As I watched Torres’ show last night at The Basement in Columbus, I drafted what I thought might be the opening lines of my review in my head. Before getting to the show, I thought, I felt like I needed to either cry publicly or get in a fist fight. But Torres, the project of Mackenzie Scott, utterly transported me. Though it nearly blew out my ear drums, Torres’ ruthless live performance left me feeling weightless and renewed, as though I had opened myself up in some radical way, drinking in newfound grace and energy.
I thought of phrases I might use and lines I might write. Perhaps I’d say that I felt lucky to see Scott play guitar live, or that hearing Torres’ latest release, Three Futures, in person gave me a newfound appreciation for the album. I thought I knew how my review was going to go all the way up until the end of the set, when a fan lurched forward and kissed Scott on the lips, and I watched Scott’s shocked expression through the lens of my camera.
My stomach dropped. My chest clenched, and I could feel all of the muscles in my body buzzing with anger, shame, and remembered fear. And Scott kept playing. And the fan kept cheering and singing along.
It is truly exhausting to be confronted with assault on a daily basis. I hate waking up and scrolling through my Twitter timeline, bracing myself for the latest admission of hurt. I hate having to Google each artist I interview, or photograph, or otherwise support, trying to discern whether or not they’ve been outed as an abuser. I hate having to rationalize that search to those who don’t understand why it is needed. I hate seeing reminders of my own assaults, and my friends’ assaults, every single day. And I hate that those reminders simultaneously confirm for me what I already know – that those most marginalized by systems of power are most susceptible to abuse – while highlighting how often those voices are excluded from the conversation.
It’s likely that Torres’ fan didn’t think of what they did as assault. Perhaps Scott didn’t either. But it’s horrifying to think that, regardless of where you are, and regardless of what protections you think you may have created for your body, it is unreasonable to ask that you only be touched with your consent.
Mackenzie Scott gave so much to the stage on Wednesday night, and I felt truly in awe of her sheer talent – of how she manipulated her guitar pedals, of how her hands ran up and down the guitar’s neck with apparent effortlessness, of how orchestrated the entirety of the set felt. I was amazed by how much she moved onstage, and by the way that her band used their instruments in new and interesting ways to fill in the gaps of each song with unexpected and illuminative sounds. When, at the beginning of the show, Scott apologized for having to fix her pedal board – “We’re removing the veil up front,” she joked – I was thankful for the moment to look behind that veil, because it only made me appreciate more the immense effort that went into making the set sound so tight.
But I’m angry that, in the giving, in making herself visible, she was touched in a way that, at the very least, surprised her. I wish that it was possible to be both safe and a live body.
“To be given a body / is the greatest gift,” Scott sings on the last track of Three Futures. It’s a song that Scott says she avoided writing until the end of the project. And frankly, it’s tough to write about bodies. Perhaps, some days, having a body really is a gift. Other days, it doesn’t feel like that. But always, we are bodies, and to be embodied is to be vulnerable to harm.
When I left The Basement, I was shaken. But I also recalled something that Scott had said to the crowd in the middle of her set: “I’m very honored,” she said, “to be here sharing with you.” I am thankful that, despite everything, there are artists like Scott sharing their work with the world.