So, I went to go see My Bloody Valentine on July 30, 2009. They were playing at the National, in Richmond, Virginia. The concert had been sold out for weeks, but I was just lucky enough to hop online when a few more tickets were released. Internet addiction IS good for something. So I grabbed two tickets for around 60 dollars, and went with a compadre of mine.
We arrive a little bit late. There were earplugs handed out at the door, and earplugs are either a really good or really bad omen. All the standing room was taken, and I didn't want to push my way through, lest I elicit a disgruntled mumbling from any of the hardcore shoegazers intermingling there. However, we happily took seats in the balcony.
This was My Bloody Valentine's only east coast tour stop, due to their requirement of very specific audio accomodations. And I could see why when I looked at the equipment being dragged around on stage. I counted 21 FX pedals for the lead guitarist, and there were speakers, amps, mixing boards as far as the eye could see, and many engineers scrambling around onstage.
The sound check ran, and this was timed, and hour and 40 minutes. They sent some acoustic guitar guy onstage to entertain the crowd for the duration of this lengthy sound check, but he was mediocre, as most acoustic guitar, singer-songwriters are.
The band finally came onstage, shoegaze stereotypes and all. They were extremely quiet, low-key, and didn't address the audience. However, the audio and visual experience that erupted from this stage is something that I will do my best to describe. (However, there is no possible way I can capture the magnitude of this experience into words.)
From the opening song to the end of the set, the room filled with a hazy, distorted, tortured, yet somehow beautiful wall of sound that completely enveloped the listener. The sounds were perfectly complimented by and orgy of lights and fog that put visual definition to the organized chaos that was heard. It was almost like being on a whole other plane while being trapped by the elegance of dischord that is the music of My Bloody Valentine, and I could think of nothing else but how beautiful it all was. My mind would not and could not stray elsewhere, as it was forcefully pinned down by this sound, this aural chokehold, and could do nothing else but be elevated by the beauty of it all. It reduced my entire world down to a swirling of colors, lights, and sounds. Nothing was definate anymore. And nothing needed to be definate. I was lost, but I was happy.
Nothing defined this more than when towards the end of their set, they held one chord for, and I timed this as well, 14 minutes and 30 seconds. I kid you not. The same chord for 14 minutes and 30 seconds. However, this chord simultaneously felt like an eternity and an instant. On one hand, the chord droned on and on and on and on, forcing monotony upon the audience, forcing a sense of impatience on us, and leaving us lost and confused. On the other hand, this same chord began to uproot any preconcieved notions we had about what music could be and began to amplify fear, wonder, joy, hatred, and any other emotions we could possibly have, and meld them all together to the point where they are indistinguishable from one another, and the fluctuations in dynamics, effects, and ambiance only further magnified the realization that this chord that had taken hold of you and rewritten who you were as a person.
I never wanted this chord to end.
Unfortunately, it did.
I left the National that night a different person. It was truly a life-changing experience.