I was talking to my brother last night about Jason Webley. My brother, who's six and a half years younger than me, went to see him last night in Olympia. He took his girlfriend, who was apparently enthralled by the experience. Paul's seen him perform before, but it's been a few years. He said Webley was as excellent as ever.
For a couple years, I saw Webley every chance I could. In total, I think I saw him a dozen times. I'd never before and haven't since felt such a personal connection with a performer I didn't actually know personally. The reasons surrounding my departure from the Webley flock still confuse and sadden me.
Every Halloween, he died. The first Halloween, I was a freshman in college. My then-boyfriend, KK, best friend, Becky, and I saw him at the now-defunct Pearl Cafe on the Ave. We followed the carrot to Sylvan Grove on the UW campus, a gorgeous spot for what was about to occur: his clothing was stripped and hung on a stick structure, then burned. Jason was carried off in a coffin to the crowd's riveting chorus. We all knew the words, even if we'd never been before, even if we didn't know what was going on.
In the spring, I'd convinced my friends to go with me to his re-birth. It remains, perhaps, one of the best live music experiences I've had: the feeling of love, joy, community was so strong, I felt compelled to give him a hug afterwards.
The following Halloween, he died again, this time "lost at sea" as we burned an effigy of Time and set paper boats containing tealights afloat in Portage Bay. In the spring, he returned in a glorious performance upon a crowded boat anchored near Gasworks Park.
But something happened the next Halloween. We had a big group this time--the crowd was overall immense. The show was typically theatrical and entertaining, but the air was a little different, somehow off... I can't explain it.
Jason died by Damocles' sword and was carried off on a slab of wood, all the way to Ravenna Park, where he was tied to a tree all night. I felt tired and was pretty turned off by this sudden change in tone and so didn't follow the crowd, but my friends who went said it was eerie, chilly, and deathly quiet. No love, just hushed awe, which is totally wrong, to me. My friends seemed to agree, as no one else has gone to see him since then, either.
My emotional relationship with this performer was pretty deep, all things considered. I felt almost betrayed. We broke up immediately, in my mind. The more I thought about the end of that show, the sicker I felt. The more I realized there were people who took it painfully serious, the more disturbed I was. We'd always joked that the whole thing was a cult, but then it felt like it sort of actually was.
I still feel I'm missing a piece. I haven't gotten over it. But I was glad to hear he still has the same power over his audience: even Paul's girlfriend danced and sang along, he told me, no matter how ridiculous the requests. It's a power I admire and always used to enjoy, until that one night I feel it was abused.
And I can't go back, and I won't get resolution.