This should be simple. I sit down at my laptop and write a few words about the gig I witnessed the night before. I then post some pictures (usually in black and white) and move on.
This morning feels different. It shouldn’t feel different because last night’s trip to Noise Pop was fun. Collaj kicked things off with some modern funk which almost commanded you to dance. The atmosphere built during their set, it became even more colloquial as it went on. Strangers talking to one another as the electro twang made the (then) small crowd feel double in size.
Rickshaw Stop got fuller. The crowd started to bounce even more to Mobley’s effervescent set. He was a lightning bolt of energy, flowing between instruments like a puppeteer. He brought everyone closer together, literally, as he continually asked people watching to move closer and fill any empty space near the stage. In a trance we followed. His quest to create shared moments took a new spin when he placed a drum on the dancefloor and distributed drumsticks to as many as could grab them. Everyone clamoured to beat the drum, turning it in to an interactive piece of musical theater; Mobley cast a small spell during his set.
By the time Escort arrived Rickshaw Stop felt close to capacity. 70s sunglasses, designer body suits of glimmering gold, flowered shirts, flared denim and thrift store gems found their way to the front. Escort, the multi-cultural band from Brooklyn, took the stage and extended what came before. It was joyful, it was funky, and it delivered. Everywhere I looked were people singing along, or dancing with a free-spirited sense of abandonment.
Like I said, this should be straight-forward.
This morning feels different because after the memories of Escort’s wonderful encore (Good Life, Gypsy Woman and more), or the guy who tried to crash the stage for a dance are faded, all I will remember from the show is being told “black lives DON’T matter!” Indeed, that black lives matter so much, he needed to repeat the sentence with affirmation that he “didn’t give a fuck about black people!”
My insides felt like they were sucked out of me. A friendly conversation with some strangers about music and life in the city, turned sour as they merrily introduced me to their birthday celebrating friend. “Black lives don’t matter.” I turned away after an initial moment of shock as the person I was talking too apologized for his friend’s behaviour; my eyes betraying the uneasy laugh I let out to avoid an escalation.
Did my emotions over-react? Just writing this now my emotions continue to parade around my body; a mixture of shame, regret, what ifs, and ever changing explanations. Should I have puffed out my chest and told him to fuck off, as opposed to neutralise the feelings of awkwardness felt by his friends. I felt ashamed I am not built like a boxer. I felt ashamed for having to once again repress my true feelings to avoid a scene. His friend continued to apologize. I shrugged it off, it’s what you do.
I continued talking to his friend to reassure him I wasn’t angry. “It’s ok!” I lied with a smile. Birthday Boy came back and his friend asked him to apologize. It was a nice, sincere gesture but I pleaded it was ok. Unsurprisingly the apology didn’t come. A question did come however, on whether or not I was Muslim. That was after he decided to share his desire to “hang all Muslims,” instead of apologizing. I turned, pretending to check my lens and shot the wire arrangement on stage. I’m not Muslim but the sentence still felt like another knife in the back, another hand reaching in and yanking out a piece of me.
I tried my best to ignore Birthday Boy shooting Nazi Salutes in the air with glee behind me. His ethnically diverse friends asking him to stop, with one or two of them seaming to share in his moment of mischievous glee. I guess it really is all fun and games until someone dehumanises your race or religion. We wonder why Trump’s popularity is growing, last night was a stark reminder of why.
I can hear the objections already as I type, “get over it, it’s only words,” or “You’re being too sensitive,” or “it’s only one person,” or “He was drunk, it’s nothing, why are you making a big thing of this!”
But in six months’ time that is all I will remember. Not the great music, not the funky songs, not the array of wonderful and inspiring strangers I spoke to. It is such a shame because the show was what you want live music to be; exciting, unexpected, and energizing.
They say music brings people together. I guess it really does bring all kinds of people together.