Sep 20, 2015

Harbingers of the death of rock and roll, fear not.

Traffic signals blink yellow because there is no traffic to regulate. Darkened church doorways shelter homeless men in ragged socks. Construction vehicles rust in the abandoned roadwork. The library and the Red Cross building are boarded up and vandalized. Vampires roam the streets (probably).  

Detroit is dying. Or so it would appear.

To get to The Loving Touch, you must drive south on Woodward, past the Fox Theatre and Comerica Park, past the now-defunct Magic Stick, past empty buildings and weeded lots and broken glass and graffiti, until you pass, fittingly, a large cemetery. And then you are in Ferndale, which, while not technically Detroit, is close enough.

The ghost town aura of downtown Detroit, however, has vanished. The Mediterranean restaurant we go to is positively bustling, and the bars near The Loving Touch (itself a former massage parlour) are renovated and graffiti-free. Gentrification is in full effect.    

The show is sold out, and more than half of the patrons in the bar sport black Magic-Markered Xs on the backs of their hands. (Many of them wear Hawaiian shirts like the lead singer is sometimes wont to do.) The other patrons drink tall cans of PBR, the cheapest beer they have. (I drive vodka and water, because I am a grown-up who is concerned about her caloric intake.)

Australian band Dune Rats warmed up the enthusiastic underaged crowd with their hyper garage/pop/rock and roll, including a cover of Blister in the Sun with half the lyrics omitted in favour of indiscernible mumbling.

And then the stage went dark and the lightbulb eyes lit up in the giant papier-maché-head replicas of the band members and FIDLAR came on and the place went fucking mental. I had seen the band twice before in Toronto, so I knew what to expect, but I did not expect such chaos from a bunch of kids whose illegal pre-show buzz must surely have worn off by that point. They jumped around like wild things, they shouted and sang, they surfed the crowd, they took their sweat-soaked t-shirts off and lost their cell phones in the frenzy.

There is something about attending a live rock show that no shaky iPhone video or post-show review can ever capture, which is why it's important to just GO, man. You can never truly know what you've missed: the jostling that will result in bruises the next day, the smell of furtive joint-smoking, the shared smiles when the band plays that song that you love that they never play, the feel of other people's sweat on your own bare skin (okay, I can probably do without that last one).

I have never believed in the dire predictions of the death of rock and roll. Rock and roll will never die. Its power might ebb and flow, but as long as there are teenagers, there will be angst. And as long as there is angst, there will be the need for rock and roll.

Last night at the FIDLAR show, the youth of America gave me hope for the future. For the future of kids raised on technology who showed me that it IS possible for them to put their phones down and live in the moment, for the future of Detroit, that dying city with the possibility of revival in its embers, and for the future of rock and roll.

Riot on.