I've long since realized that I have the tendency to complain and moan. I'm sure this comes as a shock to many, but I also have a love of hyperbole and exaggeration. There's always a certain desire to embellish the truth to make my life seem more impressive than it is in reality. I swear, however, that I'm not doing that when I tell you that, upon loading in my equipment for last night's show, I immediately thought of Silence of the Lambs.
"It puts the lotion in the basket. It puts the lotion in the basket!!!!"
Ahem. Sorry about that.
The show was at an area anarchist bookstore/community center/performance space, and we were scheduled to play with one other local band and two touring acts (one of them from Mexico, no less). And while there is much to say about the evening, I am still trying to encapsulate my experience. My thoughts are, as they say, a work in progress.
First things first. I am not an anarchist. While my understanding of the philosophy is better than the reductive stereotypes which my students hold (and that I used to have myself), I admittedly only have a rudimentary understanding of anarchism and know few of its intricacies. I have sympathies with the suspicion of hierarchy in particular, but I hold my own suspicions of their proposed solutions. I am trying to learn more, and not just because of my anarchist friends...I do have a legitimate intellectual curiosity on the subject. But I'm not there yet, so playing a show at an anarchist center inevitably involved coming to terms with my limited knowledge and some preconceptions to boot.
Nevertheless, the idea of an anarchist community center/concert venue/infoshop is one with which I certainly sympathize. Non-traditional music venues are essential for growing musicians, particularly those who are underage and cannot play in bars. That such a place as an infoshop exists for any philosophy is great, and the communal spirit is undeniable, particularly in terms of community outreach. So it was with a limited knowledge and a selective sympathy that I drove to Monday's show.
At first, I have to admit that I was a little freaked out. My spousal unit got there before I. When, having problems locating the place, she called me, she described the area as generally scary. I eventually found the place, ran into my bandmates, and started the equipment load-in through the center's dark garage/warehouse. This involved passing much salvaged...um, stuff/appliances/crap, walking on a wooden plank suspended over a puddle that verged on underground lake territory, going down the "staircase of death," and entering a large basement space utterly covered with graffiti. This is when the Silence of the Lambs references started echoing in my head.
We went into the bookstore area to wait for the show to start, and my expectations took a little swerve. I expected to see a relatively easy-going space furnished with nice salvaged furniture and shelves upon shelves of zines...and I did find exactly that. What I was not expecting, however, is the Friends board game...it's just not the stereotypical choice of either anarchists or Silence of the Lambs characters.
So, after a certain amount of milling about, we grabbed a table. Eventually, we found out that a local band had been added to the bill, and they were running a little late. Ultimately, I found out that this was reason one why I could never be an anarchist. Most of the people associated with this evening, it was explained to me, were "lifestyle anarchists," which (as it was explained) means "they believe you have autonomy and are free to decide to do whatever we want to"...thus the very idea of a schedule is not really within the realm of discussion.
Now, as much as I would like to be fairly free and loose with my time, I simply cannot be that relaxed. For one, I used to work at restaurants, where everything was timed (length of shift, of service, of cooking for each item, for performing every task, and so forth). Second, my years of grad school and later adjuncting means that I am used to having 3,652,809 thing going on at once, so prioritization and scheduling are not just options...they are ingrained necessities. So the wait was killing me. I assume Buffalo Bill could relate.
Anyway, after a few hours, my drummer told me that if nothing was happening in about a half hour, we would just go downstairs and start playing. However, the local band showed up and started setting up, so we wandered downstairs. This is when I fully was able to comprehend our performance space. Yes, it was low-ceiling, and yes, the stage was only two inches tall, but the graffiti was the most memorable element. Some tags were fairly dull (band names and such), some were quite expected (the anarchy symbol, of course), some were interesting (the one asking me to perform a sexual act on "gender binaries"), and some were just plain puzzling (the sprayed image of a fetus with the legend "abortions send babies to god faster").
The first band started playing pretty late and did a five or six song set. I suppose they were pretty good at what they do, but their music was a cross between 80s new wave and emo, and those are two genres which I simply cannot get into. My main impression, though, was of how young everyone was. I'm sure I was twice as old as 85% of the audience.
After the first band finished, we were able to set up fairly quickly and issue-free. Most people came back down when we started playing, but I noticed a number of them filtering upstairs as our set went on. By the end of it, there were about six people left in spite of us (I would humbly like to suggest) pretty well and mistake-free. The remaining "crowd" was admittedly appreciative (one of them thanked us), but I can't help wish we could quantify how quickly we cleared the room. While we were hauling our stuff back up the stairs of death, our singer and I were complemented by the singer from band one, who particularly liked our last song...the only thing is, I don't remember him still being in the audience when we finished.
While we were packing, my bassist told me she thought it was because we were too loud for everyone to stay. Now, it is true that we are a pretty loud band--we do have a drummer who plays as if he's punishing his instrument, and the rest of us have no real choice but to keep up. We were honestly trying to be relatively tame volume-wise, however. Said drummer was even using his "quiet" sticks. True, he still broke them, but we were trying.
My theory, however, is different. I took last night as a lesson on how well Analog Revolution goes over with "the kids." This is a shame, really, because it means that while we might sell some shirts, our posters will apparently never be over the beds of young girls nation-wide.
In light of this revelation, I guess I will have to adjust my lifelong goals and dreams...somehow. Well, at least I never had to put the lotion in the basket.