Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Seeing Amity Affliction In The Rain

I'm really bad at planning ahead. The night that Amity Affliction was playing here in Perth I was very busy but was still going. I had to deliver a camera I borrowed before rushing back north to cook dinner (the traffic was abysmal and the rain was heavy) then deliver a costume to an actor (also in the rain) at a house that I couldn't find, before finally getting my friend and concert buddy from her house to drive off to Toodyay to rock out.

My friend hops into the car (quickly, to avoid all the rain) with towels. I wonder why. Turns out I had neglected to Google the venue beforehand. It is an outdoor location... and, like I said... it is raining heavily. We will be standing in this weather for hours. My response: hell yes. That's so metal.

She also has a plastic poncho to protect her from the rain. I did too, but only because my mother put that in the glovebox who knows how long ago and has just been sitting there waiting... Considering my inability to really think ahead things are turning out pretty good for me. I thought we had to be there way earlier. I was (thankfully) very wrong as we got there a lot later than I anticipated. The first act was already playing but I had never heard of them before so that's fine.

On the way I realised I had to buy petrol (see? I am so bad at this thinking ahead of time thing...) and once I did that I explained to my friend what hydroplaning is and how I was worried it would happen in such intense weather. Guess what proceeded to happen...

Thankfully I did not hit the car in front of us as I skidded to a halt at the traffic lights right before the freeway.

Adventure! Metal music on the stereo and windscreen wipers at full speed (the road still obscured by the rain). We encountered the end of day traffic and proceeded to get further into the country until it became apparent this wasn't traffic from people coming home from work but people going to Amity. As we got near our destination the traffic crawled to a stop. In the distance were lights of cars that remained stationary. We were... well we weren't going anywhere any time soon and the people around us realised that. Droves of men got out of their cars to piss in the bushes on the side of the road. One guy literally just started peeing onto the literal side of the road, not going so far as to actually move away from his car more than was required to be perfectly illuminated by his headlights. My friend was on the phone with a friend (also going to the concert) and she mentioned the dude peeing. We were laughing so loud that he must have heard us because he gave us the finger.

Then! A... long wait... but then! Parking! Getting out with our poncho raincoats on and then seeing all the people dressed in black not giving a fuck about the rain and thinking... nope. Nope. Screw this. We took off our ponchos and scrunched them up. Not to be wasteful I asked if anyone wanted one. They didn't. Only after we had gotten rained on did we notice that other people were wearing them... but whatever. YOLO. Plus, my shoes had holes in them so I my feet were drenched from the moment I got out of my car.

The rain was calm... mostly. The worst of the severe weather had passed but it still was on and off all throughout the night.

I have never been very good at opening up at concerts or letting lose. There's this massive inhibition that comes with being surrounded by 4000 other people that makes you think hmm... maybe I won't dance right now. It seems a bit problematic giving that it seems like a helpful thing to increase your enjoyment. The supporting bands were all unknown to me and so I had nothing to connect to. At times the crowd around me (I was near the front because my friend led me there) got energetic and at times it was physically impossible to be still. When you accept that people are going to bump into you and the crowd might lurch forward not as a collection of individuals but a single branch swaying in the movement of something bigger than it and you're going to be taken with it then you get less self conscious about how you move. You've already bumped into or banged against everyone around you. Everyone's in this together.

Slowly but surely I loosened up. It was more of an incentive to move around now that I was absolutely soaked from head to toe from the rain. I didn't feel cold if I was moving. In between acts I drank water from my strands of matted hair and moustache to keep hydrated and talked with my friend and her friend. He had never been to a concert before. He had brought a backpack with water in. How cute.

Then, after hours of waiting in the rain, listening to bands I didn't recognise (not that they were terrible), some minor technical difficulties involving microphones that put things on hold for a while, and shivering... the main act appeared. Amity themselves.

I was excited. This was what it had all been for. The past 5 hours of rain, driving, and delays had been leading up to them walking onto the stage and screaming the lyrics I knew so well.

Most of their songs were from their latest album Let the Ocean Take Me, which is fantastic. It's running theme is a) water (how appropriate that everyone was wet) b) things are far from OK but they will try their best to keep going until they get better. There's a lot of power and inspiration in music. Some people think of metal as just a bunch of bad noises and screaming but it is actually just another way of expressing something raw and powerful. I don't know a more effective way to communicate that you are angry at the world and feel like dying than screaming it as loud as you can and that's what's so great about metal. It is the perfect way to express certain emotions.

The thing about concerts is that it's not just about listening to a song you enjoy. There's a sense of participation involved. Suddenly, music I recognised was playing. I was surrounded by thousands of people, all of whom knew it too and came here to hear it. I let loose. My fists flung into the air and I yelled out the words with all the enthusiasm I could. I had never managed to really throw off my inhibitions at concerts and music festivals until now. I was participating in something bigger than just a session of wearied music listening with the volume turned up on my headphones. My hair was drenched straight and hung down to my shoulders now. Perfect for head banging. It was cathartic yelling into the night words of motivation to keep going through whatever struggles that I may face. I poked my ear and suddenly a blockage unblocked itself! I was hit with a wall of sound and immersed even further. It was like hearing again for the first time in ages... and now, I was listening to Amity up close and in the flesh. Excellent.

Amity's set flew by, as all things do when you're having fun. I raised my arms as the song slowed and closed my eyes momentarily. I have never been comfortable with closing my eyes in public. It had always made me deeply uncomfortable in church so that didn't last long. But here, surrounded by the exhausted and weary metal heads I thought to myself that this did more for me than church ever did.

They had one more song. We knew this was a lie. They hadn't sung Don't Lean on Me yet. After some chanting from the crowd they got to return on stage, ready for the introduction leading in to the build up and then: the crowd screams "LET THE OCEAN TAKE ME!" and we're back again into rocking hard. Bodies writhing in the mosh pit and fists flying in the air over heads with matted hair flinging back and forth.

There is hope in my eyes/there is hope in these words/and there are far too many reasons for you to stay here on this earth. Stay with me.

Screaming that is so rewarding. Who hasn't wanted to scream something similar to a friend who was coping with suicidal thoughts? That strong desire for people to keep going or need for yourself to hear encouragement to keep going is so damn important at some point during most people's lives. That's the main reason why I went to see them in concert. Sure, I liked their previous albums, but this one really moved me thematically. It was angry, sad, aggressive and ultimately empowering to listen to and more importantly: to yell along to.

The concert ended with Give It All which repeats over and over:

I give it all, and when I fall, I get up and give some more/until there's nothing left of me - just some bones stacked on the floor.

I expected it to end on Don't Lean on Me but it was a good decision to end it on this. It perfectly summarises the album for me. Life will beat you down. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. I told myself that as everyone around me told themselves the same. As the music came to an end I felt inspired and exhilarated.

I walked out, drenched, cold, exhausted, and sore, with a massive car park full of hundreds of cars all wanting to leave simultaneously and a long drive home. I was going to go to bed very late with work the next morning which I couldn't function for without an energy drink to wake me up. It was worth it. It was completely worth it.

As I started climbing up from the bottom of the concert up the amphitheatre I turned around to look back at the stage from above. The lights from the stage silhouetted the audience the remained to mill around. Smoke from the stage, breath from thousands of people's mouths, and the mist of rain water evaporating off thousands of people's bodies all combined into a fog that blanketed everything. It was beautiful. The lights from the stage illuminated it all. It looked almost mystical. If only I had a camera it would have been a fantastic photo opportunity but thankfully it is an image that will stick with me forever.