Philadelphia evening. Oh glow sky dandelion bloom, brick building dryer scent exhalation, fried peppers and onions, concrete dusk stoop song!
"I love new experiences," Susan said. I agreed. We parked on the sidewalk near a fenced lot with "No Dumping" signs, the sidewalk sprayed with constellations of broken glass. The bar was a block away. Young women with feathers in their ears and black lace stockings waited near the entrance. The bouncer checked our IDs, stamped the inside of our arms with the word "Important." We found a table in the back room of the North Star bar, ordered some dinner, and talked as our food was prepared in what the menu stated was "a very small kitchen." The menu pleaded for patience. The servers looked exhausted but kept their humor as people ordered drinks and dinners.
A woman seated next to us leaned in to ask, "Are you here for Beats Antique? How did you hear of them?"
"Hooping!" I shouted over the din of one of the opening acts already going on in the stage area in the neighboring room.
"What?" she asked.
"Hooping! Hula hooping! We hoop to Beats Antique sometimes!"
"Ooooh!" and she told us about her three workshops at Burning Man where she laughed and laughed while re-learning to hoop. Would we be interested in doing something with the Sustainable Living Roadshow? She gave us a card. She told us about the origins of the band, and that she is the mother of one of the members. A man who I imagined was her husband offered us some of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream that he brought into the bar. "They don't have dessert here!" He had extra spoons to share.
The opening act was Brendan Angelides, a DJ known as Eskmo. The floor throbbed with people. We nudged our way to the middle. Scent of sweat and beer, sweet fading perfumes. Dreadlocked hair, feathers, Tristan Tzara faces. I felt like I was waiting for a train with my purse in my hand.
Eskmo crinkled plastic water bottles, shook strings of shells, banged rhythmically on pot lids, and looped it all over a bone humming bass. Fractalled images of feathers, water, and a double helix flashed on a screen behind his tabletop set-up of electronic equipment. Images were sometimes joined by phrases like "you have invisible friends watching, guiding," and "little sister, little brother, big sister, big brother." The Brave New World-ian text made me wish for more poetry. Brendan swayed, cracked open a beer into the mic to capture the "pop" of the tab, then leaned forward and bobbed a bit with his mouth open in a semi-hypnotized state. He looked like a technological Linus in his striped shirt and maroon short pants, weaving the sound of torn up paper into a melody with the twist of a knob. There is a joy from watching someone do what they love when they do it well. Virtuosity.
The crowd didn't dance so much as sway in a trance. A hand popped up here and there to limply wave. Bubbles floated. It wasn't the mosh pit of my youth. When Eskmo packed up his gear and Beats Antique took the stage, the space was packed and I tried to hold my ground close to the front. Instead of being shoved out of the way, I was shoved out of the way with a phony "Hi!" from a short woman with curly hair adorned with a peacock feather. I prefer just being shoved. Is it now concert etiquette to pretend we know each other? If we're going to be polite, say "Excuse me," but don't be fake. Just shove or nudge your way past me.
Beats Antique started their first set after 11 p.m. Zoe Jakes took center stage in what seems to be her trademark leopard bodysuit. Harnessed to her shoulders was a large high school bass drum. Gold on her cheeks glinted under the lights, and the heavy beats and sub bass swelled into a full-on whirlchurn. Susan and I moved to the back of the room when the bodies made us claustrophobic. Stage presence is a big part of the Beats Antique show, variously parts high school band, performance art, and burlesque bellydance. A woman in the back shook and rattled the coin-beaded scarf wrapped around her hips as Zoe danced around the stage with a Sally Rand fan.
It was midnight. We had a two hour drive home. We are middle-aged. This morning I'm feeling a titch on the puny side. The coffee isn't strong enough.
The Lone Star bar was so close to the zoo. I kept thinking of the animals with their thrumming, caged heartbeats, so near. I love a new experience colored with forever.