A couple weeks ago I had my first encounter with the standard rock experience — big venue packed with people, lead singers with towering mohawks, non-stop seizure-inducing strobe lights, the scent of a certain illicit substance in the air. I felt like Dr. Brennan from Bones — an anthropologist observing and analyzing a cultural experience as an outsider.
So what induced us to spend $80 for two tickets to an audio-visual overload? MUTEMATH.
If you've never heard of MUTEMATH, watch this.
We discovered MUTEMATH via this Conan clip, which Ian stumbled upon while searching for Spoon. And we were sold. The lyrics are amazing, the music is incredible, and Paul Meany does handstands on electric keyboards.
Fox, Ian and I left work at 5 p.m. sharp. The House of Blues is right across the street from Fenway. It was a game night, so we passed the ticket hawkers furtively glancing in our direction and food vendors selling sausage on a bun for $10.
The venue staff was very organized — before the doors opened they checked tickets and wristbanded those over 21 (I prefer that to the giant black-permanent-marker double X that lingers for days). Once the doors opened, employees manned every turn, checking tickets and clicking counters to ensure they didn't violate fire code. Our tickets, by no choice of our own, were standing room only, so we staked claim to a nice piece of wall in the center of the balcony.
Please note, I have a certain level of respect for artists, or anyone for that matter, who pursue their passions and are willing to share that with others, and that respect remains no matter how I critique them.
The show opened with Street Drum Core. We hoped it would perhaps be a sweet drum line. Alas, it was an angsty punk rock band in 90s garb singing insightful lyrics such as "I don't want to be alone, I miss you" (their power ballad) and ending with the lead singer shirtless in neon yellow and pink tights. Neon Trees was next, with catchy, albeit... carnal, lyrics. They put on a good show. I was most impressed with their female drummer who also sang vocal backups.
A quick set change and it was, in our minds, the main event.
MUTEMATH was by far the best show we've seen — you know they're serious when the first thing the drummer does is duct tape his headphones to his head. They sound even better live, radiating a passion that makes me think they wouldn't play their music any other way even if no one was watching. After they finished "Break the Same" with extended musical interlude/jam session/keyboard handstand routine, we knew it was worth every penny.
Then the HOB crew started the final set change and we waited, and waited, and waited. I should mention here that I was wearing boots with heels, we were in the standing-room-only section leaning against a wall, and we weren't there for the headlining band.
The strobe lights finally started behind a white curtain, flashing outlines of the band members. The curtain dropped, and 30 Seconds to Mars stood on a stage with 11 light towers. I should have brought my sunglasses because our center balcony spot was exactly where each of those lights aimed.
Lead singer Jared Leto was sporting a hot pink mohawk. He stopped the band in the middle of their second song to yell at the crowd, "My job is to bring out the ( ) crazy person in all of you!" and get everyone jumping. They were everything a typical rock band should be, and they knew how to create, as if on cue, the experience their fans wanted.
I felt detached, and my observation mode kicked in. I looked around at all the eyes glowing in the bright lights, bouncing to the music. From a heavyset woman in her 40s to the 20-something group of guys leaning over the railing, they were hooked.
We left after four songs. As we made our way down Landsdowne Street and Fox contemplated getting a late-inning sausage, I thought about the lifestyle we imagine rockstars lead. I wondered if those four guys on stage were content with their lives and why they live the life they do.
It reminded me of something I'd recently read in The Reason for God: "Everyone is building their identity on something" (pg 164). From wealth and fame to political affiliations to careers, we all derive meaning for our lives from something. But what happens when that something goes wrong or falls apart? People go bankrupt, stars fade, political parties make mistakes, jobs are eliminated.
"Identity apart from God is inherently unstable" (pg 164). I am so thankful that no matter what happens in my life, I know who I am and what my purpose is. It takes away the pressure to succeed and allows me to enjoy life and focus on using my blessings to bless others.
These thoughts have occupied me on and off for the past couple weeks. I still can't get over my perception in the dichotomy of the performances: while 30 Seconds to Mars seemed to be pursuing the rock life in a search for fulfillment, I felt as if MUTEMATH was fulfilling their purpose through their music — this is what they were created to do. And seeing that was inspiring. I hope when others see me, they see a life of purpose, full of passion and joy.