Saturday, January 12, 2008

Information Society Concert in Philly

I've tried starting this blog about four times! This was a really big deal to me, on a LOT of different levels. So forgive me if the story wanders a bit. I have a lot to cover!

Okay, so basic set up here: I think everyone knows that Information Society is one of my all-time favorite bands. They splintered into various solo acts in the mid-90's, and then went into totally different careers by the time 2000 rolled around. So my favorite band was essentially dead and gone. So I was already thrilled when they got back together again in 2006, and put out a GREAT album in 2007 called Synthesizer.

They're not doing a lot of concerts, so when they announced in November that they were coming to Philly in January, I knew I HAD to go to this show. I had no idea how I was going to pull it off, but still, I started trying to make some plans.

As December started drawing to a close, those plans were falling apart. I was getting bummed about it, and I realized I needed to rearrange my thinking. Look at this realistically, I told myself-- I don't HAVE to go to this show. I just really, really WANT to go to this show. Once I realized that distinction in my mind, I found an inner peace with not being able to go. There was still regret, definitely, but in the larger scale of things I have what I NEED-- a loving family, wonderful friends, a roof over our head and food on the table.

The show was being filmed for a DVD release, which was something of a mixed blessing-- on the one hand, I'd defintely get to see the show eventually... on the other hand, I know every other time something like this has happened, I've watched the video with a bittersweet feeling in my chest that I could have actually been there for it, been a part of it, but I wasn't. But I decided I really wanted to look at the glass as half full, and made my peace with the fact that I'd at least be able to still see the show when it came out on DVD.

So I contacted everyone I'd been making plans with to let them know I wasn't going to be able to make it... and then some very wonderful people stepped up to make sure it would all come together for me. Elizabeth made sure I'd be able to get to the show. Steve made sure I'd be able to get my ticket. And AJ made sure I'd be able to have a place to stay.

I felt so blessed I thought my heart would burst. :) Seriously, I don't know what I did to deserve having so many people looking out for me and watching over me. Thank you again, one and all!!!!

As I was packing to leave on Saturday morning, Joy and I were talking about all the various details about the trip, and I realized... this is a very big thing I'm accomplishing here. I've been so held down by depression and anxiety over the last year that the very concept of me traveling across the state by myself, meeting someone I've never met in person before, and reuniting with a friend I haven't seen in over 15 years... I never could have done this two months ago. I would have been panicking and/or so afraid of what people would think of me that I would have just given up as soon as the first stumbling blocks came up. The very fact that I was making this trip-- and felt totally confident of my ability to make it-- was a huge step forward for me! I pointed this out to Joy and she gave me a hug, telling me how glad she was of how far I've come.

I left a message on James's myspace page to say I was on my way to the show, and he sent me back a message saying how glad he was that I was going to make it and asking if my daughter was coming! How cool is that??

So off I went, spirits high, Mapquest directions in hand, bags full of snacks and water, and my iPod shuffling all my InSoc (just to be uber-geeky). I made it to AJ's with very little trouble, and he showed me his place and we chatted for an hour or so before I had to leave for the show. Seeing him again was good. He's changed in a lot of ways but in many ways it felt like the old days when I'd hang out at his place.

So, next stop: The Trocadero Theater! I had forgotten what it was like to drive through a big city freeway that you're not familiar with at dark. A bit stressful, but I made it with no problems, and found parking easily enough. After a few false starts of walking the wrong way, I reached the theater at about 7:15 and got in line. I was only there for about ten minutes, when the next people to get in line behind me were none other than Ghost in Daylight, PsiFi and Elizabeth! We recognized each other from our profiles and made our official hellos and chatted a bit.

I stood in line with a feeling of amazement and disbelief. I was actually here. This was really going to happen! I had totally resigned myself to missing all this, yet here I was. I could tell I had this big dopey grin on my face but I just didn't care.

They let us in around 8:15, and we made our way towards the stage. There were two opening acts, Cesium 137 and Thou Shalt Not, which I might have enjoyed a bit more if a) I was familiar with their music and/or b) the volume was about 100 decibles lower. I usually love watching live bands I know nothing about, and they were both totally energetic and fun to watch, but in both cases it was just hard to make out anything they were playing. At one point the vibrations were physically getting to be too much, and all of a sudden I just had this realization that I was totally crowded in and I could feel the panic rising. So I closed my eyes and centered myself-- one of the things my counselor has talked with me about is the concept of a "teflon mind," where you see what the situation is and what you're feeling and you acknowledge it, but you just let it slide off, without taking it inside yourself. So that's what I did, I just acknowledged that yes, I am feeling panicked but there's nothing really to panic over, and I'm here to have a good time, so let's just let the panic go and relax and have a good time. And it totally worked. :)

And then, at last, Information Society takes the stage. Now, I've seen them twice before-- once in 1990 during their "Hack" tour, and once in 1992 for the "Peace & Love Inc." tour, so I thought I had some idea of what I was in for. Boy, was I wrong. The 1990 show was very abrupt-- Kurt had very little banter between the songs, and when the last song was over he just said "Thank you, goodnight," left the stage, and that was it. No encores, no nothin'. The 1992 show was a little more friendly, and James came out and talked to us a little after the show and signed some autographs-- unfortunately I wasn't expecting that so I didn't have my autograph book with me for him to sign. I remember leaving that show feeling that James was the one who seemed the most relaxed with the whole thing, since Kurt and Paul both looked so serious on stage.

But this... this was a whole new Kurt. He had clowned on stage in the other shows, but in this one he just seemed the most relaxed I've ever seen him on stage. He was chatting between every song, and interacting with the crowd. "Now that we're officially washed up, we can do whatever the hell we want," he quipped.

The set itself was a wonderful blend, alternating between songs off of Synthesizer and classics from the older albums. They had said they were going to do stuff from even their early self-released EPs, but I was still shocked when they did "Growing Up with Shiva"-- one of my favorite tracks from their first EP, but one I never DREAMED I'd get to see live. I was figuring they'd probably do "Fall in Line," so this was a very pleasant surprise.

So I'm just enjoying the show, thrilling in every moment. I'd watch Kurt a lot since he was the center of attention, then James for a bit, then Paul for a bit. And so I'm watching Paul... and then stops, looks right at me, and mouths "Hi, Fer." And I am like TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY. He actually recognized little ol' me in the crowd!! So I just flash him a peace sign, he gives me a thumbs up, and goes back to making his music. I still get this warm fuzzy glow anytime I think about it. :)

And here's the real kicker-- someone caught it on tape!! After the show I was searching for clips on YouTube, and I freaked out all over again when the 45 second clip someone posted turned out to be of THAT moment. What are the odds?!? So here it is. For those of you who don't know the band, Paul's the tall blonde one on the right. Keep your eyes on him, you can practically read his lips saying "Hi Fer"!!!!!

Seriously, HOW COOL IS THAT?!?

To top it off, later in the set they played "I Like the Way You Werk It," and the monitors ran footage from their video for the song. To make this video they had asked that the fans send in footage of themselves doing the robot, and both Elizabeth and Mylene & I had done it. I didn't know if they would use all the clips they used in the video-- but they used Elizabeth's, and then there, larger than life on three giant monitors, was the clip of Mylene, MY KID, doing the robot!! Man, I hope that shows up on the DVD.

So after the show, we all hung around for a bit, hoping the band would show up. This time, I had my autograph book! After the '92 show I figured getting James's autograph was a safe bet, and I was hoping for Paul's, but I figured Kurt was probably gone. So I was shocked when Elizabeth pointed behind me and said "There's Kurt!" James and Paul also showed up shortly after, so I went to talk to them briefly first, to tell them how much I loved the show, and they very graciously signed my autograph book. :) Paul gave me a smile and said "Glad you could make it," sending my head reeling all over again that he actually knew who I was!

Around this time security started ushering us off of the dancefloor, so I figured, oh well, I've missed my shot at getting Kurt's autograph. But there he was in the lobby, still chatting and signing autographs! So I waited my turn, and then the security started ushering us out of the lobby. So I figured, oh well, that'll be the end of THAT, but then Kurt went out into the street to keep signing! And Kurt's just chatting it up and being so friendly to everyone. Finally, he asks, "Um... what's the temperature?" "Around 19 degrees," someone answered. "And, what am I wearing...?" he continued. Well, it wasn't like he planned to go out in the cold, so he was only wearing a t-shirt! So it hit me I have one of those coats that has two layers, and you zip the heavier outer coat onto a lighter inner coat-- if he's going to go to all this trouble for us, the least I can do is give him my outer coat to wear. So I did, and he seemed quite grateful. Finally my turn came up and he asked where I came from, and I told him Pittsburgh. And he looked up at me and said "You're not going to try and drive back home tonight, are you?" sounding genuinely concerned. I assured him that no, I had a friend I was staying with. Elizabeth took some pictures of the whole thing for me:

See, there's that dopey smile I was telling you about. I wore it all night. And probably all the next day too.

Kurt in my coat!

So eventually the crowd died down to just the five of us, and Kurt gave me back my coat, and we called it a night. I made my goodbyes, glad to have gotten to meet everyone-- not just the band, but Elizabeth and Ghost in Daylight and PsiFi too. I felt very lucky, not just that I got to experience all this, but that I got to experience it with the people in our little InSoc MySpace community too. Since these are the people I've been seeing and talking to ever since the band came back, it just felt right.

While saying goodbye, I said "You know, this is probably the third best night of my life, right behind my wedding and my daughter being born." And I think it was. Because not only was it the best concert I've ever been to by my favorite band doing songs I never ever dreamed I'd get to hear them play, not only did they actually *recognize* me and were all so damn friendly... but it was a complete and total success for me, mentally and emotionally, in a situation that could have stressed me out not more than three months ago.

Maybe it's a sign, a sign that 2008 is going to be a year where things keep improving. I hope so. We're off to a beautiful start.

So thank you again. Thank you to Elizabeth, Steve and AJ for making this trip possible, to Paul Robb, Kurt Harland Larson and James Cassidy, both for working so hard to put on such a great show and for each one of you making me feel so special, to Joy for being so supportive and encouraging about both the concert and my getting better, and to Sue for being such a great guide helping me get to where I am today. You're all fantastic and I am so very, very blessed to have you all in my lives.