Los Angeles, CA
The city that never awakens awakes. A dull, diffuse “pfffffff” like a series of surround-sound butterfly coughs as a million sets of eyelids separate over the course of the morning, quieting to nearly nothing after noon, and barely audible before long. It is Saturday in Los Angeles. It will not be long before those eyelids close back up.
As we, the band Phideaux, make our way, hurriedly, to the imminent concert, I glance curiously through the sun-seared passenger window at the sidewalk. The inhabitants glide, half-dazed, mouths open, toward god-knows what. Doom or glory. Perhaps glory, but more probably doom. Their feet barely lift off the ground as if they were stricken by a curse that left them extra-massive. Their eyes, like two doughnuts, glazed and empty, and unnecessary. Each citizen an island of endless potential accomplishment, there is no time for friendly greetings when passing one another. There is only time for fear, and a tired coldness, and an unconvincing performance of confidence. Glory or doom.
Of course, one could probably come up with that looking out any car window into any town if one tried hard enough. We arrive.
We step out of the vehicle and greet the rest of our party, now arriving. I am immediately struck by a frightening stillness in the room-temperature outside air. I smell nothing. There is no smog. It must have been dragged to the earth by the night’s rain. The particles resting on the ground, stunned, disarmed, dormant. Waiting. Why does fear take hold most tightly when the thing feared is asleep?
Fear aside, I have a job to do. We slowly begin to move our equipment from the vehicles and into the building, where we stack them by the wall. The bar is empty. A vision, like a flashback, but to no past I have known, floods into my mind: a handful of guests arriving, staring disinterestedly at a group of exhausted performers, applauding obligatorily in the necessary breaks between pieces of music, but mostly just talking to each other. Another vision: a sea of audience, silenced and stilled by the power of the music coming from the stage, like a non-newtonian fluid suddenly solidifying in response to a strong movement by a foreign object. The fear of the one and the hope of the other battle with one another in my mind and leave me unable to think, to move.
I am shaken from my state by the news that it is time to prepare for the performance. Time goes on ahead without looking back to check that I’m following. The equipment goes to the stage. Wires. In; out; thru. Vocals, violin, bass, sound effects, saxophone, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboard stage left, keyboard stage right, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, snare, snare, snare… monitors. up, please. down. a little more. just a touch. A decibel. To the green room. Who decorated this place, Stanley Kubrick? Does anyone have any water? Should we wait fifteen minutes? There’s no one out there. As scheduled? Okay. Take the stage. “The audience showed up, and right on time.” Play the show. Shaky hands. A couple of mistakes. I hope they forgot that bit. Encore? Okay. Done. Throw all the equipment in a pile and relax for a moment.
Mars Hollow takes the stage and captivates the crowd as if it were the easiest thing in the world. K2, the supergroup, perform afterward. Unfortunately, we have to leave early to load equipment for a recording session early the next morning, since people have to work on monday.
That is what happened at the Joint in Los Angeles on November sixth. On reflection, it was worth the moments of doom for the moments of glory.