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Hallelujah For The Hypochondriacs

On Saturday night, my soul was saved.

I went down to The Capital Complex and I joined a congregation. I didn’t expect to—I thought I was only going to see a show—but now mine eyes have seen the glory of the comin’ of the Lord!/He’s a-trampling out, so vintage, into clubs and record stores.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of The Hypochondriac Himself, Mr. Josh Bravener, with a grand accompaniment of his clubhouse pals, his drinking buddies and  his band—and what a band! He’s got a drummer that’s his brother and you can tell it; the rest of em are family, too—though not by birth, only by blood.

Photo: Sarah Howden

The evening’s service began with The Galpines, a quartet of gals from Moncton, singing crass country, crooning sarcastic songs that you don’t hear being sung nearly enough: songs about girls by girls for girls—or perhaps more accurately, songs for people who don’t realize all the bullshit that girls gotta go through. With cowboy boots clicking they called out all the lousy lovers, bad brothers, shitty sons. They sang funny songs, that’s for sure, but they were laughing at us more than with us. I felt the punch of the punchlines, the satire’s sting, the kick in the balls. It was long overdue.

Forgive me, Bravener, for I have sinned.

Photo: Sarah Howden

By the time The Hypos took the stage it was full dark, for the evening was conducted outside—as all the best baptisms are—but there was a glow from a string of lights hanging oh-so-heavenly overhead, a radiance that hypnotized. Even the passersby, the non-believers, the doubters, and other so-called skeptics soon stood side-stage, hoping to poke their fingers into palms or at least get outta the parking lot. Throughout the Tannery, all was silent and still; eyes were fixed upon the altar at which Bravener stood atop a soapbox, jacket red as the apple from which we all have bitten—yes we have.

He tore through the songs fast n frantic, like he was ripping pages out of a hymnbook: “Just Like Before,” “Two Bottles of Whiskey,” “Hung up and Hungover” and all the other tunes off the new album—alongside some oldies for the loyalest of disciples, too. Some sounded like doowop, some like rockabilly, some like country—but all were delivered like sermons. All the while, Bravener did his darndest to raise a ruckus while healing the crippled, the blind and the heartsick, eyes bugging out then rolling on back; sometimes he’d look like he’d come down with a fever, a-sweatin’ and a-shakin’, and sometimes he’d wriggle around like a charmed snake (though sometimes he was the charmer). It seemed like he was about to start speaking in tongues, saying “Take this record and listen to it, goddamnit, this is my body, I give it up for you.”

At one point, some guy nearby turned to me and said “This is the place.” That’s all he said: “This is the place.” He could’ve been a father or an uncle, or maybe he was simply somebody seeking salvation like I was. I didn’t exactly know what he meant, but I thought I understood well enough, so I turned to him and said “Amen.”

When all the dust had settled and all the smoke had cleared—when enough bread had been broken and enough wine had been drunk—the ceremony came to its conclusion; I headed home with a copy of the band’s new album, In ¾, in my hands, clutched to my chest like a bible.

Someday—if all unfolds as it ought to—my fisrtborn son will hear the album. He’ll come to me, and he’ll say, “Hey, old man, where were you the night The Hypochondriacs released their record?” And I’ll sit him on my lap, eyes twinkling, and say, “Well, my boy—I was there! Right in the middle of the congregation! My hands were held high … I sang hallelujah and I was healed!”

But he’ll scoff at me. He’ll say, “Congregation?” He’ll say, “Healed? What’d they do, set up in a church?”

And I’ll pat him on the head oh-so-gently. I’ll think about that night, and I’ll just smile.

“Something like that,” I’ll say.

Photo: Sarah Howden

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