July 1, 2010

Reports from the Road by Bryan Devendorf (Glastonbury, Part 3)

Putting fingers to keys, The National's Bryan Devendorf has guided us through the band's Glastonbury experience. Over the past three days, we've read about Martin Sheen and method acting, white wine and Biggie Smalls.

Today's post comes from the 26th, the day the band officially plays...Glastonbury. The Reports from the Road have led up to this moment. So what goes through a man's mind before playing a large British festival? See below.

Day Three: "What It's Like"

Somerset, UK
June 26, 2010

My dad was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. When we were young there was a slideshow he showed us of aerial photographs of Saigon he had taken himself from the cockpit of a Chinook. Greenness dominated the images. And wide boulevards. He was probably like twenty-five years old at the time, ten years younger than I am now. And this is germane to the story because I am here (and I’m still here!) flailing away on a drum set not so different from the first one my parents bought me all those years ago, a Pearl Export Series, with a basic black wrap. All those years practicing in the basement have led to this: the survival of my father's genetics and what's more a place here in the lineup of this legendary festival which ironically has the look and feel of a military occupation - the land all fenced off and divided into zones of control fed by different colored wristbands.

I've been told that what we're doing (sleeping on a bus and playing in a band) is inherently interesting but I don't get it and can't quite express "what it's like." Miserable? Exciting? I don't know. It is what it is I suppose. I'm just lucky to be here, onstage, living the dream. But it's not like that at all. It's more like an out-of-body experience you've come to know and love. And fear. Or embrace. One you think you can control until you start thinking about it.

It's 1720 GMT. The sun is still high in the sky at this latitude. Flags and banners rise above the audience. Someone near the front has raised aloft the state flag of California which flaps away in the breeze like the closing shot in a documentary about state government. I sit down behind the drums and dial the metronome to 133 BPM. I have to press the thing to my ear to hear the click over the roaring sound in my head. It's a moment of synesthesia with the sun making noise and the strange color of the sky. I turn off the metronome; I inhale, holding my breath for a moment like my grandmother taught me to do while target shooting, and then I count off four beats, 1-2-3-4, like it's still the Mercury Lounge and we start to play.


That does it for Post #3. If interested in visual representations of the festival, don't forget to come back tomorrow for a post featuring photographs taken by the band. (Special thanks to Scott Devendorf for the above portrait.) We're also going to put 'em on Flickr, which we haven't done in a while.

In other news, The National continue their spate of European dates with an appearance this weekend at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Then it's off to Holland, Germany, France, Portugal, and the UK before returning stateside in late July. If you didn't click the link above but want to see where the band is next, click here.

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