the excitement gang

I used to dream about seeing the Clash live.

When I say “dream” I mean not that I used to wish out loud for it, but that I would have these vivid dreams about seeing them, reunited, on tour again. In daylight, I never ever thought about it – but in dreams, it would come. I was always standing towards the back of Key Arena in Seattle, the floor was GA, and the lights were red and I was hot and sweaty and jumping around and I’d turn around and run into someone I knew – sometimes it was Mark Arm from Mudhoney, sometimes it was Beth Liebling, sometimes it was just friends of mine, people I knew. It didn’t surprise me that everyone was there because it would be hard for me to know someone who wouldn’t drop everything to go watch the Clash play again.

The dreams stopped happening after December 23, 2002.

I will never forget landing in New York for Christmas and getting to my parents’ house and getting a barrage of simultaneous text messages, telling me that Joe had died. It was not a fun Christmas.

I never understood why I had these dreams. I was lucky; I saw the Clash, I saw them in real time, I saw them and talked to them and made a box of presents for them when they opened for the Who in Philadelphia, I went to see them instead of going to my senior prom, for heavens’ sake. I had actual, real memories.

Obviously, though, they were giving me something that was missing at the time. And I don’t think I ever felt absence that as acutely as I do now, watching Springsteen in the UK, opening with “Coma Girl” at Glastonbury, dedicating “Badlands” to Joe, opening the show in Hyde Park with “London Calling” knowing that Mick Jones was in the audience. I watch the crowds and want to be there, because for two minutes maybe I could remember what it felt like. For those few minutes in Philadelphia, I was jumping around to someone playing “London Calling” live and in front of me, in an arena, not a cover band, not a band that wants to sound like the Clash (no names). And I could pogo and scream and feel amazing.

It was amazing.

That was the thing about those Key Arena dreams, it felt like I was really seeing the Clash. And it’s not just that I miss the Clash, or that Joe was taken from us too soon, or that there is some kind of colossal divine retribution that Bruce Springsteen is playing Clash songs (like my review of the Philadelphia show for said, “At the moment those chords came out of the PA, I wanted to call every single person I knew in high school and yell, ‘SEE? PUNK ROCK DOESN’T SUCK AFTER ALL!'”). It is having that part of me come out of mothballs. It is remembering. It is feeling. It is my standard retort to hipsters who try to cool me into feeling uncool, “Hey, I saw the Clash at Bonds.”

It is honoring Joe. It is honoring the Clash. It is honoring a time and a place that has long left us.

It is fucking awesome.

[I would link you to a lovely video or sound file of either “Coma Girl” or “London Calling” except that the former has not surfaced yet and the latter is only available via crappy cell phone video jumping up and down. (I do not mean to be critical, if I had been there and had the presence of mine to turn on the video function of my cell phone, it would have been crappy jumping up and down video too.)]