"I'm sorry, sir. You can't come in here with that camera."
"I'm sorry? What?"
"I'm sorry. But the lens is too large"
"Um, I'm sorry, but I'm supposed to be photographing this event. I'm a journalist," (with an unreasonable amount of authority on the words): "...with The Tartan."
"I'm sorry but you can't come in here. You're going to have to put that in your car"
The voice of Lauren Mayberry, lead singer of CHVRCHES, rang over the the sounds of my protests to the gate guards.
My camera and I began our 1.5 mile walk back to the car from whence we came.
As I left, my three companions shuffled into the undulating crowd and I trudged back through the shallow waves of people stumbling down the gravel road making their way to the old Carrie Furnaces. The glowing rusted bastion of Pittsburgh industry glows now from the colored lights of the Thrival Music & Innovation Festival rather than the long-gone fires of the the Andrew Carnegie factory.
The glow permeated the air on my walk back. Dejected, I resolved that I wasn't going to spend $60 to not hear anything. I tried my hardest to listen to the songs that were becoming increasingly distant. The pulsing basses and floaty vocals oozed through the rusted metal walls, through the humid air and gently stroked my cochlea. The sound is louder. Louder than it is. I'm walking away from the glow but the pulsing is now growing. It's now infused with the buzzes of the cicadas lurking in the empty green. Filled with the echos of the people in the distance. At the festival. In their cars. On the bridge. In their little postcard houses perched like parakeets chattering in response to the ruckus below. The footsteps. Mine. The passing bands of event-goers, passing ships. The beat set not by the musicians on stage but by us. Footsteps:
Lauren still sings but it's haunting now. Slightly out of tune from the reverberations. It seems as though it is coming from the trees, the ghosts lurking there. The apparition poses the bodies of those brightly dressed, flower-crowned humans and they sing too. All slightly in different tunings, ricocheting off of each other without meaning to.
I reach the bridge finally.
It's only a few more blocks to the car.
A car nearly hits me as I cross the first intersection on my way up the hill.
They yells something at me.
I yell something back.
And then walk a bit faster.
Quite a bit.
The next street seems right.
Okay, so maybe the next one?
I am back again on the original street.
That church looks familiar.
All the churches look familiar.
I start to hear the sound of upbeat jazz. It's coming from somewhere to my left. No, behind me. No, in front. It's definitely up the hill in front of me.
It's now part of the Campbell's Old Fashioned Vegetable Soup of sounds that are swarming through my head.
An exceptionally happenin' Baptist church appears on the crest of the hill.
I recognize it's green and yellow stained glass windows with dark shadows from the people dancing within. We passed this on our way from the car the first time.
It's now filled with a new kind of energy. It's different from that of the music festival below, but somehow the same. I stop here for a bit, listening to the bouncing guitar jumping over the drumbeats and slightly mistuned piano. The vocalist has a specific kind of confidence in her voice. A kind of sound that is assured by the intimacy of the room. The feeling that everyone in there must already know each other. She is singing for friends and wants to tell them a story. I try to hear the story too, but it's much harder on the outside. Everyone in there already knows the story. But they want to hear it again anyways. They want her to tell it to them. I know it well. Singing the self-made Karaoke of friends dancing around the living room and squawking on makeshift instruments. I can't hear hear their song, and they can't hear mine, we all have our own stories we sing and our own joyous crowds that dance as silhouettes on the walls and through the windows.
A tinted-window black BMW slowly inches up to me and I walk in the opposite direction as hurriedly and nonchalantly as I possibly can. The car waits there for a bit. I keep going away. Back down the hill. Away from my car. They slowly inch down the street, stop at the poignantly glowing red light, and then ooze around the corner. I hold for a minute. And then I walk back the way I had just left, up past the church again, and then down to the car. My finger slips and I hit the alarm key. I fumble to shut it off. It dies off after a couple more protests. Reaching into the dark cavern of the hatchback trunk, I set down my trusty companion for this little trek. The horn beeps as the car assures me that it's locked. I begin the walk back down to Thrival. 30 minutes later and without a camera this time. I cycle back through the sounds and scenes as I did on my way out. Everything still rings but is a little more distant from me this time around.
Knowing I will be just in time to witness Lauren's "Thank you for being amazing fans" and "We've loved playing for you", I still trudged back down my familiar hill. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.