(Much better photos available via Mike White’s site HERE)
I knew very little about the band Sparks before watching the Edgar Wright documentary “The Sparks Brothers” on Netflix. I’d heard them billed as “your favorite band’s favorite band” in some places and “goddamn musical geniuses” in others. For whatever reason, the two older gentlemen hadn’t crossed my radar at all until I was bored one night with my regular viewing fare and figured “Eh, what the hell? I like Wright’s movies, this should be fun.” And it was.
I threw the documentary on again one night when my husband was home. He has a taste for the weird but I never know what is going to be a hit with him. He also adored Sparks. We began binging the band’s incredible catalog together, finding new favorites every few days. I dig more of the later era stuff like “Lawnmower,” “Edith Piaf,” and the Franz Ferdinand collaboration FFS. He dug some of the older stuff like “Number One Song in Heaven.” Naturally, we had to find out if Sparks was touring any time soon. As luck would have it, the brothers Mael were bringing a full band to Atlanta.
I’ve been pretty open about my reluctance to see indoor concerts anytime soon. I bought tickets to see Sparks when covid cases were finally trending downward. I bought them because I saw that the Eastern was requiring proof of vaccination or negative test and because Sparks themselves asked for people to wear masks to the show. The Eastern was a new space to me but everything I saw indicated that I wouldn’t be packed in like a sardine and the air was freely flowing. So I felt better about that. But I mostly bought the tickets to see Sparks because in the back of my brain, I’d decided that if this was the show that took me out, that some idiot gave me covid at, I’d be ok with that. I know that’s not most people’s line of thinking these days but it was mine. I was also acutely aware that Ron and Russell are in their 70s. It might be harder to catch them on tour after this.
It was a top ten show for me, a gig for the ages. I’d rarely felt this happy during a concert, much less after one. I saw some old local pals I haven’t seen since 2019. We happened to cross paths with some friends of ours who’d come up from Florida, not knowing we’d see each other at the show. We spent two hours discussing all that’d we’d missed talking to each other about since we were last in the same room. 2018 I think? It’s been a while. But all we felt was JOY. All I felt coming from the stage during the show was JOY. Ron even smiled a tiny bit here and there. I didn’t even notice my mask. I didn’t think about how hard it’s been to be without this music experience.
I thought about this joy when I heard that Taylor Hawkins had died. We often talk about audience joy, appreciation, feeling but it goes both ways. Some musicians just radiate having a damn good time playing. Hawkins was like that. Eddie Van Halen too. You can’t begin to replace either because of that JOY they carried. Sure, they had off days too, they were only human after all, but sometimes there’s an obvious line onstage between who is there and enjoying it and who would be doing this for free anyway because it is ALL they are.
I’m still not ready to go to indoor shows unless there’s pretty hefty precautions. But that happiness of a good show will sit with me for a while. I hope you find some happiness too.