When: Mon., July 11, 8 p.m. 2016
Monday, July 11
On some level, I've always felt a connection to David Bazan. We both grew up in conservative evangelical environments, in which we were taught to fear an angry God. We both grappled with our demons and our faith (and the inherent contradictions and logical fallacies therein), as well as the intersection between religion and right-wing politics. In time, we both embraced agnosticism and accepted uncertainty.
But whereas my existential crisis played out privately, his played out in front of a devoted fan base of youth-group kids and late-nineties emo enthusiasts. The Pedro the Lion songwriter I first met in 1997 was devout, singing about the redemptive blessings of faith ("I know I'm understood when I hear him say, 'Rest in me, little David, and dry all your tears'"). The inklings of doubt that had appeared on 1998's It's Hard to Find a Friend had metastasized into full-blown cynicism by 2002's masterful Control, a blistering takedown of rapacious capitalism ("All of the experts say you ought to start them young, that way they'll naturally love the taste of corporate cum").
In 2005, Bazan stopped performing as Pedro the Lion, and in 2009 he released his first solo LP, Curse Your Branches, a record best understood as a breakup letter to Jesus ("With the threat of hell hanging over my head like a halo, I was made to believe in a couple of beautiful truths that ultimately had the effect of completely unraveling"). The follow-up, 2011's Strange Negotiations, ruminated on the Tea Party and the politics of fear.
With Blanco, released in May, Bazan steps away from acerbic commentary on politics and religion, bathing instead in waves of lo-fi synthesizers and down-tempo beats that recall his 2005–2006 project, Headphones. It's something of a departure from the distorted guitars and thundering drums that characterize much of his back catalog, and it lulls you to sleep more than jars you awake. It's intimate but understated, beautiful but elusive. His camera points at small questions rather than existential crises, his cynicism occasionally giving way to quiet celebrations of humanity.
We're older now, Bazan and me, and wrestling demons has worn us out. Quiet celebrations are OK sometimes. —Jeffrey C. Billman
Cat's Cradle back room, Carrboro
8 p.m., $15, catscradle.com