Refused Are Not Dead25 October 2012 in Friendship, Memories, Reviews, Traveling
This blog will be referential for few in regards to specifics, but might contain a few things worth reading for all.
The band was (and now is again) Refused. They were an integral part of my youth. While they only produced a few albums, two of those albums – Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent and The Shape of Punk to Come were trail blazers for all who would follow in their footsteps—and in my humble opinion fail. These collections of songs would influence my musical senses and my political beliefs perhaps more than any other collections. They were the perfect brand of raw emotion, fiery energy and leftist politics for my teenage self.
Unlike many of the things we treasure when we’re young Refused stayed in my playlist, my mind and my heart. Unfortunately by the time I discovered their music they had already disbanded. So for over a decade I lived the experience of their music only through audible channels. The dream of seeing them long lost until this year. Completely unexpectedly, after over a decade on hiatus with never a sign of reunion they reunited. I would not have missed this experience for the world. Come hell or high water, or a 32 hour train ride and shameful list of causal expenditures I would see this band.
Thankfully I had a few friends share this unabashed love and were equally willing to sacrifice much for what the three of us saw as a worthy cause. It seems this blind and unrelenting passion escapes many as they age. Reason, or so it’s called, plays a large and often all encompassing role in our lives. Gone are the days when an hour set from one’s favorite band can disrupt and alter the cyclical course of our daily lives. There is nothing worthy of sacrifice and only our mundane commitments to the things we commonly resent are sacred. We hold the job and our responsibility to said job in high regard even in the evenings when no such regard is necessary. I once drove 12 hours round trip to see an hour long show, slept one hour and went to work the next day. We should recognize when sacrifices are in order and passions our worthy of our pursuit.
And so a 32 hour train ride brought me to Chicago to see this show. My friend Tom had driven five hours and took a 12 hour bus ride to do the same. And Derek had driven down three hours to join us. This was the crew and after gathering for drinks and a few games of pool in the early afternoon we headed to the Chicago Diner for an early dinner.
All of us being vegetarians this is one of our favorite spots to eat and I don’t believe any of us have visited the Windy City without stopping here to eat. It was great as always, but as we ate something made it even better. I happened to notice a man walk by who seemed strangely familiar. Though I had never met him, I had seen him somewhere. This triggered a subconscious reaction and I said, “I know at least the singer of Refused is vegan, wouldn’t it be funny if they walked in for dinner?” Without missing a beat Derek said, “yeah, they’re sitting right there.”
Sure as shit, there was the entire band. Sitting right next to us, looking at their menus. Now Derek hadn’t noticed this until I said something and I wasn’t sure until our whole table had confirmed. We were all so excited it was embarrassing. We were like gitty little school girls, who just spotted Justin Beiber. We were all whispering back and forth, “What should we say, we have to say something, I can’t fucking believe this!” After much debate, as the window of time before they received their food elapsed, Derek finally got the singers attention and we exchanged a few short words and handshakes. And while our minds still reeled with the other things we wished to say we left it at that and walked out high as kits.
On the way back to the hostel we picked up some more vodka and sat around sipping drinks until showtime. Then we caught a cab down to the venue. Right off the bat we ran into our friend Mel down from Madison. And after a quick exchange we entered. Grabbing two beers each on the way in.
A band was just finishing their set and we had no clue if Refused was next or not, but I was ready to drop my beers and hit the pit as soon as I received any clues. We stood towards the back as we drank knowing full well an army of security couldn’t keep us out of that pit as soon as we got the sign. And it came soon enough.
A light, slow loop of the intro to one of their songs was gaining volume and I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer. I headed down to the back of the floor and waited. Upon the first chords I was in a frenzy and bouncing in the pit. As they tore through songs I tore through people occasionally running into my comrades for a short shoulder embrace before being torn apart and continuing on our furious outlet of built up energy, part love, part anger.
They played everything I could have ever wished to hear. A favorite I was discussing all day and for months before hand with Lindsay was “Coup D’état”. This song contains a chorus that hits me straight in the heart, “I’ll have my coup d’etat, I’ll start the riot, I’ll hold the burning flag in my hand.” I thrashed, swung and screamed like a savage beast. I struggled for breath between songs and I felt like I was on fire. My body dripped with sweat and after removing my shirt I later wished I could escape my pants as well. The floor was like a furnace, fueled by the aggression of the crowd. These were truly “Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent.”
Then a song we all had hoped for. An epic ending to their last album that seemed to dramatic and orchestrated for a live performance queued up. It was all I needed and I couldn’t have asked for anything else. In fact this was above and beyond. I was hoarse after realizing everything I had screaming the chorus “so where do we go from here? Just about anywhere!” So simple yet filled with so much meaning for a perpetual nomad/revolutionary like myself. I lost myself completely in this song. Unaware of the hundreds of people around. I had no self-consciousness and little care of anything. I was in that song for those brief moments. These connections and looses of one’s self are rare, but cathartic to say the least.
If all this sounds violent, chaotic, dangerous or even machismo I must describe the beauty of some mosh pits. These spectacles vary dramatically depending on the band and crowd. I have been to metal shows where there are large contingencies bent on doing physical harm and destruction. I have also been to punk rock shows where the pit is more of a dance. This pit fell somewhere in between. The movement was certainly chaotic and boiling with aggression, but this aggression was towards the causes and enemies contained in the songs and not the individuals we came in contact with. There was also an air of celebration and camaraderie. None of us was out to harm anyone, but all of us understood the risk of stepping into such an eruption of emotion. Case and point, I saw several people fall, I myself fell twice, but as soon as someone fell and I mean within a split second, those around them stopped and formed a barrier with one arm to protect the individual and used the other arm to help them up. This was anyone and everyone the fallen could touch.
I have no doubt that every bruise and scratch I walked away with—of which there were many—contained zero malicious intent. This theory was solidified after the show. When the light came up and the motion stopped the only sound was a ringing in our ears, the only expression worn was that of pure glee. We had all just experienced a monumental night in our live and it would forever hold a corner in our hearts and minds. And then a strange thing happened, a stranger hugged me and our sweaty embrace lead to me hugging others. This soon spread and I think I hugged a half dozen strangers before exiting the theatre. I was almost in tears at this point and thankfully was joined in this swelling, slightly embarrassing mindset by Tom and Derek.
To say the least this was by far one of the most epic shows of my concert filled life. As well as one of the most epic nights. But this was the climax for it could not be topped. So I will consider it the resolution to the evening as well. There was more wandering of the streets and bars, but nothing worth mention in comparison. It would be half-hearted and pointless to continue on this blog.
But I’ll end with this, if you have dreams, passions or things that get you excited partake. If you don’t find some. Life is as beautiful and as exciting as we make it.
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