Phoenix Wakes Up
Between a lot of things happening, Phoenix had to take a back seat for a while so I could have enough energy to just function. Before my unplanned hiatus, at times I was putting in 17 to 19 hour days between my day job, college and Phoenix. It caught up with me and I crashed and burned. I’ve been dealing with a lot of personal matters as well, so that took a huge toll on me too. It’s taken me until now to get some of my strength back. A recent trip I took was a huge step in that process.
When Rabbit Junk announced their show in Portland, I was ecstatic. I’ve been a huge fan of JP’s projects for years, and thought it would be cool to finally see RJ live. They’ve played Portland a couple of times in the last year, but for various reasons, I was unable to attend. My best friend lives near Portland too, so that made the idea of going even more awesome. I hemmed and hawed about it for a few weeks and had to wait and see how other life events panned out. For a while, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go, but some part of me knew it was a very necessary. I wasn’t sure why, but I needed this trip, if anything for the chance to just get out of my own head. Live music has always been the best way for me to make sense of life.
Pretty much anyone who knows me knows that I am a very quiet, very shy person. Believe me, the irony of that isn’t lost on me, given the industry I work in with Phoenix. Phoenix has always been my way to break out of my shell and break away from my comfort zone. I was Rabbit Junk’s photographer for this show, so this was an amazing opportunity for me to do something I love around people I greatly admire. This was also a good way for me push myself even further out of my comfort zone and into the field I have been wanting to work in for years (photography). For a couple of weeks before the show I was nervous as hell, expecting something to go wrong and for all of it to not happen. I wasn’t settled about it until I was actually on the plane. Even then, my nerves were still shot.
Portland welcomed me with open arms. My best friend and her boyfriend met me at the airport and I got the biggest hug ever from her. We spent the day going to museums, bookstores and the races. We went out to dinner at an Irish pub that had the most amazing food. For the first time, in a very long time, I felt completely at ease. I was with good friends in a wonderful place. By the time I got back to my hotel room, I was exhausted. I had gotten about an hour and a half of sleep in 36 hours and had walked a few miles that day. I ended up watching TV for a bit, chatting with some friends online and passing out.
Sunday I spend recovering from traveling. I didn’t really leave the hotel room at all. I just needed some time to rest and relax. My best friend ended up calling me later that afternoon and we made plans to hang out before the show the next day.
The day of the show was super hectic. I got up and got ready to go with my best friend to an event in town. She showed up and we spend a few hours in town, which was a lot of fun and I met some really great people. They hung out with me at the hotel for a little bit and then dropped me off at the Hawthorn Theater. We said our goodbyes because I was leaving on Wednesday and wasn’t going to be able to see her again before that.
I waited at the venue and bs’d with a few people as I was waiting for Rabbit Junk. They arrived a bit later. I talked to JP, Sum Grrl and the other members of RJ while they set everything up. It was cool to finally talk to the band I had been such a fan of for a few years. About 30 minutes later, I see Nic Endo of Atari Teenage Riot. That was cool. A few minutes later I see CX KidtroniK. Again, I think “cool”! A few minutes later, I see Alec Empire. AWESOME! I watched Atari Teenage Riot sound check and that was pretty epic. I watched Rabbit Junk sound check as well and that was awesome! JP and Sum Grrl went to go get ready for the show and I wandered around the venue for a bit. It was a pretty small place, but amazing. The wall was covered with posters from previous shows. It was great to see fliers for some of my favorite bands. It was very humbling to be there. The Hawthorne Theater just has a great vibe to it. After wandering around the venue for a little while longer and talking to more people, it was time for the show to begin. I wandered my way up to the stage before the first act began.
Blowup Nihilist was a very loud and aggressive act and I’d like to hear more of his music. It’s hard to gauge an act like that when the first time you hear them is live. I forgot my earplugs (I know, genius move, right?) and when music is that loud and you’re that unfamiliar with it, you can’t really get a feel for it. I need to check out more of his music, I just haven’t had the chance to yet. I will say this though; the guy has a very intense set. I wasn’t able to hear the lyrics, because like I said, this genius forgot her earplugs, but you knew that he believed in those lyrics with every fiber of his being.
Rabbit Junk was next. Their set pretty much blew me away. They were a ton of fun to photograph. I had never seen them live before so it was really cool to finally get to see one of my favorite bands. I don’t exactly remember the set list because I was into the photography. I remember them playing “Crutch”, “Guns” and a few others that aren’t coming to mind right now. They started playing “February War” and I remember being annoyed at myself because for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the name of the song. The funny thing is that it’s one of my absolute favorite RJ tracks too. Feel free to laugh at me. I laughed my ass off when I finally remembered the next day. Rabbit Junk has a really cool energy live. I think I spent most of the set either taking pics or kind of thinking to myself “holy shit! I’m really here and this is really happening!” So their whole set was kind of a blur honestly, but I enjoyed it immensely. I know I’ve said this before, but it was a very humbling experience. I realized how lucky I was to be where I was, doing what I was doing. I had dreamed of having an opportunity like this and it was happening. I got to not only see one of my favorite bands live, but I also got to meet them and be their photographer for the show. Words can’t express how amazing that entire experience was.
I had never heard of Otto Von Schirach until about a week before the show. I was going to check out his music before I left for Portland, but I never got the chance to. Otto’s set completely blew me away. He has a sound that is unlike anything I had ever heard before. I still can’t really describe it. I loved it though. His energy during the show was absolutely intense. Another cool thing about his set was that CX KidtroniK came out and performed with him for most of his set, in a mask. Some guy in the crowd shouted “CX KidtroniK is in the mask!” I fought the overwhelming urge to yell back “Thanks Captain Obvious!” All in all, his set was amazing and I am definitely going to check out more of his music.
I ended up talking to someone who was standing next to me after Otto’s set was over. We talked for about 15 minutes or so before ATR hit the stage. Alec Empire came out and started an instrumental piece, then walked back upstairs. I’m not sure what the song was, but it was amazing. (Author’s note: Through some research, I discovered that the name of the song was “Waves Of Disaster”). A remix of their song “Black Flags” played next. As the music continued, more people were making their way to the front towards the stage. As the band came on stage, they opened with the song Activate and the moshing began. I remember thinking “I’m going to fucking die.” But as the music continued and I had my camera in my hand, the crowd seemed to disappear and I was in my own world, minus being run into a mosher, here and there.
I live for live music. I’ve never had any qualms about admitting that. There’s something about the energy of live music that I can’t put into words. It’s a cathartic and rejuvenating experience for me. ATR’s set was so profound that it’s taken me this long to completely process it. The crowd was insane; ATR fed off of their insanity and returned that energy full force. I have never seen anything like it. I remember them playing “Into the Death” and the crowd going completely nuts. I did too. I think I completely forgot about the camera momentarily. I had my fist in the air and was singing aloud as loud as I could. It was such an amazing feeling. I still get goose bumps just thinking about it. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt in those moments. I felt… alive. They played a couple more songs and then they played my absolute favorite ATR song “Speed”. I was ecstatic. Next they played my second favorite song “The Collapse of History”. CX KidtroniK put the mic in front of me and I got to sing along. THAT was pretty badass. The crowd went insane again when they started playing Revolution Action. I had never been to an ATR show before, so I didn’t know about what happens at the end of the song. They started pulling people up on stage. Next thing I know, someone on stage is reaching their hand out to me. I was hesitant for a moment, but I ended up going up. I wish I had thought to take a picture from the stage, but with everything that was going on; I didn’t even stop to think about it.
After the show, I went back to my hotel, completely exhausted, dehydrated and in pain. I was still in complete awe of the happenings of the night. I stayed up for a bit, talked to a friend then crashed. I woke up the next morning, still exhausted and starving. I went to a restaurant across the street, got some breakfast and felt a little better after I ate. I started working on the pics as pretty quickly. I was amazed at some of the shots I got. I’m still not quite sure how I got some of them; especially the ATR shots. I was shooting completely blind for the first ten minutes or so, due to the strobe lights. I completely lucked out. I wasn’t able to get the pics done quite as fast as I would have liked, because I was so exhausted, but I made some decent progress. That night I ended up going out to have coffee with someone I met at the show. We talked about music, politics and a bunch of other stuff. It was nice.
As many of you know, I don’t delve into my personal life very often on Phoenix, but I’m going to make an exception here. Last October, I lost a very good friend of mine. His name was Mark and he was probably one of the closest friends I have ever had. I had known him for about a decade and we were pretty close. His death completely devastated me. He was such an optimist and helped me see the bright side of things. I miss that, a lot. He was also a music geek like me, so we were constantly introducing each other to new types of music. Rabbit Junk was one of the bands I introduced him to and he really liked them. He really liked ATR as well, if I remember right. For a while, Facebook was running old status updates from people in the side column of the page as you went to various parts of the site. As I was uploading the first batch of Rabbit Junk pics to Facebook, they had an old status update in the sidebar and it wasn’t even his, but I remembered a comment he had made of it. All of a sudden, I completely lost it. I started bawling right in the middle of the hotel room. His death hit me in full force at that moment. I was suddenly so pissed that I couldn’t share what happened with him, because I knew he would have wanted to hear about it. All I could wonder was if I had made him proud. I hope I did. I mention this because he was not only one of my best friends, but one of my biggest supporters here and Phoenix.
I left Portland the next day. I couldn’t help but feel like I had left a piece of myself there. I met some great people there, got to see my best friend and my favorite band. I broke out of my shell and was the happiest I had been in a very long time. The whole trip was such an amazing experience and it’s something I will never forget.