by Olivia Isenhart
The bands are getting dirty. The shows are getting messy. And we’re loving every
second of it.
The bathroom is missing a door, and the stalls aren’t so lucky either. It’s coed, so there are two men hunched together, pissing in the same demolished toilet when I walk in. I’ve already seen too many dicks tonight.
The stall to the right seems to have been claimed as the women’s stall, because there’s still a door hanging on it somehow. I can see a girl’s hand furiously clutching the top to keep it on its hinges while she pees. Soon I’m in the exact same spot, hovering 3 feet over the seatless thing and trying not to hit my boots, trying to decide if the opening band is any good, trying to hold my breath. In a strange way, it’s a refreshingly human scene. The kind of thing you don’t catch in the cubicles at your 9-5 gig. I peacefully contort and read the scribbles on the wall.
It was one of my last shows of the year, Andrew W.K.’s Christmas party at the Knitting Factory, and thank God, it was wild. I made it out with just 2 broken toes, which were unrelated to my accidental
flip onto the stage. Some assholes threw me up out of my cushy front-row spot by the ankles, against my skinny flails and protestations, leaving a 10-minute gap in my careful notes. My photographer punched one in the jaw. Mosh pit chivalry. Swoon.
What I gained while my article suffered was a full-body collision with about 25 people who were sharing the small stage with A.W.K. and screaming. What else could I do? I banged my head until I couldn’t see. I didn’t have much time to assess the damages, but compared to the bruised ribs I took home after King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, it was an easy night. I felt beautiful. As with all the
roughest shows I’d covered this year, it felt good to cross the wobbly line between journalist and fan– even though I tend to fight like hell to be a fly on the wall.
I sat on the train ride home around 3am and gave myself a metrocard manicure, working at the dirt and glitter under my fingernails with those plastic yellow corners. I was building paragraphs in my head. I was feeling pretty alive. I was smelling someone else’s vodka on my jacket. If you go to enough concerts in the city, or are masochistic enough to make it part of your job, you start to find solace in the chaos. It doesn’t seem like a real night unless you take home some pieces of it– bruises, sweat, confetti, blood. Hand stamps, ink stains, bad ideas.
I spent the year seduced by the scene, reminiscing on the Moonlandingz‘ unbathed stench like it was an old friend. I was still half in love with Merrill Garbus from the way she shouted “Greasy man come and dig my well,” at the tUnEyArDs show this summer. I could still feel the cool lines on my face from when PPL MVR baptized the front row in face paint with their sasquatch hands. When Mother Feather swallowed each other’s eyelashes, I was home.
The genres were irrelevant; moments tied together with a different string. Songs like “Ghost With a Boner” by Diarrhea Planet and “Came Out of a Lady” by Rubblebucket made their way into my
morning mix as I tried to get some of that feeling back. I scrambled to stay in that place while the world around me marched ahead quietly, eyes on the ground.
The music is still the gem, but it’s polished in mud. And the filthier we get, the closer we are to everything. The bands. Each other. The inexplicable intoxication of feeling like a dirty, reckless fuckup. New York is a shiny, terrible place. There is very little that seems so real.
The tickets and flyers drag us into the dark. The mosh pit, the great equalizer, turns our lonely bodies into a warm tangle of limbs. The music licks our wounds. We feel it all, just before it flickers away. So we scrape ourselves off the floor and head to the next.
© Olivia Isenhart 2015
Olivia Isenhart is a freelance writer living in Greater NYC area