Sunday, October 20, 2019

IDLES, NYC 10/17/19 - I Was Done In On A Thursday

I guess it was about 6 months ago that I became obsessed with IDLES. I think I'd heard one or two songs before, but it wasn't until then that I really listened to the message. When I played Joy as an Act of Resistance for the first time I was moved in so many ways. The things they were singing were things I'd been feeling in stages for most of my fucking life and here I was at 46 years old before I really felt like another man really understood them the way I felt them. It wasn't one particular lyric, though if I had to boil it down it's obviously "The mask of masculinity, is a mask that's wearing me." But the entire feeling of the album made me feel heard and understood and like there was hope for the next generation after all. 

I've watched countless videos of their live shows and at some point while witnessing the beautiful madness I decided I must be a part of it. I’d never been in a real mosh pit, aside from that now almost laughable incident at Arctic Monkeys, 9 years ago. Again with those regrets I've spoken of before - things I wish I'd done when I was younger but I was too paralyzed by fear, depression, self-doubt and shyness. I've halfway denied that my increase in concert attendance over the last 10 years has been a midlife crisis, but in some ways I guess it has been. 

So, when I saw they were playing the last stop of a pretty short US tour at New York's Terminal 5, I started to figure out how I could justify going. And it quickly evolved into a trip where I would be alone in NYC for nearly 24 hours, with no room. Fly in, kill time, go to the show, kill more time, go home. Anyway, there's definitely something great about just being aimless and on your own in NYC. Still, it was a pretty long day before I even got to Terminal 5, so I was worried I'd be too tired to really enjoy it.

I got there just a few minutes before doors opened, so the line was pretty long. Yet, somehow I got in, went to the floor and stood 2 people from the front. I was excited now. At one point, during opener Preoccupations, I really had to go to the bathroom and got worried because I didn't want to lose my spot. I actually asked the dude next to me to hold it, he said he'd try and off I went. Coming back I felt like a complete dick and also realized (or should have realized) that getting in and out of this crowd was going to be impossible once IDLES came out.  And when they did come out, and started with the ever building crescendo of Colossus, well, reality laughed it's ass off at my midlife crisis.

The crowd behind me, all however hundreds there were, started this slow, rhythmic wave of that was crushing everyone. It would come forward, then back, then to the sides, then forward, getting slowly more intense. I quickly put my phone away and raised my arms up over my head so I could actually use them. I instantly knew I was going to die if I stayed and that I basically had no choice. And then I went into instant denial figuring this would get easier when it got faster. 

Among the things I regret but not because I never did them is getting blackout drunk. There's a night I won't detail, where I remember grabbing a drink and then it’s just  hazy, out of body flashes of crying and panic all around me, and then waking up on the kitchen floor wearing nothing but wet shorts. Those flashes of haze, where the details are completely lost, are something I do remember vividly as being quite scary. Once the last part of "Colossus" started - the hardcore tag that was supposedly going to be easier - I started to feel like that haze thing was coming over me. But my terror was mine alone. The crowd was actually fine and there was no danger of anyone intentionally harming me in anyway. That much was clear, but made it no less terrifying.

Pic from the excellent piece at Pancakes and Whiskey.
As “Colossus” went right into “Never Fight a Man with a Perm” my mouth went instantly dry. I was trying to jump and scream along, thinking I just have to get more excited, which I did, but it was no use. Quickly, the spirit of denial that was trying to keep me there, gave up and said "fuck this dude, you’re not equipped for this, get out of here." Now I had to figure out how to swim against this fucking raging ocean current and get out before I passed out. 

It took the entirety of NFaMWaP, and into “Heel/Heal” during which the haze kept threatening, to finally get clear of the mosh. I have no fucking idea how I survived but I have a vague memory of singing along at several points, with what must have been a distant look of terror on my face, in between shouting “coming out!” to whoever would listen. At various stages, several people did about all anyone could have done in the midst of that chaos, yelling "let this guy out!" with concern and authority before fading back into the tumult. Thanks, kids, for helping an old man having a panic attack after biting off more than he could chew.

By the time I got to the bar where I planned on ordering about 5 gallons of water, I was completely drenched in sweat, only mostly my own. The pressure of hundreds of bodies pressed against me with full force and not having any control over it was still lingering in my insides and I have no idea how I stayed on my feet. It was like my internal organs had been moshed. But the thing is, I did stay on my feet. I came to mosh and I did. And no matter how it went, I can no longer say I never did it. And now I know. And now I'm free from. . . something.  And it somehow feels like this experience has served as a surrogate for just about every experience I regret not having when I was younger. I don't honestly know why that is, but it is and I'm grateful. And now, a few days later, while the feeling still lingers, I have to say I would try again, maybe stupidly, but still. I would have to get in much better shape before I did, but if IDLES come back again any time soon, I may try to be in the middle of it.

The rest of the show, I was on the outskirts because at that point even if I had wanted back in, there was no penetrating the edge of that mass of bodies. I kept noticing how even by the bars there would be ripples of the force coming through the crowd. 

The energy of that crowd was the direct result of a feedback loop between everyone there and the band as one fed the other which fed the other which fed the other, etc. "Goes and it goes and it goes." This was the thing I love about music made into a physical form where you could literally see the emotional energy radiating through the crowd and back to the stage as band members kept coming out and surfing over them. It's one thing to see that on video or even from a distance, but to actually feel that in the room is beautifully powerful. 

And to top it all off, it's not wasted power. Because at the heart of everything this band does is community, love and acceptance. Being in a crowd that large that is receptive and welcoming of these things was quite moving. Singing “Samaritans” and "Danny Nedelko" at the top of our lungs together after Joe Talbot spoke about the fucked up state of the world and how New York was built by immigrants and the idea of true community was particularly special. 

Once it was all over, walking out of Terminal 5, everyone was overwhelmed by how amazing it was. Many were saying it was the best show they’d ever been to and as I walked the streets of NYC, no matter how far from the venue I got, I kept hearing people singing out IDLES lyrics in the distance from different directions. The message was spreading.

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