See Michael. See how sweaty and happy Michael is next to band.
As the kind of unknown ukulele/mandolin/fiddle hipster nonsense I enjoy tends not to venture to China, a large part of my trip home was to include music. I feverishly scoured concert listings and venue websites looking for shows, gleefully snapping up tickets and planning my attack. If I am going to bother attending a concert, I generally want to attend it as hard as I can. I show up early, I grab whatever beers I need, and then I plant myself in the front row. My feet root to the spot, I set up a tent and a beach chair, and I settle in for joy directly in front of my eyeballs.
Here are a few amalgamated thoughts from the last week, in which I spent 4 of seven nights pressed sweatily against a speaker in a rock club.
– I am technically in the splash zone. The singer of this alt-bluegrass outfit sweats more than any human being I have ever seen. It has gone from endearingly human to actually disconcerting, and I wonder if I should get him a glass of water. He maybe has a condition. Should we be calling somebody? Getting him on an IV? On another night, Cary Ann Hearst also notes that she and her husband are getting pretty gross and that the front row can probably feel it. “But y’all look like the kinky types so I bet you don’t mind.”
The band takes the stage. Chatter moves to a hush, anticipation swells in the room like a physical presence, like dozens of extra people filtering into the crowd. Smoke billows, and a hazy purple light bursts through the din, silhouetting the lead singer. Fingers wrap around a microphone, tremble readily over strings, hover above keys. A note is hit, a chord is struck, the show begins. The crowd moves. It is alive.
And you can’t see a damned thing, because the moron directly in front of you is holding their iPad up, over the crowd, a great matte-grey blockade of idiocy.
There is a disturbing trend in concert-going that is widespread in its prevalence, an epidemic of douchery virulent in infectiousness, and vicious in how it desolates enjoyment. A striking number of individuals at concerts these days feel compelled to document every second of the show in photo and video, in tweet and update, on every shimmering electric rectangle they have on their person. Every second must be captured. Every note must be recorded. Every line of sight must be blocked, because if anyone needs to see this show, it is the unwashed masses of youtube rather than the paying customers currently present.
“Well,” Andrea* told me, “me and Mae were planning on doing a dance for the talent show. Probably to that mix by DJ Earworm.”
These were my grade sixes, informing me and my mentor teacher of their entry for the upcoming talent show, which, as a slaving, bootlicking student-teacher, I would almost certainly be involved in to some degree. I discussed the song with them for a few minutes, to establish my cred, to fully exhibit my subversiveness and deeply rooted connections with modern happenings and the youth of today. For whatever reason, having an encyclopaedic command of popular culture has always been important to me. Maintaining my with-it-ness has always been somewhat crucial to my sense of self, the core of my personality just barely held together by a sticky web of Simpsons’ quotations, nerdy movie references, and unnecessarily bescarfed indie music superiority.
Moving to the other side of the planet can really throw a wrench into such a system.
Back in Canada, I generated a number of evasive techniques to avoid certain pop music that I hated. Not all of it, as I’m not going to try to claim that all pop music is worthless, but some songs and artists aggravated me, and thus I tried to keep them at bay. I never listened to radio. I’d always keep my iPod on my person to block out ear-offending beats with my own. I knew what to ignore on the internet. As an educator, especially of elementary students, you often come in close contact with children’s pop culture, and you have to fortify your pop defences. I half-jokingly banned students from singing certain songs around me in class, and would threaten them with my own horrible taste in music should they assault me with theirs. In Korea, all of these techniques are useless or moot.