Before you go on any further in this piece, just be prepared for what will possibly sound like cosmic, stoner rambling. Actually, there are some bands in this lifetime that actually warrant such rambling. Bands like the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and Graveyard are examples of bands that I feel perform on some sort of other plane. The music of these bands, to me, embodies so much more than the average music of others. Their songs possess all of the life that a living entity yet also have this mystical quality that takes the listener to a completely different place; a journey of sorts.
For nearly 10 years, my best friend James has been trying to get me into King Crimson. King Crimson is without a doubt “his” band and he tried and tried to turn me on to them. I tried. I really did. I listened to the albums. I tried Red, Court of the Crimson King, and I tried listening to various songs and live performances. For some reason or another nothing seemed to click with me. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it. There was just something that was keeping me from truly connecting with the music. I never wrote them off completely but I just chalked up to me not getting it and just figured that it was something that would just go over my head. All of that was soon about to change.
James was super pumped when it was announced that King Crimson would be hitting the road for a pretty rare full on North American tour with a stop in Atlanta. James insisted that I go to the show with him and he bought me a ticket. Who am I to turn down a free concert right? To get myself somewhat prepared, I opened up Spotify and found the album Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind. It’s a live album that was released this year featuring a lineup that has been together (give/take a member or two) since 2014. Listening to this album, something started to happen. I actually started to feel something; a connection of sorts that I hadn’t felt in previous attempts at listening. This was an exciting thing for me as it made me even more excited to take this in live.
Let me just start out by saying that a King Crimson concert is no fucking joke. Upon entry to the seating area, huge signs on either side of the stage, in so many words, stated that if you took pictures or video of the show, you’d either get kicked out or Robert Fripp himself would come down from the stage and pretty much suck your soul right out of your body through your ear and mash it into putty right before your very eyes. Honestly, I loved seeing this because I can’t tell you how sick I get of having to look at the screen of people’s phones in front of me as they capture shitty quality video to post on YouTube for nobody to see.
The band opened their show with “Larks’ Tongues in Aspec (Part 1)” and right away I could feel myself being drawn into this mystical world. The stage was lined with three drummers, all of whom played an integral part in the each composition which alone was mind blowing to see. Fripp himself is like Oz behind the curtain only instead of hiding behind a curtain he’s all like, “I’m Oz bitch. See me and fear me!” Watching that man command the King Crimson vessel was absolutely mesmerizing. Tony Levin is the major rager on the four string motherfucker without a doubt as he grooved out with all his toys, (bass, upright bass, Chapman Stick, Funk Fingers, etc). The real game changer, for me, was lead vocalist/guitarist Jakko Jakszyk. Jakko was that missing piece of the puzzle that was keeping me from truly seeing the whole thing and I was so fucking excited that I finally had “got it.”
Jakko’s vocal work on songs like “Pictures of a City”, “Easy Money”, and “The Letters” absolutely blew me out of the cosmos. Have you ever had one of those moments when you hear a certain performance of a piece of music and it just grabs your heart and tugs on it so hard that every muscle in your body sends this feeling of warmth that leads then to tears? Well, I was experiencing this on many occasions throughout the show but it was “Starless”, “Epitaph”, and “Court of the Crimson King” that truly had me feeling all the feels. Closing the show with “21st Centruy Schizoid Man” was so fucking epic because it was like the perfect, insane, mind melting closing to an already epically mental and emotional evening.
There were so many emotions I felt during this performance. I cried, I laughed, and at times I felt slightly disturbed by the beautiful chaotic tapestry that King Crimson was painting right before my very eyes and ears. It was all so much to take in but it wasn’t hard to do at all. I have gone back and tried to listen to some of Crimson’s albums and while I have this newfound love and appreciation for them, it’s this current lineup that seems to be the one that is truly doing it for me. Maybe this lineup will change in the future? Who knows but all I know is that it was this league of extraordinary gentlemen that found their way in and changed my life. By allowing myself to just be open to the experience, I felt as if the barn doors to my soul were thrown open and where there was once this void, King Crimson resides there happily forever for me to enjoy whenever I need to.