The Divorce, Smoke, and Other People’s Sweat

Photo courtesy of RazingCulture

(This is an excerpt from a larger work. I had to take out some parts because they would not make sense out of context. A lot of this is based on my own experiences and friends, but a lot of it is also fictionalized. I’ll let you be the judge of what is what.)

I had never been to a local show before. I’d gone to big concerts in Seattle multiple times and every time I felt like I was ‘so cool’ and ‘down with the music scene.’ I realize now that those Good Charlotte and Sum 41 concerts did not give me the street-cred I thought I had. But hey, at fifteen years old I wasn’t doing too badly. My friend Molly had more local music “cred” than I thought possible for one human to obtain. When she invited me to go to a show with her, I felt confident that I would fit in from my vast mosh pit and crowd surfing experience at those “hardcore” pop-punk shows.

Molly is one of the most curious and intriguing people I ever met in Kitsap County. She always stood out, mostly because she was either two steps ahead of the trends or because the trends formed themselves after her liking. Her hair was black and mangled with faded bleach streaks with hints of blue on her bangs, framing her makeup free face.  Two bright silver snakebite piercings on her lips caught your eye before anything else in her appearance. She was loud and obnoxious, but not in an annoying way. Her big personality made you want to listen to what she had to say. She seemed like the kind of girl who, even in high school, had more experienced insights on life than most people have in their lifetime. And because she was a couple years older than me, it made the illusion even more believable to me.

In retrospect, I can confidently say I never had romantic feelings for Molly; even though sometimes I thought I did. I more so looked up to her than had feelings for her. Getting the invitation from Molly made me feel like I had something to offer to this Kitsap music counter-culture. For lack of better words, it made me feel cool. The main reason Molly invited me was because she heard I was into this band Mary Jane Watson. I heard them at a battle of the bands at South Kitsap High School a couple months before and thought they were the most rad band ever. I even asked the lead singer to take a picture with me, not realizing that local bands were not celebrities (however, even to this day I will freak out when I see someone from a local band walking down the street).  Earning Molly’s respect and seeing Mary Jane Watson again were more than enough reasons to get me to go to the show.

I rummaged through my closet to find the shirt that would make me seem cool and fit in. Naturally, I chose my black Blink-182 shirt with red and white font, truly hardcore. God, I was such a dork and I didn’t even know it. I pulled a pair of loose fit blue jeans from my drawer and slipped them on. I was also trying my first attempt at growing out my hair this summer. At this point my hair was nearly covering all of my ears and my bangs were reaching a little bit past my eyebrows and touched my upper eyelids. As I’ve said before, I tried so hard.

Convincing my mom and step-dad to let me go was going to be the hard part. My mother tended to overprotective and my dad tended to agree with her when it was easier for him. They’d let me go to those bigger shows in Seattle, granted my dad attended a couple to make sure my friends and I were safe (did I mention yet how cool I was?), but I had doubts that they would be comfortable with a show like this. Luckily for me, my drunken godfather Joey was staying with us for the summer. He and my mother were best friends throughout high school, the years before, and the years after.

“Hell, Paula. The kid just wants to go see a concert. We did a lot crazier shit when we were his age. But I don’t have to remind you of that,” Joey said with the heavy smell of Bud Light on his breath.

“Fine,” my mother said, mostly I think to make sure Joey wouldn’t go into details. Joey gave me a sly wink, a tell that he’d give me the details about their teenage shenanigans later.

The only catch to my mom’s agreement was that she, my dad, and Joey would drive me there and walk to the venue to make sure it was okay and make sure I met up with Molly. I agreed, because I had no choice to if I wanted to go to the show. I knew I was going to feel stupid, but it would only last a few minutes and then they’d leave and I could enjoy my few hours of feeling cool.

—-

Joey and I rode in the backseat of my mom’s maroon ‘97 Volvo while my parents sat in the front reminding me to make sure my cell phone was on, telling me to be aware of my surroundings, not to drink anything someone passes me, and so on. Joey rolled his eyes and laughed, making quick remarks about how much my mom has changed. I mostly ignored what they were all saying and looked out the window, daydreaming of what the show would be like. There would be a huge stage, flashing lights, and only the cool kids from Kitsap would be there because they were the only ones who knew about it. We would laugh and also have thoughtful discussions about the music. I’d tell them about seeing Good Charlotte at the Paramount and they’d be jealous, but impressed. Molly’s friends would think I was awesome. They’d ask me to hang out some more. I would feel like I was part of the Kitsap music scene.

My parents continued to remind me to stay safe while I was in my daydream. They meant really well. Looking back, I did feel really loved by them even when they annoyed the crap out of me. As my mom was about to remind me of another safety tip, Joey grabbed my shoulder firmly and turned to look at me in the eye. He was completely sober.

“Just make sure you have fun,” Joey said, “Don’t worry about all that safety crap. You’re a smart kid. Make some bad choices. Take some risks. You can’t live your life in a shell.”

Right on cue my mom jumped in with frustration telling me not to listen to my godfather. Joey just laughed, seeming pretty proud of himself. I quietly laughed with him. He definitely had made a lot of mistakes in his life that caused him a lot of pain. I began to think that maybe there was a middle ground between his philosophy and my mom’s. Maybe tonight, I thought, would be the night I found that way of life in between.

We pulled up to Evergreen State Park in Bremerton at about 5 p.m. It was the perfect sunny day, like those July days they have in those teen-marketed upbeat movies. Thinking back, this was probably the best venue for my parents to see as a representation of local music. The venues I would hang out at later were much more…colorful. A church located in the park was allowing the bands to host a show in their sanctuary, another great selling point for my parents. I was so excited to immerse myself in all of this cultural goodness until I remembered that my family was going to be escorting me into the show.

Meandering down the sidewalk from the parking lot to the core of the festivities, I built up the anticipation in my mind. I kept praying for my car ride daydream to become true. Joey smiled, looking down on me from his six foot two inch stature. I think he sensed my excitement better than anyone that day. I felt like I was making him proud. Then we turned a corner, and I saw it; tons of teenagers hanging out in the grass outside the church laughing and talking in the afternoon sun. This was it. My hopes were being fulfilled.

I was more than anxious to break away from my parents and get ready to have a life changing experience. Quickly I grabbed my phone from my pocket and searched for Molly’s number. After two or three rings, she picked up only to tell me she and her friends were getting some snacks at 7/11 and would be back in fifteen or so minutes.

“Is she here?” my mom asked me.

“No, not yet. She’ll be here in like fifteen minutes though,” I said, “but it’s fine. I can just wait here for her. You guys don’t have to wait.”

“That’s fine, I don’t mind waiting. I want to make sure you guys meet up,” she said.

“Really Mom, I’ll be okay. I can take care of myself,” I said, defending myself.

“No. I want to make sure you guys find each other,” she said looking skeptical at the company I was going to be keeping tonight. At that point, there was no point even arguing. She was going to wait all night if she had to.

Not so fondly do I recall waiting those fifteen minutes outside the show. I simply wanted to feel cool, and having three 30something year olds hanging around you does not really convince people that you are a cool guy when you’re fifteen. My mom suggested we all go walk by the water while we waited. I made sure I walked at least 15 paces in front of them to distance myself them physically and socially. Teenagers can really be jerks to their parents when they’re trying to be accepted by their peers, but can you really blame them? No one else’s parents were at the show making sure they found their friends. This was definitely not the Good Charlotte concert crowd.

I could hear my dad and Joey laughing at me. They must have remembered what it was like. My mom joked with them too, she actually had a great sense of humor about her, but I could tell it was also hurting her a little bit that I was distancing myself from her. I looked everywhere except behind me. There isn’t a right word in the English dictionary to describe a teenager’s embarrassment other than ‘death’ itself. This was all wrong. My chances of being accepted were getting slimmer and slimmer. It felt like everyone was looking at my family and me.  Then I heard the voice that was simultaneously a relief and distress, given my situation.

“Hey Adam!” Molly yelled as she walked across the grass, leaving her group of friends standing in their semi-circle. Her snake bites gleamed brightly in the sun and complemented her Schoolyard Heroes camouflage t-shirt with a skull on it and green raggedy Converse shoes quite nicely. My mother, who strangely adored Molly, came rushing forward to greet her.

“Oh Molly! It’s so good to see you. How are you?” my mother said enthusiastically and quite loudly. Again, I wanted to die.

“Hey Mrs. Stuart! I am doing so awesome. It’s great to see you too. How have you been?” Molly said. She was surprisingly great at talking to other people’s parents.

“I’ve been good. Just dropping off Adam here for the show,” my mother said. She kept talking, but I tried tuning it out. I hadn’t even gotten one word in to Molly. I let them carry on with their formalities because that was the only thing I could do, that and stare at the ground in embarrassment.

“It was so good seeing you guys. Adam, you ready?” Molly said, freeing me.

“Yeah, sure,” I said in monotone, trying so hard not to sound too excited or too relieved.

I could tell by the way she looked at me that my mom wanted me to hug her goodbye. I didn’t. Like I said, teenagers can really be jerks to their parents when they’re trying to be accepted by their peers. It’s funny how those tiny forgettable moments where I’m a real asshole always stick out to me.

“Okay. Have fun. Goodbye Adam.  I love you,” my mother said.

“I love you too,” I mumbled quickly and turned and walked away. I had to at least say that, I couldn’t be that much of a jerk. I could hear Joey laughing as I walked away, probably bugging my mom about leaving me with hoodlums or joking about worse stuff they used to do. When my family was out of sight, Molly patted me on the back and started laughing.

“You are so adorable,” she said. “You were so embarrassed to be seen with your parents at the show.” Molly always had a way of talking to me like I was a little kid without coming across as condescending.

“Heh, yeah. Sorry about that. My family can be a bit much,” I sheepishly replied.

“Whatever man. Hah, you are just so cute. Don’t let it bug you. I’m so excited to take you to your first real show. Ah! It’s going to be so good,” she said.

“Well actually, I’ve been to a couple shows before,” I said but could not elaborate further, thank God, as we reached her friends.  Her three friends, two girls and a guy, were just finishing laughing at some joke or tidbit of conversation as Molly and I got there. Each wore a well-weathered pair of converse (each friend with a different color), had some sort of tattoo and smoked. I got nervous. At that exact moment I realized that I had no local music credibility and that I was some private Christian school dork who liked mainstream pop punk music.  I thought myself to be a miserable, corporate brainwashed existence compared to these people.

“Hey guys. This is my friend Adam. We go to school together,” Molly said.

“Yo,” the guy in the group said, “my name’s Dan.” Dan transferred his cigarette to his left hand and reached out with his right to shake my hand. His short dreadlocks were tide up in a ponytail on the back of his head that bobbed every time he made a quick movement. His dark brown skin stood out against his ironically acid washed jeans. It was his black Vendetta Red t-shirt that stuck out to me most at the time: a red arrow with red and black font. It was like my shirt, only it was more respectable in this setting. There were some lyrics tattooed on his right bicep that I didn’t recognize at the time. Later in life I would hear the words in the first verse of  “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel and recall it back to this moment.

“I’m Daphne,” said the girl wearing a yellow, frilly blouse and torn up blue jeans. She blew her last puff of smoke to the side before shaking my hand. She was very stunning in an unconventional sort of way. Her short black hair and thick-rimmed glasses fit her narrow face perfectly. She simply had the word ‘love’ tattooed above her clavicle.

“Hey Adam, my name’s Jessica,” the other girl said. Her brown hair flowed down past her shoulders. Her blue and black plaid shirt was adorned with several handmade pins of bands I had never heard of but would come to know well later, such as Valley of the Dinosaurs and Claymore. Both her left nostril and right eyebrow had a ring in them and her left forearm bore a picture of some sort of birdcage from a Kurt Vonegut novel (though I did not know what that was at the time either). I shook each of their hands and went through all of the formalities of introducing myself. They seemed to like me, well I mean; they didn’t seem to not like me at least.

Conversation turned quickly from introductions to Schoolyard Heroes. I sincerely appreciated them not quizzing me with forced superficial small talk and just accepted me as being part of the conversation. They all talked about how excited they were to see Schoolyard Heroes’ set. Dan talked about how he saw them play the night before at El Corazon in Seattle for their CD release show.

“It was life changing,” he said before taking a slow drag from his cigarette, “I swear to God, I’m going to marry Ryann Donnelly someday. She and I are meant to be, I just know it.” He had some of the most colorful language I had ever heard delivered with an elegant ease.

“Whatever, Dan. You didn’t even know about them until I introduced you to them a couple months ago,” Molly said, chuckling.

“What the hell does that have to do with anything? Love doesn’t care how long you’ve known the person,” he said, following sarcastically with “You just, you just feel it man.”

“You’re right,” Molly said, “If I were a man or if she were a man, I’d totally want to tap that ass too.”

I laughed two guffaws loudly before abruptly stopping myself. The group looked at me. I felt like I was caught naked stealing from the cookie jar. I thought I did something wrong.

“Come on man,” Daphne said, “don’t be afraid to laugh. That was some funny shit.”

Then we all laughed. This was all going so well. I didn’t feel like I had to try too hard to be accepted. I had stereotyped these people who followed the music scene as being off put by anyone else trying to get into their friend circle, but I was experiencing the opposite. I didn’t want to build up my expectations too much though; after all, it had only been a few minutes into meeting them. Maybe they would change their minds soon.

“Hey, have you guys heard anything about the first band?” Jessica said, “Mary Jane Watson I think is their name. I haven’t heard of them.” Molly nudged me and smirked.

“Yeah, I have,” I said. Molly nudged me harder, trying to keep me honest. “I really like them. They’re actually one of my favorite local bands.” The others nodded their heads when I said this, as if it had pleased them. I tried not to smirk but it was hard not to as Molly was beaming at me like a proud parent.

Daphne mentioned to the group that she had to use the bathroom and Molly and Jessica said she would go with her. I guess even cool local music scene girls travel to the bathroom in packs too. I thought to myself how funny that was as they left. Then I realized it was just Dan and I left alone together. I was always awkward in one-on-one situations with people I didn’t know too well. We stood there awkwardly in the grass until he suggested we sit down on some rocks by the water while we wait, so we did. There were a few more moments of silence as we sat there looking at the gleaming water with the only sound being the wind through the trees and Dan’s slow inhaling of his cigarette. Then Dan turned to me with wide eyes and a huge, excited smile on his face.

“Hey man, wanna see a trick?” he said. If I had learned anything from all of the safety advice my parents gave me anytime I went somewhere by myself, it was that if someone asks you a question like this you then you better say no and walk away. But hell, I wasn’t going to be that much of a square now was I? So I told him sure.

Dan smiled menacingly at me, He held out his lit, nearly finished cigarette butt up to the sky to build a dramatic effect. Opening his mouth wide, he took the small cigarette and set it on his tongue with the lit end facing out away from his throat. He then shut his mouth and looked at me blankly. I wasn’t sure what to do. I had no idea what was going on. Dan just kept staring at me. Finally he opened his mouth to reveal that the cigarette was no point the opposite direction from how he had set it before.

“Ta da!” he said with his tongue sticking out, lacking any vowel sounds in his exclamation. All I could do was awkwardly and timidly laugh while thinking to myself that this guy is clearly insane. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and lightly smashed against the side of the rock he was sitting on. I congratulated him on a trick well done and he dramatically replied with mocking sighs of gratitude. He then changed the subject abruptly.

“You don’t smoke, do you?” Dan said, “I can tell that you don’t.”

“Yeah, I don’t smoke,” I replied while trying my best to keep my cool. I felt like I had been spotted as the phony that I was.

“That’s cool, man. Wish I’d never started myself,” he said as he lit up another white and brown cylinder that sat lazily in his mouth, “but I gotta tell ya man. It’s hard to fit in at some of these shindigs if you don’t smoke. I personally think it’s bullshit, but if you don’t smoke or are not able to provide other people with smokes, some of these assholes will look down on you.”

Dan reached into his back pocket and pulled out a half empty pack of Marlboros and a neon yellow lighter and tossed them on my lap. I picked up the box slowly and briefly examined it.

“I don’t expect you to smoke any of them, really,” he said. “But if someone asks you for some smokes, you can get their respect by giving them one of those.”  At the time, I didn’t even think to question everything he was saying. I now realize that it was, as Dan said, mostly bullshit. He was just busting my chops. There was not some secret code with Kitsap music scene kids that you either had to smoke or be able to provide smokes. But I was young and oblivious, so I bought it. He pulled out another pack from his pocket and lit up another cigarette. I swear this guy had a part time job working as a chimney.

—-

After we had reunited with the girls, it was time to actually step inside the venue. Mary Jane Watson was going to be playing first. I tried to hide my giddy excitement from the others. I tried to hide the fact that not only was I excited to see Mary Jane Watson, but that I was also excited to be standing there with this group.

The room looked more like a glorified basement than anything else, which is what was most appealing about it. The floors were cement and the lighting was dim, except for the lights beaming down on the stage. The brown walls mirrored the brown wooden exterior we saw before walking in. The ceiling seemed low, but I think I could have only barely touched it if I jumped with my arm fully extended. We stood in the back. I really wanted to be in the very front but there was already a crowd there and I didn’t want to be the dork who drug Molly and her friends the front, or even worse be the one who goes up to the front all by himself. Just even a year later I wouldn’t really care and just go up front. You should always try and get a good spot for your favorite band. Always.

“Yeah, maybe I’ll try and start a mosh or something,” I said in a forced attempt at being casual to Molly. “Or crowd surf or something.”

Molly laughed her boisterous laugh after hearing this. Then she looked at my straight face and turned her guffaws into a sincere smile. She placed her hand on my shoulders and looked me in the eye.

“They’re really not that kind of band, Adam,” she said. “Oh you are just too cute. I am way too excited for you.”

The band got on to the stage to play. I admired the lead singer’s wood finished electric guitar and vibrato in his nasally, yet intriguing, voice. Guys in bands always had that certain vibe that made guys who weren’t in bands respect them. It is really hard to pinpoint what it is. They are just so easy to idolize. It’s hard to say what drew me to Mary Jane Watson specifically of all of the other Kitsap bands out there. They were the first one I fell in love with. They weren’t even the most successful or widely known. But they were based out of Port Orchard. It felt like it was the first great thing I had seen come out of that town, and it gave me hope. They were also my first real introduction to any sort of indie rock. I had been indoctrinating myself with “mainstream alternative rock” on 107.7 The End and now I was hearing something just slightly different, but it had a certain charm. Their lyrics were simple and the guitar riffs were catchy, not clunky.

I had memorized all of the songs they had up on their Myspace page. I downloaded them and listened to them regularly. So when they played “Farther Away” and “You’ll Never Know” I bobbed my head and mouthed the words to myself. Molly would later tell me I had the widest smile on the face during their entire set. She would call it adorable. I called it embarrassing.

Daphne and Jessica watched blankly and barely moved during the set. This made me think they weren’t enjoying themselves. After experiencing more shows later in life, I realized it was common for the hip kids to simply stand and appear emotionless. Dan walked out halfway through the second song. I wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t like the band or if he needed another cigarette. Molly tapped her feet and swayed back and forth. I’m not sure if it was because she was enjoying the music or she didn’t want me to look weird. Either way, I was still thankful for it.

They only played for fifteen or twenty minutes. But afterward, I was so content. They threw out some copies of their demo into the crowd at the end of their set, but the discs didn’t make it past the first couple of rows. I regretted so much not being able to get one of the demos. But I rationalized with myself that it was probably the same songs I downloaded off of their Myspace. The four of us walked out at the end of the set and met up with Dan. He was leaned up against the outside wall of building smoking another cigarette. I swear his lungs must have been a tar pit.

They all didn’t have much of an interest in any of the bands until The Divorce was playing, but that wouldn’t be for another hour. We sat in a circle in the grass outside. The sun was still out and we could faintly hear Elite Stranger sound checking inside the venue. For a few minutes we didn’t really say anything to each other. I leaned back and kept myself up with my hands on the ground behind me. I quietly enjoyed the feeling of warmth on my skin from the sun and tried to ignore the sickness in my stomach from all of Dan’s smoke. He passed the cigarette to Daphne who took a puff and then handed it over to Jessica, who took and savored several drags and let the smoke waft through her brown hair.

“You wanna try, Adam?” Jessica said to me, holding out the cigarette toward me. I struggled to figure out what I should do. I really didn’t want to try it, but I more so didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the whole group. Telling Dan alone that I didn’t smoke was one thing…then I remembered.

“No thanks,” I said, “I have my own.” I pulled the half used pack of Marlboro’s Dan gave me earlier and showed them to Jessica and the group. I slyly glanced over at Dan and saw he was looking off into the distance, smiling slightly.

“Very cool,” Jessica said. Daphne also nodded in approval. Molly simply rolled her eyes. She obviously knew they weren’t mine. She probably made the connection that Dan gave them to me. I felt like I was disappointing her somehow. Dan reached across the circle and took his cigarette back to finish it off.

When conversation finally picked up, I still didn’t say very much. It always has taken me awhile of knowing a group of people before I could be completely myself around them. They talked a lot about bands and shows they went to in Seattle. I did not recognize any of the names they were mentioning. More and more I was glad that I did not bring up the Good Charlotte concert to them. They picked their words so deliberately and spoke so passionately about local music. It was hard for me to keep up, but it was riveting.

“God, Kane Hodder. I just don’t know,” Dan said, “I mean, I like them. But do you really think they have mainstream appeal? Sure, they have some catchy parts in their songs but over all they are just too aggressive to be accepted by a national audience.”

“Yeah well what about Vendetta Red? They’re grouped together with Kane Hodder and they seem to be doing pretty well.” Daphne said as she ran her fingers through her short black hair. “ ‘Shatterday’ got a lot of notice.”

“Come on Daphne. You really think Kane Hodder and VR are that similar?” Dan said laughing, “Kane Hodder has some straight-up devil screaming in it. I love Vendetta Red to death, but they are not nearly as vicious. But I will consent that they are better.”

“You are just so blinded by your bias,” Jessica chimed in, pointing at Dan’s Vendetta Red shirt.

“Yeah well Dan’s never really been one to hide his bias,” Molly said, “and he’s just a world class jackass.” She playfully punched his arm. I watched as he swore and tried to refute her, but paid attention mostly to how he seemed ecstatic that she would pay that much attention to him. I just smiled and laughed at the debate that was going on. I really had no idea what they were talking about which meant I really had nothing to add to the conversation. Molly leaned over to me, got close to my ear and whispered to me.

“Hey,” she said, “I’m really glad you’re here. I’m sorry if you feel left out at all. But I’m sure that someday you’re going to know more about this than all of us.”

“I really doubt that,” I whispered back. “I’m glad just to be here. I’m excited to see the rest of the bands.”

“I think you will. Just give it time.”

“Hey Molly?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you think we can get up close for Schoolyard Heroes? I know I haven’t listened to them a lot, but I think it’d be cool to be that close to such a big local band.”

She smiled again, snakebites gripping to her lower lips.

“Of course we’ll be up front. I always go up front for my favorite bands,” she said.

—-

We gathered back inside, along with most everyone else, to get ready and see The Divorce. I hadn’t heard much about them before the show. I did most of my research about Schoolyard Heroes before going to the show and not so much about the other bands. I just assumed they were some dark, looming, hardcore band or something. Oh what I get for assuming things.

Dan stood next to me on my right side, grabbed my shoulder firmly with his hand and made me look him in the eye.

“This band is the band that will make you love local music,” he said. “If they don’t, then maybe you’re just in the wrong scene. These guys are brilliant.”

I nodded slowly. Suddenly I felt there was a bunch of pressure on me and all I was doing was watching some local band perform in a church basement. I stared intently at the stage and observed the band as they got ready to perform. What struck me most was that the lead singer was wearing a sweater vest over a dress shirt and tie. That didn’t seem very death metal to me.

“Don’t let Dan try and intimidate you,” Molly said, “But seriously. These guys are the greatest. Oh my God, I’m so goddamn excited.”

I was beginning to get anxious. I was worried they were going to be building this band only up and then I might not like them and be disappointed. But if they same people who were stoic for Mary Jane Watson were now animated and vocal for this group, I thought there must have been something redeemable about The Divorce.

As the synthesizer came through the speakers, I was caught off guard. Then the bright and jangling electric guitar came in, sounding incredibly optimistic. Then the crooning vocals. Everything was so catchy. It was everything I was not prepared to hear. It was good. It was excellent. I was totally enamored. When he got to the chorus, everyone in the crowd was jumping up and down and pumping their fists in the air to the anthem. The lyrics wrapped themselves around my mind and I couldn’t put them away.

“We can’t say no, because they answer is yes.

And we don’t know the question yet.

We’ll never learn our lesson with

Without a little suspension of

Of our disbelief”

Later I would find out the song was called “Yes.” Everything about it seemed so perfect for where I was. I had to say yes to these opportunities that I was getting today. Even if I didn’t know what I was saying yes to, I needed to just go for it. In that moment, those lyrics seemed more inspiring than any scripture or philosophy I had ever heard or read in my life. I couldn’t help but to dance along with everyone. Of course Molly was dancing, and so were her friends. Molly grabbed me by the arm and brought me with her into the crowd to get closer to the stage.

Smells of sweat and fading deodorant filled my nostrils, but in a strange way that almost made the moment even better. Molly pulled me through the small sea of elbows and shoulder till we were just a couple people away from the front of the stage. I danced my honest, dweeby, white-boy dance with all my heart. I didn’t care about whether or not what I was doing was embarrassing. I was just enjoying myself and enjoying this music.

The song finally had to come to an end and we all cheered loudly. There’s such a sense of community in a crowd of people hearing a band they all love. Molly looked back at me, grinning wide with her face glowing red with exhaustion. I didn’t have to say anything to let her know I was happy. I just smiled back and wiped the sweat off of my forehead. The band went on to play some of their more raucous songs, playing “The Man Moan” next. I was hooked in. I couldn’t be unplugged from the moment. I didn’t even feel like a loser head banging. I was so proud of having my some-what longer hair in that moment as strangers next to me said “yeah!” and “alright!” when they saw me. It was a badge of honor.

The band started up playing “Call the Police” and Molly freaked out.

“Yes! This is my favorite song,” she yelled. “Hell yeah.” She shook her hair back and forth every time the drums got into a good groove and yelled the lyrics with no shame, screaming, “I’d rather be alone tonight, already slept through the daylight.” Somewhere amongst the chaos she and I got separated in the small crowd and I couldn’t spot her snakebites or blue bangs in the crowd. But it was fine; I knew she was having fun.

As the bass line thumped, I stood there in amazement of the lead singer’s vampire like demeanor. I made sure to etch this moment in my mind and kept it as a constant point of judging the rest of local music I experienced from then on. I looked to my left and watched as even Dan moved his lanky body to the alternative anthem. Seeing even the coolest of people let loose in this moment reminded me that it was okay to love music in your own way.

—–

Soaked in other people’s sweat, we all went back outside and sat back on the grass. The same kids who had a mouthful to say about everything in the local scene were all out of breath saying the same thing: “That was great.” I smiled and nodded my head and looked up at the sky. It felt like one of those cheesy yet beautiful moments from one of those 90s Generation X coming of age films. I felt alive. I wanted to make music. I wanted to do this everyday. For the first time in my life, I felt cool. There was a whole different world right where I was living that I never ventured into.

“Better than that Blink 182 show, aye Adam?” Molly whispered to me, grinning wide bringing her snakebites closer and closer to her cheekbones.

“Yeah,” I whispered back, “It really was.”

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