Used To Get High

The goal of an adult is to remove himself from society. To become rich enough that he doesn’t have to deal with the hoi polloi. Just check the ads for resorts, they all include the word EXCLUSIVE! Baby boomers want gated communities, private dining rooms and private jets. Dealing with the unwashed masses is so bourgeois. You don’t even want to go to the movie theatre anymore, what with the cell phones, talking and gum on the floor.

As a result we’ve got a segmented society. One in which those in power are clueless as to the younger generation’s predilections. Those people who haven’t yet acquired assets, who are still foraging in the landscape for fulfillment. Like the people in attendance at Saturday night’s John Butler Trio concert at the Orpheum in Downtown L.A.

Note I used the word "concert". For this was definitely not a show. A show includes choreography, backdrops, lighting routines, you’re supposed to be dazzled by the effects. Whereas the attendees Saturday night were dazzled by the music!

We’re hanging in the basement with Eric and through the concrete walls I hear, I feel, a cheer. That adolescent excitement begins to build, I take Felice’s arm, and like members of Spinal Tap we make our way back under the stage, up the stairs and out the side stage door.

Turns out they’d just turned down the lights. The band hadn’t gone on yet.

We had to squeeze by numerous twentysomethings to get to our seats. And they build theatres like airplanes these days, squeezing everybody in. You can’t go by without touching.

Finally, we find our seats on the aisle. And the trio takes the stage.

John Butler sits on about an eight inch platform. With his amp within reach. The drummer’s up a couple of feet, surrounded by enough drums to compete with Carl Palmer. The bassist has got both an electric and a double. And a stuffed animal and books in his amp case.

Then, they look at each other, because the essence of playing music is communication, and they HIT IT! They start playing "Used To Get High".

Whirling dervishes come FLYING down the aisle! Short ones, tall ones, big ones, small ones. Giant hippies just in from a game of Hacky Sack. Their flower children girlfriends in long flowing dresses. Chubby chicks in jeans. Dorky guys with rolls falling over their waistbands. It was a cross-section of the generation.

And the floor is going up and down. As the assembled multitude got up and DANCED!

It was like watching a movie of religious zealots speaking in tongues. You couldn’t hold back. It was like a hypodermic needle was inserted into your soul and you were instantly INFECTED!

I’m standing, my arms flailing like Gumby’s. I’m singing along. And when the band sings "I used to get high for a living", I’m feeling that’s how it used to be, I used to play my records, live to go to the concert, to connect, to be with my brethren.

Sure, there were events in the past. But most concerts were experiences. You weren’t overwhelmed, but mesmerized, entranced. They were a drug, not a totem, not a notch in your belt. How can you addict the audience when people can only afford to go a couple of times a year and what they encounter is so slick, akin to a movie more than music?

And they’re playing "Funky Tonight", and heads are detonating like firecrackers. It’s like that SNL routine parodying Oprah giving away Pontiacs. But this isn’t about merchandise, but music!

And all these notes are being played on an acoustic guitar. Usually a twelve string. But this is no folk revival, rather the music is EXPLODING from John Butler’s fingers.

Maybe if he worked with the Matrix. Maybe if he called up Kara DioGuardi. Then John Butler could have a hit.

But his audience wouldn’t hear it. They don’t listen to Top Forty radio. They’re not paying attention to the mainstream. They’re living in their own world, and they’re happy about it. There’s a whole ECO-SYSTEM!

But unlike their parents, they’re not afraid of new experiences, they’re not afraid of letting go. Of feeling instead of thinking.

John is smiling. The audience has left its troubles behind, shaking their bodies, feeling fully alive. Like the song goes, what could be better than that?

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