Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An Artistic Catastrophe

Remember in school when you'd hear about people rioting when they first heard "The Rite of Spring" or went all crazy over some Picasso paintings or beat up Ornette Coleman? And then you'd go experience the art that got everyone so pissed off and you'd just sort of shrug and wonder why people were so much more excitable back in the old days?

Maybe you even thought that those reactions you heard about years later were exaggerated; I mean nobody really goes that crazy over art that you could just as easily ignore, you know?

I am here to tell you that some art is still so ahead of its time, so revolutionary, that the masses erupt in rioting and poor behavior when confronted by it.

I speak, of course, of the cat circus.

Years ago, my ex-wife (who was my wife at the time) called me at work and informed me that there was a cat circus that weekend, and we were going.

I might have put up a bit of a fight just to keep things interesting, but I was intrigued. Plus, it was only five bucks and in a hot sauce store, so how bad could it be?

The hot sauce store was very small. Probably about twice the size of my living room. When we arrived with our friend Keith and his daughter, the place was packed. I guess they underestimated Jacksonville's love of art and culture.

They had to schedule a second show because there were so many art lovers. It was tight, but we were able to squeeze our way up front. As we made our way up there, we could hear people loudly complaining trying to get their money back because of the poor conditions.

The complaining would only grow louder.

So we watched the cat circus. It was pretty much what I wanted to see. From what I remember, some cats walked on a little tightrope. A rooster did...something or other, and I think there were some rats doing some stuff. It was hard to see. I think they rang some bells or something.

And yeah, some of the tricks were a little rusty, like when the lady sort of had to coax the cat onto the tightrope, but still, she got a cat to walk across a tightrope. That's more than I've ever done. And I wasn't really expecting to see cats flying out of cannons or catching each other on trapezes, you know?

But the cat circus was just a warm up to the main event. The cat band.

Check 'em out! Cats rocking the house!
I've seen a lot of bands in my time. I've seen bands at house parties where condensation was dripping off walls and the floorboards creaked as people danced. I've seen amazing, cathartic sets at the Hardback, when it seemed like the whole crowd and band was one pulsating organism. I saw The Who finish up "Love Reign O'er Me" as a rainstorm started in Tampa Stadium. I saw the Jesus Lizard and Fugazi in their prime, multiple times.

But none of these bands could hold a candle to The Rock Cats. Never have I felt such primal energy combined with musical talent as I did from those three kitty cats that night in the hot sauce store.

OK, not really. It was three cats playing instruments. What did people expect it to sound like? Beethoven? King Crimson? It actually reminded me of that post-college time when people started playing "sound sculptures" or "experimental music" or "noise" instead of playing music that was all full of fun and rock and roll. That stuff is a lot more tolerable coming from little kitties than from arty musicians.

I guess the band rubbed people the wrong way, too. People were going crazy, demanding refunds (a whole five dollars!) because the show wasn't "professional" enough.

Me, I got my five dollars of entertainment out of the thing.

I felt sorry for the hot sauce store owners, having to put up with people angrily shouting, complaining about the poor conditions and lack of  professionalism in the cat circus and band. I also felt sorry for the cat circus woman, who was only trying to expose our fair city to some art.

But most of all I felt sorry for the crowd. These people were experiencing some of the greatest, most groundbreaking art of the 21st century and all they could do was complain about the temperature in the room or the fact that three cats couldn't play "Eruption" or "A Love Supreme."

I wept as I started the car and we drove home. I wept that our city could not appreciate the power, the art, and the majesty that was the cat circus. I wept that years from now, children would not understand that the cat circus was ahead of its time. Would they judge us harshly? I hoped not. There were some of us who got it, some of us who were hip.

I pray that history remembers us.

1 comment:

david.rohm said...

Speak the truth Brother Scott.