I burst through the door of our office screaming at my dad, “HE HELD THIS HAAAND!” shoving my left hand in his face. That’s all I could think to do with uncontainable energy spilling words of awe out of my mouth. I had just witnessed a Cage the Elephant concert for the second time, the second time I was in the front row, and the first time I ever met the lead singer, Matt Shultz. I am somewhere on cloud nine, not wanting to wash Matt’s sweat from my left hand. – My mind keeps wandering back to holding his hand during the show, I squeezed his hand and he squeezed back as other people of the audience tried to cling to his arm. I wish we could have been inseparable, breaking all clocks to be frozen in time holding onto his sweating hand.
But let’s start at the beginning.
I showed up outside of the Beaumont Club two whole hours early. (Thinking about it after the show now, I’m glad I showed up early otherwise I would have nearly passed out in middle of the crowd.) I was waiting outside of the venue with my mom and my friend Taylor when I caught sight of Matt Shultz pacing past their tour bus talking on the phone. After I heard Matt murmur, “I love you too,” into his cell phone he bowed his head and started to walk on. I stopped him and said, “Can I just say hi because I think you’re really awesome.” He looked up and smiled, the parentheses around his mouth became more defined on his strong square chin. He stuck his hand out and I introduced myself, “I’m Phoenix.” He looked right at me through his Ray-Bans.
“Phoenix, I’m Matt.” His smile made my insides squeal with that happy fuzzy feeling. He continued to exchange introductions with my mom and Taylor. Then I spoke again smiling and told him I was so excited for the show I arrived at five. (The doors opened at 7:00PM.)
“Yeah?” he sort of trailed off and finished still smiling, “Awesome.” (My mom also noted we saw them last November and how amazing of a show it was and he thanked her.) After that he told us he had to leave for Cage’s soundcheck but I had already determined the show would remain a lasting memory.
Front row and center most literally I stood and frowned at the huge barricades keeping me from grabbing hold of Matt. AutoVaughn were the only openers for Cage because the 22-20’s had come down with an illness. AutoVaughn gave us a show. The guys chased each other across the stage dueling with their guitars. The lead singer often added little remarks like, “If you guys are into that kind of thing,” in a lighthearted tone after introducing the title a song and its meaning. The lead guitarist of AutoVaughn, Steven Wilson would jerk his neck to the beat moving his feet around with mad skills of some modern dance, scuffing his shoes. He told the crowd that they were preparing us mentally, physically, and spiritually for Cage the Elephant to blow our minds. I believed it when his guitar would plink out solos, his fingers washing across the neck of his bandaged mint green guitar skillfully, easily. They closed their set with “Hell of a Place” and carried the song on with the sound of our clapping and improvised guitar jams.
Matt Shultz in short is “mad as a hatter, thin as a dime.” When Cage walked onto the carpeted stage in almost total darkness I screamed. Cage hurled into the first song “Dr. Dr. Dr.” Matt shook wildly flailing his arms in different directions. He screamed into the microphone his words incomprehensible but the guitars screamed back licks that sounded like heavy southern punk. The guitars echoed the fast paced beat of the drums. I kept reaching out to him hopeful but his hand was bunching up the fabric of his shirt. I am sure that he looked right at me underneath his heavy lids a couple times. He recognized me, I thought. Then finally during one of the songs Matt thrust his hand out. In that moment I slapped my hand onto his and squeezed. He squeezed back while other people in the crowd clung to his slick arm, he just kept singing.
The push of the crowd was terrifying. I constantly had to push back so my lungs didn’t get crushed. Being in the front row and in the center I was kicked in the head easily more than eight times by crowd surfers. I was dizzy and my head hurt, my curly hair gone frizzy but I kept singing the lyrics I knew (which wasn’t many considering Cage played so many new songs). I kept thinking I am going to die. I am trapped and I can’t even climb over the barricades or push through the crowd to get out. In line of the last song before the “In One Ear” and “Saber-Tooth Tiger” encore, “Sell Yourself” bent over after stage diving Matt looked at me and screamed into the mic, “Save yourself!”
After the show I met the guys from AutoVaughn. Darren the lead singer asked, “What’s your name?” as I handed him the CD I had just bought from their merch table.
“Phoenix,” I answered.
“Spelled like the city?”
“With an extra ‘X’,” my mom added, smiling.
“Boom!” Darren said pointing to the little note scribbled into the liner notes of the CD. When I met Steven I told him he had mad feet dancing skills. “Yeah? I don’t even realize it. I’ve never been able to dance for my life,” he replied.
“Well now you can!” I said. I made movements to exaggerate his feet movements.
“Kickin’ shit and stuff,” he said nodding his head.
I had left the venue, knowing there was no re-entry. I said goodbye to Taylor as her dad’s car pulled up to the curb of the street. Then I saw it. A small group of people huddled around something, or someone. “Can you move over Matt?” one of their crew members said pushing a luggage cart loaded with instrument cases. I saw Matt signing and taking pictures, grinning and laughing with fans. I wanted in on it though our first encounter was more intimate. I wanted a picture to remember it by. – I watched the fans as I waited my turn for a picture. A girl muttered something about not being cool and then Matt said to her, his tone changed to be more serious, “Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t… don’t do that.” – After I got my picture I opened the car door and said in a daze, “That was… amazing.”
It’s official. Cage the Elephant did indeed blow my mind.