For the past two months I have done virtually nothing but make, play, and talk about video games. While that has been great for moving forward with my life, it is putting me at serious risk of burning out--and the biggest, most intense parts are yet to come. So today I took a break and went to see Oberlin friend Tom Curtin play a set at a bar just outside Ass-Nowhere, Hipsterville.
Goodness did it feel great to be in that world again--that world with the sharp, twangy report of the acoustic guitar, and the nostril-searing sting of cheap booze, and the motes of dust floating in the halos of purple and orange above the mic and the bathroom stairs incandescent with band stickers and neon glare. Sometimes it's easy to forget. Sometimes I tell myself, who are you kidding, Kevin, you're a geek. Go back to your video games. Go wear your snarky webcomic t-shirt to that chiptune concert at the Tank tonight, be with your kind in a laser-lit roomful of gangly males, bobbing their heads slowly and thoughtfully to a DJ sweet with the plastic rot of beige. You have a place in that world, and that world has a place for you. You love it there. Go there, and never again to sitting alone, in a chair at the edge of the room, to this cold, lonely, booze-soft bar-land, this midnight den of cigarette ash and bedroom voices, where no one ever looks you in the eye.
But good God, how could I? Leaving this world, it'd be like cutting off my big toe. It's been a part of me longer than anyone who has known me may ever know, despite being something I can never do myself; it runs deeper in my soul than love or art or even video games. And the moment I hear the crack of Tom's fingers against the strings and the gentle, sad, McCartneyesque wail of his voice some part of me that has been empty since Oberlin fills up, just a bit, and that vast, rolling ocean between me and all the people who are hopeful and sincere and true to their souls, the people who sleep art and dream magic, among whom I am but a charlatan, feels just that much smaller.
The next band to play after Tom was a buoyant, screaming, Stratocaster-wielding trio of fucking awesome jump-up-and-downers called the Telethons, whose music fits in a rather enjoyable place between the sheer facefuck energy of punk and the cool melodic grooves of classic rock. Their sound, loud and giddy and thermonuclearly forceful and colossally stupid (the chorus to one of their songs goes, I kid you not, "CHORD! CHORD! CHORD! OTHER CHORD!!"), despite being the polar opposite of Tom's in delivery, lyricism, and style, captures the ambience of the dive-bar stage just as perfectly. Tom's music soothes your soul; the Telethons' blasts it through a hole in the side of your face. And somehow putting those two acts back-to-back on the same stage, at the same show, felt just right.
Tom calls me, in the humblest and most self-deprecating way possible, his number one fan. I apparently show up to more of his shows than any of his other friends. I am one of maybe six or seven people who actually know his repertoire well enough to sing along. Which is something I've done for most of my friends' bands; Billy the Kid once joked that I went to more Huzzah for the Shopkeep shows than he did, and he was their frontman. It has struck me that being that person has become a part of who I am--that stranger, that one guy by himself, cheering at every parkside performance, tapping his feet in every bar, screaming at every rock show, dancing in every mosh pit. Trying to make friends with your group of buddies afterwards. Creeping you out. Musicians I have never met, but see often, sometimes offer me hugs and handshakes after their sets--I have contributed nothing to the experience, yet they see me and they see the show itself.
I guess I do have a place in that world after all--if only as everyone's groupie.
I met Not Anna at the show tonight--no. That's not fair. Why would you even. No one is Not anybody. But I guess I can call her Not Anna, because I honestly thought it was her. Same build, same hair, same gait, same vintage dress, selling art in the corner of the concert area, but, truly, not Anna. No, she was Lulu, last of the cave painters--the kind who in ancient times would scrawl scenes from your everyday life on your walls--selling minimalist charcoal drawings of plants and animals inspired by the mystical power of nature. A very different-souled creature. She set up burning candles in the spaces between a grid of homemade hand-drawn animalist tarot cards, which you could flip over to determine your fate, and buy and take home to protect you, which in turn were watched over by a large plastic statue of a giraffe. There was a stylized drawing of a turnip, which I almost bought to magnet on my fridge, mostly because it was pleasingly familiar in the same way that a child is pleased looking at a photograph of himself for the first time. I can almost imagine my housemates asking: "Why did you put a picture of a turnip in our kitch--oh. You know, that actually makes a weird kind of sense." I am resisting the urge to decorate my room with crude images of neon signs, iPads, TV dinners, perhaps a group of spear-wielding businessmen hunting a bus.
...I am shit drunk right now, aren't I. Oh God.
LJ entry, you will be lucky if you survive tomorrow morning.