of mine that had just fallen apart...for the people I knew that were dead or gone...for the fleetingness of life and the spirit...and the beauty of it was almost unbearable. I felt as though life were a tragedy of infinite proportions, and I was hearing the infinite calm and resignation, or acceptance, with which it is possible to meet that fact. I felt as though God had, at long last, tapped me on the shoulder and told me that yes, he was real, and he loved me very much, and it was time for me to come home.

Talking this way is something I do very seldom, perhaps because I'm a bit jaded, perhaps because I'm afraid of being pretentious...but casting it in terms any less strong would be doing it an injustice. It really was that amazing; my emotional involvement was complete. I couldn't have been the only one: the crowd was completely quiet.

After eight or ten minutes the song was over. They followed it up with Jack Smith, which was wonderful in its way, though it didn't inspire the same emotional reaction in me as Coattails had. Then one of the club managers made a motion to them, and Alan announced that they could only play one more, to my great disappointment. They then launched into "Boyfriends and Girlfriends", which I had never heard before. I liked it very much (and still do). Soon, and all too quickly, the song was over, and Low left the stage to great applause. The Dirty Three fans began to swarm towards the front of the stage.

After the show, Jonathan introduced me to Alan and Mimi. After tentatively orbiting the bar where they were selling T-shirts, and buying the split single and a T-shirt, I finally got the courage to strike up a conversation with Alan during Dirty Three's set. I found him warm, friendly, very open, and incredibly nice. We talked about Vernon Yard, about jazz, about the band I was in with Jonathan. After about a half-hour the rest of the folks I came with said we had to leave. I said goodbye to Alan and veritably floated out of Mama Kin. I hadn't been that completely happy in a long time.


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