I left at 2:30 p.m. for something that was supposed to close at 8, clocking two buses and a metro jaunt to get to the venue. I would have left earlier, except I only found out about it last night and then, in between finding out about it, I went out and got drunk and forgot about it thanks to the wonder of whiskey coke.
So. I arrived at the con about 4:30/5 and immediately went into the dealer room to find shitloads of comics and manga in Italian and nothing I particularly wanted in English. (With the exception of an Ann Noceioti/JRJR issue of Daredevil.) Anyway. I was confused, hadn't eaten much and decided that I needed to leave, since I'd spent 8 bucks, made a quick run and saw the place was charging 4 Euro for a small box of popcorn. I wandered around the floor of the convention that would lead to the exit.
(Oooooooooh. Quick moment of explanation. The con was held in a sports stadium [holds 8-10K+?] and the dealer room was on the stage/court of the stadium, with additional dealers on a higher level/ring around it.)
Gamestop had a bunch of boxes all hooked up for network play. I think I saw Gears of War, some fighting game I wanted to believe was Marvel v. Capcom 3, but didn't recognize and some other game with guns and shooting. (Oddly enough, not Dance Central or DDR. You'd think there would be non-traditional party games but whatever. There's not.) And that's when I saw the note charts and the set up and I knew: There was Rock Band. I chose to walk over to it, I didn't feel a pull, but this whole thing would sound better if I did.
Of course there was a line. Of course I had to wait for an interminable 15 minutes. Of course they played Du Hast (twice!) and a Slipknot song (ugh!). Best part was seeing Italian 16 year olds trying to sing along Slipknot lyrics having no idea what the words mean and not knowing what they were missing. They literally did not know what they were singing and could not understand how shallow it was. It's Slipknot, for God's sake.
They also played the Ramones' I Wanna Be Sedated (Romans, Ramones. Huh.) , which was intruiging. Kid singing couldn't be older than 17 and it was clear he got about half the words, the remainder being sounds and unclear ideas. It was also clear, he was struggling with the fact that he didn't know what it meant. I, on the other hand, did know and knew what he was missing. It made me feel old and a little bit proud. I knew he wasn't missing much, and that, maybe, the kids playing the song on instruments might know better, though they'd struggle to find the words or justify their belief. I also knew, then, that the only language we shared, despite the Italian I'm taking, was the note chart for the game.
Finally, finally, finally I got near the opening and before I could object, both guitars were taken. Fuck. (The drums gave out on Du Hast play number two.) Fuck. then, they offered me a song. I saw the riverboat gamblers and fucking knew. 'Don't Bury Me, I'm Still Not Dead" had to be it. HAD TO.
The other players (one too young for his fake army fatigues) listened and said okay, sounds good. After turning on the vocal assistance and waiting for a brief moment, while the game loaded the song behind a pair of hands stapling a show flyer (all-ages! 9 p.m.!) to a telephone pole, we were off to the races.
So: I remember playing the micstand close to the vest and then deciding fuck it and rocking out with it full on (mic out, directly in front of my mouth, eyes facing the chuckling crowd) by the final chorus. As I sang "Don't Bury Me..." it felt more and more like a hallelujah. I didn't eat a particularly good lunch and didn't have anything to keep body and soul together on the two hour commute from one side of the city to the other.
And despite being malnourished, sick, not taking care of myself and any number of other things, I still was singing (well, that's generous) "Don't Bury Me, I'm Still Dead", a speedy, consise song about friends, most of them unfashionable or dead and also about being alive. It should come as no surprise I played this one constantly in 2008 and 2009. With each repetition of "I'm still not dead," energy returned in bitter, acerbic spurts, so by the time I faced the crowd, I wasn't just playing a game, I was addressing whomever was listening, the naysayers and peanut gallery in my head, the audience, the other players and maybe even God, that, motherfucker, whatever I do or whatever is done to me, I am here, alive and singing a song that means the world to me with a couple guys backing me up on plastic instruments.
Sure, I wished this was in Meadville. Sure, I wish I had James' face knotted in concentration next to me or a number of people playing drums or guitars, but, as I looked up at the crowd, who was clearly uncomfortable at the idea of a song played with enthusiasm that wasn't couched in irony or distance, I knew something: Right now, it feels really great to be alive. And that, dear readers, is a feeling I'm proud of and still surprised to have.
This should require no explanation.