Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Joy is infectious
It was Not The Best Concert I Ever Saw in All My Life. There are others that have already earned that slot in my heart and head.
I *did not* see Rock and Roll Future. Its name wasn't Bruce Springsteen and the hyperbolic-Landau title can’t even go to the Arctic Monkeys.
But, you know what? Doesn't matter. Shouldn't matter. I had a blast—it was one of the most necessary things I have ever done in my life.
Friday night: we hit the Empty Bottle to see The Dirtbombs–that killer Detroit rock band. We got super close; the stage was ridiculously low (like leg-graspingly low). We danced. Straight men and women danced. We got sweaty and we drank. And we talked to strangers and they talked to us. It seemed so normal and so right. I fell in love with Chicago in those first moments.
Chicago: the city where you can hail a cab and not have to phone one. The city where most people ride mass transit. The big city of 2,862,244 people. (Which, doesn't really compare with New York City, center of the universe at 8,104,079 or cute, lil' MPLS, at 373,943.) The record stores, the people, the dancing, the punk rock bars (we got lucky, finding one in the Reader) after the Arctic show) the orgasmic-ly delicious food at all the restaurants–including the after-bar burritos and pizza (better than any damn food here in MPLS, still. Sorry, but iz true.)
Walking into the first record joint (Reckless Records) we went to on Saturday, had “She’s So Heavy,” all raunchy, rocking. Expecting to hear “Here Comes The Sun” next—I just about lost all my cool when Pulp’s “Underwear” came on. I couldn’t help but sing along. Kinda loudly—as I looked through the bargain-bin vinyl. I felt like Lester Bangs. Just for that moment.
Chi-town is the city of a million record stores and rock venues. The city of the Irish, Polish, German and Italian ancestry, and black, Hispanic and Asian people live there too–actual diversity! Plenty of history (Al Capone and mobsville, baby) and LOADS of culture and museums, too. Affordable rent and entertainment and beer. And there’s Time Out and The Reader and Chi is one of the birth places of the Blues.
OK, I'm not researching a "report" or "paper" on Chi. I'm just kind of gushing, cuz I'm love.
Saturday night was...totally surreal.
Before the band came out, they played some Beasties (“What’cha Want”) and a song especially for the Rappin’ Lawyer who drove us there: “Regulators” by Warren G and Nate Dogg. Oh hells yeah. It was a little ode to the fact that the Lads grew up listeing to hip hop. It seemed right and fuck, it got the crowd moving and ready. (after the show was done—no encore for these kids—out streamed “Nobody Does it Better” by Carly Simon. It actually worked.)
The lads took the stage at 8:15–on the nose and it was all over by 9:10 in the fucking evening. The strange thing is how calm I felt. How lucid everything was. Everything was clear, memorable and although I was experiencing a great deal of joy–I was very aware and in control of all my faculties. Well, that and the band did not exactly rip it up. They were fantastic, though. Alex Turner was passionate—trying to make wide-eyed-eye contact with as many fans as possible, it seemed. Matt Helders, the drummer was making all those expressions you're supposed to make when you're banging on the skins. And I mean that in the most sincere way–he was feeling it. He was working his ass off. Andy Nicholson was SO bored! Well, bored-looking anyway. He really looked like he was getting a job done that needed to get done, but wasn't actually enjoying himself. Although we got close, (and then we got REALLY close–mid-set, like a row or two of people's bodies between us and the stage) I never really watched Jamie Cook all that much. He was working it, though.
The sound was kick-ass; all of Turner's lyrics were clear as a bell (with some extra swears thrown in, here and there). But all the lads just seemed like they were in maybe a bit of a pissy mood–my theory, now, is that after such a horrible time at SXSW, they were a little extra bitter and sick-of-it-all.
Course, when he asked “Where’s the party after?” I yelled, “RIGHT HERE!” *sigh*…and when a roadie took his guitar he quipped, bratty-like, “I’m too famous to tune me own geetar now.” About that Alex Turner bloke: “Cocky bitch,” says Jessica. “Wotta ham,” from E-beth. Haha.
I acknowledge, now, that I was setting myself for total-inevitable-disappointment (but, tonight there'll be some LUV...right true). And that did happen–but it was still a dream come fucking true and everything surrounding it–falling in love with the town, my beloved travel companions–J and E–ma ladies! And Jessica's fabulous 21-year-old sister (who, might be going out some night with the reigning Corned Beef and Hash Eating Champion of the world, who we met at the punk rock bar on Saturday night, accompanied by a dude in a Dillinger Four shirt, who was into my Asbury Park jacket patch… but that's another story).
But, the people? The fans? They were golden. They were friendly and great. Blissful–beeeming smiles all around, actually, Alex. Sweaty, dancing, shouting and beaming 18-year-old boys, 24-year-old women, older men, middle aged ladies, and young kids. Totally diverse. Real fucking fans–who knew all the fucking words, to all the songs. We were all shouting along together–for the first time in a long time: my voice got all scratchy and I was achy-sore from dancing and po-going two nights in a row.
After the show was over—we were all feeling pretty strange. In the ladies’ room there were these hot younger chicks with their tits out and these thick Northern English accents. I couldn’t resist. I said, “Where you from?” They were from fucking Manchester. I yelled out, “Long live Oasis and New Order!” as we walked away. I guess they laughed…hmph.
And, I gotsta admit it. Part of the surrealism was a slightly unsettling feeling during parts of the show. Jim said it: you need this perspective. When you have experienced such a solitary thing (listening to that record a million times) and it becomes a little more real—with 1,099 other people chanting along with you—it can be kind disconcerting. But it’s necessary.
What eased me during those moments was looking to my right: J's smiling, joyful face and to my left, E: dancing beside me–making eye contact, her eyes, full of satisfaction and her precious dancing! Very comforting–took me back to Saturdays listening to it with her in my room-discussing the relevance it had to our lives.
How deep is too deep?
PS America *might* be catching on… When I got back, all car tired and sore—Lil’ Steven’s Underground Garage wasn’t on yet, so I flipped the radio to 105.7. “I Bet That You Look Good On the Dancefloor” blared. I beamed.