(OK, I know I sound like someone who’s reaching to justify compulsive behavior, and that’s because I am. But I swear I have a point.)
While I was up in Baltimore for a wedding the weekend before last, I got to see a good friend and fellow wedding guest (my W. Mard t-shirt twin, if you’re scoring at home) who lives in D.C. and had caught one of The Walkmen’s recent pair of shows at The 9:30 Club. About halfway through the unofficial after-party at the Irish bar around the corner from the hotel, my friend struck up a conversation with a stranger who walked in wearing a Walkmen shirt. This Walkmen shirt, to be exact. I listened in as they spent some time comparing notes on the show, which they both enjoyed, and in the late stages of the gushing exchange, the merch-wearing stranger told us about Jonathan Fire*Eater, the mid-to-late 90’s band that three of the five Walkmen — guitarist Paul Maroon, drummer Matt Barrick and keys player Walter Martin — played in.
Now that I’ve heard about — and heard — Jonathan Fire*Eater, three things are certain:
- Their music bears some of the traits that I love most about The Walkmen, particularly Maroon’s signature guitar sound, which is wonderfully bright and always makes me think of the word “loose,” for reasons I can’t entirely figure out.
- They were ahead of their time when it comes to creative use of punctuation in band naming.
- I wouldn’t know that Jonathan Fire*Eater existed had that dude not walked into the bar wearing that shirt.
See? Merch is useful! It’s like a lighthouse for enthusiasm, except you steer toward it, not away. If this were a mathematical proof, here’s where I’d say quod erat demonstrandum, drop the mic, and toss up deuces triumphantly. (At least, that’s how I imagine it went when Pythagoras made right triangles his bitch.)
Check out an early favorite Jonathan Fire*Eater tune — “I’ve Changed Hotels” — below and click here to buy their 1997 album, Wolf Songs For Lambs, on iTunes.