After months of being ghosted by the Spokane Knitting Factory staff upon my multiple requests for a Press Pass, I bought a 60-dollar general admission ticket from Stub Hub that came out to be $100 dollars after fees and taxes. A bargain at any price.
Modest Mouse kick-started my teenage angst with a bang due to Jeremiah Green’s immaculate drumming and Isaac Brock’s soothing screams. These two original band members returned to tour The Lonely Crowded West album after it had been released 25 years ago. The quadranscentennial tour had it’s second show in Spokane Washington on November 19th 2022.
This was my first in-person concert that was not located in Pullman or associated with WSU since the pandemic. The Spokane Knitting Factory website listed the event as, “sold-out”. We, the audience, were packed like fudge in the general admission area. I arrived an hour early to plant my feet on floor space of 1.5 x 1.5 feet. This is where I would stand for the duration of “Mattress”, the opening act, until the short friend I went to the show with wanted to relocate so that they could see past the waves of flannel, beards, and beanies that blocked her view.
Mattress was a delight. Rex Marshall, the solo artist that is Mattress, appeared on stage with three ipods, sported a gold suit, and rocked the house by himself like a conjured professional reminiscent of Tony Bennett. I had previously only heard of his work on the fantastic song, “Death as a Fetish” with STRFKR. His solo performance was engaging and humorous. I was pleasantly surprised to see his pageantry and showmanship while he danced to his drum machine beats, microphone in tow. Rex held his own as he had the audience jovial, warmed, and ready to give like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve by the time he exited the stage.
After Mattress left the stage, the audience was left with the silence of their own thoughts while they made sure not to move their feet so as not to step on anyone’s toes, and count the number of lights hanging above the stage trying to affix numerological meaning to the sum calculated. Maybe that was just me. 4 is my favorite number. 4 is bad luck in Chinese culture as it is a symbol of death. “4 is too perfect”, said one of my ex-girlfriends. 4 is the number I calculated.
While I had my head in the rafters, an audience member that was feeling himself in the silence on the balcony began throwing wadded up 20-dollar bills to the fudge packed people below. In the economy of data and information, this was a great experience for the fudge people as they were enthused to see this man’s attention paying them in real-time. It made me sad like a drug dealer makes me sad. People began to pay him attention, in turn, as they were being paid. I counted the lights on stage. 7+7=14; 1+4=5. 7×7=49; 4+9=13; 1+3=4. I always forget nines do that. Then I see the man next to me lift up his flannel to expose his nipple to the gentleman in the balcony. The man in the balcony then flashed his nipple. A cry from the audience cut the silence, “Show us your dick!”.
By the time I dared to turn my head to face his One-Eyed Willy, he had begun to tighten his belt with a look of shame and excitement that had been created by himself and the collective consciousness below him. The lights dimmed as the fog machine began to triple its output and the fudge roared with excitement, finally cutting the silence, math equations, and lame burlesque show.
Stepping onto the stage was singer-guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green, bassist Russell Higbee and guitarist Simon O’Connor. They looked cold and bundled in their warmest and softest layers the first sign of winter made them wear. They then looked hot as they stripped on stage and picked up their instruments, they would use to woo the crowd. In front of me, a man holding a piece of parchment with a note written in highlighter was presented before Isaac. The lead singer could not read the small print and so asked the audience member to hand it up to him. The wave of hands before him obliged and as Isaac read his voice began to trail off and his mouth moved away from the mic. This was their moment. Something about “train hopping to see the show” followed by unintelligible mutters and an invitation for the audience member to see him after the show. The heartfelt and disorienting moment started the show and perfectly led into the equally heartfelt and disorienting song, “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine”.
The band went on to play the “Lonely Crowded West” album in its entirety. It went off without a hitch, except for one. One of the bearded, flannelled, and beanied audience members punched a woman in the face.
I first spotted the man before my friend and I moved after the opening act. I could not help but notice this man was as affixed to his position on the floor area as I was. He never turned, but kept his focus forward on a younger woman (I presume was his daughter) who seemed to be the only one facing the back of the venue in order to talk to him. I questioned the dynamic of their relationship as he seemed to be on edge like a gargoyle on the roof of a building protecting the young woman that looked back up to him with affinity and excitement for the show to start.
Then the hitch arrived on the scene. She was in her late 30’s, but dressed like a twenty-year-old that works at a metaphysical shop. Her eyes were more pupil than iris. With black eyes in her sockets, she made her way past me and other audience members while she made an apologetic face that also appeared to show disgust and surprise, as if she was witnessing the horror that was to come but could not stop her feet being placed one in front of the other. Once in front of me, she began to “dance” with other women in the audience. This was the kind of dancing that thankfully died out after high school, barring this exception where the woman started to grope other women to the rhythm of “Long Distance Drunk”. She was rejected multiple times and stumbled about until she found herself in the proximity of the young woman and her gargoyle guardian.
As swiftly as she stumbled into the couple’s standing room the man push/punched her in the jaw forcing her to stumble away and replace her face of disgust and surprise with a face that was in shock. The confusion turned to her wearing a coy smile as if to say, “Hold me back. Hold me back.” like she was in a B-rate high school movie. Everyone moved away. A wave of packed fudge arms lifted to alert security that there was an inebriated “spiritual” member of the audience that needed to be removed.
Security slithered through the crowd and the fluorescent-green men snatched the spirited woman, seeping into the ether of the Saturday night. I left with them. Seeing the woman get hit in the mouth disoriented me and made me want to not want to be there any longer. I left the audience to meet and greet Mattress, collect my bearings, and process what I had just witnessed.
I was ready to leave. I lowered my shoulder and kept my feet moving to make my way back to my friend in the middle of the audience. Shortly after re-connecting with them, I was sneezed on twice by the person standing behind me. I closed my eyes and wished that God could turn me into a bird so that I could fly far, far-far away from there. My friend was also ready to leave, and so we did.
I am grateful to have witnessed one of my long-time favorite bands. But at what cost? 100 dollars and an empathic episode saw me back home for Thanksgiving break. Now my mom and I are sick thanks to the loving kindness of the stranger sneezing expectorate onto my back. A bargain at any price.