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Friday Night Mass MAG
My first trip on a train by myself was to New York City. I don’t understand why my parents let me go. What parents let their 16-year-old daughter take a train from Boston to New Haven by herself to meet up with a friend, who used to be a boyfriend, then take another train to New York City and walk 12 blocks to a concert? It was insane. That trip defied the laws of parenting. It was like the first time my parents let me fly by myself. I was too young to do that too.
When I got to New Haven, my friend was late. He arrived, running, wearing a baseball hat and carrying his iPod and jacket. I had already bought our tickets, and so we ran. I felt adrenaline surging through me, but I knew it wasn’t from the short dash to our train. We sat on a brown faux leather bench and listened to the new Tool CD. I felt surprisingly comfortable when I should have felt awkward. We were two white kids from New Hampshire riding a commuter rail to New York City. Everyone else on the train was black, except for the group of college kids going to a party in the city. It didn’t matter; it was too surreal for anything to matter.
We got off at Grand Central Station. I had only been to New York once, and my friend wasn’t particularly comfortable there either. The walk was quick. We were anxious and still giddy from the train ride.
We turned onto the street and walked past the concert hall three times before entering - I wasn’t expecting it to be an old church. For most bands this would be ironic, but not Dredg. This location fit their music, sound, rhythm, notes, lyrics. But, more accurately, Dredg is the feeling you get when you watch the sun set over water. It’s the road trip you’ve been dying to take. Dredg is the rain on your windshield while waiting in the parking lot for someone you love. Dredg is a dream that’s more real than life. It’s a cult, a lifestyle, a religion. So, the church, the concert, was a place of worship. This was my resurrection.
We went in. Alcohol and cigarettes seeped into my skin. I wanted them to go away. I wanted the non-believers to go away, to stop polluting my senses. I hated the people who didn’t worship Dredg as I do, but I most hated those who thought they did. They were wasting the minimal fresh air. You can’t listen to Dredg when you’re drunk. You just can’t.
The hall looked like a church without pews. I could imagine someone walking down the aisle to Dredg, and now I wanted to. The stained-glass windows had been covered, and the religious pictures removed. The orchestra and choir pit were now a bar. We gawked. All these people “trying to save the art,” as Dredg says in one of their songs. That’s what we were doing ... right?
The opening band was surprisingly good but not good enough for me to remember their name. Exchanging a few words here and there, we stood letting our individuality become absorbed by the atmosphere until, like chameleons, we blended in. We floated between the girl wearing Uggs and the guy with a drink in a red plastic cup. Concerts do that.
We were antsy, our knees buckling and bending, shifting eyes, checking cell phones. Our words were like salt from a shaker. Sporadic. It seemed like no one was talking, but there was a murmur. In moments like this, I need background noise; it reminds me that it’s real. Some guy with shaved arms hit on me. I moved closer to my friend. He picked me up so that I could see backstage. I felt like an “Elephant in the Delta Waves.”
Then Dredg came on. I don’t remember how it started, who spoke first, or what song they played. All I remember is the drummer. He hit his drum like he was chopping wood. It was primitive, like an early form of rhythm. Like a caveman banging a rock, or a drum, or his chest. He hit the snare, and with every beat it rattled more intensely and the sound became crisper. I could hear the vibrations chop through the air and I could feel the sound waves ripple across my arm hair. Like a helicopter, I could hear the break and flex in the air waves as they curved toward each eardrum. His left hand looked as if there was no gravity and only his skeleton kept his hand from continuing upward forever. It flew up, until his skin and muscles stretched to their longest point, then contracted. Like a spring extended, like gravity times ten, his arm swung down, hitting the snare.
His mind was somewhere else ... couldn’t I be there? I wished it was just me and Dredg so I could do whatever I wanted. There was no glass between me and other people, like when I’m in my car. I felt inhibited, and each set of eyes anchored my body down. As the first song went on, my foot broke loose, tapping to the beat of the snare. My hand followed suit. My knees were stiff, locked in place by the chopping snare waves, but by the end of the song, they were moving to the voracious rhythm. Slowly a demon ate its way into my soul. He entered my bloodstream and infected every vein, every capillary, every vessel. He moved my limbs, head, and feet. I was possessed. Gladly.
The demon brought me to a different concert hall where the music played and there was no one else. Inhibition hadn’t been invented yet. This place is where the art is saved. It is where a friend becomes a lover. It’s a place of worship. It’s a place of tears. This is where the drummer is. This place is where I live.