I dragged my childhood friend Freeze to a The Hold Steady concert at the Showbox. We hadn’t seen each other since Love’s wedding eight months ago.
“I don’t enjoy concerts as much as I used to,” she said. “This isn’t really my scene anymore.”
And I understood. A mountain of a man, well over six feet and 300 pounds, beyond drunk, spent most of the concert hurling his body into the people around him, shoving Freeze around. He chucked his sandal into the crowd, his dull eyes following its flight. Then he stumbled forward, ready to part the sea of people before him or crush whoever didn’t move until he found his footwear again.
I wanted to elbow him in the temple, let him succumb to unconsciousness.
By contrast Craig Finn spilled unadulterated joy on the stage. With his polo shirt and nerdy glasses, he looked like any geek delighted that people actually came out to see him.
His speak-singing, punctuated by outstretched/imploring arms, was as earnest as his teenage girl narrators, telling the stories of Christians toking up and listless boys embracing the boredom of white suburbia. Curls of marijuana smoke licked at the colored lights as Finn sang:
Heaven is whenever / we can get together / sit down on your floor / and listen to your records.
Heaven is whenever / we can get together / lock your bedroom door / and listen to your records.
Finn’s goofy demeanor meant that his bright smile could only be taken as sincere. He claps like a bubbly child whenever one of his band-mates performs one of their monster guitar solos. “Rock is real people in a real room with real instruments playing real music,” he said, imploring us to clap along.
Real people – real sweaty people – bundled into each other, only the fabric they clothe themselves in separating the bodies as the entire crowd heaved forward during the upbeat tunes.
I raised my hand like in a worship song as we communed in songs of teenage angst and 20s listlessness.
Freeze, inside of me there is a recklessness and a destructive bent and an uncouth teenager. This is still my scene.