I don’t know where the mental association between music and sex comes from, but we all know that it is there. Think of paltry, ham-fisted attempts towards sexuality made by the likes of Miley Cyrus, and you will get the idea. At the end of the day, no one has ever uttered the phrase “Sex, drugs and accounting” because some professions just don’t have any form of sex appeal. I haven’t been to too many concerts in my life, but with surprising regularity have I found myself fantasizing about getting into bed with any of the assorted females on the stage when I have. I even was given the opportunity to be a little more reflective about this when I was living in Estonia and met the female lead of a local band, humanizing the whole experience by giving it a unique realia. I didn’t get to sleep with said female lead, but I saw that whatever charm there was wasn’t all stage-show smoke and mirrors (as, mythically, it is said to be with Madonna).
So from this assumption one can extrapolate something about about sex when watching a concert. Or at least I hope so, because that is the sophistry I plan on engaging today.
I have had less than no sexual desire since moving here. So little so as I have seriously entertained the possibility that this is some kind of early symptom of prostate cancer. The justification for this lack of a desire keeps me from freaking out so badly that I end up sticking a finger up my own ass; namely, China is populated with the least sexy population I can imagine. Part of the problem is the general lack of proper god damn hygiene, something I have expounded on repeatedly on this blog. Another is that fashion here dictates that to be considered a beautiful woman here you have to have the physique of a sun-dried corpse of a once famous explorer who died of starvation while traversing the Sahara. Those who flaunt this trend are often covered in so much acne they look like something that walked out of Chernobyl in some 1980’s B movie. This is a result of over exposure to the massive quantity of oil all their food is soaked in before being served. None of this helped by the fact that half of the population dresses as if they only had the most basic understanding of what clothing is functionally meant to do. As a last point, the people here are so incredibly graceless that one begins to assume that they as well have no intention of getting laid. Frankly, I have seen a sexier strut on American military men.
Safe to say, I’ve not gotten laid here.
But one would assume that any musical act worth a damn would at least be faking it, if for no other reasons because the cargo cult culture dictates that this is merely what you do. In fact, the karaoke place near my work screens music videos to entice customers, and their I see singers try (and fail) to have some kind of sex appeal. You can imagine what my reaction was like when I found out I had been invited to a concert that would be devoid of it.
Anthropologically speaking, concerts are god damn fascinating.
So when my friend messaged me inviting me to a concert, I said yes mostly out of boredom. I had not been to a concert in some time, and it used to be something I enjoyed, thought who knows how I would feel about it these days. So I agreed, partially out of a sense of curiosity as to what a Chinese concert would be like. The venue was in a strange, brutalist/deconstructionist shopping mall. That it was in a shopping mall was no surprise, as it is estimated that by the year 2055 all of China will be in a shopping mall. But I do find something disturbing about a shopping mall in a deconstructionist style. When you see the Starbucks and the cold stone creamery next to a bare concrete wall, an I beam and exposed wiring, it just feels like someone cut corners. Which may be exactly what fucking happened. This is, after all, China.
But brutalism does kind of hold up well for a concert venue, and with the lights dimmed a bare concrete wall just looks like a wall. And thankfully the lights were already dimmed when we entered. We cut our time down to the wire and entered the hall right as the concert was starting, with just enough time to grab a drink each. The musician, I was told as the act opened, was a Tibetan Jazz singer. All of China would disagree with the first adjective used. I would disagree with the second. I don’t know what the hell the music was, but I wouldn’t have called it jazz. I had heard this style before in other parts of the world, and even though I don’t per se dislike it, I still feel like the best description of it would be some kind of anguished self-indulgent moaning.
But to return to the point with which I started out this rambling essay, there was no god damn sex in that concert. I am obviously not talking about literal sex, but there wasn’t even the suggestion of sex from the singer. She came out in a pure white dressing gown which, at least for me, really set the thematic tone for the night. Why? It was the kind of wedding gown I am sure Mother Terresa likely wore to bed, so pure white and virginalical that were a hypothetical wife of mine wear it to bed I would with maximal confidence know that our marriage had reached a terminus and be obliged to file for divorce the following day. It didn’t help that this woman was extremely frail. So much so that she reminded me of one of those stock characters from Victorian dramas who always seem to have consumption, are constantly coughing into a handkerchief and are unjustly relegated to living in an attic. I wasn’t sure if she was going to sing or ascend directly to heaven.
When the lead came out, she addressed the crowd politely in mandarin in a tone that, from my perspective, seemed to be devoid of all enthusiasm. It was a register with which I would introduce a reading of my taxes. She then went right into the first song, which she proceeded to sing while standing absolutely stock still. She gave the audience nothing to work with excepting a few meager hand gestures.
When the first song concluded, she announced the second in a monosyllabic near grunt. To give credit where it is due, I was expecting the second song to be exactly like the first. It thankfully didn’t, although the presentation was identical; the lady in question stood still while she belted out the song, almost as if she was performing the song stuck in stasis. I’ve given more passionate performances to my bathroom mirror. That song ended, and we were given another mono-syllabic grunt before another song.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
None of the band members interacted with the fans, nothing was really played to the audience. If there was a difference between this and listening to the CD at home, I could not establish it. And that for me was the fascinating bit, the complete disassociation of music and sexuality that I seemed to be witnessing here.
Not everyone, however had the anthropological interest in the concert that I had:
Here are my friends as they enjoy the concert. This is no a criticism of the concert; we are after all, terrible fucking millennials.
The concert was beyond all that largely uneventful. There was a funny moment when I noticed that the lead guitarist seemed incredibly checked out throughout the second half of the concert. He kept on giving glances to the other band members as if to say ‘ok can we go now?’, and when the show ‘ended’ (prior to the encore), he was the first one gone and the last one back on stage. Later, one of my friends would translate that as he packed up his equipment he was talking rather loudly about how tired he was.
And then the show ended, and just as a fascinating little concluding note, I noticed that the concert hall emptied with a speed I had never previously witnessed at any venue, ever. No one there was interested in hanging out with their friends for one more drink. Nope. the show ended and everyone fled. In fact, I’ve seen concerts halls fill out in a slower, more orderly fashion when pyrotechnics have gone bad and there is a massive fire.