There’s a point at which culture, history, change and revolution all converge. A point where seemingly unrelated parts of our being become inextricably linked. The point where two separate experiences become part of the same memory or timeline. In many ways the last few days have felt like this because last week was rough… last week was rough.
Trying to make sense of the week is useless. Every opinion is just that, a collection of thoughts and ideas formed through life experience and selected information. Whether it is Shaun King blaming the murder of police officers on a “cake this country has baked,” or Daniel Rivero speaking about how second amendment rights were “never meant for black people,” they are all only opinions of a person someone else thinks we should listen to.
The simple fact is that when we woke up on Tuesday morning and started about our day we didn’t know we’d be going to bed here on the West Coast to news of Alton Sterling being slain under the emergence of a twitter hashtag. I almost cried on the way to work the next morning hearing his son cry for his father.
We didn’t know that on Thursday morning we would wake up to a new hashtag for a new victim, Philando Castile, shot while reaching for his ID following the orders he was given by police. Being licensed to carry a firearm should not mean giving someone else a license to kill you as you follow their instructions.
We only saw the aftermath; where were the body cameras when they were needed? Probably the same place as they were for Alton Sterling, dislodged, and unable to record.
And then, just as we had started to reconcile, after dealing with two days of opinions, a simple push notification while at an event celebrating the Black Woman as God rocked my phone. An evening with my cousin enjoying art, music and fried chicken transformed into being stuck in-front of cable news watching the horror show unfold further. News conferences, eye-witness accounts, more videos… more opinions. I didn’t dare reach for a newspaper Friday morning.
The days which came before cannot be separated from the days which follow. For it was the days which came before that lead me to be sitting in Hemlock Tavern nursing an IPA at the corner of the bar. I decided to see Vela Eyes, Night School and Heaven For Real to try and appease my mind. I find solace and calm in music being performed live; it is therapeutic. If it were not for the events of this week I probably would not have even been there. Instead of opting for a few beers downtown or some other such entertainment. Right now I want to get away from everything. I wanted peace. Time to organize my mind.
I went to watch the world and disappear behind a viewfinder, cradle a few beers. I wanted to think about my next step because protest only gets you so far. Trying to reconcile these thoughts I wandered in to see Night School, their music suitably loud, in many respects irreverently so. The vocals, delightfully muffled and forcing me to listen intently to catch the lyrics sung into the sock covered microphone.
The small crowd hugged the wall, almost magnetized to the outside edges of the venue during the set. I tried to concentrate on the music, however, the thoughts of the last four days still whirred around my head. The thoughts and the soundtrack clashing in an imperfect harmony; these guitars, this noise, this is not the soundtrack to revolution? Should I be somewhere else, listening to other music? My mind drifts off. I am black man. I live in America. I listen to indie music. Am I traitor, standing here in a room predominantly full of white people on a night when all I can think about is race, politics, and change?
A new beer and Heaven For Real, a fuzzy-punchy band from Nova Scotia, break my train of thought as I watch at the way the instruments fuse together delivering music performed with a Canadian sense of positivity. A few more beers and few more people fill the room. Vela Eyes come on to perform the headline set. The back room of the Hemlock is now busy, people can no longer hug the walls so they mingle around and I take the space they left vacant. I get into a conversation with a stranger who remembered me from a previous gig, we talk about music and how we discovered the band as they finished setting up. Vela Eyes come on and the music feels fierce. People are swaying yet I experience it with an extra edge to the sound.
The show ends far too soon. Beer and thinking is exchanged for rum and conversation. The troublesome thoughts slowly disappeared during the set to offer the moment of calm I’d be searching for. My own internal conflicts for a moment finding a resolution. For a split second, there was clarity among these muddled thoughts and emotions.