Douglas Martin was made to realise.
Fate didn’t choose me. I could have seen My Bloody Valentine’s first Seattle date in god-knows-however-many years. I could have flown to another city to see them. But the cosmos clipped my chances at every curve, until a few months ago when a friend excitedly texted me in all-caps about a Seattle date on My Bloody Valentine’s current North American tour. It was time. So I bought a ticket, pulled out my vinyl copy of Loveless, lay on middle of the floor, and blasted it at full-volume.
Listening to My Bloody Valentine even at home is a physical experience— the force the band plays with is powerful on a few different levels. The noise almost make ripples on your shirt. Some songs make you feel as though you’re swirling in vertigo, every song when you’re stoned. At certain levels of volume and concentration, listening to My Bloody Valentine slightly makes you feel like you’re on drugs. And if you’re already on drugs, it enhances the high.
There’s a different kind of physical experience when you see My Bloody Valentine perform live. The intro/chorus to “Only Shallow” feels like a national emergency erupting. The sound rattles your knees. “Feed Me With Your Kiss” was way more ferocious than on Isn’t Anything. The thump just kicks you in the chest. “When You Sleep” sounded as intended, like a dream. People declare their love for Billinda Butcher. I keep my particular declaration away from my lungs.
Going to a My Bloody Valentine show is much more a solitary experience than I would’ve thought. Partly because everybody’s wearing earplugs as to not have to live the rest of their lives with tinnitus. But also, there was almost no dancing. I know it’s atypical of a Seattle crowd (if we were talking in person, you’d see the dry sarcasm on my face). Most of the people I could see (plus myself) were just swaying, almost meditatively. I feel as though when I was reading live reviews of MBV’s first tour, I came away thinking these shows were violent in terms of the noise. Not even the legendarily violent “Holocaust Section” of You Made Me Realise was as oppressively noisy as I would have imagined. That was more of a baptism of force.
There were people holding up their hands in religious rejoice, taking in all of the shell shock My Bloody Valentine were willing to give. Others were holding their eardrums because they didn’t have any plugs and pretended this wasn’t the band this was. It felt as though it could have lasted either ten or twenty minutes. It didn’t feel quite as long as twenty, but not as short as ten. Or maybe they broke the Space/Time Continuum with their loud-ass guitars. For a second, the force became wind and it blew through my clothes for a second. And people were either still inside of their own heads or completely out of their bodies.
Seeing My Bloody Valentine was weird. I don’t mean that in a bad way; the band was excellent and the sound was pretty good — a high compliment for the venue we were in. It was weird in that I got an experience different from the one I was expecting. I know what I’m expecting when I go to a show featuring Thee Oh Sees, and I usually get it there. I came into My Bloody Valentine expecting a visceral experience of the body, getting blown away and against about 3,000 other people. I left the show feeling like I was just on a head trip–a strange “journey” traveled solo.