We walk through the cold air conditioning to the outside area, where it’s stifling hot, and get seats at the concrete bar. I’ll either get panicky or forget about the heat. As we look around, we realized we’re in an 80s teen movie. I always play the same character in these movies: one of the freaks, standing at a distance assessing everything and providing “witty” commentary. Sometimes I don’t want to be this character any more but by now I’ve been typecast.
“You can smoke out here!” he says, and sure enough, there are ashtrays spaced at even intervals on the bar. So retro.
As a woman, it’s hard to walk the line between looking like you’re trying too hard and looking like you’re not trying at all. I try to accomplish this by wearing something interesting and never doing anything to my hair or wearing eye makeup. Actually the hair and eye makeup aren’t part of a plan. For years, I would spend hours getting ready to go anywhere. Now, I’d rather do anything than stand around a bathroom putting on mascara or, worse, eyeliner. I figure I use the time saved to work out instead. I’m wearing a patterned, sheer dress that makes you look like a butterfly if you hold your arms out, brown fringey ankle boots, big earrings, giant glasses.
The other women here are wearing sleeveless sheath dresses with belts. The men are wearing polos. All of them. That’s right, it’s an 80s teen movie. Someone is Anthony Michael Halling a woman who looks like she just came from a wedding shower where she had to feign enthusiasm over bad drinks and her friend’s upcoming wifedom. Matthew Broderick is nowhere to be seen (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is highly overrated).
We drink our canned IPAs and aside from an occasional why in the hell did I wear boots ping I’ve forgotten about the heat. In my many years of observing people I’ve learned two things about being an appealing woman: (1) have shiny hair; (2) walk like a runway model. I try to do these things even though I technically don’t need to be appealing to people in bars or anything but it’s nice to maintain at least some relevance. A guy in a turquoise polo might be checking me out as I fiercely tromp to the bathroom.
We have time for only one beer before it’s time to sit in front of someone’s exceptionally fancy house smoking weed and then head to the show.
“I wonder what it’s like to live here and have to deal with all the people going to shows.”
“Fuck, man, they’re really rich,” which can mean either fuck them or they have ways of dealing with it.
I honestly didn’t realize “80s” was still a viable fashion decision. Fashion blogs have moved on from this except when they post photos from a roadtrip that involves a music festival in rural England. I quickly realize that headbands worn the way I want to wear them (around the head, like an NBA player, not like Blair Waldorf) tend to read as trying too hard even though I wish they didn’t, plus they run the risk of pushing your hair up so the top of your head looks like a loaf of bread.
I do, however, need a shirt with a cat on it. A fashionable one, not the kind an actual cat lady would wear. (Full disclosure: I have at least one of those.)
It’s been a long time since we’ve been to a show. I don’t remember what it’s like to be in a dark place where the music pulses under your skin. It’s crowded (but not ridiculously so) and hot, so very hot, in the Fillmore. We scope out the first floor and as promised, it’s big and flat, not sloped like most venues (it was originally designed as a roller rink). This is why I wore heels, but the boots were a terrible idea. We end up upstairs anyway because even in heels, with all the dudes here if we stay downstairs I’m probably going to end up trying to peer over people’s heads all night. The good news is I’m high and I love everybody.
The opening band sounds like Def Leppard had sex with some hipsters who recreationally hunt raccoons. The sound is terrible, too quiet and too echoey at the same time, and I can’t tell if they’re good. I might kind of like them because I love everybody. Still, we don’t need to see this so we sit against the wall and watch people go by and check out some artwork that’s on the wall above us. The crowd is 1/2 80s teen movie, 1/2 random normal people, and 1/2 teenagers on spring break in Miami. (I say “Miami” in my best Fiona Glenanne voice.)
“You watch too much tv.”
This is true but I hate to admit it because I’ve reached the Mexican yoga blanket stage of hipsterdom and hate to be so common. “So you’re saying Abu Nazir is in the country?!” (We’ve been watching season 2 of Homeland because we got free Showtime for a while after our internet got screwed up. I refuse to watch any of those fancy-cable-network shows but this one because it’s so good and we’re not paying for HBO or that shit after our free trial runs out.) This becomes our inside joke for the rest of the weekend. A shady figure leaning in a doorway. Two matching helicopters flying overhead. So you’re saying Abu Nazir is in the country.
I note the women who look awesome; there are fewer of them than I’d imagined. The crowd isn’t what I expected, not quite a parade of models who look like they just had sex with the Free People catalog in the back of a VW bus. People are real. People are bored. People wear athletic shoes to concerts. Not necessarily stylish athletic shoes — the ones you’d wear while “cross training” at a strip mall gym. It takes a while to realize we’re drinking the wrong beers and then we trade and oh, that’s so much better.
I am deeply in love with MGMT in general and Andrew VanWyngarden in particular (Congratulations on your face!), so when MGMT starts we find a place to stand, behind a couple, just outside the VIP area, where the sound is decent and we’re at the edge of the balcony so we can see. Aside from the one time he goes to get a beer for us to share (at $10 a pop, we were trying to minimize the damage) we don’t move from this spot until the show is over.
They play a lot of stuff from Congratulations and I love this, bobbing my head and singing every word. It’s not really dancey music. A few songs in, he says, “Nobody here knows any of these songs except you.” I’d normally be the one to make a snotty observation, but the pot really takes the edge off. I’m exceptionally charitable tonight and not ready to admit this is true until they play the hits: Electric Feel, Time to Pretend, Kids, and the crowd changes from the kind of creek even I’d raft on to a rollicking ocean, arms up, everybody into it. Everybody, even the rich people down the street, screams at just the right time: Decision to decisions are made and not bought but I thought this wouldn’t hurt a lot I guess not!
Because I am deeply in love with Andrew VanWyngarden I also don’t want to admit that I see the Robert Smith influence seeping in through the seams of his oversized white shirt. Even he comments on it. “I know,” I say, rolling my eyes at the absurdity of it (my deep teenage love for The Cure did not survive to adulthood and now I find Robert Smith tedious and unappealing), “I’ve been noticing that for a while.” I’ve never heard Andrew VanWyngarden even mention The Cure, but it’s there, the same way a writer doesn’t tell you what he enjoys reading because then you see the influence in everything he writes.
When the show is pretend over, quite a few people leave, either because they’ve never been to a concert or because they heard the hits and are ready to go stand around Colfax bars waiting for something exciting to happen. After a not-too-long wait, MGMT comes back out and plays a new song and Siberian Breaks, which, if you left before they played Siberian Breaks you might as well spend the rest of the weekend listening to Pitbull, drinking Coors Light, and eating McDonald’s (that’s the best insult I can come up with right now because like I said, I’m exceptionally charitable; MGMT makes me soft). Stay far gone for all eternity.
We kind of mean to go somewhere after, but we’re tired and go home, where he falls asleep and I eat bread cheese, my latest food obsession. Bake it until it’s nice and melty and serve, for example, with fancy apricot preserves or, lightly salted, with pumpernickel bread (recipe here).
As they say, collect experiences not things. We are well on our way to destroying the fun deficit.