Gretchen and I were celebrating. Nothing particularly special, only the feeling of being alive and old enough to stay up past ten on a weeknight even though we both had places to be quite early in the morning. Gretch had gotten her hot little hands on a pair of tickets to see a hot French band in a miniscule secret venue; this was a one off show so these tickets were like rhino horn.
It wasn’t until we were driving to the venue that I began to have fleeting worries that I would be too old to enjoy live music. Or at the very least, live music in a club setting. I spent years playing in numerous bars across North America and frankly, when I step into a club now everything is a bit of a yawn. When I watch a band on stage all I really see is a group of people who were probably arguing with each other mere moments before they plugged in their guitars. Once you take the quietly bickering band into account and you factor in all of the people standing shoulder to shoulder the live concert experience quickly begins to lose it’s luster.
I tried to push the sad math into the back of my mind as Gretchy and I coiled our way through the throng of hipsters and layabouts that populated the gig. I’m hardly a fashionista (I’ve been wearing the same set of trousers going on two years now) but I find it quite appalling to see a grown man wearing psychedelic pajamas out in the world. It’s possible that he owned the venue we were congregating in and had just rolled out of bed (I’m basing this thought on the hope that he lives in a small loft above the sound booth) but I have my doubts.
My timing was off that day and we ended up arriving in the middle of the opening act. Usually I like to skip the opening group in order to save all the strength I have for the headliner, unless I’m particularly excited about the show or in a bizarre twist of fate happen to be attending the concert to see the opening act. Having been a member of an opening band I’m very keen on the mistakes an act on the bottom of the bill can make, specifically informing the audience that you’re playing new material. Everyone assumes the songs you’re playing are new, there’s no need to rub anyone’s face in the fact that you’re young and have all the energy in the world. As an audience member I’d rather blow raspberries at your bass player than have you tell me about the song you wrote this morning, but when I’m around Gretchen I like to be polite and I became determined to let the young band tucker themselves out on stage.
The group in question was a derivative mix of low key electronica, jazz, and dream pop – if the vocals hadn’t been so high in the mix I might have enjoyed the music a bit more. There’s something about hearing the lyrics to a pop song clearly that can completely ruin it for you. I thought the line, “I’m feelin’ down/but baby when I see you I can’t frown” was going to be the worst part of the show until the evening came to an unexpected low point when the bass player began to play saxophone and the crowd exploded into pure bliss. Had I been out of the scene for so long that I didn’t know that saxophone solos were the new break beats? Have those screeching, oversized and misshapen clarinets taken over popular music? I haven’t turned on terrestrial radio in quite some, opting for my own playlists consisting of William Basinski, Pere Ubu, and Erasure, but if this style of saucy overwrought saxophone has taken over the airwaves I may run through the streets ripping out every stereo system I come across until I deplete the world of that brass coned demon.
In order to save my ears and what little sanity was left after the saxophonic assault I took refuge in the queue for the men’s room, and as I was entering the dank, poorly ventilated toilet the synth player from the headlining band jumped the line and entered the restroom at the same time.
It became readily apparent that the synth player hadn’t meant to share his lavatory experience with a member of the public.
His gaunt rock and roll face took on the expression of mutilated rock stars and presidents before him.
“We both entered the bathroom at the same time on accident, I was pretending that you did it on purpose.”
“Oh. Is that the kind of thing you do all the time?”
We stood facing the lone toilet like two men who had rented the same bicycle and shuffled out feet. The synth player cast his eyes toward the graffiti on the walls and tried to deduce whether or not I was kidding. As the least famous member of Hot Frenchy it was entirely possible that I was making fun of him.
“Don’t you find it a bit odd that the venue doesn’t supply the artists with a designated spot to relax and use the bathroom as freely as you desire? Would it kill them to slap some green paint on the walls and throw in some plumbing?”
Mr. Synth walked backwards until he bumped into the wall and began to fiddle with the buttons on shirt and eye the porcelain, “Are you um…? If not I’d like to uh… you know.”
“Oh right. No. I think we should wait it out. When I played keyboards I would hold in my pee until after the show, I felt that it made the set more spirited.”
That’s when we heard the call from the stage, “Where’s Paul?”
I assume Paul was the man that I inadvertently trapped in the bathroom.
“Paul if you’re not on stage by the time we get to the chorus you’re out of the band. 1,2,3,4!”
The first chords of Hot Frenchy’s synth pop goth noise hit “How the Hell’d You Get Jesse Jackson’s Barber’s Number?” began to overpower the PA and Paul the synth player pushed passed me into the club.
Then I realized that I didn’t even need to go to the bathroom. I took out my felt pen and added to the graffiti to the wall, “PAUL THE SYNTH PLAYER IS A BIG FAT BONER.” The sound from the stage was a frenzied jangle of chords and harmonies, it was marvelous.