adventure: church of mars boston

I’m sitting in the Hay Market. Eating a scone, as a substitute for my pancake craving since they quit serving them, drinking a smoothie, and waiting on my vegan tofu scramble. I’m still a bit worn from last night’s activities. More reeling than worn out. So much activity, so many people. Makes me think about the introvert vs. extravert conversation I had with my sister recently. We all sit upon the spectrum between these two poles. The introvert side of me finds being social can feel so draining and intrusive at times. But after a night like last night, and some other social activity on Twitter, I don’t feel like I’m being drained. I feel overwhelmed. I feel so adrenalized and so giddy that it preoccupies me.

Being incited into conversation by @LupeFiasco’s Sunday dialogue of the week was exciting enough for me. So imagine what happened when he retweeted and replied to me. There was an eruption of interactions aimed at me. All of these people talking to me, asking questions and debating. If there is such a thing as a mental erection, I was at full tilt with thoughts. I felt like I was schooling folks, but lovingly of course. It completely distracted me from the work I was doing. I was so engrossed and worked up that I couldn’t focus. Even hours later, when I received a reply asking me for clarification after the dialogue had ended, I found myself brimming with a response. 140 characters grew to over 2500 as I made my first post via TwitLonger. It had to be done.

An Echelon tweeted that what I had written was brilliant. I sometimes forget that I am having a dialogue in an open room for any of my followers to see when I start rambling on but I love it when worlds crossover like that. The same Echelon who replied to that post was one that I helped get tickets to the Church of Mars show in Boston, from which I am currently recuperating. I was able to get her friend in as well as another three people. I received a 3-way bear hug once they spotted me after the show. Thank you social media!

I loved hearing my name screamed out in the venue as she vied for my attention just to thank me. I loved the twinkly-eyed look in the eyes of those I helped. Witnessing the positive effect you can have on someone is intoxicating. Being outside the venue talking and laughing like we’ve known each other forever is invigorating. It fills you up with energy and emotion.

I feel like I have more to write about the people than the show…how telling is that? But that’s not to diminish the show at all. Since I was at the last full show seeing them squeeze out all they had left to give, I thought it was great romantic symmetry to see them at their first show excited at the precipice of this new time in their creative lives.

Tomo jumped high, swayed lithely as he played, and banged his drum so hard. I loved it when he just threw his sticks to the side with abandon to get back to his guitar. He was clearly happy to see us and it showed.

Jared was passionate like a Southern preacher in front of his flock while singing often with his eyes closed. It was fascinating to watch him be engrossed in his own work as it took on new life but also improvising as if he was re-learning his voice. He’s changed, gotten older, and still wasn’t at 100% due to his other work, but what shined through was his love. His love for what he’s created but yet to unleash but also for being on that stage again in front of us.

He was speaking as if it was a big family picnic and somebody let the Leto brothers and their cousin Tomo use the stage as a favor. There was a good amount of banter throughout the night. He joked but seemed to genuinely be seeking our reassurance, “I’m singing a lot tonight. More than I usually do, right?” Or asking the violinist to be taken down “like 57%” after he asked her to play before they went into Hurricane. Memories of MARS300 flooded me when he brought a little boy on stage during Up in the Air but this child was not scared to dance. He was feeling the music too. The air was light and loose which was just right for a welcome back style affair.

Despite or maybe because of the looseness, it was clear that he was really feeling it. He was experiencing the music live for the first time right along with us it seemed. Since some of the people around me were less inclined, I felt the need to show him I was feeling it too even more. He was there in the moment and I wanted him to know that even amongst the camera-holders, the disinterested parents with their overexcited kids, and the people more invested in him taking of his hat, I was there to welcome him and the guys back to the stage by performing as a part of the choir. To sing and dance without needing to be asked and to experience the new music.

My first listen to City of Angels was during its first performance that night. I remember having my hand on my chest, tapping my thumb on my collarbone along with Shannon. I closed my eyes so that I could really listen. When he sang the line, “I am home” I felt it right in my core. Songs referring to home have been getting to me as of late and in that moment, I realized why. Knowing their background of a transient life, I knew how significant that line really is. I have been in a similar state for years and now, I am finally setting down my own roots separate from my birthplace. I’ve found where I feel comfortable and I’m doing what I love to do. Even more importantly, I know there are people around the world that make me feel the same way even without a fixed location. I can feel home anywhere I can feel that connection.

When I opened my eyes, I remember thinking, “They did it.” Back when they were still recording, Jared asked what we wanted to hear. I responded, which I rarely do but felt the need to this time. I knew there would be the “more guitars!” “less synths!” cries. Mine, however, was rather simple: “Just continue to be honest. As for the rest, surprise me.” That song was all the indication I needed to know that my sentiment was taken to heart.

All night, I could see the passion oozing out of Tomo and Jared, but with Shannon, I had to feel him since a speaker blocked my view. The experience of hearing Shannon live without seeing him was wild because it is definitely different than listening to him in your headphones without a visual. He announces himself quite quickly and thoroughly. My hips seem to respond to him as if on command. I could feel him through my feet, into my chest, and up to the bottom of my throat. Based on the flair I heard during some of the old songs, I knew he was having just as much fun as I could see Jared and Tomo having.

Going to the signing was a no-brainer and I was happy to be able to put a body to the thunderous sounds that had been shaking me all night. Yet, he didn’t look up when I laid my yearbook down on the table for him to sign. He quickly made his mark and passed it down the line. I believe I said hi to him but he was already moving on to the next person in line. I will admit for about two seconds I was annoyed, but then I looked into the smiling eyes of Tomo. It is impossible to stay annoyed when he is looking at you so openly. Besides, it dawned on me as I moved on that Shannon and I had been communicating all night. His drums speak my language, same dialect and everything. I always understand him, loud and clear. He didn’t need to speak to me or even look up. We’d already connected in the most meaningful of ways.

I looked into Tomo’s grinning face and said hi and thanked him after he signed. I could have taken the moment we had there to make some banter but I didn’t. The silence was comfortable to me and I knew there were so many more people waiting. A thank you was all I needed to say to the man that had welcomed me into the family. He slid my book over to Jared who sat last at the table.

As soon as I spotted the black gloves, I started smiling. They were hilarious to me but also quite smart. No germs or smudging just in case. Most people got the posters they handed out signed or perhaps the Boston lithographs or body parts or random bits of paper or clothing they could find. However, I had brought my yearbook with the intentions of having the Echelon I knew I would be meeting be the first ones to sign. But of course, when the signing was announced I knew I would give the honor to the guys.

As soon as Jared saw the black cover of the book, his head popped up with an “OMG” expression then a huge grin. I smiled and said that I came prepared, just in case. He started nodding his head in a way of communicating acknowledgement and approval, all the while grinning. The entire expression of emotion on his face and body language said, “Yep, you are one of us.” He said thank you and handed me the book with a smile before adding have a goodnight. I said thanks and you too before turning to walk away.

On my way out of the venue, I stopped to get a ticket from someone working the door because I knew I wanted as many mementos from this night as I could get. The night felt like a culmination of sorts. I had come full circle from first falling for the band to meeting them. The only reason I had the opportunity to do so was because the promise I made to them and myself was fulfilled. I had done what I set out to do and just as they are starting a new chapter of their lives, so am I. I knew they’d be right along for the ride as I am still riding with them. Jared is right. Attaining dreams only makes you keep pushing for more and that’s where the band and I are right now. Celebrating but also pushing forever onwards and upwards.

Though I wish I could have been nearer the more active part of the crowd, I couldn’t have asked for more from the band. The new songs killed and they played from their gut. They’re excited, which they should be. If you can’t be worked up and in a tizzy about your own work, then why should I be?

The band played their part dutifully and as they are but a part of MARS for me, the story does not end with them. The Echelon graced me with their presence and friendship after the show. Not only ones that I helped but people I had met just that night. After walking around and talking with two that I had spent the show with, I found myself floating around with no real aim. Since we had lingered near the venue, I saw my opportunity to get a signature in my yearbook that I hadn’t earlier.

Soon after I stepped outside, I spotted Jamie Reed and asked him to sign while waiting for the other girl to come back out. I know he saw us talking rather animatedly about the some of the people we saw throughout the night so I hope he was entertained. I had gotten to say hello to Dai earlier while I was waiting in the signing line but didn’t get the chance to ask her. After my two friends left for the night, I spotted her in a group and decided to follow my general motto in life, there is no harm in asking.

She was nice enough to say yes and talked with me a bit about some of her ideas for other books she would like to work on. The group were Echelon from all over and while at first I felt a bit awkward, they offered to let me come along as they were going for drinks. Well, drinks became pizza as food trumped liquor at such a late hour since some of us hadn’t eaten in hours.

It was such a special occasion to talk with people from all over the world and chat with Dai about design. It was so sweet the way her face lit up when I talked about my work. The others were so genuine and funny with such amazing stories from their experiences with the band and other Echelon. We all recognized that what we were doing at that moment was not typical.

Definitely for me, it is not typical to find myself comfortable with strangers so quickly that they become more than that. Everyone was being so gracious and kind that I went from floating to having a bed to sleep in. I could see the potential for meaningful relationships with them so easily if only there were time and no distances to travel but even those didn’t need to impede.

The ease of it all blows the mind of the introvert side of me. Socializing isn’t supposed to feel comforting or easy or fulfilling in it of itself, right? But it does when I'm engaged in something that matters to me with other people that care too. That’s when the draining switches to filling til the point of overflow and complete shutdown of focus or prioritization of anything else. Because it feels good but it also sends the message that I'm not alone.

That is what my MARS experience has made clear to me. You are not alone and if you ever feel like you are, there are people out there to overwhelm you with their similarity to you, with their graciousness and honesty. This fact spans beyond music though its not surprising that it took music to demonstrate this to me in a truly concrete tangible way. It’s easy to become jaded or cynical because perhaps the people that understand you best aren’t physically in front of you or your paths have yet to cross. But trust me, they are out there just waiting, looking, hoping to make a connection of substance.
Even if it is only a lively Twitter conversation or one night at a gig, in that moment when I am connected, all is well in my world. It may pass and likely will because time tends to do that, but that moment will persist in memory. No matter where I am or what is going on, I know I have a collection of connections that make a community where I feel at home. And sometimes, whether its been a good day or a bad one, that is all I need.

To MARS + the Echelon, like I said in the yearbook, thank you for connecting me and helping me become who I had already set out to be. Until we meet again.