The start of something great.
For a friend’s prompt: “Things We Love.”
It’s 6:28 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I’m not being kept up by anything but myself, and it sucks; the fact that my roommate’s alarm went off at 3 a.m. probably also contributed to this insomniatic (not a real word) moment, but I can’t blame everything on incessant beeping.
Anyway, I can’t sleep for whatever reason, and all I can think about is what I should do when I “wake up” in an hour (ed. note: fuck). I’ve got a bunch of food in the fridge that I need to cook pretty much ASAP, so the plan was to go prep that in the morning before I went to work, and then after work and the orientation gig tonight, I would cook said food and have lunch/dinner for the next couple of days.
Now I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Do I try to nap, despite knowing that I could only really get an hour’s worth of sleep and that I’d run the risk of oversleeping? But do I really want to give up on my night completely, and then yawn and slouch my way through the rest of the day?
Thoughts: by Lily Min.
I guess writing all this isn’t helping me with the former plan. But my brain is a beehive right now, and maybe the only way to cut down on the buzzing is to let some of the stuff swirling around in my head out.
And one of the things I’m thinking about is the prompt, “Things We Love.” As well written and well meaning that prompt is, it’s been anything but easy for me to come up with something to write about. I’m not lacking in things I love, that’s for sure; I have a voracious appetite for art and culture and people watching and scientific ephemera and magical happenings and etc. etc. etc., but to try and pinpoint one thing out of all the things that hold my attention and devotion? Impossible, perhaps. Difficult, at the very least.
Bullshit. I know what I’ll write about. And I feel dumb for taking so long to figure it out (side note: Can we talk about how much I love marching band, and how completely its organizational phrases have taken over my vocabulary? Mmm, perhaps another day).
GET. TO. THE. POINT. And here it is: I love live music. Recorded albums are still the shit, don’t get me wrong, and lord knows I carry my iPod (in its truly gnarly case) pretty much everywhere, but there’s something so electric, so kinetic, about live music, about being able to see the expression on a musician’s face as s/he goes about doing something they have pinned their livelihood, or at least their pride, on, all in the hopes of bringing about some momentary joys for their listeners.
I’ve been going to live music shows of some kind pretty much all my life. My dad’s a classical music fiend, so he’d always take us to orchestral performances, and then I also played two instruments for most of my life and would have to be the one performing. But my modern taste for live music stems from a show I went to the summer before my freshman year of high school, for it was only then that I was introduced to the idea of being involved in a show, not just sitting passively or nervously wringing my hands before and all through one.
My family went up to Quebec for a week in 2006, and it just so happened that the city’s summer music fest (literally: “Festival de l’été”) was going on at the same time. That meant that there were plenty of musicians in the city, playing in the streets on tiny stages, and then playing more traditionally festival-y gigs on larger stages through and on the fringes of the city.
The headliner of the festival was a chap named Manu Chao. He’s a huge name in “world music” (the vaguest genre to ever exist), and I’d listened to a few of his songs before, so I asked my parents if I could go to his show, and maybe see a couple of the acts going on before his? My parents relented, on the one condition that I rejoin the fam promptly at 11 p.m. Of course I enthusiastically pledged my assurances, and then promptly took off for the festivities.
I caught two bands before I set off for Manu Chao’s set. The first was Benzos, the second was Mute Math, and the main thing I remember about either one’s set was that the front man for Mute Math liked to jump on things on stage, which was pretty cool. I was up against the rail for both, and I liked the clarity of seeing from that close to the stage. Neither band boogied that much, but I was still pretty pumped after Mute Math’s set.
I decided to try and get in the front for Manu Chao too, so I camped out by the railing about an hour before his show was set to start, and that was when the fun began.
All through middle school and high school, I was pretty straight edge (with the exception of a brief window of debauchery), partially by choice and partially because I didn’t have the money or the initiative to get into drugs. So, imagine this tight-laced little Asian chick hanging out with the crunchiest people in Canada. The entire crowd was bathed in marijuana smoke, not that I even knew what marijuana smelled like at that point, and there were so many people with dreadlocks in the audience that from the air, the field in front of the stage must’ve looked like a writhing blanket of brown, black, and blonde anemone.
As the hour of the show’s start drew nearer, people began condensing more and more toward the front. And when Manu Chao took the stage—boom, the crowd rippled forward in an uneven undulating mass, alternately pulling me back into the fold or ribboning me between the slats in the railing. With every beat, the breath was crushed out of my lungs by the sheer effort of trying to keep from going under a sea of people, as voices in a million different languages cried out to the wiry, winsome man on stage.
I loved every second of it.
The show ended at midnight, and it was only then that the audience dispersed enough for me to leave (and return to my furious parents—can you say “grounded for the rest of the summer”?), but even if I hadn’t been wedged up in the front of the crowd, I still wouldn’t have left early. For I had just had my first taste of a SHOW show, and boy, would it make a lasting impression.
So, yeah. That’s what I love: The voluntary congregation of people celebrating the theoretically simple, technically complicated, but always ecstatic act of musical performance. For sure, there’s nothing quite like being on stage taking the bow, but in an era where it’s completely possible to passively “love” something, there’s something to be said about going out and embracing the natural physicality and community of music—of the ebb and flow of rhythm racing through your body, of the acoustic integrity of crackling live sound.
Sure, there are plenty of pushy assholes at shows, and mosh pits can on occasion be hazardous, but hey, what’s that compared to shout-singing along to “Last Nite” as the rain pours down or leaping up into the air alongside hundreds of other people when the chorus of “Not In Love” kicks in or getting goosebumps when the bass in “Hysteria” cranks into its crawling snarl?
Maybe I have totally messed up priorities. Probably? Whatever, my show calendar for the upcoming year is packed to the gills. And besides, it’s not like it’s positive to talk someone out of doing something they love, unless it’s hardcore drugs, in which case, yikes.
And there’s my ten cents (or in this case, 1,000+ words) on what I love. Hope it was a fun read; if nothing else, you’ve learned a little more about me.