[PHOTO CREDIT: Jack Stapleton] Just because there are no words doesn't mean we're not going to sit here and type them out anyway. Seriously, if you had told us this was ever going to happen, that we'd be sitting with friends (literally sitting) in the front row of a venue whose legal capacity is less than 100 people, sitting about 10 feet from Kurt Heasley as he led his current iteration of Lilys through a mid-sized set of jams dating from the legendary band's first five or six years, we just wouldn't believe you. Even after we witnessed it, and the last note of the closer "February Fourteenth" had been dampened, the players yanking plugs and smiling quietly at one another, even then, we turned to our compatriots and said, "I can't believe that just happened," into the eery silence that followed a five-song set by one of the greatest indie rock bands of all time. Even the announcement of the show was a jaw-dropping revelation; after all, we've been Lilys fans for 20 years. We'd just spent six months prepping a Lilys tribute comp, and had released it Monday. Now Lilys were playing in our sorta hometown on Saturday? It was too good to be true.
Just as we prepared to launch our Lilys tribute compilation And I Forgot A Long Time Ago How You Feel last weekend, an acquaintance got in touch to say Lilys, the long-running, shape-shifting guitar-pop unit helmed by nomadic genius Heasley was planning a warm-up show for its full-band, June 11 appearance at Chickfactor 21. And they were planning on having the show Saturday. And they were having the show five miles from our house, in a tiny venue, a tiny venue with very close residential neighbors, a tiny room whose place in history is likely solidified by a number of things, not the least of which is it was the first Boston space -- back when it was called Zeitgeist Gallery -- to host Arcade Fire. And the venue, The Lilypad, memorably hosted a Beirut show some years ago that drew substantial complaints about the noise. So now, tonight, this was going to be the venue that was playing host to Heasley's latest incarnation of Lilys, an incarnation promising to deliver a "noisy" set of rockers in Brooklyn in a few weeks? Are you kidding? When we arrived at the venue and once we had gotten situated, we turned to find the bar manned by Heasley himself. It was surrealism of Lewis Carroll-esque proportions. We bought a beer from Heasley; he expressed some excitement at the release of And I Forgot A Long Time Ago How You Feel. It was a lot to take in.
But it was true, and Lilys delivered in a big way. Heasley assumed his usual role up front with a guitar, closing his eyes and focusing as he delivered words into the microphone with increasing fervor. He was abetted by a second guitarist, a bass player, an organist and a drummer, an alternately lanky and hairy bunch who performed reverent but ecstatically rocking versions of Lilys classics. We're certain these are heavily credentialed sidemen, but we took some comfort from the fact that our very knowledgeable friend could name none of the players standing with Heasley (this made us feel less out of touch). The band deftly faded out of the music plugged through the PA and directly into the fabled "Claire Hates Me." That epic tune was quickly followed by "Ginger," and then, after a quick guitar change due to a broken string, Heasley and company ploughed headlong into "Can't Make Your Life Better," "Baby's A Dealer," and, as a closer, Lilys' debut single "February Fourteenth." It was amazing, a koan realized. It was loud, although not terribly loud. Fans who bought tickets for Chickfactor 21 should be verily psyched. The legend lives. The performance raised a fair number of questions in our mind as well, such as: why is Heasley, a songwriter whose determination to change seems to be as pronounced as the blazing speed at which is mind works, why has Heasley decided to finally look back? We hope to put these questions to Kurt sometime in the near future, but for now, all we can do is revel in the glow of an incredible show.
That set list again:
Lilys -- The Lilypad -- Cambridge, MA -- 25 May
"Claire Hates Me"
"Can't Make Your Life Better"
"Baby's A Dealer"
Lilys: Facebook | Last.fm | MySpazzzz | Wikipedia
Selected Prior Lilys coverage:
A N D I F O R G O T A L O N G T I M E A G O H O W Y O U F E E L
20: Lilys | In The Presence Of Nothing
Today's Hotness: Lilys
Footage: Lilys' "February 14th" Live at Chickfactor | Sept. 22
YouTube Rodeo: Lilys' Amazing "YCJCYAQFTD," "A Nanny In Manhattan," "Baby's A Dealer"
YouTube Rodeo: Lilys' "Ginger" Live And Awesome
Coming To Your Local Bandstand: Lilys' California Mini Tour