I am sitting in my small bedsit flat in Madrid. The balcony door is open and the street noises are drifting in. It is 7:22pm and I keep thinking I should head out to get food soon in case the restaurants shut – then I remember I am in Spain and that the restaurants are barely opening and will stay open until after midnight. It’s no wonder Spain is having economic problems. Any country would have problems with productivity when people are out until past midnight every night of the week, drink beer at midday and sleep from 2 – 4pm every day. Crazy Spanish cats.
I am in a weird state of exhausted and buzzing from last nights events. It was energy. Pure, unadulterated energy.
I talk about it a lot – energy. That ethereal but almost palpable thing that impacts our mood, focus, concentration, joy, sadness, outlook. It is everything. We need energy to live, to breathe, to see the world, to wake, to move, to concentrate and to interact with the world. I love the whole idea because it is so encompassing. We need physical energy to operate out bodies, we need mental energy to engage with the world and we need emotional energy just to move through a day without resignation.
The really, really cool bit is when you start asking where the hell it comes from. Physical is easy (to understand if not do!) – the good food, exercise, nutrition, sleep. The mental….gets a little trickier. And the emotional – well that is where the fun starts. The big, prickly questions of what brings me up, what brings me down, what gives me force to follow a pursuit without notion of time, what takes it away and makes the world seem like I am wading through mud up to my waist.
I love the question because it helps me get closer to identify the elements I need to create that most magical of states – flow. Where you get so absorbed in an act, state, situation that time stands still and you lose track of yourself. It happens to me building or fixing things, surfing, walking, listening to or playing music.
And last night it happened in spades.
Seeing the Cat Empire last night required a little planning. Not just knowing where they were playing and finding it in the Madrid backstreets. But setting out for the first time ever without a “diabetic bag” thrown over my shoulder. You see for the past 4 years I have habitually taken a bag with me everywhere I go filled with diabetic “things” – sweets, muesli bars, testing equipment, insulin. But buggered if I was going to be weighed down with a bag in the mosh pit of the Cat Empire in Madrid. So I planned dinner, estimated my insulin based upon the fact I would be jumping up and down for 3 hours, stuffed my pockets with muesli bars and set out.
I timed my run to get into the venue as the doors opened. I wanted to be up against the stage and I hate missing backing bands.(No matter how bad they may be it’s a respect for ANY musician brave enough to bare their creative soul). I knew nothing of the “Pierce Brothers”. I didn’t even know if they were local or Australian.
I walked into the venue at 5 minutes past doors open, and took my place against the stage looking around at the 4 other people standing there with acres of space between us and the bars stretching behind us in a 25m radius. Right on kick off for the back up band the crowd was only about 10 deep. Maybe 100 people or so in a 2000 person venue.
Then the two Pierce Brothers burst onto the stage. Dreadlocked, top-bun-wearing, stocky, grinning Melbournians brandishing a didgeridoo and a Maton guitar. They strode onto the stage and burst straight into life.
Maybe it was the deep, primal drone of the didge, maybe seeing a battered Maton or the Australian accents I am not sure. But I was overwhelmed with the sort of warm, stomach turning nostalgia that you only ever get travelling. When you catch the broad Aussie accent from across a crowd or you see someone wearing Blundstones. When you have been in someone else’s country, following someone else’s rules for so long that ALL you yearn for is to be in a place that you are in command of – that you know intimately. That you are a part of.
Well these guys just blew it away. So when Jack Pierce stumbled through his 4 words of Spanish then apologised and introduced himself – I mustered my broadest accent and yelled out:
I looked at these guys pouring everything they had out to this crowd. And I looked back over my shoulder and saw this measly crowd taking up a third of the room and I thought: “These guys need some energy sent their way.”
I know how they feel because I spend my whole professional life standing in front of and addressing crowds. They range from 5 to 500 but the dynamics are exactly the same. Sometimes you are presenting concepts that energise the group and you can FEEL the focus and responsiveness coming back to you. Which feeds you and allows you to pour more energy out.
But other times…..it is hell. You try, you pour it out, you take different approaches and the group in front of you gives nothing. I feel like crawling into the proverbial hole and shrinking into a small ball of nothingness.
So I looked over my shoulder at this small crowd, turned back to Jack and Patrick Pierce – and let myself go. Not that it was hard as they were electrifying – but I let myself go, whooped, hollered, smiled, jumped and let the sound of a guitar and didge take me into this blissful, time slipping home sick yearning for everything Australian.
The Cat Empire followed them soon after (that’s another story) and before I knew it I was standing outside the venue in the cold Madrid night waiting. I wanted to tell the Pierce Brothers what they had given me. I wanted to let them know how much they had thrown out to me and others there. I wanted them to know that they gave energy in a hard environment like nothing I had ever seen.
I spotted them in a small group, drinking beer on the street and wandered over. I had barely stretched out my hand to shake theirs when Jack saw me and exclaimed:
“There he is!! Mate…..that was awesome!! You got me through that set! I looked down and saw you there smiling and loving it and that helped me get through.”
And he promptly hugged me. A huge warm hug from a big stocky Australian guy I had never met and didn’t know at all.
It was one of those moments. Those beautiful, simple moments that remind you of energy, and how it all works. There I was just loving their music and throwing a bit of energy their way. There they were soaking up my energy and pouring it back out in spades.
It turns out it was an important gig of them. There was a rep from Sony Europe there to suss them out. They had been on the road for a while. Before they walked out they had looked at each other and said: “Biggest gig ever!!!!” – then promptly walked out onto stage to see a thin crowd of strange Spaniards, in a large room where no one knew them from a bar of soap. So they latched onto the small bit of energy from the jumping, smiling, blissing out Aussie guy in the front row and it was that little thing they needed.
I love it. But I am tired. I am getting too old to be jumping up and down for 3 hours. But then again, in the middle of it all last night, as The Cat Empire blasted away and the swaying, flowing, pogo stick crowd went completely nuts I must admit I felt pretty young.