Set it on fire, the titanium, charcoal, potassium perchlorate and dextrin. In your hand, you hold a sparkler, innocuously dangerous: a light to represent yourself.
So you write your name in the air with white-hot, impermanent ink. In a few seconds, it will be smoke. A few years go by, and your memories of this night, one Fourth of July of your childhood, will be one layer of a palimpsest on which new years are laid. Each year that follows is partially erased, too, to make way for more memories.
That is, unless you’re Kyle Morton, who sings of a fateful summer night in a northern state, a night now locked in the song “The Lake,” off Typhoon‘s 2013 album White Lighter.
“A sparkler in my hand, I went after them (as they went out into the night) / I wandered down to a quiet place where the grass grew tall as it met the lake / There was a different bug, must have bit my leg, though I never saw him.”
“I write about this illness that kind of came to me when I was a kid,” Morton told Hear Nebraska’s Bridget McQuillan, alluding to the Lyme disease he contracted, “but I also write about my love life as a teenager and how all of these things sort of intersected and caused a lot of complications.
“It just played a big role in how I viewed myself. And when you’re young, this idea of self-image is both important or ethereal and unsubstantial. Basically, I wanted to write about that and what actually happened to me and how it made me how I am today.”
At The Waiting Room on Tuesday, Typhoon returned to Omaha carrying the light of candles stuck in cupcakes. In celebration of violinist Jen Hufnagel — one of two violinists, and one of the band’s 11 members — Morton led a room about three-quarters full through a sweetly sincere rendition of “Happy Birthday,” which stood as one-half of a centerpiece among most of White Lighter’s tracks and a couple songs off previous albums.
The second half of that centerpiece comprised the song “Dreams of Cannibalism,” and a singalong of its one-time-only refrain. Testament to the audience’s devotion to the band, that refrain’s three somewhat-hard-to-remember lines paid off when we shouted them out verbatim, more than two minutes after Morton’s instruction.
Like the chemical reactions of a firework slowed down, Typhoon succeeded in moving its audience by building songs piece-by-piece, each line of lyrics containing more or fewer syllables than the last, each melodic line existing on its own within the universe they create. What a beautiful white light they made.