Republished from Isaac Bruce Springsteen
I don’t really know how to start this post. Possibly by breaking the ice by breaking the fourth wall. If you acknowledge breaking the fourth wall, are you breaking the fifth wall? Maybe by apologizing for not blogging in a while. I honestly should have written this over two months ago. Maybe I’ll just try to be funny instead of actually coming up with a smart lead. When did Jim Gaffigan start narrating my blog?
Seriously, how does one begin writing about everything? Because that is what this post is about—at least, everything this blog is about: music and sports. That’s only two things. (Shut up, Jim.) That’s right boys and girls, it’s the first-ever music AND sports post! So I guess I’ll just start with the obvious: The Best Weekend Ever.
I suppose the seeds of this weekend’s greatness were planted last spring. My friend Joel and I wanted to go to Lollapalooza. We did the research, figured out how much everything would cost and how we would pay for it, and Joel’s parents said he could go. Only one thing was standing between us and the greatest road trip of our lives. Actually, it was two very overprotective things: my parents. And I had just the stone needed to take down these fun-opressing Goliaths: a very organized, convincing, visually-pleasing (I’m talking animations and everything) PowerPoint presentation. There was no way they could say no. But, of course, they did. So while Joel and I were recovering from not seeing Arcade Fire, The Strokes, and—most importantly—Lady Gaga, among others, we were consoled by the light at the end of the adolescent tunnel: COLLEGE. Where you don’t have to ask your parents to do anything (except pay your tuition, of course). Like go on road trips. We saw that LCD Soundsystem was going on tour, apparently for the last time, and decided that we could not miss it. The closest location was Milwaukee, and goddammit we were going to go. Especially since the opener was Hot Chip. But wait, there’s more. The night before that concert, of Montreal was playing in St. Louis with Janelle Monáe opening.
So we set out on Thursday, October 21 to St. Louis (a two-hour drive). We were both excited to see Janelle, but we had no idea what we were in for. She was a fantastic singer and dancer and had an absolutely mesmerizing stage presence. I wanted to have sex with her vocal chords. She dressed like James Brown (cape and all), literally painted a picture while singing, and introduced herself as an extraterrestrial come to save us all with music. I was not one to disagree.
Next up: of Montreal, led by Kevin Barnes, who made a brief appearance singing with Janelle in the opener. Of Montreal is probably second only to The Flaming Lips when it comes to concert spectacles. Barnes was dressed as a woman, and animals and aliens danced throughout, including a pig-man that had theatrical intercourse with Barnes. It was really an experience more than a concert. Yet, it always felt more artsy than gimmicky. There was enough diversity in the action to avoid redundancy, if not hilarity. And perhaps most important of all, the music was good. The beats were kicking and the falsettos were raging. The most stirring moment of all occurred when Barnes disappeared backstage and covered Sibylle Baier’s “Tonight” alone, accompanied only by his piano and gazing into the crowd via black-and-white video camera. And just when it seemed there was nothing left in their bag of tricks, of Montreal came out for an encore in which they played a Michael Jackson medley. I kid you not; they started playing and I was like, “Holy shit, this is ‘Thriller’!” And then it was “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” and “P.Y.T.”—which Janelle came out to sing! It was by far the gutsiest, most entertaining, and flat-out best encore I’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, we were front row for it all. And then me and Joel met Kevin Barnes after the show and that was pretty cool too.
Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised by our first stop on the trip. And it was only Thursday night of this Best Weekend Ever. We spent the night at a friend’s house and Friday morning we made the six-hour trek up to Milwaukee, a pretty legit city with pretty awful public parking. After a nice microbrewery dinner and a 15-minute parking escapade, Joel and I arrived at the Rave early enough to claim front-and-center spots in the venue’s Eagle’s Ballroom. This room was simply enormous (it was a ballroom, after all), and its architecture and decor were all styled in a Zeus-tastic Ancient Greek fashion. The opener, Hot Chip, was a band Joel and I both liked a lot, and while they didn’t do any crazy shit, they certainly did not disappoint. Their electric sound was very fun live, and by the encore, Joel and I were starting to get pushed into the fence at the front of the pit. Initially, I was worried that the crowd wouldn’t fill this huge venue. We had the opposite problem.
Anticipation. So much fucking anticipation. 1) The main act of our homemade Collegepalooza was about to come onstage. 2) Holy shit, James Murphy is going to be right fucking there. 3) Holy shit, James Murphy IS right fucking there. 4) Holy holy shit shit, they’re playing “Dance Yrself Clean.” 4) Oh god, what’s going to happen when the loud part kicks in?
We all looked around: half-filled with fear, half-filled with glee. This place is going to explode… “Present company accepting, presently we all expect the worst…”Seriously, when is it going to come? “Present company excluded in the night. Present company included in the fight…” What is going to happen?!
Pain. Lots and lots of fucking pain, applied straight to the ribcage. But also, ecstasy. Not literally, but maybe. Yes! This is my favorite song! This is so awesome! Ow, that really hurt. Seriously, I’m bruising. But so worth it! Sometimes you really do have to fight for your right to party. I spent the entire show clinging to the fence with all my might, so as to not be pushed down the stream of hipster douchebags—and it was still a phenomenal concert! James Murphy even defended us, asking the crowd to just take a step back so we could live (What a great guy, that James Murphy. He’s like the lovably grizzled bastard son of Elvis and Winnie the Pooh). But the pushing never ceased. And now that the bruises have healed, I’m kind of glad it didn’t. There’s just something satisfying about having to fight for your music. That, or LCD was just so awesome that any pain would seem insignificant in comparison. Either way, it was the perfect closer to Brandon and Joel’s Excellent Adventure.
I thought you said this was going to be about sports, you say. Ah, but the fun has just begun. After the concert, Joel and I drove straight back to Mizzou—an 8-hour drive that only took seven. You see, sleep is a privilege road-tripping college students can’t afford. So with the help of left-over concert adrenaline, coffee, sugar, 5-Hour Energy and about two hours of turn-it-up-to-11 music (Tip: The head-bobbing caused by “What is Love” by Haddaway will keep you way more awake than the slow guitar intro from “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.) we managed to arrive alive just in time for, you guessed it, SPORTS. You see, that Saturday was Mizzou’s homecoming game (fun fact: we invented homecoming) and we were hosting #1 Oklahoma. And as if that weren’t enough, College Gameday was filming live from our quad. So while Joel found his sanity and hit the hay, I headed straight for the columns to watch Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit talk about what little chance the Tigers had against the mighty Sooners.
I think now would be a good time to give you a little background info on this matchup: I fucking hate the Sooners. And I’m probably not the only Mizzou fan who feels that way. You see, three years ago, we knocked off the Kansas Jayhawks to claim the number one spot in the nation with only one game between us and the national championship game. That game was against Oklahoma. Well, OU destroyed us in the Big XII championship game and we fell out of spirits, out of #1, and out of a BCS (more like BS) bowl altogether. And that was certainly not an isolated incident. OU handed us our first loss earlier that year and the Tigers had never beaten them under current coach Gary Pinkel. Like I said, I fucking hate the Sooners, and there’s nothing Sam Bradford can do about it.
Given my hatred for OU, their top ranking, and the fact that this was my first homecoming, this was a huge game. And we thought we actually had a chance. We weren’t expecting great things from the team this year (at least, not BCS-great), but coming into the contest we had one of the nation’s best defenses. Sure, we had played against crap in cleats up to this point, but we always play pussies in pads in non-conference and we’d never had a top-ranked defense before. Maybe this was our year. So after Corso made an ass of himself by putting on Mizzou’s helmet then taking it off to pick OU, I tailgated for the first time in my life (as if the weekend wasn’t good enough—shout out to my Twainers) and headed to Faurot Field. The Sooners kicked off to Gahn McGaffie, and this happened.
Indeed, I do believe in miracles. There’s a better video here, but I really wanted to show the hysteria of the crowd. I have honestly never seen a crowd go crazier than the Mizzou fans went on that play. No one in the crowd even cared about retaining their footing; they were just all lying on the concrete ground in an infinite yellow embrace. You know when the crowd is trying to pump up the defense and you can’t imagine it possibly being any louder? Well this was way louder. Sure maybe it was because half the crowd was still somewhat inebriated, but it doesn’t matter. There was something so much more to it. We knew this could be different. It was our time.
And it was, we won the game in a surprisingly decisive manner, 36-27. Yet, while it was evident in the waning minutes that we were actually gonna do it, I still couldn’t relax. The entire game, every little mistake killed me, every Mizzou gain gave me a renewed, yet cautious high. They handed out yellow pom poms at the gates to the game and the handle of mine is absolutely demolished by nervous teeth marks. I just could not believe we could do it. Sure, I wasn’t alive/old enough for the 5th down play or the Nebraska kicked touchdown, but I know you always have to take any impending Tigers success with a grain of salt. In spite of my eternal pessimism, we did beat the number one team in the nation and promptly stormed the field. (Funny story, 30 MU students were arrested—and later acquitted—for storming the field. A police officer actually helped me over the trip line.) It was undoubtedly the greatest win I’ve ever witnessed live.
I don’t even remember what happened the rest of the weekend, but it doesn’t matter. This was clearly the most unbelievable weekend of my life thus far. But that’s not even what this post is about [You: “Then why the hell did I just read all that?” PUNCH SCREEN]. Well I mean, I certainly wanted to tell you about my greatest weekend ever, which just so happens to relate to the two subjects of this blog, and I definitely wanted to fill you in on what went down at mytop two concerts of 2010 like promised, but there’s a much bigger picture here: the combination of music and sports. Spusic. Or morts. When music and sports unite, it’s like pump-up music or someone singing about sports. Wait, no. That’s not where I’m going with this.
As different as music and sports may appear (band geeks/football players, intellectuals/philistines, Shaq/Conor Oberst), there is actually a very intriguing comparison between the two. First: the way the two affect one’s mood. Obviously, both can cause great joy as shown above. But what happens when the shit hits the fan?
Time to tell you about my Christmas present. I didn’t really ask for anything major this year, mostly because pussy and religion is all I need. So when Santa came, I was ready for a surprise. And boy did [SPOILERS] my parents come through: tickets for me and my dad to see Mizzou play Iowa in the Insight Bowl. Speaking of shit hitting the fan, that’s why we were in the Insight Bowl in the first place. After knocking off OU, we lost to Nebraska in a game we probably should have lost, but then we lost to lowly Texas Tech. We still probably got snubbed (Texas A&M got in the Cotton Bowl, even though we beat them handedly at their place), but those losses brought us a bowl opponent who had lost three straight games and multiple players to suspension.
We should have destroyed them, yet Iowa took an early lead in Tempe (which is an awesome city, btdubs). I knew we had the ability to come back, and once again I found myself feeling every blow, this time for the opposite reason. I mean, I take it hard when I’m at a game. I can’t tell you how many times I wrung my hat in my hands or slammed it on the seat in front of me. I lost my voice early despite being miles out of the hearing range of anyone on that field. I like to feel like part of the game. So when we came back and claimed the lead, I was ecstatic. I even remember actually thinking, Y’know, this makes all the stressing out worth it. Of course, quarterback Blaine Gabbert managed to literally throw the game away (although he can’t be blamed, he played a fantastic game), and then the refs managed to literally fuck receiver T.J. Moe in the ass (it was an uncomfortable sight) with the most gut-wrenching reversed call I’ve ever witnessed. It went down like this: we needed a field goal and we were just out of range, when Gabbert threw a fourth down pass that Moe had to make one helluva dive to grab. And he did, I swear he did. In fact, without seeing it I knew he caught it because T.J. Moe is just a gutsy guy who always comes through for our team in the clutch. But the catch got overturned despite an obvious lack of irrefutable evidence, and our bowl game went down the drain. I was miserable for the next 24 hours, and not just because Iowa ruined my Christmas.
Clearly, sports can have a huge negative effect on one’s mood when things go wrong. Sports are like religion. You don’t really choose who you worship; it’s generally based off what you’re born into. If your parents are Catholic, you’re probably going to be Catholic. If you’re parents are Cubs fans, you’re probably going to be a fuck-up—er, a Cubs fan. It’s all faith. There’s no real reason (besides 72 virgins) to practice a certain religion, and there’s no real reason to root for a certain sports team. Sure, your team might win more championships if you decide to root for the Yankees, but who’s to say you’ll get more out of winning five Steinbrenner-bought World Series than you will out of one hard-earned championship from a franchise like the Giants or the Cubs (okay, bad example)? Sports reward dedication, but that dedication sure takes its toll, and there’s no guarantee it’s gonna pay off before you die—but damn does it feel good if it finally does.
Now let’s look at music. Music is all reason-based. We listen to bands because we like them, not because we believe we should like them. Sure, there is faith required to give an album a chance, but, unlike religion, we know sooner or later if that music deserves our renewed attention. Just like dedication to a franchise (usually) pays off at some point, putting effort into finding great music pays its dividends. You enjoy a championship more if you’ve been rooting for that team for 30 years, and you enjoy a CD more if you went through the effort to find it yourself. When the shit hits the fan in the music world, it’s not nearly as devastating. You can always switch bands. Yet, there is the lasting thought: exactly what great music could there have been had this band hit a home run? In sports, the loss is obvious because another team claims it. In music there is the tinge of sorrow that comes from curiosity of the unreached.
You know what’s interesting? Playing. You play sports and you play music. Both can and do transcend their mediums. 50 minutes of music can mean much much more than mere chords and lyrics, and how often have we heard, “It’s more than a game”? They both can stir great feelings of inspiration; yet, they are undoubtedly temporary for the audience. There is more to life than music and/or sports, boys and girls. So what exactly is my point? To quote LCD Soundsystem, “There’s advantages to both. Advantages to both!”
I don’t know if I’m going to be a sportswriter or a music journalist. I don’t know if I like sports more or music more. I don’t know which will have a bigger impact on my life. But what I do know is that if one of these fantastic inventions of mankind is not a part of your life, you are missing out on something great.