Monday, May 19, 2014

Brooklyn, Boston, Baltimore - Maybe I Should Just Be a Roadie

I've been looking forward to the past 3 days ever since the tickets went on sale and in the ensuing chaos I ended up with the Holy Trinity of East Coast shows - Brooklyn, Boston & Baltimore. Those of us Afghan Whigs fans on the East Coast patiently watched as our friends out West gathered setlists and cool photos with the band and relayed every possible detail about the shows out there. We watched the Coachella livestream, read every article, and sifted through all the photos - knowing that soon enough our time would come. And come it did.

For me, it was 3 days of friends, feelings, and f*@king awesome. I brought my cousin Alyssa (currently a resident of Boston) to her first ever AW show. We got drenched waiting almost an hour for the doors to finally open there. I had more than one heartfelt conversation about the tough stuff of life with people who over the last two years have become really good friends. I devoured some delicious Jamaican food and threw back my share of beers. I drove a lot and for at least some of those hours on the road had some really good company in the car (Elissa & Andre!). I met new people. I had amazing late night red velvet chocolate chip pancakes. I danced my ass off and and lost most of my ability to hear. I finally got to hear these "Do To The Beast" songs live which I have been listening to non-stop in my car, on the running trails, and in my basement. I laughed a lot. I cried a little. And I realized just how important this band and the friends I've made through them have been to me in dealing with the loss of my husband.

With Alyssa waiting outside Paradise Rock Club in Boston 5/16/14
When the unmistakeable opening for Faded started in Brooklyn I steeled myself for what I was sure would be neverending waterworks. That was, after all, what happened during the 2012 tour anytime that song was played. I was a little taken aback when it didn't happen. Instead, I was simply filled with a sense of peace about how awesome it was to be there in that moment with so many of my friends and I was thankful for the gift Joe had given me of connecting me with them. I came to The Congo because Joe was on the listserv going back for as long as I can remember. After he died, I continued to keep up with the emails through his account and found the Facebook group that way. There are just no words to describe the awesome people I have found there and the fun we have had together starting with the Bowery Ballroom show in May 2012.

The reunion tour was an emotional one for me. Joe hadn't even been gone a year and it was my first time experiencing shows without him, but I've noticed a real change has taken place from then until now. For sure sometimes I still feel awfully lonely, but I have grown in to a peace that I'm never alone - I felt it during Faded in Brooklyn and many more times over the days that followed.

With Elissa & Melissa at Brooklyn Bowl, 5/15/14
I was too excited about seeing the Whigs to figure out what I was supposed to
be doing with my hand.
With Melissa & Amie at Brooklyn Bowl, 5/15/14
The band kept it interesting for those of us who attended all 3 shows and switched up the setlists pretty significantly between the three nights. Although Baltimore was definitely my favorite show out of the three (it is actually in a dead heat now for my favorite show ever), Brooklyn and Boston each had songs that were particularly memorable. Neglekted in Brooklyn was just plain hot and anytime I get to hear John the Baptist live I consider it a special treat. They pulled out Crime Scene, Into the Floor, and Miles Iz Ded in Boston - all of which were exciting for me to hear live again.

The biggest highlights though definitely came in Baltimore. Turn On the Water. Debonair. And of course the perfect trilogy from Black Love - Bulletproof, Summer's Kiss, & Faded. Greg did a intro to Faded from Sometimes It Snows in April that he did at the other 2 shows as well but for some reason here it was just out of this f*@king world. As was the whole show. 

With Melissa waiting in line at Ottobar in Baltimore 5/17/14
I Am Fire seemed like it would never end and I didn't want it to. Greg sang the opening verse directly in front of us and stared right at Sheila while he sang the "I could love you" line. (Thankfully, she didn't pass out from the excitement.) I have never had more fun singing along at a show than I did during F&F and Going to Town at the Baltimore show. I'm sure it wasn't true, but from where I was it felt like every single person in the crowd knew every single word and it was a high too intense for words.

The Ottobar was a perfect venue, reminding me of every great Jersey dive bar that is no longer and I was finally in the front row again for an AW show. It just felt right in every way. The band was having fun. Everyone in the crowd seemed to be giving it all they had and Greg only had to call out a rogue audience member once for taking a photo with flash. Greg made two beautiful dedications to Sam Holden and I had some of the photographs he has taken over the years floating through my mind during the show (one of my favorites). By the time the encore was over in Baltimore, I had no voice left, my ears were ringing, and I was sweating from head to toe. I was surrounded by kick ass Congo members and we were all firmly planted on Cloud 9.

Susan's setlist from the Ottobar in Baltimore, 5/17/14
Brooklyn, Boston, & Baltimore were days I will not soon forget.

While walking back to the car after the Brooklyn show two friends and I ran into Greg who was coming up the street in the other direction. It wasn't "my" moment since I've been lucky enough to meet him before and feel like I've said what I needed to say then, but something Greg said to my friend who was talking to him stuck with me.  The more I thought about it the more I realized it is the perfect summary to the past 3 days and really the past two and a half years. He said, "music is the thing that makes us feel not alone. It's what connects us all."

Three cheers for the savior of misbehavior who once again hits the nail on the head.

With Malinda & Melissa in the front row at Ottobar in Baltimore, 5/17/14
Joe has been gone for more than two years but somehow he is still there with me at the shows and in the music. I feel like I have a way that I carry him with me now that has allowed me to accept his death and also to accept that I have more living here to do. The place I feel that most clearly right now is at these shows. I think that's why I am now feeling joy and peace at these shows where before I would get hit with these waves of overwhelming sadness. He may not be standing next to me but that doesn't mean I'm alone. I feel like Joe left me The Congo for a reason. It's true that music connects us all and I'm so glad that Joe left proof of that and so many amazing people who do great things for each other. 

We never lose those we love when we find a way to weave them into who we are and the world we are building. They go on in that way and, at least in my corner of the universe, music is one of the most powerful ways we are all connected - past, present, and future.