Radiohead Bootleg – September 11, 2001

[N0te: This piece first appeared in an earlier instance of my blog ( which has since been shut down. It’s being reposted here under the “My Favorite Posts” section of the blog.]

“I’m trying not to say anything. I mean, what the fuck are you going to say after today? There’s absolutely nothing to say.”

To merely recall the facts, the play by play of the day, seems like we’re selling our memories short. People say that time heals all wounds; well, that’s because time numbs our emotions. But when we want to remember, we need to find ways to reopen those wounds- to relive, not just the facts, but also the feelings that we felt.

While the rest of the world was figuring out that the planes that crashed into the towers were indeed hijacked by terrorists, Radiohead had begun to play a concert in Berlin. It’s clear from the audio recording of the show that the band knew very little about what had happened, and apparently the crowd knew less.

“So who here doesn’t know about it?” asks Thom Yorke following a stellar rendition of Pyramid Song. “Everybody knows that I’m talking about…you don’t know what I’m talking about? You don’t know about the aeroplanes in America? Somebody tell ‘em. I’ll tell ya.”

The crowd remains mostly silent though Thom’s speech; as if this is news to them- which it probably was. Thom himself is still unclear on the number of planes that crashed, and his version starts with two, and then jumps to seven, before settling on four.

From the nearly silent crowd, you can hear one disbelieving fan scream out “Bullshit!” expressing what we all felt on that day; that feeling of denial that stems from not wanting to believe what we’ve just heard.

We’re not scaremongering
This is really happening

But that was just one of the many feelings that permeated the day. We went from denial and disbelief, to anger, to depression, to that horrible feeling of helplessness. And it was the helplessness that brought us together. It was helplessness that forced us to sit together in front of the television, just watching in silence. It was helplessness that made us cry; that made us weep.

I remember going home, and just sitting in my room, listening to the radio, and quietly strumming along on my guitar. 98 Rock was taking requests from listeners, listeners who kept calling in and telling the DJs why this particular song was the one getting them through the day.

At my first ever concert, Sonic Youth was supposed to open for Pearl Jam. It was announced that there was a band emergency, and that they would not be able to play. Later in the show, Eddie Vedder began to talk about how due to the emergency, Pearl Jam also considered not playing. But he then related that a friend backstage told him that they’d probably listen to music to get through it anyway, so what better way that to listen to music with an entire audience.
So maybe this is why Radiohead decided to play their show that night, despite what had just happened over the pond; because music is how they would’ve gotten through it anyway. Because music is how we deal with our problems, how we express our emotions, and how we get through life.

But I can’t help the feeling
I could blow through the ceiling
If I just turn and run

To remember 9-11 this year, let’s not just recall what happened, but how we felt on that day. Let’s listen to the helplessness in Thom’s voice, a helplessness that always exists, but seems to be even more potent on this particular show, and use it to reopen those wounds, and reignite those feelings.
When you listen to the lyrics to Idioteque, it sounds as if Thom Yorke isn’t just trying to sing them, but to passionately convince himself of their truth- despite the horror that that truth involves.

We’re not scaremongering
This is really happening

Yes, it was happening. And the only thing left to do was to throw up our hands; in anger, in sadness, in helplessness, and in disbelief.

This September 11th, let’s try to remember.

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