Sitting here, thinking about going to work tomorrow, and I feel the electric current still running through me from last night. The kind of electricity that can bring you back from the brink of a flat line and that can only be experienced front row at a rock concert.
Not just any rock concert.
It continues to amaze me how my life is unfolding this year. My original plans for Sunday night had been very different and had been planned for months. When said plans changed (fell demonstrably to pieces- such is life), my friends mentioned going to see The Struts at Asbury Park in New Jersey.
I immediately bought my ticket. I’d been listening to their EP for weeks and that alone had been a breath of fresh, rock n’ roll air. I remember downloading it while at work, and immediately sending it to several friends, exclaiming the immeasurably good mood the songs had put me in. I also remember trying not to shake my ass at my desk, or while walking home.
I’ve been enjoying that high the last few weeks. Now, after hearing and experiencing the band live last night, I anticipate that the feeling will not be waning any time soon. Today, driving around and listening to the album, it was different- I had a live performance to associate it with, and I smiled so hard, my eyes were watering, remembering the night before.
We drove from New Haven, CT to Asbury Park, NJ and it was worth every mile.
We arrived in Jersey after several hours, one rest stop (miraculously, with 3 ladies traveling together) and made our way to the venue. Well nourished by not only decent drink specials and food, but the Wonderbar’s “Yappy Hour” where patrons are encouraged to bring their dogs to the bar to hang out. Overloaded with cuteness and Yeungling, we passed the time until the doors opened at 7.
Once inside, we secured prime viewing from stage right (our left) and settled in. The opening band, Highly Suspect, was great, and made me reminiscent of my days going to metal/ rock/ hardcore shows at Daniel Street. Once warmed up, we were ready for the main event.
The Struts, a rock quartet from Derby, England with all the regal and glamour of Queen, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones wrapped up in a perfectly brilliant and well oiled package. Though the influences are there, their sound is entirely their own.
It’s always astounding to me when I go see a band play and they sound even better than the recording. These are musicians who give a shit, who care about their music and their art. They’re good because they accept no less than their best. Also, they love to play. You can just tell from the way they perform, the way they engage with each other on stage and also how they engage with the audience.
They’re an electric force of nature, and from the moment they begin playing, you trust them completely to show you a good time. Everyone knows their part and plays it to perfection.
I danced my ass off, sang my throat raw, and smiled until my face hurt. Every single aspect of the show made my heart start up with the vigor of 10,000 volts that will carry me until next I see them perform again, whenever that may be.
All I know, is their performance and their music is the kind of music that gives me life. As I was experiencing all that The Struts had to offer, I couldn’t help but recall the words of a very dear (and most unfortunately departed) friend,
“My music? *My* music? It is not mine; I did not build it! I am not its creator; rather, it created me. It transcends time, place, genre, and person…it is I and I am it. ‘My’ music is the sound of the world as it hits my ears and collides with my mind, it is everything I know. The world has a rhythm and a pulse, and who but man would seek so lavish and lofty a goal as to organize the heartbeat of the world and scorch it into miles of plastic ribbons and coasters? I receive all that I can- a definition as circular as the world, far less useful than her life’s tempo.” – Mike Altieri
I received all I could from the guitar, bass, drums and vocals that collided with my every sense that night, and I cherish the beautiful memory it has burned in my mind. I didn’t take many pictures during the show, because I knew there would be no recreating the magic of such an individual experience, and I wanted to experience it presently and first hand, not through a lens. (though I didn’t pass up the photo op with guitarist Adam Slack after the performance was over.)
When the show was over, I was surprised to see Luke (lead singer/ front man) behind his own merch table, posing for photos and signing CDs, and being an ever gracious front man. My friends were thrilled to be able to get a picture of this performance master who had just rocked their faces off, and I was thrilled to see him so accessible, something that I’m sure going forward will require a back stage pass.
I was delighted (okay, I was ecstatic) when Adam (guitarist) emerged, and I was able to have a quick chat and get a photo with him. His playing was remarkable, and it was a trip getting to tell him so. In a moment I attribute to Amanda Palmer’s “Art of Asking”, when Luke had at one point jumped off the stage, averting everyone’s attention, I had a moment to smile at Adam, who smiled back. I then made the snap, random decision to give him a bracelet off my wrist. In the spirit of audience / band member dynamic that so seldom occurs these days, it was a brief moment to say, “Thank you, your music gets me through the day, and this performance is outstanding.”
His playing was amazing to watch and his brilliant skill had me completely enamored. It was my idea to just say, “Thank you” and wanting to give more than just my attention or ticket money. It wasn’t planned and it probably didn’t make much sense. But I did it, and I’m glad, because I am quite sure, I’ll never have the opportunity to do it again. It wasn’t about trying to be a groupie, or touching a “rock star”; it was more to do with wanting to show appreciation for music that has come to mean a great deal to me, and in many ways, set me free.
It’s a wonderful experience when bands play smaller venues and you can have that amazing intimacy with the music you love. To once again quote Amanda Palmer, “For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of the community. Connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance, but the Internet and the content that we’re freely able to share on it are taking us back. It’s about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”
There’s something that goes along with seeing a band right before they blow up, when you see the powder get lit and watch the fuse travel toward the impending barrel of dynamite. I hope this band reaches as many people as possible, and find their success and place in rock n roll.
I think it’s less about lamenting rights to say, “I saw them before they were big” and more about being able to quietly enjoy the fact that you had an up close and personal experience with music you love.
The Struts gave me a jolt I didn’t know I needed until I left their show with electricity coursing through my veins; the kind of music you don’t realize is missing from your life until you listen to it and feel it fill in the gaps. I will always need music and friends who share a love for music like that in my life- it’s the only thing that makes it worth it to keep going.
It was a top night, and I’m curious on what will top this night next.