The last thing I should be doing is writing this. But I’ve got the itch, and even though I literally have all my other work spread around me, this has to be scratched.
Usually, I’m fond of the shows that our marching band puts on. Yeah yeah, we aren’t making dinosaurs on the field, but we play good charts and I adore our band culture, even though some people think we’re standoffish or whatever but when your school goes through the shit that our school goes through
I’m digressing. What I mean to say is, I usually like our shows, but when I got the chart for our upcoming show, I almost cried.
We’re playing Muse. And that means everything to me.
The song that got me into modern music, as I define it, is “Stockholm Syndrome” by Muse. Yes, I’d listened to The Beatles. Yes, I’d listened to pop music on the radio. But after listening through that particular weird grungy, gritty condensed epic of a song (through some very “me” circumstances), I was inexplicably hooked. What had I just listened to? Where could I find more of that?
At the time, the band was just about to release “Black Holes and Revelations” but hadn’t yet. I spent hours listening to parts of “Absolution” on loop, only to realize that the band’s next album of material was departing from the aural image I had of them. What was this travesty? What the hell was “Supermassive Black Hole”?! I could listen to “Starlight,” but that was it. I retreated back into the sonic spiral of “Stockholm,” and didn’t go much of anywhere from there.
But “BH&R” grew on me, and I found myself obsessed. Sure, to critics, they were the stupider man’s Radiohead, but Matt and Chris and Dom were still damn good musicians, and their songs were compelling to me, so when I found out that they were playing a show not too far from where I lived, I begged my parents to let me go. It took much convincing, but it paid off, and I had my first ever concert tickets – for a show at Madison Square Garden, no less.
I went with my friend Neha, who was a year older than me but who talked to me about music on our bus rides to and from school. Cold War Kids opened for the band and that was kind of weird, but then it was Muse, glorious Muse in a stadium setting, burning through “Map of the Problematique” and “Hysteria” and “Sunburn,” littering the air with the soaring piano interlude in “Butterflies and Hurricanes,” ripping through the guitar solo on “Plug In Baby,” laying down seduction with “Supermassive Black Hole” and wrenching desperation out of “Time Is Running Out.” I found myself dancing and leaping and shouting into the communal concert air, a far cry from the reserved, resentful girl I was in class.
We left in a daze. My feet were sore, my ears were ringing, but within the numbness of it all was a needling desire that left me hungry, starving, for something I’d never craved before, and I promised myself that I would do everything, anything, to go through this again.
Thus began my love affair with live music, but as for my relationship with Muse, well, you know how it is with first loves…
It’s so weird, to look at an inanimate object and project all these strange associations on it. There’s nothing inherently there beyond the object itself, but then… of course there is. And when I saw the words “MUSE SHOW 2013” printed on the top of our sheet music, it brought me back to the place I was when all of *this* first began.
It’s funny, because only a couple of hours ago, I was at another live show. The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala at the Greek – great performers getting spooky for Halloween. Wayne Coyne took the stage dressed as Stephen King’s Carrie, and had fake blood poured on him by a woman dressed as VMAs!Miley, who herself was perched on a tall person costumed as a bear. It was really weird but really great.
Tame Impala was also fantastic – Kevin Parker’s such an interesting musician, and it’s kind of crazy how his weird one-man music project has become this universally lauded sonic experience. His songs sound so hazy in recordings, but when they have physical space to occupy, they bloom like fresh wounds.
But on the cab ride home, all I wanted to listen to was Muse, and all I wanted to be was the girl who’d just gone to her first show, who didn’t know how jaded people within the music industry are and how flat the concertgoing experience can be. I still approach every show assignment like a puppy seeing its reflection in a mirror, but every now and then I stop to consider what it is that I do. For most people, live music is an experience. But to me, though I still do get the experience, it’s somewhat tarnished by the fact that I’m also there to do work.
The thing is, I’d write about music anyway. If I hadn’t found a formal outlet for my music writing, I would’ve found myself creating an informal outlet (like I’ve done for my creative/personal writing). So this is, to quote a true icon of modern music, the best of both worlds, right?
It is, and yet… I don’t know. I often have to go to shows alone, and while it would be nice to share these moments, because most of them are really cool, and I’ve had the chance to listen to a lot of my favorite artists and a lot of acts who have become my favorite artists, I do treat those solo shows as me time, as the opportunity to wrap my head around the sound,
but when I emerge from it, it’s always a rude awakening. Then again, what could I ever expect? The things you love change all the time. You change all the time too, and one day you find that Muse is no longer the band you used to love.
So all you can do is put on “Absolution,” look at around at the things that matter to you in the present, close your eyes, swallow your nostalgia in bitter knots, and then move on.