Unforgettable: Intronaut Live, One

My memory of Friday, 3rd of June 2011, will not be forgotten until the senility of old age takes me. I don’t say this as some hyperbolic trope with little meaning—it was truly a night to remember. Somehow, however, I’m not sure how to describe it all. I could use one of the various over-used adjectives that permeate the modern English lexicon, or a long, structured examination of the day’s events, but, frankly, my tongue can’t grasp the words required to do that.

When I briefly spoke to Joe Lester after their set, the word I kept flubbing out through my star-struck quiver was “Wow!” The word was the closest I could come to expressing my combination of joy, ecstasy, disbelief, and sheer awe. By the time the band had started coiling their cables and the audience had dispersed, I was still standing in front of the stage, wiping the sweat and inability to comprehend what had just happened from my brow.

I couldn’t believe it. This was Intronaut. In person. Not two metres from me. In the centre of the stage, Joe had played his bass; to his left and right, respectively, Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick provided a harmony of guitar and vocals; and, finally, beyond them was Danny Walker, whose cymbal hits, fills, and beats were as precise as they were to the point. Each member was in form, working as vessels through which the music flowed.

From the opener, “Elegy,” to the closer, “Australopithecus,” the songs flowed into each other, the moments in between a blur, when Joe would thank the crowd with a hand raised to the air and slight bow of the head before he dove his focus back inward to start the next song, and Dave and Sacha would make the odd comment directed at the crowd or sound guy. And despite the amount of work each song required, as one could visibly see, and the fatigue that comes with travelling and playing every day, and getting as much sleep as one could expect from such a schedule (Dave said prior to the show that they could only get a few hours of sleep in the back of their van, which had been serving as their bed), the band’s playing was sublime, effortless as they shunned their exhaustion for this single hour and just revelled in their music. Revelling in the experience.

I said it about that ISIS show that trashed my expectations, and the same is the case here: this show was certainly an experience. I wasn’t there to see them play. I wasn’t there to listen to the music. I was there to experience what it feels like to stand in a room with the forces that make this music, close my eyes, and let their instruments have their way with me. Damn. That sounds disturbing, but that’s how it is. In that audience, as far as I was concerned, there were only two people (the other person being my girlfriend), and for those 40-odd minutes (which went by much too quickly), I was held captive by the music.

I swayed with every twirl of Joe’s strings, my head banged with every smash of Danny’s crash, and my body breathed with every crescendo and cascade of Dave and Sacha’s riffs. Occasionally, I screamed along to a lyric to the point of breathlessness—by the “cloud” part of the lyric, “In the literal black cloud,” I was spent and had to take in a gulp of air. The music spoke to me, and, happily, I listened.

That’s all I can say, really, with the hope that I have communicated my point effectively. What a band. There are many songs that hit me where it counts. Intronaut is one of those rare bands that has not only done it over the course of a single album, but its members’ entire careers. (The only other bands coming to mind that would apply here are Cynic and maudlin of the Well.) To experience this music in a live setting was a complete and utter joy.

Now, it looks like I had no trouble describing this day, after all, but that’s only the first half of it. The second part was a surreal adventure that I’m betting won’t sound all that fantastic (in the classical sense) to anyone but me. Nevertheless, I assure you, to me, it felt like I’d slipped into a fantasy that had clawed through the recesses of my imagination and run with whatever it dug up. I just honestly never thought it would ever happen.

Okay, okay, so, what was it? I’ve already hinted at it. We spoke to all four members of the band. How cool is that? To many, most, or all of this here blog’s readers, that may not warrant any great amount of enthusiasm, but it was utterly unbelievable.

When Dave came out for a smoke before the doors had opened, we merely said hello and informed him that we were looking forward to the show. That, in itself, was enough to keep me happy for the rest of my days – I’m not one of those people that would randomly go up to a musician and extend a hand, so a little hello is already a big deal – but it got far better. A little while later, Danny came our way with a beer in his hand and smile on his face. Unfortunately, my courage spent on saying hello to Dave, all I did was give Danny a sheepish smile before he walked past us and disappeared across the street. How could I not just say “Hi” and be done with it? Regardless of the fact that I never say hello to anyone in the first place, I instantly regretted it.

In this tale, however, the great Danny Walker walking past my lingering cloud of regret wasn’t the end. (Yay for me.) After the doors had opened, we stayed back for some time in the hope of seeing Danny again so I could redeem myself. Danny never showed, but Dave came out again, so I headed over to him. Initially, I only meant to ask if they were going to play “Rise to Midden” (of course, the answer was going to be no; I just figured the older work deserved some love), but it quickly developed into a conversation involving various other topics. Talking with Sacha and Joe didn’t last as long, but it was enough for us get a general idea of them as people. We ultimately spent the most time with Danny, who was open to discussing things ranging from Sean Reinert (it was slightly amusing when I brought up Cynic and he mentioned Reinert—one of my favourite drummers—being an influence; after the set, Lee told me that, while watching Danny play “Sunderance”, she realised he reminded her of Sean. Too bad she didn’t bring it up before we started discussing Cynic—she was afraid he didn’t like Cynic and would be offended!) and Uphill Battle to Intronaut’s next tour. (Hopefully he didn’t think I was badgering him too much, or one of those fans that like to pester bands.) Overall, we quickly saw that the band was extraordinarily friendly and open – surprisingly so; to be honest, I was expecting them to say hello and briefly feign interest in my opinion before moving on, not stay there and start a full-blown discussion.

No matter what happens next, where life takes each one of us, I will always be thankful that these four guys took some time out of their lives to talk to me. And not just polite fluff. Talk.

Later, after we had eventually gone back down to watch the final few songs of the Ocean’s set, I felt a tap on my arm. I thought it was just someone bumping into me, until I turned and realised it was Dave. During the entire evening, he and Danny had joined the audience for a few songs of each band’s set; now, he was watching the Ocean’s set next to us. Although the Ocean blew me away when I saw them supporting the Dillinger Escape Plan, I was still too busy trying to get over Intronaut’s set and the fact that I’d met every member of the band to pay too much attention to them, let alone the audience around us, so there’s a fair chance I’d miss him. If I saw him, I may still have left him alone, having bugged the band plenty already. And yet, there he was, tapping me on the arm and chatting with me (albeit for only a minute) again. Taking that extra little step to bond with a fan, or, dare I say, just another person.

That’s awesome. I really can’t believe I got to meet and talk to Intronaut. And, again, what a band. Many times, when you see a band in person, a certain filter is shattered, a layer separating the group from reality that distorts them into impenetrable, unassailable entities that look larger than life. We are disappointed to discover that in “real life” they’re too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, too scraggly, too impolite, too confident, too quiet, too this, too that. Too much of what we don’t want from our heroes. We want them to be perfect, after all. Sometimes, their live show sucks, too, and you go home re-creating your perceptions of the band.

Intronaut indeed shattered this filter, but they were something better. Instead of being these unassailable rockstars that were too cool for the rest of us, they were intelligent, thoughtful, funny, friendly, humble, and, yeah, it’s a cliché, great human beings that gave me an experience I will forever hope to remember. What more can a person want from their heroes? To play an excellent set? Yeah, they did that, too.