The set was bookended by stunningly vivid and specific sensations. At the start, the feeling of being a little kid in springtime, walking to the corner store to buy this candy I loved, little Styrofoamy flying saucers of pastel-colored rice paper filled with sour powder, birds rioting overhead, blossoms garlanding the way, sweet benevolent promise in the air. At the end, venturing out to find a smoke on a grownup summer’s day, slouching through sultry heat in a blissed-out post-coital daze, content and spent and porous to the world.
In between, dancing like a Medieval fool at a Mystery play, moving like a crazy in the throes of primordial religious rapture. The band laying down something raw and undeniable: Coruscating keys spinning tales of blue earth seen from empty distance. Driving drumbeats grabbing hapless sinners by ankles, hips, and shoulders, shaking us into a trance then BOOM! Smacking us aware. Bass leading you on adventures up rickety old steps to glimpse mind-bending treasures, then pushing you down, laughing at your blinking bewildered ass, helping you up to do the Charleston. Trumpet soaring high, crying for soul’s rending in love and rejoicing in its mending in song. Those cats were in it. Commanding and surrendering, absorbed whole-hearted in the moment, communing with each other and with us, with the dead and the yet-to-be-born.
I heard tittering behind me, and knew from experience that those who move with the kind of abandon I was throwing down are often the subject of ridicule. Felt the presence of my fellow beings, insidious self-consciousness nibbling at my awareness, telling me how ridiculous I must look. I gave it a moment’s attention, decided I didn’t give a fuck. Because, really, what’s so bad about being laughed at? What’s really at stake? Prestige? Social status? Coolness? Not gonna lie: At one point I shouted and flailed with such vigorous intensity that I peed myself a bit. Grotesque and repulsive? Maybe. Real and defiant and raw? Yep. I’d rather be hot than cool, rather be worked up than settled down, rather be in it than off to the side. Because when you have no defenses, you’re vulnerable – but when you have nothing to defend, no fragile elaborately structured identity to protect, you’re free to be as foolish as you damn well please.
I thought about older women I’d seen dancing alone at shows in the past, their uninhibited joy in response to the music, all silvering hair and slack breasts and softened edges and wrinkled faces. I thought about my own historical response: It’s an ugly thing to cop to, but I had on occasion felt creeping revulsion. This is a young person’s game, nasty mean little voices would whisper in my brain. Why are you not ashamed of your deteriorating physical body, your faded form? Why do you dance so wild and free while us taut-skinned, bright-lipped beauties hang back in self-conscious stiltedness?
Last night, I got it. I, too, am destined to deteriorate and decay. I already am deteriorating and decaying. We are born in sweat and piss and will most likely die that way. In a wild moment, I had an urge to somehow disfigure myself in a giant “Fuck you!” to our society’s conventions. Instead, I made monstrous faces, surrendered to my imperfections and ugliness, let my expressions be a part of my dance, felt the music in the contortion of my lips and eyebrows, dared haters to point and laugh.
As Industrial Revelation played, my identity dissolved. My “self” became permeable, woven into the music, caught up, tossed hither and thither carried along flowing through the sound. Elated but supremely relaxed, warm, secure, held: a sense of primal connectivity. A feeling of being safe, supremely at ease, invulnerable in my very vulnerability: home. Like being in the womb.
It hit me: Though being in the womb is the ultimate metaphor for safety and security, we were never actually safe in there. We were, in fact, supremely vulnerable: To the substances our mothers chose to ingest, to blows upon her belly, to the hormonal caprices of a volatile host body. And yet – we didn’t know how vulnerable we were. Last night I came into the awareness that relinquishing the stories we tell ourselves about the stories other people tell themselves about us can bring us into the most marvelous place of acceptance and ease.
All the while, Industrial Revelation carried us up and down and out to space and into the depths to cross the river, swirled us into Dionysian frenzy, dared us to look back as we fled Hades, brought in the sheaves, broke the earth’s frozen crust with the violent defiance of spring, stirred and shook and tore it up. I wasn’t the only one dancing hard.
I’ve seen a lot of live music. And whether is was their artistry, our receptivity, or some combination thereof, Industrial Revelation at Lo-Fi on February 21, 2014 was the best fucking live show I’ve ever seen.