Harmonies and Howls

April 13, 2009

Last night during a concert of earnest and ethereal harmonies, I struggled to keep another sound at bay.

Pressed against the stage at the Crystal Ballroom, five feet from Fleet Foxes‘ lead singer Robin Pecknold and bathed in his melodic voice, I occasionally heard in my head not him but the quavering wail of a toothless derelict.

robin-pecknold I had arrived extra early with my wife Suzame to ensure a spot at the stage. We waited outside an hour and forty-five minutes for the doors to open. There on the sidewalk the derelict appeared. He popped from a door, like a cuckoo from a clock.

Cradling an armful of books and grinning an alcohol smile, he slid into the queue of music fans. His head tilted back. His straggly white hair shook. And he howled. Not a pleasing howl like a wolf’s  but a drunken discordant screech with rhythm. Then he disappeared behind the door, only to return for several unwanted encores.

I joked to Suzame that maybe he once was a rock star. Later, marveling at Pecknold, all of twenty-two and on the cusp of stardom, I wondered whether the derelict was howling to an empty sidewalk. Not just a drunk’s aimless howl but a lament for what can’t be undone.