I want to tell you about the Pedro The Lion show in St. Louis last night.
No artist has had a more profound impact on my life than David Bazan. His announcement a couple months ago that he's re-adopting the Pedro The Lion monicker for the foreseeable future was met with stunned delight from a lot of his fans, myself included. Stunned, because with Dave's journey from Christianity to agnosticism a decade+ ago, dropping the Pedro name seemed inextricably tied to that split.
So it was that lots of us who love Dave presumed that was that. Old Dave is Pedro. New Dave is Dave.
But apparently new Dave *can* be Pedro. And as I'm approaching nearly two decades of following along with Bazan’s career, my brain hasn't developed a category for what this even *is* now: a Pedro The Lion helmed by a non-believing Dave. Wild.
I've seen Bazan in person more times than I can count—probably once or twice every year for as long as I can remember. At these shows, I've learned to expect an evening with funny and thoughtful banter between Bazan and his audience, as well as a cathartic release of my political and religious anxieties, with Dave's world-weary baritone serving as the catalyst for wrestling through the things that keep me awake at night.
So I go into these performances with a good sense of what to expect. But I've never seen Bazan like I saw him last night. The room was electric. The new band was *tight* in the pocket all night, and there was a sense of excitement that we were taking part in something *new* even though it was, for all intents and purposes, a return to something old.
After a thrashing opening movement of 4-5 old Pedro songs, Dave smiled at the crowd and exuded, “You all have found yourselves at a goddamn Pedro The Lion show.” The line was met with laughs and cheers, an open acknowledgement among us all that, yes, this really is real. Dave continued, “I'm glad it's fun for you, because it's fun for me too.”
The band went back deep. Of a 20-song set, 17 were from the old Pedro records and EPs. Hell, even the Whole EP made an appearance. The moment the opening riff from “Nothing” started, there was a collective gasp followed by more whoops and claps. I don't think anyone was prepared to ever hear songs like *that* again.
I stood in the crowd, feeling these dormant parts of me re-awakened as these songs from my youth transported me back to the pains and struggles of my early twenties. I thought of the doubts and fears I faced back then and couldn't help but feel a resignation that, yup, many of the same demons still haunt me now.
There was more, though. I think a lot of people can relate to how when sadness and pain and confusion hits, especially when intertwined with religiosity, it's easy to feel like a failure. It's easy to tell yourself to grow up and stand straight. Get over it.
Last night, hearing Dave revisit those old tunes, I thought of how twenty-year-old-Matt was under the illusion that ”growing up” meant his doubts, his struggles, and his pain would dissipate. He didn't yet know that aging would often only bring more complex hurt and confusion.
I'm not yet delivered from the struggle, but I know enough to know the struggle isn't unique to me. All of us are traumatized. All of us need major healing.
Dave Bazan's entire catalog is often a return to that simple truth.
More than anything else, Pedro The Lion's gift last night was taking me back to that place of loneliness and giving my younger self permission to revisit those old insecurities and meet them with a renewed vision that he wasn't as weird or immature as he thought. He was worthy of love. And he wasn't alone.