All of a sudden she disappears
just yesterday she was here
somebody tell me if I am sleeping
someone should be with me here
cause I don’t wanna be alone

As already indicated, it’s been a crazy last few days. The way things are going, almost everything is becoming believable at this point. But before I knew the extent of the damage to the apartment here or the extent of damage my body had suddenly started taking, I decided to go to a Counting Crows show in Montclair, New Jersey, since they had extra tickets for the 18 August show. And since I’d missed the show I was scheduled to attend on July 31st. And since I needed an emotional bloodletting, of which Counting Crows shows are the best kind I know. And since I don’t care what happens to me anymore. And since I just need to find a way to get through the next eight days, likely in many ways to be the most painful of my life thus far. Those of you who know what’s going on know exactly why that is.

I wanna be the knife
that cuts into my hand
and I wanna be scattered
from here in this catapult
what a big baby
won’t somebody save me please?
won’t find nobody home

I found Montclair, New Jersey to be something of a dying small-town community feel nestled in the midst of an industrial wasteland. This probably sounds a little worse than it is, but I haven’t exactly been in the most flattering of moods lately about anything. Everything looks dead or dying, everything seems to be atrophying, everything has the stench of broken dreams. The miniature downtown of Montclair seems to be built around the newly reopened and revitalized Wellmont Theatre, a pretty nifty little venue long fallen into disrepair and recently rescued. If the fellow line-waiting front-row patrons are to be believed, the ceiling is still in danger of collapse and they have a thin excuse for netting up there to make sure no one takes a direct plaster hit if so. Against the odds, the building remained intact not only while I bought tickets, waited an hour or so in line, and jetted up to the second row on the floor, but even through the duration of the emotional turmoil unleashed when CC and their friends took the stage.

All of these quiet battered voices
wait for the hunger to come
we’ve got little revolvers
and stupid choices
no one to say when we’re done
well I don’t wanna bring you down

This is part of their summer tour and their summer tours lately have been subheaded The Traveling Circus and Medicine Show, an innovative amalgam of whatever three bands they have grouped together, all switching out songs and sets and playing two acts with an encore like a seamless 20-piece band. It’s not exactly my favorite incarnation of the Crows, but it works pretty well most of the time, even when they have an angry joke of a white rapper as the third piece in their triage. There’s a rockabilly sensibility to this manifestation of their live act, but this particular show lacked most of the boisterous highs one would typically expect to come along with that. Adam Duritz seemed more dazed than I felt, often staring into space and almost muttering lyrics in a dejected haze. It wasn’t sloppy or misdelivered in any way, though – it was deliberate, calculated, crafted. It spoke of a person whose life has whizzed past him, leaving him to contemplate the rubble. It spoke to me.

I wanna be the light
that burns out your eyes
cause I know there’s little things about me
that would sing in the silence of
so much rejection in every connection I make
can’t find nobody home

I wept, literally, through six of the songs. Having been to something like ten Counting Crows shows, I have long come to expect that they will move me, that I will find them religious experiences, that the poetry and pathos of the live delivery will shake my foundations and reignite the core of my soul, for both good and for sad. What I am often not prepared for is that even my expectations of transcendence will be exceeded and surpassed. That the phrase “Awareness is Never Enough – It Must Always Be Wonder” is so frequently made corporeal in those unexpected moments of a CC show. What song will they build into what other song? What meaning will be encompassed or recalculated in such a way as to render the entire deepest voice of a song bare in a new and scintillating light? What will cut so hard and so fast to the quick that one’s heart will bleed anew, pouring forth a whole new reason for pouring? This is the emotional breakdown and rebuild, the evisceration and glinting hope, that these shows offer.

I wanna be the light
that burns out your eyes
cause I know there’s little things about me
that would sing in the silence of
so much rejection in every connection I make
I wanna be the last thing that you hear when you’re falling asleep

It was actually Augustana who offered me one of the most painful and beautiful moments when they stuck “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” in the middle of “Boston”. I openly bled tears, taken back to both a moment on a bus in Scotland convinced I was going to die when that song came blaring over the speakers to give me hope and also to the understanding of the song’s original purpose: an open letter to a suicide, committed to voice too late to make any difference for that one but submitted all the same in hopes of saving others. Suddenly the fact that “you don’t know me and you don’t even care” was cut back by the fact that we’re all “stuck in a moment and can’t get out of it”. It was at that moment, after a long soliloquy on growing up in light of “Up All Night” and two songs before “Catapult” that the song selection stopped speaking to me and started being for me, about me, through me. By the time “Time and Time Again” was paired back-to-back with “Richard Manuel is Dead” near the open of the second act, I was slayed and begging for more.

I wanna be the knife
that cuts into my hand
and I wanna be scattered
from here in this catapult
what a big baby
won’t somebody take me please?
can’t find nobody home

It’s impossible to explain everything I’m feeling or thinking or going through now, or was then. It’s impossible to explain the importance of “Richard Manuel is Dead”, Emily’s favorite Crows song, or the precise implications of the way Adam sang “A Murder of One”, centering on a to-me-unprecedented line of “I need to change,” observing and reflecting on the painful nature of growing up through things one shouldn’t have to experience. By the time “Rain King” was offering hope “With a Little Help from My Friends”, I’d already settled in a numb fuzzy-faced coma of crying to the point of catharsis. It was no wonder that I stumbled home to find a dumpster overturned by the storm in the parking space normally reserved for the Prius and would be in the Emergency Room within a few hours, dealing with the extraction of kidney stones. Every day, hour, minute, is its own special trial. And like the singing of a song or the passing of a kidney stone, the pain embedded deep in each moment makes the overall picture impossible to even grasp. No wonder Emily seems capable of such callous calculation and diffident distance. No one could hope to understand what’s happening without living through each second. Even me.

Caravan
Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby
Omaha
[NOTAR]
Up All Night
Stars and Boulevards
Boston (with Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of)
Steal Your Heart Away
Twenty Years

Catapult
[NOTAR]
Why Should You Come When I Call?
You Ain’t Going Nowhere

Four White Stallions
Time and Time Again
Richard Manuel is Dead
Safe and Sound
A Murder of One (with Doris Day)
[NOTAR x2]
Just Like a Woman
Dust
Shot in the Dark
Sweet and Low

Come Around
A Long December (with A Murder of One)
Hanginaround

Rain King (with With a Little Help from My Friends)
This Land is Your Land

(Augustana songs in italics; NOTAR songs not named)