This article was originally published on THUMP UK.
A lot can change in a year, can't it? History marches ruthlessly forward, stopping for no man, sweeping us away in its current like sewage. A year ago David Cameron wasn't a known pig-fucker, no one had thought about moths for decades, and the only place that Pokemon were going was in the annals of history. Solid ground turns into societal quicksand. Still, some things are fixed, rooted, set to remain forever there. This is an article about one of those things.
A year ago today, a young man named Nathan Henderson tweeted the following:
Henderson, like thousands of other young Scots, had made the journey to Strathallan Castle for T in the Park, the biggest festival of the season up there above Hadrian's stoney dividing line. Festivals, by their very nature, are hedonistic affairs, chances to slide out of life's rigor and rules into a gloopy pool of sweaty, stinking, sordid debauchery. People wake up and drink cans of lager! In tents! Before midday! The point is that Henderson was at an event where emotions—and blood alcohol content—run high. Anything can happen.
Avicii found himself headlining the main stage on the Saturday night of the festival. He followed sets from the likes of Seasick Steve, Jessie J, and the Libertines. Watching the Swedish EDM lynchpin's set back now in gloriously grainy quality on YouTube, I'm struck by the sheer banality of it all. It's a thudding spectacle that seems like it's dazzling, seems like it's really doing something when in actual fact—to these eyes, these ears, at least—it's stuck in stasis, a long, dry, wank that never culminates in even the most embarrassingly adequate of climaxes. Still, the now-infamous 'boy at avicii' must have felt very, very differently. For him this was monumental, this was cathartic, this was what his dad died for.
We'll never know if Henderson had any awareness that his tweet would attain the kind of viral attention that every ad agency in the world would literally slaughter toddlers for, but it was the kind of tweet that grows into the sort of hulking beast that stalks the TL for months, years even. This is Scottish Twitter, and on Scottish Twitter, pretty much any tweet about anything at all—"ma ma dinnae take the dug oot", "smudy giz a wee haggis fae am pure hungry", "am actually gonty go tesco buzzin"—can go fucking mad.
Part of me wonders whether or not The Avicii Tweet—as I think of it, and think of it often—would have had as much power had it been written in boring old plain English. "A boy at Avicii told me that his dad had died because of MDMA and when the beat dropped he was properly crying his eyes out and shouting "my dad died for this," is still a good tweet, but it lacks that deep fried pizza pizzaz. The dialectical twist that Henderson garnishes the story with takes it to a level of narrative brilliance that Alasdair Gray or Irvine Welsh could only dream of.
What you've got is a whole life, two lives really; the life of a father and the life of a son, in 30 words. It is the most touching and succinct rumination on that funny relationship that dads and lads have with one another since Kingsley Amis wrote the following lines in his poem "In Memoriam W.R.A"
I'm sorry you had to die
To make me sorry
You're not here now.
Henderson, you have to assume, just so happened to be privy to this moment of intense personal reflection, and was blessed with the eavesdropper's ear for the miniature dramas of daily life. We will never know how MDMA took the life of this boy's dad, we'll never fully grasp the significance of watching Avicii in the grounds of a castle in Scotland on a Saturday night, we know not what this boy, wet-eyed and incredibly emotional, did later that night, or is doing now. But we'll always have the tweet.