The raw within

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Almost exactly a month ago, my man and I were on the other side of the country, pacing nervously in a dark but cozy basement in the center of a city I’d prefer not to be in, counting down the minutes until it was time to go see our favourite band in the world, the cosmic doom metal trio known as YOB. If the amount of time a band has been a personal favourite matters, perhaps this and all that was involved to get us to that place and time doesn’t mean so much, as a year ago I basically didn’t know this band existed. But I have never connected with a band this strongly before in my life. As far as I’m concerned, I had waited my entire life to see this band live.

Music has always been an important constant for me, no matter what my age or stage in life. And it has always been a priority – I’ve always been willing to part with my spare (or borrowed) dollars to buy a concert ticket, an album, even airfare to absorb and get my ears in front of my favourite pieces of music and bands whenever possible. Living in a city that gets few shows and even fewer cheap flights means that experiencing live music is too rare a thing. But for those bands on our collective bucket list, when the stars align and it’s a more or less tangible dream, we make it happen. When Björk came to Vancouver and Sigur Rós and Wardruna to Montreal, we dropped everything and went. And all three of those shows were well worth it. But oh so different from what we were to experience at the YOB show in Toronto.

With Björk, I was starstruck. She had never seemed (and still does not seem) human to me, and she wasn’t made more real seeing her live. And listening to her music has always been like finding the artifacts of a humanoid life form from another planet – I absolutely love it but don’t necessarily connect with much of it personally. My approach is rather one of marvelling that sounds like that could come out of a creature supposedly from the same species as me. That show was incredible, like a dream. My approach to Sigur Rós is somewhat similar. Not being able to understand the lyrics, I couldn’t say that the music means something specific to me, other that the fact that I use their music as a source of relaxation and comfort (listening to Von is how I fall asleep in strange places while travelling). That show was mindblowing, again a starstruck, dream-like sort of experience. Wardruna I connect with much more, in the sense that I want to know what they are singing so passionately about, and the primal, aged music and instruments allow anyone in the right space to feel something when listening to it. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed at a show before, basically in tears and holding my breath the entire time.

And I actually assumed that how I felt at the Warduna show was how I would feel at the YOB show. Because in the space of a few months, YOB has come to mean so so much to me. As mentioned in a previous post, their newest masterpiece, Our Raw Heart, was the soundtrack to our intense summer hiking trip last year. But since then, not only have I become obsessed with their entire discography (no less than 5 of their albums are now on my Essential for survival list), but my life has literally improved because of this band. Literally.

Dealing with a personal traumatic event pretty much simultaneously with what amounts to a rather huge personal loss (so, another personal traumatic event…), the last few months I have been forced to confront some issues that I had been ignoring for quite some time. During a week or so by myself blaring nothing but YOB music so I could literally feel it, and then over and over with every listen, I’ve discovered that not only is YOB’s music good for some escape and relaxation, but Mike Scheidt‘s lyrics (and interviews, and Mike Scheidt in general) have directly pointed me in the direction of some concepts and books I needed to read, primarily that of Alan Watts (see my recently read books here). It’s weird how timing is so important, as I likely would not have been receptive to such lyrics and Watts’ work even just a year ago. In fact, I typically ignore lyrics altogether, probably because of the music I listened to until I was old enough to truly choose and discover my own music. But at the stage I am now, I had already been considering some of the same ideas without knowing how to phrase them, or how they fit philosophically, or what to do with them. Directed by YOB, I’ve found some actual, helpful tools to figure stuff out. Not to mention I’ve finally reconnected with metal, after a long detour for a few years into some softer stuff (e.g., Bowie, Prince) – not that metal is superior, I just feel at home in it, more than any other genre or art medium in general. Think metal is just loud, heavy music? Au contraire, mes amis.

And so, while I had assumed I would be in tears the entire YOB show, unable to handle being not just aurally but physically immersed in these gorgeous, supportive, life-changing sounds, what I instead experienced at this show was pure, absolute joy. I had the hugest grin on my face the entire show, and was just so so happy to be there. Happy to stand there for hours through the other bands, happy to deal with feeling sick all night (and all weekend), happy to get flicked with strangers’ long (and rather glorious) headbanging hair, happy to watch young and old metalheads both have a gorram good time. Mike Scheidt said in an interview that they don’t want YOB shows to be entertainment, they want people to leave feeling better. That was 100% my experience. And after the show, when we got to actually meet Mike Scheidt, all I could say was ‘thank you, for everything’. I could’ve elaborated, but that was all I really wanted to say to him. And, as they say, YOB is love.

Title quote: “Our Raw Heart”, from Our Raw Heart

Photo taken by my man during soundcheck and edited by me