Last night I went to see “Darkness on the Edge of Town” at the Ziegfeld theater. It’s a new concert documentary of Bruce and the E Street Band playing the whole album in Asbury Park, with no audience. We, watching the movie, are the audience at the concert, only we get to see all the musicians up close: Bruce’s face as he strains his voice yelling out lyrics we’ve heard a million times but are new again, his fingers picking out incredible guitar solos, Clarence smiling and mouthing the words “Yeah, baby, yeah!”, each of their faces, their hands, their sweat. Needless to say, it was an intense experience. I kept wishing my dad was with me watching it. I know he would have loved it, and the experience together would have been even better than seeing it alone.
During “Badlands,” the first song, tears started forming in my eyes. There was something so moving for me in watching this, me who has never seen Bruce live. It’s like there was a path formed from the present moment deep into my soul, hitting a place that is so hidden, even from myself. My connection with this band and this music goes back further than I can remember. My parents raised me listening to this, and I knew all the words to “Thunder Road” when I was three-years-old. My cousin Craig and I would sit in the back seat of the car, singing the harmonica part. I slept in Bruce Springsteen concert t-shirts that swam on me, wore a bandana and jeans for my dad’s surprise 40th birthday party where we all dressed up as The Boss.
Almost exactly seven years ago, I had a similar experience of worm-hole-ing into my dark place during a Bruce song. I was in an improv dance class my freshman year of college, and our assignment had been to bring in a piece of text that meant something to us, and then we would dance to it. Well, my piece was the lyrics to “Thunder Road.” In all honesty, I had forgotten about the assignment until I was on my way to class that morning, when I scribbled down the only thing I could remember, which was the lyrics to that song. First, someone read the words while I danced, and I wasn’t really “in it” in the moment, and my teacher kept trying to get me to let go. Then because it was a song, and I had it with me, my teacher asked me to dance to the song. He put it on the stereo, and as I began to move with the sound of it, I let go and I started to cry. I cried the whole time I was dancing, and for the rest of the class period and all the way back to my dorm room.
It was as though that song transported me to a place that I keep closed so deeply, that I didn’t even know it existed. That darkness on the edge of myself is where my writing comes from. It’s where even my love comes from. I think sometimes I lose track of how to get there, and find myself so lost I don’t even know how to say the word “lost.” Or sometimes I get trapped there, and can’t bring myself back to where everyone else is.
Tonight I’ll be on that hill, cuz I can’t stop. I’ll be on that hill, with everything that I’ve got. For wanting things, that can only be found, in the darkness on the edge of town.
~ Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town.