Music When The Lights Go Out
Concert Recap: October 7th Butterfly Effect Benefit Show
By Ethan Clayman
In which your assigned correspondent stands anxious behind fervid mosh pits, listens to metal screams and audience cheers, feels very jealous of many crowdgoers’ hair, and shines a phone flashlight to combat a campus-wide blackout.
Today is October 7th; around 6:05 PM, I have arrived late to the concert I’ve been assigned to write about, under the prospect of this being my first big writing gig within the NOVA music scene, specifically pertaining to GMU’s music scene. I, along with one Sophie Nave, are currently at that weird walking speed that feels like a pseudo jog across the campus, past the many muddy fallen leaves slightly damp from rain and through pushy wind. The sky is light gray and opaque and gives some sign to myself that the spitty rain will remain stagnant throughout the whole evening.
It is now that we come up to the Hub.
Blues and purples of the interior from where the actual sets are taking place shine through the glass, and loud distorted guitars and drums shake the ground I walk on as I prime my earplugs.
Butterfly Effect, the collective running this whole thing, have put on a heavy metal show here at Mason in order to raise funds for charity towards Afghani Refugees. The guarantee for this show was to be loud, fun, and for a good cause. It further justifies the sheer amount of people crowding the stage, and the $404 raised and donated thanks to the event. As the setlist stands the order is (1) Vylet, (2) Break Neck, and (3) Burial Flux. Sophie goes into the crowd finding her boyfriend who is the drummer for Burial Flux and I remain unsure if the thick and heavy fog is due to sweaty exhales or a machine on the premises.
It is for sure that no one here is wearing earplugs.
We came into the venue during the first band, Vylet’s set, the crowd already seemed primed and warmed up for the rest of the evening; it’s evident from how participatory and supportive they are of the band members. A projected image of the band illustrated shines large against the brick backdrop of the venue. The people in the crowd form something of a circle. The lining of such is full of audience members pumping one hand in the air and seeming almost unsure what to do with the rest of their body. The inner parts of the circle seem to be for the adventurous. A few of the adrenaline junkies on the lining will sometimes jump into the center, in which their bodies are thrashed and pushed and bounce off of the people in the lining. They all but crawl out of the place sweatier than when they came in and far more “into” the music. Audience members that are into it the same as everyone else but with concern for their eardrums’ safety file out and watch from the large window a good 10 feet from the stage. Vylet is so loud that the thick plated glass blocks enough of the noise for it to be a suitable volume, though touching the glass will shake the muscle tissue on your arms. A wall of death forms across the floor, people lining up single file in two separate rows and then proceeding to run full force into each other.
A man in a wife beater with flowing locks and a trimmed goatee goes into the circle of hell and comes back out a few times. He’s wearing shades in the dimly lit venue and looks like a Rockstar Jesus. His tank has “Break Nek Sux” written juvenile over the chest in black Sharpie. It is for sure that he’s the coolest person at this thing.
Vylet’s final song of their set begins playing, with the whole place shaking in anticipation; adrenaline not ebbing but in fact building at the prospect of another great mosh; people sitting on the chairs and sofas and drinking water way in the back; earplugs frantically trying to be put back on; some ponytailed people undoing their bands to let wild hair flow free; some frat men playing skee ball and pool across the span of The Hub can also be seen on the far right of where I am standing, which is pretty far in the back, they all look up in anticipation for what is sure to be an insane 3 ½ minutes.
A quick 5 or so minute break is employed before Break Neck’s set, in which people across the mosh pits and sweaty crowd scatter further across the floor or make their way back to the sofas where a store brand bottled water 40 pack is. Well-dressed people fix their accessories or pull up their pants or undo and then redo the length of their belts. Everyone is engrossed in some kind of conversation. Sophie has made her way back to where I am with her boyfriend and another Burial Flux member, the bassist. We meet and talk about the show, how it’s going and superficial music venue things and such. The drummer and the bassist begin talking about the logistics of the moshes they want during their set. I did not know it was so planned. Because of the fact that a wall of death was used during Vylets, the drummer posits that far more complex or dangerous and fun kinds can be done as the crowd seems pretty familiar with such terms and the bassist agrees.
The projected image turns to the Rockstar Jesus figure in blue with some light green accents on the backdrop. Whereupon he, Rockstar Jesus, who I’ve just now found out is the front man, emerges from the amped crowd (with sunglasses still on) and onto the stage to greet the audience. Everyone in this band has great hair; everyone at this venue has great hair. They start playing and another mosh pit is made in less than 6 seconds. After their first song it naturally dissipates, and is then quickly replaced by very passionate head nods to the beat of the song. It is during the middle of the second, during a crashing and loud guitar solo, that a blackout ensues, to which even the pool table and skeeball-savvy men in the back of the hub express groans of frustration and anguish.
At first, the people here are under the impression the whole thing was more of an artistic point than anything else; that Break Neck’s sheer metal brilliance was enough to overpower the generator like it was something out of a movie. The aura of pride—I myself included had in such a feat—very quickly fading after about 10 seconds once people realized that the lights were going to be out for a while. To which phone flashlights turn on and illuminate the band members like a low-key scene, one lucky phone’s light reflecting off Rockstar Jesus’ shades and back out onto the crowd. An acoustic guitar is brought out and “Everlong” is played modestly while the whole venue sings their frustrations with the lights, as some electrician-types in The Hub try their hardest to find out why the power has gone off. It is after “We Will Rock You” that the majority of the crowd seems to have had enough and makes their way out to the front of the building, and I follow suit.
Outside is a good 20 degrees colder than what I remember just an hour ago; the sun has gone down and hot exhales from mouths of many of the crowd members can be seen along with wispy cigarette smoke from a few of the older attendees. Lighters’ bright orange around faces on the dark porch of The Hub makes them look like fireflies. Moonlight serves as the only real light source, and outside is quiet apart from the riveting stuff happening here: A girl is at the top of trees on The Hub’s outside area; acoustic guitars continue to be played; band members stay inside tampering with the outlets and sparse plugs, which housed way too many amps for its own good; disposable cameras are taken out and shot with, which makes flashes of faint red and then white; some worried attendees struggle to find a ride back home; Sophie nowhere to be seen; everyone singing along to the pop and rock hits continuing to be played on the guitar now by the girl in the tree; the smell of tobacco on breath, its smoke body wavery against light wind; the bodies of those without coats shaking softly; good boyfriends giving coats to girlfriends that need it; people’s attention slowly dissipating as I watch them go back to where flashlights don’t shine, into darkness not tangible enough to describe, out of the campus and off to the next cool thing.