Nashville, TN, date unknown, 2012 (The Noise Show)


Jack, a friend of mine who had also recently moved to Nashville, called me up to tell about yet another house show. He had discovered it through a friend of a friend, and thought it would be a good way to make an appearance in a new scene. I was fine with my current scene, that is to say the coffee shop scene, I already felt that my threshold for new friendships had reached his limits, but Jack convinced me to go.

The show was at a space called “Secret Arts Warehouse,” which was what it sounded like, a small warehouse in which, beneath its unassuming appearance, there were drum sets, large murals, half-finished paintings, and a few dingy, make-shift bedrooms. True bohême, if such as thing is still possible, and it might not be. The crowd was by far the trendiest I’d seen thus far in Nashville, in a fringe sort of way naturally—this was, after all, not just any show, but a noise show. If the coffee shop denizens had struck me with their obvious posturing, then this was what, whether they knew it or not, they were actually posturing towards. But these people too were posturing, we are all posturing in a sense, although towards what is not always clear. I found myself wondering where I was in terms of this thinking, whether they thought upon seeing me, if they noticed me, oh, here’s a cool guy we’ve never seen before or, what’s he doing here, look at his glasses, doesn’t he know they’re over, etc. Adolescent considerations that I confess with some embarrassment, admittedly. I boosted myself up by reminding myself that I’d gone to college in the noise capital of the world, lived in New York, and generally been around the block, so to speak, so any insecurity was unnecessary. Vain, idle thoughts!

The first act was typical noise fare, a dude with a guitar, lots of effect pedals, and a synthesizer, as well as a stocking on his head, as if he were robbing a bank, for added effect. I enjoy noise performances such a this in two senses, that is they seem to have merit, sometimes anyway, but they’re also laughable.

The second act featured a beautiful girl, a québécoise I later found out, dancing and singing to another guy playing with a synth and a drum set.

It was right before the third act that things took a turn. I had noticed several times a young, fresh-faced girl with a cute look glancing in my direction, and this time when I looked towards her she was lighting a joint. The smell of bud filled the air. She offered it to the group of people standing next to her, but they all declined—which surprised me, people are usually all about the bud. I was up next. It had been over a year since my last indulgence, which was fine with me, I could have gone the rest of my life without bud and been the better for it, but I took the joint and puffed. Jack took it next and when he offered it to the people standing next to him, only one person took it, and gave it right back. It came to me again and I offered it to the girl, who—the bud was already setting in—was beginning to make me feel nervous and giddy, like a naive teenager. “You can hold on to it for a sec,” she said, and although I’d had a number of assuredly clever things in mind to say to her moments ago, all of them escaped me and I just shrugged my shoulders, as if to say, the more bud the better, which couldn’t be farther than the truth, which was that I couldn’t bear anymore bud. This time I had a coughing fit after inhaling, that always means game over. “Whoa there,” the girl said. My heart fluttered, this simple exclamation struck me, like cupid’s arrow. When she took it away from me, puffed it once more, and handed it back, again I took a small hit, god knows what got into me. “Don’t worry about me, this is kids’ stuff,” I said, coughing still. She laughed, I laughed, we all laughed. “I’m Allison, ” she said, holding out her hand. “You can call me Dan,” I said, shaking her hand.

The third band began their set and I stood wondering what else to say to Allison. Then suddenly I was distracted by an overwhelming sense of dread, and the question: when can I get out of here? I turned towards the girl, then turned immediately away. “I’ve gotta go, can we go?” I said to Jack. “I’m feeling great, wanna stay to the end,” he said.

A feeling of utter malaise overtook me as the music got louder. I decided some fresh air would calm me down, but on my way towards the entrance I stopped in the bathroom. Naturally I looked at myself in the mirror to study my reflection. There was a small pimple on my nose, and I hadn’t done a good job shaving; one side-burn was longer than the other, and razor burn covered the right side of my neck, something which always confounded me because what was different about that side? Perhaps a new after-shave lotion was in order, in any case I’d have to look into reevaluating my whole technique. And the way my hair looked seemed somehow flat, it needed something but I was always reluctant to use product, I am not that dandy, though I am somewhat dandy, decidedly. Suddenly a surge of nausea called me to less elevated preoccupations, and I managed to purge into the toilet, which seemed to alleviate at least some of the discomfort, but my head wasn’t any clearer. Somebody knocked on the door so I quickly tidied up, flushed, made sure things looked in order. I took one last look in the mirror. At that moment it felt as if I would never get out of the secret arts garage, or warehouse, whatever it was, the truth is I don’t remember and all those names are guesses.

As soon as I opened the door the music overwhelmed me again, each noise was a sort of blow. I pictured myself lying down on the couch, a pillow propping up my head, blankets all about, utter relaxation leading to a deep slumber. This image propelled me forward, and I made it outside. I would have to wait for Jack, but at least I could sit in peace and quiet in his car while he enjoyed the rest of the show.

But then, about halfway down the block, and a few yards away from his car, the following two things occurred to me: First: I had no way of getting into his car. Second: Jack had mentioned earlier that his cell phone had died, so if I wanted to get his keys, or talk to him, I would have to go back inside. Then it also occurred to me that he didn’t even know where I was, or what I was doing, and what if he panicked when he turned to his side to make a remark, and I wasn’t there? What would he do? That makes three things that occurred to me, I wonder why I didn’t just say that right in the beginning. A profound fear gripped me; I had to turn back.

I made it to the doorway but when a few people came out and I heard the music again there was another powerful wave of nausea. In that moment only one solution to this rather troubling dilemma was apparent: since going back inside was decidedly out of the question, there was nothing to do other than remain by the entrance so there would be no possibility of Jack losing me, because as soon as he decided to leave he would see me upon exiting. Flawless reasoning. So I sat down next to a bush, crossed my legs, and held my body as still as possible while I closed my eyes and tried to block out any stimulus that could agitate me. And this seemed to work, until a few people came out and stood near me, talking. I was a super sentient being, the slightest shifts in the environment assailed me like blows. Just the sounds of voices got to my fragile loins, and when I opened my eyes to look up at them, I immediately had to look away and puke into the bush behind me.

“Are you okay?” I heard, as if from a distance.

“Just smoked a little too much, that’s all,” I managed to say. Although a vague sense that this was extremely embarrassing flitted through my consciousness, I was hardly inclined to give this thought any heed. In truth, very little thinking went on, I was all feelings and sensations, a mass of flesh undulating with the waves of gastric turbulence. People came and went to smoke cigarettes and talk, and each time the door opened and they stood near by, it just got worse. Again, as if from a distance, I could discern talk about the weed being “good,” perhaps Allison was even the one talking, but I couldn’t tell, and it hardly mattered, my principal concern was just to puke in peace.

It seemed like an eternity had passed before I finally decided to go find Jack and tell him I was in extreme distress. Miraculously I made it back to him without puking. He reluctantly agreed to leave early and take me home. “I feel great,” he said, as if that meant I should feel great, too. But I didn’t feel great. In that state my equilibrium suffered untold abuses during the drive home, fortunately I was able to avail myself of an empty shoe box, in which I vomited several times.

The following morning, my mind less illuminated than usual but active nonetheless, I reflected that the evening had probably been one of the most difficult and unpleasant of my life, and yet also easily one of the most meaningless, devoid of any significance or insights to be gleaned, except the platitude that I should stay away from bud. And even now as I write this—master of my mind, master of my body, nothing other than a little caffeine in my system—I wonder if there are any conclusions to be drawn.

Painting by Sarah Anne Dixon