‘And away we go’. That line and movie title was all I could think of once being approved to shoot Alexi Murdoch’s first concert in México, that line was all this author could think of after a girl quite dear to me said ‘Yes’ to my proposal of coming along. An artist that seemed to come out of your deepest longing for love, a night in one of the biggest yet loneliness-inducing cities in the world, 60 minutes or so of sad love songs, one lovely lady and a silent concert – what else could be done, it was time to take a leap of faith.
Alexi Murdoch was the reason many music lovers enjoyed John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph‘s comedy drama about a couple with a baby on its way, trying to find the best possible place on earth to begin their family in Away We Go, directed by Sam Mendes. It was Murdoch’s voice and music what made each possible place and situation in the movie both sad and uplifting at the same time. That’s why his albums Four Songs, Silent Night, Time Without Consequence and Towards The Sun have accomplished during his twelve year long career: no matter how sad this or that point in your life is, no matter how far away he or she is, there always remains hope until the end.
The dream to make this possible through a live performance was what forced the organizers, Pedro & El Lobo and the venue Lunario del Auditorio Nacional, to create Ordinary People, a series of silent concerts. Many complains in the past during intimate concerts with artists such as Andrew Bird, The XX and folk acts about loudness – both by venue workers and audience – made intimacy and artist/public interaction a hard dream to fulfill. By purchasing tickets for events such as this done by Ordinary People, the audience commits to only take in music and create the proper atmosphere for the show to become a celebration of sound and not a drinking excuse. Murdoch was the first artist to put this idea to the test, along with a national opening act Ciénaga.
Alexi Murdoch’s “Through the Dark”
A four hour commute – split between taxis, buses, the subway and walking – was what was required to obtain a night sound tracked by Murdoch. It was a cold Thursday night inside the Lunario. The funny thing about this venue is that it is located at the back of a much bigger and known landmark in México’s music, sports, arts and cultural industries: famous orchestras, bands, ballets and matches had been held inside of it for the past sixty years. It had a big show that same night, with thousands of people filling its front side, while many of us were planning to live a more special intimate evening, just below them.
As we waited for said girl that was just ‘around the corner’, we got in to a small, dark venue, with people standing up in the back and more sitting on the floor, facing the stage. Then, the stage was lit by a few lamps on the ceiling as a man sat on the piano, another grabbed a guitar and a girl placed her violin on her shoulder: they were Ciénaga, an ambient band from México City itself. Sounding like Sigur Rós minus the drama, their music was far from boring, far from being out of place, it sounded like a wonder from a land far away. Then, as the violin became protagonist during one of the songs it required moving to the far side of the stage to take a photo; and there she was, on the other side of the fence, looking at me, smiling. All that could be done was to smile back and grab her hand as if many months of not seeing each other had been years. My friend, Aldo, looked at all of this from afar, like a good invisible third wheel, trying to not mess up the situation.
After a few minutes, Ciénaga seemed to accomplish the first few goals these silent concerts attempted. Then an organizer came to the microphone, introducing Alexi Murdoch and invitnig the audience to stand up and come closer. As they did, a drummer and Murdoch came onstage, tuning their respective instruments for one last time before playing the first call to take us all far away, Prepare.
Alexi Murdoch’s “Dream About Flying”
But after the first song and a warm welcome, technology proved to be a bastard as his microphone sent electric shocks to his mouth, minor ones, making singing uncomfortable. But Murdoch ignored the pain the best he could and, with his electric lips, Through The Dark came second, along with Some Day Soon and more song titles that evoked not so many bright days from his past. A few more songs later, Murdoch had to call for a break so the mic could get fixed and the show could go on. ‘I would do anything for you but die, you guys’, he replied to a not so silent concert after many roars of support and encouragement.
Ten minutes later, a more smiling duo came back for more, with All My Days, Song For You, the long expected Orange Sky – with the help of a piece of cloth as a lip and shock shield – and a sixteen song set to give away to his first public of the year. A few sighs, hugs, tender looks and hand squeezes were happening here and there. Maybe a few apologies were whispered, mistakes forgiven and feelings unspoken. Murdoch had done it again, minus a few noisy bar tenders and screaming girls hidden in the back: he had proved his power to connect people’s feelings with a few guitar strums and a voice that could fly through your ears and into your heart.
‘Guys, at first I was worried about doing this show in front of such an energetic audience, as those in Mexican are said to be; but you all have been amazing and patient. We were supposed to go back to Canada after this show tomorrow morning, but you know what? We are going to stay for a few more days, take a look around and enjoy what you have to offer. So if you see us on the street, come by and say hi to us!’
Those last few words were enough to give his goodbye a more warmth feel than his entrance on-stage. To say goodbye to what felt like a truly special event held under the same ceiling as a heartless pop act at the same time slot is a thing not many cities and venues can offer. His final song was an encore, Untitled, an appropriate title to an appropriate feeling of having someone you truly care about, doing what you love, hearing what you feel, looking at her amazed at how much she is enjoying the moment but unable to say anything. The only thing that came from this writer’s body was a short sigh and a huge silent ‘thank you’ to Alexi Murdoch for making all of this possible, unaware of his involvement.
Finally, we went outside and walked a couple of blocks to her car. She offered me a ride, but I said no. ‘I bet the subway is already closed! Let me give you a ride’, she said. ‘I promise you it isn’t’, I lied. And as she drove away, the only thing I could do was just walk, walk back to the subway entrance, aware that the last train was already gone, smiling and thinking ‘happy early birthday, bonita’.
Away we went our own separate ways, but there is always hope!
Written & Photographed by
Jorge A. López Mendicuti
OurVinyl | Senior Writer & Photographer