• Kino McFarland

A Reflection on John Carpenter's Live Retrospective

The stage, flanked by walls with intricate designs that are characteristic of historic theatres, holds instruments, resting and waiting for their masters. A giant screen sits behind the instruments, with a large center piece and three more to extend the sides and the top. The audience walks in, many in black t-shirts, colorful hair, and every once in awhile, a shirt with a movie logo. Other members of the audience are dressed in suits, but each one carries a demeanor for the darker side of life. This is what unites them. They are all fans of John Carpenter.

Excited and hopeful expressions are on all of their faces. They cannot wait to see the master composer and horror film director perform his famed scores on the stage in front of them. They are breathing the same air as him and he will be just a few feet away, in a space that some of them may also occupy one day as a result of the inspiration they gain tonight. I wait by the stairs, downstage left, with my camera, just as anxious as the rest of my fellow concert-goers.

A few minutes past 8:00, the audience is seated. The doors to the theatre close and the lights dim to darkness, save for a few on the stage. Cheers and applause erupt from the darkness as the musicians file onto the stage from behind the open curtains. John Carpenter reaches his keyboard and microphone down center stage and points to the crowd. Overwhelming joy floods through the crowd from their expectant faces and into their cheers. My own excitement combined with the rest of the audience’s happiness materializes as tears falling from my eyes.

The music begins.

After three songs, I find my seat again and wish I was able to shoot the whole show. I join the audience from a new perspective. For almost 90 minutes, our bodies pulsate with the beats coming from John Carpenter and his crew, giving us a new heart. We are one, joined together by the love of the macabre and that man’s work. Scenes from horror and thriller films provide backing visuals for each relevant song, allowing us to experience the films again in a new way. A better way. This is immersion. Horrific scenes play on, showcasing brilliant practical effects work. A girl in front of me sinks into her seat and pulls her hoodie over her head while her date wraps his arm around her and laughs.

The show continues with a mix of Lost Themes and many well-loved themes. John Carpenter and his bandmates watch the audience’s bobbing heads, and feel the enthusiasm for every song. Cody Carpenter, on keys, has an all-knowing grin on his face. He knows we are enjoying the sounds that he helped create with his father. Daniel Davies spins and sways with rockstar swagger while on lead guitar. The other band members, just as crucial to the sound and the show, work together to create the incredible bass, beats, and supplemental guitar sounds that are bobbing our heads, tapping our feet, and moving us like we no longer own ourselves.

The master, our master, dances.

For 90 minutes they are gods, led by John Carpenter, and we are servants, minions, and worshippers. When the music stops, the band bows, leave the stage, and the house lights come on, we wake from a trance. None of us want this dream to end because for 90 minutes, we felt complete. This is more than what we expected and wanted. I follow my husband out of our aisle, not only filled with a need for more, but with inspiration and awe.

And I realize that I, too, want to be a god.



©2018 - 2020 by Kino McFarland