Life got a little hectic over the past month and I never got the chance to write about one of my favorite shows of the year to date. So here goes!
On October 24th, I spent an emotional evening at DC9 with Florist and Keeper. It started out with fried pickles on the rooftop- a tradition that I rarely break- and I eventually made my way down to the second floor.
I’d seen Florist a year and a half prior, at the same venue, when they opened for Mutual Benefit. Since that summer, I've poured over The Birds Outside Sang, and was greatly anticipating the new album, If Blue Could Be Happiness.
"What I Wanted to Hold," the first single, made its way into my life when I needed it most- when all I needed to hear was that "I'm alive and I'm okay." Sprague's words gave me advice on how to be present in the world around me, taking in life in all of its "sights and sounds.” In a reflective tone, she effortlessly conjures images of people, seasons, colors, and light.
The next release from the album, “Glowing Brightly,” is one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard. It’s one of those songs where you still remember exactly where you were when you listened to it for the first time. The song brought me back from a state of emotional disassociation, to a place where I wasn’t “afraid of the things that make me feel something big.” It has become an anthem of sorts for me, as I navigate my new-normal.
One of the most difficult components of grief is the realization of passing time. Absence is not fully felt until you recognize that life is going on despite your need to turn away from it all. This is something that Sprague not only realizes, but catapults herself into. She forces herself and the listener to face their surroundings, and appreciate life as it passes, in all of its complexities.
Emily Sprague of Florist is truly something else entirely, for her words hold the ability to quietly tear you apart before you even realize what's happening. It isn't just her words that convey this melancholy, but the tone of her voice. With a minimalist soundscape as her canvas, Sprague's soft words are better able to cut through to the listener.
Even out of context, there's a certain inimitable quality about Sprague's tone that captures the nostalgia and longing of childhood. Much like the way a scent can take you back to a moment in time, Sprague's music can transport you back to an emotion, or remind you of the inkling of a memory that you've probably recreated a dozen times over in your mind.
Before starting her set, Sprague began to warn the audience about where she was at emotionally, but then quickly rescinded her warning. “We’re all here for the same reason.”
As their set began, the room was taken on a transcendental road-trip, traveling the road of Sprague’s life, through the Catskills. It really did feel like we were all in the journey together. The girl next to me kept turning to make eye contact with me. We mouthed words and shared the consecrated moments of recognizing the next song from the first few notes.
Midway through, with my face hot and wet, she caught my eye and gave me a knowing look. She felt it too.
Local act, Keeper, opened with a similar image-heavy, minimalist sound. With hushed vocals, Marissa Lorusso of Keeper sings "sad songs you can feel good about." They sound like what I imagine Seven Swans would sound like if Sufjan Stevens was a girl that played electric guitar.
Keeper is soft and vulnerable, with a proclivity for minor keys. Yet despite the fragility of her songs, Lorusso writes about finding strength in herself and womanhood. She is warm and genuine, with music that feeds my sadgirl soul.
Following the show, I spoke to both Marissa and Emily at the merch stand. Both were lovely, but I do have to admit that I completely lost it when I was speaking to Emily. Despite my efforts to keep it together, I couldn't help but sob as I explained (read: rambled about) how much If Blue Could Be Happiness has meant to me in the months following the loss of my own mother.
Sprague told me that she was glad the album had found me.