The Digital Campfire

Well, “Spook Country” I hear has a rock star protagonist. Rock stars have appeared in a few cyberpunk stories, one of them actually on my list of “Book I’ve Never Finished.”

But a modern day concert a cyberpunk bloggable event? Oh hell ya! Especially if it’s RUSH.

CONCERT SPOILERS BELOW I should note, just in case, they’re on tour for awhile and don’t read if you don’t want to know.

So Rush just swung through Northern CA with three shows Thurs, Friday and Saturday and we got to check out 2 of them. Amphithetre setting which I like more than the arenas and stadiums. Much more. And these 50+ year-olds just rocked. As Enoc noted, there’s definitely a morality play at work in these shows. Songs building and riffin off of one another towards a larger theme wherein the Digital Man features prominently. From the beginning, we find the Digital Man wandering after the Limelight.

All nicely encapsulated by the timeless Tom Sawyer whose “mind is not for rent” while he “hopes for your discontent.” The songs or lyrics actually all weave this image of the world that’s quite in line with a distopian view popular in cyberpunk. A world different than the one we thought we’d inherit (Far Cry), Wounded Cities (Workin them Angels). Children raised to attack, not defend (Armor and Sword). A western world attacked and attacking features largerly in their new album from which they played heavily. And folks wandering this world, practicing their Free Will, caught in their Dreamline, their Mission. Again and again, the stage we play upon, the masks we don. And the reflections, of tide pools to seas, of stage and story to life.

And then on top of all that, there’s just music itself — again, we must note the Gibson/Rush Canada influence! But here we have three guys up on stage with just about the cutting edge of musical technical wizardry. No, they’re not hiphop or trance DJs — but all three of them fire off sequenced and sampled sounds at the touch of a foot pedal or drum trigger. You’re just sitting there (or jumping around) as this wave of sound washes over you. Cacophony of drums and layers of guitar and bass pounding at you. An acoustic guitar pops in, a long symphonic hit slides through, Geddy back and forth from bass to keyboards with his feet triggering sounds all the time. I especially like Alex stepping to the mic for a single word, “Subdivisions,”that comes crunching out of the speakers in a digitally-layered squawk as if the Matrix itself had spoken.

And that’s nothing compared to the cybertronic efforts of Mr. Peart. On normal drums he’s amazing — on drum pads with midi triggers, he’s a show unto himself. Synthisizers, symphonies, shattering sounds in savage beats. His drum samples are crazy, multi-voice affairs that sound like a xylaphone, trash can, and computer harddrive crash all layerd on top of a tribal drum with a symphonic string section supporting it all.

We gather and hear a story accompanied by music. The music adds texture, adds “places” where our minds may wander with internal visions and textures. From the campfire to the concert hall, an extension of our oral tradition of storytelling, live music, live rock and roll has been seeking to make the production more than the music. The Rolling Stones, U2, the huge bands with huge stages and amazing effects and dazzling scifi stage shows, extending the message, creating a shared experience that is more than the message, more than the song and lyrics. Live music as a tribal gathering, chanting together, singing togather — it is more than the show, it is more than the music, the audience’s perception and feedback create a dynamic, a whole bigger than the parts.

It slips between your hands
Like water
This living in real time
A dizzying lifetime
Reeling by on celluloid

Struck between the eyes
By the big-time world
Walking uneasy streets-
Hiding beneath the sheets-
Got to try and fill the void…

-Between the Wheels