Mon, 4 Jun 2007 20:07:15 -0700
Sunday afternoon, as I was pitting the first stonefruit of the season (apricots, dark red cherries staining my cuticles) in my kitchen, there was a tap at the back window. One of the upstairs neighbors (why can't I remember their names?) had come down the back staircase that usually only her cats use, to ask me to turn down the bass ("it's really just the subwoofer," I apologized) on the music I'd been blasting. But could I be blamed? Saturday night, Justin and I had driven over the bay (on the bottom deck of the Bay Bridge, the one that Malcolm always observes is justly viewless, pointing as it does towards "ugly Berkeley" (okay, so it doesn't have a skyline)), lingered in his car a bit, not really knowing if we were becoming incoherent or just talking faster in our ramblings of web frameworks ("You know Zope?!" "Dude, I dated the Debian package maintainer!") and of the future of the Internet (either Justin's drinking the Facebook kool-aid, or he's onto something). And then we walked down a series of hills, converging, with hundreds of other Berkeley hippies (and SF hipsters, as I discovered on the westbound BART platform afterwards) into the Greek Theatre.
I've only seen three shows there to date -- certainly nothing to rival coworker Ken's days as a deadhead -- but what shows! And tonight, the Arcade Fire -- all nine or ten of them, scaling the lighting rigging, beating on the metal struts with drumsticks; tossing drums in the air and somehow not killing any of the band members; with their touring organ onstage; the too-tall lead singer with his too-short pants; the obvious this-side-of-insanity of everyone on stage -- did not disappoint.
They've been called "anthemic." Well, and what other word would you use to describe a band that can inspire the kind of fervor in an audience to keep singing the the wordless refrain of "Rebellion (Lies)" off of Funeral as the musicians walked offstage, to keep singing it while we clapped and stomped and whistled for them to come back on, to maintain the chorus even through screams of appreciation, even as they walked back onstage, wordlessly picked up their instruments, and accompanied us to a close, thereby bridging the performance and the encore with one song?
I always, out of a sense of duty to my hearing, bring earplugs to these concerts. And in the indoor ones (Voxtrot at the Great American Music Hall with Jaime last Wednesday, which I left early, too tired to stay out after two opening bands), I need them. But at the Greek, there is nothing I want more than to stand facing the stage, absorbing every decibel with every particle of my skin, the lights punctuating the songs ("Hey!" they shouted in "No Cars Go," and the suspended headlights flashed on, faded off, to the collective roar of surprise and pleasure from the masses), slight clouds of smoke drifting up from the crowd. Rock is one thing; rock with a live organ, you can't possibly be expected to listen to at anything less than a volume you can feel in the injured ligaments of your still-painful right foot.
But not indoors, as my neighbor reminded me.