Wednesday, September 14, 2011

'some scent of yourself that you can hold up high'

 [image is a detail from the tour poster, post title is a lyric from "Three Peaches"]

Just typing "I saw Jeff Mangum perform on Friday" makes me tremble a little, filled again with disbelief, but this time at something that actually happened, rather than something I couldn't believe would. Waiting in line to pick up our tickets, I warned my companions that I might start sobbing during the concert. What is it about devotion that can make us sound so disturbed?

When we took our seats in the pews at Sanders Theatre, my friend Dorothy remarked immediately on how amazing it smelled. I agreed; it felt like being inside a roll-top desk: old wood, old books, varnish, worn lacquer, and leather blotter. Plus some dusty human smell that comes from sitting still for long stretches of time.

I was wearing East MidEast that day, but added Avignon because I couldn't imagine not wearing it to this show. The way Neutral Milk Hotel and Avignon make me feel are not similar, but they are related. More and more, this has become what interests me about perfume. Of course I like to smell good, but even more I like what I smell to make me feel a certain way, or think about things a bit differently, and I also appreciate being able to put on a certain fragrance and remember more fully a time or a moment in my life. Avignon, a fragrance that it's easy to feel religious about, now has this added weight for me, having risen from my wrists in the church-like atmosphere of Sanders Theatre during what, in some ways, is the closest I get to any kind of church at all.

Some people find Avignon distant, too dark and cement-like in its heavy Catholic incense, too cerebral, too cold. And some people surely find Neutral Milk Hotel somewhat inaccessible, too strange, too distorted or obscure. But they are two of the most beautiful things I know, and they came together for me, warm as fingertips, in a theater that smelled like a well-loved desk, sitting among one thousand weepy, joyful, reverent people who knew nearly every word.

15 comments:

Britta said...

Warm as fingertips, this post totally made me weepy, E.

nosy girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nosy girl said...

Oh, B, you'll be even more weepy should you see Mangum live! You've got to do it if he comes anywhere even near SLC. And thank you for reading.

Preets said...

Coming together warm as fingertips, god I love that too. And even if I don't know this music -- which is good, because now I can discover it -- I do know about "the closest I get to any kind of church at all" feeling.

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