BY ELIJAH AQUILINA// November 5th – a date notable only for the ‘Gunpowder Treason and Plot’ wherein the inventor of the Guy Fawkes mask tried to blow up English parliament 400 years ago. It also happened to be the tour date of Flying Lotus’ obligatory stop in the capital– but unfortunately, there was no plot to blow up the venue. The only target of combustion was the audience’s eardrums, though I regret to say that all attempts at delivering smooth vibes and melodic violence fell on deaf ears so-to-speak.
This big name concert began like any other big name concert: in a headliner-catching venue with high ceilings and at least four staffed bars. The bathrooms were quite nice. They were well staffed with restroom attendants offering paper towels to freshly relieved show goers. Apart from the sounds of Capitol Hill Yupps getting dusted in the stalls, it was a shining star of class inside the well disguised cardboard box that Washingtonians affectionately call E C H O S T A G E [styled ec4ostag3]. The place fills a niche and I have no complaints whatsoever about what Echostage is, does and represents. The only sign of objective depravity I found in the whole place was their barbaric “No Ins and Outs” policy.
The show was at 7:00, so we showed up at 7:20 because ya know. This proved to be a fatal error as immeasurable suffering could have been avoided by showing up three hours later, or not going to the show. PBDY (pronounced P-Body- maybe?) was first on the roster and he wasted no time getting the proverbial party started. Legs were shuffling timidly, heads were bobbing timidly; a timid wrist flick here, a timid side step there; the timid atmosphere was popping with all the ZING of a Sadie Hawkins dance. Ah, Sadie Hawkins… Sophomore year of highschool… 2012… what a time to be alive. I remember dancing with Anastasia under the gym lights, she was a sweet thing with an air of generosity about her. She was the first gal I ever gave a rose to. What ever happened to Anastasia? I wonder if she ended up following through with pre-med. Maybe I should give her a call. We were keen on each other once upon a time. Oh how we danced that night. The hormones were a-flowin’, the acne was glistening, and I wasn’t listening to the perpetually squealing tire that is PBDY. I struggle to put words to the taste of the sonic dish he served; only the simple eloquence of a middle schooler skillfully performing an armpit fart could fully convey the complex emotions that P Boi was able to invoke. His audial assault was interrupted only by the frequent use of what I assume is his signature move: a flamboyant miming of shooting up the audience with his sick glock- complete with full volume gunshot sound effects. It wasn’t cool, and it wasn’t funny enough to make more than a couple jokes to your neighbors. Nevertheless, we endured. We had to endure; Fly Lo was coming! In 3D! It would be no more than forty minutes [MAX] of tasteless bass blasting and gunfire before the sweet multidimensional relief of our savior arrived. No more than fifty minutes tops. No more than an hour, trust me. What ignorant idealism it was to think the set so short! All in all, PBDY’s set lasted exactly how long was too long. By the time the second opener came on stage, I was drained.
Seven Davis Jr. was groovy but his set was only thirty minutes and I honestly do not remember much of it.
We were back to PBDY after that, and this time he had company. A rapper who was not on the bill wandered onto stage and began talking at us. I like hip hop. I like local stuff. I like the little guy, the guy with dreams, the guy with a soundcloud that gets moderate traffic. He was all of these things and I did not like him. He was genuine enough.
“I am nervous” he said nervously, “Here is a song I made about subject X” he claimed before delivering a song about said topic, but it was all disjointed.
I’m sure it sounded better in his head. I am legitimately not trying to be critical for the sake of criticism; I could tell a lot of what he put forth was from the heart. If he was my friend, I would probably write that his stuff was d0pe as he11. But I am not his friend and I was in a bad mood when I saw his set, which was contrived. He was not a good performer. He kept commanding everyone to say stuff. We were like prisoners held hostage by PBDY’s finger guns. The phrases he was trying to get us to chant didn’t make sense to me, maybe I’m not hip. “Everyone say ‘chips on the floor!’” was the only one I remember that is harmless enough to throw into this article. At one point he asked if everyone liked Thundercat. We answered yes because a small part of our former, more innocent selves were still alive inside of the battle hardened faces that now decorated the venue-scape. What hubris we had. What did we think was going to happen? Was Thundercat going to bounce onto the stage clad in wolfskin helm, wielding his double bass like a warhammer to strike us down for ever doubting the integrity of the show? T’was a dream. The bitter reality was an excruciating [freestyle?] rap over the beat of “Them Changes”. It was sacrilege. He asked if we wanted two more songs, a faint chorus of scattered voices shouted “yes”, but their eyes screamed “sure”. After he finished with his fifteen minutes of fame, the unnamed rapper slunk off the stage, away from my callous judgement.
PBDY hit the solo game again for what seemed like a thousand lifetimes. I began to consider all the decisions in life that had brought me to that moment. Leaving home for college, dropping out of college, going back to college. All the credit hours, the sleepless nights, the early mornings, the double shifts – what was any of it now in this dark place? This decrepit corner of the world where no textbook and no online reader response blog could illuminate. This was another world, another dimension– another dimension– another D. Then it hit me. At that moment, I understood that the purpose of nearly four hours of openers was not to entertain us, but to alter our mental state. The 3D glasses were just props, the real visuals would come from within; hallucinations derived from exhaustion and psychological manipulation. This show was miss-marketed, it was hardly 3D. It was at the very least 4D, maybe even 5D. Despite an eye condition that prevents me from fully appreciating the awe and spectacle of 3D glasses, I put them on to be part of the crowd- a part of the experience. I was ready… and he came.
After five minutes of Flying Lotus, the dehydration and sheer fatigue set in. I had to leave the crowd to find a place to sit. I had come so far, but now- at the moment of fruition- I was defeated. The look on people’s faces as they watched me go was unbearable. It ranged from pity, to disgust, to a subtle jealousy. But I cast them all away, I left that life behind. I went to the bathroom and sat on a toilet because of the aforementioned seatless-ness of the bar. I lived a peaceful existence in that stall. I heard Fly Lo cover the Twin Peaks theme. I heard him bring out Captain Murphy for “Dead Man’s Tetris”, and it was pleasant even through the black walls of the stall. After a while, I ventured out seeking air; maybe if I went outside for a minute, I could regain the energy to enter the crowd. But alas, “No Ins and Outs”. I sat on a staircase until getting kicked off of it by security, and then I wandered. I don’t know how long I was lost, drifting from one end of the venue to the other, but eventually I found an unlikely shelter. It was a bench of cushioned chairs in the back of the second floor balcony overlooking the dance floor, and it was bliss. I watched the stage from as far as you could be from the stage, happy at last. The man of the hour played a fine set, but the show sucked.