One of the gods of goth came to Baltimore.

Jul 01, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, it came down the wire that Peter Murphy (best known for his work with the band Bauhaus) was on tour again and would be making a stop in Baltimore, Maryland to do a show. Lyssa and I, goth kids that we are, decided that we should fill a hole in our musical histories by going to see one of the de facto founders of the gothic music genre perform live. Laurelinde, on the other hand, just about hit the ceiling when she found out; she's a huge Peter Murphy fan, as it turned out, and wanted to attend come hell or high water. This should would be to her what going to see InSoc was to me earlier this year - a must-go, must-see, damn the torpedoes pilgrimage to the temple of music for what could be a once in a lifetime gig. So, after work, I changed out of work clothes into what I call my deep south cybergoth gear, which consists of a 2600 Magazine t-shirt, BDU shorts, boots, and a pair of wraparound mirrorshades. Short, sweet, to the point, and best of all won't kill me with heatstroke. Lyssa opted for her red plain miniskirt, gauzy black top, and stripey socks. Laurelinde changed into her black business suit, and the three of us packed up and headed out before traffic got too bad in our neck of the deck.

Due to the fact that we didn't know how long a drive we had ahead of us, we decided to get dinner at the Dominion Deli just down the road while I ran to CVS to pick up a few essentials, namely Advil and disposabale earplugs for the show to come. Our stop was brief, and shortly we were on the Beltway headed for the Ram's Head, discussing the latest episode of Doctor Who and getting into a nerd rage bitchfest over the antics of Captain Jack Harkness.

It's a fan thing. We do this. I don't recall exactly how long it took us to find the club. I do remember arriving about forty-five minutes before the doors opened, wandering around for a while, and going in search of rest rooms. After a bit of fumbling around we wound up walking to the McDonald's on the corner (and not the Barnes and Noble, which was probably for the best) and running into a few other concert goers, one of whom looked a great deal like an old friend of mine from undergrad (it wasn't her). We also spent a considerable amount of time standing in line talking to a younger guy from Baltimore about his work, his nifty umbrella, and his photography portfolio. I'm not much of a scenester these days, so I don't bother keeping up with who knows who and what the local politics are, so a lot of the discussion went over my head, which I'm okay with, truth be told.

Getting into the club was interesting: we weren't allowed to have cameras or cellphones to take photographs, and we'd been told that if we did get caught making any sorts of recordings we'd have those devices confiscated from us. The no-bootlegging thing I understand, but I can't help but wonder if it would have even been possible to convince them that a phone didn't have a camera at all these days because they're so rare (you can special order cellphones, Blackberries, and suchlike without recording features (the US government does that a lot these days) but it isn't easy). They also went through our bags and made us turn out our pockets before we could go in. Note to self: bring sex toys next time.

After going in, we briefly checked out the concessions booth (I picked up a t-shirt and the latest Bauhaus album on CD (the first in twenty years, in fact)) and then took up position in front of the stage so that we'd have a good view of the show. We wound up talking to a few other refugees from Pennsylvania about music, leaving PA, and suchlike to kill time before the show. Eventually the house lights went down and the opening act, the name of whom I forget because I was thoroughly unimpressed with their music.

Let me be up front with something: I'm not a performer. I couldn't do what these guys do for a living, even as a side project. I do, however, appreciate music because I play a few instruments. Musically speaking, if the opening act only released instrumental albums I think they'd have something, but their lyrics aren't anything to write home about. The music itself reminds me of the background music they used to use on the television show 3-2-1 Contact when I was a kid: guitar riffs, synth drums, and theremins, but that's about it. After the show, Arcane Matt remarked "I know that your college poetry teacher told you to write what you know, but no one cares about your student loans," and that sums them up nicely. Knowing that the crowd wasn't into it, they launched into a cover of a Lou Reed song that brought Peter Murphy himself out on stage to sing backup, which the crowd definitely warmed to (I know I did), and I think that is the single reason that they were received so well.

Then came stage teardown, sound check, and the coming of Peter Murphy. It was also anticlimactic when their set started: An unassuming guy about six feet tall, painfully skinny, kind of gaunt, and losing his hair on top. You wouldn't expect a basso profundo voice that could shake the windows to come from the throat of someone of such a stature, yet there it was. For all his years his voice hasn't changed much though the exact styles of music that they went through did. Harder, softer, almost heavy metal, it was all there. Sometimes you almost couldn't hear his voice over the other instruments, not because they were so loud but because his voice was so low that it faded into the bass lines. I'm not a huge fan, so I really couldn't tell you what exactly they played (though the setlist's probably on a fansite someplace by now); I consider myself to have gotten an education in Peter Murphy's work that far outstrips the one track he had on the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack. I was somewhat taken aback when he stopped the show after two or three songs to ask the crowd in a British accent so deep that my sunglasses wiggled on the top of my head "So, do any of you have any questions?"

There were a couple of questions which I recall nothing of, though one young woman in belly dancing garb asked flat out if she could dance on stage to their next song, and the band, much to my surprise, invited her on stage to dance while they performed. I get the feeling that I've seen her around someplace, probably at Spellbound - she's good, and I'd like to see her perform someplace. There was also a young kid, about thirteen years old at most, who was called up on stage to meet Peter Murphy. Maybe it was his age, maybe it was everyone in the crowd, maybe it was something else, but the kid looked scared out of his wits while up there, and the roadies whisked him to stage left to sit on the steps along with his parents for the rest of the show.

I don't know what that was about, but I hope that he enjoyed the concert, and I hope that he got to hang out with the band for a while. Good one, kid.

Peter Murphy and the band wound up coming out to play two encores before the night was out, something that brought the house down. At the risk of sounding like a young whippersnapper (which I'm not - I'm well over eight hundred, thank you very much), I've not seen someone as old as Murphy pogoing around on stage since the Depeche Mode concert a couple of years ago, and it brought a smile to my face. Just because you're getting up in years doesn't mean that you have to slow down, not one bit. I'm glad that he's doing that well and that he kept it up as long as he did. I wish that everyone could have that kind of energy and stamina all through their lives.

This was the first show I've ever been that where the crowd was cheering so loudly that I had to put my earplugs back in because the volume was painful.

As the concert came to a close and everyone decamped for the parking garage, we ran into the women from McDonald's and exchanged pleasantries before going on our way. Needing to get home and get ready for work the next day, we decided not to hang out at the tourbus and meet the band (as much as I'd have liked to). We piled into the TARDIS and set out for the DC metroplex again, by way of a side trip to find a Wendy's because we were all feeling a bit peckish after the show. I don't know precisely which law of the universe requires that all Wendy's franchises be invisible from the highway even though there happens to be an exit sign for them, but this caused a couple of turn-arounds and some head scratching until we guessed that it was at the back of the highly visible shopping complex. If nothing else, they put a decent amount of salt on the fries after 0000 local time, which is just what we happened to need. By 0100 EST5EDT we'd stumbled home, gotten our contact lenses taken out, and fell over whereever we happened to be standing to catch a couple of hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 0500.

No photographs to speak of, unfortunately, because we weren't allowed to take any at the show. A quick Google Image search will probably reveal the ones that were taken by other people last night, though.