Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Attend a World Premiere at DC9

LOCATION: DC9, 1940 9th St. NW (just below U St.)

EQUIPMENT: Yourself, ID, $ for cover. OPTIONAL: cute pagan friend

This story starts at Kramerbooks , where I stopped by on my way home one night to read literary tea leaves. (Note: A friend from Iran once told me that people like to use the poetry of Hafiz as a kind of I-Ching; if you're suffering from an existential problem, you open up "The Gift" to a random page which will surely have philosophical relevance. My most recent try: "No More Leaving: At/ Some point/ Your relationship/ With God/ Will/ Become like this:/ Next time you meet Him in the forest/ Or on a crowded city street/ There won't be anymore/ "Leaving."/ That is,/ God will/ climb into/ Your pocket./ You will simply just take/ Yourself/ Along!" This practice can be extended to the whole poetry section at Kramerbooks. It works particularly well if it's late and you're tipsy.)

As I was feverishly copying down words by the miraculous Denise Levertov in my journal, I overheard a conversation. ("You haven't read 'The Prince'? You should. It will help you understand those lying bastards in politics..."). I butted in ("You're being unfair to Machiavelli...") and we ended up chatting for a while in the park outside Dupont Circle.

One of the men, Jorge, told me about his band which would be playing at DC9 on Monday. He said that they were a mix between progressive rock and the ancient rhythms of Greece. He said that they took the vision of Zeppelin one step further. He said that when I listened to them, it would feel as if the top of my head had lifted right off. He said that it might well change my life. He said that he was not afraid of being famous. He said that it was going to be his first show.

And my heart swelled with a sort of helpless protectiveness - like when you watch a fellow human walk the circus tightrope, netless, from the nosebleed seats.

So I came to DC9 on Monday with the lovely Syreena to hear Aulus Conversi Onis de Pulchritudo (the name of Jorge's band. No, I don't remember how to pronounce it). It's a nice venue, with the bar on the lower level and the performance area up top. Like the Velvet Lounge, it has a strong community feeling - as Syreena and I were nursing our beers, a guy at the bar called out, "Hey, has anyone seen 'I, Robot'?" It seems that the area around 9th and U is where many of the people without day jobs live.

Jorge came up to talk to us. He thanked us for coming. He thought it might very well be a full house. He had personally invited about a hundred people. Well, he'd called them or left messages. There were about thirty who had promised that they would be there - and the rest, well, who knew. My friend Marcella was definitely coming, she had told him for sure. He told Syreena that she was in for a special time. He said that he blended modern passion with ancient Greek rhythms. He said that she would probably feel the top of her head lifting off. He said he thought his band had some great material, but that they should probably tour for a while before they signed with anyone. He was rubbing his hands quickly up and down his arms. He said he should probably be off to scope out the space upstairs and make sure everything was fine.

We looked around. We were the only people sitting in the bar. "The thing that sucks is, if we're the only people up there, we can't leave," Syreena said.

One of my favorite things about DC9 is the tiny side room upstairs (to the left after you come up the stairs.) It's cozy, dark red, has good pictures on the wall, and incredibly comfortable black couches that make you wish for someone to straddle. So it's an ambiance extravaganza, improvable perhaps only by painting a lot of different kinds of eyes on the ceiling (Syreena's suggestion). And you can still keep an eye on the stage when you're sitting there.

By the time Jorge's band was up, it certainly wasn't a full house, but there were enough people in the audience to make it feel like a show. "Hi," he said. He adjusted the microphone. "Hey," he called to the bartender. "Can you get them to dim the lights? No, dim them more. More."
The music was so young, but it was actually very powerful and emotional. And Jorge did indeed have that thing - that thing that makes you want to get on a stage and grab onto the invisible strings that connect you to your crowd, that thing that drives you to share your vision of the world with people, that thing that makes you perform. I was dancing involuntarily.

I'm sure that he was disappointed after it was over. He loved his own music so much - and although the crowd was supportive, nobody was falling to the floor in astonishment, nobody was fervently shaking his hand and telling him that he'd changed their life. He came up to thank us afterwards and to get our names for his band's email list. "I think I still have a lot to learn about performing," he told me. He's playing again this Thursday at the Velvet Lounge.

Good luck to you, Jorge. I send you my love. And to everyone who aches to create something, to everyone who dreams of breathing life into a bit of dust yes even the silliest of fake Inuit artists - to everyone who keeps a candle burning in the hideous darkness - all my love, all my love.


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