Monday, October 20

CDP Top 30 Of All-Time ('06-'08) - #11.

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#11 - "Grumble, Alone, Grumble, Polysics."
(Originally Published October 24, 2007.)


PART I.

As you may remember from a few weeks back, I all but whizzed myself when I heard that Polysics, The Greatest Band In The World, were coming to Wisconsin for the first time ever. I instantly grabbed two tickets, a VIP parking pass for The Rave in Milwaukee (you don't want to park too far away; it's in a punchy and stealy part of town) and I was all set.

Polysics were in America because of the ironic and embarrassingly-titled 'MySpace Music Tour,' but I was happy nonetheless. Tickets were $20 each, but after $15 for parking and $7.80 apiece for a handling fee (purchased online and printed by myself, mind you), I had broken the $70 mark to see an opening band play for no more than a half hour.

HelloGoodbye and Say Anything we co-headlining the show, and that mattered to me about as much as the surviving members of RATT getting back together; it seems like a fun idea beforehand, but the true weight of your poor decision is felt upon hearing that first, unfulfilling chord of sadness and regret. HelloGoodbye write catchy songs and they're uber-popular right now, but they still haven't figured out how not to be terrible in a live setting.

Still, I was optimistic. The Greatest Band In The World had finally brought their carnival of Japanese insanity to my doorstep, and I wasn't going to let cash and a potential mugging stand in the way. Nothing, nothing, was going to get in between me, Polysics, and complete happiness.

But, boy was I tested.

PART II.

Fate doesn't want me to enjoy things. I've known this for years now. Anything that I look forward to is almost instantly met with failure, shattered hopes and potential jail time. To combat this assurance that I'll never get what I want, I've learned to cultivate happiness from other, smaller avenues, such as Skittles commercials, or when the neighbor kid falls off of his skateboard and snaps his wrist in two. I'll take what I can get, and you would too, if even the sure things in life let you down on a minute-by-minute basis.

The first snag came when I found out The Missus couldn't come to the concert with me. She had a medical sleep study scheduled for that evening, and if she canceled, she wouldn't have been able to get back in until the war in Iran was over with. Besides, it's never good to stop breathing in your sleep, so I understood why this was more important than watching foreign people in orange suits.

"No problem," I said. "I'll just find someone else to take the extra ticket. How hard can it be? I don't even want anything for it." I felt good, knowing that I was going to give a free Polysics ticket to a friend, and have a travel buddy to boot. I quickly got on the phone and tried to brighten someones day.

PART III.

Eight people.

Eight goddamn people turned me down. I don't even have eight friends; how was that even possible? I was giving away a $35 ticket, offering to drive and pay for gas; hell, I'd even let you rest your head on my shoulder if you fell asleep on the way home. Why was this so freaking hard?

So, when the night of the concert finally arrived, I was on my own. I had to drive to and from Milwaukee (about 75 miles) alone, and worse yet, I had to attend a concert by myself. A concert in which I'd be seeing my honest-to-goodness favorite band, and having absolutely nobody to share the experience with. I cannot fully describe how sad that is.

You seem like a well-adjusted person. Someone with a lot of friends. Someone who has never had to go out to dinner by themselves. Someone who has never had to go to the movies alone. Certainly someone who has never lived a lonely enough existence to go to a concert alone, right?

Well, I'm not like you. I'm a writer with anxiety issues, I'm good at losing old friends and I suck at making new ones. Defiantly and more than a little pissed off at the world, I hopped into The Wild Stallion v3.0 (with 2 tickets), and hit the road. At least I could sing out loud in the car without anyone making fun of me.

PART IV.

I say this as someone who's been to The Rave about 60 times, but I hate that place with a blistering passion. Their security sucks, they oversell shows, they let people smoke even though it's clearly banned throughout the building, soda costs $5 a cup and it seems as if assholes are attracted to the place like a maggot to a turd. Perhaps that's just the entire city of Milwaukee in general, beats me.

Outside of the venue is no different. My friends have been mugged, we've had things stolen from us, we've had car windows smashed in and we've been hassled by bums and beggars too many times to mention. It's like they built a crack house and decided to let bands play in it. Sadly, they're one of the only games in town when it comes to bigger-name acts in Wisconsin, so I'm always there for some reason, grinding my teeth and sucking back a $5 glass of ice cubes.

I'll say this, however, their VIP parking is rad as hell. For $15, you get to park about 10 feet from the front door, right amongst the tour buses and security. Nobody screws with your car and you get to stand in the vicinity of whoever happens to be playing that night. For me, it was HelloGoodbye, which was cool, but not as cool as if it were Polysics. Now that I've seen Forrest Klein up close, I still want to simultaneously tell him he writes a catchy song whilst punching him straight in the snoot with a raised third knuckle.

So, alone and parked next to the tour bus, I walked into the venue with both of my concert tickets. I figured there would be some sad kid hanging around without a ticket, and I'd bound in and save the day like a pale, sweaty, Knight of Sadness.

No dice. It figured.

PART V.

It was pouring outside, so I wore my faux-leather jacket into The Rave, as I was pawed at by two different security guards and barked at like I already did something wrong. Even though I wasn't drinking tonight, I still got myself a wristband to show the scene kids that I was old enough to murder them and probably get away with it if they decided to give me a makeover or something.

One of my tickets was ripped in the lobby, and I was escorted into the bar area, where everyone was being corralled while Polysics wrapped up their sound check in the main hall. Through the window, I could see them tuning their instruments and rocking out like there were 10,000 people in front of them, even though the room was empty. I made a note to remember how awesome I thought that was, and I hope you do, as well. For a band that's been together for over a decade, it made me smile to know that they were still so energetic and passionate about their music. I knew I was. Even though they are one of the biggest acts in Japan, they are virtual strangers in America, and were forced to open for 3 sub-par acts and pretend that they didn't have a problem with it. Good for them.

"Wow, it's really going to happen," I said to myself. "They're really here."

Now that I was amongst about 50 sweaty kids in a stale bar, I started to get a little hot. I decided that I wanted to put my jacket back in the car. No problem, I figured, my car is just outside the door. I don't see why anyone would have an issue with--

"Where do you think you're going?" Asked a security guard that was both younger and thinner than I was. I could have picked this guy up by the ankles and shook the change out of his pantaloons.

"Um, I'm just putting my jacket back into--"

"No re-entry!" I heard, shouted in unison from three different guards, who were now circling me like I had a lit stick of dynamite. Woah.

I tried to reason with them. "Listen, I'm right outside that door, if you--"

"Forget it, man!"

"Fine," I said, suddenly realizing that I had an extra ticket in my back pocket. I decided that since I was already unhappy and they were unreasonable enough to not stamp people's hands for re-entry, I decided to screw with them a little bit.

I got right in the guy's face and said, "F*** this s***, I'm leaving."

"So long," said one of the fatter dudes. "Don't try to come back in."

"Yeah, we'll see about that," I shot back.

Confidently, I strided over to the car and threw my jacket into the backseat. I stood in the rain for a bit, watched a few cars go by and took in a breath of the night air. I laughed out loud to myself and shook my head at the bizarre way the night had begun. Then, I threw the doors of the venue back open and got back in line.

The fat guy recognized me. "Hey man, I thought I told you that--"

I wagged the extra ticket in my hand, gave him the biggest jackass grin I could muster, and said, "Hey, look what I found!"

It was almost, almost, like a Mentos commercial. If the guard would have broke into a smile and playfully shook his finger at me, it would have been divine. Instead, he roughly tossed me out of the line, tore my ticket with malice and sent me back into the bar. I was still smiling.

Yes, I'm aware that I essentially spent $35 to place my jacket in my car. Don't remind me; I'm trying to be a smug prick, here.

PART VI.

Aware of how much money I was out and how miserable I was, considering I was about to see Polysics, I made the most (ie: worst) of the evening, and I plopped down my first $5 of the night for a tablespoon of Sprite. I found the closest wall to lean against and waited for the doors of the venue to be opened. There, I eavesdropped on many conversations, watched juveniles make out and shook my head in disgust for what had happened to the scene I had loved so much as a teenager. The punks I could handle; these kids were just silly. Punk never goes out of style; these kids were purposely out of style. Whatever; at least I'm not going to look back at photos of myself and get all embarrassed at how much of a monumental tool I was at the time.

These kids think it's funny to make the same fashion mistakes that their parents made, but what they forget is that the ironic humor of the statement is long gone, replaced with the sad realization that this is actually the style you're stuck with, now. How does it feel to be the punchline of your own joke, butthole?

I'm not bitching because I'm out of touch, don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that there's a huge difference between the super-watered-down scene of the 90's, versus the super-watered-down scene of the 00's. I don't mind the music at all (I own both HelloGoodbye albums, actually), I just grow weary of people defining themselves by what they listen to, or (God help them) wear. I don't consider myself an Indie snob or anything; just a guy that has gotten over trying to project an image of himself through dress or song. IT'S NOT REALLY WHO YOU ARE. I'm sure of it; I was there and I came to that conclusion right around my 20th birthday.

A haircut doesn't make you sensitive. A t-shirt doesn't make you insightful. A band doesn't complete you spiritually. If you think they do, then you need to look in the mirror for a second without trying to snap your photograph at the same time.

PART VII.

I secured myself a spot right up front, as I now knew that Polysics would be opening the show. Next to me, two girls and guy were chain smoking and constantly brushing their patented 'MySpace Hair' out of their black eyes. The guy looked more androgynous than the girls did, and he was wearing an unfortunate shirt about dancing or 'jamming' or whatever. Like Patton Oswalt says, being hip apparently means wearing the dumbest t-shirt you can possibly find, confident that your hipster status will offset the sheer douchebaggery of whatever trash is hung around your neck. Watch that clip, it's hilarious.

I also quickly realized that the only teenagers dumb enough to smoke cigarettes that night were either skinny guys or fat girls. Interesting to me and nobody else, I presume.

Already a little upset with the fact that I was alone, broke, old, hassled by security, alone, old and alone, I got another chance to get furious when the emo boy in front of me threw his lit cigarette behind him without so much as looking, striking me in the pant leg. The girl he was with saw what happened, and she tucked her head under her over-sized trucker cap and turned the other way, thinking that I would see her as someone too cute to kill with my bare damn hands.

It looked like she told him what had happened, and they skittered and giggled like it was some inside joke that I didn't get. Apparently, they didn't think I noticed what had happened. However, when I looked up after stomping the smoke out, they noticed the fire in my eyes and got visibly scared when I stepped up to them, puffed my chest out and stared them down.

Politely, but not to be taken lightly, I said "Look next time." I made it clear that under no circumstances was I in the mood to laugh off an event like having my pants lit on fire.

They silently nodded and turned back towards the stage. They didn't look back or light another smoke for the rest of the night. I didn't feel the least bit bad.

If it would have been 1994, the kid that tossed his smoke at me would have done it on purpose, we would have gotten into a fistfight and emerged best friends. Nowadays, the guys are too fruity to even be outward jerks. They're all passive-aggressive (read: female) about it. I understand that you make yourself look sensitive and cute to attract women (worked for me), but you eventually reach a plateau where you're more feminine than the girls you hang out with, and you just become another friend of theirs. No sex, no making out, not even a glimpse of a bra, simply because you didn't know where to draw the line when it came to being girly.

Someday, I'll publish an advice manual dictating exactly how cutesy you can get with a girl before you blow your chances of going out with her. It'll be like a Jeff Foxworthy act for indie kids:

"If you're wearing her eyeliner...you just might be a blah-bloo-blah."
"If your hair takes longer to style than hers...you just might be a blee-blah-blort."

PART VIII.

Okay, so where are we? Oh yeah, the show hasn't even started yet, has it? Damn.

Taking a quick look around before the lights went down, I realized that there were probably 50 people in the entire venue at this point. It was like one of those surreal dreams where your favorite band plays in your living room, just for you. It was finally happening. After all the years, the millions of yen I've dropped for their imports, all the support and waiting, Polysics lunged onto the stage and proceeded to tear up the lower level of the Eagles Ballroom like Godzirra busting through downtown Tokyo.

It was everything I thought it would be. I wasn't bothered by anyone around me and they played with as much energy and heart as I've seen in the hundreds of YouTube clips I've memorized. Their shortened set list consisted of almost everything I wanted to hear them play, and there were around 10 other kids in the audience who were just as excited as I was. Everyone else was converted by the end of the set, feverishly clapping along and pretending they could understand what they were saying. It's an amazing thing to watch a band win over a room, but that's exactly what Polysics are doing each night of the MySpace Poop Pants Music Tour.

Good for them; I don't want them to be my little secret anymore. I want everyone to know how amazing they are. I want them to be wealthy and free to make spastic music until the end of time.

For those 30 minutes, it was all worth it. The money, the loneliness, the jerks and the hassle. I'm usually not the type of person who can set his baggage down long enough to enjoy something fleeting, but I did this time around, and it was the best decision I made all night. Polysics owned with a capital 'P,' and although I had nobody to share the experience with, it mattered not for a moment.

PART IX.

Once they said goodbye and exited stage left, I was once again alone and angered by everything around me. The douche who hit me with the cigarette earlier in the evening was exclaiming something along the lines of "Yay! Japanese people!," and I wanted to hurt him and his ignorance badly. Instead, I walked around The Rave and took in the sights.

I bought some Polysics merch that would have cost me a fortune to obtain online, told the guy to keep the change and headed back to the bar. On the way, I got a glimpse as to what entailed a 'MySpace Pedophile Breeding Ground Music Tour.' Rows of mobile computers, all set to MySpace, were there for you to go online and view bathroom mirror photos of your loser friends. On the other side of the lobby was a 'makeover' station, where honest-to-God stylists were sitting kids down and doing their hair. I breathed deeply, shook my head and got a beer. Maybe if I were drunk, I'd care less and learn to just go with it more.

As I slowly sipped, leaning against the wall as the next band set up their equipment, I realized there was someone leaning next to me. A young woman, maybe 18 years old, decked in black and sporting a cute haircut, supporting her broken leg on a pair of crutches. I glanced over to her and she smiled back; for a second, I think we both became aware of the humor of the situation.

Just then, Young Love, the second band on the bill, started playing their special blend of crap-pop. They were terrible; just the stalest, blandest, scene-est schlock you can imagine. I cannot fathom how these guys can go on after Polysics night after night, fully aware that they've just been smoked by one of the best live acts on the planet. I wondered how they slept at night, and I secretly hoped that their bus would explode.

Screw HelloGoodbye. Screw Say Anything. I'm leaving.

PART X.

I just couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take the fact that I was alone. I couldn't take the fact that the music was terrible and I couldn't take the fact that I was in a room full of people I wouldn't even consider inviting into my home. It was depressing, the money was already spent, and I'd had it. For the third time in the evening, I passed my security guard friend, tossed an ice cube at him while he wasn't looking, and hit the road. It was nice to see my car right outside of the place.

Driving 75 miles home in the rain, I thought hard about my experience, and came to one logical truth about my current state of living. If it weren't for my wife, I'd be in a serious heap of trouble.

It's no wonder that single people go out all the time; it's lonely being single! For as reclusive and secluded as I pretend I want to be, this night was sheer torture, and I wasn't about to forget that feeling. I hadn't seen the Missus in around 16 hours at this point, and I knew that I wouldn't see her again for another 20 (we've seldom spent more than a day apart in the last 8 years). I made a point to understand how it feels to live and function alone and without my better half, as to remind myself that I don't want to live that way, regardless of what my Id has to say on the subject. I need that girl with every fiber of my being.

When I got home, the house was empty and quiet, leaving me with nothing but tinnitus in both of my ears. The note on the kitchen table reminded me that yes, the Missus misses (ha!) me and can't wait to come home. It was around 10pm, and I decided to go to sleep, even though I had the next day off. I was done.

I slept in the middle of the bed with the cats, and hoped that she was okay at her study.

PART XI.

For the Missus, her night was going about as well as mine was. Her sleep study was supposed to begin at around 9:00pm, but they finally set her up at 10:30pm, which is way beyond her normal bedtime. After all the electrodes were stuck to her and the monitors were properly tuned, she attempted to settle down for a good night's sleep; at least, as good as one can have in a medical facility with people charting your every move and breath.

At around 12:30am, one of the nurses burned a pizza in the break room, causing the fire alarms to chime throughout the building. All of the subjects (including the Missus) had to be filed out into the parking lot, in the middle of the night, while the fire department showed up and assessed the situation.

As she stood alone, wearing a paper gown and still hooked up to all of the machines, she groggily said "Is this part of the study?" I can only assume she was thinking of me at that point as much as I was thinking of her back home.

They got everyone back into the building after it was determined that they didn't know how to shut off the fire alarm. The Missus tells me that she fell back asleep at around 2:30am, the shrill buzz of the sirens still echoing through the building. Something tells me that when they go over her results, they'll determine that her sleep was a little troubled. I'll be damned; I think they owe her another study.

Meanwhile, I was catching the end of Monday Night Football in my pajamas, pondering just how pathetic, fat and sad I'd be if I were single.

PART XII.

On the rare ocassions that I'm left alone with my thoughts, I get a little philosophical about my state of being (as seen in this epic rant). I always try to learn something about myself every day, and give myself some sort of daily moral to fall asleep with. For the night I had just experienced, I once again was reminded of the emotional worth placed in friends and loved ones.

When you're bad in prison, they throw you in solitary confinement. Think about that for a second. When they want to punish you in prison, they force you to be alone. Clearly, being alone is not something humans were meant to handle all that well. We're a living organism, and if we get separated from the pack, we'll wither and die. Or, most likely, go on a killing spree. I was out of my element for maybe 12 hours, and even that was enough to inspire this melodramatic essay.

I probably come off as needy in this. Clingy. Unable to be by myself. Nope, that couldn't be further from the truth. I love spending time on my own; it's why I write, it's when I read and it's when I do my deepest thinking. When it comes to sharing life experiences, however, it becomes readily apparent that experiences only matter if there's someone else to share them with.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Good memories will disappear unless they are shared. Remember that, even if it's the only thing you take from this.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Comments:
Not only that, it's exhausting to try to fully appreciate life's experiences without anyone to share them with! I traveled around Europe for a few weeks by myself when I was 21, and it was incredible. I loved that I was doing it by myself and I definitely had experiences traveling alone that I wouldn't have had if I'd been with someone (like having dinner with a German guy and an Italian girl I happened to meet while standing in line at the Vatican, and then being shown Rome by someone who lived there her entire life). But by the time I left the final museum in Florence, I was practically running to the exit because I was just so overwhelmed and exhausted by everything I had seen over those weeks, and having to keep it all inside for that whole time with no one to share it with. The night I got back to my apartment in Wales, I invited a friend over and talked for about five straight hours just letting everything out in a flood until he put me to bed and I slept for what felt like three days.
 
I liked this on 10/24/07, and I like this a year later.

As much as some of us do have that soloist mentality ... let's be honest, all of our top five memories, include events with those close to us.

But I guess the solo moments remind you how much better it is to share those with others.

Good essay.
 
Maybe it has something to do with getting older, but I can barely conceal my distaste of others when I go to a show solo. It's not so much a problem in the company of friends because I focus in on our conversation. But the last few shows I've gone to alone I've spent eavesdropping in on conversations while drinking too much. It puts me in such a bad mood that I always swear off solo shows even when the act I've gone to see was great. I just hate missing an act come through that I've waited years to see just because no one else was interested, so I usually end up choking down the rage. Friends of similar musical taste with flexibility in scheduling are invaluable.
 
A haircut doesn't make you sensitive. A t-shirt doesn't make you insightful. A band doesn't complete you spiritually. If you think they do, then you need to look in the mirror for a second without trying to snap your photograph at the same time.

This may be one of the best paragraphs you've ever written.
 
I forgot how much I liked this essay.
 
Oh man.

I also hate the Rave. I hate it enough that I don't look at their full page ad every week in the Onion for fear that I might see learn that a band I liked was coming there. I don't mind driving to Milwaukee for a show, but it isn't worth going there again.
 

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