Sometimes—and this will tell you more about me than about existence—life, to me, just feels like the clockwork insides of an elegant but oppressive machine, like the latest collapsing dominoes in a fractal network of lines stretching back to the Big Bang. Patterns of heat and coolness bloomed across a vacuum, galaxies formed in the cracks, elements clumped into a planet, oceans happened, life happened, humans came down from the trees, discovered fire, discovered the wheel, and now here I am sitting and typing and worrying about car insurance. Free will is a myth, I grumble to myself, silently, writing another check.
Other times, though, life doesn’t feel like that, at all. At these times, I have these experiences in which magic is real, in which anything can and does happen. Often, I have these experiences while a band is playing.
On Sept. 13, at the Tannex, I had one such experience, at an unusually epic metal show. [H]OHM, a three-piece, band played driving instrumental metal I could dance to. They’re all former members of Sabertooth Cavity, and they did not disappoint. Drought, a coed doom-metal trio from Santa Fe, liquefied the air, slowing the heaviest notes imaginable down to an almost-timeless standstill. I felt it in my feet, and in my every cell. And then there was Hell, from Salem, Ore., and I think I could more easily describe a demonic visitation. Hell’s music was so full and heavy and loud, accessing parts of the musical spectrum so dark I’d never visited them before. The performance was bold, high art. It overpowered me. At one point, I had to leave the show and run a mile. At another, I literally fainted from the intensity, collapsing to the ground like a swooning silent-movie starlet. Anyway: Hell rules. And I might have a medical condition.
It was so cool looking up and thinking, that’s that band. That’s the band that bridged the worlds of New York City punk and hip-hop in 1977. That’s them.
Two days later, weirdo-punk-band Dallas and shoegaze-pop chanteuse Lady Uranium combined to play a special show at the Tannex as Wet Medicine. During one song, Lady Uranium, who was playing electric guitar, went to grab a borrowed lamp to dance with it, like David Byrne in Stop Making Sense, when she got electrocuted for several seconds, her eyes bulging and her entire body transfixed. Everyone thought she was pretending—but—no. Eventually, she fell backward, shook it off, and then, after a stunned minute, resumed playing, the entire band diving forward, more intense than ever, eventually charging through the heaviest, punkest, most roaring cover ever of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” a song that’s more often heard crooned over the P.A. at grocery stores. It was rock-and-roll, punk and perfect.
Then on Sept. 23, my girlfriend Mauro (aka the electrifying Lady Uranium), some friends and I drove up to Santa Fe to see X and Blondie at the Santa Fe Opera House. The tickets cost two bricks of blood-gold apiece, but Mauro kindly got them for us as a birthday gift to me. X, the legendary rockabilly-
Between X’s and Blondie’s sets, we met up with friends in the parking lot to eat and drink around car roofs and tailgates. But then, from above the dark gleam of all the cars, the music began. “They’re on!” we shouted, and the remaining four of us ran, leaping over curbs and between vehicles, singing loudly, laughing, moving quick and happy. “One way—or another—they’re going to find you!—they’re going to get you, get you, get you, get you—” Deborah Harry sang, and we sang, even though the sky overhead was dark and clear and showed that the Earth was turning as it always had—with the stars all in their courses—with everything happening as it always had, with a universe that, as a whole, could really have cared less.