Friday, April 17, 2009

Screaming Dry

There is nothing more enjoyable than feeling my voice fail me. That feeling of grinding, throaty, guttural excellence-- that sound of exhaustion beyond simple over-exercise and bordering on the self-destructive-- that is what I live for. It's why I like going to concerts. I would have a brilliant but short-lived life as a musician. One can only hope that I'd burn brighter than the flame of Prometheus himself. I want to do something worth getting my liver eaten out by a large, ornery bird every day for the rest of eternity.

Ah, Raist. How well I knew ye.

The sound of screaming you hear at concerts is amazing. It's pure adrenaline, and perhaps one of the best highs you can get. It's the mass of people around you, the heartbeat of music and unity and crazed idiotic fury. You feel it in your chest (most likely because, unless you're one of those shoegaze bastards, you're screaming too) and you hear it later and you pay for it. That's what I like most about it. It's not substance abuse, it's not the thrill of danger. It's not dishonest. It's just the pure, primal kind of fun you can find usually only in forgotten jungle dens and rugby matches.

In an abandoned barn out in typical Bumfuck Egypt territory, where the band had just set up after fighting over what to name themselves a few minutes before the gig itself, I found myself amongst a seething crowd of voices. For some reason, I knew we'd all heard the bands songs. Turns out, I was right. We knew 'em by heart, maybe because they had lyrics that existed on some level in us all... or maybe because each one of us had been listening to them on repeat for months ever since the concert had been announced.

I use the term 'We', even though I knew next to no-one at the concert, because that's what it is to be one of the audience.

When the frontman came out (a position which seemed to change in this band dependent on who had the cockiest swagger and most rakish grin at the moment) and announced that they had decided on a name, we all screamed our throats raw just to see him there. It didn't matter that the sounds of instruments at the time were just tuning up-- to us, it was the sound of the most beautiful, amazing chords we had heard until that very moment.

The first real notes of the concert rang in the air like shooting stars in a meteor shower. We all began to sing along, some of us actually following the lyrics and others just screaming out nonsense sounds. It was like we had been given voices just for this moment, to scream out every single syllable of these songs. The thing of this whole experience was that the quality of the actual music... I can't even remember it. It was the kind of music where the actual songs didn't matter. It was screaming music. It was sore-voice, dry-mouth, aching-limbs, writhing-crowd music. It was hardly music at all. It was the very definition of music, to me.

There was this lull in the sound-wall around me; I felt like a wave of pure living force was crashing in on me... and then the current swaggiest band member came forward and took up the main mic. It was the lead singer, or so it seemed (another aspect of this band, which by now seemed to work as a meritocracy: the lead singer was whoever was singing like the loudest motherfucker there) and, probably due to his hazardous occupation, had quite a craggy voice.

"How are you guys doin'?" He asked, to a chorus of cheers, catcalls, and applause.

"Thank you. Well, I should be straight with you about something; I am sick." He said, to a chorus of cooing and 'aww's.

"My doctor would have had me cancel the show!" He said, to a chorus of hisses and boos.

"I know, and you're really supposed to, when you're a singer, not go up to a show and sing sick." He said.

"We love you!" An adventurous young audience member yelled.

"And I love you too, that's why I'm here. Even though, your voice doctors when you're a musician, they will ride you about it. Y'know, about how you'll ruin your voice for the rest of your life..."

"They're lying!" Replied the adventurous young audience member.

"No, they're not lying." He said. "I've talked to the some singers at the doctor's office who... y'know, fucked up? They're not there to fix their voice... they're there to stop the daily pain."

He let this hang in the air for a bit.

"So, I decided, since you can probably hear that there's not a lot of voice left... We could try an experiment... I need an honest show of hands."

Some dick up in front raised up two hands for seemingly no reason. The singer looked at him sidelong.

"No, see, no. That's a dishonest show of hands. But..." He winked at the crowd. "I used to like guys like that in class. Anyway, so. How many of you know our third song on the set list by heart?"

A sonic wall blasted the stage.

"So, I need volunteers then. How many of you know all the lyrics?" He asked.

Once again, sonic blast.

"Alright, how many of you just know the chorus?"


"So, it's all or nothing, then?"


"Alright, I wanna do it, I don't give a shit. I'll cue you guys with the first line, and you guys jump in..."

And with that, he began to play.

And then he stopped, cocking his head up towards a shaft of moonlight (which was streaming in through the roof of the barn) for a moment in thought.

"Especially you guys who were yelling that you knew the lyrics. If I don't see you guys out there singing like motherfuckers, I will drag my sick ass out there... and beat ass."

And he returned to playing.

And we sang.

It was perfect.

I woke up later sunken into a couch, situated nicely across from the pitchblack of the glass doorway to the livingroom of my friend's rich stepdad's house. Headphones were whispering to me in the dead of that twilight, replaying the concert in studio-quality. I felt myself sink back into that couch, but, as I drifted off, all my mind could concentrate on was the pure numbness of my throat. This revelation was like the elation of realizing you don't have to go to school tomorrow as a kid; I felt the relief of being able to wallow in the perceived sickness caused by strep throat and a momentary fever.

Finally, I re-awoke, sore and exhausted, to the careful creeping of the sun on my face. This time, my throat was not merely numb. I discovered, upon attempting to communicate to my friend the need for immediate caffeine-based substance-abuse, that I could not even whisper. I resigned myself to guttural noises and vulgar gestures, which seemed to be more efficient anyway. In fact, I think I made more friends that way than I have in all my time of verbal communication. It's hard not to become buddy-buddy with someone that you are trying to impromptu-charades into following your requests; it's similarly easy to become enemies through the same venue.

(I think I will shock the whole fucking world with the following statement.)

I digress...

Screaming until your throat is dry and red and raw is something that touches the core human in all of us. It is built into our bodies to release the exact chemicals to make us get excited over pretty much anything we're doing at the time. It has been proven in medical studies to be extremely effective in relieving stress.

It's the spicy food of communication. It's the feeling of pain coming from one testing their own limits in a natural, peaceful, but still thrilling way. It's the natural extension of the whole 'tantrum' thing that children usually do, which puts a whole new perspective on tantrums in general.

Are they mini-raves? That might have a connection to the whole 'pacifier' thing that ravers seem to enjoy having as apparel. Perhaps I shall do research into this.

In the end, pretty much everyone wishes that they could just unleash their own pent-up nervous energy once and while; they wish they could just be idioticly, intensely, and undeniably alive. Letting your voice fail you at the end of one drawn-out death-rattle of a scream essentially speaks honestly and fairly to the primal aspect of life, and that is something rare and magnificent for this day and age.

It's important to realize we're still human, even if we're transhumanist.

It's important to let yourself scream.

It's also fun as hell.

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