Monday, 14 October 2013

chet faker at belmont 2013

Chet Faker  |  Le Belmont

                        PHOTOS  |  NEGAR NAKHAI

It’s not even 10:00pm and I’m already a little drunk. Two beers, six shots, and everything in Le Belmont looks like a 2-D cut-out of something it ought to be. Funny how a barmaid can make money levitate out of a man’s pocket by leaning forward in that special way and being only slightly more amicable than her job requires.

All that aside, I’m here for Chet Faker; to hear his music, of course, but also to see his omnipotent beard. Someone outside told me it grants wishes if you pet it.

If you’ve never heard of Chet Faker, let me tell you about this thing you're on: it's called the Internet. It’s this great, relatively new thing. People call it a network whatever and a virtual blah blah but really it’s best described as just an unimaginably massive thing. Somewhere within this thing are multiple songs by Chet Faker, and it’s your mission now to go find them. It might take a few seconds or a lifetime. Go now, my child. Find Chet Faker.

Did you find him yet? No? I’ll wait.

Anything? I can do this forever. Don’t test me. 

Ah, yes! You found him. Good, good. Reward, you ask? This may sound flaccid, but the reward is the journey itself. Your ears have now been Fakerestomized - it’s a medical term describing the redirection of the ear canal from the brain to the soul that occurs while hearing Chet Faker’s voice.

Now inhale deeply from your nose. Doesn’t smell like it did before, does it? You’re welcome.

Back to the show. Chet Faker and his crew take a few minutes to set up on stage. One look at that beard in the flesh is all I need to convince myself that scribbled along its bristles is a constitution for sustainable world peace. Scattered members of the crowd are shouting, “’Stralia!”

The set starts off with an ambient instrumental song. The bastard is teasing us. He knows it. Everyone in the club knows it, but we are all so very, very stoked. We will gladly allow anything to occur as long as we can experience Chet Faker’s vocal folds when it’s over. The knowledge of the upcoming experience is enough for us to happily sustain whatever precedes it.

Not to say that this instrumental piece is something to be agonizingly sustained. On the contrary, it’s quite nice. Mathematically, the chords are separate, but they swim in and out of each other in a way that makes the whole piece seem comprised of only one pitch. It’s now too loud for me to continue interacting with the barmaid, so instead of broiling my brain with more shots, I decide to let it all simmer. I close my eyes (of course it’s weird to close your eyes in a crowded Saint-Lawrence club: it’s a lie, just go with it), and let the sounds wash over me. The song is slow and calm, merciless and beautiful. In my mind I am soaked, scared and lost. I gasp for air but all I get is a mouthful of sand. Albatrosses moo overhead, seagulls scream. I pull my head out of the ground and find myself on the shore of some island. From where I’m kneeling, I can look directly ahead and see the other side of the island. I can look diagonally left and right and see where the sand ends. The island is a perfectly flat circle. There’s nothing here but sand and shore, no palm trees, no people. Above me the birds fly in a circle, above them the sun is psychotically hot and unmistakably white. It’s bigger than I ever remembered seeing it, as big as a big cloud, and it’s getting bigger. It’s coming down on this island. It’s plummeting. Jesus it’s plummeting. Oh, wow. Oh, no. Oh--

I open my eyes. The sun isn’t falling down. Chet Faker started his second song, and this one has him singing.

Never mind that this place is packed like sardines in a can. Never mind this sweaty dude’s dreadlocks on my shoulder. Never mind Syria or Pauline Marois. I hear Chet’s voice and I think about how decent it is to be alive, to have been born and gone through a series of random experiences that brought me here. It then occurs to me that not one bit of it was random, that every iota of every thing is driven by intention and purpose. Then one final epiphany, the big one: I will not leave club Belmont tonight before petting this man’s beard.

“This is my first time in this beautiful city,” he tells us. Chet Faker’s from down under. Australia. After he pronounces the name of his home country, the scattered voices once again scream, “’Stralia!” Chet chuckles into the mic.

The ambience in the club goes from mellow to mellower with each passing song. Belmont is so packed tonight that there is no way you can sip your drink without gluing your arm to your torso, yet the crowd as a whole is swaying in unison to the music, like tall grass being moved by a light gale. This dude’s dreadlocks are still hanging on my shoulder, and it really doesn’t bother me. I’ve learned to appreciate them for what they are. I’ve given them a name: Todd.

Around thirty-five minutes in, Faker plays “No Diggity”. It’s his cover of that classic 90’s jam by Dr. Dre and Blackstreet, and easily his most recognizable piece of work. The club erupts into a series of animalistic noises as he sings “Shorty get down, good Lord." This is the song most of us have been waiting for, and it sounds the way ambrosia must taste. But there’s something interesting to be observed here.

“No Diggity” got Chet Faker whatever degree of fame he now has. It is known and loved by millions, and it was heard by many millions more when it was featured in the 2013 Super Bowl ad for Beck’s Sapphire beer. It’s the song that allowed him to cross oceans to be here, and it’s not wholly his. It’s a cover; a gorgeously inventive cover, but a cover all the same. It’s the one known by me, the crowd, and multiple continents, and it’s the one he did not write.

Every musician’s dream is touring the world. Chet Faker got himself into the staggering minority of musicians who experience that dream while awake, and the highlight of all his sets is someone else’s song. It’s fascinating, watching Faker’s face as he sings the thing. He looks content in a vacant way. I wonder what he’s thinking. Maybe he’s just stoned and I’m reading into something ludicrous that doesn’t exist. After all, his cover and the original sound like two completely different songs. One is groovy hip hop, to be jammed while cruising in a low rider and hitting up the hunnies on the block. The other is soulful electronica, best played while spending private bedroom time with those hunnies.

On the other hand, maybe his artistic upbringing began with the thought of reaching the world with his lyrics, through songs that are completely his, and it breaks his Australian heart knowing that the crowds at his shows are happier to hear Blackstreet’s words, animalistic cheers or not. I ask Todd if he has an opinion. He does not, because Todd is a dude’s dreadlocks.

The set ends up being way too short, clocking in at just under an hour. A few minutes later, everyone who came to the show is waiting in line outside of Belmont. Chet Faker is sitting on a scarlet imperial throne on the corner of St-Laurence and Mount Royal, granting people wishes with his beard.

I have to walk a couple minutes to find the back of the line. Most people I pass stare straight ahead like gargoyles. No one’s really saying anything. St-Laurence, with all these people, all these places - all of this used to be stardust billions of years ago. This affirms something, but I can’t figure out what.

I find the back of the line and continue walking. I don’t need Chet Faker’s beard to grant me wishes. I have everything I’ve ever wanted right in front of me, and if ever I want something far away, I’ll go and get it. The real reward is the journey itself, after all. 

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