A boy I had a crush on several years ago, who also wrote about music, was pretty into the War on Drugs. It was during that sweet time when Kurt Vile was still in the band, a couple of years after the release of Wagonwheel Blues, which was critically lauded and total catnip for think pieces about authenticity and Americana's strong revivalist foothold in both psych and pop.
After we were done making out to the Walkmen's You & Me, he would set Wagonwheel Blues on his turntable and "Arms Like Boulders" would come on. Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile would noodle, and Granduciel would sing about planets full of oil in the kind of spacey, Dylan-esque way that all music writers adored, and I would make out with this guy, genuinely enjoying myself.
Then a month or so later, he texted me.
"Hey, War on Drugs is coming to Hi-Dive [sic], want to go?"
I liked the record, I liked the dude, I said yes, and I went.
Like five lifetimes later, the show was over—and I was left with one lingering question: If I like the record, why did I hate that?
What I Think Now: I totally pretended to like that show for that guy. That's part of the nuance. Because after that show, he was going on and on about how much he loved it and I wasn't self-assured enough to say what I really thought.
Which is that it was excessive. Look: Granduciel is talented, and the War on Drugs is a project that showcases his best skills—crafting introspective songs that don't sink into themselves and grooves that propel without losing steam, like some sort of perpetual motion machine.
But that man does not know when to stop a solo. I started to see, after standing for two hours staring blankly into the middle distance as the War on Drugs slowly morphed into a jam band before my eyes, that they need the limitations of a studio record to shine. Like many talented guitar players, if you give Granduciel an inch, he will play forever and ever, amen.
So, yeah, that's the problem. I like the War on Drugs. I do not like seeing the War on Drugs. And I trusted my own tastes so little that I saw them three more times, after their subsequent releases, and finally at the last show I turned to my friend and said, "I'm sleepy. I'm leaving."
It felt great. That weekend, I put on Slave Ambient and enjoyed it sitting down, sun coming in my window.
Self-awareness comes slowly, and it comes even more slowly for me. Much like a War on Drugs jam, it's a long journey to get to the point, but every part feels important. Unless you witness it live—then it's kind of a drag.
Was It Worth It: You can like something in some situations and not in others. You can not like something that everyone likes or says you're supposed to like. You can leave in the middle of a show if you're not enjoying yourself (just don't be a dick about it).
There is not just "I hate this" and "I love this," and a big part of me owning my own taste and asserting my own opinions was figuring out the gray area within them.
And never going to see the War on Drugs again.
Yes, it was worth it.