Lontalius at Caroline

I’m ambitious and I’m optimistic
But I’m not pretty and I’m not realistic

Optimistic, Lontalius

I was surprised there was a band.  Pleased.  Surprised he had a guitar, and there was a bass player and a drummer.  The music was far more dramatic than it sounds on my stereo.  A bigger bass in the chest, bigger snare hits, and grander waves of synth.

Doors opened at 9pm.  We arrived at 9.20.  We were the only people there.  Being middle-aged and middle-class I always hope bands will start at a reasonable hour but Cathy assured me that young bands with young crowds probably still started late.  I hadn’t wanted to believe her but it was true.  The support act began at 10.40.

There were a number of very tall, thin young men at the gig.  Their trousers were too short and they had nice hair.  They also all had rectangular bags that slotted neatly under one arm from a strap.  I very much wanted to know what was in the bags.  LPs?  Magazines?  A flat piece of cardboard?

After the support act the audience went back out of the room at the back where the little stage was and into the bar area with tables and chairs at the front.  Caroline is upstairs next to Duke’s Arcade. Some time around 11.30 we went back to hear him: Lontalius.

He was tall and thin.  Non-descript really.  The room where he played had been jammed with about 100 people for the support act.  The crowd seemed to have halved when he played.  There must have only been 50 people there to see him.  Perhaps fewer.  We were at the back where there was a large empty space that I kept expecting to fill with late arrivals but which never did.

On his old songs Lontalius sang confidently – he must have sung them a hundred times and his voice knew where to start almost by muscle memory.  On the new songs he seemed a bit hesitant at first.  He forgot a few lines and then he found his place and the voice was strong.  He sings a lot higher than he speaks.  When he spoke his words were a little mumbled, and hard to catch: the beginnings and endings swallowing each other.  He said something mean about Dunedin that we couldn’t catch.  He apologised.  He seemed to be very much himself: quiet, friendly, doing his thing, his way; but also figuring it all out: himself, music, other people.

His new songs are very good.  They sound big on stage.  Exciting.  Much bigger and more exciting than they sound on record.  The tone of the words though is the same.

Inseparable can mean two things
A way to win and to lose things
I wish that I could make sense of us

I thought while he sang I wanted him to take me home with him, that in the past a man singing about another man would have used the pronoun you and hidden behind it and that I am glad that is not true anymore.

Later he did a cover of Dreams in My Head by Anika Moa.  When he sings it the words match his own so perfectly it is like he wrote them:

I have all these dreams in my head
Of you and I together, waking in each other’s arms
If I only I could tell you how I feel
Then I wouldn’t have to sit here and think about losing you
But it’s just a dream
I have in my head

The arrangement was sparse and slowed, and his voice hovered around the words aware of that special pain between the pleasure of a fantasy and the despair of knowing that dream does not, and will not exist in reality.

It was very intimate at that concert.  It seemed like many of the people there knew each other, and him.  I wondered if, after the concert, he went home and slept in his old room.

After the concert we went to McDonalds.

It was coming up to 1am and it was filled with young people; young drunk people.  The young women over-dressed or under-dressed with their dressed boyfriends. Behind the counter was frantic energy and machines and food while a woman shouted out the order numbers and 50 something customers sat or slouched or stood around the tables and checked their phones or made stilted conversation.  Then an ambulance arrived.  Then another.  Then a fire truck.  After the paramedics and the fire officer had marched though McDonalds to the toilets at the back about five police officers arrived.  Something terrible had clearly happened in the toilets.  They erected a temporary screen blocking the toilets and a gurney was wheeled in.  The crowd seemed to have no interest.  The order numbers kept being shouted out.  When our one was called we got our food and left.

We walked back past the venue of the gig.  Some of the people who were at the concert were standing outside on the street talking loudly and happily.  It had been a good night.  And also a bad night just back 100 metres in the toilets of McDonalds for someone else.

The world may accept who you love, but love itself is rarely easy when you are so raw and vulnerable in it.