I’ve had many music obsessions, emotionally investing myself in bands and songs that I sometimes put on exclusive listening rotation for days or weeks. Back in college from about 2006 to 2007, I was obsessed with Voxtrot’s flitting and lyrical music. I first heard Ramesh Srivastava’s pure vocals and the Austin-based band’s sunny instrumentation on the insanely catchy “The Start of Something.” I eagerly tracked down their EPs and looked forward to the release of their 2007 album. They seemed to fade away after that, and my attention turned to other bands, while I still regularly resurrected my Voxtrot love on my iPod or in car mix tapes. Due to being abroad, I unfortunately missed their shows in Oklahoma and never got to see them live. That is, until last Saturday at the Bowery Ballroom when they played their final show.
When I heard that Voxtrot was breaking up and their last performance would be in New York, I quickly bought a ticket and again started listening to those sunny, intelligent songs. When I got to the venue on Saturday, I was feeling both excited and a little sad that this would be the one and only time I would ever hear these songs live.
I got there too late for the first opener, but was just in time to see Ravens & Chimes. Oddly, I’d been meaning to see them (I had a bit of an obsession with their album Reichenbach Falls this winter), and had no idea they would be opening until the day of the concert. They were really amazing, and since they are based in New York I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more concerts. Their lyrics are very literary and their instrumentation is rich and complex, I feel like it’s a soundtrack to a novel I would like to write. Watch their performance of “Archways” and “General Lafayette! You Are Not Alone” to see what I mean.
After Ravens & Chimes, Yellow Fever of Austin played a set. I would describe it as if Young Marble Giants played military rock. They were good, but as it edged closer to midnight, I was ready to see Voxtrot.
Voxtrot passionately started their show with “Introduction” (yes, a little easy), and didn’t loose energy throughout the whole set. Neither did the crowd. I honestly think they could have played their whole discography and kept the room full. Although it wasn’t as packed as I thought it would be, possibly because of the huge Northside Festival taking place at the same time, or just that it’s been about three years since their popularity peaked. I suspect that a lot of the people at the show were like me, coming back to a band they had fallen hard for and then drifted away from. We wanted to see Voxtrot one last time before the songs become recordings instead of performances.
Ramesh, the lead singer, never stopped moving. Having not seen them before, I don’t know if it was the thrill of the last show or if he is always that over-the-top charismatic, but he waved his arms wildly, barely touching his guitar, before throwing the instrument off and kneeling or collapsing on the stage. They sped from one beloved song to the next, from the Of Montreal-esque “Firecracker” to the simultaneously brutal and upbeat “Kid Gloves.” It was hard to listen to “Your Biggest Fan,” where Ramesh refrains “I used to be your biggest fan,” without wondering if he was singing a little for the audience. There was even a cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent,” although for a final show I would expect the band to pack in as much of their own material as possible. They did all seem giddy, almost loosing control several times during “The Start of Something,” and I wondered if they were actually going to let the song end. Ramesh at one point joked that he had wanted the show to be like a Hindu funeral, complete with piles of chrysanthemums, but it was more like they were diving into the flames than doing any mourning. I guess after a few years with little new material, the band was probably long ago ready to move on. A lot of bands don’t have official final shows, and instead suddenly break it off or just disappear. It was amazing that they shared one last show with their fans. During their final songs, I started to thing about the person I was, the relationship I was in, the place I lived, the fears I had, the plans I’d made, when I was obsessed with their music. I realized that I’m not really that person anymore, and I felt like I was as much saying goodbye to Voxtrot as my college self.
When they came back back for their encore and played “Missing Pieces” as their last performance as Voxtrot, I realized it was all right for these things to end, because I don’t think I’ve heard the last of these talented musicians, and I know that I am always ready for the next “start of something.”