The Garden and their Jesters
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
by Jesper Wolfe
On Tuesday, November 23, 2021 at 5:37 PM I received a text message from a friend saying, “Hey I have an extra ticket to see The Garden tomorrow if you wanted to go.” Post 2015 I never would have brought myself to a Garden show, yet there was a part of me that felt excited.
I finished my shift at the coffee shop, Lavender Latte and protein bar in hand, I started walking toward the train. For some reason, I had the most difficult time with directions on this night. I kept thinking I was walking the right way only to look down and discover I had traveled too far into the opposite, so much so that I kept thinking
maybe I should just keep going that way.
I made my way from Manhattan to Brooklyn, walked past McCarren Park and found myself outside of Warsaw. Warsaw is an interesting venue because they have a funny sign up about perogies that I can’t remember now. The staff is also very kind at that venue, at some point I saw a few stumbly girls take a seat on the floor and a security guard came up to them, gave them water and said “if you need anything you ask one of us,” but seemed to be talking to one of the girls more than the other two. There’s something about moments like that, when you feel like a child and there’s some security guard archetype who comes up and tries to protect you, it’s like the woman in me is saying “i am a woman, come pick me up.” There’s something very comforting about it, like those few times as a kid I fell on my back and got the wind knocked out of me and my dad would pick me up and hold me in his arms until I could breathe again, or the way my older brother made me look away when something horrendous was happening on the other side of the room. There’s something about men maintaining naivety that really strikes a chord with me.
I got to Warsaw and the people that I was meeting had already gone inside and the line was exceptionally long. While there I tried to grasp the type of people who were coming to this show, I really had no idea what to expect. Behind me stood a group of jesters in full makeup, one of whom would later nudge my shoulder repeatedly, apologizing each time with the conviction of someone who is afraid of being cancelled despite not doing anything wrong, and one of his fellow jesters after the third time would state “that poor girl,” expecting me to have a reaction. As I wondered why these people were acting so annoying and if it had anything to do with their choice of costume for the night, memories of The Garden flooded back to me, but I thought there was no way they were still doing the jester thing themselves. I was wrong. They are still very much so doing the jester makeup thing.
I hadn’t listened to The Garden’s music in years but I had high hopes. Back in the day, they did write some catchy, upbeat songs and at the time were doing something sort of unique. When I got into Warsaw, the opening band Dr. Know was playing--they were really sick. Dr. Know is a band Wikipedia credits as the “founding fathers of the so-called ‘Nardcore’ punk movement.”The singer, Brandon Cruz, would put water in his mouth and spit it into the crowd like a dragon and everyone looked like the older counterparts to a band that once cherished all of it’s long-haired, headbanging fans. Cruz kept up with the energy of the music quite well and it was all around an amazing performance. Picking a punk band from the 80’s as an opener was an interesting choice from The Garden, but I think that Dr. Know complimented them quite well. This gives me hope to one day see my father, who is relaunching his punk band from the 70’s The Furys, do the same (shameless plug for my dad).
Dr. Know finished after Cruz poured water over himself and everyone pushed toward the front a little, which now only makes me think of Astroworld. I escaped the pit to wander around the venue for a moment and I asked different people for a phone charger.
Warsaw plays classical music in between sets which made me quite anxious actually, though I assume their intention is something like a CBD cigarette. Their walls are adorned by Renaissance art and fancy architectural details, which is cool I guess.
Eventually, the music started again. The Garden took the stage with their full jester outfits and everyone around me seemed excited, but I was having a weird experience where my body couldn’t decide what year it was. My body was caught in a temporal limbo. Musically, I feel The Garden hasn’t changed at all from the time I used to be a more active listener of them. I was having vivid flashbacks to the Burgerama days and thinking about how everything’s gotten much shittier since then, including their music. Their performance, sound and imagery seems to have stayed very stagnant over the years. On top of it, they didn’t play a single song that I recognized, which was quite a let down. At some point, I was tired of listening to the booming, so I went to sit by the bar and watched the show from a TV where some twinkle lights danced to the sound of The Garden’s music as this young couple flirted with each other.
There were a couple songs throughout their set that caught my attention. But overall, I don’t feel they have moved in any direction over the years as I stopped paying attention to them. The whole rest of the crowd seemed to be having a really good time so maybe I was just in a mood and that contributed to my experience of the whole thing, that’s something music journalists always seem to avoid talking about. A lot of music is triggering or has to do with feeling and when someone tries to claim an objectivity about something that is inherently fleeting, it’s tricky.
Toward the end there was a cool image where Wyatt was singing, leaning into the crowd and the way the light hit him projected a huge shadow version of him onto the wall. His hat, the mic and even a few faces of the people in front of him all displayed onto the side of the crowd. When the music ended everyone started chanting but I couldn’t tell if they were saying “encore” or “one more.” They came back out and played one more song which I thought forsure would be a song I knew, but it wasn’t. As soon as the music was over everyone rushed to get their coats from coat check. I said bye to my friend and left the venue in search of food and hoping something more exciting might happen on this night. I sat in McCarren park for a while in the freezing cold with a turkey sandwich and waited for my phone to die before I went home.