All the way up in the second row, I was surrounded by madness. One gum chewing, not-having-any-of-it woman at 3 o’clock, two hammered gentleman bobbing and making somewhat correlated movements between professions of love for one another at 4 o’clock, what began as 6 o’clock — a screaming, unapologetic blonde basketcase — came crashing through my group of friends and up to 9 o’clock before throwing her bra on the stage, screaming some more, puking and then finally being lead away by some man that appeared more a babysitter than a boyfriend, whom only moments after her mad dash to front and center stage exclaimed “not my problem.” Guess he changed his mind.

Cue the traveling joint, lit by a woman standing dead center in the front row who passed it from one willing participant to the next and finally to the girl in front of me, who managed to take a healthy pull and handoff the roach moments before a security guard reached in non-chalantly, broke the gravy train and turned away, only to be accosted by the sloppy joint lighter woman, offended that he wouldn’t pass the joint back to her for another deep pull, so inebriated to be unaware that this guard was doing her a favor by not kicking her out. When I leaned toward the girl in front of me to congratulate her on the quick release, I found myself confronted with a pre-teen face and dimpled smile that terrified me, sending bolts of regret through my jubilant joking as I’d just unwittingly complimented a young child on her zeal for marijuana and passing the smoking gun. Simultaneously, I prayed she didn’t think I was hitting on her. The scenario played out with my hypothetical rebuttal: “I don’t know what vibes you think you’re getting, but you’re not getting those.” It was at this moment that an oddly shaped object caught my attention. Pre-teen’s friend to her left held a black plastic skull the size of an average grapefruit that she kept raising toward Baio like an offering, finally getting his attention only to receive a kurt nod and brief smile, triggering Baby Druggy and her other friend to her right to encourage Skull Sacrafice to “throw it up there! Throw it up there!” She didn’t. And I’m glad. My friend Charlotte (the badass and photographer responsible for the pictures in the article) asked me, “What? Are they Hamlet fans?”

Bow to Baio

Photo cred: Charlotte Johnson

In the eye of the storm, with a group of friends, I managed to dance my way through the encircling sideshows. Performances by Michl and Elohim, enchanting and nauseating respectively, effectively cleansed my brain like a tart sorbet for the main course: Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio taking his debut solo album on the road. His bologna colored bowtie counterbalanced his crotch-hugging, tantalizingly tight black pants that played host to his whimsical toe-tapping, knee-bending, hip-whips and tail-wagging. Tight pants envy became a thing at El Rey Theatre on Thu, Feb 4th 2016.

At one point, the screen behind Baio silently asked the audience some questions: Do you know who I am? Do you know who you are? Do you want to talk? I trust the third question being asked is dependent on favorable answers to the first two. But with this crowd, be careful what you wish for. In defense of the antics of those around me, I too lost my mind for the hour, choosing to dance my mania into submission. Who was I to resist the bow tie and those clingy plants and the enchanting sonic layers and body aching bass lines and Baio’s breathy, confident dance-talk?

Check out his upcoming tour dates.