By: Aaron CalvinEntertainment Editor
Fat Heart House is a self-inscribed anarchist, DIY free space free from almost any form of oppression. I say self-inscribed because its residents literally inscribed this on the wall of the venue. I say residents because it was more of an apartment. You had to be buzzed in, there were zines for sale in the kitchen and the only reason a performance could occur was due to the resident of the basement area having pushed all of her belongings into one corner of the room. Several dogs of various indefinable breeds were running throughout the crowd. And, right in the heart of M train Bushwick, it was somewhat difficult to locate. Such a personal and earnest environment was well suited for a show that would culminate with Paul Baribeau.
Opening, if such a term can be used in this situation, was Wax Mice, a three piece from the Rutgers consumed area of Northern Jersey. They were pleasant: the lead man sang their songs in an impassioned warble, accompanied by the blaring tenor of a twelve-string and a muted floor tom. Their songs were interrupted shy banter with ambiguously pained lyrics. At one point, the singer remarked that he didn’t really like the song they had just played. He thought it sounded too much like Brand New. But he said it in a way that let you know that he still probably listens to the band on long drives alone or through headphones when he walks to class. I think that statement actually gives a fair impression of the band.
Amy Virginia Buchanan followed. Disclaimer: I am both a friend and co-worker of Ms. Buchanan’s. But I don’t think that it’s too out of line to describe her music as adorable and sweet without crossing the line into sentimental. Unlike the nameless hordes of ukulele strummers, her miniature instrument only gives light relief to her songs, sometimes sad but always sincere. That’s all I’ll say about it.
During the time it took me to step out into the backyard, the already fairly crowded basement became a barely passible wall of black t-shirts and skinny jeans, an already hot room became a sweaty boiler room. They were all here to see Baribeau.
Paul Baribeau hails from Michigan (he pronounces his name Bear-eh-bow) and continues the working class folk tradition within the context of the punk folk aesthetic. His lyrics consist of desperate honesty, a kind of un-gilded sorrow that inspires immediate compassion rather than any kind of analysis. The environment only amplified this, creating a kind of intimacy that only a roomful of strangers all singing the words to the same song can His guitar works only as an engine, not a melodic accompaniment. Most of the time it chugs along at a pace roughly equivalent to the churning of the wheels on a train, or only functions as a percussion instrument as it does on the a cappella song “Christmas Lights.” I try not to indulge hyperbole, but it’s hard to deny a certain spiritual element to this sort of DIY show. The sense of communion is more readily apparent than the average concert going experienced. It’s the same kind of but somewhat unspoken sense of desperate community highlighted on Titus Andronicus’ most recent album, “Local Business,” and a feeling familiar to their show at another Bushwick DIY venue, Shea Stadium.
The rambling speeches that Baribeau launched into were drawn out explanations behind his songs, tales of relationships f--ked beyond repair and the fault of both parties involved. As he remarked, he was the algebraic constant in an equation of ruined love. Despite the heaviness of the talk, though, the mood remained light, his speeches always self-deprecating, not self-pitying.
I hope to return to Fat Heart, sooner rather than later. It’s too few and far between that I experience nights that involve such a genuine sense of community, united only in their shared feelings for a bearded man that’s able to articulate personal and universal sadness simultaneously.