Gig Zen

Gig Zen (with a deleted scene from Golden Notes thrown in)

A few years ago, I went to a Bloc Party gig here in south Florida. Midway through the band’s terrific performance, a girl near the front of the stage climbed unsteadily onto the shoulders of a man standing next to her. Once in position, she spent half a song waving her hands in the air and dancing using only her upper body. After the next song began, she pulled off her shirt and bra. At that point, many people who paid good money to see Bloc Party stopped watching Bloc Party. The topless girl succeeded in making a spectacle of herself as she beckoned toward lead singer Kele Okereke.

I have no hang-ups about nudity—as long as there are no children around. (There was that time on a relatively isolated beach in Greece when my wife and I said, “What the hell.”) On the other hand, nude bodies that become nothing more than sexual objects reduce sexuality to something much less than it could be. Which is what I think the topless girl at the Bloc Party gig had done. In which case she had made a disappointing display of herself on another score: Bloc Party’s lead singer Kele Okereke is gay. Needless to say, he was not interested.

I hate distractions at concerts. That is why I practice Gig Zen when I go to shows: Block almost everything out except the band—mindfulness centered on the artists performing on stage. Sometimes I do let crowd noise enter my consciousness: A well-time roar can intensify the concert experience. But usually I just feel like shouting, “Shut the fuck up!”

Gig Zen is sometimes difficult. When a fight breaks out near you, it’s difficult—and dangerous—to remain detached.  When I saw the Stone Roses in Manchester a few years back, Gig Zen was nearly impossible due to the numerous projectiles—some of which may or may not have been vomit—flying through the air. (There’s nothing like seeing the Stone Roses with 50,000 drunk Brits—and not just drunk, Mancunian drunk!) When I saw Muse ten years ago in San Diego, Gig Zen was not an option unless I wanted to be pushed to the floor by the overzealous crowd. And gig Zen seemed downright heartless when the guy sitting next to me at a James show in London opened up his heart and told me all about his special-needs son.

The only time I turned off the Gig-Zen completely was the one and only time I saw the Grateful Dead in the early 90s. Deadheads were extensions of the Dead—kind of like the band’s unpaid performance artists. The Deadheads were to the Dead what a green show was to a Shakespeare play.

The following deleted scene from Golden Notes depicts another instance in which Gig-Zen is impossible; the setting is a Cure show on July 27, 1986, at the Los Angeles Forum:

Suddenly a man three rows in front of them jumped on his chair and turned toward the onlookers with a morbid expression. He wore jeans and a cowboy hat—wore them ironically, Cali Sky was sure. She guessed he was putting on some kind of show. He took off his shirt, which created commotion among the crowd. People stirred, a few cheered. Cali Sky could see a tattoo on his chest but couldn’t make out what it depicted. The man looked older. He bent down for a moment and Cali Sky lost sight of him. He stood back up moments later, but this time he had a knife in his hand. The blade was long, Cali Sky thought it looked like something out of the movie Rambo. In a violent, sweeping motion, the man appeared to jab the knife into his chest. The crowd roared, some cheered, as befitted the circus atmosphere, the Gothic carnival. Even Brodie laughed at the dark drama.

His laughter was short-lived. The man now thrust the knife into his belly. Cali Sky saw what was undeniably blood spurting from a gash that was unmistakably real. The man now seemed possessed. Over and over again he thrust the knife into his stomach and chest. The blood flowed from his midsection until his entire torso was coated red.

The laughter and cheering turned to shrieks and cries. Those closest to the spectacle seemed to fall over. No, they weren’t falling over. They were trying to get away. The chair in front of Cali Sky overturned. Someone fell into her, causing her to fall back herself. In her horror she watched Brodie push someone off of her. He then helped her to her feet. The screams spread. People were crawling over the fallen. Cali Sky watched a screaming girl with blood in her hair and on her face and clothes tripping over chairs, getting back up, and tripping again. Cali Sky could no longer see the knife-wielding man in the chaos that ensued.

She clung to Brodie, who led her toward the aisle. She felt safer now, with her arms around Brodie, and Tam and Chris grabbing on to her and each other. But forward movement was now impossible within a few feet of the aisle. The fleeing crowd was packed together. Cali Sky looked back and through the mass of bodies she could just spot a swarm of yellow security shirts surrounding the area where the man stabbed himself with the knife. She held Brodie tightly. There was nowhere to go. They just had to wait. She tried hard but futilely not to cry. Once she began she couldn’t stop. Even though she was now secure, safe in Brodie’s arms, she felt a panic spread throughout her body.