Sobriety is relative.
I have felt incurably sober after particular strings of sometimes illegal, but usually acceptable bouts with indulgence.
Likewise, I have felt entirely fucked up in situations where nature’s presence and a return to a childlike mentality were all that were needed.
But in situations such as this, I use the saying simply as a tool of comparison for me and my fellow concert-faring compatriots. And in comparison to these nincompoops, I am relatively sober.
Don’t misconstrue science. I am in no shape to, say, get behind the wheel or be put into textual contact with my ex-girlfriend. Both would yield the same results.
But, I have enough of my wits about me to know that I better limit my trips barward if I want my conscious mind to survive the headliner’s performance. Or at least the first half of it.
In my hand is the half-drunk glass bottle of whatever beer option was second cheapest at the counter. To it I will apply chemistry's rule of half-life, drinking half of the remaining half in the amount of time it took to drink the first half, and so on. Some call it nursing. To such mockery, I say nurses are lovely people who are far more deserving of a drink than anyone in this crowd.
“To nurses!” I obnoxiously salute a cheers to a dark room full of people I don't know and music they could never hear me over.
Sobriety is relative.
And looking around the hall of inebriated and subsequently overly-emotional youth, everything in consideration is in fact so.
Some of the concert-goers are here for love - trying to further connect, reconnect, or find someone with which to connect for the very first time to the tune of smooth, jazzy beat-making. Other concert-goers seem to have given up on love long ago and find themselves the odd men out, aggressively posturing and pushing their way through an otherwise mellow crowd. Perhaps just a case of one whiskey shot too many. Other concert-goers still seem to simply be standersby like me, watching others in an effort to better understand the music through those that are here to listen.
Music is lovely in that way. As personal as it feels to each and every one of us, and in all the subtle ways it finds itself speaking so intimately to our innermost souls, its message is never entirely parallel across the minds of others. One man’s love song is another man’s party anthem.
But in general, music, particularly the artist who we are all gathered to see in this wet, hot, dark room, carries with it a relatable sort of emotional vibe – the reasons for our connection to it seem to differentiate our relationship with the music in ways difficult to notice.
Paris is lovely this time of year. There is no better season than spring. Temperate weather ranging from sunny and warm to drizzly and cool. Earthy color palettes spreading from the soft beige of the Haussman to the pastel yellows, blues, oranges, and reds of the budding plant life. A surprising ebb of warmth in the personalities of Parisians as winter is purged from their collective mind. Soon summer will come, and the city will turn to a sweltering box of emotional angst and uncomfortably moist designer clothing, but for now, it is paradise.
Unfortunately, my fellow concert-faring compatriots and I are in no situation to enjoy what the higher powers are offering to springtime Paris. Instead, we have secluded ourselves to the underworld free of the comforts found in most modern places, in order to experience the sonic landscape perhaps most representative of the beauty thriving above our very heads.
Underground venues are particularly dank, rank, and dark – everything expected of a basement – and made even more so by our presence. And yet, for reasons too difficult to explain, there is seldom a better place to see a show.
So, tonight, in this basement underneath a springtime Paris illuminated in the beige’s and pastels of its unexpectedly friendly dwellers, surrounded by a swath of sweaty, inebriated concert-goers whose sole commonality appears to be their taste for music, I find myself relatively sober and comparatively overzealous in my outward judgement and assumption of others.
To this realization and in response to the dimming of lights and the subsequent building of collective energy and excitement for the continuation of tonight’s expectation, I throw away my strict rule of half-life, finish my beer, and head towards the bar for something much stronger.
Sobriety is relative.
And it’s time I more closely adhere to the inebriation of others surrounding me.
“Double Whiskey. Rocks.”
Drink in hand and improving attitude in tow, new details of my surroundings come to light. A few stagemen are fixing up the final touches before performance – adjusting electrical equipment with the grace of medical specialists.
The stage itself, like a barge in a shallow river, sits only a foot or two above the rest of the populace. The low roof doesn’t allow for much more than that.
The audience in true Parisian fashion, is dressed in black, charcoal, and mid-grey. Nothing lighter. Nothing with more color. Their appearance camouflages their silhouettes to the blackness of the room and skews the true overbearing quantity of fans in the venue. Especially as the stage lights dim and dim, the audience becomes nothing but one amorphous black sea awaiting the bold bargemen to take his place at the helm and take us somewhere new.
From a doorless hallway in the back, our hero walks to the stage. He takes a seat at a sort of electronic keyboard take on a grand piano, carefully pulls a pair of sunglasses from his pocket, leans forward to the mic, greets us with a brisk bon soir, and balances the sunglasses snuggly onto the bridge of his nose.
With that subtle entrance and the intricate beginnings to Skyline, French Kiwi Juice, FKJ, begins the intoxicating journey for us all where his music’s effect will ensure that sobriety no longer be relative, but felt equally between the members of the audience.
Unification by auditory inebriation.