Quebec City, Winter Carnival 2009. I have long since lost feeling in the tips of my fingers, and when I blink, my tears freeze in my eyelashes. I have never been this cold.
My friends and I are waiting for this evening’s big outdoor concert to start—some guy we’ve never heard of named DJ Champion (pronounced “shamp-ee-on,” of course). His band is called “the G Strings,” and I am preparing myself for the worst.
To hype up the crowd, the Carnival’s mascot, an anthropomorphic snowman, is commanding us to dance. We talk about going back to the hostel. There doesn’t seem to be a point in suffering this much for an artist we don’t know the first thing about. Finally, the stage lights come up, and the muffled clapping of thousands of pairs of gloved hands is audible, even though I’ve got two hats on.
Just as my blood starts to form little icicles in my aorta, “Backing Off” starts. The G Strings turn out to be three guitarists who tear into the song’s riff like Marc Bolan whacking a piñata. When the bass comes in, I’m dancing so much that even my eyelashes begin to defrost a bit.
By the time the guitar solo hits, people around me are actually taking off layers in the subzero temperatures. Parkas are scattered like pupae, memories of our former frozen selves. My friends are pogo-ing and shouting along to the chorus, and whoop when the song gets stripped back to bass and vocals.
I’m not sure how long the version of the song we heard that night was—maybe around seven minutes? It seemed like it went on for twice that long. Maybe it did. The recorded version is a lot shorter, but no less sweet, although you’re not really able to fit a lot of dancing into two minutes and fifty-three seconds. You should try anyway.
A version of this post originally appeared on the blog Vintage Voltage.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to email@example.com and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**