It was a cold and stormy night. Thunder clapped in the distance while the skies darkened around us. Giving each other anxious glances while others looked at the clouds above them, we wondered if this show would even happen.
As if summoned by our fear, the rain began to fall, lightly at first, then gaining in pattering intensity. Lightning lit up the sky, and we felt in our hearts that this may be end up being a short adventure. A voice in the distance announced the delays and, again, we wondered.
The group of us stood together, huddled under the smallest of awnings, feeling the raindrops whizzing just past our faces, the spray of the moisture clouding our lenses, and dampening our spirits. As the rain began to pound out its staccato beats in an even heavier rhythm, the masses ran for shelter, leaving us alone on the concrete ground.
But it was time to go against the odds, against the very forces of nature. Yes, we would stand and confront this heavenly shower. We would face the storm of electricity in the sky, and the angry claps of thunder sounding like the very footsteps of the rock-n-roll gods above us.
As the ground was cleared, and protective barriers lifted from the boxes of electrical equipment in blatant defiance of the risk of death, bodies began to filter back, joining us in our middle finger to the skies. All of us standing around, like cult members covered in plastic hoods, getting ready to worship at the altar before us.
Yes, it was time to rock.
A roar came up from the teeming crowd, moving in closer to the shrine before which we were ready to bow, soaked to the bone, spine tingling with both anticipation and raw cold. Looking up, the targets of our adulation came into view, slowly slinking in from the side of the tabernacle.
As the lights around us flashed, Fastball took the stage. Immediately ripping into a strong instrumental that immediately betrayed their Austin, Texas roots, with its jangly twang of southern-inspired rock.
Formed in 1995, they had paid their dues and received enough fame that I had the inkling that I should have known their music, but recognition escaped me. But it didn’t escape their fans. All around me, from the youngest to the oldest, they sang back the groups' inspired songs.
As the bass player struck the most rock star pose ever, the band belted out tunes from their catalog, much to the delight of the crowd. Towards the end, the light bulb in my head had finally been turned on. Familiar strains of music I had most definitely heard in the past came to me, taking me back twenty years to the not-so-innocence of my youth.
Then, as if being signaled by the moniker of the next inhabitants of our little chantry, the skies began to clear.
As Everclear took the stage, I was reminded of my time catching up with them. See, I had never really been a fan. I knew some of their songs – the radio hits, but in the 90s, I was a hip-hop and metal guy. Bands like Everclear were, to me, watered down versions of their east coast cousins.
But then I got an epiphany. When hip-hop came west, it went from gritty to party. When reggae found its way out there, it went from protest and roots to being easy and partying. And, so, when punk hit the west, it had no choice but to join the party and lighten up a bit. I mean, where can you find blame?
And once upon a time, this, to me, was Everclear. They were the punk kids you could take home to introduce to your mother. They became every frat boys favorite band. But when you go beyond the not quite getting to 11 part of it and really took a look at the lyrics, you can see the punk family resemblance, and the darker, more dangerous subtext.
These dudes totally needed therapy at some point, and I hope they came out of it all ok. Songs about broken families, absent fathers and relationships gone awry became a cautionary tale. You didn’t want to be like that, just like you didn’t want to be the heroin addicted punks of the east.
Their live performance also drove home the dangers of the big studio focus on commercial viability and record sales because, standing in front of them for the first time, I witnessed them going to 11.
From the first strum of the guitar, I was enlightened. I saw them with fresh eyes unclouded by my music snobbery. Live, Everclear delivers a sound that punches you in the face.
This is not the band I heard on record. This was the band that I wanted them to be. I heard their musical ferocity match the anger of their lyrics. I saw the growl on the face of men who came to kick our asses.
And they did.
Everclear brought a metaphorical fire that warmed us up, making us forget that we had stood in a deluge. Nobody cared that the rain had soaked through our cheap ponchos, and made our feet prune up in our shoes. We were there to rock and be rocked.
We jammed right alongside the band as they dug through their archives, even back to before they had a hit. And we knew all the words. And we were happy, joyful, and all became right with the world. We saw our own psychological pangs played out in front of us, and we were told that it would all work out.
We relived some of it. We basked in all of it. The afterglow. And the rain couldn’t stop them or us.