I went to see Radiohead on Sunday night with some friends. Radiohead is one of my favorite bands, so I was excited to go, and even happier to go with Rian, Tara and her 15 year old son Jake. Rian is one of the most talented and wryly funny people I know, and Tara and her son are from my neighbohood, a single mother and her very bright boy, both creative, interesting people who are very much themselves. We all live in Hollywood, and drove down to the show in San Diego together in Rian's Mini Cooper; listening to The Beatles and Beck on the iPod, taking digital pictures. I was feeling very much like alt-rock's target demographic of liberal, urban, late 20/early 30-somethings, with all the latest hipsterisms firmly in place.
So off we go, this carful of clever urbans, down to the Coors Amphitheatre. It's a clean, modern venue just south of San Diego proper - only an exit or two away from the Mexican border to Tiajuana. The proximity of all that abject poverty and the corporate sponsorship combining to produce an uncomfortable reminder of the unholy alliance of art and commerce that is so strongly apparent in our case in point. Oh well, whatever. We have a Jack Daniel's Lynchburg Lemonade and I opt for a candied apple, while Tara and Jake go with Fries, and Rian kicks it up a notch with a Jodi Maroni's sausage sandwich covered about knee deep in jalapenos. We mill about, talk about whether or not the Lord of the Rings movies are any good if you haven't read the books, talk about our tragic love-lives, and find the opening band, Supergrass, boring and repetitive. We wonder if we might enjoy their music more if we knew their songs, but doubt it.
Blah, blah, blah.
Thom Yorke: making the world easier for confused urban hipsters to bear. There are some more very enjoyable photos here if you are interested...
By now, it's dark, and the hills around the outdoor venue are veiled in coastal mist. It's cooled down, but it's not cold. I could see Mars in the east, and the moon was just a sliver. The lights in the concert venue were starting to look like big glowing UFO's in Rian's digital pictures. Finally the show kicked in, with "Are you such a dreamer... to put the world to rights..." and suddenly, everyone's paying attention. I started thinking about the way everyone has to work in their own way at being authentic, do work that means something, and contributes weight to the good and worthy things. I thought about how fantastic it is that Thom Yorke is the world's most delightful rockstar because he's unlikely, short and homely and has that crazy, jacked-up hair, but his voice makes me want to cry when it hits me the right way. I noticed the people around me: the tall blonde guy in front of me with dreadlocks smoking pot, groping his girlfriend, the girl behind me with no rhthym, who's dancing anyway. I took in the frat boys, the older couples, the teenage girls in low slung jeans and tank tops, all the young people with their dedication to musical tastes evident in every aspect of their presentation, and my friend Rian, swaying conservatively to the rockin' numbers, his dignity firmly in tact. I thought about the way that everytime you join a big crowd and funnel yourself into a many that is admiring a few, there's an inescapable loss of dignity. Rian tells me that he doesn't really like the rockshow; he prefers to listen in the comfort of his own home.
Meanwhile, the band plays on. Jonny Greenwood dashes about like a mad scientist with his mop of black hair preceeding him, and every sound just perfect. Thom Yorke's voice is gorgeous and impossible, keening or growling at all the right moments. They do nice work, and it was a beautiful concert. I could still see Mars, and felt that familiar but still shocking sense that I'm a speck on a planet that is hurtling through space, and listened to Thom - "There are two colors in my head, there are..." And, my main feeling, when all the math was jumbled up in my head and heart in unsolvable equations, and the night sky was turning overhead, was relief.
That, and the urge to thank god for Radiohead.