Act I, Scene I. A crossroads.
[Enter COMBATANT #1.]
COMBATANT #1: I hope that I do not meet my sworn nemesis here, at the crossroads.
[Enter COMBATANT #2.]
COMBATANT #2: It is you, my sworn nemesis!
COMBATANT #1: You have gotten the best of me. [Dies.]
[Exit COMBATANT #2.]
I handed her a scrap of paper with a line from Shakespeare on it written in script. The letters said, It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I asked her, "What does that say?"
She read it to me. I shook my head and took it back. "It doesn't say anything," I said. "It's just lines on paper. I'm not saying anything. Just making shapes with my tongue. It's just words."
"You are saying something. You're talking to me."
"When I was a kid, I remember seeing cursive writing and thinking that it was just a lot of curvy lines strung together. They were shapeless to me. Just lumps. Somehow those lumps spelled out words and sentences and phrases. Then I learned to write it and it all made sense. I don't see it like that anymore." I crumpled the piece of paper and tossed it aside, then stared at the ground in front of me. "But that's all it is, isn't it?"
She nodded. "I get it. It's just curvy lines strung together. But when you learn to read you learn to give it meaning. Now we can talk, and share all that. It's all contrived and artificial. Without us, that's no more than curvy lines."
"Doesn't that bother you?"
"Not really." A dreamy look entered her eye. "That's humanity, isn't it? Making things up, giving them meaning. I like it more that way. It's like writing you a letter, or talking to you, or whatever, is the most human thing I can do. I think it's words that make us human."
"But they don't mean anything."
"That's right. Until you learn how to make them mean something."
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing--except to the storyteller and his audience. To them it signifies everything.
"Looks like we both got stood up, heh?" Her hand was awkwardly and half heartedly gesturing towards the menu and empty chair tucked under the table across from me. She was cocking her hip, shifting her weight as if saying "want me to sit here?" In fact that's what the expression on her face said too. But her symbolic motion became the effigy of one when it became clear I wasn't going to ask her to sit.
"It was that way when I sat down." Her half smile faded and she looked confused, I had broken the social script.
"Sorry," said she. I said nothing. She got the idea and walked away.
The ice in my guest-not-to-be's glass had already melted. A lopsided ring of condensation circled the glass. I *had* been stood up, but be-damned if I was going to let her sit down. She was a real tusker.
Last October I attended what I still consider the finest concert I have ever attended: Harvey Danger at The Vera Project in Seattle. I was unable to make any other of the shows in that tour, which was somewhat on the brief side. I remained content, but I watched Harvey Danger for any possible updates on future touring dates. For a time nothing happened. A new show recently appeared, however. It was in Auburn, at DeVry University: 107.7 'The End' presents 'The Young And The Restless,' featuring Harvey Danger, Speaker Speaker, and Mountain Con. It promised to be all ages, and, I eventually learned, it would cost one dollar at the door.
I knew that my roommates would wish to attend, and informed them of any potential updates--the last one we'd planned on going to sort of fell through due to a lack of interest. I also informed my sister of the forthcoming concert, and she expressed interest. My compact car was somewhat lacking in further room, and I was concerned I had already overfilled it, so I didn't ask any other interested parties if they would be interested in attending. As it turned out, the space arrangement we had was just maxed out.
Upon arrival in Auburn, we had no difficulty finding the concert venue. Somewhat to my surprise, we found it to be an outdoor concert. It looked very much like a music festival that was significantly toned down--a few tents, a small stage, and the venue was a small portion of parking lot. We did not enter immediately, however. Doors were at 3 and we were about half an hour early, and two of our party needed money from an ATM. So we boarded my compact again and drove to find one--in this case, it was at the Wal-Mart near the Supermall. This was probably too much driving and frustration, but no trip seems to be complete without a little driving and getting lost. Ultimately we received the necessary funds and returned without a hitch, parked, and wandered up to the entrance.
As I said, it was a one dollar entrance fee. The concert was a fundraiser for the Make A Wish Foundation, and I hope a successful one. I gave my fee and walked into the little parking lot. The tents were giving away free vitamin water and chips with some form of cheese salsa, and there were a few contests et cetera that avoided my notice. After receiving polaroids from a lady with a camera, we sat down in the grass by the parking lot and watched the people.
At a Harvey Danger concert, one does not get floods of any form of scene kid. But one does get a fairly eclectic mixture of individuals. There was a girl dressed in pirate regalia, and a few people in light emo garb. I only noticed a few sets of emo glasses, and the majority of the crowd wore jeans (often with keys hanging from them) and a t-shirt, but there were some who wore them in the emo fashion. We watched the people and commented on the very laid back nature.
Sean Nelson himself was walking through the crowd prior to the show. Nobody seemed to run up to him and demand autographs. It was very low key and he stopped and chatted with some of the individual there. Eventually, one of our party decided that he wanted to get the photograph of our party signed. So he walked up, introduced himself, and had a brief conversation, and returned bearing a signed polaroid. The caption read: 'This doesn't look like me,' and bore a vaguely legible signature and the letters 'HD' (for Harvey Danger, naturally). We enjoyed a good chuckle and continued to sit idly.
Fortunately, before and between bands there was radio playing, so we had music to listen to while there was not music to listen to. But at last, Speaker Speaker came on. Their sound quality, as is typical of opening acts, was not very good, but I felt a good vibe of good frivolous listening music. At their act's conclusion I purchased a CD and a button, and received a free poster signed by two thirds of the band.
What struck me about this show at this point was the atmosphere. It was warm and sunny out. We sat and listened in the grass off to the side, and there were no more than fifty people present. Nobody was utterly entranced by the music. Instead they were sitting aside and idly listening, enjoying the weather, et cetera. It was not so much that people didn't care, as that things were very relaxed.
Speaker Speaker concluded, and the next act came on, Mountain Con. I don't have much to say about their music; they seemed out of place. I won't say that they were bad music; it was at times funky, at times bordering on hip hop, and ultimately simply not my style. It had a catchy beat and was not bad for idle listening music, but I didn't purchase any of their merchandise and I doubt I would go to see them in concert if given the opportunity.
At this point the clouds were beginning to roll in and we were concerned that there would be rain. The temperature oscillated from warm to cool. Harvey Danger's imminent performance quite literally had dark clouds on the horizon, and we were concerned that it might start raining.
Fortunately, it did not, and at last Harvey Danger took the stage. The MC invited everyone to come closer, and as we approached, the band already beginning the opening song, Sean Nelson took the microphone and asked how much we paid to get in here."One dollar" was the ragged cry of roughly half of the fifty or so voices present. People held up their index fingers to indicate the number. At this point he promised that they would give us two dollars of entertainment. Such a bargain! I informed my sister that Harvey Danger was getting ripped off.
I don't have a set list for this evening, but if and when I find one I shall link it immediately. I shall instead touch on the highlights. The second song, I had not heard before. It was mostly piano. It was a pleasant surprise, but I am uncertain of its title or lyrics--I shall hunt it down if possible. Later on in the evening, the band played 'Little Round Mirrors', a truly brilliant song, and preceeded the second verse with the famous Guns 'n Roses chorus: 'take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty'. A nice touch. At the end of the song 'This Is The Thrilling Conversation You've Been Waiting For', he read a passage from something--I couldn't quite catch most of the words, but it was interesting, and I will attempt to find a text and information if possible.
The rest of the set list was, as always, brilliant. Sean appeared as if he might have been contracting some form of illness, however. He was not entirely on top of things, and mostly failed when trying to sing falsetto--he complained of a sore throat and asked for lozenges at one point. His occasional errors were easily overlooked, however--not a perfect show, but far from a disaster. Though his throat may have hurt it did not affect his singing enough for it to be noticeable.
Possibly in order to save his voice, he did not speak much between songs. Instead, he played clips from other concerts of other musicians attempting to rile up the crowd. It was quite amusing, though the Sean Nelson witticisms of the Vera Project show were sadly lacking, for the most part. (There were a few moments, but in the interests of brevity I shall omit them.)
The show concluded with 'Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo'. No encores; the stage was tiny and outdoors, and I think he was in something of a rush to depart. At this point we walked over to the merchandise table and purchased our various swag. I acquired a T-shirt and a poster, for myself, and stood around for a while, expecting that Sean would stop by to sign autographs. The crowd was small enough that it wouldn't be much of a problem. I was carrying on me a Lipton's tea bag (unopened), and thought it would be amusing to have him sign it. When he arrived, I walked over and waited through the brief line. He signed my poster, and when he was done, I said, with a wry smile, "Would you mind signing this teabag as a quaint souvenir?"
He looked at me sort of strangely and said, "Sure." He looked for a likely spot and signed it, then handed it back. As we walked away, I showed my curious autograph to the party: the text "ah, tea," and Sean Nelson's signature. I think he'll remember that.