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anger management

my first experience with ministry came (i hate admitting this) about twenty years ago when i first saw the video for "over the shoulder" on much music (back when they didn't have that many videos available, so they played whatever they could get their hands on). it was a sort of captivating, defining moment, the tacit creepiness in it giving me a little thrill and forever changing my impression of grocery stores.

since then, while they've never been among my favourite bands in the world, i've always been aware of ministry's presence, particularly during that part of the early nineties when al jourgensen seemed to be the defining influence on everyone. i haven't made a habit of following them, but they're always around and, despite the fact that i haven't loved most of what they've done in recent years, i've always had a quiet desire to see what they were like live. (really, i've always had a desire to see what they were like live in their heyday, but my time machine isn't functioning yet.)
 
isn't it nice when fate hands you these opportunities?
 
one of the coolest things about the current tour is that it's not merely a ministry tour, but a combination ministry/ revolting cocks gig (with a band i will admit to knowing nothing about called pit bull day care opening). our little posse arrived at the show after the first band, just in time to grab drinks and bounce into the crowd for the opening drum hits of "beers, steers and queers". i had forgotten how enjoyably sleazy the rev co stuff is and, despite being firmly rooted in a particular time, it doesn't lose its appeal. their set featured most of the band's hits, exactly as i would have paced them. luc van acker joined them on stage for a brilliant version of "attack ships on fire" (and stayed there, sometimes in a gorilla mask or a giant penis suit, for the balance of the show). although i got thoroughly sick of hearing the band's cover of rod stewart's "do ya think i'm sexy?" when it came out, i got a kick out of hearing it again after a break of several years (and an even bigger kick out of seeing jourgensen, who is pushing fifty, get mobbed by girls young enough to be his offspring). highlights of the set were an excellent cover of bauhaus' "dark entries" and "stainless steel providers", one of my old-time favourites. the set was pretty much exactly what i was hoping for- energetic, enjoyable, a good time.
 
after a quick break, ministry came out with a complete shift of atmosphere. as rollicking and light-hearted as rev co are, ministry are aggressive, angry, edgy. this surprised me a little, because one normally thinks of bands losing their edge as they age. apparently, not everyone, because if anything the piss and vinegar that seems to sustain them is growing more potent with time. the change in ambiance was evident in the crowd as well as in the band. almost immediately, things started to get a little out of hand. my friend genny and i got sucked into the mosh pit with the opening chords like it was a black hole- a little disconcerting when you're not expecting it.
 
i actually ended up going back into the pit fairly quickly, of my own volition. i'm given to understand that there are certain things you're supposed to give up as you get older and that thrashing around in a mosh pit is probably one of them. however, i'm not about to go gently into that good night and if i want to jump into a writhing mass of half naked bodies, that's exactly what i'm going to do. fortunately, things were pretty tolerable. although the crowd seemed literally to be boiling with people at times, no one seemed to actually be trying to cause harm and, if you got in trouble, you could count on someone pulling you to safety. i'd forgotten not only how exhilirating this experience could be, but the sense of cameraderie that it can build with a bunch of strangers. (i would also like to point out that, far from feeling like grandma, i was probably about average age in the crowd.)
 
the set built up very nicely, with the "big guns" clustered predictably near the end. (strangely, no "burning inside", but i'll forgive them that.) jourgensen has a great stage presence, despite the fact that he says almost nothing (peter murphy impressed me much the same way when i saw bauhaus at the same venue) and the crowd was definitely feeding off the rising intensity level. the political outrage that informs much of their music was constantly present in the form of a background video collage, as well as the expected sound clips and generally helped build the seething atmosphere of the set.
 
in all honesty, i can't point to a lot of low points in this. they didn't play "apathy", but i had no reason to expect that they would. they did play most of their "hits" and played them exceptionally well and LOUD. i can't overstate that last point. i really thought i'd blown an eardrum in the car on the way home. i still can't hear s**t from the ringing in my ears and its going on twenty-four hours later. they also didn't skimp on the length of the show- they took the stage at about ten and played until almost one. any longer and i think i would have collapsed (probably a death sentence).  
 
the worst bits had nothing to do with the band and more to do with the injuries i'm now nursing. long-term hearing damage aside, i also managed to land with my entire body weight on my right kneecap, something that was so painful for a few seconds that i literally thought i was going to vomit (might have added to the atmosphere). i also took a pretty considerable blow to the stomach at one point, something i could still feel this morning. that said, i had forgotten that there is a certain pleasurable sensation to battle scars.
 
normally, when i think of music that has had a profound impact on me, i think of bands whose music is less straightforward, more comlicated than ministry. seeing them last night, i was reminded that there have been a lot of times when straightforward and uncomplicated was exactly what i needed. and the fact is, every now and again, you want to experience this sort of rush of juvenile adrenaline and give yourself over to something completely visceral rather than cerebral. because releasing pent up energy is good for you. because being buoyed by the energy of a crowd is exhilirating. and mostly, because it's fun.

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