Where I Should Be
You don’t know how many times I look to my left, as I prepare to cross the street. I see the #10 to Rockmont via Downtown.
I want to get on it, go the other way, back home, not to work.
Get some coffee. Finish writing what I’ve been scribbling in this notebook since 5:03 AM. Finish this book I’ve been obsessing about.
I should be somewhere else.
“The Edge…There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others—the living—are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.” - “The Dope Cabala and a Wall of Fire” in A Strange and Terrible Saga: Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
Denver. Ogden Theatre. April 12, 2013. Rusko.
I arrived at 8:10 PM – early even by an avid fan’s standards. I mulled around the theatre surveying wall art then made my way to front center – the closest spot without being on stage. Back in my day we called it the mosh pit but the genre, dubstep, or more broadly EDM – electronic dance music – is worlds apart from heavy metal, grunge, or punk. However, judging by the spectators, the attitudes aren’t so different – when Rusko came on, they finger-pointed with cultish fanaticism to the beat of bone-throttling bass in a slick of sweat and suffocating fog. A mixture of marijuana and smoke machines. A close-cropped kid had crowd-surfed across my line to the stage and then behind. On the way back to the front he fell to the floor and two security guards rushed to eject him from the venue.
The Ruskomaniacs who surrounded me were about half my age. I turned 38 a month ago and the show had a minimum age of 16. The disparity in years might have suggested that we had nothing in common. One thing we all shared, regardless of age, was our love of music. I wasn’t too old to appreciate deafening goose bumps even if I was on a plane free of any intoxicants.
Rusko was still nowhere to be found. The DJ table vacant – a proscenium oubliette in violet and red spotlighting. I was detached…musically, I mean. I’d had my ear buds in bouncing my head to Akon, Kate Nash and The Offspring as I typed this into a Polaris Office document on my defunct Galaxy SII from two cell phone plans ago. I planned on not editing this piece, but the first draft was incoherent, shorthand gibberish. I had brought the SII along to save power on my current phone. Battery technology on these things has not kept up with the power-sucking apps.
8:30 PM. The second tier of spectators still hadn’t filled the next level back, demarcated by a for-looks vanity railing – you could slip under it if you wanted to get closer to the stage. The theatre was maybe at 15% capacity. Rusko would be on in 30 minutes.
A skinny, baseball-capped kid with x’s on his hands – the Ogden’s way of denoting patrons aren’t of legal drinking age – danced to some imaginary EDM tune I couldn’t hear. I took my ear buds out. There was nothing audible enough to dance to. I put my ear buds back in. I listened to “Kiss with a Fist” by Florence + The Machine. The kid wore a white t-shirt that read “WAKE THE FUCK UP” (also found on a t-shirt worn by an elderly gentleman in the video for “Somebody To Love.”) He flirted with some likewise young, female dubsteppers – one burlesque, the other spectacled and uninterested in his moves.
8:38 PM. Smoke seethed out somewhere on the stage like a dormant disco volcano. EDM played loud enough to hear – faster than Rusko’s BPMs, probably closer to 200 BPM.
8:41 PM. The theatre was still less than 20% capacity however the adults, or perhaps underage teen patrons with fake IDs, drifted down from the back bar. Bud Lights and vodka mixes.
8:44 PM. My back turned to the stage, momentarily conscious of the fact that I wasn’t behaving like the rest of them – social, anxious with anticipation, maybe high on a multitude of drugs. That’s a bit presumptuous. The electronica scene isn’t as drug-ridden as when I was growing up.
It wasn’t Rusko when I was their age. It was either guys like Paul Oakenfold, or maybe some local DJ. We’d take a couple Ecstasy rolls, and marvel at the corrugated steel wall at a Sunday party in Cincinnati – rolling the Sabbath away made possible as we took off Monday from work. I’d put my back to the ribbing of the wall and rub along it until my girlfriend snapped at me, complaining that I was “acting high.” I remember a particular moment when a DJ friend spun “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash straight through – no dropping or pushing the tempo. Everyone cheered Cash’s profession of love and fire with no bastardization of his original sound. I think we also cheered because we knew we were all going to Hell for raving on Sunday.
When the party was over, the commanding girlfriend felt the benefits of a half-hour head session. All the serotonin overloading my receptors made me an exceptional lover. The effects of a stressful week of work set the stage. I read once that stress causes the repression of serotonin’s release and its consequent buildup – making an Ecstasy high more intense. A guy on Ecstasy isn’t much different from a crack whore – sex being the crack of choice. He is willing to do anything for sex including marathon sessions of cunnilingus. I would have gone two hours had she not finally directed me to “get inside her.” And when the climax finally came, there was a feeling of euphoria that lasted for several minutes. Then the insatiable hunger of the drug returned. A healthy young male can repeat this process multiple times in one night if properly hydrated – you often see ravers drinking water instead of alcohol.
With the prevalence of Ecstasy or its family of drugs (sometimes called molly, mandy, MDMA), negative press from its excessive use – post-use anxiety and depression, coma, even death – raised consciousness about the drug.
A major DJ like deadmau5 spoke out against the stereotype of EDM and drugs being inherently simpatico beasts when he came out as a non-drug user.
I laughed as I wrote that part about deadmau5 being a DJ.
I wondered how much hell I’d get from all the music snobs, or even deamau5 himself, for using the term “major DJ” – he often rejects the idea. I have the opinion that the mouse thinks he’s more than that. I tend to agree. Labels often fail to define what a person is either professionally or personally. The complexity and amount of equipment and software – Ableton Live, MIDIs, drum machine, synths, the LED in his mau5head – he uses at shows is an incredible thing to see. Of course, how would I know? I don’t know shit about being a DJ or electronica producer.
Most EDM fans don’t know even that much. They know how to dress though. But not the Ogden’s crowd that night.
The ordinariness of Rusko’s congregation of disciples struck me. There was no ostentatious EDM gear.
No colored wigs.
No girls in bikinis and platform heels.
Only a few glow sticks. Either I should update my perspective of the new crowd or truly understand Rusko’s niche in the genre. Or this could be an indication that the younger generation is more fixated on ideas and substance rather than flash and outward appearance.
Or maybe this was just the regional culture of Denver.
I saw all this through a very lucid lens. Other than the Mat Kearney concert I attended (also at the Ogden Theatre), Rusko’s show was the most sober I’d been at a concert (I had been on a spiritual kick influenced by Kearney’s feel-good-somewhat-Christian-themed music). I had worked out an hour before, so my body was superfluously cleansed. Being extraordinarily sober can be as surreal as being high in my experience. I hoped that to be the case when I decided to write about that night.
8:55 PM. Just as I finished that last line a young man – flannel shirt, coon skin hat with a tail and Rivers Cuomo glasses. Summarily, harmless-looking and shorter than me. His overly-long sleeves covered the x’s, but I guessed that he wasn’t of legal drinking age. Happy by Fischerspooner played in my ears. I questioned if I was in the right place.
8:58 PM. A wall of bodies behind me blocked my view of the back bar – probably at 38% capacity. I took my ear buds off for a second and the din of voices and pre-recorded EDM in the background was loud enough to make me mildly anxious.
9:00 PM. Bon Iver – Lisbon. An odd pairing with the EDM playing in the background, steadily louder. At that moment, I realized for the first time why press boxes might exist. Being down with the general population on the floor was an aggravating nuisance as I wrote. The impatient spectator in me wanted to see this Rusko guy do his thing.
My only previous exposure to Rusko was while my good friend, Andrew, and I conducted “creative night” – hangout sessions when we wrote bizarre short story fiction about driving cats, crack addicts and imaginary beasts called Moon Dragons. While under the influence of 40 oz. Mickey’s and sometimes a variety of narcotics (and Adderall, marijuana, etc.), Drew would play videos of Rusko particularly “Somebody to Love” and “Everyday” (he made me promise to record concert video of Everyday). I didn’t realize at the time – heavily hazed and under the influence – he had emailed me the ticket that landed me at the Ogden for the show.
9:11 PM. Still no Rusko.
9:12 PM. The balconies filled up. Theatre at about 60% (Talk Tonight – Oasis).
9:14 PM. The crowd, with the exception of the coon skin hat dude and a few girls in bikini tops, looked more like college frat boys and campus co-eds in Uggs. Had I not known that Rusko was the headliner, I would have never guessed dubstep was about to go on. Note: Some pundits (or purists) believe that dubstep has become an electronica subgenre populated by “frat boy” fans.
9:15 PM. Rusko ran out to tweak something. He ran backstage.
Around 10:00 PM, Rusko came out to start his set. I can’t remember the exact time as I forgot to note it. I was in a receded mental state – the long wait and the distraction of watching the other spectators with the preoccupation of a keen voyeur.
When Rusko finally walked out, the Ogden was filled to full capacity. In the pit the temperature had gone up twenty degrees, and we were all packed in tightly – any movement or shifting of feet was done as a group of 100 people in unison.
The whole experience was a consonance of skin-crawling bass, the smell of marijuana, body odor and machine-fabricated smoke. I felt the slipperiness of others around me as they gyrated and pumped to the music and strobing lights.
A few couples in front of me alternated between a standing doggy-style dance and passionate-eyes-shut French-kissing.
If this sounds like an orgy, it pretty much was. Although I did not partake, I sensed around me: Ample doses of different drugs (alcohol, molly, cocaine, Adderall, a myriad of prescription pills), burning pot being the one I could physically perceive from its distinct pungency – a smell that even nonsmokers know instantly but find hard to describe. Event security did their best to keep the open use of marijuana under control, but given the number of people and flashing lights that was a problematic venture at best. At one point a security guy protested to a suspected toker standing behind me, but eventually conceded when she, albeit it tenuously, convinced him that she was using her lighter to find something that she’d dropped.
Rusko surveyed the crowd and interacted on many occasions, expressing his love and gratitude for everyone in the house via microphone. He exuded the attitude of a common man’s DJ, unlike some aloof EDM jockeys I’ve seen before, as he took a drag of what looked like a joint. The bass and volume was radical. I had tinnitus for at least a day and a half after. My hair stood on end from the thrumming sound system, shaking the floor and the fillings in my teeth. Sweat dripped from my forehead, moisture from the skin of those around me and water sprayed from bottles of zealous fans humidified the space we occupied.
Rusko spun several new songs. All things I hadn’t heard before. The new stuff sounded a little more busy and warped than his previous hits. During “Somebody to Love,” the lighting turned red, creating a hell-ish garden of hands raised in the air – some fists, some in symbolic horns of the devil, some just fingers pointing at Rusko’s altar – accompanied by a steady drone of distortion. The drone was buildup to a breakdown into the main chorus.
When the reverberations hit us, the theatre erupted in screams and the 100 dubstep zombies stacked alongside me in the pit trampolined in concert – unified with the beat.
I glanced back.
A girl in a low-cut rainbow dress swayed, eyes closed behind pink-templed, 80’s style sunglasses. Her dance many beats per minute less than what everyone else heard.
Time had slowed down. She cracked a sinful smile – the tint of light on her face.
Article by Mmoja Mtazamo
You have to ask yourself, after constantly trying to escape reality, whether you are still in touch with it.
This. From the Rusko show at The Ogden Theatre in Denver last night. The bass is a bit radical until 0:38…
Talking is Nothing
It doesn’t work that way. People were talking in my ear constantly.
Then I tried to kill myself.
The profound thing: a part of me died that day I’ll never get back.
I was 100% committed to dying.
I was in shock when I “awoke.” I thought I was in Heaven or Hell. I didn’t realize what was happening until the next evening and the doc explained it to me. I was so angry that I had failed.
I haven’t been the same since then…
I seriously have never felt as close to in love as I do when I listen to a suicidally-painful-melancholy love song…