At the last minute Monday morning, I bought a ticket to see Polyphia that night at the Smiling Moose. I saw them last year when they opened for Dance Gavin Dance and my heart immediately opened for them. I was never a big fan of prog, but I guess people change. People usually tell me I’m way off base when I make musical comparisons, but maybe my mind is just DIFFERENT ok? So if you asked me, I would tell you that Polyphia reminds me of the grandchildren of Chuck Mangione and Eric Johnson. Do with that what you will.
I’m still picky with this genre though. For instance, we saw Chon—another instrumental band in the same vein and they are actually taking Polyphia on tour with them next year—and while they were audibly pleasant, I was kind of bored.
Polyphia, however, did not bore me when I saw them last year.
Henry likes neither Chon not Polyphia, so this was another solo show for your girl ERK.
When I got to the Smiling Moose after work that night, there were strange vibes from the get-go. I wasn’t drinking that night because I really don’t want to rely on alcohol to help me get past my social anxiety, so that made it even worse because instead of killing time at the bar, I went right on upstairs where Save Us From the Archon were setting up and several small clusters of people were hanging out. Everyone always stops and stares at the girl who walks in alone.
And it will never stop being incredibly uncomfortable for me. But…it’s either deal with it or miss a lot of great bands.
It got easier once more people arrived. Like this super tall guy who definitely commanded everyone’s attention so that I could go back to being a wallflower.
I thought he was going to stand in front of me the whole time, but was pleasantly surprised that he had enough concert couth to reposition himself in this one wall pocket near the side of the stage. Hats off to you, guy.
Once SUFTA started playing, my nerves were effectively shushed. This was my third time seeing them, and since they’re a local band, they typically inspire a lot of enthusiasm from the audience. I was really into it until halfway through when these two motherfuckers arrived and stood right in front of me. Look, I get it — these things are bound to happen, but they stood so close in front of me that my breath was making the fuzz sway on the back on the one guy’s peacoat.
And there were plenty of other open areas they could have stood.
They moved all the way up to the front after SUFTA. They were apparently friends with them and probably thought they were so badass coming to a show straight from their accounting jobs. Fuck those guys.
Whatever, SUFTA was insane as always and made my brain move around like a Rubik’s cube so I can’t be too mad.
In between sets, more people showed up and the front of the stage began to get more crowded. I watched as two docile, unassuming types took stage and got behind their respective drums and guitar.
“Hi guys,” said the guitarist in a fumbly kind of tone. “Our singer couldn’t make it tonight so um, we’re just going to an instrumental set for you.”
To myself, I’m thinking that this makes sense, given SUFTA and Polyphia are both instrumental. So the two guys start playing and it’s admittedly pretty heavy. I mean, my face wasn’t being melted off, but it was definitely more metal than the other bands.
Things were progressing nicely, people were moving around a bit, and then the breakdowns started.
This “oh shit” feeling come over me as the air in the room became pregnant with palpable doom. Amid the rustling in the crowd, I watched as a guy at the front of the stage turned around and charged right at me. “Fuck,” I sighed, bracing myself. But right before impact, he switched directions as though ricocheting off something invisible, and slammed into some guy who was big enough to absorb it without breaking a bone. And thus, the hardcore dancing started.
Moshing doesn’t bother me, but hardcore dancing is fucking obnoxious and dangerous. The Smiling Moose is extremely small, capacity is maybe 150? I’m no capacity expert, so that’s probably way off, but it is approximately the size of my downstairs. The room is as wide as the stage, which isn’t very wide at all. I always stand in the same spot at these shows — right near the front and against a wall. There was a line of us against this wall with no body-buffer on the other side of us. It was the wall, us, and then a bit of an empty space which is where all of the violent dance-spasms were performed.
This is all to say that I had nowhere to go and no one to shield me from the flailing limbs and flying fists.
“I DON’T WANT TO DIE LIKE THIS!” I cried to myself, determined not to let them smell my fear. For the most part, these bros were doing an OK job of not body-slamming me, but there were quite a few sweaty backs I had to forcefully push back into the crowd, a couple of which knocked me off balance but my friend Wall caught me every time. The kid behind me, bless his heart, protectively placed his hands on my arm a few time, like that was going to do anything to help. I probably would have been better off if Chooch had been behind me!
This went on in spurts. I watched as one of them grabbed the small, young guy in front of me and tossed him onto the floor and that poor guy had a very strong “ANTI-BRUTALITY” aura about him so I felt pretty bad for him. No actual fights broke out at least, even though there were some tense moments when I wasn’t sure. But it would always end with jovial back-slaps and smiles and I just don’t get it, guys.
To each their own, but trying to not break a bone is not my idea of enjoying myself at a show.
For the last song, they called up “Dave” who was going to “help out” on vocals for the set-closer. Dave hadn’t even grabbed the mic yet and I was already gulping. If I had done my due diligence, I would have known that this was a local hardcore metal band called Delusions of Grandeur and I would have known to get in the back, maybe even all the way back to the bathroom, in a stall, crouched down with my head covered.
As soon as Dave emitted his first caterwaul, the meatheads got all riled up again and my “protector” declared that he was about to go fullblown windmill on this one.
And so he did.
And I had nowhere to go.
So I stood my ground, dodging fists and shoving bodies off of me, and then I got punched pretty hard in the arm and thought, “DO NOT CRY! DO NOT CRY! DON’T YOU DARE CRY!” So then I turned my fear into anger and stood my ground, prepared to throw down (I HAVE A TEMPER AND HIDDEN MUSCLES, OK?) while thinking, “I AM TOO OLD FOR THIS!” just as some bald-headed aging hardcore kid came rushing toward the stage from the back and added his own brand of nosebleed-waiting-to-happen dance moved. And this guy was easily Henry’s age.
But I did it! I endured their set without getting slaughtered and no one pulled my hair, which probably actually would have made me cry.
I hate having my hair pulled.
Just don’t touch my hair ever.
I briefly exchanged words with the drummer afterward as he was trying to push all of their gear into one of the wall pockets and I just couldn’t get over how this fucking nerdy little guy was in a band that incited such terror and aggression.
And then, for whatever reason, Polyphia ended up playing next, swapping spots with the fourth band in the line up and I had no problem with this, because my night was essentially done after being pummeled by flying flesh bags.
But Polyphia’s set was peaceful, beautiful, and worth the danger. I was glad that I fought to keep my spot because they are majestic to watch.
This guy especially:
I can’t remember the last time I saw such a perfect human being in person, but his face literally took my breath my away and I AM NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL. He was like some kind of angel and I had to keep rolling my tongue back into my mouth.
Peril aside, I left there loving Polyphia even more. There set was really short, adding to the weird vibes theme of the night. Everything about this night was off! But there was peace for Polyphia’s set and my adrenaline had finally reached A Normal Day levels by the time I left The Smiling Moose. And by “left,” I mean “pushed people out of my way, tried not to fall down the steps, and then burst through the door to reach that place where I was no longer surrounded by assholes.”
“There goes one of my assailants,” I texted Henry while waiting on a side street for him to pick me up. When I got in the car, smudged mascara and hair askew, Henry and Chooch just rolled their eyes at me. I felt like a new person.
A person who had just been picked up FROM PRISON.
The next day, I was telling my work friends about the night’s events which had turned into “I had to push some people off me and I got punched” to “I ALMOST DIED YOU GUYS!” Then we all watched this video together and Amber2 delightfully read out loud a sampling of the lyrics.
“Maybe it’s time for you to hang it up,” Glenn mumbled.
“YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH!” I cried.
At first, I was like, “I like heavy shit but this just isn’t for me.” But the more I watch this video, the more I actually like it. Just next time, I’ll stand far away. Or outside. Someone can Periscope that shit for me.