Sunday, February 12, 2012

Graffiti, Hurricanes, Bruises

Memory is a funny thing. I am never sure if an event remembered actually happened the way I recall it or not. I can recall in excellent detail the inside of the 9:30 Club, down to some of the graffiti on the walls, the way the stage came out at a crazy angle, the tile in the hall. Still, though, the shows I saw there are murky and fuzzy, car accidents of music, felt rather than precisely rendered. But such is the lens of adolescence and young adulthood.

The shows I remember best are those that really seemed to pull the hate and rage out of me and leave it flying off into nothingness, a hurricane force leveling everything in its path but leaving me standing quietly in the eye. Release. And that kind of power leaves the mind shocked, unable to understand the volatility latent in its soft confines, the raw emotion. To recognize that immense and uncontrolled power is a frightening proposition; it takes a strong individual to really deal with it, to acknowledge that they are a bomb in boots, a shotgun one finger-squeeze from explosion.

I listen to lyrics when I am at home, in my basement, at rest. Then I can absorb them and understand them and let them tell me their story. At a show it's all emotion undressed. I always took the time to read lyrics so that I could comprehend what the musicians were portraying in a particular song. Many times it spoke directly to me and garnered that little head nod, that agreement, the conversation with a peer. Sometimes it left me wondering if the writer really believed them, if it was a sham, a mask. It is the difference between Minor Threat and The Misfits.

The Descendants always seemed to hit me right in the fleshiest part of my brain. There was such an amazing honesty in their lyrics, a celebration of the writer's flaws, dealing with them head-on, no fear. But their shows: pure adrenalin and release and speed. It was a perfect combination of the things I would never say to myself (but secretly thought) and the raw rage I needed to unload.

I saw them in '85 or '86 at the 9:30, a show I remember as a hazy climb up some crooked staircase only to tumble down, bruised but smiling, punching the demons in the neck on the way down, reptilian and explosive. I don't remember who I was with, the date, where I was living at the time, the color of my mohawk, or the set list. But that memory is so vivid, so real to me, I will likely go to the old-folks home still smiling when it surfaces. That show was one that gave me something back and was worth the ticket price, the sweat and the bruises, worth twenty times what I paid for it or the record.

I can only hope my kids have something that slaps them and sticks like that. They need their own blurry memories in this world.

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