My friends said it was a great show, but I don't remember too much about the first time I saw Mogwai. It was about 10 years ago, and I sat at the back of a club in Dallas, issuing inebriated delusions like, "Somebody put something in my drink." As the band began covering Guns 'n' Roses' "Don't Cry" for its encore, I slouched into a wobbly shape that hastened our departure.
Old friends won't let me forget about this early exit (I'm still catching Texas hell for it, if you will). So in 2004, when fate conspired for Mogwai to play Pittsburgh with The Rapture while those same friends happened to be in town, I hoped it would be a show for all to remember, myself included. Thanks to a night of less drinking and more thinking, I have crystal recollections of Mogwai's super-loud smorgasbord, and one fan's unforgettable response to the reverb.
The audience was full of tight jeans and matching haircuts, peppy young Americans high on dance-punk. Moments after The Rapture struck its final chord, most everyone in attendance vacated.
Everyone, that is, except the middle-aged dude in the wheelchair. He sat in the back until all the dancing kids were finished paying their piper, then made his way toward the front of the stage to see five Scottish guys play some really heavy tunes.
Situating almost cheek-to-cheek with the right amplifier stack, he remained posted, like a mailbox, for the duration.
Through all the tonal changes, from soft to brain-softening, he kept bobbing his head in rhythm with the tides. The band launched into its beautiful piece de resistance, "Killing All the Flies," and I noticed a stirring, as if something was propelling his frame from the very throes of its disability.
As the song's dénouement began to unfurl, the man found enough footing to rise, slowly but surely, from his wheelchair. He stood tall, if only briefly, in a most awesome exaltation, thrusting his fist in the air to salute the sounds. Then, just as precipitously as he'd risen, he came back down to earth.
Before I knew it, the song was over and Mogwai concluded a memorable performance. I haven't seen the man in the wheelchair since then. But I'll never forget him.