Monday, 16 April 2012

It's like magic, turning data into feel

I had my first proper bass experience last Friday. My housemate is thoroughly into bass music, makes it himself, discusses it all the time, plays us sets every now and then and even holds a time slot in an online radio service (click here to check it out, if you're interested) so it would be rather right to assume that he keeps his eyes open for any live events like this, and so one doth finally come about.
                It was an event called Subloaded (I'm sure those of you who are into the genre will know it more than I, a simple nomadic explorer who has yet to properly settle down into a specific area) and it was held in a pub only about 40 minutes walk from us called The Black Swan. We wandered down there at about 9:00 in order to be in when it started up at 10:00, along the way enjoying ourselves a nice J and some friendly conversation with a stranger who was spending the night with us after travelling down for the event. Needless to say we were all rather high by the time we got there, the stranger had brought with him some pretty hefty weed and I found myself a little disconnected from the proceedings.
                I felt out of place; this was not my usual crowd, and the music I was listening to was not what I was used to, which is not to say it was a bad thing, don't get me wrong, I was certainly enjoying it. We arrived early, and so were sat in the front part of the venue, in the pub of The Black Swan, listening to some dude in priest garbs playing something akin - but not like - what we were going to spend the next 8 hours listening to. We left the pub maybe twenty minutes later (I was beyond buzzing at this point, so my perception of time got a little weird) and we wandered around the back of the building where there was another, rather unassuming door, around which a few patrons had gathered expectantly. My sense of displacement was then further amplified when the aforementioned unassuming door was opened and a man wearing a beige jumper walked out and past us. To me he was no different to anyone but according to the hushed and sudden whispers that coursed through the group of waiting music lovers I had assumed wrong, as this fellow in beige was actually Pinch. Capitalised. Italicised. A VIP. Pinch.
                'Fair enough' thought I. 'I wouldn't be able to tell that guy from my housemate, had I not spent the last 14 months living with him. This world is one full of celebrities, but celebrities that do not live in high towers' that is something very respectable about the genre and it's community. Yes, the man who just passed us may be well-known and respected, but he still had to use the same unassuming door that we all would to enter and exit the building.
                Anyway, once the beige celebrity dude had passed the doors remained open and we could enter ourselves. This is probably where I started to unravel. A queue formed and one by one we were herded into the passageway beyond the doors. A short but bulky man in black barred each one's path, greeting us with a different pleasantry before patting us down in a bid to minimalise the number of weapons in the venue (and likely put a hefty hurt upon anyone trying to oppose this) and sending us on our way. I was a little too high to deal with physical contact at this point, and my mind began to reel as his hands patted my hips and thighs. I thought to myself 'I don't have any weapons, but I might as well do! I'm bound to have something on me that is against the rules, I always do! Remember the Pen-Light incident!' and had begun panicking when I realised I was already most of the way in the building, my housemate buying our tickets and leading me into the paradise he had looked forward to experiencing for quite some time.
                The paradise was little more than a corridor with two doors, one on each side and an open area with a bar at the far end. To the right was a smoking garden, a terraced area with wooden tables and a strange white ceiling that seemed to be both an upside-down snowy plain and a bright, overgrown underwater cave, and to the left a plain rectangular room, painted black on all sides. As we entered the left door and turned to face the back wall I came face-to-face with the sound system that my housemate had been going on about for so long, and I can fully understand why he was so excited by it.
                I could not give you the specifics, as my knowledge of musical equipment is limited at best, but I'll say it consisted of two floor-to-ceiling stacks of bass amps either side of the biggest sound-desk I've ever seen (and I've worked in both recording studios and radio stations). The music being emitted from this beast of a system was no longer music to my gradually melting brain. What came out of this monster was waves of pure energy, motions and emotions, thoughts and feelings, brightly coloured in their entirely black light, washing over you like waves of sea water on the beach and dislodged gravel as you fall down a steep hill. In that room you don't hear a sound, but you feel every pitch of the spectrum in full force through your chest as it wraps itself around your heart and pulls you close so it can scream in your face, demanding that you understand what it wants you to think and feel about it, and you do, wholeheartedly, unobtrusively, you understand and you feel and you think and I feel rather out of place.
                We enjoy this for a few minutes - you can't just jump into it, like a swimming pool, you have to do little tastes of it, like a hot bath, dipping your hand in, recoiling, allowing it to cool, putting your foot in, recoiling again, then both feet, and so on - then we head out into the garden, where the air is moving freely again and you can breathe deeply without the weight of emotion upon your chest. I think I'm going to enjoy this, though it might get wearing come the earlier hours of the morning, but it'll stick it through, I'd like to say I have. We go and get some water from the bar, it costs 20p for a plastic cup, but you can have it refilled as often as you like, a deal I can certainly stand by, and we return to the feel-room again for a few minutes.
                My mouth is very cottony, and the water helps to wet it a little, but not much. I look around and think I can hear people yelling over the sound of the music, the only way you can converse in this strange cocoon. Cocoon, yeah, that's a good simile for this experience, it's like being wrapped in a good, padded sleeping bag. My arms and legs are warm, my chest is a little constricted, but not so bad that I can't breathe. It is comfortable. But I'm out of place. These are not my people, I'm an imposter, an intruder. What I hear and feel is a barrage of emotion and sound, but apparently there are individual, separate tracks running here, that slight change in tone means a new song, and these people recognise it, they're all going mad, even my housemate, their faces are a rictus of ecstasy, but I don't get it. It all sounds rather the same. I'm an outcast. But this is comfortable.
                The madness dies down and my housemate pulls me aside. We head back out into the corridor again, where there stands a group of people who stop my housemate. They all talk animatedly about the last track that played, how they all felt lucky for having heard it. I guess I should too? Here comes some more people, and the ones we're already with mock them lightly for having missed the track and it makes no sense to me but I guess I'm lucky but I'm out of place and now we head back to the bar, get some water and out to the garden. We find a larger group this time and we all talk, I even try to respond to some basic questions and seem like I'm getting by, but it doesn't feel right. I think they know I'm not from here, I'm not part of this community, but they're friendly, and I'm trying, so they won't do anything, they're not bad people, or monsters, I just have nothing to say. We find the strange who is staying with us and decide to light up another J. This one is stronger than the last, and we're joined by two others who are looking for weed but can't find any. We let them join in and I try more conversation. Things are going well.
                We go back inside and I marvel at the sound even more. It is like magic, my mind screams. It takes thought, idea, and data and it turns it into pure feel. We feel this, we don't hear it, per se, we feel it, but I'm not from this group, and I'm out of place, but it's warm and comfortable and I'm leaning against a wall and my housemate leans to me and says "let yourself go with the music, just relax" so I do but my mind won't shut up and the music is great it's magic and feel but out of place and I try to talk but I can't and magic in place out of conversation this comfort sleeping bag feel and think my feel touch it nothing black colour it's out and-
                There is dark and my face is burning. I'm leaning against something hot and someone is asking if I'm ok and I say "yeah, of course I'm fine" by my teeth hurt when I do and I realise my eyes are closed and I'm not leaning on anything by lying down. I'm on the floor, in the dark and I can feel people around me and my face hurts. My housemate grabs my arm and we get me upright and he leads me outside into the blessedly cool air. He asks me again if I'm ok and we sort out a lift back home to get me to bed. It's a shame, a really bastard of a shame, because I was enjoying myself, and I know my housemate was, but now the night is over and it has barely begun. I had momentarily lost consciousness - only a couple of seconds, long enough for my legs to buckle and to hit the ground, but in that moment it was gone. I needed rest and we made it home thanks to his wonderful girlfriend and that, sadly, was the end of my first proper bass-music experience. I'm not sure whether it was the weed, the lack of sleep I was experiencing from a very hectic week besides that night (from being home, to having a friend up in Bristol, to that and a gig on Saturday, last week was a VERY busy one for me) or if I was just so overcome by the music that my mind had cut out, I don't know, and I'm very thankful to everyone who helped me get back and I'm very, very sorry that you couldn't go back and finish enjoying the night, even though I insisted you did. Next time, either I won't go so you can be sure or I'll know to be more careful.
                If you get the opportunity to go to an event like that, I high suggest you do, it truly is an experience, that is all there is to it. I can even juxtapose it to a gig clearly by saying that you go to a gig to see a performance, but you go to one of those nights to feel the music, and it is truly amazing.
                For now, I'll just stick to the painkillers to stop my sodding jaw from hurting (I still can't eat properly).

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