Music gear takes up most of a makeshift stage in what is usually the audience area in the middle of the floor at Thalia Hall. I’m early like always, but because it’s an all-ages show, there are a few eager adolescents milling about. This is one of the times when being ‘the old guy at the show’, a thing I’ve been for well over twenty years, may as well be broadcast via blinding neon light. I almost didn’t come. Not because of the being old thing.
I hate buying tickets in advance because I never know what mood I’ll be in day of. I’ve arrived at venues, looked around, then left before a single note was played more times than I can count. I wish there was some way to game it out but there isn’t. I fight myself over this one all day. Glad I made myself go after all.
Lightning Bolt played one of the loudest shows I’ve ever experienced at the Empty Bottle ten or fifteen years back. My hearing’s fucked from way back because I never wore earplugs over decades of earsplitting music. I have periodic but persistent ringing in one or both ears, but I don’t really care. I love being in the room where the sounds are being made so much that the damage is more than worth it. But Lightning Bolt that night was a lot even for me. I was pinned against the window, as far from the stage as you could be while still being inside, but it was like a jackhammer inside my skull.
Thalia Hall is many times bigger than the Bottle so I hope the volume of the band will disperse and spread in a more traditionally enjoyable manner. I don’t mind getting beat up a little, but, please, take breaks, and let me remain on my feet.
The old theater begins to fill up as the opener climbs up onto the makeshift stage. He’s a very fat bearded man from Nebraska who makes house music with words almost exclusively about his Pekinese dogs. Before hitting the electronics for the first beats, he takes off his button-up shirt and swaps it for a tee specially printed with his face on both front and back so that the audience on both sides of the stage can have eye contact. I run into him later at the merch table and he gives me a CD for free because he likes the German Shepherds on my t-shirt.
The Lightning Bolt set is a thing of beauty. Overlapping riffs and drum fills vibrate and waft up toward the rafters. It’s very loud, but the big softens and almost shapes the sounds as they disperse. I watch most of it from the balcony, then go downstairs for the last couple numbers. I can’t see the band, just the dark roiling mass silhouette of people with the occasional crowd surfer interrupting the headlight-like strobes panning the room off a vacant stage.
I forget about being the old guy. I forget almost everything. This is what music is for.