Saturday nights in New London can feel like the wild west at times. There’s a handful of bars within a two or three minute walk of each other, and there are more than enough people to fill them twice over. At the end of the night it seems like the New London Police Department relocates their headquarters to Golden Street: a little one way that connects the waterfront to the rest of downtown. The bars are a fluorescent light for a swarm of people looking for a buzz.
The paint on the door to 33 Golden is worn off, and if you didn’t know where to look you could easily miss the entrance from the street. I always think I’m going to hit my head every time I walk down the stairs to get to the bar. It’s part of the charm of having a bar in a basement in downtown New London, and if you ask me, it’s the best one in Connecticut. It feels like you’re at a party in a friend’s basement.
It’s a small room, and the lights are just bright enough that you can read the bottles behind the bar: Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, Jägermeister. The bar and stage take up most of the space in the already tight room, and with all of the posts right down the middle it can be hard to navigate once people start to fill in. There’s a vague 80s rock theme: Misfits and Clash posters with broken frames hang, slightly slanted, from the walls. Over the speakers the soundtrack, always just a little bit too loud, is usually some form of Spotify curated punk playlist.
You could have been at any of the other bars that night, but you ended up at 33 Golden. At first, I thought you were part of one of the clusters of tipsy New Londoners getting louder with each slurred syllable in the middle of a late-night bar crawl. Your outfit was straight from an early 2000s Ozzfest: faded black band t-shirt, those baggy black Tripp shorts with all the chains and straps that wanted to be pants so bad, but weren’t quite long enough, and black Doc Martens. I remember my sister used to dress the same way when she was in high school.
You weren’t there to mingle with the regulars. You were there for the same reason I was there: the show. I could tell that you had come because of the promise of industrial metal. I’ve never really understood what exactly industrial music is. I’ve been shown Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Marylin Manson, and there are some similar qualities, but nothing that I thought warranted its own genre, but you were wearing the uniform of a person who knows it better than anyone else.
Every other person had a $2 red, white, and blue can of PBR in one hand and a phone in the other, and those who had neither stood still with their arms crossed. You wasted no time gliding to the front of the sparse crowd comprised mostly of members of the bands playing that night (it’s how it normally is whenever we play a show), and you ended up right next to me in the corner by the Ms. Pac Man arcade machine.
I don’t remember who went on first, but I think it was Komrads. Just one guy with a MacBook Pro and a drum machine. As soon as the first notes broke free from the speakers I was mesmerized. Not on the stage in the corner, but on you, dancing by yourself. To most people the distorted guitars, blown out synth bass lines, and barked vocals wouldn’t seem like dance music, but the pulsing arpeggios underneath all of the bone shaking riffs could make anyone start moving.
After a Lo-Fi sample that I could only imagine was from an old Sci-Fi movie, the arpeggiated bassline arose from the depth of the subwoofers. You started off slow but smooth, and I could tell that this was something you had done before. Your feet never seemed to move, but the rest of your body was in synch. The tempo began to quicken, and you matched it perfectly. Your arms reaching out as if to catch the notes in mid-air.
The bass drop was coming. The pitch was rising higher and higher, and the tension along with it. It seemed like it was never going to come, but then it happened: the grimiest synth line I had ever heard, and I could feel the bass thumping in my chest, and I knew you could too.
People all over the bar were tapping their friends on the shoulder and pointing over in your direction. They had to yell to be heard over the vocalist screaming about Satan. It’s the sort of thing that would stop me in my tracks, but it didn’t faze you at all. People always talk about living in the moment, and there you were, truly living in your moment.
I had never seen anything quite like it. You were practicing an ancient martial art that only a select few were able to master. There wasn’t a pattern that I could pick up, but everything you did seemed like it had been meticulously choreographed even though you were hearing the songs for the first time.
I was enthralled because I was a jealous. I love dancing at shows, but I’m always too self-conscious to, especially if I’m by myself. Watching you with your eyes closed, in your own world, zoning out to the synth infused metal made me wonder what you were thinking about dancing in a room full of people you don’t know, to songs you’ve never heard before. Do you think about the people watching you? Or do you imagine that you’re in your parent’s basement by yourself? Did you even notice me watching you, wishing I had the confidence to dance at a bar alone?
Connor Breen is a junior at Central Connecticut State University.
Headline Photo credit of Connor Breen.