Last night at Monolith, the Flaming Lips closed the festival with a visually dazzling carnival of floating orbs and shimmering lights and confetti and dancing Santas. Sitting there under the stars, I had a moment. Maybe I was all festivalled out from the two nonstop days of sun, music, sponsored-by-New-Belgium-Brewery drinks, and lots (and lots) of stairs up and down, but during the song “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots” I found myself sitting back, looking up at the stars, and all around me at the gorgeous silent beasts of red rock rising up to both sides, listening to the swell of the crowd singing along at the top of their voices. I felt something twist and swell and stab inside of me.
It was just a split second that can strike you anywhere, even at a crazy music festival on an indian summer night. Despite all odds, it was this faith-affirming moment (even if everyone around me was singing about not letting robots eat them) that made me glad for the power of something that beautiful through music. My mind started to wander to one of its favorite subjects, as it often does, wondering what it would have been like to hear the lovely and pure “Ship Song” bouncing off those rocks when Pearl Jam played there in 1995. I’ve heard the recorded moment dozens of times, but it’s got such an innocence and immediacy that I can now picture it hovering and echoing live in that specific setting.
On the dark and winding drive home, I was explaining the perfection of that particular cover to my friend & rockstar concert companion Jake, who is [wonderfully enough] as big of a Pearl Jam addict as I am. He asked if I’d heard the “It’s OK” tag from the Virginia Beach show in 2000. That Dead Moon song is one that they often work in as a tag at the end of “Daughter” and I’ve even posted another live version of it before from a few weeks after the Virginia Beach show. It’s absolutely one of my favorites, the simple strength of the creed-like lyrics and the way the crowd always sings at their very strongest. But I hadn’t heard this exact one he spoke of.
So we cued it up. And it kicked the wind out of me:
It’s OK (Virginia Beach 8/3/00) – Pearl Jam
This concert was Pearl Jam’s first time back on stage since nine fans in the crowd had lost their lives during their set at the Roskilde Festival on June 30, 2000. With the melody of the song starting to pulse and build and carry through the night air, Ed says to the crowd:
“The last time we had to ask the crowd to do something it was under completely different circumstances than this. So, it’s a little nervewracking to . . .
It’d be nice to start, uh, anew.
So, I was gonna ask you to do something and maybe you’ll do it?
And it’s uh . . . singing.
Sing loud cuz it’s outside, sing loud cuz you’re st-. . . you’re still alive.
Just sing loud, alright?“
Man. I know that it makes me sound like a weepy emotionalist to just come right out and say it, but Ed’s speech and the way the crowd sings along with all their hearts fairly reverberates with redemption, and listening to that moment made hot tears spring into my eyes last night that just would not stop coming even as I looked out the car window and tried to make them go back into my eyes. But at the same time, I was so glad for it, glad that music could still move me like that twice in one night for such different reasons.
The real, non-rambling reviews from Monolith start soon.
[thanks to Five Horizons for the mp3 clip]