A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
I woke up in a comfortable hostel. I wrote a blog entry. I walked across town. I bought a ukulele. I lost my passport and concert stubs and signed poster. I made guacamole and sucked down a cigarette. I found my passport and everything. Then, rage energy turned to excited and nervous energy and I headed to a nu-metal concert, ready for the release of energy. This promised to be a good show if only I would let it be.
Knowing my way around concerts I worked the timing carefully. I downed water. I went out for a cigarette to calm my nerves. I hit the bathroom. And I made it to the floor just as the opening band announced it was their last song. I worked up as much as possible and as they left the stage I moved up more. Second row. Center. Behind a short girl. My view unobstructed and access to the barrier to brace myself against the flows of the crowd. This was to be a good show.
The Lostprophets took the stage and the crowd erupted. The band has the full package. Attractive members. Hardcore credibility. Musical talent. A sound that isn’t quite like any other band. Lyrics that rhyme, that mean something, that focus on being disaffected, on doing something productive with it, and on love. The lyrics rhyme in clear ways that don’t seem to affect the content of the lines. And they do it all with energy.
The opening riffs to the first song started. The crowd knew what was coming. I braced my arms and prepared for what was to come once the song broke. The rest of the band jumped in like a wall of energy hitting the room. The sound was loud, enveloping, but without being overwhelming. I didn’t have my earplugs in but wasn’t bleeding out the ears. I was absorbed, transfixed.
The band members were all lean, muscles bulging beneath shirts that weren’t too tight. Tattoos covered many of them. And they jumped around, nailing notes and pouring their hearts into songs both new and a decade old. For guys that had been at this for about twelve years they didn’t show a bit of disinterest or weariness of the scene. They were professional and in it with the knowledge that comes from years combined with the energy of a new act.
Ian, the lead singer, belted out lines in perfect tune despite the loudness he needed to muster. The guitars nailed notes. Jamie, the keyboardist and backup vocalist (screamer), veins bulging out of his neck, blasted out the crowd sing-along cathartic lines that can’t be typed in anything less than all caps. The drummer – and this is one of the few bands for whom the drum fills have such a fierce energy and skill that they actually stand out as their own instrument and don’t just fade into the background of the beat – was lost in trance unlike nearly any other drummer I’ve watched. He pounded the drums and cymbals with a fierce energy. One arm did full windmills to hit the beats. The other came down like he was trying to chop through a board with his bare hands.
I was comfortable to listen to the lines and let Ian’s voice (and the rest of the bands on many choruses) do the work. I felt the energy of being involved in the music even without screaming back into the mix. And when I did scream back, I felt my voice holding up, slowly letting my tension and energy feed back into the room and let me go.
The between song banter was limited, but it was good. Ian dared the crowd to heckle. “[Go for it. I’ve got the mic. I can shout over you. La la la la la.]” Silence. Everyone was listening and paying attention, but no one spoke. There was no noise in the room, no side conversations. I’ve rarely been at a quieter show, and this was a hard rock concert. “[Well, that was an awkward silence. Sorry guys… Man, you guys are so polite.]” When he asked again for the crowd to heckle, we all seemingly knew the only correct answer was to scream. “[That was the best heckle ever. Very convincing. You should be lawyers. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the defendant is guilty because BLAUGGGGHHH!!!!]” He taught us the singalong to a new song most of us hadn’t heard. It wasn’t an easy combination of “Heys” and “Las”, but the crowd got it on the first time. He seemed genuinely impressed.
The most impressive part of Ian’s style was that he seemed genuinely engaged in all of the songs. He was confident but not cocky. Most large-ish bands have a song or two that everyone knows and they have to play every time. Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance held the mic out to the crowd for them to sing it, and he seemed to hold back on the pantomimes and motions. He’s been singing it for a few years now and is a bit tired of it. But Ian held the mic out for “Last Train Home,” a song he has to have performed over a thousand times, and as he let the crowd sing it, he could have just as easily had the mic to his mouth and been nailing the notes. He was animated, fully into it. He pantomimed everything and didn’t seem any more tired of it than if it was the one they had written last week. There was confidence, but no detractive boredom and no puppetmaster cockiness.
When someone in the crowd shouted for them to play Last Summer, the band started into Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time”. Guitar, and both vocalist running with the first verse. Jamie continued into the second verse and the band just stared at him. “[How much of this song do you actually know?]” His singing voice was pitch perfect, all the more impressive given that his singing role in the band is generally limited to screaming.
As the band neared the end of the set, just prior to the last song, Ian looked straight at me. “[That is a fantastic moustache.]” I nodded in appreciation. “[Oh, you already knew. You know it. I’m calling you D’Artagnan. Show the crowd.]” I paused. He just looked at me. “[Show them!]” I turned around to agreeing nods and mouthed, “Yeah, damn, that is a good moustache.” Then he nodded to the band and they could proceed.
The opening riffs of “Burn, Burn” started and the energy was palpable. As the song built, through verses and bridge to the last minute of the song, an orgiastic scream-along, Jamie climbed onto the barrier and leaned over the crowd. He offered the mic to a couple people who flubbed it. Then he leaned over me, screaming himself but doing it an inch from my face, the invitation to scream into the mic with him. The song, and their set, ended with me being a part of the show, as I poured my remaining rage and energy into full volume, full force “BURN BURN, FOR US, FOR THEM, FOR YOU!!!”
Outside we waited for the band. My energy was too high to go home, and I had no home to go back to. And so about forty of us waited for autographs and pictures. Thirty seven girls, two guys clearly dating a couple girls there, and me. Eventually the drummer and a guitarist came out, signed tickets, talked, and moved on. The truck was loaded with gear and pulled out into the night. This revealed a few other members of the band, as well as the opening band Kids In Glass Houses, also Welsh, volleying a soccer ball (football, whatever). The fans walked over and stood back awkwardly. A couple joined the circle, dribbling and heading the ball around. Occasionally it would fly to a girl who didn’t know what to do other than scream or duck. And eventually it got headed through the open bay doors to a club. Someone shouted, “Goal!” to which someone else responded that there wasn’t a goalie so it wasn’t fair. I took a breath and didn’t hesitate. Having played goalie for 7 years, and wearing a red shirt, I knew my only chance was now. I walked into the open doorway nonchalantly and waited for the next stray shot to head my way. When it did, I caught it. Looked around. Threw it back.
The circle picked up on it instantly. They knew their target. Some arbitrarily became defense. Some offense. It switched and I knew I had no team and no allies. Headers came my way. Hard kicks from the periphery. Blocked. Blocked. Caught. Deflected. Allowed to hit the post and leave. The occasional one got past. Finally a particularly good shot zoomed right past. The team erupted in cheers. I fell to my knees and hammed it up. “Wales! Wales!” The game ended.
I had wanted autographs but knew that playing soccer with the band was my chance for a memory that would last. Game over I decided to see how many signatures I could still salvage. I got two. Still two down. No one had seen Ian or Jamie come out but once everyone else was gone we were told they had snuck past already. I still had nowhere to be so I rolled a cigarette and struck up a conversation with a bouncer. Finally I accepted the evening had drawn to a close and started to collect my things just as the venue door opened and a familiar form behind a bandana and trucker cap came out.
Ian came over to the remaining five of us and started up a conversation as he signed and posed for pictures. I don’t expect singers to be well-thought or intellectual. (I don’t expect them to be dumb either. I have no expectations.) They are people who have a skill for making music and I respect that, but I know that any further hopes are just ways to be disappointed. Yet as he presented ideas for ways to improve the Australian system, I found myself impressed. Why does Australia take so much expense to prevent counterfeiting? “[You are the only country in the world to have clear windows in your money. That is expensive. If you went into a printing shop and asked them to make you a business card with an irregularly-shaped clear window, they would laugh you out of the store.]” Why don’t you use the center of the country more? That it is a desert is not a great argument. Look at Vegas. That is in the middle of a desert. You don’t want to mess with the land because some of it is Indigenous heritage land? That didn’t stop you from taking it in the first place. He dropped knowledge about pre-WW2 Germany. He argued that internet connectivity should be faster given that New Zealand has managed to do it. The only issue with his ideas and points was the fact that he would push past the point where I had a response and something to add, add something else, then pause. I kept not having a response.
I asked if he could still beat us on heckling without the mic. He was confident with his wit and challenged us again. I had nothing to criticize so I left it alone.
Unashamed, I turned the conversation to myself. “[Thanks for calling out my mustache.]”
“[How could I not. It is a great mustache.]”
“[It is new to me. I’m still figuring out if I am keeping it. Your vote is making me think I should.]”
“[Of course you should. But if you are going to keep the lower bit, you need to start wearing a Musketeer hat. I think you need to just man up and shave that part off. Rock just the mustache. That is confidence.]”
I was getting fashion tips (more praise than suggestions) from the lead singer of a band who have two albums I can sing start to finish, not just lyrics but guitar riffs, drum fills, and samples. From a man who had women lining up to find him after the show. From a man who could literally have pointed to a girl in the crowd, motioned backstage, and walked out with her. Really, not a bad end to the night.
Then Jamie came out and took Ian’s place in the circle. He was energized, conversational, fun, and polite. We spoke as a group for a while, entertainingly sharing stories. As we all left the alley to head to our respective abodes for the night, he walked next to me. He asked my name, gave me his, and shook my hand. He thanked me for coming out to the show, and I thanked him for putting on such a good one. He was polite. There was nothing fake about him, and it wasn’t posturing or forced. I walked away feeling a level of glee from the whole thing. I played soccer (football, I know) with the band. I talked with them. I met them. And they were intelligent, friendly, fun guys. Even after more than a decade they seem appreciative of the fans for the support and they seem genuinely happy that they can do what they love and get paid for it. I left happy to support such great guys.