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July 24th, 2016


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10:11 pm - what I've been up to
A few months ago my mom, who is 60 and is just starting to get into the Internet, learned that Rammstein was playing a festival in Chicago. It was called Chicago Open Air and it was advertised as Rammstein's only US performance this year. She'd always wanted to see them and her brother lives in Chicago so she decided she had to go. Also, she took me with her, but I had to help with stuff around here too, so it became a 3-week trip.

To back up a bit, my great-aunt and great-uncle, unmarried siblings, lived together for about 50 years. Then my great-uncle set himself on fire so my sister came to help my great-aunt. Then my mom's house set itself on fire so she came to live with them. Then my great-aunt died at the age of 90, which was still too soon, so it's just my mom and my sister and my nephew here out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees and bugs and deer (who seem to know when hunting season is so they just walk right up to you without a care in the world). This was a thriving community when my great-aunt and her 8 siblings were young but then a dam was built that messed up the area so almost everyone moved away.

One positive thing about my mom's house burning down is that the insurance money allowed her to buy a nice new truck. This allowed us to go to the burnt-up and burnt-down house and bring back loads of salvageable furniture and other things. I'm glad the weightlifting I've been doing has paid off, but furniture is still too heavy. Furniture is overrated anyway. Just get a few chairs and you're fine, that's what I say. It's strange to be the one with upper-arm strength now. Back when my mom was younger and I was more wimpy it was the other way around. It's also still pretty crazy to see the house I grew up in as a burnt-out wreck. I saw it when I was last here a few months ago but I'm not used to it.

Now there's stuff everywhere that needs to be dealt with. My great-aunt, having grown up in the Great Depression, didn't like to throw stuff away even if it was broken, so most of the stuff around here is in bad shape. My great-uncle, probably not expecting this house to be occupied after he and his sister were gone, fixed everything with temporary fixes. Now everything is falling apart. Almost none of the doors shut right, and the water system is all screwy. (Fortunately, there's plenty of juice to drink; unfortunately, it's mostly mango. Orange juice is the only juice worth considering, that's what I say.)

Also, this area doesn't get services very well. The phones are full of static and the Internet is slow and sometimes gone, plus we get blackouts. I knew those happened but I didn't experience one until just now as I was writing this. First there was a brown-out, when we had limited electricity. The lights were dim and the fan blowing air into my face spun at a variety of different speeds. Then it was a total blackout for a little while. Now the power is back on. Hurrah.

My mom telling me to do things has alerted me to the fact that I am really bad at understanding people. I've had this problem with my roommate but I thought that was just because he's a goofball, because he's a goofball. However, now that it's happening with my mom too I'm realizing it's my fault a lot of the time. For example, today I was sitting on the porch next to a bag full of something and a coffee table with stuff on it and a smaller table. I was pretty sure my mom told me to put the smaller table on the other porch and put the bag... somewhere. After I'd moved the smaller table to the other side of the house I went to see what she wanted done with the bag and she told me that what she'd told me was to put the stuff on the coffee table in the back porch and then put the coffee table in the living room. There have been many cases of this happening. It's enlightening me about another aspect of my broken brain, although my mother doesn't think I have brain damage (from when I slipped and broke my head open when I was a baby) because I'm smart. I don't think that's how brain damage works. Anyway, I really need to see a doctor about this, but I really don't want to.

My mom has been hiring the local Amish people to build things. The Amish population in this sort of area is exploding because they still keep having huge families, so they're buying up rural properties after their owners die or move to the city. The land across from where I grew up is Amish now, and they might have bought my mom's property but we're not sure. (There was a mix-up with the taxes so it went into auction. Maybe don't send notices to a residence that's no longer occupied?) Anyway, she had them build a really nice porch on the house to replace the one that was completely rotten. Sadly, my great-aunt didn't live as long as we thought she would so she didn't get to enjoy it. My mom also had them build a huge shed, but that construction was interrupted when the father of the guy in charge of the project died. Some jerk on a cell phone crashed into his father's buggy. He finished it later, but when they brought it over here and tried to bring it up on the hill the ground was too wet. Now it's dry so the guy with the machine that lifts giant sheds was going to come here two weeks ago but there was a power outage so he had to deal with that instead. They finally got it up there yesterday, the guy with the machine and a young Amish man helping him. I haven't had much contact with the Amish but this guy just seemed like a regular, hard-working guy with strange clothes and a beard with no moustache (because they think moustaches are vanity... okay, sure). Also he had sunglasses.

Anyway, from the Amish to metal... I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to metal, and what I'm familiar with is mostly European. I wasn't familiar with anyone at this festival aside from Rammstein and Marilyn Manson. It's interesting how Marilyn Manson used to be a huge deal, and he's probably the best known performer at this festival to people who don't know metal, but he was third to last on Sunday.

I'm more of a nerd than a metalhead so I felt out of place. Everyone was wearing a T-shirt but my shirts had buttons. Most of the shirts either had band names on them or aggressive statements, usually with "FUCK" in big letters. I guess this is rebellion, but it's lazy rebellion because it's just rebelling against what you're supposedly not supposed to say in polite company or in school or on network TV. It goes along with pretending to be evil, but this evil is the sort that freaked out Christian groups in the 80s. Being that sort of evil I don't find very meaningful, but at least it's fun.

The volume level was certainly evil. I haven't been to anything like this before so I was amazed that, even when I wasn't near the stage, the sound took over everything. It was so loud I could barely hear it. At least, I could hear certain parts but not others. The drums were the main sound, but the guitars all merged into one sound (I understand power chords better now) and I could only barely hear the vocals a lot of the time. This is probably the sort of thing you have to experience a lot before you can fully appreciate it. Also my hearing impairment doesn't help things, but people who go to these things a lot probably experience hearing loss. My ears certainly felt messed up afterwards.

It sounds like I'm complaining but I had a good time. Rammstein was great but that's just how they are. I will compose a set list in case anyone reading this is familiar with them. I'll organize it by album since I don't remember the exact order.

Herzeleid (1995)
Seemann
Du riechst so gut

Sehnsucht (1997)
Engel
Du hast

Mutter (2001)
Mein Herz brennt
Links 2 3 4
Sonne
Ich will
Feuer frei

Reise Reise (2004)
Reise Reise
Keine Lust
Amerika

Rosenrot (2005)
Zerstören

Liebe ist für alle da (2009)
Ich tu dir weh

Also there was Hallelujah, which is a B-side from around the time of Mutter. Oh, also there was Stripped, a cover of a Depeche Mode song that was on some versions of Sehnsucht. My mom was thrilled by that but she was sitting in the bleachers while I was down amongst the crowd. I figured I'd put my crappy cell phone video of that up on YouTube, so here, look at this.


It's interesting that they only did one song from their latest album, but since that was from 7 years ago I guess they don't really have a current album.

There was naturally lots of fire shooting out above the audience, because that's kind of their thing. There were also various semi-theatrical performance elements. During Ich Tu Dir Weh ("I hurt you"), Till the singer and Flake the keyboard player got into a fight and Till picked up Flake and placed him inside a metal tub, then he was lifted far above and he dumped a cauldron full of sparks into the tub. Then Flake got out; he had previously been dressed in black but now he was wearing a sparkly suit. Again, dumb but fun. During Mein Herz Brennt ("My heart burns") Till had flames coming out of his chest. For Zerstören (translation of the chorus: "I must destroy!") he wore a strange overcoat for most of the performance, then he took it off to reveal a suicide vest which exploded. I thought that was in poor taste, but oh well. For Engel ("Angel"), which was the closer, Till wore giant flaming wings and floated above us as he sang that God knew he didn't want to be an angel. Sometimes when they perform Seemann ("seaman") they send a band member out into the audience to crowd surf in a little plastic boat, but we didn't get the boat. Oh well. I've been trying to do my own performance of that song with just vocals and bass guitar but I haven't been satisfied with my vocals so I haven't made a video yet.

This was very exciting but I didn't get as close as I wanted to. There were drunken jerks around me who provided annoying distractions. At one point someone moving toward the front just grabbed me and shoved me out of the way. Still, it was a great experience. I got to sing in German at Rammstein! I got to shout "NEIN!" at Rammstein during Du Hast (which is the song most Americans know them for) and I got to shout the audience part in Ich Will, but I think I was the only one doing that.

Almost everyone there was white but my mom was sitting next to a guy from China. Actually, he'd lived in California for the past few years, but his friend was a photographer who flew all the way from Beijing so he got a press pass. We became friendly with him and greeted him as we kept running into him.

At around the time Rammstein started, someone slipped and fell two stories and hit his head on the concrete and died in the hospital, so that sucks!

There were two stages; the main stage was at the football field and the second stage was its own thing in the corner of the park. I mostly stayed in the seats for the main stage performances but I wanted to get close for Rammstein so I ventured onto the metal-covered football field to see Chevelle, whom I wasn't familiar with at all aside from listening to their latest album a few times. They were good though. I was surrounded by people who were way into them and knew all the lyrics. A couple in front of me got excited and kissed when the band played a certain song, so I guess that was their song. Despite being surrounded by Chevelle fans, when that band finished I couldn't get much closer to the stage.

Before that I went to the second stage to see Meshuggah, a band from Sweden who seemed really interesting so I was trying to get into them before the festival but couldn't quite manage it. They like to use odd time signatures, which I think is a cool thing, but it makes it hard to move with the music. There was a guy in front of me excitedly air drumming to one of their hard-to-predict songs so obviously he was really into them. One of the guitarists had a guitar with 8 strings. Eight! That's incredible! However I noticed later when looking at people's pictures that a lot of the guitars at this festival had 7 strings, which is also a whole damn lot of strings. The singer from Meshuggah was one of the few to directly comment on the recent terror attacks. He wished people would join metal bands instead of terror cells.

We got to the festival in time to see Drowning Pool. My mom really likes that "let the bodies hit the floor" song for some reason. They had an 80-year-old guy come out and help them sing it because apparently he'd been on America's Got Talent singing that song. After that was a band called Periphery, which seemed pretty good, but I couldn't enjoy them because I was blind. My mom had insisted on sunscreen, and I don't normally wear sunscreen so I didn't put it on well and I had too much near my eyes. Then it rained briefly but heavily so I got a bunch of it in my eyes and I couldn't open them without it hurting a lot. I had to walk around the park in tears, holding my mom's hand. I did not feel very metal in this moment.

In This Moment was a really cool band but we only saw the last two songs they did. They were very theatrical and their singer sang songs of female empowerment. For one song she wore a dunce cap that said "WHORE". She made me think of a metal Lady Gaga. I will have to look into them more. After that was Of Mice & Men & they were good. Then there was Ministry, whom I keep hearing of because of their importance to industrial music but never really listened to. I think they may have been the loudest group there. All I heard was noise.

That was all on Friday. On Saturday we got there a little late and had to park like a mile away. We saw Gojira and they were good. I was enjoying their first album but I don't think they played any songs from it. After that was Breaking Benjamin which I only liked a little. They played Smells Like Teen Spirit, which was odd. Then there was KoЯn, which I want to pronounce as "koyan" because that's what the letter Я sounds like in Russian and I'm a big dork. I somehow never really listened to KoЯn before even though they were really popular. I remember nothing about their performance except that I enjoyed it and Jonathan Davis played bagpipes at one point. Also, the bass player had one bass with neon green strings and another bass with black strings. Colored strings are cool.

The closer that night was Disturbed. I had no idea the "ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah" guys were that popular. It was night so they had us show our lighters and cell phone flashlights as they covered Simon & Garfunkel. They also did a cover of the Phil Collins song about how this is the world we live in, whoa oh oh, and these are the hands we're given, whoa oh. I knew they'd also done a cover of Shout by Tears For Fears but they didn't do that one. Late in the show they brought a bald kid with leukema to the stage and praised his bravery. Fortunately they did not follow that up with Down With The Sickness; they had a much more appropriate song called Invincible to play. Of course, Sickness was the last song they did, and I thought it was the least interesting thing they'd done.

Sunday started with Jim Breuer, who used to be on Saturday Night Live but now he has a metal band. His show was about half stand-up and half music. He told us all that his teenage daughter sometimes forgets to flush the toilet. Thanks, Jim Breuer. The most reaction he got out of the audience was when he named off old metal bands he liked. He did that twice. After that we saw a punk band called letlive which my mom liked a lot. The singer climbed up to the top of the stage and I was worried for him, and I hadn't even heard about the guy who fell and died earlier. He jokingly dedicated his set to Babymetal.

Babymetal is three teenage girl singers in black dresses backed up by musicians dressed as ghosts. They're from Japan, so that explains it. They were introduced by a video that said something about how fox spirits are responsible for metal. (They didn't say kitsunes but that's what they meant.) A guy behind me was flummoxed and said that this was either the coolest or the worst thing he'd ever seen. The band was extremely talented and entertaining. I was the closest I had been for any band. There was a ridiculous amount of crowd surfers. It was hard to pay attention to the band and watch out for people flying into me, but they looked like they were having the time of their lives so good for them. At one point the lead singer asked us to form a mosh circle, and she kept saying "Bigger circle!" This was the same thing the guy from letlive had done, so I guess they had been watching him.

There were signs put up in various places discouranging crowd surfing, but that was probably just for legal purposes and it surely only encouraged it. Of course they had like 10 guys at the front at all times to make sure the surfers arrived safely. This makes me think of the migrants who flow through the Mediterranean. There were a few people dressed in full-body suits as various comic book characters: Spiderman, two Deadpools, a few Power Rangers, and a Green Man. That was fun.

After Babymetal I went to find my mom who was eagerly awaiting Marilyn Manson. He was disappointing though. He seemed too high to perform with much feeling. One of his microphones had a knife attached to it and he cut his hand with it but it all felt very perfunctory. After that was Five Finger Death Punch. They were good. Then came the final act, Slipknot. They were another band I never managed to listen to much despite their popularity. It turns out they're actually really good! I'm going to have to listen to them more. They have nine goddamn people in their band, including 3 percussionists and a turntablist. I didn't hear the turntable at all, but I don't know a lot about the performance of a turntable aside from the scratching so I didn't really know what to listen for.

I put up a bunch of videos and pictures of bands and cats on my Instagram if you want to check those out. You can click on this link! Between bands they were showing people's Instagram posts up on the big screens. Two of mine made it up there, along with my name and my big dumb face, so that was neat.

That's a long entry!

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