A total sucker for a good jukebox.
by Caitlin Caven
At this stage, The Antlers are a small endeavor, largely reliant on word of mouth. We’re all flattered and surprised when anyone has heard of The Antlers—and when people are actually familiar with the songs and excited to see the show, it ignites a kind of heart-swelling joy in each of us. On this tour, we’re largely hitting towns for which we have no point of reference, so each day is a fresh question mark. We have no expectations for any location other than “we will get lost”; our highest hopes for any foreign place can be summed up as, “Beer? People listening? A roof?” We leave one adventure behind and drive into the void, hoping that the next adventure will be a good one. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, was one of the best adventures yet.
The venue, the Village Tavern, is essentially a bar in a strip mall. Everything in the area seemed to be housed in a strip mall, actually. (Michael did not find it charming when I, looped on cold medication, informed him, per my navigator duties, “…Oh… I think Peter said it’s in a strip mall…” He looked at a strip mall on the left, a strip mall on the right, and darkly replied, “thanks.”) That’s the thing, though: apparently, one can’t judge a book by its cover or a bar by its proximity to a CVS.
The Village Tavern has a stellar jukebox, fantastically friendly staff, pool tables, and a welcoming, laid-back atmosphere. Posters on the wall commemorate past shows with the likes of Of Montreal, Deerhunter, and The Unicorns. The Antlers were the only band on the bill on a Friday night, which we imagined was at best a clerical error and at worst a recipe for a lonely show.
About half an hour before the band went on, while sound-checking, eight or so high school kids came in the door. They had a starry-eyed expression I immediately recognized: that look of “it’s the weekend! I’m at a rock show!” They set up camp at a table and went off to play a few rounds of pool.
“I think they’re here to see you guys,” I whispered to Peter.
“I know!” he beamed. “It’s so cool.”
During the set, they stood near the stage and absorbed everything intently. One requested “The Universe is Going to Catch You”, the pop hit (heh) off of Peter’s solo album, In the Attic of the Universe. He sheepishly played it (“God, it’s been so long since I’ve done this”), and, by the end, the band and audience were clapping along with the built-up chorus. Peter’s face was a giddy flush, an expression mirrored exactly on the kid who had requested the song. Afterwards, our new friends milled around, and we discussed AP European History, middle names, Mount Pleasant’s music scene, high school jocks, and novelty light-up pens. They bought CDs and t-shirts and helped us carry things back to the minivan, and we waved good-bye and with the promise that we would come back soon.
The experience flashed me back to when I was their age, an unfortunate time in history where my music taste was a particularly embarrassing hybrid of cheeseball pop-punk and musical theater. These kids were miles beyond my high-school self, and I was mystified by their coolness. They had taken the time to discover, research, and bond with a little band from Brooklyn, and invited their friends to do the same. They turned the question-mark of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina into an authoritative exclamation point—and, from the perspective of a touring band, that is real power.