The Cult-Following Type

I think I may have a problem. It occurred to me the first time a few months ago in a yoga studio, as I lay prostrate on the hardwood floor repeating some mantra about surrender, and then again last week, as I was pumping my fist in the air at the stage and feverishly chanting love, love, love . . . that maybe I’m a little overly able to “get into” things. Corny things. Bougie things. Happy things, that in the end, really spell out trouble and money loss.

To be honest, I hadn’t even really wanted to go to the concert that night. It shames me to admit this — but I am not the concert-going type: I get awkward, or I get bored, or my feet get tired, or the artist’s personality/engagement is disappointing, and generally I’d just prefer to stay home with my headphones and avoid spending the twenty-five to fifty bucks. But I do have a list of three or so acts that I’ve always wanted to see in person, for various idolizing and/or personal reasons, and one of them was The Polyphonic Spree.

“We have to go!” I told Jurvis a month ago. “It’ll be a crazy freaking show! They’ve got like, twenty-five people in that band, and a freaking orchestra, and they all wear white robes and sing about the sun.” (What can I say. Culture is meaningless to me, but I’m a big sucker for spectacles.) We purchased the tickets and promptly forgot about the whole thing for the next four weeks, and of course by the time that Monday night rolled around I was just tired and cranky and wanting some combination of a beer and sweatshirt, but we’d already paid, and so we we were obligated to push ourselves onto the subway and rocket into the night to be dumped somewhere near the bright lights of Fenway, where, coincidentally, a game had started not an hour before.

“Is that . . . the club?” I asked, pointing at a shadowed sign. Two lonely, skinny bouncers sat on stools underneath it, sucking wanly on cigarettes. There was the sound of a giant crack, like a hollow head hitting pavement, and across the street, the impossibly far-away crowd cheered.

Let’s go Red Sox! (Clap clap, clapclapclap.)

I was not excited, even then, with the ethereal glow of major league baseball spilling onto our skin and the darkness of the club beckoning like a prostitute on the curb. We slipped fingers over our IDs and filed dutifully into The Avalon.

In this fashion the street swallowed us up.

There are a few things I’d neglected to tell Jurvis before we went to our first concert together. (One:) I have not always hated concerts, crowds, or general melee. (Two:) In fact, loud music has been known to cause hallucinogenic drug-like effects in me, but hilariously, not since I’ve tried hallucinogenic drugs, and (Three:) The Polyphonic Spree’s song “It’s the Sun” was actually the first song I heard the day that officially ended a two year long bout of depression, and may or may not have contributed to said ending.

We were in for a treat.

“Have any of you ever seen The Polyphonic Spree in concert before?” the opening act screamed into her mic. The crowd went wild. (One girl, it turns out, was attending her eleventh show.) “Well, I don’t even know what to tell you. Enjoy that.”

She stumbled off the stage. And then the room went black.

The funny thing is, like hallucinogenic experiences, there is no way to describe a concert that really gets to you. There were explosions of light and sparkling white confetti, a beach ball made its way around the room, the band emerged in military fatigues brandishing trumpets, violins, a harp, and they sang about sunshine, love, hope, hugs. Everyone was dancing and singing along. The guy in front of us had a kazoo. I usually despise encores, and make a bee-line for the nearest exit, but when the twenty-four of them returned in a glowing spotlight through the dark audience I almost cried in joy. I really have next to no control over myself when there’s a crescendo going on.

“I kept wondering,” Jurvis commented on the ride home, “if people were going to stop and look around, and if there’d be this moment when everyone was like ‘wait . . . this is really gay.'”

“Man,” I said cultishly, “that main singer, though, what a likable guy! I want to support him financially.”

“Yeah. We should buy a bunch of their stuff.”

In this fashion we rocketed back beneath the city, toward home and headphones and empty wallets. I laid my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes, full of good feeling, and willing to do absolutely anything to maintain it.

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  1. I usually despise encores, and make a bee-line for the nearest exit

    I really have no idea what to make of that. It’s just beyond me.

  2. Polyphonic Spree and Flaming Lips are probably some of the last few bands that I’ll willingly see live anymore (and Yo La Tengo, maybe). I have the same feeling as you do about concerts, actually, but those two have never ever disappointed.

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