We Took Mystery Drugs and Saw Soft Moon

Soft Moon @ Crescent Ballroom|3/7/13
Funny what stray pills you can uncover in a fit of spring cleaning. This 20 milligram of Adderall. A dented Xanax bar. Where did all these Percocet come from? And what's this red-brown gelcap floating in my desk drawer? So down it goes.

It could be anything. I don't tell my friend I've taken an unknown substance as we board the light rail and head to Crescent Ballroom for a Soft Moon concert. I don't want him to feel left out as I don't have extra. Still, one pill probably won't do much for me. Is this MDMA? Ketamine? Maybe meth? Part of the fun is finding out. Pretty sure it's just good ol' Molly, though. Nothing exciting, as it'll give me a slight buzz and peter out at doses this mild.

See also:

-The Soft Moon: Pop for Outsiders

Underground Cities is the first act I catch, a group I've never heard of before. But what an introduction! They play post-rock, in the same category as Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai, but with an energy all their own. I could say so much about post-rock, as it really is the perfect genre, or at least the most difficult to fuck up. I imagine punk rock angels play these introspective jams when strung out on heroin. (In Heaven, heroin has no negative side-effects.) Post-rock removes vocals, as they can get in the way of exploration, and that's what Underground Cities does, explore, and take you on a journey to those sweet spots in music, hitting those reward centers over and over again. Huh. Just like taking certain pills . . .

But post-rock lacks solid narrative and this is its downfall. All songs fall backwards against their own void and get lost in the fuzz. That's why a live experience for post-rock is a must; in order to fully realize that expression. Underground Cities only paused twice in their frenzy, hardly relenting as they kicked up a storm. Their sound feels more optimistic than aggressive, giving the illusion of free-falling rather than some epic battle scene out of an overblown sci-fi space opera.

And for that, Underground Cities deserved a more receptive audience. This is exactly what I anticipated and contributed to my decision to swallow this substance. I wanted to take something that is completely out of place in the crossed-arms hipster universe. Perhaps MDMA needs to be brought out of the underground cities (better known as raves) and into an environments with more refined taste. Just to see what happens. People might just enjoy themselves more. Luckily, Maserati took more people by force. Living up to its name, the band felt like a European vehicle, more along the lines of instrumental Pink Floyd á lá Alan Parson's Project. Their third or fourth song even took on some Absolution-era Muse. Maserati's drummer was front and center and by the end of it, his hair was strung with sweat and his beard looked like he'd just drank yellow milk. That's energy, folks.

At one point, the drummer and bass guitarist left the stage, leaving both guitarists alone to noodle with their palette of pedal-board textures. Even if you knew what to anticipate, when everyone returned to the stage, it was overwhelming. This as about when I was peaking and needless to say, my brain was melting. More from the music than anything.

That tractor beam pull drew out the energy in people like possession. Sound waves transform into electrical signals in your eardrums, giving you the gift of auditory perception. Then, those electrical signals travel down the spine and turn into involuntary spasms. It has no direction. It doesn't have to.

Finally, The Soft Moon. By now, this mild high was subsiding and soon, all I would have left would be residual afterglow. But The Soft Moon was actually a perfect, droning comedown.

The visuals splattered against the far wall resembled white noise mixed with a Rorschach test. You could make out whatever you pleased. Luis Vazquez was all over the place, fiddling with a dozen pedals or twirling on the stage in a kind of delirium, punctuated by ghostly screeches. I had a weird thought: what if this is the closest anyone in my generation will get to ever seeing Joy Division? Maybe that's why Ian Curtis offed himself: no one danced at his shows. Then again, it was least easy to groove to The Soft Moon, which felt like crosses between a k-hole and ego death. It was the right way to end the night and afterward, I could tell I wasn't the only one on a different wavelength. I met a kid with Hofmann-inspired chemical structures tattooed on his arm. Perfect. Maybe there is hope for us.

Last Night: Soft Moon, Maserati, Underground Cities, Aon at Crescent Ballroom

The Crowd: I swear it was like the afterlife, only instead of meeting all the people I've known that died, I was with every single fan who's ever worn a Joy Division t-shirt.

Overheard: On the light rail, my friend shared a video with me of a crazy woman who claimed Satan roamed the streets during the day but he was a vampire and therefore couldn't hurt her until nighttime. If you see a fat woman dressed in sweatpants smoking a cigarette on the light rail, tell her that Satan isn't actually after her and that she's safe. You'll be doing someone a favor. Also, without being prompted, someone showed me pictures of their guy friend dressed in lingerie. That was an eyebrow raiser. I hope that counts as "overheard."

Mea Culpa: My photos are all fuzzy because I was trying to understand this filter I was using in the dark and I suck. I sort of like the effects anyway, because it gives a better representation of my night.

Personal Bias: Be safe. Don't take random pills. Even if MDMA is safer than riding horses according to the government, drink lots of water so you don't experience massive organ failure and die. Thank you.

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Troy Farah is an independent journalist and documentary field producer. He has worked with VICE, Fusion, LA Weekly, Golf Digest, BNN, Tucson Weekly, and Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Troy Farah