Death As Muse: An Intimate Evening With Blake Schwarzenbach, Musician, Painter, Jawbreaker, Forgetter
Observatory (543 Union St., Brooklyn)
From Dante to Donnie Darko perhaps no other idea has inspired more creative pursuits than life’s final act: death. Love, it could be argued, is a close second—and if that’s the case, let us bow down yet again to Woody Allen’s film, Love and Death.
Which brings us to the man at the darkened heart of tonight’s event: Blake Schwarzenbach, who has sampled a line from one of Mr. Allen’s films in a song. Schwarzenbach, you see, also knows from love and death.
As the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for the late, much-loved Bay Area punk trio Jawbreaker, Schwarzenbach once sang: “We met in rain, you asked me in, seemed like a good sign. Now I need a guillotine to get you off my mind.” With his newest group, Forgetters, he’s gone darker.
Here’s the cold data: Over 11 bloody tracks on the band’s eponymous–and somewhat psychedelic–new record, released in late 2012, there are roughly 27 lyrical variations on the word “death.” And there are multiple instances within just one song title: “O Deadly Death.”
That’s not to say Schwarzenbach doesn’t have a sense of humor. On an earlier Forgetters EP, after all, he cleverly made a verb out of tennis great John McEnroe (to throw a McEnroe is to have a very public fit.)
It is, in fact, the sui generis way Schwarzenbach balances light and dark, wit and warts, romance and rancor—both musically and lyrically—that makes his creative work so compelling. Or, as the writer Maccabee Montandon has put it: Schwarzenbach’s songs are “bounding, literate, often hyper-local anthems about pony-keg-powered house parties, girls he adored, girls he did not adore and books. Kerouac and cop killing live in a single lyrical line.”
On this evening, Schwarzenbach and Montandon will discuss the music, muses, and more: Schwarzenbach has grown increasingly interested in visual arts, painting and sculpting prolifically in his Brooklyn apartment; some of his pieces will be on display tonight. Following the conversation, Schwarzenbach will play solo acoustic versions of a few of his songs and take questions from the crowd. His own personal nine circles of hell revealed!