Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where can you fly solo?

Q: Have you ever gone to a concert by yourself?
A: For the first time, last night, I did.

Last night I saw The Chemical Brothers live. Their set closed out the first night of the inaugural (I hope there are more in the coming years) North Coast Music Festival. At about the 40 minute mark of their nonstop 90 minute set they played "Star Guitar." I instantly fell in love with the track when its music video debuted on MTV 2. The track was the first single off 2002's Come With Us album, which might have been the first album I ever pre-ordered from Amazon (I was in my last year of Marquette at the time). "Star Guitar" has remained a mainstay of nearly every single travel inspired playlist I make for myself on iTunes.

I'm not sure why I thought it would be a long shot for The Chemical Brothers to play that song last night, but it the chance of hearing it was the sole motivator for my attendance. After all, I've now seen 8 of my 12 songs from my "Songs of The Decade" list live!

But immediately after the track ended I felt a very difficult to explain feeling... But I'll try to illustrate:
I wanted to turn to the person next me and say, "That was it. That was why I'm here now. That might have made my [musical] year." But I couldn't, because there were only strangers around me. I felt great, maybe even ebullient, but it got smacked against a wall of loneliness.

The concert, or the North Coast Music Festival as a whole, was on my radar for sometime. But the $40 ticket price tag was just a bit of a stretch for me. None of their albums came close to cracking my "15 Albums" list. More so, I don't think any of my friends would stomach a "electronic / dance music" genre concert. However, when Groupon posted a daily deal to buy a ticket for the price of $17- not to mention, without any of the clubtix ticket fees - my back was against the wall. With the clock ticking down (only had about 12 hours between hearing of the deal and when it would expire), I pulled the trigger and bought myself a ticket. Only buying one ticket. The key rationalization: I wouldn't forgive myself if they played "Star Guitar" (I knew I would check the set list) and I wasn't willing to spend $17 or didn't feel self confident enough to show alone.

I had talked myself up to convince me that I could handle a solo trip to a concert. After all, I'm usually in my own world once the music starts anyways. You can't hear what your friend is saying and people don't discuss much beyond a nonverbal nod if one's attention needs to be diverted elsewhere momentarily. Also, nobody is paying attention to anything not on stage. Hey, I play well with others. Talking to strangers is probably one of my more favorite leisure activities. You can go as far as to say I thrive at it. Vacationing by myself has become the norm now, and going to a movie theater solo is almost preferred.

Last night started out wonderfully. Traffic wasn't a pain, I found FREE PARKING nearby Union Park and the Will Call line wasn't as painful as you would think. Casual conversations resulted from interjecting random and anecdotal comments to both the groups ahead of and behind me in line. Just as I wanted, I walked in during the tail end of the the set by Pretty Lights. Great sound, but I was more floored by the scene.

Yes, I listen to a music I can't define - yet others try with labels such as Dance, Electonica, Big Beat, 2-step, Drum & Bass, Jungle, Trance and/or Club. But, I have never been to a concert from this genre.

CLARIFICATION: Cut Copy is by far the closest, but they might be considered a little too retro-pop to be grouped in with this genre. More importantly they utilize actual drums, guitars and keyboards as opposed to relying solely on boards and decks.

In four words, I'd describe the scene as: more glowsticks than joints.
Or is that five words? I don't know.
I was able to have a good stroll around Union Park as Pretty Lights ended their set. This was by design because I wanted to take in everything and not feel so much that I was standing by myself without anybody. There were quite a few merchant stands selling, and I use this term as pedestrian as possible: glowsticks. Let's just say that I had zero clue about the vast variety of those... things... and am sure the term I'm using is borderline offensive to them. There are wands, nun-chucks, scepters, hats and in one awesome case, something that resembled a large houseplant made out of neon Koosh balls.

Rock and pop acts have recently began incorporating a video visual element on stage to accompany their sets. I have the assumption that the trend started with this crowd. The Chemical Brothers did not disappoint in this area as well. It's a something I've always wanted to see with my own eyes, and last night I finally did. For that I am very thankful.

Admittedly, a small part of me wanted to be closer to the stage. I would like to see the wizards behind the curtains for one, and get lost in that jumping throng with hands held high. But I would have needed to arrive many hours earlier than I did, and I didn't have the inner-stamina to handle that by myself.

The drive home, logistically, was the best I've ever experienced. After the set ended I got to my car at my own pace and was home in less than half the time. But it was a silent car ride. And that's when it hit me... the odd pairing of joy and loneliness I mentioned (and had experienced) earlier.

When you see a movie by yourself, you can talk to anybody who's seen that movie about it. When you go to Las Vegas by yourself, you can talk to other people who have also been there and understand it. They know what you mean when you say the walk to In-N-Out is a lot longer than they realize.

Not the case now.
This is what I underestimated.
The journey to the concert is more fun with someone. Talking about what songs you're hoping to hear. The trip home is a much needed recap. It feels more real. This post is more for me, to document to myself that it actually happened because last night, sitting on my couch after the show, I felt unease. Here I was, seeing something that I've waited almost 9 years to see and didn't have anybody to share it with...

Finally, at the bottom of this post is a video of something that was very close to what I saw last night. They only difference is that the below video has much more people, but I assure you that Union Park was packed and once again I wish I was one of those people who could estimate counting large numbers of humans.

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