Friday, September 13, 2019

Massive Attack Mezzanine:XXI

Last year we had a conversation in the cold winter. It was chilly and one or the other of our beds was warm. Planning music, planning concerts, planning fun.

"What should we listen to now?"

"Massive Attack?"

"Yes, good choice. Massive Attack."

"You know if they ever come to Chicago, I'm getting tickets and you will be my date. I don't care if we are still seeing each other than. I don't care if you've moved to Vegas. I will find you. I will put you over my shoulder. I will take you to a Massive Attack concert."

"I guess I'm going to a Massive Attack concert then."

We laughed and went back to being warm.

A week later Massive Attack announced it was touring. Getting tickets proved to be a challenge, but the challenge did result in Thom Yorke Tuesday, so it was fine. The tickets, destined for a concert in March, end up being for a concert in September. It didn't matter. The night rolled around and we rolled out. Me in all my goth princess finery with a see-through head to tow lace dress with a split that made it far less decent than advertised.

The show was at the Chicago theater, the line was around the block and down two. We were far too safe to care and far too happy to finally be at the show. In one of the most beautiful cities, in one of the most beautiful theaters, we found our seats and we waited, center stage, but in the balcony. Perfect to see everything that was happening and take in every note, every light, with joy.

Massive Attack did not come for joy.

There was an oddness as we waited listening to a washed out music track that had a couple of songs that we recognized the second run through because the washed out tiny refrain of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" was easy to spot on round two. And round three. They had announced the show was starting at some point during the first round of this weird washed out cycle, so it seemed odd to be taking so very long for the band to enter onto the stage.

I could read the nervous anticipation bordering on anger from the crowd.

"It's not hard to lose a Chicago audience and it's not good when you do," I said. This was foreshadowing, I didn't realize it at the time. We had noted the subtlety of the unease.

"Bad house management."

"Could be. But if they don't come out soon they might have a classic Chicago riot on their hands." I watched over the crowd while speaking. A variety of various goths, and teens, and older stoners, and classic rockers, and punks, and freaks, and fucking DJ Scary Lady Sarah walked right by me and she smells like every inch the dark goth goddess Queen of Chicago that she is.

"That's her," I sequel in delight. "Gods she even smells like the Queen of Gothness. Can't you smell it?"

A charming laugh. "And what does a Gothness smell like?"

"Like Patchouli, and clove cigarettes and the insufferable longing of a hundred ages, obviously."


Suddenly, I hear it click over, the crowd music starts the fourth time. There is no Britney Spears this time, but I recognize the tinny lines of Ray of Light from Madonna and suddenly the theater is plunged into darkness.

There is not notice.

There is not an announcement.

The lights just go off. The crowd takes a breath.

There is no opener.

There is only Massive Attack. Or rather, the Velvet Underground "I found a Reason." We fall into the music. We fall into the words. It starts with a missive about the data, and it goes from there. It is, as if watching a dystopian science fiction story written by Massive Attack unfold, to a soundtrack of Massive Attack. Behind them music, the seven piece band, behind all of this rolling hills and technicolor lightness. The light board for this show encompasses the entire theater. The technicolor is documentary images interwoven between powerful flashing, throbbing stage lights.

"I'm glad we brought the sunglasses." A nod. The sunglasses do not come off.

Between the lights, and the story, and the music of Mezzanine which is like a soundtrack of my life given how long I have listened to this very album, it was easy to get complacent as the audience. To think nothing of it.

Until the ticking and drum beat indicate something I didn't expect. I sit up straight. I look to my left.

I recognize Bela Lugosi is Dead within three notes, this is a song I have known for so long that it is like a part of my fabric. It reminds me of spinning in darkness randomly on a rare night at the Neo, out with the other dervish vampires. It reminds me of smokey hotel rooms in the American Northwest. It reminds me of a thousand weird, wild, things. But darkness. How can one miss the darkness?

And it is from this darkness, from the green glowing stage that is now a vampire's delight of deep dark shadows that can't be cut through and the wispy darkness of "I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm dead" the show takes it's turn. Massive Attack asked a lot of their fans. Their music, our music, has been the soundtrack of so many thrills, beauties, chills, astoundments. It has also been co-opted as impressive music to narrate death, destruction, and hardship. As the group slides from the shaded darkness to the technicolor reality and suddenly, as they put it, "outside the pleasure dome, the wars continue."

For three songs starting here, I kept my eyes tightly closed. I could hear, from the sounds of the audience, that I had made the right choice. I knew were it was going as soon as they hinted it. They warned us, not everyone paid attention. While they asked a lot of us, though, they still gave the music performance we wanted. From here I vacillated between eyes open and closed, lost in the story they were telling. Not the science fiction dystopian reality that I was thinking, no, this was the real life dystopian horror and this music is as much as part of that, a part of this, as I am, we are, we all are.

It was utterly devastating, and utterly perfect.

"Let the past be the past."

The lights came up as suddenly as they went down.

I sat silently stunned, holding hands, watching the theater drain.

"That was phenomenal."


Tuesday, September 10, 2019


"This popped up in my feed again."

It was a screenshot of a concert. I had mentioned this concert some months ago.

We go to shows together.

We are rock stars.

We are rock attendees.

A few months ago the concert had shown up and I mentioned it.

"I checked into that Weedeater concert but they are touring Europe. I don't know what that's all about."


In another country it is the morning or the evening. I am playing a princess trapped by raiders being taken to every city where I am displayed, over and over gain, to the satisfaction of the gathered crowed.

A concert pops up on my phone. The West? I'm in the West? The East? What is this place where I want to be when time and space have lost all meaning to me. I send a picture.

"I got the tickets!"

And so it was that we gathered together to pre-game for a Weedeater concert.

"It's going to be phenomenal!"

"No doubt."

The venue is new to me, Thaila Hall. I've had tickets for shows here before but I always abandon them because it's so far away and the shows start so late. Entering this night I feel a small sense of remorse for this. It's a beautiful space, quiet, old in that Chicago way.

Everyone there is dark metal sledge metal stoner metal crowd. We make eye contact to know, we make eye contact to forget. I seize the arm next to mine to steady myself after the earlier safety meeting. We are ultimately as safe as safe can be.

"I'm getting a drink, do you want anything?"

"Naw, I'm good."

"I'll be back."

I get two club sodas in the back of the bar. I notice the merch booth entrance just behind. Being exceptionally early, we have plenty of time so I go back and announce this merry occurrence.

"Should we go check it out?"

"¿Porque no?"

Back in the back in the back of the back, we enter the merch tent and all the bands are represented. The headliner is UK grunge band popular since I left high school, not touring since I left Korea. Time is a strangeness now. Orange Goblin is the reason this tour is happening. Weedeater is the reason we are hear. The opening band SKULL is just a rock metal big band that ties the whole thing together opening with a classic prog presented with skill that is pleasant regardless of ones familiarity.

We saunter over to the band I notice a bottle of opened Jalapeno Sauce on the merch table. I'm curious about this having just made a batch of jalapeno sauce from the peppers grown at the house.

"And this, what's this?

"Well, that young lady is some sauce. Anyone can try it just screw off the lid and go for it."

I smile a very safe smile.

"And what's in it?"

Perhaps it's the Cheshire expression, but the band member pauses. I can't remember who is who, I'm pretty sure this is the bassist.

"Oh, doesn't have ANYTHING in it if that is what you are worried about."

"Well, take the fun out of it."

He blinks.

"Well if that is what you are after, I can offer you these cookies."

A bag at his hip slides open and he withdraws a cookie and breaks off a bit.

"What do you think," I turn, "should I take cookies from strangers?"

"What could possibly go wrong?"

I eat the cookie and share, and we giggle while looking at the merch. He buys a shirt and as the purchase is being sealed the Bassist looks at us and tells the story of the cookie.

"We were at this show, like, middle of fucking nowhere, you know. Back of forever. Beyond. Whatever man, the nights were dark and the beds were alright. We were there and I'm standing at the merch like now, and this kid, man, this kid. All night. Just sitting there staring at me. I ask him 'Man you need anything?' and he's like 'NO!' he's fucking emphatic about it, right? But like, man he's like a gargoyle all hunched over, and shit, and I'm like, what the fuck is wrong with this kid? and I try to ask him more questions or something but he just keeps starring at me. And, well, anyway, I'm getting ready to pack it so I can get on stage and this kid just comes rushing me, and I'm like, you know, fuck, cause you know America right now, like is this kid gonna kill me? But like, no, this kid he just slams these huge ass cookies into my money jar and he, like,  shouts, "THAT'S FOR YOU!" and that was like it, man."

"That's amazing," I say.

"That's how you are going to feel in about 20 minutes."

The show was phenomenal. Weedeater stole the performance with their practiced set.

I felt amazing.