March 19th, 2011
Alice rides the crowd last night (source: YouTube user sdelin)
C.C last night at the much-(& unfairly-)maligned Terminal 5. Early to the line, coat check, two shots of house vodka & I make my way downstairs about 15 feet back from the stage, same spot I had for Guided By Voices a few months ago. And that’s where I camped out the entire night — that is, when I wasn’t being absorbed into/flung about by the massive sweaty ultra-dense people-ameoba that formed once Alice & Ethan came onstage.
Tension mounted right before they came on: people around me getting antsy, calling out for Alice. C.C. songs pumped through the P.A. were a nasty tease. Then the announcer came up to the mic, told the crowd that Alice had broken her ankle sometime prior, was advised not to perform, & told the doctor “Fuck you”. Good crowd-hyping, that. Then the show begins & all hell breaks loose. My shirt was drenched within three songs. Caught strobed flashes of Alice cavorting and shouting, her hoodie over her head, her “Male Bonding” half-shirt. And a word about her presence — I can’t imagine any other lead singer pulling off crutch-dancing with as much energy, edge & sex appeal as she did last night. Part of me was a little disappointed when I first heard she’d be crutchy: I’d wanted to see the Alice of countless youtube vids I’d eaten up in the weeks prior, flailing & writhing & channeling the jagged hunger and desperation of their songs, her naked intensity indirectly proportional to Ethan’s stoic+hooded presence in the corner. But seeing her vulnerable added a different dimension to her stage presence, and I’m glad now that I saw her hobbled. Being injured didn’t stop her from coming out in the crowd — I think I counted four instances where she sailed out on a sea of hands, iPhones and androids popping up like glowing periscopes, her limbs twisting, her eyes flashing, totally transported.
“Baptism”, “Alice Practice” and “Untrust Us” were highlights for me, moments of crowd unity where you feel that collective upsurge of anticipation running like an electric cord through everyone. Another highlight was that opening barrage of cuts that had the crowd erupting & heaving in a tremendous block, all sweat elbows & arms raised high, some girl’s long hair stuck in my mouth, my shoelaces coming untied and my shoe half-off, my ankle scraped up, feeling the air crushed out of my lungs by people in front of and behind me, helping up people from the ground every third song, watching people lose their friends/partners in sudden crowd-shifts, epileptastic strobe lights stunning everyone. Those first ten minutes were total chaos-joy, yum.
Another show highlight was simply the crowd itself. Completely intoxicating how the dancy ecstatic energy of everyone around me was spiced & made more complex by the aggro-melancholia inherent in C.C music. You wanted to pogo joyfully but also somehow act out the dystopic shadow-scrape that thundered out of the speakers — writhe around, rip someone’s clothes, whatever. I remember at one point near the end of the band’s first or second encore feeling someone bucking and knocking against my back and then shoulder. I looked over at this tall gothy woman just going at it with these inciting flails moves, clearly either wanting someone to knock back or just loving the feel of making harder, edgier body contact. I was initially a little annoyed, but soon accepted it: I can totally understand why anyone would want to dance like that at a C.C. show — frankly I’m surprised there wasn’t more of it.
What else? I’m probably missing a ton, but I try not to capture everything when I write about live shows, just the moments that hit me hardest. Oh yeah, three fucking encores! I wasn’t prepared for that. Oh & near the end there was this gorgeous moment with the screaming+clapping crowd noise amplified and pumped back through the P.A. (or maybe it was C.C.’s own noise-loop?), hitting us in blissful noise-storm crescendo; meanwhile that enigmatic picture of the young girl from the cover of the second C.C. record flickered, flickered, her sad strange face looming over the dazed crowd.
Damned good show. Magic spells, dark & lovely magic spells.
All writing © copyright C. Way / Snailcrow.com 2011