006. 10 Shows Later
It's been a while.
Since I last posted, I saw Radiohead seven times in two weeks. Five cities; two countries; hundreds of thousands of fans; weeks of painstakingly planning + strategizing; days of contemplation; hours without using the bathroom; minutes of passionate + joyous excitement; and appetite-crippling anxiety + anticipation every second of the way.
This is what I've learned.
1. Radiohead belongs to the individual, and their shows are only to be experienced in a deeply personal way.
During a Radiohead show, my goal is focus. I want to feel each note, each lyric, each light flashing before my eyes. I want to achieve perfection without distraction. But in experiencing Radiohead with a cinematographer at my side ⎯ I, for the first time, had the privilege of studying the crowd.
Unlike most other bands, during a Radiohead show, we each stand alone. If you waited all day to be in one of the front rows, you know what I mean. Every single person around you is having their own moment and experience. No one is talking, looking at their friends for approval, even acknowledging each other. For two hours, we all experience this bliss and excitement for ourselves. We sing all the lyrics with our hearts; marvel when our favorite songs are played; and dance with little regard for our surroundings. There's not much you can compare it to, which leads me to my next point...
2. No one is the biggest Radiohead fan.
I've spoken to fans who have been to 50+ shows; who have gone to extreme (even criminal) lengths to land the perfect spot; who have hundreds of pieces of memorabilia; who know every song and b-side by heart.
But never can you say that you are a bigger fan than someone else.
What I've come to realize is that there is no way to quantify someone's passion and connection for Radiohead. One of the reasons why this band holds so much resonance with so many, is because we each attach our own personal meaning to their songs. Our own memories and nuances; times of happiness and pain ⎯ these are the reasons why hearing their music impacts so many of us so deeply. Because of this, I feel that no matter how many shows you've been to, or material things you own, you can never say that you feel a stronger connection to the band than the person beside you. We each hold a unique relationship to Radiohead and their music, which is ours alone. That's what makes the live moments so special.
3. The Radiohead high is very real, and all fans describe an eerily similar sensation.
When I first saw Radiohead in 2008, I experienced what I describe as a spiritual connection ⎯ now what I call a "Radiohead high."
In following Radiohead for seven dates, I found myself chasing that feeling. I would anxiously and meticulously ensure I had just enough food and beverage to feel perfect. That I had gone to the bathroom just before the show (if I had that privilege), or had selectively drank water only in times of need if I was at a festival. I was so consumed and concerned with achieving this perfection, and for good reason.
I plan to write a lengthier post just about the feeling itself ⎯ but what I will say is that the words "spiritual," "religious," "connected," "out of body," "weightless," and "free," were used frequently by an incredibly diverse group of people in describing the live Radiohead experience ⎯ none of which knew each other. The fact that so many of us describe the same sensation is eerie, but also intriguing and reassuring. For many of us ⎯ this feeling is the peak of our fandom and love for this band. This is something I want to capture as wholly as possible in this film.
4. Start running.
If you want to be in the front for a Radiohead show ever ⎯ better start training for it. I wish I'd known this before I went on tour! Running is the only way to get a front spot at a music festival. Use Radiohead as a great excuse for exercise! I know I am.