So, I’m a dumb 18 year old from the suburbs, and the guy down the hall says,”hey, come on, we’re going to Detroit to see a concert.” I’ve never been to a concert, but I can’t let on to that, so I act all cool and say sure (it’s Saturday night, because otherwise I would have been studying). I dress in my best concert going gear – ripped jeans, flannel shirt, white t, doc martens – and we all pile in.
I had seen an ad on tv featuring the two bands, and it was far beyond my own ken. It featured smoke machines, which as a punk rocker I abhorred, but it also featured the coolest-looking rocker I had ever seen, wearing stiletto heels and lace and playing an amazing guitar. The other band, the Time, featured some strange deal with a valet and a mirror, all part of a rock culture that I didn’t get and hadn’t seen, but which was as effectively blowing up convention as any of my favorite bands.
We get there, driving straight there because our friend knew Detroit in ways us suburban kids couldn’t comprehend, and we were pre-gaming as we went. We stopped in at a bar across the street (Michigan was an 18 state at that time), just trying to stay out of the way of the far cooler folks who were going to see this guy Prince. They were even dressed like him, regardless of gender or ethnicity. All those boots and lace, straight from a Funkadelic or Curtis Mayfield album from the 70s, was somehow intensely both masculine and feminine, intimidating and erotic and angry and loving.
I was a wee bit out of my element, but wasn’t I from the punk side? I should be able to handle this, right?
We go into the show, and find our seats, but no one is sitting. Folks are already slowly dancing in place, moving to the warm-up music that we can barely hear. For some odd reason I love to dance, and I was moving as well, and to their credit my friends were not shy about dancing either.
I had no idea about appropriate concert behavior, but no one here seemed interesting in acting cool. They were already doing their best Prince imitations when The Time came out, and they (and we) continued to dance and sashay and shimmy up and down the steps. I tried to watch the bands, but the music was so good I just had to move, and so I sort of saw Jerome bring out Morris Day’s mirror, and the whole parody of servant/master relations, again a political satire I was too concerned with ideological purity to get.
Next, of course, was Prince. He never stopped moving, never stopped looking like he was having the best time in the house, never stopped humping speakers or making out with his dancers or his guitarist or his guitar. I had no points of reference, but I didn’t need them – I could fathom what I needed to do just by following my hips.
He played for three hours. My ears were ringing, my feet aching, I had no idea where the car was, and I hadn’t touched a drop of liquor in a long time. We came out of the arena into the Detroit night – no stars, sirens, parking lot across the street with abandoned cars, boarded-up windows. And my feet wouldn’t stop shuffling, and I didn’t want to talk or brag or rant or lie or even say a thing – I just let that cool air hit me, letting the sweat dry, and I reveled in an experience that felt primal and intellectual and postmodern and a bit less concerned that sex was some sort of unclean activity done only by the lower classes and more aware that it was a beautiful, necessary, divine part of who we are.