October 27, 2014

Album Review: U2 - Songs of Innocence

My first concert was sweaty and dangerous. Or rather, it had the distinct heaviness of danger. That pressure that starts in your chest and travels to your knees alternately locking and loosening them, synchronizing to the quickening pulse in your temple as you fear for your safety while simultaneously feeling the rush of adrenaline as it careens through your body. It was at the storied (storied among certain circles) Triple Rock in Minneapolis. The singer had tattoos on his neck that resembled like necrotizing fasciitis. His voice sounded the same. Like a sawtooth wave, his screaming could shock the devil. The creamy violence of the guitars and sixteenth-note barrage of bass drum hits blended the crowd into a meringue of black t-shirts, facial jewelry, and fists. Being thin, not prone to violence, and literally weak of heart I stayed on the outskirts, which while saving my body, left me prone to receive a Converse to the skull as a young man attempted flight over my head.

Actually, that wasn't my first concert.

My first concert was a few years earlier, in that same space. Three of my favorite bands were somehow all playing on the same tour. Two were instrumental, one was not. At the end of the evening, when the Japanese musicians took their places, all standing save one seated guitarist, I was prepared. I stood in the front, my hands on a studio monitor bracing for impact. This was not a a rough crowd. These were patrons enjoying art. Words were not necessary, the screaming fortes and imperceptible pianos did all the necessary talking. When a group fires all together, coup d'archet, one can feel a blow on their body. The slap of air is caused by the speakers all firing at once, displacing gallons of air thrown at the audience. When the blast hits your ears, it is accompanied by a physical sensation. You connect directly, bodily, to the music.

But that wasn't my first concert either.

My first concert was in a dive bar in St. Paul. It had undergone various transformations over time and is now the only expressly "metal" bar in the Twin Cities. It was a miracle my parents allowed me out of the car when they dropped me off with my friends. It was a school-night. This club looked (and was) grimy. People waiting in line were wearing costumes reminiscent of Micky Mouse's wizard robe in Fantasia. The room had pillars throughout the space making any sort of mosh-pit impossible. Pillars is the wrong word though. Pillars imply the grandiosity of ancient Greece. Pillars sound respectable and decorous. This was a dank basement. These were poles. These held the building up.

My first concert?

My first concert was in an arena. It was a tour of some of the biggest bands in hard-rock. One wrote songs about politics and incorporated middle-eastern features. One was German and used flame throwers and a giant phallus. One wore masks and had more drummers than a marching band competition. These tickets must have been expensive although we sat so far from the stage that we had to watch everything on the enormous video screens that flanked the performers. Our favorite band performed second to last. I sang along to every song, although the band didn't seem to notice the effort. The masked men played last. We stayed for a few songs, then in the ultimate display of superiority, we left partway through their set. As we crossed the street in downtown St. Paul, seeking the corner my parents had agreed to pick us up at, we spotted a few members of the German band. The one with the donut hair had his arms around two women, while the skinny one nuzzled a third. They walked to the corner we were standing on. "Are you Rammstein?" I asked. "Ja," replied one of the blond women, "ve are vith Rammstein."

No, that wasn't my first concert

My first concert was in Minneapolis at the Target Center. I was with my father. He was taking me to see a Canadian band that was easily one of the most famous bands in the world at the time. They peddled in upbeat clever folksy rock, didn't swear, and had the kind of homey humor that made them a safe group to listen to with ones own parents. They made jokes on stage that at the time felt like they were just for us, all 20,000 of us. Despite being a middle-schooler I wasn't embarrassed to be there with my father. He didn't know the music as well as I did (my massive CD wallet had two whole pages dedicated to their albums) so I was excited to expose him to their songs. We sat the entire time, squinting at the stage, glancing at the screens, laughing at the jokes, cheering at the local references. I would go on to see them again the next year. Different venue, same experience.

That was my first concert.

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