Saturday, July 27
fun. OR What a Highly Sensitive Person Experiences at a Concert
I really love music. I love really loud music. No, no. Really. People say they love music, but I'm a music lover. I'm also a highly sensitive person. A qualified introvert. I want to share this piece of writing with you because I want you to know what you might take for granted. I want you to know what some of us mean when we say something was an incredible experience. I want to put words to an incredible experience. Jump in to experience the show!
Remember how I told you to never fly between New England and Ohio? I flew to Ohio. To go to Bunbury with my familiar, Rebeccy. (I also then got stuck in Ohio because, NEVER FLY BETWEEN NEW ENGLAND AND OHIO and I missed a board meeting and a day of work I would have been there for, if I had driven.) . . . Because I love everything and Rebeccy and music. This was much larger than when I went to Solid Sound. We saw a lot of bands, none of them bad and I'm sure that they will inspire me to write other pieces. But what I'm going to share with you today is actually a portion of my personal, paper journal. Please be kind. Despite my cantankerous demeanor, I love beautiful, gorgeous things. This particular one is the performance of the band fun. This has very little to do with who fun. are and if you hate fun. I think this writing will still have meaning to you. We all know people who are highly sensitive or acutely aware of things. I'm that person. I'm a supertaster. I hear an unusual range of sound frequencies (despite the beating I give my ears on a daily basis, which I'm sure I'll regret by the time I'm 45). I can smell a dead deer on the highway from a mile away. I have a very small two-point limen. And while I need glasses like a fish needs gills, I'm highly sensitive to what my eyes do take in. People like me are out there. I want you to know what life is life for us. I also just want you to appreciate the astounding parts of life. If you take it as writing that just has a lot of adjectives, I'm sorry I wasted your time.
One thing you do need to know is that I use a technique called a happiness anchor. It's when you pick an object, motion, etc. to do/hold/use when you're happy, so that you can remember it later or better recall the feeling when you need to. You need to know this because my happiness anchor is touching my index finger to the tip of my nose. When I talk about touching my nose, it's because it's my happiness anchor.
Because we were close for DeVotchKa, we were farther back for fun. fun. Holy shit, fun. I deeply regret not seeing them in Portland in October. But, I'll try not to get bogged down in missed opportunities. As sad as I am to not have another Format record, ok, fun. You won. Ditto re: Steel Train.
They dressed in tuxes. They ran the show like a well oiled machine, without feeling stiff. They were glowing. It had cooled off a bit, but the air was still thick and heavy and all the gross adjectives for hot and humid. We were next to the river, after all. It was marvelous. Let's take this slowly.
Darkened stage. Spotlights. They enter in black tuxes. They take their marks. Nate Ruess begins to sing. Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff begin to play in. Some Nights (Intro) It's stark, but melodic. High contrast to the dulled buzz of the crowd. Gesticulations. FUCKING CRAZY. Lovely, he nailed it. Loud. Pr o j e c t i n g. Breathy. Blasting of cheers. Joy. Excitement. Darkness. BLAMO. One Foot
Out of the black tux (how? It was literally a few seconds. I examined the photographs for proof of a break away costume . . . ) and into a blue collared number with a white coat. Stomping. Neon paint splatters on the screen in slow, syncopated drips to match the tempo and rhythm of the song. Jolting. Calming. They had the crowd completely zipped up. Stitched up. Clutched in his vocal chords (see what I did there?).
At Least I'm Not As Sad Clearly, not as many people bought Aim and Ignite, but they had them. Us. It didn't matter. The band sounded great, Nate Ruess engaged. Leaned in. Pointed. Gazed. Connected. Sang the end gently, but pointedly louder, swelling. Toed into All Alone, which remained as jaunty as you wanted it to be. That song has snare. That song was when I started feeling it flutter my heart valves. People sang. I swayed. Rebeccy stared and bobbed with her hands jammed snugly in her pockets. There were balls in the air. They glowed. The breeze finally removed the sweat matted peach fuzz on my back. You could smell the lemons from the drink stand.
Walking the Dog At some point, Nate lost the jacket, but not yet. He was a glamorous motherfucker in the hot night air. Clapping. Nate yelled about dancing and liking Cincy. People tried to sing along, but that's a tough bit, they obscured it and gave up... til the nanananana. On the screen they showed the band, but in bright, flashing monotones.
For Why am I the One, more singing. Feel those strings getting pulled. The dragged drums. The sad song and the chipper crowd. We are yowled the chorus. A lot of swaying. Clunking keyboard. Nate climbing all over the stage, while, I assure you, hordes of ladies wanted to climb all over him. More paint projections, but delicate, bleeding ones. Bright and flowing.
Then he talked to us. Yay, Cincy! Etc. He took his shoes off to avoid bloody feet after a basketball induced bloody nose earlier in the day. "Ahhhhhhhh" . . . more chimed in. I knew. A bolt of recognition and excitement. Enticement. All the Pretty Girls I jammed. I grooved. Tendons retracted and my spine twisted. I threw my hands in the air and sang. Loudly. Sorry, Rebeccy. Oh, but her hands were out of her pockets. We all bumped into each other and no one cared. Nate strutted and tramped the stage. More clapping. Lots of yelling. Lots of thanks, I think. I was grateful, anyway. That was the post-Format song that gave me an ounce of hope. But, also, it made me wonder about the merits of taking sadness and longing like that, leaving behind a band of sadness and longing . . . for a bad that's decidedly tragic, but upbeat, dance tempo, called 'fun.' for god's sake. Does it meet the same need? It didn't for me. So All the Pretty Girls was when I bid adieu to the Format and broke into fun. So there was something important for me in hooking with it live in a party. I was grateful to hear it and be happy, instead of sopping up the mournful tears of the end of something I loved.
So many strobe lights. Screeching guitars, fingers too hard on the strings. Too hard perfectly. Unintelligible noises. My feet hurt, I've been standing for 8 hours. But, I rock. It Gets Better Loud. Chest pounding. Fists pounding. Nate pounding the microphone into the air. The bass pounding. The drums pounding. Hands pounding on the guitar neck-- across the strings. Hands pounding together. Clapping. We're clapping. The grass is soft. Summer sweat? It was sickly, sticky, sweet in that field.
Bar Lights It's all you, drummer guy. First there was a round of that Gary Glitter "Hey" song. Again, fists. I think Nate still had on that white suit jacket, god bless him. They really know how to caress the crowd. We did feel alive. They had enchanted everyone. You could see it dripping in everyone's dewy-ed eyes. Color bars. Energy. More dancing. Trumpet. We are going to live forever. Again, it didn't matter how few people knew Aim and Ignite. That's a proskill. Nate: Kid can pull a note. The drummer can kill a set. It was alive. The people took over singing, Nate let them. He danced, too. People opened up with that permission. The confetti canons opened up, too. A billion fluttering, flickering pieces of soft, white paper stroking my hair. Dappling the light. Adhering to our sweat. Decorating the trees. Stumbling through the air all the way across the field. Grazing everyone's bodies. Nuzzling into cleavage and sticking under sandal straps. Getting dandled by everyone's dance moves. You could hear its dry, scratchy sound over all the howls and it was incredibly happy making.
So. I was buzzing, pulsing. I touched my nose. Then . . . 3 notes and all the air left my lungs and I might as well have been as high as humanly possible. Instantly light headed. Instantly salty. Carry on I was so affected the first time I heard it. I was on the Narragansett pier, warm and dry on the stonewall beneath the sun. On the last day, the last hours of my vacation. With sadness wrapped around my ankles, I listened to that song for the first time. It holds meaning to me. It's on my Quarter Life Crisis mix cd. Here I am, for no real reason, standing in a field with a dear friend and thousands of happy people. My blood changed. My cells welled and my eyes followed. Just writing about it changed my heart rate.
Piano into piano. The Gambler No break for my tender, used heart. I mouthed the words. My hips broke in time. My lips were heavy. My ears hurt from screaming girls. My heart and my ear bones gamboled down the meandering path of those notes. The chime of the guitar when the capo is down that low. It's a hand harp hung on his shoulders. Are there other people here? Nate ditched the jacket at some point. Now it's gone.
A few bars and Rebeccy leans over and says, 'Wow, I guess I really need to listen to their other CD!" "Not for this song you don't," I said. She looked confused. A few people were on my page and clapped, then lyrics, "I saw her today at the reception..." More people caught it. Rebeccy hadn't. More notes, more lyrics. People joined in. You Can't Always Get What You Want Rebeccy looked embarrassed for missing it. But, really, if you were to guess a song they would cover . . . that one would have been low on my list. But, it's an earnest pop song, so they slayed it.
The beats. Drawn out and narrow, syncopated. Eruption. We Are Young You put that gold microphone in the air, young man. We got this. Well, we got it, not especially well. Nate tried to organize us, even shushing down all the musicians. He divided us into sections. But, people were too eager. It was just loud. Chanting. Oof. The drums break back in. I feel you, knot in my stomach. I opened my chest, pressed my shoulders back. I bloviated right along with the best of them and I touched the tip of my nose again. I'll carry you home tonight.
So, yes, Stephen Thompson, Nate Ruess touches his hair a lot. He does illuminate the stage with his 10 thousand watt smile. He is in love. He gazes, he watches, he drinks it in. He extends kindness-- "If you don't know the words, just have a good time anyway. Dance around, maybe you'll meet someone tonight." Take Your Time (Coming Home) It was jovial. Playful. Evan tough I think it's about life after the Format. I might as well have been drunk as hell. I can't believe I'm still standing. They were dapper, not cocky. Nate gazed. Inspected. Observed. Used all the air in the field. FUN flashed violently on the screen. There was so much screaming as they exited it was horrific and deafening. But it hurt so good, because it was so honest and exuberant. It wasn't blind (ahem, One Direction), it was so fucking earned. They earned every calorie of joyful noise-making that group expended. It was shocking how people still had energy, but we had been on an adrenaline drip. Well, and beer. The air was pretty hoppy.
The stage stayed dark and the front roared louder. The words came back before the spotlight found Nate. "Some nights . . . " He jumped, the crowd reacted. Sang. He immediately took them back. Truly, the command of power was palpable. Huge glowing orbs lazily bounded over everyone. Again, their own dancing on stage gave everyone else permission. I had tunnel vision. The rich melodies knocked me over. I'm sure there was grooving, I'm sure there was singing, but it was so stunning. The confetti hung in the air. The balls hung in the air and in the tree branches. I was laughing for no reason except to express joy and exultation. I wish I knew how many people were there because it really was an experience which felt like everyone-- everyone in the world and completely solitary. It was immediately a bigger shot of adrenaline. I could taste it in my mouth, feel it in my pit of my stomach because, also . . . they are almost done and I don't want this to end. I'm touching my nose.
Stars mercifully felt like it went on forever. It became a transitional object as fun. appeared on the backdrop in the dark . . . created out of star shapes. Luminous. Stars brought it down, even though it's jazzy. But it's sadly optimistic. Again we're clapping, wiggling our butts. They still had energy to bestow upon us, while Nate surveyed. It was my heart rate, it has that build. That bradycardic fade. The twinkling notes at the end. And what was especially moving was that he-- well, all of them, really, looked so damn happy. He just looked at everyone. He said thank you. To us. To Tegan and Sara. Walk the Moon. He finished the song. But he stood there and looked at everyone. He smiled so hard I thought he was gonna cry. He was so sweet.
Two other things. I can't remember where these were in succession. One. Nate was talking and asking about other bands from Cincy because he mostly knew Walk the Moon. People started yelling junk. Then he said, "No, that's a Disney movie." And Rebeccy and I were like, "Wha . . .?" And then. Vivaciously animated, Nate goes, "Oh! And Foxy fucking Shazam!!!" This moment appears to not be immortalized on YouTube which is a god damn tragedy. He said it with so much enthusiasm and it was so fucking funny, his voice got all high and stuff. Just brilliant. Foxy fucking Shazam.
Second thing. He stood on stage for several minutes . . . before they left for the first time? During Stars? And he just ogled the crowd and licked his teeth. Hung his tongue out his mouth. It was almost perverse except that it was so authentic and charitable, affectionate, loving, and earned. It enveloped everyone. It was a reciprocal moment where we could see that he was as thrilled to soak up this moment as we were. I touched my nose. Once more, my grief over the Format got lost in the dust. Well, maybe not dust yet, but the sun came out and dried things up, so I'm not stuck in the mud anymore.