The Crystal Method
The Sun Theater
I've been getting a lot of shit from readers lately for writing so frequently about things that are bathroom-related. And you know where I like to write about things that are bathroom-related? Why, in the bathroom, of course! There's just something about the divine lumbar support provided by the toilet—as well as the peace and quiet, the sanctuary, really, of the stall—that makes me want to sit back and snap off a few story ideas. Now, see, usually I feel bad about doing this at concerts because there's usually a line of chirpy, full-bladdered women, so I can't relax enough to actually sit on the toilet and jot down notes. Not so at the Sun Theatre, where I went to see Crystal Method and Überzone, though. There was barely anyone there! I could have written an entire novel or five-part historical docudrama in the bathroom!
And if I were the kind of person who liked to take notes while driving around empty parking lots, I could have done that, too. There are incredible parking opportunities when the Sun is sparsely populated. I could have worn uncomfortable shoes! If only I had known!
I could have been wearing uncomfortable shoes while talking to Papa Byrd's fabulous lounge DJs Chris and Scott, who were bummed because they'd spent $41 per ticket (including service charges) to see Überzone, who they missed because Überzone were on and off the stage by, like, 9:15 p.m. And it wasn't just like reaching into their wallet and whipping out a $41 bill. They had to go to Tower, where Scott's card was declined, and then to the ATM at Texaco, which didn't work because the machine had just been dropped off that day and wasn't yet online. Then they went to the ATM at the Ramada, which only doled out money in $100 increments plus a $2.50 service charge per hundred. And they were buying tickets for two shows, so they had to pull out 300 bucks plus a $7.50 service charge.
I was trying to pay attention to Scott and Chris and feel their frustration and get upset at each twist and turn of the nutty ATM saga, but I was distracted by the hair sitting atop this guy A.J.'s head. It looked like a loaf-cake pan full of hair that had been inverted and affixed to the top of his skull. It was amazingly wedge-like, grounded in the central section of his head and springing straight up and out a bit. But not "out a bit" in any sort of haphazard way; it went "out a bit" in a way that was sculpted and tight and taut and served as a prominent follicular reminder that this guy was not fucking around. How do you get your hair to not fuck around like that? Egg whites? Gel? Final Net? You could bounce a quarter off his hair! But that's not all: his coiffure was completed by a long, braided ponytail, worn low and tight on the nape of his neck.
"I'm a fucking geek!" he offered, laughing explosively and nervously, when I asked if he was a computer-nerd-tweaker-hacker, which is what I decided most of the people in the sparse crowd were. To-may-to, to-mah-to; geek, computer-nerd-tweaker-hacker—let's call the whole thing techno!
"Plugging your computer into the Internet is like walking out of your house naked," said Scott, who has a bit of computer-nerd-tweaker-hacker in him, although he does a good job concealing it.
"You use that analogy?" asked Wedge-head. "I like the house doorknob one."
"Ah, yes," said Scott. And then I got tired of their secret language, so I asked what "house doorknob" meant.
"Oh," said Wedgy, "many of the attempts to hack into your system are like someone coming up to your house and trying the doorknob to see if it's unlocked."
"Or ringing the doorbell six times!" said Scott.
And then this weird thing happened where my brain lit up and I felt like in order to understand anything, I really needed to understand hacker culture. But before I had a chance to do that, this woman in really glittery pants walked by, and I was forced to shield my eyes. "Do not stare directly at the pants; do not stare directly at the pants," I warned my friends. Unfortunately, I lost track of sparkle butt inside the theater (which was weird because it was quite empty), but I bet those pants would have been shining like a disco ball under the Crystal Method's aggressively average light show. Those pants would have been going off! They would have been sparkling like mad! And what is it with electronic music and light shows? Light shows are lame! They give everything a cheesy, synthetic '80s feel. They turn cavernous plush theaters into gigantic dorm rooms. They're unkind to epileptics. And why green? No one looks good in green light. Even E.T. would have benefited from the softening effects of some nice natural lighting, and he was a greenish brown, for crissakes!
And if you're going to have a light show, why not have dry ice as well? And how about playing the theme song from 2001: A Space Odyssey? And why not sell raffle tickets and have punch and Chips Ahoy cookies and all those other things that belong at church Halloween parties, like homemade haunted houses with your neighbor's dad dressed up as "that scary guy who jumps out of the coffin" trying his hardest to scare the little kids who totally know it's him and aren't even scared at all, but it's all in good fun, but secretly he's kind of bummed that he doesn't scare the kids anymore because to him it means he's growing old and getting soft, and if you can't even scare a bunch of kids at your church's Halloween party, then who can you scare?
But the truth is that without the light show, bands like the Crystal Method would be really, really fucking boring, instead of just pretty boring, because bands like the Crystal Method were never meant to play live. Oooh, look, he's turning a knob! No way, he's doing that thing with the DAT machine—I hope he doesn't fuck up! Wait, he can't fuck up, it's programmed! Yeah, check out the way he dances when he flips that switch! Wow, he's pushing a button!
Unless you're a computer-nerd-tweaker-hacker, DAT machines and computers and cords and mixers and sequencers—the means of production that clutter the stage when a band like Crystal Method plays—are pretty boring to look at. Interesting from an intellectual standpoint, perhaps, but from an emotional one, watching someone play techno live is about as interesting as watching someone check their e-mail.
Which is not to say there's no point in seeing them live. At a club, or a rave, or anything where the focus would be on dancing it would be really cool to hear a live set by Crystal Method. But in place like the Sun Theatre, where the elevated stage is front and center and the place (like any big theater) is designed to fetishize the live performer, a band like the Crystal Method makes me long for a good church Halloween party.
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