No discussion with me about influential music would not be complete without the impact the Blue Man Group had on my life. And since I will be seeing them a week from tonight, now is a good time to include them here.
My love for art stems from its indescribable effect on my soul. There’s a lot of art I don’t understand, and I have a rule that I don’t speak critical of what I don’t understand. I stick to what I can discern and leave the rest for later.
Enter Blue Man Group. On a 2001 trip to Las Vegas, our squad of 5 was given 1st row tickets (also known as the Poncho seats) to this exciting new show on the strip. No one could explain what it was, but to a person they affirmed that it was fun. One reviewer called it “The Omnisexual Promise Keepers for the New Millenium. Not sure what that means either, even after seeing them perform four times.
We took our seats, donned the thin plastic raincoats that were draped over each chair, settled in and waited. The lights went down and something happened in the Luxor theatre for 90 minutes that blew my mind.
When the show was over, I didn’t want to move. The other 4 guys were ready to run off and leave some money for the casino on the craps table. I told them to go on without me. I needed to sort through what I just saw. So they left me to myself. All I could say, repeating over again, was:
What did I just see?
This is when I know I’ve encountered something transcendent. I only have a feeling inside. I have no words for it. I can’t talk about it. I don’t know how. There is no language formed yet. And I didn’t have words for a long time, until I started to identify with the increasing listlessness and boredom I was experiencing in life.
Two years later, BMG released an album with lyrics. The first show I saw was all instrumental. The only words spoken were from the narrator during the performance. In 2003, the album, The Complex, included some original tracks with guest artists Dave Matthews and Tracy Bonham filling in on vocals. Her song Up To The Roof gave the vernacular my heart was missing.
All I see, it’s not for me
What I want, you have not got
Tried to use the things you sold me
No matter what the cost
Tried to go the way you told me
But each time I got lost
The stairs didn’t lead me anywhere
This summed up my faith which was extremely stagnant at the time. Faith is the central most important element of my identity and I had come to a point where I was not growing or thriving. There was nothing new coming in, and just a handful of old stories going out. I was maintaining the status quo of a faith that was handed to me as a young man. It was clear that it wasn’t going to be adequate for the journey that was ahead. I was on a flight of stairs to climbing up to nowhere. I knew I needed to make a change, and that’s what that original encounter with BMG in 2001 was trying to tell me. I had witnessed creativity that required a step of faith on the part of the team of Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton. They had an idea, a weird one at that, but they believed in it enough to bring it to the public. Was I capable of doing the same? Not as a theatre show, but to build a place of community, conversation and reflection.
I’m taking the fire escape up to the roof
Don’t care if it’s not the way you find the truth
Time to take this time to rise above
It was my time to rise above.
I experienced the beauty of faith again, of being sure of what I hope for and certain of what I can’t see. Everything hasn’t turned out as planned since that initial revelation, but my faith is alive again. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
And when I get up that high,
I don’t know what I’ll find
But I’d rather look at the sky
Than wonder why
I let you take my timeSong: Up To The Roof
Album: The Complex
Artist: Blue Man Group (feat. Tracy Bonham)
Released: April 22, 2003