It seemed like a good idea at the time. With reminiscences of company sponsored showcases, I got myself on the guest list of the concert of an Italian rapper at the Viper Room (god forbid I stoop so low as to shell out money for an actual ticket). It might have been a bit of nostalgia for times gone by and wanting to see an artist I grew up with, in a place so small that, no matter where you stand, you are a stone’s throw from the stage. The Viper Room is not as old and revered as such rock staples like the Roxy and the Whisky and its main claim to fame is still the death of River Phoenix, right on the front steps of the tiny and once exclusive venue just feet from the Sunset Strip.
I convinced a group of friends to come with me, to a concert that started at 10:30, a time when usually Ottie and myself are already safely tucked in bed. Miraculously still awake, we all walked into a room already filled to capacity with half of the Italian community who lives in LA – louder than the background music that was playing, sweating, drinking and I immediately remembered why it is I don’t go to concerts anymore, be they in a small venue or the Forum.
Squeezed between a brash Neapolitan man who was trying to touch my ass and some girl handling her iPhone as if it was a natural appendage, I was mesmerized to find out just by staring at the screen over her shoulder that her name was Holly, that she had a Hotmail account where she kept on checking incoming e-mails and that she had a bevy of friends I had the privilege of “meeting” through the photos she scrolled incessantly. Actually, scanning the room it was apparent that most of the patrons were busy with their smart phones, staring at the screens, taking pictures or text messaging. The days of being forced to listen to cell phone conversations of total strangers are gone – now phones are used to make calls as an incidental and rare activity.
Half an hour into standing in this Dantesque hell where moving proved impossible, where the human stench was becoming unbearable, where whenever anyone tried to slide out of the puzzle that had naturally formed and a small void was created, ten people surged forward to fill it, I decided that I could either go home or go with the flow. Cooking and yoga are my meditation activities of choice, if meditation and activity can be used in the same sentence. It has been a long time since music captivated me that fully. And once the music actually started, rhythmic, percussive, funky it wasn’t so much the framework of the notes, the voice or the lyrics that did the trick. Strangely enough, it was being part of this stinking human mass that moved as one by necessity, congregated in one dark hole for a common purpose and I found it wasn’t hard to let go and dance grinding against unknown bodies next to me (just not the fat Neapolitan guy whom I kept elbowing in his belly throughout the night) and forget for two hours the sweat, the unidentified smell Holly’s body emanated, the few hours of sleep that awaited me. It was easy not to care and just be unself-conscious.
It will be a while before I voluntarily submit myself to such entertainment again – spending the evening at home with “the New Yorker” suits me just fine but in a city where it’s impossible to feel part of a crowd, where we are so isolated even in the worst of traffic jams and where, if we walk around, our ears are plugged with iPods and our eyes are glued to Blackberries, it was interesting and a teeny bit exhilarating to feel part of a whole.