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Getting Good Radiohead

Illustration by Dani Katz

Illustration by Dani Katz

It was Thursday night and Radiohead was playing the Greek. We didn’t have tickets, but my girlfriend and I decided we were going anyway. They’re Radiohead, for chrissake.

We marched in and scoped the scene. The show was about to begin, and the Greek was jamming. Nina and I made a beeline for a well-peopled patch of dirt in the parking lot behind the backstage gate. The crowd inside went wild. Apparently, Radiohead were taking the stage.

We plopped down the instant Thom Yorke began to croon, slow and sexy, like the smooth­est, sweetest honey sinking into ­thou­sands of delighted eardrums. I swooned. Literally.

They opened with my latest favorite song, “You and Whose Army?” Needless to say, we were ecstatic and congratulated ourselves on our exquisite timing and our perfect patch of dirt.

We weren’t the only ones who were happy to be hearing, if not seeing, Radiohead live — hundreds of people had gathered in the parking lot. Some sprawled on blankets, some camped out on beach chairs. Everyone was smiling. I danced and danced and danced and danced. Between songs, my friend and I turned to each other, grinning, sweating, thrilled.

“The best band!!!”

“Ever!!!”

I awoke Friday morning and set the day’s mission before even opening my eyes: “I am going to see Radiohead tonight!”

By midday, with my mission seeming impossible, I called a writer-director friend with whom I hadn’t spoken in months.

“Are you going to Radiohead tonight?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I go with you?”

“. . . Uh . . . Okay.”

I have no idea why I called him, since I had no idea he liked Radiohead, or would have the only spare ticket in town, but he did and I was glad.

We walked to the Greek from his house in Los Feliz.

Our seats, directly behind the sound engineer, were the best in the house. I was giddy with anticipation, prepared for greatness. And, of course, they delivered. They’re Radiohead.

Halfway through the set, the band played a rocking version of “Myxomatosis.” Thom Yorke belted it out with razor-sharp sass and ass-kicking bite, and when he started to dance, I fell in love.

Afterward, we skipped back into town, along with throngs of other beaming Radiohead fans. We stopped in at a house party my friend knew about — a birthday bash for the guy who wrote I ?Huckabees. I barely had time to scan the revelers for my longtime crush, Jason Schwartzman, when my friend elbowed me in the chest.

“Let’s go. We’ve been invited to another party.”

“Whose party?” I asked, straining to see if the beer-swilling guy who just tripped in the door was Jason — the future Mr. Katz.

“The band’s.”

The party was in Los Feliz. The house was, of course, big and beautiful. The spread was catered — olives and cured meats and bread and fine cheese. The bar was open. We meandered down through the terraced backyard, and there, at the bottom of the flagstone stairs, standing alone with a glass of white wine, was Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead.

Paul extended his hand, “Hey, man, thank you. Fantastic show.”

“Wicked. Thanks,” Thom Yorke replied enthusiastically, smiling warmly.

And so it was that I found myself nibbling slices of imported Manchego and quaking like a spastic freak while my friend chatted with a surprisingly approachable Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead.

He grilled Thom about the show:

No, he couldn’t hear us from the stage. He doesn’t like playing the Greek, because the VIP box seats were glaringly empty and he could see people coming and going and he kept wondering why they were going. And did we really like the new stuff? (YES!!!) And yes, it is strange to be coming out with a solo album, and yes, the promo stuff is hateful and he’s shooting the first video on Monday . . . and . . . and . . .

And why is my heart beating so fast? Why am I jittery and stunned silent? He’s just a human being. But being so completely taken by the show, so very turned on by his überenthusiastic “Myxomatosis” and so very, very surprised to be standing in front of him only two hours after he put a shit-eating grin on my face that could last a week, I was starstruck.

“I heard you play last night. I didn’t have tickets, so I listened from the parking lot,” I broke in, awkwardly.

He made a face, clearly thinking me strange and quite possibly dangerous.

“The parking lot?”

“Yeah. There were hundreds of us — dancing under the stars, lying on blankets. It was fantastic.”

“Really? In the parking lot?”

I looked him in the eye.

“Hundreds of us.”

He grinned ever so slightly as it sunk in, as though he were hearing it for the first time — as though he didn’t know he was wonderful.