Thomm Quackenbush, author

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09.01.07 10:36 p.m.

To see God everywhere you have to have special eyes, otherwise you cannot bear the shock.  

- Neem Karoli Baba

 


Estatic Fanatic

It is only three in the afternoon, but Emily insists that I drop her in front of Dutchess Stadium for the Counting Crows concert at six. I do so with a severely cocked eyebrow and granted confirmation that I think she is insane.

"It'll fill up quickly!" she protests.

"There is one car and a family tailgating, M."

"You don't know Crows like I do." This is true, much as I imagine Jane Goodall could brag about her knowledge of simians. Emily is active on the official Counting Crows message board, where the hardcore fans refer to themselves as Crows in the same vein that Grateful Dead adherents are Deadheads. It persists in being one of the few eccentricities Emily has developed that I do not pretend to understand. Prior to meeting me (or, rather, prior to my using the whole text of the County Crows song "Anna Begins" as the quote for the entry when I met her), Emily had no particular interest in the band. In the six years since, she has blossomed into a lustful fandom that far overshadows my comparatively chaste crush on Jill Sobule.
Adam Duritz  
You don't know Adam like I do.

After visiting my parents, having a quick bite to eat, filling up a jug with ice water, and purloining a pair of lawn chairs, I return to Emily. True to form and expectations, she is sitting with strangers outside of the gates that will not open for another hour and a half. I stand by my usage of the word "strangers", though Emily technically knows them. However, given that this constitutes their very first meeting in person and that they kept refreshing one another as to their screen names, I can't exactly see them as anything more substantial.

I unfold the lawn chairs and offer Emily the ice water, then observe mutely as the Crows reveal their war stories. Despite Counting Crows' most recent publicly acknowledged accomplishment being a song on the Shrek soundtrack, some of the gathered would be seeing the band for the eighty-third time tonight and devote their every free day and dollar to pursuing the band across the world. At my most avid concert going, I think I saw the band Sponge three times in the course of two years. Kurt Cobain could rise from the grave, bringing from the Afterlife twenty-five year old incarnations of Audrey Hepburn and Sylvia Plath clad only in gossamer silk as back-up and I think I could only extend my interest for five shows a year. I respect the body of work Counting Crows has created, along with their longevity on the musical scene, but I cannot begin to fathom the logic of the woman who arrived to the venue at 9:30 in the morning believing there would somehow be a crowd. Emily thinks that people commit so much of their lives in the hope that they will become familiar faces in the front row, albeit slavering and desperate, and the band will make them de facto friends. Eventually, after they bear each of the band members a squealing bastard, they may even come to be on a first name basis with Counting Crows. I do not know that bands do such things, but I know well enough that people might believe they do.
Collective Soul  
He totally sold my brother a guitar case. And pot.

As seems to be necessary in a new grouping of such fanatics, they soon comes the need to establish a pecking order, demonstrating who is the alpha and who the omega. I am far beneath the omega and they do not bother with me when they begin their trivia. They start out subtle, mentioning details of Adam Duritz's life as though he were a mutual friend. Who is he dating? What has he been doing while on the road? Did you see how much weigh he lost? Did you know it was mostly though boxing? It is an odd version of stalking, one costing a $50 admission fee to see the object of obsession. Though Adam Duritz openly chastises his fans, his lifestyle is built on their eager backs.

What especially amuses me, though I bite my lip to keep from pointing this out, is when the hardcore Crows loudly deride one of their ranks who splits her devotion between Counting Crows and Hanson. She works every spare moment as a legal secretary to afford plane fare and concert tickets. While I am hardly condoning even mild interest in twee boy bands, I feel uneasy at the lack of self-aware laughter, the sort I imagine heroin addicts have when speaking of cokeheads. Then again, I was unaware Hanson still existed outside of bar mitzvahs and 4H mixers.

I should not speak ill of the musical tastes of others, since I am largely ignorant of modern bands. If they didn't stop by The Chance or have a song I liked prior to 2000, there is little chance I've heard of them. This concert features Collective Soul, Live, and the headlining Counting Crows. The Crows, finally exhibiting the flare of self-awareness I hoped for, referred to this as the "1995 Was a Good Year for Music" tour.
Live  
Have you accepted Ed as your personal rock star and savior?

After we wait for an hour, the guards let the fan club members in. For a premium, thirty people were allowed in a half an hour early to a venue that would not feature musicians for another hour and a half. However, the guards take this early admittance utterly literally, turning away people with fan club tickets if they arrived after the five-minute allotted window and damning them to general admission.

Emily and I enter with the Crows, who immediately note Adam Duritz's bopping dreadlocks as he boxes behind the stage fifty feet away, through stage rigging and black plastic sheeting apparently meant to give the illusion the stage floats on a giant Hefty bag. Emily and one of the Crows, Laurel, dispatch me with my camera to take no fewer than five hundred rapid exposure pictures of the singer exercising. He does indeed look svelte and I do indeed feel a bit pathetic clicking away.

Collective Soul appears on stage first and, despite the fact that the lead singer reminds me of the retired owner of a guitar shop, they start energetically and do not let up for a moment. By the end of the set, the entire audience is singing every word to their songs along with them, songs we had no doubt forgotten we knew but found ourselves loving nevertheless. Collective Soul apparently put out a dozen songs that infused our brains but that we didn't remotely associate with the band. Emily and Laurel are especially energetic when it comes to the guitarist, who is attractive if you happen to like scruffy, buff musicians with eyes you could get lost in.
Adam Duritz  
HOLY CRAP! I didn't know he could fly! GET IN THE CAR!

Live is energetic in their own way, but it has nothing to do with the audience. We more or less watch them and chant, as though Ed Kowalczyk, the lead signer, led some folk revival after having found Jesus through a bout of cancer. His perennial baldness only increases this perception of post chemo conversion, though it simply that Kowalczyk is a deeply spiritual person and goes out of his way to interject Pan-Asian spirituality into his lyrics and demeanor. By the time Live exits the stage, the crowd is less energetic than simply antsy.

Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows comes out and I feel surprised to see just how unusual he looks. My image of him comes from the video for Mr. Jones, a fact that will make Emily shudder given that she (like any self respecting Crow) considers that one of the most overplayed hymns to ever fall from the lips of their esteemed prophet a decade ago. He still has his trademark dreadlocks, though it has been years since they have been natural. He attaches them by the same mysterious process that gives women weaves, though the gathered Crows all admit confusion as to what his dreads can be attached since his natural hairline has receded to an insular tonsure and what hair grows from his head it reputed to be short. According to Emily, who has had conversations with him on the Counting Crows message board and may therefore be considered far more of an expert than I am, he wears them because they make him happy. I frankly applaud the hell out of that, of sticking to a hairstyle as a symbol of happiness when the hairstyle has long abandoned you. My curiosity was not in the why, but the wherefore. My close vantage point suggested that the dreadlocks must be adhered through spirit gum and sheer force of will, as smooth skin should not be so successful at keeping them in place. As he dances and jumps - which he does often, for effect and punctuation - they flop about his head like the yarn on a rag doll's head, an analogy I doubt I am the first to make.
Adam Duritz  
Is he still looking at me? I think he heard me.

Emily talks about wanting to shag Adam, though she acknowledges that he is a bit of a bastard who has said of his fans that "some of [them] are... incredibly unpleasant people" and other such disparaging remarks about the people who are not blessed enough to also be Adam Duritz. She even acknowledges that he isn't necessarily attractive, but there is something charismatic enough about him that she would turn backstage groupie for a man who publicly laments his loneliness despite restricting his dating pool to models nearly half his age. These lascivious thoughts of Emily's surprise me, though I understand that she belongs to groups well despite the fact that she is such a fiercely independent person that she made her own major as an undergrad and pushed the College of New Jersey until they acknowledged and incorporated her wishes. She was a RentHead back when that meant something, so involved in that subculture that the stage directions for the musical had to be rewritten to exclude dropping a key into the crowd - Emily and her friends each had a necklace of many prop keys, none of which they would return to the prop master. It is the frenzy of the crowd, the mass delusion that can turn an arrogant musician in the waning spotlight into a minor deity and may convince even himself of his divinity.

I feel ill-equipped to judge the Counting Crows' performance this night. They were as good as expected, Adam dancing and jumping around the stage in a way that made for excellent pictures and partially revived the energy I felt during Collective Soul. I enjoyed them, less the backache that developed into the second hour of their set, but my passion could not touch that of the Crows surrounding me. Their fervor made me feel at best like a recent convert to their religion, though I had listened to "Mr. Jones" (the blaspheme) on the bus on my way to grade school. It is nevertheless an awe-inspiring sensation to be among this devout sect at their outdoor church that would hold minor league Saints and Angels any other night. We are so close to the Crows' messiah that I mistake the drizzle for his sweat for a second. To be in this moment at this concert and be there fully feels difficult but necessary. As with everything worth experiencing, remaining attached must come consciously and with effort. This will be a memory worth holding close to the chest, one of the few concerts I make it to in my advanced age of twenty-six.

Soon in Xenology: Stability and progress.

last watched: The Simpsons Movie
reading: Reality Is What You Can Get Away With
listening: Avenue Q

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Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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