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Listening through the undergroundPosted Wednesday, September 23, 2009, at 8:08 AM
Music, unadulterated sound and beauty a stunning blast of difference from a bland life. That's what I have always loved about the medium.
My goodness, as a middle school kid, I was a fair to middling athlete that didn't really have an outlet until I realized what non-top 40 music was. And wow, I mean wow, once I found the secret pipeline to 'different sounding bliss' oh did I embrace it!
Artists are always a weird bunch, but that's only if you don't know or embrace what is different than the norm. So it was where I searched and where I found so much as a listless teen angst back in the days of UB40, Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer and the lot. Don't get me wrong, each had their brief illuminated day in the world and even a moment in reality TV, but it was what was behind the scenes on MTV 120 Minutes, if anyone still remembers when the channel actually played music? Once I was introduced to the scene by my first 'real' girlfriend and her friends and tugged out of the mainstream, music actually had a voice to me. When I was in high school, much like I'm sure kids are today, your looking for something that speaks to you and then it surely wasn't "Hammer time." As Taylor Swift doesn't speak much to me now, I know it doesn't speak to every kid that's an early teenager so my world opened as if by magic by friends that had already embraced the
Alternative scene and thus my passion for music began, and oh my do I thank my lucky stars for it all.
Once my horizon opened I found the Seattle-scene and I know there are a lot of 30-somethings that remember this as I do. My first purchased CD was Pearl Jam's "Ten" album and with it came a whirlwind of identification with young Eddie Vedder who surfed in on the wave of wild impressionism. Not far behind was the first time that I saw Nirvana's "Smell Like Teen Spirit" and the images I saw continued to bar the door to my previous impressions to what I thought music should sound like. Radio, hell, who needs it, I've got rebels track-by-track on my CD player. One by one I bought CD's that meant something and spoke volumes to my coming of age and the shaping of I might become. A close friend, who will always be known as Mo (Mr. Maurice Reeves these days), taught me to inhale incredible amounts of PixyStiks, but also taught me the ins and outs of Alternative Rock, what might be known as Indie these days. We delved into some of the cutting edge bands of the
Time, Soundgarden's first work and we watched the move "Singles" and marveled at the message. Pump Up the Volume still has credence to day and speaks to the banality of so much around us and was a creative influence. Not much later I started going to concerts and found the true stunning influence of a 100,000 watts of pure magic music washing over me as I saw my first live show with my girlfriend Kemarie, a lovely redhead lass, who introduced me to Queensryche and the talents of Geoff Tate's vocals along with Chris de Garmo's guitar licks. "Another Rainy Night Without You" became our song and man I was hooked. It's always amazing how memories are linked to the people your with and I'll always remember the first dance I had with her, but it's all linked to that powerful entity that is music.
While we were all friends and so close, I was lucky to have the pull towards the alternative that led me to such great movements as ska and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the prog rock as it's called now. While Kemarie was a Queensryche lover as I was, she also ushered me into Rush and Geddy Lee's magic on the "Presto" album. The 2112 album still has a regular spot in my CD player, but I still held fast to the wee label music and thus I found the precursors to what would become the Seattle staple, grunge sound. When everyone discovered Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice and Chains and the like, I was already listening to Green River, which had members of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and the Screaming Trees. My friends were on it and the LP's (remember those?) were on our shelves. Simple days when there were no bills to pay and there was time to be had and music was lifeblood.
As I got a little older my tastes got legs and I discovered Guided by Voices, Sonic Youth, Pavement and when I was tackling a little anger in the world, Nine Inch Nails, Stabbing Westward, Danzig and the like would take over. My concert list mounted and I embraced each and every moment of visceral madness that I could. I took in Metallica, Suicidal Tendencies and Danzig at a dirt race track in Mechanicsburg, PA and embraced my teen angst along with everyone's dislike for their current status in the world, but the music still spoke to me.
As I got older, the music became different and I was drawn to different messages at times. I became a college DJ at Shippensburg University in PA, which gave me access to unworldly amounts to new music. I was an Entertainment Writer for my college newspaper and had the opportunity to find local talent, which led me to a band called The Dirges that were impressive and had a big following on the East Coast. I also ran into a band that played every Wednesday and Saturday at a bar in Mechanicsburg that was from the Carolina's. I quickly knew the band wouldn't be around long playing on "you call it" night because Fuel had a pretty great setlist even from their first album. I traded a necklace for their first album "Shimmer" and still think the girl at their merch. Counter could have perhaps been my one great love. But it's the power of music that brings these stories and this sense of camaraderie.
As a sophomore in college I perhaps met my favorite girl of all-time, Trisha Clayton, she was one of those she's out of my league type of girls, but we found a bond somehow. She didn't mind me playing ungodly hours of Madden Football with my friends and she loved The Lemonheads and our first real date was at York High School. Strange as it may sound, I got us tickets over Winter Break to see the Lemonheads there and I'm sure that my experience wasn't the first time that Evan Dando helped a guy consummate a relationship. Looking back, the Blake Babies opened up for them and if it wasn't for Trisha being so stunning, I might have realized a special end of a band moment as Juliana Hatfield was there for the finale.
Getting older has meant a change in music tastes I suppose. My late college friends and my friends throughout tended towards jam band style groups and they introduced me to the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Floyd, a "new" group, Dave Matthews, and a multitude of others.
I made an incredible road trip from central PA to the very northern tip of Maine to see my very first Phish show, The Great Went Show. While I'd heard the band before, I'd never truly experienced the immense talent and following that the band had to offer. It was a three-day show and my first "camp out" festival experience.
I'll never forget it.
Basically 10 hours plus of awesome music, meeting people from all over the nation and the spectacle of a wild weekend is something that should be experienced by any self-respecting music fan. From the opening Makisupa Policeman, the chess game throughout to exhausted evenings on a blanket appreciating the notes washing over us, it's a 72-hour period of time that will never fall from my sub-conscious.
Graduation ensued and adult life followed, which many of us know, isn't nearly as much fun as bills and mortgages follow in tow. However, I've tried to keep in touch with music and have made exquisite trips to the Bonnaroo Festival in TN. Another three-day festival that includes 70-80 bands on multiple stage over 700 acres of lush farmland. I've found that cramming in as many awesome bands as I can in a short time frame is the only way to uphold my music conscious mind. While it might not seem like much time, I've seen The Police, Radiohead, Ben Folds, Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Michael Franti, Galactic, the Allman Bros., Ben Harper, Buckethead, Dave Matthews and Trey Anastasio and too many others to name, within a small walk in what becomes the fourth largest city in Tennessee during the festival. It's an experience to share with any quality friend as I have with mine. Indy, Alia, Stephen and others have made the trek and we've all bonded while the
Music and the experience has taught us that no matter how we've lived and lost, music still remains a special power that make us whole.
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