October 21, 2012

Euphoric times in West Va and Oklahoma

Drove to Shaharazade's in Shepherdstown, West Va, for an early dinner with tea and a book.  Wandered through town, looking at the old houses and the way the autumn leaves glowed against the pale dusk sky. Scored big at the consignment shop.  Hit the dark, curvy backroads for the drive home with a bootleg of one of the best shows I've ever attended blaring from the stereo.  Stopped at Sheetz for a Pepsi-flavored Slurpee, then some more backroads before ending up lying on my back in the dark in the middle of the old cemetery at historic St. Mark's church, smoking a cigar under a third of the moon and a sprinkling of stars that were still unfortunately faint even so far away from the city.  

St. Mark's cemetery in the daytime

Do experiences like this balance the crap of work, bills, commuting?  In the moment, yes, they do.  It feels a shame, of course, that the moment is so brief and fades so fast.  But if they were more frequent and lasted longer, perhaps it'd be an even greater shame if we became jaded to them.

But then again, some of those experiences are worth trying to hold onto.  Which brings me back to that bootleg I was listening to as I drove along those dark roads, a euphoric moment of its own that contributed so much to tonight's euphoria.  It's from a show that I recently traveled half-way across the U.S. to attend (the most recent of a dozen times I've done that for the same performer over the course of this year), in an old oil boom-times city full of gorgeous Art Deco architecture and American music history.  I went there to see-- yes, you guessed it-- Jack White.  I'd heard that at his previous show there back in March, Jack had talked about how beautiful and mysterious Tulsa, Oklahoma is.  More recently, in a chat at the Vault website, he'd described the city as "a campfire in the desert of [his] brain".  I couldn't not go.  And in the weeks leading up to it, as work, bills, and commuting turned my own brain into a bleak desert, I built up tremendous expectations for this show, to the point that I worried about being disappointed.  But Jack was apparently looking forward to it as much as I was.  Not only did he not let me down, he went so far beyond my bloated expectations that I still can't get over it.

Wish I could share the whole experience with everyone, but folks in the audience at Cain's Ballroom that night apparently complied for the most part with Jack's no-filming/no-recording edict.  Personally, I've got very mixed feelings about his prohibition--  His reasoning seems to be that he wants people to not be distracted from the experience by cameras, cel phones, or any other sort of black gadget with a little screen on it.  I understand and respect this.  You wouldn't catch me with any of those gadgets in my hand at a show because I very much want to be fully immersed in what my senses are taking in.  So I appreciate him laying down the law and nudging other people to immerse themselves in the same way, while also sparing those behind the first few rows from having to watch the show through a sea of other folks' gadgets being held up.  But, on the flipside, full immersion into such an overload of sight and sound and visceral feeling can cause these shows to become a massive blur.  I try my damnedest to cement individual moments in my brain, pulling out pen and paper as soon as the show's over to scribble down highlights.  But even with notes, my memory just ain't what it used to be.  So the recordings that the rule-breakers capture are invaluable to me.  I realize the contradiction here--  I would never diminish my experience by filming or recording anything myself, and I resent anyone who blocks my view by holding up a camera.  And yet, I'm thrilled by the photos and videos I find on the internet in the days after shows because they help to prevent the memories from dissipating. And I treasure any full-length audio recordings that I come across.  Being able to listen repeatedly
whenever I want to some of the many shows I've attended is priceless. 

Tonight was one of those times--  Hearing certain moments again made me smile and laugh and cry as I drove along, just the way I did that night a bit over a week ago when I was hugging the rail at the show, staring up at the stage while I sang along and grinned until my face ached.  Based on things I've read in interviews and been told, my impression is that Jack White feels there's a romance in having experiences such as I had at that show and then not being able to have them again.  He's said flat out that one of the things that makes him happy is "
creating and moving on from it, creating and pushing forward, creating and forgetting" (direct quote from an interview at the White Swirl message board).  So it's not a stretch to assume that he would feel similarly about euphoric experiences.  I can understand such a feeling, how he would see the romance in such letting go, in not trying to re-create or re-live.  But being able to understand does not mean that I agree. I do, to a degree.  But, at the same time, I don't.  Those moments don't come along often enough for me.  I'm too much of an addict, perhaps, too needy of them.   Whatever the reason, I want to be able to hold on and re-live.  It's one of the things that makes me happy.  I would like to think that Jack could understand and respect that, but, of course, I'll never know whether he can or not.  And I can live with that, as well as with my own contradictory views.

Here's all that can be shared with any shred of good conscience from that insanely magical show in Tulsa...





Steven Anthony Hammock


Reviews of the show at the Little Room message board-- http://littleroom.whitestripes.net/index.php?showtopic=70318