Dance on-stage at the Dresden Dolls concert
I went to see the Dresden Dolls, a band I love, tonight; they were playing at the 9:30 club. As I was standing in line to get in, I noticed rather more exotic plumage around me than I was accustomed to seeing in DC. There was also a certain restless, simultaneously exhibitionistic and anxious, pulsing energy around me that I hadn't experienced since...since...since...high school.
Yep. I'd thought to myself before, offhandly, that the Dresden Dolls, piano and complex rhythms aside, basically represented the harnessing of turbulent teen-angsty feelings in a complex and sophisticated way. I was now witnessing the concrete confirmation of this observation: they had a huge teenage fanbase. There were all these gaggles of young people around me! They were giggling and talking loudly amongst themselves. One girl came up to me and complimented me on my rainbow striped stockings. "Those are great," she said. She was one of those confident teenagers who practiced striking up conversations with strangers. She hadn't quite perfected it yet, but she was going to get there.
The show, of course, was wonderful. Amanda was riveting as usual, and there were blistering drum solos from Brian. At one point halfway through the concert, Amanda pointed out that Brian had broken four drumsticks already. "That's so rock n' roll," she said, teasing him. "Well guys, I'm not trying to be a role model here," he said, addressing the audience. "It doesn't mean I'm manly, or anything."
At one point, Amanda asked some people from the audience to come up onstage as backup singers. I'd brought a book to give her: "Gods and Devils," a book of poems by Charles Simic. Simic is a hauntingly akimbo visionary and he seemed like the kind of thing Amanda would like. From his poem The Great War:
"You never saw anything as beautiful
As those clay regiments;
I used to lie on the floor
For hours, staring them in the eyes.
I remember them staring back at me in wonder.
How strange they must have felt
Standing stiffly at attention
Before a large, incomprehending creature
With a moustache made of milk...."
I wrote a long and heartfelt inscription for Amanda on the title page, all about how I'd first seen the Dolls at Iota more than a year ago, at a tiny show with about fifty people, and I was so glad that she was becoming so successful, and that she should treasure and preserve her talent.
I wasn't sure how I'd be able to give the book to her, but I figured I could just throw it on-stage. When she asked for volunteers, though, I eagerly jumped up and handed her the book. "Thanks," she said, and commented to the audience, "Somebody just gave me a book! It smells good..."*
It was a good vibe up there on stage and at one point we got a can-can going. I kicked my rainbow-striped legs high in the air.
Is it an insult to say that the Dresden Dolls are teenager music? They are very good teenager music; the best of teenager music. When we are teenagers, it seems that all the experiences of life are more vivid, perhaps because we are having them for the first time. Love is overwhelming and all-consuming; disappointment threatens to wrench our very selves away from us. Over time, it seems, we accumulate psychological scars from these vivid disappointments and decide that a safe trade-off to make is just to feel everything less vividly, both the highs and lows. Well, that's one solution. I believe that another solution is to try to cultivate detachment from those happy and sad emotions. You can still experience them; you can acknowledge them and sit with them, but you also acknowledge that your true self is essentially untouched by these experiences - not only the bad ones, but the good ones. Hence detachment actually contributes to the maintenance of a richer emotional texture in life. There's a more extensive discussion of detachment here, by the way, at my friend Ben's blog.
I looked around at all the teenagers at the concert and my heart went out to them. They were so alive; they cared about everything so much. They were so sensitive! This music really meant something to them; they sang along lovingly with the lyrics and many had dressed along with the goth style of the band. Their eyes were so bright and active, watching all of their friends, noticing other people watching them, noticing other people watching other people. And it broke my heart to think about how much pain many of them were going to go through, because you get hurt when you care about things that much. And some of them were going to make the decision to die a little bit, just so they could avoid dying all the way.
I hope some of them start going to yoga class.
*I keep bottles of aromatherapy oil in my bags, for anointing purposes. Sometimes the lids come off and over time my bag has accumulated a complex blend of odours that also scents anything I put in there. Basically I am like a wee version of the massive smell factory Salman Rushdie describes in his book "The Moor's Last Sigh."