Seeing a Band

 
 
One afternoon in 1998, about five weeks after the start of my course (the Diploma of Arts: Design), a few friends and I got together for a few drinks in a pub. They weren't really my friends -- I was only there because it was a study-related meeting and we had to discuss the oral report that we were to present in Technology class that day. But because this was near the beginning of the course, the social structures in the group were still in formation. I regarded this meeting as a stepping stone towards me being accepted by the group and invited into their after-hours functions.
    Anyway, while the guys sat around a table and drank beer and took artistic photos of their hands and things, one of them asked me if I'd like to go and see a band called "The Cosmic Psychos", which several of his friends were going to. The gig was at the Metro Nightclub in the city. I said yes.
    I had never gone out at night to see a band before. It seemed to be one of those things that one only does with friends, and I had no friends among my peers -- I was something of a recluse. I didn't much care for close relationships and I wasn't sure if "The Cosmic Psychos" was a band I wanted to see, but just to be invited out with the group was an exciting development. It indicated that the guys in the class were reaching out to me, giving me a chance to show whether I was friendly or not. Possibly they thought I was shy and just needed a little bit of help to come out of my shell and gain the confidence to talk to them. I knew I would never be talkative enough to become a full-blown member of their social circle, but I was excited by the idea that I might be able to hang out with them for a little while so that I could present a good facade of belonging.
    I remember they used to hang out in a place called "Revolver" at lunch time -- it was a bar and lounge just up the street from the university. Bands sometimes played there at night, but it was open in the daytime as well and it seemed like all the cool people used to hang out at "Revolver" between classes, just to drink some beer, play some pool and listen to music. At that point I had never ventured inside the place so I could only imagine what it was like. I was waiting to be invited -- I didn't want to just follow the cool people there like a desperate hanger-on.
    So I figured, if I made a good impression on this "Cosmic Psychos" expedition, they would later invite me to "Revolver". I asked one of them if there was a dress code for the Metro Nightclub, and they said No, it's just casual.
    When the night arrived, I met up with my companions on the street outside the Metro. But I didn't get to see "The Cosmic Psychos" that night -- the bouncer at the entrance said he couldn't let me in because I was wearing tracksuit pants. "It's not a pub, mate", he added. After that something surprising happened -- my companions postponed their plans to enter the nightclub and decided to eat some chips and things at the café next door. They invited me to share the food and they bought me a drink of lemonade. I couldn't understand why they were doing these things instead of just going into the nightclub without me -- not having gone out with friends before, I was not sure what the procedure was. I was not even sure if they were still going to see the band -- I hoped I had not ruined their night. Later, while we were still sitting around the table, one person (the one who had invited me) suggested that maybe I could go home and change into a pair of jeans or something. But I reckoned I should just go home, because I had had enough social contact for one night and I didn't want to overdo it.
    When the food was finished, they walked with me to the tram stop, without asking me if I wanted them to. It struck me that social conventions are very strange between friends and it was an unfamiliar world for me. I felt like the night had been a success, even though I hadn't seen the band -- I had achieved what I set out to do, which was to be accepted by the cool people.
    Twenty-seven days later, they finally invited me to Revolver. I felt like I had ascended to an even higher realm -- I played pool with somebody, and somebody else bought me a beer -- it was the first of many trips to Revolver, although I never drank beer again after that because I didn't care for it. Sometimes I used to just sit with my student companions and watch them and listen to them and pretend like they were real friends, but it wasn't really that much fun. Just something to do occasionally to reinforce my sense of belonging.
    But the real excitement, for me, began when I first went to Revolver alone at night. It was a Friday night in late June. As I recall, I had seen a pole-poster advertising a gig at Revolver and the band was named The Paradise Motel. This was a band that had caught my attention when I heard their slow, sad music on the radio and on T.V. -- I had already bought three of their CDs, although I hadn't really listened to the third one properly at that point. Anyway, their music was good enough to tempt me to go to their gig, even though I had never gone out and seen a band before. I mean, I'd seen bands playing free concerts outdoors in the daytime, like at community festivals and such, but never indoors at night. I was a little afraid of the unfamiliar -- I probably would not have gone if I had not been familiar with Revolver already.
    I was not aware of the rules regarding gigs. I didn't know, for example, that the crowd are not allowed in until around 9 p.m. and the headline band doesn't play until about midnight. I turned up at 6 p.m. Revolver is set up in such a way that the "back bar" (where my friends hung out) was open all the time but the "front bar" (where the bands play) was only open late at night. At six p.m. I entered the "front bar" and just sat down and read my book. The doors were ajar because the technicians and roadies were going in and out, setting up equipment. I didn't know it at the time, but through a stroke of good luck I had managed to enter an out-of-bounds area and no one questioned me because they just assumed I was "with someone". At that stage, sunlight was still coming in through windows at the left -- members of the Paradise Motel were sitting around on the comfy chairs, although I didn't recognise them at first. I just kept reading my book, and eventually they started doing the "sound check". At first they were testing the levels of individual instruments, then the whole band together, playing their music. Of course, when I heard that vocal and those songs I realised that it was indeed The Paradise Motel, and I was thinking, "Is this it? Is this the gig right now? Is this how it works -- they just start playing, without any introduction? And are The Paradise Motel so unpopular that they can only draw such a small crowd?" I stopped reading my book while they played -- I was in awe of this special music which was stirring something deep within me, and I just stared at the lead vocalist while I sat there. At one point I dug something out of my back-pack -- it was the lyric booklet from their album. I wanted to check on some of the lyrics that I was hearing.
    When the sound-check was over I stayed there, fairly safe in the knowledge that the band would be back on stage later in the night. That's when the most amazing thing happened -- the lead vocalist came over to me and said, "Hello". I replied, more softly, "Hello." That was the end of our conversation. She walked away. I was thinking, "Why is she saying hello to me? Does she know me? Maybe I met her before somewhere. She does look like someone I met in psychiatric hospital. Could it be the same person? No -- different name --"
    In retrospect, I think she knew I was a fan and she just wanted to give me a thrill. I suspect she saw me referring to the lyric booklet during the sound-check -- I wouldn't have done that if I were just some sound-technician. Obviously she knew I was not meant to be in that out-of-bounds area. What she didn't know was, that I didn't KNOW I was out of bounds.
    The sound-check for the support band followed. But it wasn't until some time after the sound checks that one of the Revolver authorities noticed me and questioned me. He asked, "Are you with anyone here?" I replied, "No". He said "This section is actually closed to the public right now. You'll have to leave. The back bar is open." And I said, "What time do you want me to come back?" He answered, "Doors open at 9pm." And I left. I had spent ninety minutes in that out-of-bounds area without being questioned.
    The gig was later that night. I came back to my seat at 9 p.m. and played the waiting game -- it was too dark to read my book anymore. I was alone in the growing throng of people and the music was too loud and I was afraid to leave my seat, for fear that someone would take it. But it was all worth it in the end as The Paradise Motel performed at the end of the night -- I managed to push my way through the crowd to get into the front row, a practice I have since employed many times at gigs. Even though the music was slow and sad, it made me move my arms somewhat and sing along with the songs that I knew. I was enraptured and spellbound and I looked up at the lead vocalist like she was a goddess or whatever. Since the sound-check she had changed her hair and her clothes and her make-up and taken off her glasses -- I wouldn't have recognised her. Internally I was questioning the practice of making the room so dark -- "Why do they do that?", I wondered, remembering the impression that the music had made on me at the sound-check. "Why do they want to make it so unnatural, make the performers seem so different from us, to separate them from the audience? It would be the same music, either way --"
    The following evening I went to Revolver again, to see The Paradise Motel again, because they were performing in the same place two nights running, which was pretty unusual but there you go. It was better the second time because I knew what to expect, and I got the lead vocalist's autograph on the lyric booklet at the end of the night.
    After that, The Paradise Motel were my favourite band. I had had favourite bands in the past, but never so intensely. In the following weeks, I bought every CD that they had put out, I did research on the internet about their past, and joined the email mailing-list. I learnt their lyrics and chords. I made midi-files of their songs. I wrote stories about them. Unfortunately I was only able to go to one more of their gigs, because they were heading off to England for a permanent re-location. But my preoccupation with The Paradise Motel was what led me into the whole live music scene as a spectator. At first I started seeing bands who were vaguely connected with The Paradise Motel, bands that the PM fan-club were recommending. Then, as I gradually became accustomed to the scene and familiar with all the different live-music venues, I started following bands that I'd heard in other places and sometimes I would be so impressed by their support bands that I'd start going to the support bands' future gigs as well. And thus I was developing a wider circle of bands that I liked.
    I did eventually get to see that band "The Cosmic Psychos", when they played at Revolver in late August of that year -- I went with my design-school companions, but the band was too loud and heavy for my tastes and I hated them. I'm glad that I didn't get to see them that first time at the Metro when the bouncer turned me away -- if "The Cosmic Psychos" had been my first introduction to the live music scene, I probably would have been turned off it for good. I prefer to be alone when I'm at a gig, anyway -- it makes me feel more free and unencumbered.
    As for The Paradise Motel, they broke up in 1999 while they were still in England and therefore they couldn't be my favourite band anymore. But I still haven't found another band to take their place as a target of extreme infatuation.

 
 
 
 
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