Saturday night found me privy to the last of a week-long series of private concerts by The XX at the 66th Street Armory in New York. They’d been showing since the previous Thursday and playing two shows a night, every night. The sets were intimately held for groups of 45 invite-only guests.
On Saturday night, we entered the armory through a nondescript side door just off Park Avenue, and were quarantined in a small waiting room for about fifteen minutes. There were small, makeshift plaques resting on surfaces in the room that read, “Let’s Get Social,” divulging Instagram, Twitter and Facebook information. In the previous week I hadn’t seen a single Instagram image, or tweet, or repurposed Facebook photo from any number of the sets The XX had played but fifteen minutes into languishing in quarantine, a coordinator appeared to ready us to be escorted to the show venue.
“We ask that you not just refrain from taking photos, but that you please shut off your phones,” she said before we began a short walk through the basement of the armory into what looked like a very small, white foam room. Though I have no true recollection of what my mother’s womb looked like, I imagine it was akin to the soft square space, which was dewey and crowded in spite of the paltry contingent of people standing around a square shaped enclave, replete with instruments and musicians, in the middle of the room.
The set lasted 45 minutes and as it progressed, the cramped room grew larger. The ceiling was lifted, the white curtains that elicited that dewey feeling were dropped and there we were: 45 people (Madonna, Jay Z and Beyoncé included) smack in the middle of the armory, hovering over The XX as they enunciated their i’s and we swayed against their tempo.
It was an incredible experience. One that doesn’t happen very often, but not because cool concerts aren’t frequently occurring — they are. Because it was an experience that would forever exist only for the people who were actually in the room.
When the curious and uninitiated asked how it was, I was forced to rely on my ability to describe (as opposed to show photos) to pronounce the concert’s details. (I know writing teachers will argue that as a writer, you must show, not tell, but in 2014, I think there’s abundant value in relying on your ability to tell).
And no matter how astutely I can, or did, or will depict the events of that experience, it will never live up to actually having been there the way that most other experiences, which are disseminated, interpreted, often even reviewed based on the encouraged use of video and photo, do. This particular evening will forever remain an incident that cannot become convoluted by those who were not there. It will remain an event that only 45 people can recall accurately and that feels, I don’t know, sacred.
So I guess the question is, without resorting to the extreme of iPhones in airplane mode, how do we bring that sense of private holiness back to our respective experiences with experience?