Awake in a new light
I'm alone in this room
Heavy at heart, it may be a lie
You will not see me
While I have been guilty of melodrama at times like this, from the first chord this night felt different. Early on I leaned over to Jordy and described the atmosphere as fatalistic, as if both the audience and performers knew this was an end point. With that in mind, there was nothing left to do but to say our farewells by going about our business as best we could.
I usually only dabble in mosh pits and circles, but on this night I went as hard as I could for as long as I could. This rock thing, this live music thing that we do, is about catharsis: all that we ask of our lives is to give us something to feel, and what could be more cathartic than bouncing off a bunch of madly flailing strangers? It might be chaotic or painful, but it is the most comprehensible kind of chaos and pain we will experience.
This was where I saw Refused play on two consecutive nights and then disappear into the ether, never to take to a stage again. This was the intimate theatre that Fall Out Boy tore down right in front of my disbelieving eyes. This is where the crowd waited until Coheed and Cambria returned to the stage for an encore by continuing to sing the gang vocals of 'In Keeping Secrets' for what felt like five additional minutes. On so many occasions I hobbled out onto Bourke Street and skipped across the road into 7-11, wiping sweat off my brow and putting my earplugs back into their case.
I saw people on the floor who seemed more distraught than I, people who had more intimate histories with this particular venue. At ground level this curious fatalism manifested itself in a strengthened sense of camaraderie amongst the moshing punters. There was a collective understanding that we were mourning and would do our best to carry each other through and do this night justice. I witnessed, issued and received more high-fives, back-slaps and single arm hugs than at any gig in my recent memory.
I suppose I was angry, but I understand how it goes. Capitalism is utterly disinterested in culture. It accommodates and tolerates it as long as it serves a financial purpose but is not in any way sentimental. In this model, value that cannot be measured in this way does not exist. And I don't even blame the owners for their decision, either; you can't blame someone for not taking into account your personal feelings, feelings that they definitely don't share and probably cannot understand.
So all that I was left with was a sense of loss and a dull ache in my stomach. And what I realised, at the risk of offending some, is that for me the live music experience is how I assume devout people must feel amongst their congregation in their church of choice. I sing loudly, raise my arms high in the air and surrender myself to these moments and these songs. You could go so far as to describe it as pentecostal. On more than one occasion towards the end of the set I looked up at the magnificent architecture of the building in admiration and awe, like I had done so many times before. I'll probably never have the opportunity to do that again.
As difficult as it was to come to terms with at the time, it occurred to me that these very real feelings that I was having were likely misplaced. We might have lost a branch, but what is most important is that the tree stays healthy. This culture will outlive these buildings and it will outlive us, its subjects. It survives not in any specific place but in all of our hearts, minds and spirits. It is important because together we agree that it is important. We tell its history because we're the ones who wrote it. We do it because it is what we do and that's more than reason enough. We fucking love live music so much we'd go to basements, barns or warehouses to watch and to play. May it long continue, wherever it is able to.