Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


A while back I came across a reference in one of Robert Christgau's writings to Pete Seeger's folky urge to create "community" by inciting a sing-along.

Maybe it's because I've hung out with too many grumpy hippies, but that word "community" rings me wrong. Community exists through time; it's never instantaneous. People can strive to create it, but if you don't want certain disappointment, I'd advised going slow, slower than a slow version of dating. Sloooow. Sometimes things happen quickly, but not often.

That said, I get what Christgau was getting at, but I'd call it "communion," not "community." People might blanch at the sacral connotation, but I choose it deliberately. A concert is a "special event." It recurs with quasi-regularity. And it rearranges consciousness in ways similar to religion.

The Seeger style of bullied-singalong usually gets me to go along with it, and I usually enjoy it, but it usually provides a low level of communion. Not as "communal" as a spontaneous singalong (which are very gratifying to incite as a singer -- it's even happened to me with brand new songs), but communal. Not unlike white Protestant church, with the heavenly organ out of sight, and the acoustics of the sanctuary designed so that the only sound you hear distinctly is your own voice, all other voices and the organ muzzily wafting around, calling attention to the singularity of one's relationship to the deity, while creating a communal experience. Sing-alongs are self-conscious like that.

More deeply communal is what we old-timers used to call slam-dancing. (When did the name change to "moshing"?) Dancing in general is more deeply communal than the coerced singalong, and slam dancing in particular is intimate and ecstatic and simultaneously consciousness-raising and self-consciousness-destroying: one becomes conscious of one's relationship to the other careening bodies; one cares for them; and one's singular self loses its shame and shyness.

Do this in remembrance of whatever the heck you want to remember.

One punk rock show in college, I put down my guitar and led a friend onto the stage and gave him a chair to sit in because blood was streaming down his forehead. The band played on. Same show, another song, the lead singer invited "everybody" onstage to sing along. My housemate Jeff came up to me and said, "We need bread." Another friend deep-throated me. It didn't matter that I wasn't attracted; that was a fun show.
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