It was Christmas, 1974 in Seattle. At 10am the sun came up and at 3pm presumably the sun went down. You have to assume. Everything was gray. The sea, the sky, the faces.
I had a room-mate that was always at his girlfriends place and had a bitchin’ stereo. Nesting, the early years.
I was in a form of shock I suppose. Life had gone from structured to an existential vacuum without any transition whatsoever. It was as if a smart-bomb had blown up very specific parts of my world.
For the past two years I lived on the street, the road. Out there, moral absolutes come and go like people-weather. Who I was and became flowed from a river of fear and powerless delusion. Without direction, fear only increased. I had never thought about how scared I was because I had been that way since I could remember. Wordless images of body-language and facial expressions, tone…authenticity, and the clear blue mountain lake source of the river of fear. Cold, glacier-fed water spilling and falling to cut through stone, carving holy places along its free-fall-rush home to the sea.
I saw that, heard it, felt it in the air made heavy with strange rage and grimace-smiles and loving eyes of the terrified, reluctant adults that were my parents. How was I to understand the traumatized hearts and shattered dreams in the faces leaning over me?
I have always known. Always. Knowing marks the trail at every fork. The ability to scan with a psychological-ultra sound imager is a blessing/curse bitch-Goddess, brah.
Knowledge felt is sometimes better left than understood.
This story is about one of those moments when I dropped all that reflexive defensive armor and Dickensian-street urchin shit and felt that I belonged right where I was…a God-smack, if you will.
I went to a Leon Russell concert at the Seattle Center Coliseum. Russell was riding his recent successful album-wave and I expected to hear that. The concert as a spontaneous experience was rapidly fading into a business-corporate-falseness and mass-spectacle and I just wanted three. fucking. chords. No ballads, no long monologues. Young men, emotionally stunted and damaged playing 8-to-the bar locomotive-power chord audio testosterone. I LOVE THAT SHIT.
That isn’t what Leon was about. He wasn’t even the headliner…it was Bob Dylan. So what the hell? OBViously I had a motive and yes, it was connected to a date. I’d never go to a Dylan concert in a stadium for crissake. Get away from me with that shit.
But toss in a long-haired brunette with blue eyes?
I actually saw Billy Fucking Joel once for the same reason. AND Wagner’s Ring. In German. I’ll save you the sturm and drang of it: a multi-night production of Teutonic master-race theme music and at the very end, A FAT LADY SINGS. I’m saving you some time, brah. Cut straight to Der Valkyrie and be done, eh lads? But noooooo. Brunette. Blue eyes. The Shit I will do for jaded love.
There were about 30,000 people there and most of them were expecting The Bob Experience. A mellow crowd and pot filled the blued-air, no shouting or quaalude fueled crowd surfers like a Tubes show. Murmurers.
Onstage were two of everything. Platforms like a choir would use were symmetrically placed between two grand pianos on opposite sides of the stage, poised like two World War One battleships with intent to engage. A very large show of hardware. Two drummers, 5 guitars and microphones everywhere…the lights went down and shadows moved onto the stage for what seemed like 10 minutes.
Not a sound from the stage. No tuning…no “testtapptapTEST.”
In an explosion of light and sound the band and choir launched like a two-chord rocket. A huge black man in a pristine white suit pounded the keys of the piano on the left like that motherfucker owed him money. He was clearly in charge like a preacher. Which is exactly what he was…this was a full on gospel choir. Not some Hollywooddized version, no sir. This was the real shit. The guitars were screaming, the choir was swaying and moaning and it just built and built and built until it stopped for 1.5 seconds and the light came on over the second piano. Leon joined in and the power of Love for this fundamental root-source of rock and roll ran through my body like electricity.
A few months later he released Leon Live. Now admittedly, Leon Russell is no great singer. His Howard-Dean screaming is distracting at times in the recording.
I don’t give a shit. There in my living room with the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree and my friends, that music just pushed a button in me I can’t really speak about very well. My dude-filter kicks in.
So…December 2015. At year’s end it’s traditional to reflect and raise a glass in memory and inspiration. I sit in a room lit by a three foot tree I rescued from oblivion, a fireplace video on the big-screen and I’m listening to Leon Live a little too loud, a little too late at night and I remember a man-child finding comfort in truth and light and Christmas.
I Love that kid.
Here’s to then and now, and may everyone find comfort in who they really are and forget completely about who they never will be.
I thank Leon Russell for inspiring me to quit worrying about trying to figure everything out like some goddam code. Just do what the music tells you to do.
Fuck art. Just dance.