Thursday, January 12, 2012

DANCE PARTY 3: The Weeknd's Echoes of Silence

The best way to start a loft party is to be noticed early[i].


The late 1800s were a time when certain segments of British culture would partake in opium at seedy establishments appropriately called “opium dens.” Opium dens were a cultural obsession at the time, and still are, considering any fictional story using this setting—1800s London—seems to be required to include an opium den scene. Whether the topic of the old-time noir is Sherlock Holmes or Jack the Ripper, they have to stop by the opium den at one point to let loose, kick back, and get their party on. These dens were also hubs of addiction that kept plenty of talented people wrapped in the tentacles of that addiction—never reaching their full potential.

The modern day opium den is the loft party.


The booze is getting passed out by the gallons, in glass after glass, to man and woman after man and woman.  On stage, huge bass amps and red strobe lights provide everyone in the loft with a sensual experience. Black curtains block out the real world from our party. Everyone is already on the dance floor dancing to some second rate DJ’s mix. We’re waiting for the main attraction. Word is that there is a great R&B singer out of Toronto—The Weeknd, Abel Tesfaye. Supposedly he is going to stop by this loft party. No one denied an invitation—100% perfect attendance. Word of mouth never worked so efficiently. I’m here due to my job as luck would have it: a journalist.

When the DJ is done mixing and we’re already all drunk, Tesfaye takes the stage. The DJ spins a recognizable track that is not a Weeknd original. It is “Dirty Diana.” This, covering a Michael Jackson classic, is how you get noticed in a scene as blood thirsty as the loft party. The production is punchier and darker than the original.  While everyone at the party is screaming, dancing, and gyrating, all the while sweating a glossy film, ghostly echoes whisk their way into our ears. The discomfort on the dance floor isn’t felt by everyone, but it is certainly relished by the whispering ghosts. Are they the ghosts of fallen pop stars? Are they the ghosts of those who’ve succumb to addiction by going to parties such as these? No—it is something more abstract than that. The ghosts of sounds previously heard but never positively identified are filling the ethereal space in this loft.

Tesfaye has never sounded so pained at previous parties or on other mixtapes. The passion has replaced the casual sex and drug use. That is not to say there is no longer drug use in the world of the loft party. Far from it. When the cover fades into the next performance, the drums become punchier and more dance ready, leading to cheers from the audience; the drunken swirls of people quicken their pace. Tesfaye’s voice is even more in the forefront. He steps into the audience, becoming a part of us, refraining from touching a soul, looking into the eyes of every woman he passes, denying their gaze for too long.  He slips into French as he steps back on to stage, the national tongue of “Montreal” and Quebec.  The next track, “Outside” includes some slow xylophone chimes. Tesfaye still seems on edge, sadder than ever. The tempo morphs into a slow jam, with Tesfaye singing to no one in particular, or at least someone we’ve know nothing about. He sings of love making, but others are on the mind of the partakers, not their partners. This mental conundrum of an orgy permeates the swinger attitude of those on the dance floor, as we take on a more sensual front. A woman with white skin, bright eyes, and black hair invites me to meet her in the bath room, but I cannot. She shrugs and asks my relative dance neighbor, a large gaunt guy, who gladly partakes.

Something snaps. The mood is angrier, or at least more on-edge. The drugs are everywhere, and everyone is reaching a new high. Our chests are light, or minds nonexistent, as we act like id-beasts, circling prey as naturally as tigers or lions. The prey? Any dance partner with a drink tab or some pills. Violin strings being plucked—that is a sound in here that I recognize.

Then we stop when we reach the zenith. We take a deep breath, look onstage, and see Tesfaye for one split moment before the world swirls into chaos.

We’re unable to stand straight, too much exposure to everything it seems, but that doesn’t stop the evening. Nothing slows; everything just becomes unstable. Everything works as a celebration for breaking past the barriers of casual understanding and we revel in our misunderstandings. No one knows anyone else, and this is the one thing that becomes clearer than before. Tesfaye’s vocals shift pitch between demonic lows and angelic highs, as if we were a part of some supernatural “Initiation” for something more important than just the dance floor. Scratch that: at this moment nothing is above the dance floor.  

Then the hangover hits. The instantaneous slowing of the musical tempo as the Weeknd begin a new track and our personal downward spiral into sobriety hurts. It even makes us sick. Every high has a low, and though none of us ever forgot that, we did not like to be faced with reality. The song, “Same Old Song” defines the feeling for us: nasty realizations never stop. The girl who wanted to freak out in the bath room with me comes out crying, pulling her underwear on, untucking her dress from the black lace. The black mascara drains from her face. The man leaves the rest room, woozy and uncontrolled. Tesfaye hurts. The girl from the bath room hurts. We all hurt.

Fuck reality.

We trudge on, as if we enjoy this party. We don’t fear “The Fall.” We couldn’t leave if we wanted to, and we don’t slow our intoxication, even thought our bodies beg us to purge. I’m soaked enough that I wonder if it’s raining in here. It’s probably booze, or sweat, but whose? The crying girl with wings of black down her cheeks asks someone she might know, someone near me, to take her home, but the person ignores her and turns around and dances with someone else. She is alone. Tesfaye sings of someone who loves him, but they don’t really love him. They just know he is the “Next” big thing, and they want his fame.

This girl is nothing like that.

I should go to her. As the Weeknd slip into a slow final song, a piano accompaniment to Tesfaye’s pained vocals as me begs a girl to stay, I know I should go to her. She meanders off the dance floor, and then out of the loft all together. I want to ask her if I could help, or if I could save her. But I don’t. I stay, with a bunch of hung-over partiers, at this modern day opium den. We’re all a bunch of reactors, instead of actors, and none of us are even good at reacting.

Tesfaye waves and leaves the stage. We cheer, and though his performance was amazing, my mind wanders to something else. About a girl. Her ghost, echoing through the ear-ringing silence of a post-show soundscape, whispers inaudibly in my ears.

“Echoes of Silence.”

[i] And so begins another fictionalize narrative about a dance party—an effort to review an album with a fresh take. 

No comments:

Post a Comment