DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST CONCERT?
Of course you probably do. It's kind of like your first kiss, first time driving on your own, or your first DICK'S Cheeseburger; the kind of experience that gets permanently lodged in you cerebellum and ends up as a defining moment in your life years if not decades later. Sitting here in my house after a day of yard work with the sun already setting at 3:23 has left me reminiscing of my first time being rocked by unknown forces and I thought I'd share my experience this week with hopes others might share their stories as well.
Freshman year of high school sucks and my experience was no exception to the rule. Matt Edington (current COLLIDER bandmate/songwriting-partner) and I had gone from being 8th Grade "Rock Stars" to just another band made up of skinny white boys in the Seattle Public School system vying for the much coveted "Lunch Time" show in my high school's Little Theater. Reality set in just a year after having received a PEARL JAM cassette for my 13th birthday and subsequently having my life changed forever. That year I also received my first guitar, a 3/4 size "Harmony" electric and along with Matt's newly acquired acoustic decided that our lives would follow a similar path starting ASAP. Now, there were no "real" bands in 8th grade other than guys that got together to play a few NIRVANA tunes now and then so you can see why for the last few months of middle school we considered ourselves quite the commodity. The summer between 8th and 9th grade was spent obsessively watching MTV, hoping for a glimpse of the new STONE TEMPLE PILOTS video or SMASHING PUMPKINS documentary. You see these were our Gods, and we had to get whatever access we could to them. At this point I had yet to attend a concert and for the foreseeable future felt the possibility of doing so was out of my hands both in terms of finances and my parents granting access. Five months into high school and personal hell, you can imagine how my brain exploded when my friend Josh Webb said that he had just gotten tickets through a connected friend to see a band I might have heard of perform for a pre-tour invite only show. The bands name?
Holy Crap. He was joking right? It turned out to be true being that his Mom's friend (if I remember right) was involved with the band's fan club and that a small show was going to be performed under another name on the night of February 6th, 1994. The only problem was that the 6th was my sister's birthday. "Oh no," I thought, "There's no way I can go now."
My mind raced to 20 years down the line when I would still have a grudge against my parents for ruining the first best night of my life. Nervously, I sat down with my parents and proposed my escape from my sister's birthday celebration. They told me that they had to think it over for a bit, and half an hour later came back with their answer. They told me it was fine (YES!), but also told me that my sister would have the final say since it was her birthday. SHIT. Looking back, that was a pretty twisted idea on my parents part considering the state of my relationship with my sister. Like all big brothers, it was my job to make her life a living hell. I felt it my personal responsibility to bring her just to the point of tears on a regular basis, and to (now regrettably) just be not very nice without much thought. Now SHE was my judge, jury, and executioner? Thankfully, she went ahead and gave the thumbs up right away. Did she not understand the power she held over me, or is she really just that dumb? Ha, I still got it...
That night we met up downtown in front of Seattle's Moore Theater and the awning read the night's headliner was called "The Piss Bottle Men". Brilliant, thought my 13 year-old brain. This was a secret show in the truest sense of the word and somehow I was on the in and in. If you've never been to the Moore, it's not as beautiful as the Paramount but for me it was perfect and at this point I was dying of anticipation. I don't even think there was an opening band, but the smell of old velvety seats and the unknown sweet scent of Marijuana (what's that smell?) wafted though the venue letting my senses know that tonight was going to be anything but a normal night at home washing dishes before homework. One by one roadies came out to double test the guitars, drums, and mic levels (is Eddie really that short?). Candles were lit, and the amp lights burned bright in deep reds and purples as the house and stage lights went down. The crowd started to cheer as shadowy figures came out from the side of the stage one by one and took positions like soldiers on the battle field. The lights went on, and there they were...
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! DOOM! CRACK! DOOM! CRACK! DOOM! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
The drums burst through the P.A. speaker at simultaneously horrific and euphoric volumes as then drummer Jack Irons played the opening beat for the song "Last Exit". The song was the first off of PJ's just released album "Vitalogy" (knew it by heart), and set the tone for night. The duel guitar buzz-saw attack of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready blended perfectly like shots from an electric cannon as bassist Jeff Ament locked in the low-end that shook the walls of the theater. Then Eddie Vedder began to sing and that's when I knew that I would remember the night for a long time. There were my heroes right in front of me (once I ran up to the front of the stage), and though they have been heroes to many a fan, that night it was just them and I. For the next two hours the band blasted through a collection of hits, B-sides, and a few covers that I knew I'd have to find once I got home (and my allowance). The clothes were perfect, the stage presence was perfect, and it was all...perfect. At one point during "Blood" (off of "Vs.") Eddie took the base of the mic stand and in the bridge began beating in the floor of the stage to the rhythm of the pulsing bass drum. Once the hole was big enough, he crawled into it and after disappearing for a while crawled out covered with splinters and a big smile aimed at his impressed if not confused band mates. To this day I hope to do something so badass. After the end of the first encore (innocently thought there was only one) Josh and I began to make our way to the doors and try to comprehend what we just had seen when we heard Eddie's voice over the P.A. say, "We want to bring a friend of ours out". That friend?
WTF!?! It turned out that Neil Young had been in town recording an album with PJ as is backing band that two months after the concert was released and titled "Mirrorball".
For 45 minutes Neil's reverb saturated solo's filled the air with the already warmed up band behind him. Later on I found out that the band had also been experiencing a similar thing as me that night; interacting with an artist they looked up to and not believing something so cool was happening to them. Once the band was really done, the crowd flooded out into the night and my parents picked us up to take Josh home. "So how was it?", my mom asked. Though I surprisingly could hear her over my ringing ears (rang for 3 days straight), I didn't really want to talk about it or to anyone that moment. I didn't want the feeling to end or to be taken out of the mindset that I was in for the past 3 hours. I didn't want the magic to go away, and I knowing that it would was something I resented. The next day I would go to school, still have trouble with math, still be the low man on the totem pole; but for that night I was in my element and it was everything I thought I should feel all of the time. If there is such a thing as complete contentment, I felt I had reached it that night.
I truly believe that the evening held a profound influence on me as a developing young adult as I know music holds for many people during that point in their lives. Hormones are exploding, identities are being chosen, and no matter how poor you are the moment you put in a cassette and your headphones on you can be filled with other riches. Up until that point I had known that music was a path I was interested in setting my life upon, but after that night I decided to become serious once I saw the powerful exchange of communication that was something that as simple as sound but completely unexplainable at the same time.
Over the past couple of years, I've been fortunate enough to meet 3 out of the 5 members of the band and have attempted to hold a normal conversation with them despite a shaky voice and clammy hands when introducing myself. I'd be a liar if I said that over the years I hadn't developed a script for what I wanted to say to them; a way to declare my excitement for how they've affected my life and influenced me though their music. Still, every time I meet one of them it all goes out the window and I only end up saying one thing.