woke in slumberland

...but you were part of my dream, too.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Glitter and Garbage

Garbage at Street Scene '05 (photo by freschwill)
Garbage at Street Scene '05
Photo by freschwill, from Flickr.com

San Diego Street Scene '05 will surely count as one of the greatest experiences of my life--and i almost died there, quite literally. It was wonderful just to get to see Kasabian, the Killers, and the White Stripes (especially the White Stripes). But the pinnacle of the experience, far more awesome than i ever imagined, was seeing Shirley Manson and Garbage.

When i got to their stage, there was already a large crowd watching glam-rocky Louis XIV, who were a lot of fun, though i'm not a fan. Then they left the stage, and everyone settled down to wait. And wait. And wait. It goes like this: At first, you feel your entire body stiffen, like you're tensing before the needle's prick; gradually you are euphoric with the sense of anticipation, thinking to yourself, "Wow, i'm here, any second now i'm gonna see Shirley Manson, and i've got a great view, and i'm sooo close!" And you can feel people squeezing in tighter around you but you don't care, you're all so excited, every fan psyching up everyone else, until you're all pulsing as one. But after fifteen minutes, the pulse begins to slow down. The wait is getting intolerable. Someone tosses a beach ball into the crowd, and for ten minutes it bounces here and there, you even catch it and throw it out. It's fun again. And then the novelty passes. This is the looong quiet period. You listen to the people around you. The uber-fan and her gay friend, gushing about being so close and saying how insane their friends are for leaving early. The big guy in front of some short girl, talking of how guilty he feels for being tall. The girl on the cellphone with her mother: "Hey mom, guess how close i am--from here i can see the whites of their eyes."

Eventually you are aware of nothing but how much your feet ache. This must be the longest you have waited for anything. This is longer than all the waits in all doctor's waiting rooms around the world. And then suddenly Butch Vig runs onstage, the lights flare the night away, and the crowd releases all its pent-up tension in an explosive scream.

Shirley Manson strides onstage on those amazingly long legs, gorgeous and scary and master of all she survey. She is dressed in black over blue--little black dress, black boots on those killer gams, red hair blazing out from a black military cap. She is every revolutionary's fetish dream. But her mic stand is a glittery pole, like a stretched-out disco ball. She's not here tonight to change the world; just to rock it.

Shirley looks different from the woman i've known from tv screens and magazines. She has on thick "geisha" makeup that makes her face look like a mask, and is so white she seems almost mummified. But her every move, every step, is electric. It is impossible to take one's eyes off her. She OWNS the stage. She is absolutely tireless. She starts with a bang from "Bad Boyfriend" and keeps going higher.

She has this unbelievable move where she suddenly falls down flat on her back--how does she not hurt herself?

In the middle of it all, even as i was enjoying the show, i was amazed at myself--i, the typical jaded, seen-it-all rock guy, who enjoyed music but no longer was a fan, was for this night, a FAN. I loved Garbage, loved Shirley Manson--no holding back. I mean, look at her, she was giving her everything for us, singing and strutting and putting on the show. How can you not give back? I felt her ride on the crowd's energy, give it back; during a good show like this, audience and performer are as one. We sang together and sweat together, and if Shirley Manson was our goddess, music was our communion.

I'm not saying much about the performance itself... Let's just say it was exhilarating, overpowering, far longer than i expected, and not long enough. Garbage blasted off with "Bad Boyfriend" and "Run Baby Run" from their new album, got the crowd dancing with "Sex Is Not the Enemy" and singing to old stalwarts "Stupid Girl," "Special" and "I Think I'm Paranoid." Highlights:

  • "Why Do You Love Me" -- At one point, Shirley plucks an odd banner from one fan. Turns out it's a map showing how he's followed the band from show to show all the way from Canada. So Shirley then dedicates her next song to all the fans. (I wonder if they caught the irony of her singing a song that goes, "Why do you love me, why do you love me, you're driving me crazy..." She was joshing us, i'm sure.)
  • "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)" -- This song is my guilty pleasure; i like it, but i'm embarrassed about liking it 'coz it's so... well, gay. But tonight there is no guilt; only dancing.
  • "When I Grow Up" -- My favorite Garbage song, and apparently half the crowd agrees with me. This is the song that got me jumping.
  • "Only Happy When It Rains" -- Shirley tells us she's grateful that we're not "thirsting only for virgin blood" but are still "sucking their old, tired, grotty blood." (Talking about their music, of course.) And then the band goes into a string of old hits, climaxing in their first hit. It's the next-to-last song, and as soon as it starts, a bulldozer hits us from behind. The mass of fans behind us is pushing to get close to the stage, and the crush is devastating.

Garbage ends its set with "Right Between the Eyes," leaving us both happy and sad. And then we almost die. Or come close to it, anyway....

The Killers are next, you see. And everybody and their grand-aunt is there to see the Killers. And they all want to be right at the front of the stage. All of a sudden, there's pushing--violent, forceful thrusts that send us stumbling forwards and backwards. Girls begin screaming. I am getting squeezed, and there are some big guys around me; their muscles crush me in a vice. There is truly no space to move; i am trapped and close to panic. Girls are being lifted up and carried by the crowd to the stage. I think i am going to die.

Somehow i escape, and thankful for being alive, i don't dare enter another mob. I go see the White Stripes from a safe distance; it's still very enjoyable. Jack White is almost the opposite of Shirley Manson. He doesn't play to the crowd at all. I don't think he even cares that we're there. But he obviously loves playing the music. And he is simply electrifying. It's just him and Meg on stage, nothing fancy, no theatrics. But they have us spellbound. They're just unbelievable!

I don't finish their set; i'm walking back to the first stage to see the Killers. But Social Distortion has just finished their set on the middle stage; i'm walking along with a hundred other people. I arrive at the Killers' stage and the crowd is massive. Humongous. Insane. I can barely see the band. But then they play "Mr. Brightside" and i'm happy enough. As they play their last song--and it's "All These Things That I've Done"!--i'm already walking to the trolley, knowing i'll have to fight my way on it if i leave later. I know what follows: the humdrum ride, the mundane night. But right now i have a song; i've got a soul (but i'm not a soldier).


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