Sunday, November 18, 2012

the world of basement shows

In my last post I said I rarely sit around just listening to music, but that doesn't mean music isn't still a big part of my life. There are two areas when I notice it particularly: when driving (which is really the only way I can get around #NJproblems) and when cashiering at the co-op. I don't have an iWhatever, so I wait for whoever is around to play DJ with their phone/music player/laptop. At these times I love to hear familiar songs, and to discover something new. (The co-op is particularly funk-friendly, which I dig.)

I'm related to a (post-)rock band, and I like to support them as much as I can. This fandom has brought a new phenomenon into my life: the basement show. I'm used to seeing musicians play in clubs, bars, even arenas. But this basement thing is news to me. This is what I've learned so far:

(DISCLAIMER: I am not cool. I am not part of a music scene. These are just my impressions. It's cool if they don't match yours completely.)

In the world of basement shows, it is always winter. Nothing can keep the cold out, not even your thickest black hoodie. You find a musty corner in which to shiver and shuffle your feet for the night.

You walk around half-asleep, because you woke up for the day while the sun was setting. You rub your eyes and stare into a sea of androgyny--it's all long hair and skinny jeans, as far as the eye can see.

You'd waited around all day for the text to come, the one with the address of the basement you're going to. The lineup may change a few times before any performers are introduced. You play it by ear. You arrive an hour later than you were told to; don't worry, nothing's started yet.

But when it does, the music hurts. The amps are turned up enough to give you a stitch in your side, a headache, even shortness of breath. (If you have flu-like symptoms, you're doing it right.)

Why suffer for this sound? Why endure bad lighting and sharing gear and fluctuations in logistics?

Because you're there to push boundaries and experiment. Just how loud can this song go, and for how long? Freed from the constraints of Verse-Chorus-Verse, suddenly everything is possible. You're there to be awed. You're there to witness.

And you're part of a community. It's small, but devout; bands wear each other's merch and thank one another sincerely for the opportunity to play the same (unfinished flooring) stage as them. It's the definition of intimate. You're all exploring together.

Until... until you remember that tomorrow is Monday morning, and there's a 9 a.m. meeting, and you need to tuck yourself into bed if you're going to give this grown-up thing any shot at all. There's a part of me that still likes to scuff up my shoes in a dank basement, to sneer and lean against a wall like my last name is Ramone.

She only shows up Friday-Saturday, though. The part that needs to work off those student loans is crawling into bed... now!

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