Seeing A Concert At A Cemetery Will Change You For The Better
The images projected on the screen behind her reminded us of an ultrasound, a beating heart, a thumping lung.
We came late and didn't plan on staying, but that plan quickly devolved into questioning the universe while settling in for a long ride in our too-high heels.
The person was Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and the place was Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Normally, I'd come here to set up a picnic next to an elaborately-decorated grave and watch a movie under Los Angeles' three visible stars.
But last month, I brought my boyfriend and LA BFF to listen to some trance-y, synth-y sounds at the cemetery's Masonic Lodge.
I have to start by describing the building, a character in its own right in this story. Part music venue and part Danish-Spanish banquet hall, the clashing design elements make for an altogether perfect listening space.
I'd frequently look up at the pattern painted on the beamed ceilings and be reminded of Christmas, which was not a bad feeling to have. A friend said Freemasons used to gather here, but I couldn't find any information on the first page of my Google search to back that up.
After having our minds gently expanded and soothed by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's sonic, droning set, we floated to the makeshift bar set up by the useless fireplace.
While standing in line, my friend, Taylor, recognized the bartender as a previous "Bachelor" contestant, prompting us to fumble with our wallets trying not to lose our cool. I complimented a potted plant on her table, squashing any chance of us becoming best friends, before shuffling back toward the main stage.
I didn't know what to expect from Floating Points. I knew they were experimental and produced danceable jams, but not much else. Neither did my concert companions.
Though, to be fair, Taylor didn't know we were going to a cemetery until we got there, so she had plenty besides the music to digest.
They started without a "hello" or "how's it going tonight, Los Angeles," favoring instead low-pitched, ominous tones to slowly work the crowd into it. Combined with the light show projected behind them (which looked like your average laptop screensaver at first before escalating into pure psychedelia), the total effect was subtle, yet mesmerizing.
Floating Points' songs tend to stretch into full-length jamming sessions that never seem to end -- fine by me. Without vocals or even clear breaks between them, they merge into one extended hypnotic chant.
Now is as good a time as any to mention the band formed around electronic musician and neuroscientist Sam Shepard. While earning his PhD in neuroscience from University College London, he managed to also become an in-demand producer and DJ.
In an interview with The Guardian, Shepard said of his early rave days,
Everyone on the dance floor was one body. You felt like something more than the music, something entirely transcendental, was happening. The ambience in the room and everything came together in a way that was more than the sum of its parts.
It makes sense the band's frontman would have an intimate knowledge of the human mind. Following the dips and peaks of the show as a whole felt similar to learning someone's life story.
Watching the electric lines create three-dimensional shapes, I mistook the music for a memoir of the world. Because that's how entrancing live music can be when it's done well.
But we didn't leave without feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Going out and filling my nights with experiences rather than screen time prevented me from feeling like time wasn't actually moving forward. But part of moving forward involves recognizing it'll eventually come to a close.
Riding home that night, I asked Mike and Taylor how they felt after the show, specifically what about it left them unsettled. Blasting our ears with electronic vibrations mere yards from a field of decaying bodies seemed to be the consensus.
Death was on our minds. But why should death be so unnerving? Does it have more to do with our denial of an inevitable end or the ever-present not knowing?
Taylor sighed and said, "Not to sound so incredibly high, but... silence."
Where there is silence, there is darkness. And where there is darkness, we expect there to also be light.
When my lights go out and I dip into the pitch-black void, please let it be to the sound of a celestial chorus, preferably with a bass-heavy melody, so that I won't mind so much being taken somewhere else.