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A Year in Motionless Silence



a preface

Forgive my irrepressible desire to profile you as my kin – assuming any less would distract from my ability to write in the vulnerable, honest voice this reflection will require. You and I… we cannot feel confident about much anything right now. The exception, of course, what we often feel we’ve always known, is our love of music. We self-identify as music lovers in the “interests” sections of our dating profiles. We take pride in the lists of favorite artists and albums we make, in the breadth of genres to which we enjoy jamming. We insist to anyone who might be interested (and occasionally to those who clearly are not) that we are, fundamentally, creatures formed of and raised on the soundtracks of our souls & surroundings. The sum impact of all our musical moments – from the petty to the profound, from the wholly private to the happily public – on our sense of selves cannot be understated.

Dry mouth. Ringing ears. Throat scratchy & sore; knees shaking & muscles cramping.


Do you remember what stepping out of a crowd into the midnight air after having every single one of your senses engaged for hours on end feels like…? Reminiscing the events having occurred just moments ago on the way to wherever you happened to be sleeping? Realizing upon laying down that your neck is in fact still swaying back and forth ever so slightly? Perhaps you recall the ritualized sniffing of clothes, the vain attempt to discern which odor is your own and which belongs to the middle aged man who fell on you four times. ...Well, I do. I recall it all, and with a bittersweet vividness. Frankly, those nights present themselves to memory as having happened more recently than does almost anything else since – birthdays, holidays, classes, catastrophes, even a continuous, daily falling in love all feel less present than does the imprint of live music... everything happening within the COVID era might as well be a movie I watched back in middle school, while the still-lingering vibrations of concerts, clubbing, and festivals have actively persisted, sure as my pulse.

If I’m not the only one experiencing the present in this way, I’m certainly among an apparent minority (at least in my non-touring social circles) of those who are. “All that feels like a lifetime ago”, one friend insists, “you need to focus more on the here & now!” does another. Despite a number of our favorite venues closing for good, I’m told “everything will return to some kinda normal again soon.” Regardless of the veracity of any such statement, “soon” simply cannot be soon enough. I have not learned how to cope with this absence in any lasting manner. If I’m not actively on the move, the moment I’m alone again the cravings kick in. I need a sweet, satisfying sonic blast, a coating of communal sweat… I need to raise my voice above this constant one-on-one Zoom whisper.

Of course, none of this is happening for at least the duration of another long, freezing semester quarantined in a tiny 9x12 dorm room. Woe is me! I’m not [solely] here to grumble and groan, though; I’ll save that for the eventual podcasts and streams. This piece, this whole first post is a love letter to live music. When concerts came to their abrupt, now prolonged halt, we lost to this pandemic a community, a family, and, for some of us, our only regular opportunity for embodiment. I don’t think we’ll ever have enough voices guiding us through or sitting with us in the trauma of these losses. This is my attempt to begin the healing process in preparation for what’s sure to be an emotional reunion. So… please, feel with me. Be present with the weight of this loss. Read on, dialogue with me, and join me in the pit as soon as you can.

When something means the most to you, you’re liable to encounter a skeptical or even confused “why?” Why do you take this fun or unprofessional thing so seriously? Why do you care so much about something so specific? Or maybe it’s something too nonspecific, too broad for the average mind to believe you could be meaningfully involved in that thing’s active history. My something was – and, in spite of its absence, remains being – live music. My “why” is an essay all on its own. I’ve formed most of my identity, professionally, socially, & personally, around going to shows. My pre-pandemic plan would have brought me to my 4,000th live performance before the summer’s festival season, a temporal feat only contested by the number of libraries I’ve visited (another, far less emotional obsession of mine). The raw emotional release encouraged in the mosh pit has long been not only my primary mode of emotional processing, but also of worship. Feeling wholly present in my body, energized by the same vibrations as a crowd of fellow fans, is one of the easiest ways for me to feel connected with my spirituality, my God and my human community alike. Music is ubiquitous and powerful, but live music in particular is so often such an obvious collection of personal choices, so often a shared, pan-sensory experience. Live music has introduced me to some of my best friends & closest partners, brought me closer to plants & to the earth, compelled me to veganism, inspired me to walk barefoot when possible… not even to begin to speak of my experience behind the scenes working security, production, and in various managerial capacities. Each a story deserving of its own written reflection; now, nearly one year since any such new stories could be told, I sometimes wonder whether I’ve moved at all.. whether my ears have picked up any sound AT ALL!?

Maybe I’m not meant to learn to cope with the absence of live music. Going to and putting on little gigs and touring concerts and larger-than-life festivals is a passion of infinite breadth, and settling for a replacement just does not feel right. I apologize to my bank account for lacking the motivation to work for pennies without the music – I promise I’ll be running overtime when I can again. I apologize to my now chemically imbalanced brain for keeping so much pain stored inside – I assure you nothing will stop you from releasing this anger and dejection out and into the sound waves the moment you can again. I apologize to my extended family of friends who haven’t heard from me for months – I think of you often, and look forward to dancing and screaming with y’all again when we can again. But until that great Again, I will acknowledge my restlessness as legitimate, and do all I can to prepare myself to cherish every future experience as completely as humanly possible… and ask you to do the same.


a postface

I have no authority to compel you to come out and help revitalize the live music industry when the option to do so becomes available once again. I suspect anyone reading this already intends to do their part, anyway. I wrote this piece primarily as a therapeutic practice for myself, but also as a simple reminder for anyone who might need one not to grow complacent. We all have a role in preserving this essential social experience, particularly when it comes to the independent venue and touring communities. Volunteer your time, spend your money, and bring all the energy you can spare to make every show the best it can be.



Below are 21 haikus I’ve written and selected in honor of 21 memorable moments with live music. Please enjoy.


a ramp made legends

trample. scream. squeeze. sing. triumph.

built of our bodies

As I Lay Dying 2012


“yeh boy, go’n git ‘em”

unbridled fury, release.

no wall can contain.

Emmure 2014


gag with gratitude

bright eyes demand violent dance

we swing around Kings’

Great American Ghost 2018


sad cassette, soft sway...

screaming across raw landscapes

unpainted hallway

The Saddest Landscape 2016


Our New Found Glory

hot/horny/hungry: how high?

sea of sweat and spit

New Found Glory 2012


sung shots slung sick sons

holy reunion hails Huns’

we’re about that life

Attila 2015


ROUND 2: SAND-A-GAIN!!!

STRIKE TWICE, RECORD DAY, TRUST-FUCK

rrouff, JUMP JIM/MY. splash

Varials 2019


your stained smile, real

giggles from the jungle to Mars

papers understood

The Maine 2017


BASS BOOTH: BLIND KISSING

another bright forever

skins SPARKLED sans lights

SAN HOLO 2018


fear for wrong reasons

wide eyes / virgin ears / parched

\ sonic salvation \

Nickelback 2009


all roads to live shows.

scramble for chills; scream, sister!

profound choral noise.

The Killers 2017


cancelled, collapsing

proof of permanence – SxXxE

you’re an animal!

Magnitude 2020


swamp mask | arm hold | ice

melting us down -> thruple bond

closed eyes || burnt ears

Rodney Whitaker & Roger Jones w/ Higher Calling 2020


anticipation

wretched trees dance, blown by bass

actualized

Chelsea Grin 2015


radiant, SURPRISE!

across seven senses, kiss

fathers fly further

Avenged Sevenfold 2014


fitting, RED & WET

climb into new skin grateful

ocean tears choke fears

Counterparts 2018


hide your stale process

elder crust; crash; coughs purchase

show them a copy

Show Me The Body 2019


shape conforms to heart

wrist band | wide ears | final-lē

lust lies, feet fly: trance.

Falling In Reverse 2020


singing is sharing

(pretty bop, dreamy drop:smile)

sun-spark sorcery

Clairo 2019


sunflower sounds. sweet souls.

bridges best built by bodies

stampede sound. solace.

Citizen 2017


angry and alone

at least with my family

alone together

angry together

communist comedy; grief

ankles rolled | arms burn

Stick to Your Guns 2018


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