September 13, 2005

A journey to see Journey in the woods

I have two types of friends: those who like Journey and those who hate Journey. These groups can also be termed "my friends with good taste" and "my friends with shitty taste," though which group is which depends on your own musical preferences.

Myself, I like Journey. I like Journey so much that I went to see them in concert this summer. They were playing a large stadium in a Rhode Island town surrounded by 200 acres of trees. Perhaps the idea was that Journey was going to rock so fucking loud that they couldn't play too near any residential areas? This seemed overly optimistic.

Robert, Lucy, and I stopped at a drugstore on our 45-minute drive into the New England wilderness. We needed to purchase cigarette lighters. I figured Journey was going to play a piano ballad, or possibly 12, and, by God, I was going to wave a lighter in the air.

We sat for a while outside the stadium, practicing with our lighters. This was not easy for me since I have no fine motor control. I gave myself a blister on my thumb trying to spark a flame. Pray that I'm never lost in the wilderness on a cold winter's night with nothing but a cigarette lighter. I would freeze to death, and my corpse would be ugly for all eternity because it would have a big blister on its right thumb.

Once we had perfected our lighter techniques (or not perfected, as it were), we trooped into the concert venue. Immediately inside was a custom-built Journey motorcycle—which could be yours for a mere $3 raffle ticket! Nearby television screens played an infomercial for the motorcycle's mechanic, who was described by his peers as "one of motorcycles' master builders," and "a visionary for the future" (as opposed to a visionary for… what else?).

My friends and I found our seats in the uppermost rafters of the stadium as the concert began. The lights dimmed, the few hundred audience members went crazy, and a logo appeared on the giant projection screens...a logo which I can describe only as a scarab with wings. An announcer's voice boomed out, "In their first set tonight, Journey will play songs from the 1970s. In their second set, they will play hits from the '80s…and beyond."

The audience stirred at this proclamation. Did Journey have hits from beyond the 80s? No one seemed quite sure.

Fortunately, the 80s themselves were well-represented by classics like "Anyway You Want It" and "Wheel In The Sky." I felt compelled to pump my fist. A lot. The problem is, my fist-pumping gets easily out of control, with my punching the sky literally every beat, sometimes two or three times per beat. My upper arm gives out within a song's first minute. I look like a pathetic victim of muscle spasms. Or like a total asshole.

Real fist-pumpers are those fans who plant their feet, stare fixedly at the band, and purposefully, as though in a slow-motion montage, raise their fists heavenward. I idolize these people; I would love to cultivate their fist-pumping style. I just get too easily carried away.

Anyway, most concerts I attend are for bands with names like "so underground and artistic that you'll never understand our pain and intellect," and those bands' audiences do not pump fists. Those audiences appear to be legally dead. So it's not like I often get the chance to practice fist-pumping. Outside of, you know, my own bedroom.

After the inspirational guitar tracks, Journey moved on to the inspirational piano tracks ("Faithfully"! "Only the Young"!), which was my cue to wave a lighter. Sadly, when push came to shove, I just could not get that little lighter wheel to spin. Frantically I tried, far more frantically than an actual cigarette addict would, but ultimately Lucy had to do it and then pass the pre-lit lighter to me. And then I was afraid that it was going to burn off my hair, so I didn't wave the lighter around so much as gingerly hold it in front of me and flinch. I felt extremely badass.

Look, I realize that a lot of people hate Journey for being overly earnest. Nowadays, being earnest makes you totally lame (which is, incidentally, why I write a column full of lies). But me, I love Journey's sincerity. I love that they truly believe in that winged scarab. I have no fucking clue what it is. Yet whatever it may signify, they mean it. If there is one lesson I took away from the Journey concert, it's this: Don't pump your arm too hard or you'll wake up he next morning with a pulled tendon. Oh, yeah, and also: Don't stop believing in the winged scarab.