This article is published in number 23 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until June 8, 2021
Do you remember how you were in 1999? The haircut and jeans you wore, the exact number of cigarettes you smoked per day, the house you slept in? Do you remember the tar arteries of the Isola district where you found accommodation, which looking at it today looks more like the Rimini seafront in summer? Do you remember Roberta and her friends, the ones who picked you up from home to take you to Binario Zero? There was a column in front of the stage, the small and compressed stage was dominated by a mezzanine with a mixer.
People flocked to the entrance: there were no street lamps outside, it was always dark and it seemed that the killers could come out at any moment. A “Mod” sticker was stuck on the intercom in the street. You had just moved to Milan and Binario Zero was – for country boys like you – a demonstration of the existence of God. It did not seem possible that so much fragility, so much architectural and acoustic imperfection, could give every evening such a mass of beauty. He was a clubbino, but he became legendary. At the psychedelic Flaming Lips show of The Soft Bulletin tour and the heartbreaker Mercury Rev of Deserter’s Songs you cried with emotion. Among the audience were Moltheni, Manuel Agnelli, Joe from La Crus, squashed side by side like canned sardines.
Do you remember? In 2002 you too would have gone on that stage. In the encore you sang Reality, from the film Il tempo delle mele. Probably someone had sex in the dressing room; but you hardly remember anything except that you spent the night in a hotel in Porta Venezia with a girl from Verona.
You had already played with the group in Milan before you went to live there. Could it have been 1997? You had loaded the van together with the others and then off to the highway, Valdichiana – South Milan in one fell swoop. You were nobody. Someone had organized a date for you at Leoncavallo. But who were you, and who did you think you were, every time you went down the slippery stairs of the city’s caves? Who were you at the Rainbow Club in via Besenzanica 3, that afternoon of excruciating heat when the city was prey to continuous blackouts? You already had a contract, a staff, and for the first time a piece on the radio. Who were you F., what mask were you wearing in 2005? You played in front of a possessed crowd, you played badly, probably, but it didn’t count, they were all talking about you, your record and the song about the suicide girl. Do you remember Sara, who you were secretly in love with? Now they tell you that the Rainbow is an underground car park, and that they have built a building above the car park: one of these days you will have the courage to go and check if it is true, if the sonic spirits hover over the building.
Those of Franz Ferdinand, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Adam Green! You would love to go back to the Rainbow, to see those concerts again or to just dance, and you can’t anymore. You want to go back to the Tunnel, rub yourself among the water-soaked people on any autumn evening and stand there in the far right corner as Bill Callahan plays. And will times like those of Rolling Stone return, now sad condominium, where did you look Michael Stipe in the eyes? Will the kitsch tombstones of Transilvania in via Paravia return, where Eleanor from Fiery Furnaces took you to another dimension? Will the glorious days of Alcatraz return? You know that the ghosts of Amy Winehouse, the Strokes (tour of Is this it!), The Belle and Sebastian, the Air of the good period and the Portishead era Third still stir in there, along the white corridors. Your ghost also lives in those tunnels, an exhausted skeleton with a towel on his head in the post concert of one of the last live shows with the group, in 2018. The demons wander around in the abandoned places of the city hit by the Virus. Nothing will go back to the way it was. Yet, as in any postwar period, we will rebuild, damn it, we will live, for better or for worse. And we will go back inside the cellars, in the basements, in improvised spaces. It will be exciting to start over. We will have lost almost everything, because in life sometimes we lose, but for this very reason it will be more beautiful, and we will remember: everything tastes better on an empty stomach.
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