all (AMAZING) photos by Joel Didriksen
There’s been several words written about the band. More than several.
I won’t attempt to provide a comprehensive or even critical perspective of their past, present, or future. We all are quite familiar with what they mean to contemporary music and the business of recording. I only want to attempt to capture in words what was surely one of the most visceral, somatic, and intensely spiritual experiences I’ve had in quite some time. Bear with me if my descriptors seem to straddle the line between ridiculous and incoherent. I am from California after all.
It would be nice if somebody invented a method of telepathic transcription that could have impressed my brainwave activity onto paper. I imagine the outcome would have been some sort of avalanche of jaggedly colorful blotches. Evocative memories and affective sentiment careened against each other regularly. Words were certainly unavailable, rendering intellectual and cerebral analysis useless.
5:10 pm - The night began in a typically disorganized fashion. The plan for weeks had been to attend the concert regardless of whether or not tickets had been purchased. Thursday, however, Ryan and I caved into a desire to guarantee our spot in history and arranged to purchase tickets from a friend. Accompanied by a few likeminded comrades, we gathered ourselves in a white sport utility vehicle with leather accoutrements and tasked ourselves with a mission to find spirit enhancers.
6:03pm – As we picked up an additional concertgoer in West Falls Church, we faced the harsh reality of having just missed the liquor purchase cut-off time by 3 minutes. Rolling with the punch, 36 beers and a bag of delicious spicy-buffalo-flavored pretzels were opted for instead. A consensus was reached – these pretzels were damn good. Calls for legal counsel were made regarding Virginia’s open container vehicle policy. Downed a Bud Select. Kudos Virginia.
6:54pm – Increased the decibel output on the multi-passenger/dj iPod playlist due to the pounding rain making even talking difficult. Astrologies were explored, emotions and self-understanding percolated. Traffic sucked. No one cared.
7:27pm – Realized we were going to miss the Liars set as we sat parked behind seemingly all of the 25,000 fans slated to attend the concert this evening. Learned later that several fans missed the show due to flooding roads. Truly sucks. Red Hot Chili Peppers-inspired mosh pit shook our car. More beers pounded. Pitted.
8:31pm – Pulled in to the slosh-pit mud haven of a parking lot. Yellow and orange child-sized ponchos pulled over our heads, we stuffed our pockets with liquids and stuff, and splashed our way to the arena. I congratulated myself aloud on the decision to wear hiking boots. I annoyed everyone. I was doused with Bud Light for my annoyance.
8:46pm – Lorna gets 3 free tickets. Never again will I not go to a show because it’s sold out. Ever.
Sometime around 8:51pm – As Ryan and I ascend the hill behind the lawn, notes from “All I Need” begin simultaneously with our final step. We high-five as the crowd cheers. Mud permeates everyone and everything. We learn that Lorna and Kinsey have escaped the Lawn section into the back row of the seated section.
8:55pm –We are now in the back row of the seated section. This provides absolutely no cover from the freezing rain. I could care less. “Lucky” is playing and I just barely have the mental prowess to appreciate the irony amidst the celebratory body shaking. As Thom and everyone else surrounding us sing the lyrics “it’s gonna be a glorious day,” Kinsey asks if it’s a good idea to urinate himself. I encourage him to.
9:23pm – Find myself slipping in and out of some ethereal place. Transcendence. My best friend from home calls me. I met him at the first Radiohead concert I’ve ever been to at the Hollywood Bowl in 2001. I hold the phone out in the rain for him to hear “Pyramid Song” transitioning into “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.” Seminal experience.
Unsure of time/consciousness – Body completely soaked. The wind and the rain actually begin to come down noticeably harder. If I wasn’t grooving so hard I might notice that my body can’t stop shivering. It’s at this time that I tap into some strange communal spirit. I’m not on drugs, but I feel as if I can channel an overwhelmingly tangible vitality within the collective harmonics in and around me. The hauntingly disintegrative vocal loops of “Idioteque” transfuse themselves into my being, inspiring a hyper-potent self-consciousness. It slips away almost immediately.
“Paranoid Android” begins. Everyone goes crazy. I can see the orchestra pit swelling, hopping and squirming like some kind of amorphous giant insect. The stage resembles a crystalline cosmic cavern. I get body chills as the entire crowd sings “rain down, come on rain down on me.”
The band seems genuinely apologetic about the conditions. You get the impression that if they could have made a deal with the rain-gods they would have. I start to wonder if I would want to experience this in any other way. At this point the walkway behind the seated section is a flowing river. Several fans are now swimming, rolling and dancing in the muddy path. I look behind me at the drenched lawn crowd and “Everything in its Right Place” reassures me that all is well.
I reveled in the immediate meaning provided by the lyrics of the songs throughout the night. It seemed as if they catered their setlist specifically for my mindset. As “Bodysnatchers” rounded out their first set, “I have no idea what I am talking about -
I am trapped in this body and can’t get out,” seemed particularly apropos for the moment. It seems particularly appropriate for this review/mini-journal as well.
The band came out for the first of two encores and had everyone standing on their seats for “Karma Police” and The Bends fan-favorite “Planet Telex.” When they began their second, and what we all knew to be their final, encore with “Fake Plastic Trees,” the importance of this band truly hit me. For being true sonic innovators in the popular song format, they have never abandoned their penchant for seductive melodies and affective lyrics. “Fake Plastic Trees” immediately transported me to the days of teenage yesteryear when every love-interested word revealed a swell of anxiety and emotion. I looked around to tear-ridden faces and knew I wasn’t alone in my sentimental nostalgia.
After our last serious barn-burner (“National Anthem”) rioted into their final tune, the beautiful “House of Cards,” I approached the mud mountain with a new-found vibrancy. Drenched and coated in mud, but surrounded by rejoicing friends, we piggy-backed and slid our way back into the safety of heated vehicular comfort. Semi-nude and dry, we drove home spiritually whole – feeling even better after Frosty’s and French-fries at Wendy’s.