As I stood there watching Josh Tillman writhe and prance around the stage on a rainy night in Troutdale to the lustful glee of many of the young ladies in the front few rows, my mind—filled to brim white clouds of Sour Diesel—floated and meandered and I began thinking of men and women. Our loves and hates, the things we do to each other—and frankly how terrible it all can be.
Take the fact that here in Portland—liberal utopia and bastion of progressiveness— firestorm over rape culture was ignited in the days after the show when a local musician admitted to a sexual assault on his Facebook page. Shocking and depressing though this admission was, the true shittiness of the situation was the realization about rape culture’s prevalence in Portland’s indie music scene. Suddenly multiple woman began sharing their stories of assault, bringing to mind the horrifying statistic that 1 in 5 woman has been a victim sexual assault.
As I read post after post with my jaw agape I felt a wave of shame and guilt unlike others I’d felt previously—how in the hell can this happen? How do all of us men miss this shit? What is wrong with people? How are this many of us so out of touch with—and afraid of—true human connection, love and straight up goddamn decency? (“No one ever really knows you and life is brief” Misty tauntingly sang inside my skull.)
I had the strange sensation of suddenly being very aware that I was caught on something that was hurdling through the nothingness space without a plan towards nothing and with absolutely zero concern for myself, the human race, and any of its quandaries. I felt I both needed to drop to my knees, claw at the Earth and hold on for dear life, and run to away immediately until I flew off the end of the Earth and was swallowed by blackness as thick as the irony in an interview with Josh Tillman.
I was nothing. We were nothing. There wasn’t anything. I felt like I might burst and welcomed the thought as sweet relief from the void that is modern human existence.
Then Misty and company ripping into a raucous rendition of “Ideal Husband” and broke my Sour Diesel-inspired haze of existential befuddlement with its heavy dose of guitars and self-loathing. By the time the song reached its thrashing zenith, I’d shaken enough of the shame-and-doom-filled cobwebs from my within noggin to notice that Edgefield was absolutely lousy with couples smiling sweeter than corn syrup at each other. Taking note of my surroundings, I allowed myself to believe charging off into the abyss of space was perhaps a bit much.
It dawned on me, as it often does after one of my forays into nihilism, that for all its inherent awfulness and the cynicism that this awfulness breeds—existence sometimes blesses us with a light so blinding and beautiful it’s enough to make even the Father John Mistys among us True Believers in that most holy of religions: love. Corny though it may be, as I watched the audience sway to and fro to new single “Real Love Baby”, arm-in-arm and assured that they’d all—every couple—feel this way forever, I felt a bit of weary sunlight warming my heart that only moments ago had been so chilled by the blackness of… well everything. I smiled in spite of myself and considered that although the darkness of man, nature and God alike can seem all encompassing at times, I prefer seeking out goodness and art and love to the easier far alternative of shrugging and saying “fuck it.”