"He's so middle class," observes my boyfriend.
My boyfriend is English, so "middle class" has different connotations than it does in the U.S. or Canada where the term refers to the large lump of people in an income bracket that is neither below the poverty line nor in the 1%. I never quite get what it means in U.K.-speak, which makes me think that "middle class" has different meanings to different Brits.
"What makes you say that?" I ask.
"His shirt, his hair," he says. "Everything."
"So?" I say. "His clothes make him middle class?"
My question goes unanswered. My boyfriend's mind is back in the show, his eyes riveted on the bobbing figure on the stage. Bonobo is "so middle class," whatever that means.
Truth is, Bonobo -- Simon Green -- is so much more than that. Red pants, button down shirt, and good hair-cut aside, he brings it to the decks like Gaugin brings paint to a canvas. A master, museum-worthy, airy, lush, and dreamy. As Gaugin created a Tahiti that was never existed, so Bonobo creates a soundscape of the imagination. The Bonobo sound isn't jazz or roots or downtempo chill or any of a thousand other labels. It is, fortunately, distinctly Simon Green.
Perhaps one way to understand Bonobo is to see what he is not. Namely, the two acts that preceded him. Though opener Contact started and finished when I was somewhere outside in a long line of people who purchased tickets by the internet for the will-call box, I was through the door before Ghostbeard took the stage. Ghostbeard began with 10 minutes of sound experimentation before settling on a solid mix up of reggae and dancehall. Good stuff I haven't heard in awhile, but mixed in a way I hadn't heard before. Next came local Montreal legend Poirier, known for his hip hop and rock mixes. As per my mind, he should be known as the man who cranks the bass to bone hammering. Poirier is grand, like a bull fighter coming to the arena with his turntables fluttering around him, chest thrust out as the audience showers him with roses.
But Bonobo, oh Bonobo, I couldn't call him bass heavy, though there was some heavy bass. I couldn't call him reggae or roots, though these was also hinted at too. Bonobo is on another plane. Not inter-galactic, but far closer than that. He's an atmosphere, with all the weather, at times just present, at others, attention-commanding. It changes constantly, a millenium of season in a single show. Words of emotion come to mind: moody, haunting, celebratory. His music taps on complex emotions. It is not familiarity with old groovy favorites or a commandment of a bass line. The call to move to his sound comes from within the listener, not from without.
And does he ever know how to paint emotion with music. He had me hooked on his set within seconds, even with dozens of inconsiderate Montreal under-agers migrating around the crowd like spawning trout with elbows, double handing beers over my head so it spilled down my shirt. They didn't stop me. My body moved and didn't stop. Sweat stinging my eyes. Sweat running over my body until I was slick and drenched. I wasn't my body anymore. And in response to the question forming in the reader's mind: "No, I did not take any drugs. This was entirely the matter of natural body chemistry." I haven't been this excited about a show for... years?
"I love him," I say to my boyfriend, "I don't care that he's middle class. I don't even know what that means."
"It means you like middle class English boys," he says.
Some things defy explanations. Middle class. Bonobo.
The SAT danced its way well past 2:30 a.m., which is what I suppose all the middle class kids want to do.