Beauty in the Darkness: Bleachers at Grand Lodge
It may feel like the world is slowly burning, but on a hot summer night at McMenamins Grand Lodge, New Jersey’s Bleachers and leading man Jack Antonoff found hope within the flame. Words by Bren Swogger and photos by Sydnie Kobza.
The show that hot summer night might not have been sold out, but the intimate lawn space at Oregon’s newest venue was filled to the brim with chairs, beach towels, bodies, and sweat.
Surrounded by trees in the quaint college town of Forest Grove, the new McMenamins Grand Lodge seems to be shaping up to be a great venue, blending the atmosphere for an outdoor show with the intimacy of an indoor venue.
But basking in the nearly 100 degree heat, one couldn’t help but wonder what a truly sold out show would look like here. There didn’t seem to be much room for more. Despite the density though, the new venue—only on its second ever show—was a gorgeous place for an evening of music.
As more people crowded into the tight lawn space, a pre-show playlist made up solely of ABBA songs blasted over the house speakers. It felt like a perfect summer evening, and a welcome retreat from the constant news stream that felt like watching the world slowly burn.
Because two days prior, the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision that effectively stripped over half the population of the rights to their own bodies. It was shocking and dismal news, and even now, almost two weeks past, the feeling of hopelessness in the air has not subsided.
But even in the darkest of times, a bit of ABBA always helps a little bit.
As the playlist wrapped up, the final notes of “Thank You for the Music” ringing out, the show was suddenly off as Jack Antonoff, leading man of Bleachers and reigning Grammys Producer of the Year, took to the stage.
There was no big lead up, no flourishing fanfare. Antonoff simply appeared, suddenly, at the piano, and began to sing.
Starting with a shortened version of “91” as an intro, Antonoff and the band went straight into “Dream of Mickey Mantle”, letting the energy slowly build over the first two songs of the set before unleashing the full force of Bleachers’ power onto the Forest Grove crowd. Finally donning his guitar, Jack Antonoff let loose on “Wild Heart”, the energy blasting out in the form of music and pure joy.
It’s no secret to those familiar with Bleachers and Antonoff’s work, but it’s clearer than ever in person just how much fun Jack Antonoff has playing music. Standing up there on stage, all smiles, with his guitar slung over his shoulder, he looks at home. It’s the sight of a man exactly where he’s supposed to be, having the time of his life in everything he does.
It all seemed so perfect at that moment. The crowd dancing and singing together, the setting sun casting a perfect glow over the field. Beams of light perfectly filtered through the leaves of the surrounding trees. There was so much beauty in the world…
But despite it all, as much of a detour as it felt from the burden of American turmoil, nobody—not even Jack Antonoff—could ignore the state of things.
Looking up at the sun rays beaming beautifully through the trees, Antonoff mused:
“Do you ever look at that and think what a wonderful world… but what the fuck is wrong with those people?”
The crowd cheered in agreement.
“There’s a lot of beauty in the world,” Antonoff continued. “But I hope the Surpreme Court burns to the fucking ground.”
Antonoff didn’t have to say much, but the general feeling that ached and simmered in everyone was finally spoken for. As the set continued, the negativity that was kept locked inside of everyone was finally set free. Instead of bogging down the night, it provided fuel to the fire within.
Through an almost two hour set, Bleachers never let the energy falter. Even through the slow songs, Antonoff gave his all, raising the temperature on an already hot night, and letting the fire of hope in a moment of darkness burn brighter than ever.