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Concerts à emporter

Lykke Li and El Perro Del Mar

The swedish pop singers were troopers. They fought against the wind, sickness and travel, but in the end we got to witness these little gems.

We got the okay to shoot at the Phoenix hotel but it was going to cost 50 bucks. The place was an oasis in the midst of the crumbling tenderloin district where black gum spots marked the sidewalks like shameful freckles and corners all covered with torn cardboard boxes–vacant beds from the previous night. Nate didn’t like the idea of paying 50 bucks so after greeting the tour bus, them stomping down those awkward steps like team hopscotch on hot coals we immediately walked the 6 or so blocks down to the civic center. We were a motley crue, traveling in little bundles, I barely got their names, but knew who they were. We were like gypsies, nomadic, carrying homes on our backs, stands, guitars, percussion, a tiny piano that schroder from peanuts might have played, bells, a trunk full of odds and ends, I really wanted to talk to them, make them laugh.

At the heart of the civic center is city hall, 1 point in a triangle of puritan white buildings with jutting columns, marble-like steps and daunting doorways that also includes the opera house and some museum you can skip. The consistent coastal wind raced and howled like a child showing off and ruffled the keffiyeh wrapped around Lykke’s neck. I was told she had a cold and was trying to keep her throat warm, I was worried. They decided to shoot the first song on the steps of city hall, in the long shadow those columns cast where it had to be at least 5 degrees colder. You can hear the wind whining behind their singing.

Halfway through the song, 2 police officers in cacky uniforms with hissing shoulder radios came from inside the building onto the steps. They ambled toward the group like a couple of gunslingers, in no hurry, holding weight on each foot before pivoting back, advancing slowly and giving each other the eye. For a second I considered letting the cops stop the song, after all isn’t the point to let circumstance consume the experience? But i stepped in front of them with my 1st finger up asking for 1 minute, because i just wanted to hear them finish. So they did.

About 500 yards away, in the sliver of sunlight San Francisco had granted that day was a fenced in playground. I mounted the monkey bars and swung like an idiot while everyone else got ready for the second song. Again the group crowded around the girls, shielding them from the wind and us strangers. Just as the band began to play and Lykke began to shimmy and shake, two little girls followed loosely by their father charged the blue obstacle course with native speed and it started to feel like we were all there to play. Like the song Lykke sang was written on that same playground several years ago and then stored away in her memory waiting for those ladders, tic tac toe, squeaky footbridge and curvy slide to bring it back with a rush of memory and we were just lucky enough to see it come out.

-Will Abramson