Monthly Archives: February 2012

the light of the darkness

there are some things in this world that just make you inexplicably happy.

last night, my brother and i went to see one of my all-time favorite bands, the darkness, at the last show of their first US tour in 8 years. actually, this tour and this show should never have happened – the band split up 5 years ago and seemed unlikely to ever reunite. but they did, against all odds, and will be releasing their third album early this summer.

i remember the first time i ever heard of the darkness. it was 2003, and i saw their video for “i believe in a thing called love.” my first thought was “are they fucking kidding?” with justin hawkins’ over-the-top falsetto, the flamboyant costumes and serious 80s throwback sound, the only justification seemed to be that they must be a parody. it became clear very quickly that they were entirely serious, and that they seriously rocked.

“permission to land” was their first album, and i remember discovering each new track with an almost childlike delight.

here’s the thing about the darkness: they make me ridiculously happy. always have. i’d wake up in the morning, throw on the album as i was getting ready for work, and it never failed to put a smile on my face. i’d rock around the room to the amusement of my roomie, and i swear this album was singlehandedly responsible for making me much less of a morning crank and much more of a morning person.

there’s a lot to be said for something that makes a huge amount of joy well up inside you. for whatever reason, the darkness does that for me. they’re fun, they’re campy, they’re positive, their music is massive and personal all at the same time.

i had a hard time reining in my glee as i waited for them to come on stage at the neptune last night. i was hoping hoping hoping that justin would come out in one of his trademark catsuits, cut rakishly open to the navel. i couldn’t wait to hear these guys live.

they exceeded all my expectations. while he didn’t start out with a catsuit (instead, a three-piece denim ensemble, of which he periodically removed pieces), he did two costume changes, which i have never seen at a rock concert. britney spears or some lip-syncing pop act? i’d expect to see costume changes there, but this was just awesomeness as only the darkness could bring. the first change brought him back out in a lemur-striped catsuit job with a codpiece (lol!) and a plumy tail appendage (LOL!). good god. the second change was even better – a white/pink/silver business with cutouts and a feathery spinal stripe down the back. he strutted around the stage like a pink spandexasaurus, scissor kicking and stage leaping to my heart’s delight. pure, unapologetic, unadulterated joy.

and they fucking ROCKED. they sounded so amazing live, it was unreal. the notes that man can hit? the guitar licks? unbeatable. they played a near two-hour set, which included all of the tracks from their first album, many from the second, and some off the upcoming new album. can’t wait to hear that thing in its entirety.

as a bonus, the two openers were rad. crown jewel defense was fun, campy and awesome, and though it’s probably not anything i’d listen to on my ipod, they were fun to behold in live form. then came foxy shazaam, who were a huge surprise of awesomeness. andy and i both loved their set, their energy and their totally hilarious and irreverent frontman. we both plan on looking into their stuff and i’d definitely go see them again.

basically, i feel like i got to cross off a bucket list item – a real mylestone. i think most people will never understand my sheer and deep love of this band, and i’m not sure i fully understand it myself. all i know is that their music has been putting a smile on my face for 9 years, and i hope i never lose that. i hope they keep producing and touring and rocking as only they can. i will be along for the ride, and judging by the crowd’s reaction last night, i’m definitely not alone.


arrogant bastard

he wasn’t the first person to call me arrogant, and he wouldn’t be the last.

it popped into my head today, years later, causing me to delve into some serious self-analysis. how do we define arrogance? what makes somebody arrogant? and do i really do that thing?

i think i’m pretty self-aware. i can easily rattle off some of my worst qualities to you: i’m selfish; i procrastinate; i’m kind of sloppy; i’m a worry-wart; i have hypochondriacal tendencies; i’m commitment-phobic; i really struggle with change. plus, in my personal life (though for some reason, not at all professionally), i’m virtually incapable of making a decision; i have been known to spend 30 minutes in a shampoo aisle trying to choose a brand.

but surely, self-awareness isn’t only knowing the worst parts of yourself. isn’t there something to be said for knowing the good stuff, too? everyone has things they excel at. everyone has a particular bag of tricks that they bring to the table.

the first accusation of arrogance that i really remember came during a rocky relationship. he practically spit the word at me; there was definite intent to wound. and while it didn’t exactly hurt me, it did make me think. the accusation came after a particularly heated disagreement (of which there were many) which ended with me saying something about being smart, having a good head on my shoulders, and being able to make up my own mind. he accused me of being arrogant because i thought i was smart.

i guess that deserves a little bit of background: the truth is, i’m smart. i do have a good head on my shoulders, and i feel lucky for it. i feel lucky that i have parents who encouraged me and bought me books and read to me since i was small, who sent me to good schools and supported my goals. i embraced reading and school and extra work – i studied hard, took honors classes, went to a great college.

i tried to clarify with him. “so let me get this straight: it doesn’t matter that my whole life, people have labeled me as smart. i’ve been raised to believe that i have a good head on my shoulders, and for the most part i’ve proved it. but for me to simply acknowledge it makes me arrogant?”

yep. that’s exactly what he thought.

i hadn’t bragged about anything. i wasn’t prideful about it. i didn’t say i was smarter than anyone else, him included. there was no sense of measuring myself against someone. it was simply me, observing a quality about myself.

another time, after a discussion with a coworker about proofreading: he said it was arrogant of me to say that i’m good at spelling and never use spell check.

but i am good at spelling! it’s actually a measurable thing!! why is it arrogant to know that about myself after years of having demonstrated it?

it seems like simply acknowledging any positive quality about yourself makes you arrogant. and that’s so disappointing. if that’s really the world we live in, how fundamentally sad and small of us. it seems like the world and the workplace and everywhere in between would be so much more positive if people were allowed or (gasp!) encouraged to recognize some of their positive qualities.

there’s a huge difference between that recognition and being a braggart or taking credit for things you shouldn’t. there’s a huge difference between knowing some of your better qualities, and that knowledge making you think you’re better than others. i’m not perfect, and i’ve totally been guilty of that at times. do i think i have a better sense of humor because i love things like arrested development and the league, rather than two and a half men or everybody loves raymond? sooooooo guilty. and i’m sure there are other places where i toe over that fine line between self-awareness and arrogance.

but it’s disheartening to think that you can’t ever say anything positive about yourself. does that mean we’re all doomed to this half-life place of waiting/wishing/hoping someone will say something good about you, because you’re too afraid to ever acknowledge it yourself? does this mean we all live in this space where self-deprecation, false modesty and fishing for compliments is the norm?

even if no one else will ever understand it, i’m happy that i am in a place where i know that there are good things about myself. it took me a while to feel comfortable in that place, and ending that rocky relationship was the biggest step toward self-awareness and happiness that i’ve ever taken. not because he was such a bad guy, but because i realized that the things he didn’t like about me were things i really valued about myself.

if that makes me an arrogant bastard, so be it. there’s a beer for that.