It is Friday night. The weather is starting to turn cold. In a few weeks it will be too cold to be outside without layers and layers of clothing. But tonight it feels nice. You can hear it, down the street. A block away, on the left. It is a run down old building with crumbling walls. Above the door hangs a sign that reads "The Pit" or "The Hole" or "Sledge haven" or "Rat Trap" or any other of the dozens of colorful names this particular establishment has had under any of the other dozens of people who have owned and managed it. The name does not matter, This place is an institution. No sign could ever change what it stands for.
You pull open the door. Maybe its made of plywood. Or maybe metal. It might creak, depending on the average humidity in your particular home town. But regardless of the door, there will be a door man waiting. Big, tattooed and friendly. He smiles at you, calls you brother and claps your back, or if you are of the female persuasion, calls you honey, gives you a hug and a wink. He doesnt need to see your ID and wont accept your money for cover. You've been here a million times. He's watched you grow up from a teen-aged hoodlum, looking for anything to piss your mom off into the aged, venerable scenester you are today. Maybe he was there to break it up when you were getting your ass kicked by that guy from out of state. Or maybe he consoled you when the drummer for Heinous Lilly-Peckers dumped you. Or maybe he was the only one cheering for you when your first, and last band got booed off the stage while opening for Wild Child. This guy is your friend. He stamps your hand and tells you to try and stay out of trouble. Drop a buck in his jar and step in.
Inside the air is warm and so smoked up its hard to see across the room. It takes some time to get used to the darkness. The wall by the door is covered by three inches of tattered and faded flyers. Nobody really reads them, except the bands who hang them. But hanging them is just something that is expected. Making and hanging the flyers gives the girlfriends and boyfriends and friends of the band members something to do. It lets them contribute in some way. Everyone knows they dont serve a purpose, but its tradition. This is how it works. A girl runs up to you and hands you a square of red paper. She is enthusiastic and swears "They are the best band you'll ever hear!". Damn, she's yong. They get younger and younger in this place every year.
By the end of the night you'll have a pocket full of colored squares advertising different bands, parties, album release dates, raves, whatever your particular local scene supports.
You get a beer, or a wine cooler, or a bottle of water, whatever you usually drink and make your way to your favorite standing spot. In front of a column to lean against, close to the stage, but off to the side so you can see behind the speakers into the backstage area. you stand there watching the people hang out. A few friends walk by and you chit chat about the good old days, or about movies, or the new Tool album or whatever it is your friends talk about.
And then it starts.
A few people take the stage with instruments. Its the opening band, and they are young. They have that nervous expression, you can tell its their first gig. "Oh man, they havent even tuned up. Someone tell them to tune up." you think. But no, they go right into a song. A cover tune of some alternative band from the heyday of grunge rock. It sounds familiar but, as you expected, very out of tune. Half way through, the drummer's cymbal falls off the stand. By the end the guitarist has broken two strings and the bassist has a nosebleed from nervousness. When the noise stops you and four or five other people applaud as the band rushes to reassemble themselves. The rest of the crowd is restless. The guy beside you yells something rude and you punch him on the shoulder and scowl. "Thats not cool man, they're trying, be supportive". He shrugs and walks off.
The singer announces "This next song is an original" and they go into something that is obviously better rehearsed and more comfortable for the band. "Cool" you think "These guys are more into writing their own music". This is what you come for. After 4 or 5 songs the opening band gets off stage to hesitant and sparce aplause. You remind yourself to find them later and tell them they did a good job.
The main attraction gets on stage and wastes no time. their first song is fast and intense. They have the crowd in chaos within seconds. Through the smoke and the strobes you see arms and legs and fragmented bodies boiling and mixing in the center of the room. The door man is standing on the far right of the stage keeping an eye on things.
For the next hour the guys on stage sweat and give everything they have to the crowd. They dont waste much time talking between songs. You can almost see the energy coming out of the musicians and into the audience. You can feel the way it makes the skin jump and prick and the blood rush. The helplessness and the moment and the rush and the venting and the release. This is why these people come out to this crumbling building in this crumbling city. In this moment everyone stops trying to make sense of the life they lead. They let the chaos take over. They drop all inhibitions and let the music fill the emptiness that hollows out every day that they are forced to sit in a desk or a cubicle or behind a drive through window. This room, this crowd, this moment is the manifestation of the collective entropy in everyone's life. This is simultaneously a celebration of that and a rebellion against it. It doesn't make sense, but that is the point.
By the end of the night, everyone is exhausted and soaked in sweat. The band exits the stage to an uproar of applause. People start filtering out and the door man is back at the door saying goodnight to everybody. A dozen or so hang back to talk to the bands. You walk out the door and back onto the street. The smoke-free air is refreshing, and the coolness wakes you up. Going home you feel satisfied. Your ears are ringing and you might have a bruise or two, but things seem calm. The streets are empty and quiet. The confusion is gone. Your life is in order, and you wonder who is playing tomorrow night.