Friday, June 27, 2008

Three Rs

Rush. Red Rocks.

[SUMMARY: Do it. Do either. If you get a chance, just take it.]

I had to put the summary first. Who knows how long I may gush on about this concert?

I didn't take my camera. I watched the guy in front of me take photo after photo, and I decided it was a good thing I'd left the camera home.

For an obvious one, when you spend your life behind a camera, you miss the actual connection with the bits you're recording. I wouldn't trade a hundred flat, still recordings for a single real memory of the concert.

For a less obvious two,§ there is an internal exclusivity that I store for my own joy. I don't know why or how it's related, but it gives me the same frisson of pleasure an exclusive, one-of-a-kind, goody bag thing gives me. Nobody can ever have this feeling but me.

There have been a handful of times in my life I've just opened everything wide -- my eyes, my ears, my nose, my skin, my heart, my mind, my soul# -- to something because it's a one-of-a-kind and I don't want to spill a single drop.

This just happened to be one of those occasions.


We're on the train to Bangkok
Aboard the Thailand Express
We'll hit the stops along the way
We only stop for the best
-- A Passage to Bangkok, 2112

There are elements that make this kind of lingering magic. If you miss any element, you may miss the whole thing.††

Rush still qualifies as one of my top two favourite bands of all time,‡‡ even though I don't like the later music nearly as much as the pre-Power Windows stuff.§§

So there's the nostalgia.

And Red Rocks.

Brother went to the concert. We've seen a few concerts together, but they're generally bands we both really like, or in one instance, an educational experience for Seester.¶¶ Brother doesn't like Rush. Brother doesn't hate Rush,## but Brother doesn't like Rush. So I feel like I got to play big sister in some instructive way.

Ben and Bill and Greg and Mike and Drew... and the utterly prurient exchange with Ben via email. Priceless.


Thunderstorms out over the plains, clearly visible from the 26th row and seemingly timed to the drums.

Rain in the lights.


The videos -- including the South Park short††† leading into "Tom Sawyer."

The playlist that included a bunch of songs I would never have guessed they would play.‡‡‡

[SUMMARY: Really. Magic.]

Wheels within wheels in a spiral array
A pattern so grand and complex
Time after time, we lose sight of the way
Our causes can't see their effects
-- Natural Science, Permanent Waves

Red Rocks is a gorgeous place. Y'all caught a glimpse of it on U2's "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" video, but... but you have to see it.

The rocks are, indeed, red, and hoisted nearly vertical by some cataclysmic tectonic event prehistory. They create a natural amphitheatre that has the best acoustics you'll probably ever hear outdoors -- maybe anywhere.

Until about 1987, all of Red Rocks was general admission. This caused people to camp out all day and drink in the hot sun and swarm the bottom rows... there were injuries.

Now it's nearly half reserved seating.^

I found years ago that I really like the last couple of rows of reserved seating just for the view. If you're up that high, you're just above the top of the rocks that form the backdrop of the stage and you can watch the entire front range.

You can almost see the curve of the earth, the horizon is so vast.

The first time I saw Robert Plant§§§ was July 3. We could see thundercells and lightning, rainbows and fireworks for miles.¶¶¶

Every concert at Red Rocks is a Grateful Dead concert. I think you could go see the London Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks and someone would offer you pot. This doesn't do much for me on a practical level, but there's something charming about the vibe.

I've never been miserably hot or cold or wet at a Red Rocks concert. Even when it's a hot night, even when it rains, there's an insulation that keeps you safe and dry.

It's in the foothills, away from the city. There's a ruggedness and a freshness that comes from being out of the pollution and clamour of the population centre.

[SUMMARY: Suddenly, I'm outdoorsy.]

Begin the day with a friendly voice
A companion unobtrusive
That plays that song that's so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood
-- Spirit of Radio, Permanet Waves

Rush is just good in concert.

There are artists with personality, who can talk a ho-hum perfomance into a memorable event. There are artists who are so exacting they play through their lack of personality.

Then there are artists that can just flat perform.###

Without telling jokes and stories, without doing back flips, Rush just draws an audience in. I'll admit, the pyrotechnics and techo-pirates don't hurt a thing, but they don't overshadow and they certainly don't make up for a lack of compelling talent on the part of the band.

There was no opening band. The music before the show was orchestral versions of Rush songs piped through the stacks. They played for nearly two hours, took a break and came back for another hour or so.

The tickets were expensive, but I'd say they gave us our money's worth.

[SUMMARY: Rush at Red Rocks was like a cookie... on a lily pad.††††]

As I was drifting to sleep Wednesday night, I was making playlists in my head. I wanted to send each and every one of you a Rush CD so you could hear the brilliance I hear.

Only, you'll never hear the brilliance I hear. You may never think "brilliant" and "Rush" in the same sentence. You may think it's brilliant in a different way, for a different reason.

And that's why the camera and the iPod and the DVD will never, ever be an adequate substitute for the sheer joy of that one perfect night on the Rocks. It's mine, all mine and it's so much better 'cause it's all mine.

[SUMMARY: Greed isn't always about money.]

He's noble enough to know what's right
But weak enough not to choose it
He's wise enough to win the world
But fool enough to lose it
-- New World Man, Subdivisions

Oh, hell. I can't be that selfish. My birthday present to you:

May you find your own Rush at Red Rocks.

FOOTNOTE (crossed): "Gush on, Garth." "Gush on, Wayne."

FOOTNOTE (double-crossed): You, me... whomever.

§FOOTNOTE (swerved): Buckle in, Betty, this could get abstract.

FOOTNOTE (paragraphed): More than several, less than a rash.

#FOOTNOTE (pounded): Or whatever it is we heathens have.

††FOOTNOTE (ddouble-ccrossed): Which does make me wonder how many experiences have *just* missed and I'll never know because... well, because they missed.

‡‡FOOTNOTE (doubble-crossssed): In fact, I usually just go with "favourite." They were there for me long before The Sisters of Mercy recorded "First and Last and Always."

§§FOOTNOTE (wheels within wheels...): You can look it up if you don't know what I'm talking about. I'm planning on just cruising in Rush Dork mode for awhile here, so I may lose you here and there.

¶¶FOOTNOTE (microphones): That would be the hip-hop concert I asked Brother to take me to for the joy of putting the vibe with the music. There were no black people at this concert, so I question the full validity of my experience.

##FOOTNOTE (pounded like bass amp turned up to eleven): Unlike Beavis & Butthead, who broke my heart with, "This is pretty cool. Is this that video where... oh, GOD, it's RUSH."

%FOOTNOTE (percented): Still twelve.

†††FOOTNOTE (high hats): "I'm Geddy Lee and I'll sing whatever the hell I want."

‡‡‡FOOTNOTE (the long climb up the ramp -- if you've ever been to Red Rocks, you know of which I speak): i.e. -- older stuff that they didn't play on the radio.

^FOOTNOTE (careted): Which I like. Not sitting in the hot sun all day, not fighting a bunch of fucking kids for my spot... old. I'm old and feeble and I deserve reserved seating.

§§§FOOTNOTE (oh, my curly head... how many footnotes are we going to have?): Yes, I'm a Plant Dork too.

¶¶¶FOOTNOTE (Canadian trio): The second time I saw Robert Plant, he was just heading into the last verse of "Big Log" when a shooting star went from one side of the sky to the other, right over the rocks. Everybody high enough to see cheered and screamed. Everybody down below wondered what the hell was wrong with us. Kinda like when the entire section at the top of the Pepsi Center cheered when the Rockies beat Philly during the Genesis concert and the people who paid mad green to sit on the floor weren't in on the celebration.

###FOOTNOTE (ok... turned up to TWELVE): Neil Diamond is one of these. Yes, I'm a Neil Diamond Dork too.

††††FOOTNOTE (record!): I love that commercial. See? Rush gave me a chance to use one of my favourite commercials. Rush is magic.

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