The title of this post comes from a passage in Friedrich Nietzsche’s short work Twilight of the Idols. Another of my favorites from the famed philosopher: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Music is a definitive part of my spirituality and my Higher Power. I haven’t yet figured out exactly where it fits into the grand scheme of things, but I do know that it is unquestionably one of the most important artistic mediums that speaks to me. It has been all along. I have vivid memories of dancing like a wildman with my baby sister in tow, in the carpeted living room of our small Americanized apartment in Iwakuni, Japan. My father was stationed there by the U.S. Navy as a practicing doctor (and it was also where my younger brother came into this world). My parents would play their Genesis and Yes albums on the stereo system for us, and we loved it.
My next clear memory of interaction with music came when I was in 5th grade, after my family had settled back in upstate NY. I had grown curious about the music my father played on the radio and in the house, so I saved some allowance money and walked down the street to our local Ames (a discount store chain which has since long gone out of business). I browsed the CD racks for a while, making sure my first independent purchase would count. Finally I had my options narrowed down to one of two choices: Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” or Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Doggystyle” (yes, gangsta rap was “cool” in 5th grade, when MTV was still a thing). I ultimately went with the Sabbath.
I occasionally think about how different my musical education and evolution might have been, had I opted for Tha Doggfather instead. Alas, the world will never know. From there I spent the next few years poring over all the classic rock I could get my hands on, obsessing over it. Once I reached high school, I began picking up musical influence from my peers, many of whom had older siblings that turned them on to a variety of different styles and genres (jam bands, alt-rock, etc). By the end of high school, I had discovered the magic of the Internet; specifically, online music blogs. The vast database of fresh sounds allowed me to expand my sonic horizons exponentially.
Upon reaching college, the online blogging community had introduced me to the burgeoning electronic music scene already established in Europe, which would come to take over the American mainstream airwaves in the coming years. It was through this period that I developed a profound love for house music (which my mother, failing to understand much about the genre, refers to as “well…that party music”). Example: the folder on my computer desktop where all my downloaded beats are stored is titled “Lifeblood.”
Probably one of the most popular house tracks ever released, produced by 1/2 of Daft Punk
I had always made a point of attending live concerts as often as I could, but after a few trips up to Toronto for 10,000-person dance parties, I began to see that house music in particular had an overly ‘religious’ component behind the negative connotations the word “rave” elicits. The fans gather together in a large, decadent room to ‘worship’; they ritualistically express ‘prayer’ through the communicative act of dancing; the ‘priest’ (DJ) preaches the ‘Gospel’ (music); and all connect together as one on a higher plane of existence.
This post has become somewhat longer than I had intended, but it is near-impossible for me to speak concisely when it comes to the topic of music. I have now arrived at the point I wished to make: tonight, I had just such an opportunity to attend a performance of one of my all-time favorite live bands, and to bond over the experience with two of my closest friends to boot.
Umphrey’s McGee fan slogan: Rage, Rest, Repeat.
I ultimately chose not to go. When I initially learned of this very realistic prospect I was overcome with excitement; few things in this world have remained as constant as my close friends and my esteemed music, and here was an opportunity to enjoy both, having gone without for the past 10 weeks. Over the past 10 days or so, an internal conflict raged back and forth in my mind: participating in this valued ritual was extremely important for my personal/spiritual gratification, but to chose to do so would cause my family great concern and unrest.
They of course had every reason to feel that way, given my track record in those situations. I’ve been kicked out of and refused admittance to more shows than I care to admit. But that’s exactly it, isn’t it? I could not safely or prudently handle myself then. I am very fresh to sobriety now. It would be assuming an ultimate risk, to place myself in that spot again. So, this was one of those moments they had told me about in rehab. One of those moments that would require self-sacrifice, because trust is not regained at the drop of a hat. The concept of “Principle Before Personality” was brought up in tonight’s meeting; the relevance was not lost on me. I am growing; I am staying sober, one day at a time.
“I’m cleaning out my display case /
and self-reformed more than half way /
Excluding all the specifics /
reacting is too scientific /
But the more you breathe open-minded air /
you’ll be reminded of why you’re here.”
Umphrey’s McGee – Bridgeless
Fun fact: the friends I would have gone with tonight were actually AT this performance, during the band’s Chicago NYE run of 2010.
So in place of going to the show tonight, I get to reward myself with the Season 4 premiere of my favorite animated series, “Archer.” Better call Kenny Loggins, ’cause you’re in the…