Isn’t the success that’s couched in abject failure the sweetest? Allow me to provide an illustration.
A week ago, I headed to Strange Matter for the sold out Real Estate show. Moments after I walked in the door, I caught a glimpse of a magic marker-scrawled schedule that was sitting on the desk of the ticket-taking station. The whole shindig was exactly 1 hour behind the advertised start. The Diamond Center at 9. Twerps at 10. Real Estate at 11. Normally, I don’t put too much stock in concerts starting on time, but I had to be up at an ungodly hour Friday morning and was beset by an uncharacteristic and unwelcome wave of prudence. Gross. But the Diamond Center put on such a fantastic display in the first opening slot that I completely forgot about my accursed curfew for a while, and I left Strange Matter with the unmistakable feeling that I’d gotten my money’s worth — and then some — even though I didn’t experience a single note of the headlining set.
Strangely (Ironically? Coincidentally?) enough, my Diamond Center appetite had been whet under very similar circumstances, by the group’s March 25 in-store performance at Steady Sounds, which was held to celebrate the release of their new 7-inch record. I had to leave during opening band Casper and the Cookies’ set (Are you detecting a trend here? A total failure of time management, perhaps? If only Hermione’s time-turner was real…), and it took a return trip to the store for me to get my hands on a copy of the new release. The record proved to be well worth the effort though, as a-side “California” quickly — I’m talking instantaneously — became my favorite Diamond Center song.
Maybe it was the anticipation of seeing this newly minted favorite come to life. Maybe it was the ear-searing volume of Strange Matter’s sound system. Or maybe it was the group’s excitement to be back in the RVA saddle after a “Transcendental Truth” tour that included several shows at SXSW. Whatever the cause, their opening set was so good that I slipped into a most enjoyable trance. The qualities I’d always seen in their music — Brandi Price’s siren-esque voice, which hypnotizes and glides so naturally, Kyle Harris’ guitar playing, which seems to shift space and time with every bend — felt magnified. Plus, I had the chance to fall deeper in love with Tim Falen’s thunderous upright drumming style, one that offers an extraordinary blend of sparseness, overwhelming force and impeccable time. All of these qualities were hard at work when, with the second to last song, the group launched into “California,” granting my unspoken wish with a performance that made me want to go straight to the merch table to buy a second copy (Has anyone else ever had this impulse? Anyone? It’s rare and fleeting, but powerful nonetheless).
Not long after the Diamond Center was finished, the spell wore off, I went back to worrying about my early bedtime, and I headed for the door shortly thereafter. And as much as leaving a concert before the headlining set always feels like a failure, I wouldn’t change a thing about last Thursday night. I haven’t gotten the performance of “California” out of my head since, and I hope you’ll sample the tune below and click here to snag a copy for yo’ self. Or two. Ya know, whatever.