At first the song seemed awful.
The piano was relentless and artificial. The lyrics evoked lust across a barroom floor – unfulfilling and empty.
It’s often not wise to simply accept what the world gives. But…
I decided to take it for what it was, and look deeper.
The tinnyness of the piano faded and what came through was the relentless aspiration. The striving.
Through some evolutionary quirk I have developed an ego that doesn’t understand itself. It strives against all reason to live forever. It is trapped in flesh and thinks that it is separate from everything that is not that flesh. That separateness is pain and suffering and fear and death.
And so I want to scream and I strive to be able to connect with something larger than myself… with other humans… with love.
That is what Feel Like a Stranger is about. At first glance it is a song about seeing a body across the room.
The song does not hide the fact that we have bodies and desires that are not simply philosophic abstractions. They are physical. They are meat.
There is no clear line dividing body and mind. Love and lust. Dividing the sacred and the profane.
I strive for beauty and grace. My methods are crass and human.
After the narrator establishes a spark, he says “Let’s Go” and the repetition that was grating becomes essential.
“Ifin this were love then how would I know?
How would I know?
How would I know?
How would I know?”
The song’s setting is grounded in flesh and yearning, but the scream is existential.
Even if I found love, even if I found a true connection, even if I found that mythical mystical moment of true connection… a connection to someone outside of my small self… something with the ability to break down this illusion of separateness…
“how would I know?”
The build and release of the piano. Still artificial but striving, reaching… aching.
And then back in on itself. As if it has nowhere else to go.
Is there any way to get out of our own heads enough to appreciate what we have?
The is awareness of the other person – of the sacred potential – is embedded throughout.
“Inside you’re burning
I can see clear through”
Of the other bodies agency
“You keep firing glances across the room
And I can’t stop wondering
Just what you got”
The band does not answer “How would I know?”
An unanswered question is a powerful thing. Like the music, it too mirrors the unsatisfactoryness of life.
Some profess to prefer questions to answers. I think this is bullshit.
The inability of the universe to offer answers is a source of unending tragedy. There is a difference between accepting a limitation an admiring it.
Still, if all we have is questions, we might as well shout them into the wind.
Not just one voice, but many.
Not just questions, but a declaration. A promise. Striving to influence what it can.
“It’s gunna be a long long long crazy night.
It’s gunna be a long long long crazy night.
It’s gunna be a long long long crazy night.”
The question and the promise overlapping. Echoing off each other. Again and again.
How’s that for a cry above suffering?
At first glance it works as a commentary about the song itself, about this event itself.
It also works in the narrative of the possibility of finding someone – at least for the night – or the concert.
And in so doing, finding a moment of joy, however fleeting, however impossible. It is crazy to build a promise on that, to believe it will last.
But maybe it can last a night.
The music interweaves itself throughout all of this. Bending and stretching time as it seems to declare that those moments of connection – whether through music or with another person or simply from having gotten out of your own head can – can seem to last, if not forever, for at least one long crazy night.
It is fitting that it descends into a shamanic chant again and again
“Feel like a stranger
Ifin this were love and then how would I know? Long long crazy night”
At one point singer… Howls.
Crazy night… What does it mean to go crazy?
To take leave of your senses. To be enthusiastic. To feel out of place… out of time… Unconstrained
Or… to even though you are fully human, as human as everyone else, nonetheless feel like a stranger.
Like everyone else I have ever known, I feel slightly out of place. Slightly not at home. Slightly like a stranger.
A stranger yearning for connection, a stranger ready to embrace a night that is crazy. Perhaps if it is crazy enough then I won’t feel quite so strange…
Or perhaps more accurately – the night will become strange like me and I will feel at ease.
For me at least the musical jamming is a place of introspection. I’m looking inward. I’m relating all of this to myself. I identify not just with my body or my ego, but also with the music.
I exist not in the crude realm of thoughts, as the music moves it moves with it the realm of my emotions. I feel things within me for which there are no words, shift and move.
There is structure. There are drums. And yet above all, what I sense is exploration. Curiosity is what moves within me.
And thoughts, like rhythm guitar, come and go, fluttering across my consciousness. As a commentary upon the music itself I can’t help but look forward to something later in the night like Dark Star. Which would shed even more of the ground and float in pure exploration.
These are thoughts. Thoughts are not a mistake. They simply occur. Hanging onto them is the mistake.
The jam is everything and it is nothing. I’m thinking some thoughts and not others simply because of the context, the wrapper, this song – this moment – comes to me in. Something like Dark Star is more spacious because the container is more spacious so the possibility space is wider – more abstract. Less tethered.
The jam itself is of all time. The jam itself is nothing. The music is not talking about Feel Like a Stranger or Dark Star. It is responding to the universe as embodied in this moment in these people.
Or maybe not. But I can tell you this for certain – it is a mistake to look ahead to Dark Star now. Now is the only time that exists and so I return. This moment. This meeting of minds and bodies. This music, being created spontaneously within a structure before me.
And something within me writhes. Moves. Reaches out. All along, I have seen the song has taking place in a bar, laying my expectations on it. It takes place in the dance. Something within me dances as well.
And now, the guitar having been absorbed into myself… having seen myself in it… having imbued the music with my own spirit…
Begins echoing the riff from the beginning of the song… Now it is anything but inauthentic. Now it is me. Now it is a particle and wave. Now it is natural and supernatural.
Now these words are hyperbolic and nonsense. They are ravings. But they do not feel untrue.