8:30pm found me at the back of a line that stretched nearly three blocks, reading Wonder Boys by lamplight, waiting to get into the Tegan and Sara concert. I was in line alone, and the light that fell across the pages of my book was divided by the pattern of the chain link fence it poured through. And it was bitterly cold. My ears actually ached for the first time. Around me people were talking excitedly, trying to keep the cold at bay with their own energy, but I was content to stand like the Colossus of Rhodes, feet planted at shoulder width, still and stoic, a book reading anomaly who seemed not excited at all about the impending concert.
Which I most certainly was. Tegan and Sara! Holy crap, but I chain smoked the The Con from May through September, only finally easing out when other bands like Spektor and Band of Horses arrived on the scene. Was it worth the scalped ticket price? Going alone? Absolutely.
The show opened up with a group called Northern State, a funky, high energy band of girls who rapped Beastie Boys style with surprising skill. They were great – though their demands that the crowd get more excited began to sound a little strident towards the end. But no worries – Tegan and Sara hit the stage, and the place went nuts.
I was having a great time until I was assailed by the pungent stench of stale sweat. Not just a whiff, either, but the kind of overwhelming assault that makes people bend over, tears streaming from their eyes, hacking and coughing as they search for gas masks. It was mustard gas bad. I hadn’t smelled anything this awful since Mick in Sydney. A girl had shouldered herself into this precarious sideways position between my neighbor and I, and was holding up her camera to film the show. And the stench was unrolling from under her arms. I felt like a rat into who’s aquarium five liters of chloroform has been poured. It was awful.
The girl looked like a female Jack Black. I’m not kidding. Short, with bowling ball shoulders, a shaggy haircut, and the kind of low center of gravity which makes her immovable. I was trapped, pressed in on all sides. I pressed my coat to my face. Not good enough. I had been standing normally until that point, but began to straighten, trying to rise above the squat girl and her odors, to breath in some of the air above the crowd’s heads. Soon I was standing ramrod straight, chin raised, shoulders back, a good foot above the girl’s redolent body, but it wasn’t enough. I looked down at a short girl standing next to her. She was right in the kill zone. How was she not reeling? How was she not crying out in pain and confusion? The girl seemed oblivious to the stench. Amazing.
Somehow, despite all that, the show rocked. Tegan and Sara were chill, professional, amusing, intense, and responded to this one heckler with aplomb (“I f*cked your mom!” “You want a soccer mom? What?” “I f*cked your mom!” “Come down here and say that.” (as she tuned her guitar, looking up only when the crowd laughed), “Sorry, that’s the Alberta in me coming out.”)
What’s up with meta-encores? Bands these days acknowledge that they’re coming back, that the whole encore bit is fake, and then still go through the motions. T&S played with it by asking that nobody applaud after their last song, nor during the time they were off stage, and then go nuts when they finally returned. Which the audience did, after about a minute of silence. When the girls stepped back out, the crowd through back its collective head and howled. I looked over at this one girl, and saw that she wasn’t cupping her hands about her mouth, but rather simply had her eyes closed, head tilted back, mouth open as she ululated at the ceiling. She looked like a wolf, a wolf deep in the heart of the largest wolf pack ever, people howling and calling with total abandon, reverting to some primeval response, an instinct that probably dates back to before there was fire.