Darth Vader in the elevator

My Mercury Rev-inspired Seattle rant

Mercury Rev played at at the Showbox last night.  I've been a fan for a few years and it was the first time I saw them live.  Sofia was tired and didn't feel like going, but a friend agreed to meet me there.  The Helio Sequence opened and they were quite good (much improved over the 2002 show I saw at Bumbershoot).

My friend flaked.  I waited until the Helio Sequence stopped playing to call him.  "Oh shit," he answered in an either drugged-out or sleepy tone.  "I fell asleep," he said.

I shouted back in a kind of slurred voice (I had already drunk two Bushmills on the rocks).  "I know you need the sleep.  I understand."

When Mercury Rev finally came on stage...it was something like observing a sunrise.  These guys are professionals and entertainers.  With a large movie screen at the back of a clean and uncluttered stage, they put together an original audio / visual experience.  Mixing images with quotes from the likes Schopenhauer, Einstein, and Henry Miller, everything played well together and I was filled with happiness and inspiration. 

And as the images and quotes flashed on the screen, something else was flashing through my mind.  Why was nobody there?  These days, the work demands of both the well-off and the not-so-well-off make it so that a Tuesday night event, even a great one, often goes practically unattended.  To get by, many have to work two jobs.  To get ahead seems to require the whole of a person's energy, mind, and soul.

But still, I have a lot going on, to say the least, and yet I was there.  It isn't just that show.  Why do bands that fill stadiums around the world play in tiny clubs in Seattle?  Take Placebo, Franz Ferdinand, Air, there are so many others.  And why does most Seattle music suck these days?  Why does everything inspired come from far away?  A perfect illustration of this problem is The Stranger's review of Mercury Rev, calling them "overrated darlings of slick UK mags."  Actually, maybe the slick mags that have it right.  And why do so few smile in the presence of such beauty?  Why do so few people move or at least bob their heads? 

In Seattle, thou shall not move or be moved.

Forget music.  Seattle is better at tearing people down than building them up.  Seattle is good at stripping away the bullshit, but when the bullshit has been stripped nothing is offered in return...and so you are left intellectually and emotionally bare.  Nature has designed us to be fueled by ideas, dreams, art, love, and emotion.  And in Seattle, all of that is suspect.  While Midwestern teenagers suffer from misplaced anger, Seattlites suffer from misplaced skepticism.  Not everything is bullshit. 

To go through life afraid that everything you do, everything you say, might be considered by someone to be bullshit is no way to go through life.  In that sense, I don't like what Seattle has done to me, and I hope the damage is reversed after I leave.