We are not here to make you happy. We are here to keep you alive. Sx
— Garbage (@garbage) December 23, 2013
For the past 12 years, Garbage has been the band that always finds a way to keep me alive. The names Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson have become household names for me, as just the simple mention of them makes my heart flutter with hope as relief washes over me that at least four people in this big bright world understand me. “We speak the same language,” Manson stated at Friday night’s stop in Westbury, NY of the band’s 20 Years Queer tour – an entire run celebrated in honor of the 20th anniversary of their 1995 self-titled debut album. Manson went on to state how grateful they are for having fans that are on the same level, which she owes a huge part of their long-running success to. For the listener, it’s all about connection, but when a band shares that same sentiment with their fans, you know it’s genuine.
Genuine was a word that kept running throughout my mind the entire night; how one crazy, vibrant, diverse yet unapologetic crowd can come together for a night of celebration without conflict, the pressures of social cues and the usual scenesters you’re guaranteed to see at any given show in New York City. It was quite refreshing to say the least. As impressed as I was with The Space at Westbury, I couldn’t help feeling a bit spoiled as I knew this was a fluke and probably wouldn’t happen again. The array of old tour t-shirts from the 90’s swept me away to an entire world I missed out on as fellow die-hard fans brought their children and grandchildren to see a band that has ruled their music collections for the past twenty years. For once, I was at home – comfortable with my surroundings with the feeling that I actually belonged somewhere – a feeling only my favorite band can provide.
Garbage are the timeless kind. Their music transcends anything you’ve ever heard before. When they were changing the game back in the 90’s, people didn’t understand it. They may still be misunderstood but funnily enough, everything the masses are gobbling up right now, chances are Garbage has already been there, done that…but better! When the juvenile concept of fitting in still remains an issue today in the music world, Garbage are still right there doing their own thing with legions of beloved freaks behind them, happy to be anywhere their listeners are while breaking boundaries (and balls) in the process.
Nothing could have prepared me for the night that I had. As I’m trying to put an emotionally draining summer behind me, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears (OK, a lot!) as Shirley sang back the words I’ve been listening to in my bedroom since middle school. The excitement (not to mention extreme heart palpitations) during the opening home movie segment had me in a state of sheer happiness – something I haven’t been able to trust myself with lately. For the first time in a long time, what I was feeling was real. My favorite band who changed and saved my life when I was 13 years-old were right in front of me again for the second time and I couldn’t have felt more blessed and alive. Everything came full circle that night as I remembered buying their debut album at a Walmart not too far from the venue when I was 13. I was so excited to bring it home and dive into it. I kept that album so close to me, using Shirley’s words as a source of strength when all I reeked of at that age was defeat.
As they played through their entire debut album, b-sides included, there was a moment during “A Stroke of Luck” where it all completely hit me. Everything that had (or hadn’t) happened within the past four months came crashing down. As Shirley sang in the song’s chorus, “Here comes the cold again / I feel it closing in,” there was a moment of mixed emotions running through me – afraid of what was to come yet ready to walk through another fire if I have to. As long as I have the music, it’ll be okay.
The energy within the crowd was palpable as every single word was sung back to them at full volume. All of the pent up frustrations we’ve held back came out during “Vow” and “As Heaven Is Wide.” I was feeling a bit under the weather that night, but I had no problem belting out the opening verse of “Not My Idea,” – a track I’ve been finding myself gravitating towards a lot lately with lyrics so perfect it should be illegal. “I bit my tongue and stood in line with not much to believe in / I bought into what I was sold and ended up with nothing.” While my personal favorite b-side, “Sleep,” though short yet sweet, sounded eerily flawless, vibrating throughout the entire venue; a track that demonstrates how one has the ability to hide their pain to the point where it completely numbs you and sleep is the only option of not feeling anything at all anymore.
I’m sure the entire neighborhood woke up once the band started in with “Stupid Girl” – the first Garbage song I ever heard at the young age of 6. Just the opening chords of that song has the ability to send me into fits of uncontrollable bliss and hearing it live (for the second time) was the greatest feeling on earth! The crowd was alive, the guys behind the soundboard were even on their feet, as Manson growled the chorus, “You stupid girl / All you had you wasted / I can’t believe you fake it.” Fitting for everything we stand for here at The Daily Listening and I’m pretty sure the entire crowd shares this sentiment.
Perhaps the most joyous moments came from the encore as the band slipped in a couple of goodies from 2001 – “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)” and 1998 – “Push It.” Dozens of white balloons (which I thought were a part of the set every night but happened to be a surprise to the band) descended into the crowd during “Cherry Lips” and melted the heart of our queen Shirley. An LGBTQ anthem, and perhaps one of the first, the song was met with none other than cherry lips on the stage screen with a standing ovation from the balcony to some insane yet well-deserved applause from the standing room. Once last track, the ever-moody-yet-bombastic “Push It,” kicked in, I think it was safe to say that the crowd was not done with them yet and I’m pretty sure we could have gone over into the next night. The void in our hearts started to settle in once they exited the stage, but with a brand new album slated for release in the spring of 2016, something tells me we probably won’t have to wait long to see them again.
The minute I got in the car to begin the short journey home back to Brooklyn, I completely lost my composure. The never-ending, pathetic, messy tears came cascading down, unable to stop for at least 10 minutes. This is why I do what I do. This is why I love music. When everything falls apart, it’s always there. Whenever I need some reassurance that I am not experiencing this life all wrong and that whatever crazy shit I am feeling is valid, Shirley Manson is there with open arms and a song. Music is always there for me and I must admit that it feels damn good to finally have something I love deeply love me back with just as much force.
Needless to say, seeing Garbage on Friday night was definitely “my idea of a good time.”