Yes, there is a problem with enjoying the show. Or at least it has proved one for me so far. (This perhaps belongs to a thread to other shows, but nevermind now).
I saw John Maus live for the first time a few weeks ago and then a second time soon after. Although I must be careful here not to detract from expressing accurately that they were two of my most memorable and cherished experiences, they were also unpleasant to a degree (I am biased perhaps because I think the word 'pleasant' is the locus of so much suffering at the moment, as is 'fun' and a few others, that's for a different conversation). I keep saying this, that I 'failed at my first John Maus show because of my bad faith', but this is what happened. When John first got on stage I got very nervous, then a few minutes in I realised I didn't know how to 'behave' and I started looking around for an example to follow, seriously I was at a loss, and all I saw were manifestations of enjoyment or cool nonchalance, both of which I had done too much of in the past and neither of which I could muster up even the memory of how to perform in this situation, let alone the desire. My arrogance perhaps lies in the fact I didn't understand how other people could. So there I was, on the side of this tiny piece of decking on the ground that was the stage at Wastelands and I could see John's face very clearly and close to me, moving as he was thinking up the next best way to tear at and hurt himself and his vocal chords. That hurt me, all I could muster was a frown of shock and some tears and I was relieved when it was over, even though there was no place in this world I would rather have been for those 26 minutes. Does that make any sense? Who and what was I relieved for/from? Was I good enough? When a few days later in London I somehow managed to go from tears to an elated smile throughout, was I true then, was I good enough then? So when he asks later 'was that good enough? did you enjoy the show?', what voice do you answer with? How do you tell the truth? This edict to conciseness and this acceptance of there being 'no time' to take or think as if that not only were a matter of fact, but ought to be one, that is the death rattle of so much, man. I think John gets that and his performance puts forth so much that language cannot do justice to, for now. I think also people want to talk to him after not only because they know he sticks around, but perhaps because it niggles at them, that the experience, the performance, it was incomplete somehow, as it always is in my view, but too often covered up with pretence and articifice. Bring all this to my sunny beer-sodden festival where I spend hours hanging out with friends saying nothing at all after years together neck-deep in our witty banter, go the fuck ahead man, I should be the first to be indicted.
So my point was....well actually what prompted me to respond here was Eugenia's computer game analogy, I like that a lot, I think it says a lot. I'm probably wrong about this, but I do feel that we have moved beyond where any concept of virtuosity can be explored through the re-creation of a piece of music, or whatever, and 'live bands' at the moment are not doing much to change my mind on that. I think John's performance as it is is very powerful and I cannot imagine it 'getting old' because it supersedes any tendency towards novelty, it is about something else altogether and therein lie its biggest strengths and weaknesses. But I really believe, that it takes so much of what seems like pain and anguish (even if some of it is release) to appear, maybe, for a moment, that is the verdict, right there, for this world.
A weird thing that happened after seeing John in London in August was a friend's reaction to the show. I got back after sticking around to talk to John, to find my friend staring at his ceiling unwilling to communicate anything other than mourning that people were jumping around making entertainment out of a crucifixion, as he put it. I'm not at all sure what I think of this yet, but it's a thought to reckon with, isn't it?
Because there are mornings when I have to write something very heavy to a deadline I would like to be lofty enough not to recognise, where the one thing I can think to do to push through from sleep-world to giving birth like that is dancing around my room to John Maus for as long as it takes to work up a sweat worthy of a shower at the rates they're charging for water now. Stupid things.
Also, Eugenia, your picture is the best, I love it!