No travel bug escape is complete without music. I don’t want anything else in my ear as I wait on the runway, feeling the plane come to life beneath and around me while discretely staking a claim on the armrest. Sorry, Person Next to Me, it’s going to be a long flight! And White Lies is along for the ride! The lyrics suit the experience almost too well, it’s a bit too obvious, but the way the song builds in tandem with a departing plane and mirrors that exhilaration has been one of my staples of summer.
My first time on an airplane was when I was a little more than a year old. I can’t confirm or deny, but I strongly suspect I was that baby on that five-hour flight from LAX to Honolulu International who made someone two rows back turn up the volume on their Discman and swear to never have kids. I’ve flown nearly every year since and that’s how my indifference toward flight and my travel addiction took root.
Two words: religious experience
My criteria for an awesome concert:
1) The person on stage is the epitome of cool, at least in my opinion.
2) It’s basically a large-scale sing-along.
3) I smile. A lot.
Gambino hits on all three and then some. His commitment to the performance — the way his face contorts, eyes widen, and forehead wrinkles, resembling an exorcism scene out of an indie horror flick — should be terrifying, but, no, it’s captivating. Being sandwiched between strangers, bodies literally pressed up against each other from every direction, sweat mingling, heat sharing, as giant speakers launch a full assault on the eardrums, is the best kind of sensory overload. It’s exhilarating. I love a good mosh pit, but Gambino in concert is more than the average concert-going experience. It’s deeper.
I’ve always been a Childish Gambino fan. I have most of his music, including Culdesac and Sick Boi tracks. I’ve been a fan of Donald Glover throughout his run as Community’s Troy Barnes and back when he was writing jokes on 30 Rock. Gambino on shuffle is what gets me through the workweek, mumbling lyrics under my breath during particularly uneventful hours. As a writer, I appreciate Bino’s clever, amusing choice of words and as a music fan I enjoy his flow and when he hits those high notes. So when Bino tweets that he’s doing a pop-up show in Hawaii on my birthday weekend there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
The concert experience outweighs the quality of sound. If you judge live music on how closely it matches the studio album, you’re better off listening to vinyl alone in your bedroom. The audience at the concert is loud and rowdy, overpowering Bino at times and I’m surprisingly okay with that. It feels like we’ve gathered for something greater than merely listening. Live music is messy and spontaneous and far from the mechanical perfection of a jukebox or an iPod.
Bino is real, living, breathing on stage. We are real, living, breathing faces in a crowd. We jump, thrash, sing, and rap along with Bino and to Bino. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to stand in front of a sold out crowd, a sea of sweat-drenched faces that have your lyrics committed to memory. Bino and the band feed off our energy and we feed off theirs, forging a symbiotic relationship and searching for the kind of high only accessed through music.
One of the biggest things that left a lasting impression on me beyond the music and the experience is the honesty, when Bino tells us that his biggest fear is disappointing us — his fans. And if he ever does disappoint us he hopes we understand he’s just a man. The fact that he sings the last part is icing on the cake that spells out “Roscoe’s wetsuit.” That moment of vulnerability pushes this concert experience over the edge and transforms it into something more and unexpected and refreshing.
I’ve been to concerts before. I know the formula:
Play songs from current album + play throwbacks because everyone loves a little nostalgia + fake walk off + encore (Plus a little teasing interaction between the artists and the audience if you’re lucky)
I thought I knew what to expect and that’s why this moment caught me off-guard. Bino chooses to be open with his audience as if he’s giving a piece of himself to each of us in person. We can hold on to this memory, seeing behind Childish Gambino’s artistry and antics, beyond Donald Glover’s IMDB and the jokes he writes, to the core of who he is. Most people have trouble sharing what makes them human with the people closest to them and Bino left it all on the stage for a sold out show to see.
There’s so much I love about this concert, so much that makes the four-hour wait worth it, so much that I managed to ignore the guy behind me bragging about going to Coachella. I love the mix of Because the Internet, CAMP and his other throwbacks. I love singing along and shouting every lyric till my lungs burn. I love the bruise on my forearm from being smashed against the metal barricade at the foot of the stage. I love Bino, but everyone says that. Mostly, I appreciate his effort, how he puts in a tremendous amount of work in order to give his fans everything he can and I respect him for all of the above.
There’s something so freeing about live music. For an hour and a half or however long the set lasts, I don’t have to be me, I don’t have to be anyone. I don’t have to care that I’m sweating profusely or that I’m covered in other people’s sweat or about my ruined makeup. I don’t have to care that I have responsibilities outside of this venue. I don’t have to care about anything before or beyond this moment. I feel connected with Bino, with his music and lyrics, with everyone around me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive, more accepted or more apart of something greater than myself — especially not in any official “public places of worship.”
Childish Gambino is all about what’s “deeper than rap” so it only makes sense that his performance is more than just an ordinary concert and something so profound. I can go on and on, but still fail to fully explain the way that night affected me. It’s been a little over a week and my thoughts still drift back to that night and it’s still all I ever want to talk about. I am content. I am concert-starved no more.
Once you fall in love with Because the Internet, fall even deeper into the companion screenplay: http://becausetheinter.net/ (It’s great. Reading it made me want to stop writing commercial and go back to writing all the weird surrealist scripts I wrote in college.)
Pictures courtesy of my sweaty iPhone & my designated driver
R O S C O E ‘ S W E T S U I T
Some of my earliest moviegoing memories took place at the Kam Drive-In in Aiea on the island of Oahu. All the cars and trucks parked in neat rows in front of a massive screen, running to the concession stand with my uncle to get French fries and saimin, watching movies out of the back of my mom’s old, blue four-runner beneath the stars. I can’t recall a single movie I saw there, but I’ll never forget the experience. Kam Drive-In first opened on January 30, 1962, but due to a sharp decline in attendance, Consolidated Theaters shut it down in 1998. It’s all gone now and it has been for a long time.
A swap meet is now held where the beloved drive-in once operated. I basically grew up in this swap meet, trailing after my grandmother and grimacing at the smell of the fish market section or playing my Game Boy in the back of my mom’s same four-runner as my parents participated as vendors. Over the years, I’ve learned to differentiate between secondhand shops, flea markets and swap meets. When I lived in Portland, Oregon, the secondhand shops sold cool, vintage clothes and jewelry while the flea markets peddled glass pipes and red, yellow, green everything. In comparison, the Kam Swap Meet is grungy, dirty and bursting with the mix of cultures that have taken root in Hawaii. The items sold are more of the used, garage sale type of finds. If you patiently sift through what’s offered beneath the blazing sun, you may find something worthwhile or interesting at the very least.
This is where I spent my Saturday morning. On what seemed to be the hottest day of the month, I pursued the aisles of tents and tables, vendors selling everything from lamps for a quarter to booming sound systems, DirectTV subscriptions and (bandwagon) Seahawks swag. Camouflage vests, Hawaiian style stickers, tools, dollar sunglasses. An array of seemingly random items were laid out waiting for the right person to haggle over the price and take it home. There was even a guy trying to sell his car.
The air was thick with smoke from the beef sticks on the barbecue and the huli huli chicken turning and turning and hypnotizing. A little, old Filipino aunty sat behind a table of palabok and babinka in plastic trays, calling for her daughter with the fanny pack (the bank) to make change. The Korean woman at the far end is our go-to for fresh vegetables. Gotta get that kale, better quality and for a lower price than any grocery store on the island.
My favorite as a child was always the vast selection of toys. Some were once loved, at the top of a child’s Christmas list and forgotten with age. Others set up camp and feed the needs of the local kids and their latest toy obsession. In 2014, that would be the kendama epidemic, a fad that swept the islands and YouTube, or at least that’s what my little cousins told me. I couldn’t help, but smile at that pogs banner. I remember my uncle and all of his friends having pog collections back in the 90’s. Pogs are literally little cardboard disks with cool images printed on them and everyone had to buy them when it was “the it” thing. So simple and so genius. Some fads die fast while others never die at all, living on in memories and adolescent nostalgia. Everywhere I looked there was an image straight from my childhood that brought back such fond feelings of familiarity.
Another reminder of how the world is constantly changing and that stasis is not never an option is the news that the Kam Drive-In swap meet is closing and a block of shops, eateries and over a thousand new condominium units to be built in its place.
Change is as interesting as it is unavoidable. What’s even more interesting is the way people react to change. Some try to resist change even if resistance isn’t an option. Time comes and goes along with fads. People get older and change just like times and places. Even my mom has sold that old, blue four-runner and drives a new Toyota. I’m not saying this specific change is good or bad, mostly because I haven’t decided myself, mostly because I’ve learned to accept the simple, at times devastated fact that change is inescapable. I’ll always have the memories of the Kam Drive-In when it was a drive-in and when it was a swap meet and I’ll probably create new memories involving whatever it evolves into next. Nothing ever stays the same forever and we wouldn’t want it to because an eternal state of stasis is as unfortunate as it is boring.
Some say the moth is an omen of death, thus one attaching itself to a home means trouble for the residents. Others, mainly those who grew up in Hawaii (my mom included), say a large moth hanging around the house is a deceased loved one visiting the family. I’ve never considered myself superstitious so imagine my surprise when my grandparents go to a funeral early Thursday morning and this guy shows up on my window Thursday night.